My Summer Pledge Drive


This afternoon at work, two department members and I were catching up before starting a meeting.  The topic of conversation turned to the theme for a future blog post, which then moved into my invitation to view my site.    As I began to describe to them the ease and benefits of subscribing to my blog, my colleague inquired, “Is there a prize?”

Well, that depends on how one defines “prize.”

For anyone who spends more than five minutes listening to a pubic radio station, you know that it is high-pledge season — that time when the entire staff of the radio station, their best friends, family members, and beloved pets  chirp from 7 am to 7pm about the benefits of establishing or renewing a subscription to the station — and a reminder that at least 50% of the station’s income is from subscribers like yourself.

To encourage your pledge, they work hour after hour to hook you with a myriad of gifts in exchange for your pledge.  During the typical two-week period, the pledge gifts expand in value and popularity.  Pledge during the first few days of the drive, for example,  and you might win a radio station back pack with a sleeve that holds a 16-ounce water bottle.  Pledge during the final two days of the drive and you could win an iPad Air or a week-end wine-tasting trip in Napa Valley.

So, when my colleague asked me if there was a prize connected to subscribing to my blog, I thought, “Gosh, by golly, there really oughta be.”

So here it is, Dear Readers.  The First Annual Sensiforous Itty Bitty Teeny Weeny Pledge Drive is on, and will be a mere 24 hours in length.  (I defy any public radio or television station to beat that time frame.)  Your job:  encourage others to subscribe to this blog.  Sign up enough new subscribers to Sensiforous, and you might just win a cool prize, outlined below.

But it won’t be easy.  I’d posit that the challenge involved here is equivalent to a board member’s matching gift challenge during the last half hour of morning pledge shift.   You will need to work quickly.  You may need to cut a deal here and there.  Beg.  Threaten.  As a Chicago  resident, I know this won’t be hard for my local readers.

But you’re lucky, because I’m giving you nearly a full day’s advance notice prior to the start of this drive — even if saying “advance notice” is redundant.

The Sensiforous Itty Bitty Teeny Weenie Pledge drives runs from midnight, Thursday, June 26 through midnight, Friday, June 27, 2014.

Here’s the gift line-up.

Gift for signing up 100 new Sensiforous subscribers:   a 2014 Dodge Charger


Gift for securing 50  new Sensiforous subscribers:  a Trek X-Caliber 29 Mountain Bike

Trek X-Caliber 29 Mountain Bike

Gift for acquiring 25 new Sensiforous subscribers:  a Wusthof Classic 12-Piece Knife Block Set

Wusthof 12-Piece Knife Set

Gift for enlisting 10 new Sensiforous subscribers:  a charming I Love my Cat mug from Café Press

I Love my Cat Mug

And, finally, the gift for arranging 5 new Sensiforous subscribers:  lunch with me, at the restaurant of your choice.

SMK in Blue Dress

Acceptable forms of verification of  your procured subscriptions:  email agreements, notarized contracts, photographs of new subscribers in the act of subscribing, auditory recordings of subscribers giving in … I mean … agreeing to sign up, text exchanges.  Other documentation not listed here may be submitted, but I have final approval.

Well?  What are you waiting for?  A Chicago Cubs Pennant?  Get a move on!

This is going to be so much fun!!

And enjoy yourselves.  Think about the valuable civic and cultural commitment you are demonstrating by giving attention to the compositional musings of your compatriot.


My thanks to Nora, for inspiring this essay.


Virgin Eddie

Row of Cartoon People Laughing

Last week over dinner a friend was describing to me the past living arrangements of several family members, who for a period of time resided in the same building.  The restaurant was noisy with the conversation of the dinner crowd and the clatter of dishes.   “And then on the second floor there was Virgin Eddie …”

“Virgin Eddie?  Why did you call him Virgin Eddie?” I inquired very politely, if not a bit uncomfortably.

“Virge and Eddie,” she corrected me, staring for a millisecond before we both slithered to the floor, guffawing as tears squirted from our eyes.  After climbing back into our chairs and brushing  crumbs from our clothing, we launched into a potential character sketch for an individual called Virgin Eddie.  But that’s not the point here.

Cartoon of Blonde Boy Listening

The critically important point here is that I had committed a malapropism, and certainly not my first.  We’re all familiar with such trips of the tongue — those incorrect utterances of a term or phrase  that bring on laughter, and in some contexts, public embarrassment.  The Funk and Wagnalls dictionary defines   malapropism as “the incorrect or inappropriate use of a word; a verbal blunder.”

