Good to Great English, vol 6

  
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This special edition is short and irresistible: A comic interlude on poise and humor to get fluent or fledgling speakers through any situation.

Putting the Toothpaste Back in the Tube

Rod Ponton, Texas lawyer and Internet celebrity, gracefully accepted his viral fame over what can only be catalogued as a Zoom filter blooper that changed his appearance from man to cat minutes before his court hearing.

As Mr Ponton says with a sigh, “You can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube.” In other words, it’s too late to backtrack and reverse a situation: you can’t unsay or undo what has been said or done.

This idiom lightens the mood and highlights how relatable an unexpected, awkward moment can be, especially when it's happened very quickly.

On the other hand, it’s cringeworthy when describing a situation that's hard or impossible to reverse because of time passed. Just think how fast toothpaste can run out of the tube. A huge amount of hardened toothpaste (combination of the time factor + a horrible situation) is impossible to reverse squeeze back in.

For example, have you heard about the Welsh man who threw away the hard drive on which was stored his Bitcoin password? He realized he’d lost access to 275 million dollars. Saying “There’s no way to put the toothpaste back in the tube” would sound rather cruel. As a matter of fact, he is willing to dig up the landfill and give his local council a 25% cut if permission is granted and the drive found.

A Deadpan Audience and Delivery

Calm conversation, problem-solving, no great guffaws of laughter. Would anyone know how these gentlemen did it?

Deadpan means keeping a serious face, even a poker face, when laughter is a more than viable option. Comedians use this strategy, and so do the British.

Word Play on the Clawyer’s Mishap

Here are some uncategorized mewels, uh, jewels. Notes are in the links if needed.

  1. It was a purrfect video.

  2. The clawyer is a clawschool graduate. Do you know anyone who’s been to clawschool?

  3. That’s a kitten, not a cat! The lawyer has commited purrjury! Perjury is the act of deliberately giving false or misleading information under oath.

  4. In a similar vein, this could make case claw or jurispurrdence.

  5. What an amewsing video (Cats meow and the sound sounds like “Mew, mew”).

  6. This lawer is an advocat. What is he advocating exactly? Perhaps, don’t let the kids use your Zoom account? Keep calm and tell the truth - I am not a cat?

  7. On the other hand, he may be district Cattorney

  8. He couldn’t find the mouse fast enough, could he!

  9. Lucky he didn't have a stroke! Stroke has several meanings. We stroke a feline when we run a hand on its fur to show affection. A stroke is also a brain hemorrhage. In casual spoken language, it means that someone is embarrassed, shocked and surprised. “I nearly had a stroke when my Zoom filter came on!”

The Cat’s Meow

You may safely say this when something is outstanding, top of the line. The outcome from Schrödinger’s Cat's Zoom Filter experiment is the cat's meow. The lawyer is both a cat and a human at the same time*.

The Treachery of Images and Words

What would renowned artist René Magritte have said, though?

The Treachery of Images is actually the translation of the title of René Magritte’s realistic oil painting of a pipe with the caption, This is not a pipe. As the artist quipped, it is the representation or the image of a pipe - you can’t stuff it, smoke it, or use it.

The clawyer was quick to tell the judge, “I am not a cat” but he was “ready to go forward with it,” meaning the court hearing via videoconfurrencing.

An altogether refreshing bit of mews.

Let me close by emphasizing the importance of humor when learning another language. It creates a bond because communication goes beyond grammar and vocabulary, especially if you're unsure of your choice of words and delivery.

I trust you'll avoid catastrophic humor… that's a topic for another time.

See you next week!

Links

Meet the Texan behind the cat

1) Clawyer is a pun: claw (the long, sharp horny nail at the tip of a cat’s “toes”) + lawyer).

2) Happy cats purr - sound to describe the soothing vibrations and sound that echo from their chest area.

Lost Bitcoins: https://www.businessinsider.fr/us/man-offers-council-70-million-dig-up-bitcoin-hard-drive-2021-1

René Magritte, The Treachery of Images: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Treachery_of_Images

*Inspiration and two pilferings from The Guardian's comments section: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/feb/11/lawyer-cat-funny-texas-rod-ponton-judge#comments

If you'd like to work with me: maude@languagesandmore