I no longer watch the news. The anchors are having too much fun. I read the news by hand-holding a newspaper.
Before I explain why, let’s take a look at a few words.
The present tense of read is read. The past tense of read is read. Sometimes you don’t know if it’s the present tense or past tense until you have read the whole sentence.
Why isn’t the past tense of read readed or red?
The present tense of lead, meaning to show the way, is lead. The past tense of lead is led.
Lead, the soft, malleable, poor metal, is pronounced led. Not only that, the lead in your pencil is not lead. It’s graphite.
How the heck would someone entering this country from some place like southeast Asia or Tennessee, for instance, ever figure these things out?
Just kidding, Tennessee. My parents lived in Johnson City, Tenn., for two years one summer.
Sometime in the 16th century a great big deposit of graphite was discovered in England and the locals determined that it was better for marking sheep than what they had been using. They must have been embarrassed about their old method of marking sheep because they signed a pact, in graphite, never to tell.
The graphite was thought to be lead even though it was not. These days the graphite in a pencil is still referred to as lead. You can’t get lead poisoning by eating graphite, but eating graphite is not recommended either.
I was sitting in a red chair the other day, reading an article about Reading, Pennsylvania, while I was listening to Led Zeppelin. It all reminds me of the old joke, “I see,” said the blind man to his deaf wife as he took out his hammer and saw.
I don’t know when I first became interested in words and wordplay. I am sure some homophones intrigued me. Carrot, carat, and caret. Birth and berth are homophones too. Two and too are too.
I am not a good listener. I am not a good listener because sometimes I don’t listen to what is being said. I listen for the possibilities of wordplay. The Marx Brothers did that all of the time and their conversations were convolutions of mad fun. Viaduct became “Why a duck?”
I have a friend, Denver artist Mark Friday, who tells about his dental appointments at 2:30 (i.e., “tooth hurty”).
“Ice cream” and “I scream.” “Euthanasia” and “youth in Asia.” Did Jimi Hendrix say, “’Scuse me while I kiss the sky” or “’Scuse me while I kiss this guy”?
I love anagrams (my name is an anagram of Magic Shirt) and palindromes (feeble Tom’s motel beef).
This read-read, lead-led thing is fascinating. There’s a Leadville, Colorado, so named because of its rich mineral deposits. In the late 1800s it had the second largest population in the state. About that time Doc Holliday moved to Leadville and brought with him another kind of lead. Holliday shot an ex-policeman named Billy Allen. The jury acquitted Holliday.
Is a stop sign an acronym for “softly tap on pedal”? It seems like it is in this neighborhood. Is news an acronym for “north, east, west, south”? It could be.
You can go to the john but you can’t go to the jack. How did a four-letter name (Jack) become the nickname of a four-letter name (John)? During medieval times the name John was skewed by Germans into Jankin or Jackin, which makes no sense. But there we go again: sense, scents, cents, but not since, unless you are from the South.
Anyway, back to TV news. I don’t watch it because the personalities go from grim accounts of war to a piece on a parakeet in Wheat Ridge that has ESP or ESPN or something. And each story is delivered with the same chipper facial expression, which is very disconcerting.
Is disconcerting something that happens when the symphony is over?
By the way, all of this is an example of burying the lead.
Craig Marshall Smith is an artist, educator and Highlands Ranch resident. He can be reached at email@example.com