The Senile Virus


As a regular reader of this fair missive, you’ll be aware that we start each day with a walk along the beachfront at the bottom of our street. We usually turn left and take The Girls (our two well-behaved Australian Silky Terriers, until they spot other dogs on their beach) past Suttons Beach, around to the point near the Surf Club. (Yes, I know there’s no surf), along to the lagoon pool, then on to the jetty at Redcliffe and back home. It’s a round trip of about 5 km – which is about as far as their little legs can manage. 

My husband’s sister has been staying with us over New Year (she lives in Eden, on the Sapphire Coast of NSW) and this morning we decided to show her where all our rate money has gone, so we turned right instead of left. Our local council has recently spent a few million dollars renovating the Margate Beach foreshore (there’s a photo on the council site to show something of what they’ve done. This doesn’t really do it justice though.) There’s a boardwalk right along the edge of the beach, and barbeque shelters, picnic tables, beach showers and trees the whole length of the development.

It’s been done well, with plenty of native gardens and lots of vantage points to sit and ponder how fortunate we are to live here.

I imagine most countries have a similar political structure to ours, with a federal or national government spending the taxpayers’ money while local councils fritter away the ratepayers’ share of the national debt. (Out here we’re thrice-blessed and also have a middle tier – the state governments!)

Can you think of anything worse than putting yourself through the miseries of political office, especially on a local level? It’s been my experience that there are three types of people who go into local government: the idealists, the masochists and the property developers. Sadly, there seem to be fewer and fewer of the first, more of the second and legions of the third.

Our local bunch began well – implementing some long-needed development (all the waterfront parks you see in the photos came about as a result of the current council’s efforts). They did such a good job that all of us voters thought we’d give them another term to finish the work.

Just let me say in our defence that it seemed like a good idea at the time.

It’s a funny thing. Vote ’em in once and they’re on their best behaviour. Vote for them twice and hoo boy! No wonder very few ever get voted in thrice.

Now that just doesn’t sound right, does it? And yet, “once” and “twice” are perfectly acceptable, so why not “thrice?”

Joan Webster asked about something like this recently – she wanted to know if there was a way to tell when to use “twice” and when to use “two times.”

A bit of sleuthing around has led me to surmise that “twice” (and “thrice”) may be more widely used in countries with ties to UK English, while “two times” is the preferred form in the US. I’d welcome any thoughts on this.

“Twice” comes from the Old English word twiga, meaning ‘two’ and it means “in two cases or on two occasions; two times; in doubled degree or amount.” 

The terms are pretty much interchangeable, almost. You do need to be aware of keeping parallel structure in your sentences. So you can be “once, twice, thrice a lady” but if you’re at all concerned about the well-being of your grammar, you won’t be “once, twice, three times a lady.”

Interestingly, there are no English words to describe things that are four or five times the degree or amount. So you can vote for someone once or twice and you can be thrice-lucky, but that’s as far as it goes. A quince is not something that’s five times as lucky, it’s just a shrivelled up piece of fruit.

And did you know that there are three types of people who enjoy maths? Those who can count and those who can’t.


Albert has been feeling very civic-minded and passed this along:

Just got this in from a reliable source.

It seems that there is a virus out there called the Senile Virus that even the most advanced programs from Norton cannot take care of, so be warned, it appears to affect those of us who were born before 1958!

Symptoms of Senile Virus:

1.    Causes you to send same e-mail twice.
2.    Causes you to send blank e-mail.
3.    Causes you to send to wrong person.
4.    Causes you to send back to person who sent it to you.
5.    Causes you to forget to attach the attachment.
6.    Causes you to hit “SEND” before you’ve finished the

This week’s quiz:

Find the odd word:

1. abstract, ideal, concrete, hypothetical

2. agenda, schedule, plan, flexibility

3. atmosphere, mood, ambience, affability

4. salvation, revelation, apocalypse, devastation

5. arduous, simple, tough, exacting

6. benevolent, altruistic, malevolent, generous

7. mockery, reproduction, burlesque, travesty

8. unqualified, categorical, unequivocal, partial

9. permit, force, coerce, compel

10.complacent, serious, pleased, nonchalant

A couple of bon môts from an anonymous source:

Get off the stove, Grandma, you’re too old to be riding the range.
As the master said to his confused disciple, “That was Zen, this is Tao.”

Last week’s quiz:

Match each word with its synonym:

1. abdicate

2. abysmal

3. affinity

4. archetype

5. blasphemy

6. capitulate

7. charlatan

8. conciliatory

9. culpable












Here’s a conversation that Chris sent in … I’m sure it’s not the same Chris as in the story though!

Pat: Hey, Chris! How’s your new pet fish doing? You told me he was really something special.

Chris: To tell you the truth, I’m really disappointed in him. The guy who sold him to me said I could teach him to sing like a bird.

Pat: You bought a fish because you thought you could teach him to sing like a bird? I can’t believe it!

Chris: Well, yeah. After all, he’s a parrot fish.

Pat: I hate to tell you this, Chris, but while you might be able to teach a parrot bird to sing, you’re never going to get anywhere with a parrot fish.

Chris: That’s what you think! He can sing all right. The thing is, he keeps singing off-key. It’s driving me crazy. Do you know how hard it is to tuna fish?

Word of the week

Weregild (n)
The price of a man’s head; a compensation paid of a man killed, partly to the king for the loss of a subject, partly to the lord of a vassal, and partly to the next of kin. It was paid by the murderer. (It’s derived from two Anglo-Saxon words: wer a man, value set on a man’s life; gild payment of money.) 

I know of one life that was saved early New Year’s Day solely due to lack of funds to pay the weregild to the family of that yobbo who felt he had to keep blowing that blasted trumpet until 2 am! 

Oxymoron of the week

If you’ve spent a happy hour or three standing in the queue to return faulty/unwanted Christmas gifts, you’ll appreciate this week’s oxymoron: Customer satisfaction.

Here’s a Latin phrase you can use after you’ve sent for your free report on how to write a book:

Cui dono lepidum novum libellum? (To whom do I give my new elegant little book?)