Words, the long and the short of some of them . . .

Words, the long and the short of some of them . . .

On Saturday, I met “gallimaufry,” a relative stranger in the lexicon, a stranger about as useful as the output of the teams of Lingo Lords in high places who huff and puff daily like the wolf in The Three Little Pigs.

The English language is full of more flim-flammery than our bureaucratic and political classes can use in a lifetime of word subterfuge despite their valiant attempts to do so.

Gallimaufry is a 16th-century word which came from a meat stew French cooks called “galimafree.” English cooks called it hodgepodge, with hash, hotchpotch and “potpourri” as its synonyms.

A day later another 16th-century word came to the screen: daymare!

A daymare is described by the Merriam-Webster folk as, “a nightmarish fantasy experienced while awake,” which I think means watching the television news.

Texting has become one of our latest Canadian daymares. It joins the nightmare of drunk driving, as another illustration of social irresponsibility, and belief in the fantasy of multi-tasking.

Our wanderers in the halls of power are now considering what to do about it. What’s your guess? Will they desiccate, manipulate, procrastinate, hesitate or legislate? If their action on cellphone use in vehicles is an example, it’ll be all of the above, depending upon the jurisdiction, of course, while the accident rates climb.

Experts studying texting have concluded it’s the most dangerous threat to drivers since alcohol. They calculated that “a driver is 23 times more likely to get into a car accident if they text while driving.” Which suggests we should move quickly since Transport Canada Statistics tell us 35 per cent of road fatalities are caused by the wheels-booze combination.

Big Ray thinks we need more discipline back in our society. His answer is quick and simple: “If found guilty of texting while driving, make it an automatic loss of your driver’s licence. Drinking too!”

Ray’s an optimist. He thinks his idea could bring truth to the Spanish proverb – A little spark kindles a great fire. Wayne disagreed. “You can’t fix stupid,” was his bit of wisdom that stopped the discussion.

A friend in Scotland sent me a story illustrating two points: The perennial question, Who’s the smartest, the rural gent or the city slicker? And the different meaning given words by different people – oh, and the methods of explanation.

It seems a London lawyer runs a stop sign and is pulled over in Glasgow by a copper.

The lawyer knows he’s smarter than the cop because he’s from London, he has a better education than any jock cop, so he decides to prove this to himself and have some fun at the Glasgow cop’s expense. Their conversational exchange went thus:

Glasgow officer: “Licence and registration, please.”

London lawyer replies, “What for?”

Glasgow officer: “Ye didnae come to a complete stop at the stop sign.”

London lawyer: “I slowed down and no one was coming.”

Glasgow officer: “Ye still didnae come to a complete stop. Licence and registration please.”

London lawyer: “If you can show me the legal difference between slow down and stop I’ll give you my licence and registration, and you give me ticket. If not, you let me go and don’t give me a ticket.”

Glasgow officer: “Sounds fair. Exit your vehicle, sir.”

The London lawyer exits his vehicle.

The Glasgow officer takes out his baton and starts beating the lawyer with it, asking: “Dae ye want me to stop, or just slow down?”

A tip of the hat to drivers like old Bob with two million miles under his belt; he says anybody who needs electronic gizmos to help them drive shouldn’t get a licence. Yes, he’s definitely old-fashioned, but two million miles without a scratch are strong words, too. Whatever position you take, be careful out there, especially if you go to Glasgow!

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