“People Say Some Stupid Stuff.”
– George Wallace
(the comedian, not that other guy)
Mr. Wallace has given us numerous vignettes supporting the truth of his statement,
but we are unlikely ever to run out of examples. Here are some more:
Déjà vu times two
Of this very basic screw-up I have seen more instances by scientific writers than I’d
like (aren’t they supposed to be smarter?): It isn’t déjà vu
if it actually happened before. Déjà vu, as
everyone knows, is the weird feeling of thinking that you have
experienced what you are going through before, & then realizing you
really never have. That’s
when we utter the classic phrase, “Whoa, déjà
vu!” But if something similar actually did happen,
that’s just called remembering. It’s
not day-jah-voo, which is your memory playing tricks—it’s
your memory actually doing its regular job. So when the science author screws it up, I
don’t get déjà vu because, unfortunately,
I’ve seen it before.
[The confusion has been exploited humorously to good
effect. A pair of examples are a Far Side cartoon (guy opens front door
to freaky clown apparition, utters classic phrase), & a vintage Yogi
Berra line: “It was déjà vu all over again.”]
Carrot on a stickJust about everybody these days uses
the carrot & stick idea like so: Offer ’em a carrot, & if that ain’t workin’
hit ’em with a stick. That’s just a reward / punishment scenario, for which there
must be a dozen far better metaphors. The original meaning is this: You’re riding
a mule, & it refuses to go. So you tie a carrot to a stick, with a piece of string,
& using the stick like a fishing pole, you hang the carrot out in front of the mule’s face.
The mule is suddenly motivated to grab the carrot, moves forward, & keeps going
after it all the way home. (If you want this ruse to keep working, you’d better give
’em the carrot then.) It’s a pretty devious trick, but people use it on each other
all the time—it should be called carrot & string, as in stringing
someone along. The stick, in any case, is a passive agent
in the story; no whacking the mule, which probably wouldn’t work anyway. Again,
it’s people who ought to know better—in
this case political writers—who are the most frequent offenders.
The Rule of ThumbSpeakin’ o’ whackin’ people w/ sticks . . .
In England, long, long ago, it was a societal norm, not addressed by any law, that it was OK
to beat one’s wife with a stick, so long as one used a stick no thicker than one’s
thumb. This is the original Rule of Thumb to which the expression “a rule of
thumb” refers: not a strict rule or law, but a general working
this isn’t Internet bullshit, but documented
history.... Having said that, don’t take my word for it: anyplace on the Internet
could harbor Internet bullshit.] I guess this isn’t so much a stupid thing to say
as a fairly horrible one; I doubt anyone using the expression is aware of its source. Thus,
I wish hereby to increase public awareness
of that source, so maybe folks’ll stop saying “a good rule of thumb”,
which, if you know where it came from, is a stupid thing to say.
Also sprach ZpatulaThe rubber thingy used to scrape cake batter out of a bowl:
that’s a spatula. The flat metal thing used to flip burgers on a grill:
that’s a flipper. How the normal, everyday word flipper got replaced
by the obscure Latin word spatula as the preferred term for the thing
guys use to flip meat patties is beyond my ability to comprehend.
even more obscure: the minute & a half anthem that opens up the movie
2001: A Space Odyssey is called “Sunrise”;
it’s part 1 of 9 in a half-hour opus called Also Sprach
Zarathustra. But for some goddam reason, everybody calls the tune,
“Sunrise”, by the name of the entire work. Again, the question is:
why, if you can just say “Sunrise” & be right, would anyone want to
bother uttering or writing the phrase “Also sprach motherfuckin’
“I could care less.”Not me.
“So what else is new?”Well, it’s not that new, but certain simple folk
have—literally thoughtlessly— burdened the saying “So what’s new?”
with an extra word that is not merely superfluous, but detrimental to its meaning. The original
was at least marginally whimsical, whereas the “new” version is nothing short of
tedious. So what’s new?
“Evolution is just a theory.”Sometimes smart people carelessly
repeat idiotic things that have somehow become “common knowledge”. But it takes
a genuine blockhead to promote this heinous lie—a deliberate lie fabricated
in a lie factory & calculated to achieve a specific effect. It parses as follows:
The perpetrators knew full well
that when they said “evolution”, they were actually referring to Natural Selection, the
mechanism proposed by Darwin & Wallace to explain
evolution. Evolution itself, as the professional prevaricators also knew, was an accepted
fact in natural science (as biology was formerly called) before Charles Darwin was even
born. Having confounded fact & theory, these cynical liars then confused scientific
theory—we all know what that is, right?— & “street” theory, i.e.
