What About Those Other Blogs?

Although I would like my current readers (and more) to peruse and ponder each of my daily posts on the blog (and I do appreciate your interest from literally around the world but mostly around the U.S.), I am not much of a reader of blogs myself. I only follow a very few, and periodically check in on some news/opinion blogs and some entertainment ones as well, but not often.

I read what my nephew Tim posts here, and what friend Book Mama has to say. In fact, Book Mama’s blog was one of my inspirations and got me to include the ClusterMaps widget. I also check out Empanada Intifada (another inspiration, as you can see if you go all the way back to the beginning) to see what luscious new recipes appear there. The latter two and some connection I had already made on Facebook got me to use WordPress to publish my blog, and a Dashboard application helps me keep abreast of blogs on WordPress (but only theirs: it wouldnʼt let me add Timʼs to the watch list). Of course for all three of these I have a personal interest, either family or former student.

Speaking personally, I have tried to follow as well the blogs of my readers who felt themselves inspired to start a blog, such as friend Sharkleen’s meditations. However, since Sharon is the only one to let me know she has started a blog, hers is the only one of my readers’ postings of which I am aware.

Once I started using the Scrivener application for my writing, I also stumbled on The Edited Life by a much more tech-savvy and dedicated potential professional writer than myself. For a while she had been posting Scrivener tips each Tuesday, and once I became a Scrivener fan on Facebook, my feed let me know about those posts. Consequently, I have been following her blog also, even though we’ve never met, I don’t know her, and I haven’t let her know about my interest in her writing (or in her blog at least). I do enjoy that like me she is addicted to checking her blogʼs statistics.

Other than that, my blog life is pretty much restricted to some news articles, some intriguing stumble-upons, and other blogs that pop up in my Facebook feed, like John Stewart (although usually just links to his program online) and Rachel Maddow. Somewhat as I used to watch evangelical-goober TV like The 700 Club to make myself aware of (and angry about) the ignorance and bigotry being preached, I do check out the posts of some Rightist/Libertarian* groups and prominent individuals — Rush Limbaugh has refused to even acknowledge my responses, but the ideologue dictators of the world always do refuse to admit (or tolerate) opposition. I have also gotten intrigued/amused by the paranoidsters out there, blithering conspiracy theories of all shapes and shallowness (coming across their ravings sometimes while doing research for possible story ideas). Like Robertsonʼs meanderings, these usually inflame my ire, naturally — but that can be a good thing, too: during my morning runs I have been developing a satirical future for a story to be entitled “No Public Options,” in which government has been eroded to figurehead status and the U.S. is dominated by corporate manipulation and self-interest alone to the natural detriment of ordinary citizens. Maybe I should finish it, post it here, and let it go viral (through your kind cooperation, of course).

Otherwise, I remain innocent of the 141 million blogs (according to this weekʼs Newsweek) percolating around us in this cyberuniverse.

So, even though there are not very many of you out there (and I have absolutely no idea who is creating that big red dot in southern California on the ClusterMap), I do appreciate your taking time (and possibly sometimes effort) to check on what I have to blather about each day. Equally charmed to have found readers across the globe (who mostly have a personal connection of some kind, Iʼm sure, as with my own selection of blog readings).

Making me Gratefully Yours, until next time.

* Now there is a misused and abused term on which I should write one day: no “libertarian” should insist others must think like he does, nor do I feel that the word has any actual connection to the Right (or probably the Left).

Honoring Paul

I got up at 3:30 AM on Friday morning last week. Seriously, no exaggeration, no lying.

It worked out fine, and I didn’t even feel bad, surprisingly. The reason? My brother Paul was slated to receive the Charles. Martin Award for Association Leadership — the highest award of the Iowa State Education Association.

It is an honor he richly deserves. Like me he has been a member of the Association throughout his entire teaching career, but unlike me he rapidly moved into leadership positions, including long-time presidency of his local Association, chief negotiator for about thirty years as well as serving as head of grievance and negotiations for the same amount of time. He’s also been prominent and important at the state level — representative to the Delegate Assembly for nearly twenty years, many roles for the Unit Nine Board, and the ISEA Executive Board. The presentation of the award especially acknowledged his mentoring role for younger teachers in Oskaloosa and around the state, which is, as they said, “perhaps, his greatest legacy.”

The ISEA Delegate Assembly was last Thursday and Friday, and I wanted to be president to see him receive the award, as did my sister Margaret, Paul’s superintendent and many, many friends. My brother David would have been there, too, except he used his personal time to attend the recent state math conference.

