It all happened so fast.

Stay in the car!

No one was supposed to get hurt.

He was turning his life around. He HAD turned his life around.

Everybody loved him.

S/he didn’t have an enemy in the world.

He needed killing.

It was self-defense!

I was only trying to protect (you) (her) (them).

I had no choice. You would have done the same thing in my place.

(For the end of any disaster movie:) Now, we rebuild.

I didn’t see anything.

“I did it for you” is a variant of “I was just trying to protect …

Music to our ears! We’ve heard them all again and again. In cop shows and movies. In westerns and science fiction epics. These are, of course, just a few of the thousands of “lines” that comprise a typical “script.”

If you’re lucky, you can get a double or even triple play, as in: “You would have done the same thing. He wasn’t supposed to die (variant of “no one was supposed to get hurt). What else could I do (variant of “I had no other choice”).” A hat trick!

They are so standard, so common, so predictable, I decided to make a game board so you cross them off as they come up. Wherever gets a row first gets to shout NOW WE REBUILD!


You win the prize. A beer, a coke … or maybe one of those soft, salty, hot pretzels from one of those pretzel stands in the mall. How about a pizza?

We used to have a business meeting version of this, lovingly known as Buzzword Bingo. Whenever someone at the meeting spoke one of the popular buzzwords of the day, like “think out of the box,” “monetizing,” “prioritizing,” or the deathless yet ever-popular “there’s no ‘I’ in team,” or any of the thousands of trite, meaningless business clichés, colleagues would leap to their feet and shout “BULLSHIT!” Then, everyone, including the boss, would cheer. Over time, it significantly shortened those meetings and always enlivened them. With everyone keeping score, it was almost fun. No one wanted to be the one who got the chorus of BULLSHIT from the entire staff, so folks started trying to convey information using real words and concepts.

After which, we could all get back to work.

Now that we are retired, waiting for the classic television clichés that have become the backbone of scriptwriters throughout the world, we wait to hear those words. When we do — and we always do — it  is one of the most rewarding parts of watching the tube.

You get extra points if they say it exactly as written. The other night someone said “He was turning his life around. Everyone loved him!” A big score — two in one with exact wording. Does it get any better than this?

What Do You Call a Group of…?

Things you always wanted know and didn’t know where to look? Here’s the answer!

Science-Based Life

There is just no way you are not going to find this interesting. Below is a (semi) complete list of what you would call various groups of animals.

I absolutely love the Victorian flair. An exaltation of larks? A shiver of sharks? Fantastic.

Feel free to break these out in conversation. “Science is the poetry of reality”, after all.


Apes A shrewdness
Asses A pace
Badgers A cete
Bats A colony
Bears A sloth, sleuth
Buffalo A gang, an obstinacy (I suspect these refer to old world buffalo; use “herd” for American bison)
Cats A clowder, a pounce; for kittens…A kindle, litter, an intrigue
Cattle A drove, herd
Deer A herd, bevy (refers only to roe deer)
Dogs A litter (young), pack (wild), cowardice (of curs); specific to hounds…A cry, mute, pack, kennel
Elephants A herd
Elk A gang
Ferrets A business
Fox A leash, skulk, earth
Giraffes A…

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Her son died. Her husband died. Their father died. His brother died, then his father.

It was. Cancer. Heart attack. A minor infection turned virulent. A holdup gone wrong, a bullet gone astray. Senseless because death, disease, disaster are always senseless.

What to say? “This too shall pass.”

My mother said it all the time. It was her favorite expression. I never thought about it. She said it to comfort me when I was unhappy, when something had gone badly. It never occurred to me the expression was more than something a mother says when consoling a child.

It turns out the expression has a long, ancient history. It has been used to comfort a nation at war, a country consumed by unrest. Families, individuals, kingdoms. They are words you use when you run out of words.


This too shall pass” (Persianاین نیز بگذرد‎, Arabicلا شيء يدوم‎, Hebrewגם זה יעבור‎) is an adage indicating that all conditions, positive or negative, are temporary.

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“Sticks and stones can break my bones, but names can never hurt me.”

It’s an old childhood chant, a miserably inadequate defense against bullies and bigots when one is small and powerless. It was oft-repeated, not only by we, the little victims, but by parents, teachers and other wise counselors. It was supposed to comfort us.

It didn’t because we all knew for a certainty it was untrue.

Names can and do hurt. The hurt caused by a cruel name goes deeper than any mere cut or bruise to the body. Psyches heal but slowly. Sometimes they never heal.

Horrible words. Can you still tell me — with a straight face — that names can’t hurt? Will you give me all your arguments that “political correctness” is stupid? That anything which makes it illegal or socially unacceptable to spew hate is too restrictive of free speech? Really? Your free speech? It’s not my free speech. I don’t talk that way and I don’t hang around anyone who does.

Do you actually believe it? Or did you read it as part of some rant on Facebook?

Of course names hurt. They’re intended to hurt. They have no other purpose on earth but to cause pain. These words carry with them the ugliness of generations of haters. It has been argued by otherwise respected bloggers that if a member of a minority (in your opinion) does you wrong, you have every right to strike back any way you can.

I disagree. Racial and ethnic name-calling epithets are never justified. By anything.

hate speech is not free

Is it the word or its intent that hurts so much? Both. Words have power.

“The pen is mightier than the sword.”

But wait a minute. I thought words could never hurt me? (Oh yes they can, yes they do.)

Words bring with them the weight of history. A hate word carries the ugliness of everyone who has spoken it. Each time these words fly into the air, their potency is renewed and reinforced.

It’s time to stop forgiving bigots, stop letting them off the hook. Those hate-filled monologues by drugged and drunken celebrities were no mere slips of the tongue. They were not caused by drugs or drink. You could fill me with all the drugs and booze in the world and you’d never hear that from me. Because it’s not in me.

People who talk hate never do so by accident. It isn’t because of their environment, upbringing, or environment. It’s a choice they made. They know exactly what they are saying and why. It isn’t a joke. It isn’t funny. It isn’t okay.

Excuses are not repentance. Don’t give bigots a second chance. Be politically correct. It’s not merely political correctness. It’s also the moral, righteous, decent, civil, and humane way to behave.