Things that drive me crazy

There are four hummingbird feeders in our yard, all always stocked with sugar syrup that I make, yet the other day I watched two hummingbirds argue over the feeder on the deck.

I yelled at them to play nice.

They ignored me and continued to buzz one another in the kind of scene you’d see in an old movie about air battles in World War II:


HUMMINGBIRD TWO: No, I’m the RAF. You’re the Luftwaffe.

HUMMINGBIRD ONE: No way I’m the Luftwaffe. Get out of my sky.

HUMMINGBIRD TWO: It’s my sky, too. Get away from my feeder.

HUMMINGBIRD ONE: You get away. Use the feeder in the front.

HUMMINGBIRD TWO: I like this one better.

HUMMINGBIRD ONE: So do I, you potential war criminal.

I guess they watch old movies, too.

The phoebes are less aggressive and appear to take turns on one of the posts I’ve stuck in the ground, one for no reason except for phoebes to sit upon, the other a post that holds a large container of flowers. A phoebe will sit on one and if another phoebe comes around, will vacate and go to the other post. It’s compromise. No phoebe will ever be elected to Congress. A hummingbird has a good chance.

Writing the phrase “if another phoebe” reminds me of hearing Callie Crossley on the radio the other day, WGBH, and I was THRILLED to hear her say:

“That’s a whole OTHER thing.”

You know why?

Because so many people say:

“That’s a whole NUTHER thing.”

You’ve heard it. Maybe you’ve said it: NUTHER. As if you really, really want to say ANOTHER but realize that it won’t work in that context but for some reason can’t seem to say OTHER so you say NUTHER which is, I guess, a combination of ANOTHER and OTHER.

But why? Why not just say OTHER? That’s a whole OTHER thing. From whence came NUTHER? Is that like …

People up here say FOL-AGE for FOL-I-AGE. Foliage is a three-sylable word but people keep saying FOL-AGE, dropping the center sylable.


One day, I expect to hear someone say, “That’s a whole NUTHER piece of FOL-AGE,” and then I’ll hold my breath until I turn blue.

Oh, and KORTER for the coin QUARTER. It’s a Q-U sound, friends, not a KOR sound. Please, for the sake of my late mother who, when I was a kid, would correct me and correct me when I said KORTER until I finally got it right. Now I want you to get it right. For Mom.

In the mid-1960s, I would drive my girlfriend Ellen crazy by pronouncing the T in often. She said it was a soft T, you weren’t supposed to hear it.

ME: Then why is it there?

ELLEN: Because spelling something OFEN would be stupid.

ME: That’s no argument, Ellen.Why not spell it OFEN?

ELLEN: Well, look at it when I write it out. It looks stupid.

ME: Only because that’s the first time you’ve ever written it that way. If you’d been writing it that way from the first day you wrote it, it would look fine and OFTEN would look stupid because you’d wonder why the T was there.

ELLEN: You’re not making any sense.

ME: I OFF-TEN don’t.

Misuse of words drives me crazy but recently I learned, from Kim, the Aichi teacher at Hampshire Hills, that IRREGARDLESS is a real word. Just not in the U.S. According to Kim, whom I believe without question, in Europe, when you are discussing something, or arguing, with someone and that person says, “IRREGARDLESS …” that is a signal that the discussion/argument is over. I find that fascinating because for more years than I want to remember, I would get livid when someone said IRREGARDLESS instead of REGARDLESS and now, instead of getting livid, I just assume that person is European. (Those are the people Trump should be deporting: People out to ruin our version of English. Separate THEM from their children. Especially if they speak Spanish because they’re probably only pretending to be from Spain so we won’t think they’re from Mexico where, you know, everyone is a drug-dealing gang member.)

What else drives me crazy? Oh, drivers who pass people at double yellow lines. Happened to me in Wilton last week. I was about four miles over the speed limit when a cat in a red pickup truck just couldn’t wait any longer and roared around me at a double yellow. What’s the hurry? We were less than a mile from the 30 mph zone where, I hoped, a cop would be waiting.

You might wonder what that has to do with birds or language. Well, birds are smarter than a lot of drivers and when some noodnik passes me like that, I OFTEN (hard T) use unkind language, REGARDLESS of the fact that he can’t hear me over the roar of his big boy engine.

So there.