The Wikipedia definition is a little more descriptive, capturing the auditory structure of the listener’s mis-heard message:  “the use of an incorrect word in place of a word with a similar sound, resulting in a nonsensical, often humorous utterance.”  The word actually derives from a character in the 1775 comedy The Rivals, by Richard Brinsley Sheridan, Mrs. Malaprop, who frequently committed such auditory errors.  Example:  “Illiterate him quite from your memory,” rather than “Obliterate him quite from your memory.”  (Wikipedia, 2014)

Linguists tell us that malapropisms are specific in their inaccurateness because they not only use the same part of speech as the word the speaker meant to say, but they even have the same auditory stress patterns as the desired term.  Many malapropisms show up in prayers, anthems, or popular tunes.  Consider the following:

“‘Scuse me while I kiss that guy.”  Correct lyric:  “‘Scuse me while I kiss the sky.”  (Jimi Hendrix, Purple Haze)

In a Dick Van Dyke episode, Rob nervously tries to explain his own malapropism to Laura, his wife, to diffuse her budding jealously toward an actress who has attempted a pass at him:

“She kept saying, ‘Do you want to have an affairsillie?’  And I couldn’t figure out what an affairsillie was.  And then I realized she was saying, ‘Do you want to have an affair, silly!”

Check out this lyric boo-boo:

“Scare a moose, scare a moose, will you do my fan Van Gogh?”  Correct lyric:  “Scaramouche, scaramouche, will you do the fandango?” (Queen, Bohemian Rhapsody)

Still, I think the most scrumptious malapropisms are spoken by children.  (You knew this was coming.)  Children call them as they hear them, as they are still learning to distinguish auditory subtleties in spoken language and to consider the context in which language exchanges are experienced.

My former faculty room mate tells a delightful anecdote about how as a young girl she was taught to respond when asked her name.  Her mother taught her to say her full name.  She came to respond in the same auditory pattern that it had been recited to her.  So, whenever asked,  she answered, “My name is Florenceethelbatt.” (Florence Ethel Batt)

My musician friend, the one I reference at the start of this essay, shared this one:  “Miss D, What’s a ‘dawnzerly’?”  Her students sing, “Oh say can you see, by the dawnzerly light,” in their rendition of Francis Scott Key’s Star Spangled Banner.

Another early childhood colleague recalls a typical error made in children’s reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance:  ” … and to the republic, for Richard Stands.”

In addition to getting tripped up by words to national anthems, we  have all probably mangled a prayer or two in our childhoods.  Remember Bil Keane’s Family Circus cartoon?

Family Circus Cartoon of Boy Praying

And, as it is my self-appointed duty to be exacting in my exploration of our auditory missteps, I  must include several more choice examples of children’s malapropisms, gleaned from  the web site.  Grab a hanky … or something else.

“I kicked a squirrel and I liked it.”  Correct lyric:  “I kissed a girl and I liked it.” (Katie Perry, I Kissed a Girl)

“I got them boobs like Jagger!”  Correct lyric:  “I got them moves  like Jagger.” (Maroon 5 and Christina Aguilera, Moves Like Jagger)

“Waving your bladder all over the place.”  Correct lyric:  “Waving your banner all over the place.”  (Queen, We Will Rock You)

“I throw my hands up in the air sometimes, saying A – O, Galileo!”  Correct lyric:  “I throw my hands up in the air sometimes, saying A – O, gotta let go!”  (Taio Cruz, Dynamite)

“”I like big trucks and I cannot lie.”  Correct lyric:  “I like big butts and I cannot lie.”  (Sir Mix-a-Lot, Baby Got Back)

“Since you let me down I’ve got owls poopin’ in my head.”  Correct lyric:  “Well, since she put me down I’ve been out doin’ in my head.”  (The Beach Boys, Help Me Rhonda)

“Do a little dance, smack that duck, get down tonight.”  Correct lyric:  “Do a little dance, make a little love, get down tonight.”  (KC and the Sunshine Band, Get Down Tonight)

I would argue that the above malapropisms could actually serve a developmentally appropriate function in many early childhood classroom settings, given the ideas or concepts being explored.  We early childhood folks are darn skilled at integrating concepts and curricular areas — it’s core to our training.   After all, you must have an outlet for expressing feelings, a way to communicate your understanding of life science or space science concepts, a venue for sharing your early interest in engineering and specific modes of transportation …

So here’s to laughing at our auditory goofs and delighting in those of young children.  Let’s all join hands and step out of our egos.

And, since we’ve all joined hands … it’s Circle Time!  And Circle Time means Sharing!  So, dear readers, it’s your turn to share your favorite malapropism.

I earnestly await the laughter wave.


My thanks to Nicki, Karen, and Flo, who graciously responded to my solicitations for contributions to this essay.