Experiment: Twice-a-day I.Q.


brainspeedOriginally published in the Toronto Star on January 31, 2006.  Preface:  For this article, my cool editor Jon Filson at the Toronto Star suggested I try out some highly marketed supplement pills for enhancing my brain-power, and then write about it.  I complied, but I added an angle of my own:  I convinced my long-suffering sister to be the “control group”.  Instead of downing supplements, she ate pizza.  This article is the result. Continue reading

Proper Putdowns


Originally published in the Toronto Star on February 8, 2005.  Good morning, and what do you angry pixiewant, you snotty-faced heap of parrot droppings?

Laxatives are in Aisle Five, bon apetit, you mossy-bowelled bleeder…have a runny day. Ahoy there, you vacuous, toffee-nosed, malodorous pervert …and welcome to Wal-Mart. Please watch your step…your warts are leaking. Cart or basket? What was that? Stop the presses, Shakespeare has spoken, ingenious pairing of the “f” word with “you”, bravo, you cancerous lump of nose-pick. Painkillers are in Aisle Eight, have a superb overdose.  Abuse is dead. Instead we have boorish, boring vulgarity – two or three one-size-fits-all sewer swear words. Continue reading

Humour: Beset by the Pyrrhic Lyric


Snoop_Dogg_by_Bob_Bekian_2Originally published in the Toronto Star on June 14, 2005.  Have you ever been moved to violence, even blood carnage, by the sheer grammatical audacity of radio fare? I know I have. Below follows the most comprehensive grammatical assessment ever performed on a Snoop Dogg composition, and that’s just the opening act. Continue reading

Some favourite British slang words


england-161994_6401. Faff
This is my favourite. “Faffing” has no proper equivalent in N. American parlance. “Wasting time” and “goofing around” do not express quite the same thing. Faff: To muck about, “dither or fuss” (from dictionary.com).

2. “Muck in”.
“To share in work that needs to be done” (Collins Dictionary online).  “Muck” (dirt) has vaguely unpleasant connotations – much like helping a friend with a boring task like painting a house.  “Pitch in” doesn’t have quite the same effect, and can even suggest the transfer of money rather than services.

3. Naff
“Naff” means uncool, tacky, unfashionable.  The closest equivalent is probably “kitsch”, but I can’t think of an equivalent N. American term that communicates so many things so precisely.

Grad school as Neverland


Originally published in the Toronto Star on September 6, 2005.  Fourth year, and the storied “real world”, of which I have heard much, looms dismally large. Now the chill winds of September, and a young undergraduate’s thoughts at last turn lightly to thoughts of school. School…and beyond.  “You won’t be able to leave everything to the last minute in the REAL WORLD,” warn parents, employers, career counsellor types, gloomily. Sometimes they are angry, as you will glean from my strategically placed exclamation marks. “Fire and brimstone! That wouldn’t go down very well in the REAL WORLD!”  Indeed. But if this isn’t the real world, then it must be a fake world. Continue reading