• 48°

Al Batt: Finding the pro-nun-see-a-shun of words

Echoes from the Loafers’ Club

My son has a Burmese python that’s very long.

How many feet?

None, it’s a snake.

Driving by Bruce’s drive

I have a wonderful neighbor named Bruce. Whenever I pass his drive, thoughts occur to me. I had visited Chokio and mentioned I’d enjoyed my time there. A sheriff with family connections there corrected me. “You’ve been there, but you don’t know how to pronounce it?” he said. I know it’s supposed to sound like Ohio (Sha-kie-oh), but I don’t know what I made it sound like. I wish I could correctly pronounce every place I’ve been to for work. I hear news and weather folks mispronounce Waseca, Otisco, Mankato, Owatonna and Shakopee. Faribault is correctly pronounced Fair-boe and Gaylord is Gail-erd. In Iowa, Madrid is pronounced Mad-drid, Sigourney is Sig-ur-nee, Nevada is Nuh-VAY-Duh, and Des Moines is Duh-Moin.

Andrew Jackson said, “It is a damn poor mind that can think of only one way to spell a word.” He could have said the same about pronouncing a word.

Sherlock Holmes made me do it

I built a shortwave radio. When I hooked it to a long antenna, I could go almost anywhere. A friend of a neighborhood fellow bought it. The man said he didn’t enjoy having his pockets picked clean by any store, so he was happy to pay me a fair price. I built another radio. I was better at building radios than rebuilding motors. If Sherlock Holmes had been a mystery-solving mechanic, I’d probably have done as much wrenching as reading. I built the shortwave radios because I wanted to listen to BBC World Service. I’m still listening.

In memoriam

In the obituary of Loren Rux of Janesville, it said, “Loren was a regular contributor to the Minnesota State Lottery.”

Bad jokes

Gravity is a fundamental physical force. If you remove it, you have gravy.

The man who invented autocorrect has died. Restaurant in piece.

Does eating Alpha-Bits cause vowel movements?

The doctor said, “Your DNA is backwards.” The patient replied, “And?”

The Institute of Incomplete Studies has determined that six out of 10 people.

What do you call a sleeping Scandinavian? A snorewegian.

The policeman asked, “Where were you between 5 and 6. The suspect replied, “Kindergarten.”

Our dog ate all our Scrabble tiles. The veterinarian said the next time it goes outside could spell disaster.

Nature notes

I came at the day with the wonder of a Labrador puppy. Cardinals, thrashers, white-throated sparrows, chickadees, kinglets and red-winged blackbirds sang. Birds are like hash browns. Great to see early in the morning. I contacted birders to let them know about yellow-crowned night herons at Brookside Park in Albert Lea. New birds found in old places live between real and imagined. The Night Herons would be a great nickname for a baseball team that plays all their games at night in a stadium hosting an ongoing flea market during the day. The yellow-crowned night heron is quite alluring to the right demographic. Birders came up, down and across from Mason City to Duluth and from Winona to Sioux Falls. I hadn’t seen some of them for a while. You see someone you don’t recognize until you recognize their recognition. The Park filled with binoculars and cameras. And their owners. One told me the birds were really, really, really cool. We could only disagree on the number of reallys, but we agreed it was a gee-whiz moment.

Turkey vultures wobbled overhead. Charles Darwin saw a vulture from the deck of the Beagle in 1835 and called it a “disgusting bird” whose bald head was “formed to wallow in putridity.” That was harsh. They are beautiful birds. If it perceives a threat, a turkey vulture may play dead or project offensive smelling vomit as a defense. Vultures can’t eat and run. They might carry bits of food in their bills, but their feet are useless for carrying freight. In the ancient practice of Tibetan sky burial, a human corpse is placed on a mountaintop to be eaten by birds of prey, commonly vultures. This tradition is a sustainable burial method symbolizing the impermanence of life for Buddhists.

A friend, Gordon Hopp of Unadilla, Nebraska, called me after checking his 390 bluebird boxes. In the past five years, he’s fledged approximately 300 kestrels, 600 wood ducks and over 11,000 bluebirds. Thoreau wrote of the bluebird, “His soft warble melts the ear, as the snow is melting in the valleys around.”

Meeting adjourned

There are two bears fighting inside each of us. One is hatred, the other is kindness. The winning bear will be the one we feed.