Anyway, I set the alarm or 3:30, and when it let off I actually got up easily, having fallen asleep deliberately at 9:00 PM on Thursday evening. Showering, shaving, dressing, packing some beverages for the trip, and wolfing down a half a grapefruit and some milk in the dark consumed not quite an hour. Janet had recommended I buy a convenience-store cappuccino for the drive and warm it up in the microwave just before I left, it’s was a good idea except I let it cook too long and wasted some time cleaning up boiled-over cappuccino before hopping in the truck and heading out into the dark, just about an hour earlier than I might have headed out for a morning run.

Why is this ISU picture of Hilton Coliseum mostly sky?

I drove east out of Maquoketa to Anamosa, picking up 151 to Cedar Rapids, and then it was all Highway 30 across the state to Ames. Dawn light started to appear in the rearview mirror somewhere between Cedar Rapids and Tama. Predictably there were not many cars on the road at that unusual hour, but there were more than I expected, and the route around the Cedar Rapids was plentifully hectic, thinning, as one might expect, as I drove west beyond the city. Although Google Maps had predicted a three hour and forty minute drive and even directed me within a news into a neighborhood east of where I wanted to go, the middle of nowhere, basically, and I had to seek out the Hilton Coliseum using my own wits, just like it was the 20th century, I had parked the truck right near the south entrance by 7:40.

If you ever want to plant a bomb or otherwise terrorize a large gathering in a public place like that, my recommendation (not serious, of course) is to arrive early, dressed like everyone else and ask to go to the bathroom. In truth, I think the guards like me had no reason to suspect that anyone, not even the state Association of school boards, would have any desire to bomb the ISEA Delegate Assembly. I killed a little time writing on my Sepharad story and then hiked around the oval outside the basketball court about three times before spotting my relatives — Margaret and sister-in-law Nancy — waiting for me to arrive. Paul’s honor occurred about fifteen minutes later than predicted, but that’s large meetings for you. He gave a splendid speech, far better than I would have done, lasting about 12 minutes, filled with nostalgic memories, wit, personal acknowledgments, genuine insight and truth. Afterward we hung about until the end of the morning session, not really attending to matters of the redistribution of Uniserve regions or the recommendation to withdraw troops from Afghanistan and Iraq in order to provide more money for education, and chatted as Paul received well-wishers and old friends at the rear of the assembly.

Eat here only if you enjoy this kind of joint

For lunch the family and some of his friends drove over to Hickory Park, a restaurant with which the rest seem to be familiar but which I fear will probably not receive my business again, just not my kind of place — too loud, too folksy and with far too hard benches for seating at the tables. Our waitress young was excellent, and I really enjoyed my spinach salad (except for the excessive amount of bacon bits). I took a note to tell Janet that if you crossed a Cracker Barrel with Thunder Bay Grille (on the north end of Davenport and part of a small chain owned by a rich Republican businessman) with a hint of TGI Friday’s (something about looking down the hall by a long row of booths), and hung a powerful stench of smoked meat in the air, you’d have something like Hickory Park. Intriguingly for such a place, their portions — except for the salads, of which Paul and I were the only partakers — were curiously small.

Anyway we all chatted amiably, and I was heading home, having switched from a dress shirt and jacket into a hoodie Guinness sweatshirt, about 2:00 PM. I preferred to drive out in the dark to drive home, although it was a beautiful cloudless afternoon, and I really had good luck not getting behind semis or pokey drivers, usually. I had planned to stop at the Mesquakie reservation for gas (and desperately needed to urinate at that point and therefore did stop), where the price was listed about three cents less than elsewhere in the state, but apparently every other driver on Highway 30 had the same plan — there were at least twenty cars waiting to go through the pumps.

So that was my Friday. I’d intended to make this honor Paul (who is retiring this June, as I and his wife did a year ago — but he is becoming a Methodist minister as a second career, one he has been accomplishing already for at least a decade, even founding two Hispanic parishes in Oskaloosa and in Ottumwa), but the post degenerated more into a tedious trip summary. Oh well. Let’s see what you get for tomorrow.

©2010 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Tough Guy/Good Guy

Today we continue my little trip into movie-reviewland with a brief literary character critique of the Huston Maltese Falcon.

