“Only” – An Unsung Hero!

unsung hero

“Only” is the hardest-working little word in the English language.  It does stuff that other words just dream about.  It modifies nouns, it modifies verbs, it connects phrases and, depending on where you place it, it can change the entire meaning of any sentence.  “Only” has so much talent; I’m sure all the other words are jealous.  But does anybody sing the praises of “only?”  Do you ever hear, “Good job, ‘only?’ or “Thanks, ‘only!’ You really spiced up my sentence?”  Nope!  Never happens!  The truth is, nobody thinks about “only.”  It just hangs out in the dictionary with all the other words (who don’t do half as much work, BTW) waiting for some writer who’s searching for subtletyThat’s when “only” jumps into the literary fray, without hesitation or fanfare, and gets the job done.  And what a job!  Here are just a few examples of what “only” can do.

It can kick-start an argument

“You phone me when you want to sleep with me.”
A legitimate statement, invitation or dismissal.
“You only phone me when you want to sleep with me.”
Suddenly, somebody’s a jerk and the war’s on.

It can convey emotion.

“He lost his friend when his dog ran away.”
Aww, that’s too bad.
“He lost his only friend when his dog ran away.”
OMG!  That’s s-o-o-o-o sad!

It can turn an ordinary evening into something special.

“She was wearing an apron when he came home.”
“She was only wearing an apron when he came home.”

Pair “only” with “if” and you get a ton of regret.

“If I’d kissed her, she wouldn’t have married Malcolm.”
“If only I’d kissed her, she wouldn’t have married Malcolm.”

Lawyers love “only” because it can mitigate the circumstances.

“She robbed the bank.”
“She only robbed the bank.”

But it can also assign blame.

“When the fire started, he tried to save himself.”
What a quick-thinking individual!
“When the fire started, he only tried to save himself.”
Selfish bastard!

Or it can turn a good deed into a reprimand

“She cleaned out the closet before she sat down and watched TV.”
Very responsible.
“She only cleaned out the closet before she sat down and watched TV.”
Lazy snot!

Or it can change the meaning entirely.  And this is where “only” really flexes its muscles.  Take a look at this single simple sentence.

“She told him that she loved him.”

Now, sit back and see how “only” changes the meaning — seven different times.

Only she told him that she loved him.
She only told him that she loved him.
She told only him that she loved him.
She told him only that she loved him.
She told him that only she loved him.
She told him that she only loved him.
She told him that she loved only him.

I think it’s time we all take a moment out of our busy lives, pour a glass and drink a toast to “only,” the unsung hero of syntax and semantics.

“Here’s to you, ‘only!’  Keep up the good work!”

A Few Definitions

definitions

English is a wonderful language.  It works like a river, flowing along, constantly changing and always finding its own level.  Words appear and disappear.  Definitions change.  Meanings mutate.  And, yet, we all kinda understand each other.  To that end, here are a few definitions that might not appear in any dictionary, but I’m sure you’ll recognize them, all the same.

Tomorrow – A place where all human activity and productivity is stored.

Calories – Nasty little creatures who live in your closet and eat the sizes off your clothes.

Avoidance Behaviour – The somewhat boring stuff we do when we have more important boring stuff to do.

Internet – An essential tool of avoidance behaviour.

Pockets – Those things that fashion designers have been denying women for centuries.

Leftovers – Food that lives in the refrigerator for a while– before you throw it out.

Selfies – Photographs of people who have no friends.

Full-length Mirror – A rather useful item when you have clothes on that turns remarkably evil when you’re naked.

Shower – A place to hold imaginary arguments and sing songs that were popular when you were a teenager.

Bae – A stupid, made-up, millennial word that doesn’t mean anything.

Wikipedia – The arbitrator of all arguments.

Exercise – Sometimes pronounced “extra fries,” depending on your self-esteem that day.

Man Bun – A one-size-fits-all way to look ridiculous.

Junk Food – Stuff that everybody eats but nobody admits it.

4 In The Morning – An elusive place where the truth lives.

Family – People who know too much about you to be your friends.

Lottery Tickets – A tax on people who can’t do math.

YouTube – Moving pictures that eat time.

And my favourite:

Vegans – People who announce the menu when nobody’s even thinking about food.

Winter News

news

Late winter news is never as weird as late summer news, but sometimes the combination of too many coats and too much cold just aligns the stars properly and strange things peek out.  Here are a couple of items I found that might tweak your brain on an otherwise ordinary day.

I don’t ever wish bad luck on anybody (That stuff has a tendency to come back and bite ya!) but this week’s Oprah Winfrey news just screams “just desserts” — with extra sprinkles.  The news is Ms. Winfrey has lost somewhere in the neighbourhood of 40 million dollars from her investment in Weight Watchers.  We all know that for someone of Winfrey’s financial girth, 40 million is chump change, but still there’s a certain poetic justice here.  The thing is Oprah Winfrey made her money (at last count $3.5 billion) from telling women there’s something wrong with them – and then mercilessly selling them the cure.  (Don’t believe me?  Take a look at the headlines on any O Magazine.) Therefore, it seems only fair that she should lose some of her ill-gotten gains while trying to suck even more cash out of the self-help industry.  Karma’s a bitch, huh?

Meanwhile, according to France Vingt-Quatre (the Gallic equivalent of the BBC) Le Beverley, a quiet little movie theatre on a quiet little street in Paris, has closed.  It seems the 90-seat cinema simply wasn’t pulling the customers in anymore and the owner, Maurice Laroche, 74, decided it was time to retire.  And this is news because …?  Le Beverley was the last porno theatre in Paris.  Actually, “erotic” movies have always been a respected part of French cinema.  Back in the day (I’m talkin’ late 70s) many of them (Emmanuelle, Immoral Tales, Tendres Cousines) even made their way into the mainstream.  Unfortunately, these days, when every movie except Toy Story has a complimentary nude scene, most people don’t understand that erotic is a whisper, not a shout, and they just call it all “porn” and get on.  Anyway, Le Beverley, like most movie theatres that aren’t Multiplexes, has disappeared into the 21st century where Netflix is king and Pornhub gets 80 to 90 million views a day.  (That’s right! A day!)  Personally, I’m not much for porn, but, considering Parisians invented the modern porn industry by selling racy postcards to uptight Englishmen, I think it’s only fitting that their last erotic theatre should get a few international headlines.

And finally:

A guy from the Isle of Wight has written a book — with his nose.  Apparently, Josh Barry (who has Cerebral Palsy) just got tired of dictating his thoughts and decided “The hell with it: I’ll do it myself” and for the last nine years has been typing away – one letter at a time – and now his book is finished.  Normally, I’m not interested in inspirational tales at all, but this story has such a cool “Archy and Mehitabel” vibe that I’m going to go with it.  Honestly, I can’t imagine this kind of perseverance, but, the next time I’m moanin’ about a 500 word Friday blog, I’m going to try my best to take a page out of Josh’s book, cowboy-up and just get on with it.