“just” an idea someone has. As an icing of deceit it is subtly implied, by the
word a, that
“Evolution” currently is one of many competing
notions scientists have about life. This was essentially true of Darwin’s theory when
he published The Origin of Species a
century & a half ago. Today
it is utterly false: numerous sciences other than biology confirm the theory
of Natural Selection, virtually all scientists accept it, & it has no viable competition. I
have no idea what fundamentalist PR lab managed to construct such a compact little grenade of
a phrase, but they surely
were not paid enough: it does a lot of dirty work in a short space. Religious fanatics,
in the interest of education prevention, are still getting serious mileage from this insidious
Corrected, the statement would be:
Natural Selection is definitely the theory [that explicates the occurrence of
Here’s da facts: Saying you don’t
“believe” in evolution is exactly the same thing as
saying you don’t “believe” in erosion. Belief is a non-factor, & these
processes—along with many others—continue working change over time on this Earth,
whether anyone understands or even knows about them.
“Real men” don’t eat quicheSo those who have eaten it are
what, fake men? Fuck you,
Hoss. Whatever retard thought of this presumably wouldn’t object to
scrambled egg pie if it didn’t have a French name. (I will never
understand the antipathy of some of the more ignorant kindreds of our loose-knit society toward
France: we could’ve lost the Revolution without them, & they gave us a magnificent
statue, our world-famous emblem of liberty, for nothing!) Here is
a very un-p.c. response to this brainless drivel—which seems to resurface with every recurrence
of cowboy clothing fads—that I came up with decades ago: What do the English put in their
pies? Meat. What do the French put in their pies? Eggs. What do
Americans put in their pies? Ffruuu-ueit. So maybe
some Americans oughtta shut up about who eats what kinda pie.
Y’know what real men
don’t do? They don’t kiss their own arms. That shit is weird &
“People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.”
Yes. Also people who live in grass houses shouldn’t light fires, & people who live
in sugar-cube houses shouldn’t throw water. So
what? What have we learned here? How about: People who formulate aphorisms from
invented situations should only be given blunt-tipped scissors.
A deathly fear of the same people
These li’l diatribes are mostly about language, as is this one,
& that’s all it’s
It’s a right bizarre coincidence that both Greek & Latin have the word
homo, each with an entirely different meaning: in Greek it means
same & in Latin human. Therefore,
technically, the ill-considered epithet homophobe means
someone who has either a fear of people or a fear of sameness—both possible fears, I guess,
but pretty far off the mark, intent-wise. Plus, as Morgan Freeman has tweeted,
it isn’t about fear at all;
it’s about intolerance. I don’t have a snappy, one-word replacement; but I have
to say, if ya keep talking stupid, others will stop listening.
Physics goes nuts
“In an alternate universe, I’d be . . . ” doing, thinking, wearing such &
so forth. Sure. I wrote an entry for this spot
about alternate realities—& how unlikely you & I are to show up in any of
them (assuming they exist)—but deleted it: there’s so much
more to it that has to be addressed, probably in a full-page jeremiad of its
own. (Yes, it’s worse than I thought.) When [if] I get done
researching & writing it, I’ll put a link to it here.
Gripe #1: Hey, scientists & others who write about astronomy: Stop telling me
what an AU is. I know what an AU is; so stop telling me what an AU is,
because I already know what a goddam AU is. So stop telling me what it
is. Nine of ten people reading your book or article know what an AU is;
the rest can refer to the goddam glossary.
Choose your weapon
It’s better to bring a knife to a gun fight than nothing; it might come in handy,
you never know. Maybe look around for some rocks, too.
SRG #2: Also, stop saying
“wheapon”. Not a real word.
His or her or its “silence speaks volumes”
Come on. Silence can’t even speak a chapter. The most pregnant pause in
history spoke maybe a couple of sentences. A paragraph, at the outside.
“When all’s said & done ...”
... then there’s nothing else to say or do, elsewise it would not all have been
done & said. Why do they always continue talking? . . . When all’s
said & done, I just can’t seem to shut up. At the end of the day, it’s
all water under the bridge. Bottom line, it all adds up. In the final analysis,
the chickens come home to roost. Furthermore ...
“Time spent fishing cannot be deducted from a man’s life.”
Got news for ya, Cheswick: time spent doing anything is time spent,
period. Deductions are au-to-mat-ic. Whether
working, copulating, programming, sleeping, exercising, fishing, farming, eating
pizza, listening to music: all the same Amazing, the nonsense people stick
on their bumpers. Similarly—
“He who dies with the most toys wins.”
Noggin over tootsies
Everyone has noticed this one: Except when using gravity boots, our heads are
over our heels practically all the time; it’s
the normal state of affairs. Obviously it should be “heels over
head”—but the only time anyone says that is when they’re
doing the same thing I am right now. So what’s new?