Spade slugs Cairo, almost accidentally

Sam Spade is the archetypal solitary sleuth, tough guy, independent operator. At least that’s what all the critics say, and I lack the savvy to contradict them. Raymond Chandler gave Hammett’s creation the prime spot as well. Besides, Spade — as portrayed by Humphrey Bogart — was my introduction to the classic American private eye. I don’t remember when I first saw the movie; it was sometime in high school because I developed a fascination for Bogart movies while still in Mt. Pleasant and I think while not yet in college. Peculiar these days to think of a time when old black-and-white movies were easily available on regular television, however late at night. I am still searching for a Bogie film in which the scent of jasmine is of primary importance (does anyone know which flick it is?). Late-night movie runs were how I first met the Marx Brothers, too. (Of course, as I think about it now, Huston’s The Maltese Falcon was only about 38 years old when I probably first saw it on TV. Right now, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is over forty years in the past— so it really is suitable that Turner Classic Movies had it as the prime feature this past Saturday evening.)

Hammettʼs character defines the tough guy private eye. Spade is an outsider, running his own game and not giving the cops one jot of information he doesnʼt think they actually need, sneering at the impotent intervention and threats of the DA. Spade is a free agent, running his own business his own way (especially once partner Miles Archer is shot dead), living a deliberately solo life in his pretty dingy apartment (and avoiding the clutches of Milesʼs wife, with whom Spade somehow had fallen, before the movie begins, into a sordid affair that he clearly regrets), relying on no one else except the clients who seek his expertise and cold skills. Spade after all needs cash to operate in the grim reality of capitalist America, and he passes up no opportunity to acquire the green during the film — even from the duplicitous Brigid OʼShaughnessy. He has friends and acquaintances who seem to like and respect him — cop Tom Polhaus, the house dick at Cairoʼs hotel and the taxi driver, for instance, and his faithful secretary Effie Perrine— and perhaps even fear him sometimes. Most important, as the story plays out, Spade shows a fierce sense of his own personal morality and dignity.

Sam Spade — going down?

The other characters lack everything Spade has, except for Effie, who is dedicated, self-sacrificing, observant and brave. In particular the trio chasing the falcon are greedy and conniving. Brigid is selfish, untrusting and manipulative (not that Spade is trusting nor above working events in his own favor), and she is a heartless killer. Gutman likewise serves only himself, shifting and reshifting loyalties and partnerships as circumstances change, and renegging on his deal(s) with Spade with each turn of chance (in particular reacquiring his cash at gunpoint when the bird turns out to be fake). Cairo is selfish but weak (Hammettʼs Twenties cultural biases show in the easy characterization of this guy as queer) and ineffective, unable to act successfully on his own. And Gutmanʼs gunsel, Wilmer, is violent and overawed with himself (the negative mirror of Spade—over-equipped with guns, while Spade carries none; killing others, while Spade just threatens under necessity; working willingly for Gutman, while Spade accepts clients to whom he never becomes subordinate; having to assert his sense of self-worth while Spade in dignity acts, however ruthlessly; childish in contrast to Spadeʼs experienced maturity; ultimately running away, while Spade faces every danger; ineffective finally).

Other characters are weak compared to the hero as well. The cops and DA are compromised by their subordination to the system/government (which is why it was so very wrong of the 1931 film to “reward” Spade at the end by getting him a job with the DA). Other associates — Effie, the house detective and the taxi driver — need Spadeʼs direction or guidance to be worthwhile; he is their decision-maker. Iva Archer is just witlessly self-centered (and deceitful — where was she the night her husband was shot?), and Miles is a slavering lust-monkey for Brigid, dying for his weakness. All of the bad characters are selfish.

Although Spade watches out for himself and seeks to stay both straight and safe (as safe and straight as possible in his dangerous position), he is not selfish like the criminals or victims. What makes him different then? The baddies (and the weak ones, like Iva and Miles) surrender to their desires, becoming wicked or victims—deluded by desire. Spade may want things as well (more money, less of either Archer, possibly Brigid or love), but he remains clearheaded and dedicated to truth (possibly Brigidʼs biggest sin is her unwillingness to ever tell the truth willingly) and his sense of rectitude, moral straightness. Like the book, the film is ambiguous whether Sam would have jailed the whole lot if he could have gotten away with Gutmanʼs tens of thousands, but he (and the audience) continually realizes of the threat of civic justice hanging over his head: “This isnʼt the spot for the school-girl act. Listen to me. The pair of us are sitting under the gallows.” Even when heʼs (maybe) pretending to be just in it for the dough, there has to be a fall guy to satisfy the requirements of the legal system. And the cops, societyʼs “justice,” will be satisfied with the wrong fall guy — for the public, for the system, it just has to look good, to appear that justice is being done. (And tough luck, evidently, for poor Wilmer, tough guy crook and gunhappy sap, who fits the copsʼ bill so perfectly…)

