Go to work, open email, day-dream a bunch | Latte Guy | Dec. 2

I received a funny article over the Internet the other day. I was at work at the time, so, of course, I immediately dropped everything and read it.

Since a bus station is the place where the bus stops, and a train station is the place where the train stops, I think you can guess what happens in my office at my work station.

The gist of this particular article was that English is a strange and funny language. For example, there’s no egg in eggplant, no ham in hamburger, and neither pines nor apples in pineapples.

English muffins were not invented in England nor were French fries invented in France. Sweetmeats are candies while sweetbreads, which are neither sweet nor bread, are meat. Boxing rings are square. Guinea pigs are not pigs and do not hail from Guinea.

We ship things by truck and send cargo by ship. We have noses that run and feet that smell.

And how can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same thing, yet a wise man and a wise guy be opposites? How can your house burn down as it is burning up? And why do we fill in a form by filling it out?

When the stars are out they are visible, but when the lights are out they are invisible. Finally, why doesn’t the word ‘Buick’ rhyme with ‘quick’?

I don’t disagree that English can be a strange and funny language. However, I’d argue that it’s no stranger or funnier than many of the other things invented by the human race, which, by the way, is not a race at all but rather a species.

Thinking about strange and funny things got me to thinking about Douglas Adams’ classic five-part series, “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy,” in which Adams created a world where dolphins were the highest form of earthly life.

Adams’ dolphins spent several millennia trying to teach mankind to speak their language in order for us to advance to their level of intelligence, to no avail.

When the dolphins finally gave up on humans and departed the planet, they were gracious enough to say goodbye and thank us for all the fish.

Therein lies one of the principal differences between men and dolphins.

Thinking about smart dolphins and water reminded me that Tom Robbins once theorized that water might be the earth’s dominant intelligence, and that human beings were themselves invented by water as a device for transporting itself from one place to another.

Here’s a little workplace productivity tip for you.

If you find yourself in your office late in the afternoon pondering the nature of the universe after reading a funny e-mail about the English language, and your guides on that little diversion are Tom Robbins and Douglas Adams, your chances of engaging in any further productive activity on behalf of your employer that day are slim at best.

But as long as your afternoon has been freed up, you might use the extra time to ponder some of life’s bigger questions.

For example, do you think a church should function as a clubhouse for saints or as a hospital for sinners?

And is it true that going to a church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car?

A couple of weeks ago, SF Gate columnist Mark Morford wondered if religious people are human beings seeking a spiritual experience or spiritual beings seeking a human experience.

I’ve forgotten what my point was in all this. In fact, I’ve forgotten if I even had a point.

But as long as we’re talking about forgetting things, I wonder if having a good memory is really an unequivocal blessing, or whether it might be evidence of an unhealthy inability to forget? Maybe a clear conscience is just a sign of a fuzzy memory.

I’d love to keep talking with you, but I think I’m getting another e-mail.

Tom Tyner is an attorney for the Trust for Public Land. He is author of “Skeletons From Our Closet,” a collection of writings on the island’s latte scene.

We encourage an open exchange of ideas on this story's topic, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. Personal attacks, inappropriate language, and off-topic comments may be removed, and comment privileges revoked, per our Terms of Use. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.

Read the Oct 21
Green Edition

Browse the print edition page by page, including stories and ads.

Browse the archives.

Friends to Follow

View All Updates