Wednesday, September 3, 2008

This'll Date Me

Long before I ever heard the word "tat" used to mean tattoo and long before comedian Dennis Miller started letting his idiot flag fly, he had a standup comedy special I enjoyed. I think it was called "Mr. Miller Goes to Washington."

One of his jokes struck me as particularly funny. It was the stand-alone, non sequitur line: "What is tat, and where do I get it?"

This week, Boston Globe columnist Jan Freeman writes about "tit for tat." Turns out it came from "tip for tap," which Freeman says is a "less gory version of 'an eye for an eye.'"

So it turns out Miller had "tat" all along. A pair, in fact.

On a barely related note, my above use of "non sequitur" got me wondering about this term, too. Specifically, I wondered: does anyone recognize it minus the "non"?

Short answer: No. American Heritage,, and Webster's New World College Dictionary all have listings for "non sequitur," but none lists just "sequitur." Nonsensical? Perhaps.

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LL Blackwell said...

This is a completely unrelated note, but I almost made a fool out of myself in front of my kiddos today (diagramming). "Fourteen desks are in this room." Is "in this room" an adjective or adverbial phrase? (Since we've only just begun, I skirted the issue by telling them we'd only worry about the "horizontal stuff.")

June Casagrande said...

Good for you for taking risks! I think so many students don't get the benefit of this kind of teaching because their teachers are worried about stumbling into areas they're not 100% comfortable in.

So, I'll do the same. (Please bear in mind I've gotten very rusty on this stuff and I'm not at home with my books.) As I recall, this is a prepositional phrase which, as prepositional phrases are prone to do, is functioning as an adverbial (also called an "adverbial complement").

Hope I remembered that right!

June Casagrande said...

Just remembered: Who needs books when you have the magical Googling machine?

From Wikipedia (

In English, adverbials most commonly take the form of adverbs, adverb phrases, temporal noun phrases or prepositional phrases. Many types of adverbials (for instance reason and condition) are often expressed by clauses.

James answered immediately. (adverb)
James answered in English. (prepositional phrase)
James answered this morning. (noun phrase)
James answered in English because he had a foreign visitor. (adverbial clause)

Joel said...

[Completely dodging the grammatical conundrum.]

That Miller bit has long lodged too close to the front of my brain. Sometimes it comes up for no apparent reason (and not just for the obvious ones).

I love that you said "a pair" in this context. Ok, that's puerile. But I said it. It stays.

I couldn't agree more about the loss of our beloved Dennis's soul. I think he realized he had money--or something like that. One of my most conservative colleagues here at work mentioned--today even--that Miller actually has a show on talk radio. No, not the good kind. AM. Rabid reactionary. Sigh.

Thank God for Lewis Black. Irony that: thanking God for an atheist. Oh well, I love irony . . . and atheists . . . and God.

June Casagrande said...

Yeah, the most entertainment I've gotten out of Miller in the last 10 years is watching him drool over/affix his lips to the butt of Christopher Hitchens (this was back in the deciding-whether-to-storm Iraq days). Miller came off like a homely schoolgirl on a date with the captain of the football team. Icky-poo.

I'm not surprised that you remembered that line, too. It was no doubt fun word play -- all the more fun for the fact that it requires the listener to do that connect-the-dots thing. A good joke, source notwithstanding.

Do you also remember the line, "I've got a life to lead, Cha-cha"? (A Miller line from that long-ago routine.)


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