Spade getting grilled by the cops

Spade is tough but true, and itʼs the moral side that makes him a hero, not the toughness. He does come out of this case with considerable money in his pocket — Brigidʼs $700, some of Cairoʼs loose cash (I think), and a final thousand withheld from Gutman, as well as his own business unencumbered with a weak partner. The tough guy gets those rewards. The good guy sends Brigid “over” for murdering Miles: “When a manʼs partner is killed he is supposed to do something about it. It doesn’t make any difference what you thought of him. He was your partner and you’re supposed to do something about it. Then it happens we were in the detective business. Well, when one of your organization gets killed it’s bad business to let the killer get away with it. It’s bad all around — bad for that one organization, bad for every detective everywhere.” Note that care for “every detective everywhere.” Thatʼs the moral man speaking.

Lots of modern takes on the private eye would have us believe that the toughness makes the hero (ahem, Quetin Tarantino). Not true. Bad guys can be tough, generally are (thatʼs why Bogart made such a good bad-guy actor), but good guys have something more than toughness—decency. Thatʼs why theyʼre the good guys, although being good may not be easy or even desirable. And thatʼs why great literature, like this movie, has depth and value.

I have more to explore about this movie, but this character profile makes a long enough post for today. We’ll have more on The Maltese Falcon soon, possibly already tomorrow. (All pictures link to sources — some worth checking out for more information.)

©2010 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Movie Review!

A couple of weekends ago, while Janet was partying with the girls in Milwaukee, I used several of the evenings available to me to watch some DVDs that I didn’t think she’d be particularly interested in. Somehow Christmas 2009 arrived fast from my point of view. Therefore, I was a little taken aback when Janet pointed out to me back then that I needed to: A) get to writing our annual Christmas missive, and B) come up with a list of Christmas-gift suggestions for both sides of our families. The Christmas letter, as in just about every former year when I was still working, filled about a day and a few hours on another (after Janet had a chance to proofread, edit and correct) to compose and complete. The gift list needed to go out by e-mail much more immediately, so in desperation I racked my brains for things I desired. (The previous year I had accidentally sent out the same list as I had in 2007.) I even went through the wish lists I have created on Amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com, which was a good technique because it gave me several idea—of of which my obliging relatives accepted.

The Maltese Falcon 3-DVD set

One suggestion was a new three-DVD set of a remastered The Maltese Falcon, including Warner Brothers’ two earlier versions of Dashiell Hammett’s classic crime novel. My niece Rachel went ahead and bought it for me (although I had felt its price was a tad steep for a Christmas gift) to my surprise and delight. The long bachelor weekend gave me the opportunity to watch all three versions as well as the additional “Making of” video and other specials (I still haven’t watched the Bogart version with the expertʼs commentary yet).

It was an interesting experience. I took them in chronological order, starting in 1931 with a straight version, very close to the book, that since it’d been a long time since I saw the Bogart version, seemed all right. It was pretty racy, clearly indicating a sexual relationship between Spade and the duplicitous Miss Wonderly, even indicating that they had spent the night together. I especially enjoyed Spadeʼs secretary, as played by Una Merkel in a delightfully spacey turn. The Spade actor was adequate, and Wonderly okay; there was some heat between them. The cops were good, too. The worst element in the movie was a really weak choice to end the film with a prolonged visit by Spade—now “promoted” to an assistant district attorney investigator—to Wonderly in prison. Vapid and sappy.

Satan Met a Lady, 1936 — stinker

The second version, Satan Met a Lady from 1936, was simply odd. First of all, it was a comedy, nearly farcical (with three murders essential to the plot), and Spade (renamed Ted Shane) as a carefree, jovial playboy! I watched it, enjoying some moments, but it wasn’t good (and it tanked back in the Thirties). It was eerie to hear some of the same lines of dialog (also from the book) in such a different context. I really can’t comment much because it was really just bad.

great flick — but Kubrick’s always afre

That was all Thursday evening. On Friday I decided to watch another black-and-white movie I had never seen and also doubted Janet would enjoy, Stanley Kubrick’s Lolita. With Vladimir Nabakov himself writing the screenplay, it did a pretty good job of squashing the book into film. Peter Sellers was a hoot as Clare Quilty, and James Mason, always good, was oilily sympathetic as Humbert Humbert. The one who really gripped me, however, was Shelley Winters as Lolita’s mom — annoying dynamite and right on target all the time as that character.

