Last night I had a linguistic dream in which I was explaining to an old friend how difficult English is for foreign-born people to learn. Just so many anomalies, so many idioms. We like to force words into new meanings that don’t always make much sense. I told him about the first line of the song in The Wizard of Oz, “We’re off to see the wizard.” “To be off” suggests an actual movement toward something. I can just see Dorothy, the Lion, the Tin Man, and the Scarecrow skipping through the Oz countryside, the Emerald City in the distance (Oh, and don’t forget Toto). So they’re off to off the wizard. That is, they’re going there to kill the wizard. They aren’t really. But there’s that second “off” to explain. Reverse it and you might get, “We’re on to you” (We know all your secrets). Or “We’re onto you” (We’re now sitting on you). And look at “going” in “We’re going to be going to the Emerald City.” The first “going” has nothing to do with a moving forward as in the second “going.” It means future time, as in “Sometime in the future we’re moving toward the Emerald City.” We love to take preposition/adverbs and force them into joining forces with some verb to take on new meanings: give up (surrender), suck up (either to renew fortitude or to falsely flatter), take up (begin a new hobby), sign up (join), seize up (piston freezing by friction), shut up (close one’s mouth), chin up (raise one’s chin [a verb], but chin-up [a noun in which one raises one’s body by pulling oneself up to a bar]), shine up (falsely flatter), fix up (repair), show up (appear), slow up (And why does “slow up” mean exactly the same as “slow down?”), stick up (a verb suggesting the act of putting a gun in someone’s face) and stickup (a noun indicating the act of putting a gun in someone’s face), stuck up (nose in the air), and throw up (Do we regurgitate up or down?). You know, all this linguistic consideration is giving me a headache. I think I’ll just throw up my hands. Eeeooo, now there’s a disgusting image.
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Match Play is a golf/suspense novel. Dust of Autumn is a bloody one set in upstate New York. Prairie View is set in South Dakota, with a final scene atop Rattlesnake Butte. Life is the Arbor is a children's book about Rollie Rabbit and his friends (on about a fourth grade level). The Black Widow involves an elaborate extortion scheme. Doggy-Dog World is my memoir. And ES3 is a description of my method for examining English sentence structure.
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