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LAST HURRAH: Jaycee Carroll high-fives fans as he leaves the Spectrum court after what was likely his last home game. Click Arts&Life for a link to photos. / Photo by Tyler Larson

Today's word on journalism

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Grammatically Speaking:

"We owe much to our mother tongue. It is through speech and writing that we understand each other and can attend to our needs and differences. If we don't respect and honor the rules of English, we lose our ability to communicate clearly and well. In short, we invite mayhem, misery, madness, and inevitably even more bad things that start with letters other than M."

--Martha Brockenbrough, grammarian and founder, National Grammar Day

SPEAK UP! Diss the Word at


Strange musings from the bakery:
Lent and my ticket to hell

By David Baker

February 8, 2008 | Lent is a really good excuse for getting out of things you don't want to do.

For those that don't know about Lent -- which seems pretty improbable, but what the hell, some people don't know who the first president of the U.S. was -- it's the 40-day period before Easter that represents the time Jesus spent in the desert being tempted and means people are supposed to fast and give something of importance up.

Basically, it's awful.

It won't be this year, because I've figured it out. If you don't want to do something, eat something or whatever, just say you're giving it up for Lent.

Things I may be giving up for Lent: Homework, underwear, conversations with stupid people, Jerry Bruckheimer movies, tact and courtesy, sobriety, work, using indoor plumbing, paying bills, saying hi to people I don't like, giving high-fives, traffic laws and flossing -- not that I ever floss, so that wouldn't be hard.

In the past, I've given up a variety of things, but nothing to really inspire me.

One year, I gave up drinking soda -- at least I did for about 12 days. I don't drink soda, but I do mix my whiskey with 7UP. After about five glasses or so, I was more concerned about where I'd left my pants than about Lent.

Drunken revelry is not cool during Lent. Ideally, you're supposed to get it all out on Fat Tuesday -- the Tuesday right before Ash Wednesday, which happened to be this Tuesday -- but it's pretty damn hard to get drunker than a small Irish town on a Tuesday. Two days isn't enough time for the week to drag you down into a funk that only strong drink can cure -- that usually takes at least three days. So for me, that plan was screwed from the word go.

Another year, taking into consideration the whole somber shtick, I gave up drinking beer. Again, only lasting until that weekend when my knees -- and my will -- got weak at the sight of a cooler full of nothing but ice and Bud Light.

The only time I can actually think of me successfully completing a Lent promise was my freshman year in college. But it was such a gargantuan feat, I think I should get credit for a couple bonus Lents for going through with it.

I gave up carnal satisfaction of any kind for the full 40-day period. Yeah, I'm talking about sex, and all related matters.

As hard and, in hindsight, as stupid as it was, I actually made it 42-and-a-half days. That was just a dumb, dumb, dumb idea. I had my friends worried about me. They were concerned for my mental and physical health, so they helped me out by showing me as many erotic images as possible, putting me in the middle of tempting situations and laughing about it.

That's what friends are for.

I will never do that again. For one, as a general principle, you shouldn't turn down sex. That's just self-defeating and counterproductive. I'm not doing anything nearly as stupid this year.

There's a special balance between picking something too hard that you are going to perish without and picking something too easy that doesn't really mean anything.

I discussed the conundrum with my friend Berto in a phone call that also brought about my new Lent philosophy.

"What are you giving up for Lent, B?" Berto asked.

"I haven't even thought about it. I really don't know if I'm going to give up anything."

"You have to, or God will smote you or something."

"I don't have anything I want to give up. I can't give up sex, because that's just irresponsible. I can't give up drinking, because Spring Break is during Lent."

"Give up tacos."

"I'd die, B. That's all I ever eat."


"What are you giving up?"

"I don't know, either."

"Give up shaving."

"Maybe showering, too."

"Yeah, your girlfriend would love that."

"I'll just give up doing the dishes. She'll say, 'Come help me with the dishes.' And I'll say, 'Can't, gave that up for Lent.'"

"Why don't you just give up work for Lent? Tell your boss you're on a religion kick and you've given up selling hats at the mall for Lent."

"Then I wouldn't have enough money to go on Spring Break."

"Good point."

"I'll just give up wearing a sock on my left foot. That way I can get two days out of a pair of socks. And I won't have to do as much laundry, which will save me money."

"That's a good idea. I think I'm just giving up sweets. I don't eat candy anyways, so it won't be hard to give that up."

"What happens if you don't make it? Is God going to come down and smote you or something?"

"It's not really that dramatic. It's more of a goal. Like a self-help thing. There's not really any consequences that I know of."

So it's settled, I'm not going to eat sweets - except for chewing gum and the occasional mint - for 40 days. I figure this way, I can just use that as my excuse when people ask me why I don't want some cookies or something. Instead of having to bother them with healthy-eating-habits talk and diet rigmarole -- stuff nobody wants to hear -- I can just say I'm giving sweets up for Lent.

And if I can't do it, who cares. There's no consequences, really. Some may say, "Well, young man, there are consequences in the after life."

To those people, I say, "Thank you for your concern," because I didn't give up politeness for Lent. But I would also say if you are making light of the somber season of Lent, punishment for eating sweets is probably not the biggest of my afterlife-related worries.

If there's one thing I'd never give up for Lent, it's sarcasm and laughter.


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