I went back on topic to John Huston’s 1941 classic remake of The Maltese Falcon for Saturday night’s viewing. After the two earlier versions, this one truly was a revelation. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen it before, but I had never appreciated or enjoyed it quite like this most recent viewing. Like the first version Huston’s script is faithful to the book (a Hollywood legend, retold in the “Making of” documentary, says he told his secretary simply to type up the text of the book in script form for him to consider, but Warner execs saw that typescript and asked it to be filmed—not true, I believe). What made it tower above those previous botches reveals the importance of good directing and good acting. Humphrey Bogart really is amazing as Sam Spade, trying to be coolly casual but tormented by his decisions and situations. Mary Astor always has seemed too demure and distant to me for Miss O’Shaughnessy, too apparently nice and sweet, no real hint of the character’s deviousness. I still feel that way; Bebe Daniels got closer in the 1931 film. On the other hand, as I learned from the “Making of” information, Mary Astor’s scandalous personal life colored in the character sufficiently for audiences back in the Forties, so we’ll give her a break.

Huston really understood the story and its themes. The cinematography, evidently the first real film noir, makes the most of strange angles, sharp and dark shadows, interesting shots (like Spade answering the phone at two AM and the camera remaining focused only on the phone), and moody atmosphere. I had always liked how Gutman is frequently shot from low and close below, making Sidney Greenstreet look even larger than he really was. It also works well for me that Spade’s apartment is lit so flat and harshly at the end (and does as the documentary indicated as well, feel cramped and small). Visually everything feels tense, raw, like the novel.

But the true mastery is in the meaning of the story in this version.

However I’m already tapping at 1000 words, my intended daily ration for the blog, so I better save the literary criticism/interpretation for tomorrow. (Images today all available on Wikipedia.)

©2010 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.


Pockets, part five

Yes, yes, this series is getting too long. I should realize that I am the only person in the world as interested in pockets as I am. However, with one more post we can bring it all up-to-date and cease (for now).

Bright and early in the 21st century, as the Banana Republic vest that I showed you earlier begin to die, I went on the Internet to see what was available when you searched “photojournalist’s vest.” I was delighted to discover a variety of options. A little searching, a little thinking, and I came up with a possible alternative to my old standby. And they ran about half or even one-third the price!

the original gray Fox Outdoor vest — I hope you all enjoy the various bookshelves I hung these vests upon, or that I will, looking back in future years, enjoy peering at the books

Several Internet sales sites featured vests that turned out to come from a manufacturer called Fox Outdoor and varied in price from $29-$45 (while the Banana Republic vests cost about $100). These even came in various colors, not just khaki (which is a color, younger generation, not a description or style!). Naturally, I went for the cheap end, choosing some cornily named Texas vendor (First Army?)—of probably deviously deep right-wing, gun-toting sympathies, as most of these outdoorsy joints are (and I am not exaggerating: I have shopped around in my PocketQuest where I was clearly unwelcome—that bullyingly violent, KKK-standard in-group exclusivity being one of the truly less endearing, omnipresent qualities of the neo-Right myrmidons of moral doom). However, being relatively anonymous on the internet, I ordered First Army’s photojournalist’s vest in gray. (Creating the link, I remember why they hadn’t gotten my business most recently—prices have hiked.)

I felt nervous about this Internet order, although I don’t know why I should have. Unlike my Banana Republic catalog days, I was looking at a photograph of the vest, not a drawing. The little JPEG from the website was nowhere near as clear as the catalog pictures from TravelSmith, but it still showed what I was after, and the description sounded a lot like a traditional photojournalist’s vest.

