If you were looking for a bit of levity today, you should probably turn to the Comics section. After the week we had, my funny bone went numb.

Let’s see if I can still provide some knowledge or clear up some questions for you anyway.

Bob Kopp hadn’t written to me in many moons, so he saved like a squirrel with a cheeky acorn. I will try to answer one of his four questions:

“When is an 18 year old a teenager or when is a man? I have observed a number of articles describing individuals as teenagers or men when the person’s age is 18 Is there a policy or is it just at the discretion of the writers?”

Whether we call an 18-year-old a teenager or a man has a lot to do with what kind of story it is. If the 18-year-old is charged with a crime, we’ll probably call him male at some point because of the legal implications of being 18.

One day you’re 17, committing crimes with only juvenile prison and the eternal contempt of your parents to fear, and the next day, on your 18th birthday, you’re having a tough time with the big boys. (The exception being if you are a minor committing serious crimes for which you could be tried as an adult.)


It’s like graduating from college, if my cynical memory of that difficult time is any accurate gauge, and heading to high school.

If our story was about an 18-year-old discovering a method to convert single-use plastics into clean energy, we’d probably refer to the person as a teenager to amplify the irony of what I’ll always think of as a kid who discovers the win-win solution of our time.

Eighteen, as Alice Cooper taught us, is a tricky time for anyone.

I’m in the middle, with no plan

i am a boy and i am a man

I am eighteen years old

And I don’t know what I want

You might also wonder why we refer to a minor by their first name as a second reference in a story. Unless it’s a crime story, referring to 9-year-old Bobby Hasenpfeffer as “Hasenpfeffer” in the second reference seems awkwardly formal, don’t you agree?

Word nerds

In response to my recent reader input question about what you would call someone who is both a word nerd and a computer nerd, Bill McLean came up with “biblio-byte” or “modem- verb”.

Jon Womack coined “scriptechie”.

From the peanut gallery

“Downtown La Grange has a storefront with large letters proclaiming ‘Get In Shape for Women’. Only one member of my family had the right first thought that this was a fitness center. fitness center aimed at a female clientele.The rest of us at first wondered why such a business would be allowed in a posh business district, even though we weren’t sure if it was a a fitness center with another accent or a Viagra mill.”

-David Harding

“We all know the phrases that are oxymorons, such as ‘instant classic’, but what about single words that are oxymorons? So far, I’ve only found four oxymoron words in the language English These are:

• Phonetics: it is not written as it is pronounced.

• Monosyllabic: It has more than one syllable.

• Palindrome: It is not the same spelled backwards.

• Verb: It is a noun, the name of a word that indicates an action.

Surely there must be more. Can you help ?

-Bill Davis

“But for a flurry of ‘buts’ towards the end of Sunday’s article, it was an enjoyable read.”

-Don Hattendorf

“If I jog the memory lane while jogging through my memory, can I still jog the full range?”

–Jon Womack

Write carefully!

• Jim Baumann is vice-president/editor of the Daily Herald. You can buy Jim’s book, “Grammar Moses: A humorous guide to grammar and use,” at grammarmoses thebook.com. Write to him at

[email protected] and put “Grammar Moses” in the subject line. You can also friend or follow Jim at facebook.com/baumannjim.