Rush LimbaughEverything. By which
I mean, nothing he’s ever said isn’t stupid. Everything he says
is nothing, fact-wise, logic-wise, or sense-wise. He is a
hate-fear-&-hurt-monger, & the fact that he is nonetheless a wealthy individual
reflects very badly on the citizenry of the USA, where his shit-filled radio show
is, unbelievably, still being aired. I guess
this isn’t very humorous ... OK: he’s a fat
“Dr.” Laura: the female Rush Limbaugh. A
horrible person who says terrible things. Both these people have
The next 2 also aren’t sayings, but just fall under the heading
of Stupid Stuff:
PhilosophyChewing gum for the mind; don’t waste your time.
ReligionCotton candy for the mind; it’s actually
bad for you.
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”. . . but
maybe check whether it’s about to break, & if so
then fix it. Similarly, “the squeaky wheel
gets the grease” is typically short-sighted: the squeaking is a sure sign
the wheel is breaking or broken, so if you’re doing things right, the
squeaky wheel gets replaced.
“It’s a no-brainer.”I’m always leery of
this one. It could mean something you don’t need to think about,
or it could mean something that’s sensible only to a person with no brain.
“There’s no ‘I’ in ‘team’.”
But there’s an ‘m’, & there’s an ‘e’; so
there’s a ‘me’ in ‘team’. Talk about
Animal misnomersPrairie dogs aren’t dogs.
Groundhogs aren’t hogs.
Koala bears aren’t bears.
Starfish aren’t fish;
jellyfish aren’t fish; shellfish aren’t fish (if it has a
shell—it’s not a fish). Crayfish aren’t fish; on the
other hand, a crawdad might actually be a dad.
Sarah liedGoddammit, we were promised Death Panels. Where
are the Death Panels?!?
“United States of America”United, my ass.
What the fuck is so hard about that?
Missing needlesDid people in olden times do a lot of outdoor
sewing? Who ever actually had to look for a needle in a haystack? ... Related:
Decoys alignedWho ever actually put ducks in a row? How long did they stay there? Not long, I bet ... so why bother? Are they talking about lining up decoys or something? If so, the saying should be “getting your fake ducks in a row”, to avoid confusion. Right?
The Quilted ResuméAt employment agencies,
job-hunting seminars & resumé workshops they all say the same thing:
“You’re a product, you’ve got to sell yourself.”
Well, if I could sell things,
I’d be in goddam sales, wouldn’t
I? It’s the only job that always has, like, a hundred listings,
any day of the year. If
I could do that shit, I’d be doing it, instead
of sitting in a plastic chair listening to
people say such goddam stupid things.
“What goes around comes around.”Yeah, it’d be
nice if that were true ... but as any fool can plainly see: 99% of the time,
what goes around goes around.
Danger: butterfliesThere is a saying that one flap of a butterfly’s
wing in Brazil can be the start of a hurricane that wreaks havoc in the
Caribbean ... or some such stuff. If that’s how it works, then what
of the hundreds of jet planes taking off every day? Wouldn’t they
blow everything & everyone clear off the planet & into outer space?
Controlled substancesThis is a laff riot: anything that is
designated a “controlled substance” is invariably a
completely out-of-control substance.
“There, but for the grace of god, go I.”This shows
how little some people think before they talk. The clear implication of this
is “There, by the ‘grace of god’,
goes that schmuck.” Basically, then,
it’s “Better him than me.” Not so noble-sounding
now, is it?
“I’ll try anything once.”Speaking of “better you than me”: This shows even better how little some people think before they talk. If I had to make a list of the things I won’t try even once, I wouldn’t have time to do anything else.
“Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”
This idea originated with philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (see entry on
Philosophy, above). There are
hospitals full of people around the world who disprove his statement without
saying a word.... If that isn’t obvious enough, there are
lots of things that don’t kill you that
make you weaker; they’re called injuries & diseases. Nietzsche
had one, syphilis, that did in fact kill him ... but before it did,
did it make him stronger? No, it made him
“I don’t have to outrun the bear, I just have
to outrun you.”No, my dear friend, I’m afraid your
contest is with the bear ... if you can still hear me.
“Even a broken clock is right twice a day.”And yet,
remains useless. This is the most insignificant
truth I’ve ever heard, & I don’t think it’ll help anyone
move any broken clocks at their next yard sale.
“I was born ready.”Ready for
what? Human babies are born ready for nothing, except sucking & soiling
themselves. Sharks: now those babies are born ready.
Quittin’ timeThere are a bunch of adages about not quitting,
never giving up. But an inability to know when to quit is behind some
of history’s most awful tragedies & piteous failures; blindly forging ahead
sometimes leads straight to disaster. Yes, perseverence is a fine thing,
& generally it is good to stick to the plan, go for your dream, &c. But
periodic evaluations are also necessary, & there are times when giving up
is absolutely the right thing to do. Like, if you’re Kim Jong Un.
Or Rush Limbaugh.
On that note, I’m gonna stop adding stuff to this
page. Hope u got a laugh or 2 from it. :-]