When it arrived, although the vest looked a bit olive-green to my eye (rather than true gray), Janet to the contrary to this day after many washings in the meantime, it was wonderful—just what I wanted. All the pockets were there, every one of them! It fit a little smaller (or shorter, really) than the Banana Republic version, but that actually made it feel more lightweight in the summertime. I wore it nonstop for five years, and it’s still in pretty good shape (the rear inside pocket has ripped out the “waterproof” lining long since, but that is the worst problem). I still wear it often.

black Fox Outdoor vest (the first of two) — note the expected sagging left pocket for books and notebook

Pretty quickly after getting that first one, I saved and followed up with two more—one in black and one in khaki. I was a little disappointed to discover that the pocket sizing had something to do with the dye batches, as both the black and khaki vests had various inadequacies in their smaller pockets (the three “shotgun-shell” pockets on the lower left and the pen pocket on the left bellows pocket above) so my Swiss Army knife no longer fit easily in place beside the highlighter and the Chapstick. But I adjusted.

And these babies are pretty sturdy. Both the black and original gray ones are still going (so is the khaki; I just don’t choose it as often). I wore the gray one pretty exclusively through 2006, keeping the black mostly for “dress” (Janet is writhing at that notion) until about 2004-05, since when it has become my everyday wear. I like the black (and the gray) because the colors seems less thoroughly geeky (I am wrong about that, I realize, but it’s how I feel). Both colors show wear, and for Prague I dragged out a stockpiled black vest I had bought since (summertime 2009) so I would look a little nicer. I still try to restrict the Prague vest for “good” although right now that newer one is the vest with the stuff actually stuffed into it (I must have thought I was dressing up sometime a while back, or at least decided to wash the older black one).

Thus, wherever I go, not only do I embarrass my wife (actually Janet has accustomed herself to my oddities pretty well for the most part) in public, but I can carry just about everything I want or should acquire while out and about. Pockets: they’re a splendid invention (and exploring that history might be the one last “pockets” post I have in me to present, especially since the Wikipedia article on the subject is so poor).

And that brings the history of pockets, with appropriate digressions and rants on the side, up to date. Tomorrow’s April Fool’s Day, and we shall have to see what I come up with for that holy day.

©2010 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Definately (sic) alot (sic)

This one may be short and sweet, or bitter, depending on how it comes out. For once the title says it all: “definately” “alot.”

I’m starting to feel that no one knows how to spell definitely. For the last twenty years in my teaching career, I think I corrected definately to definitely more than any other mistake except maybe student-creating one word of the phrase a lot. Both errors are omnipresent, apparently, on the Internet, at least in e-mail and on Facebook and any other post anybody makes electronically. Why is that? It’s an avoidable situation. I’ve got my computer programmed, using a little Mac app called Typinator, to auto-correct such foolish goofs. Doesn’t anybody else care? You can make Word do similar corrections, and I know some people at least do try out e-mails and posts in a word processor before sending or posting. Reading ill-conceived and ill edited e-mails and posts, I’m beginning to think everyone should proof their writing of every kind first in a word processor.

Unfortunately, even for me it’s just too easy to write and post right there in the browser. And I make typos myself. Boy, do I make typos. (And, of course, this MacSpeech Dictate software that I’ve gone back to using for today’s post can create some doozies by mishearing what I say.) So I probably should get off my high horse, but I won’t.

On to the grammar lecture (well, really it’s a spelling lecture). I am beginning to feel I definitely have a lot to say.

Both errors seem pretty ignorant to me. Taking the easier, second one first, “a lot” is a phrase not a single word, just like “a little.” And I don’t see anyone writing alittle, one word. So where does alot, one word, come from? And why? Are we all just stupid? Surely we see it in print correctly as two words, a lot.

Furthermore the phrase “a lot” says what it means. There’s this thing, this lot. Which lotA lot. That lot. This lot. A lot. The a is an adjective, modifying—or describing—the lot. So it’s two words, my friends and faithful readers, please.

And definitely definitely has no A in it. Never did, never will. I am quite definite about this. We all are. Aren’t we? And in my experience most people who use the word definite know that there is no A in that word, the adjective from which the adverb definitely derives.

Both the adjective and adverb (definite and definitely) come from finite, meaning “limited,” the opposite of infinite, “unlimited.” So to be definite means to be clearly limited about the point of view or opinion. And when one does something definitely, one does it in a clearly limited way.

Since finite is pronounced “fine•ite”  (with a definite long I in the second syllable), the spelling for its derivative definitely should definitely be easy.

I could go on—a lot, but I should definitely keep this finite. The End. (I just wish I could’ve thought of some pictures to illustrate these topics.)

(I hope you’re happy, Shark, because it was thinking of you partying with Janet in Milwaukee over the weekend that got me to think of doing a grammar post, your favorite.)

©2010 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.