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Tribune Staff

At the risk of being called a name-dropper, my friend, Sen. Al Simpson called me yesterday, and he apparently misinterpreted something I casually mentioned as we talked. I said, “It's a coincidence you called since I ran into Sue today.” My friend Al replied, “You ran over my daughter? Was she hurt?”

We exchanged a few more word-play quips, but Al couldn't talk long since he was leaving again for D.C. the next morning. He mentioned that he had “managed to tick off nearly everyone in the country lately,” but I assured him I'd never be among them. For someone so high-profile (He was once a Senator, ya know?) to remain concerned about the welfare of a stumblebum like me speaks volumes of the gangly statesman.

Obviously I hadn't actually run over Sue Simpson Gallagher with my truck, so I should have more carefully worded it as, “I came across Sue today,” or “My and Sue's paths crossed.” But even if my friend, Sen. Al Simpson's confusion was feigned, it highlights what is often a huge obstacle in casual conversation: what I like to call “Inadvertent Simile Snafu.”

So many distinct words are so similar in spelling and/or pronunciation, yet so distant in meaning, that intent can be badly misconstrued. For instance, “incompetent” and “incontinent.” That might not be the best example, since those two words at least aren't diametrically opposed. For instance my dog Trina, since she was rendered incontinent when she was (in this case, literally) run into, it's not entirely inaccurate to confuse the words. Her keester, now being “incontinent,” is in a way, “incompetent.”

But other words separated by only a single letter or two can lead the listener wildly astray. I once heard a pastor delivering a sermon about some Biblical leader who spent so much alone time with his “concubine” that his wife was furious. I sat there in my pew (not to be confused with “P-U; you stink!”) thinking: “But in the husband's defense, when a man works the fields all day, it's easy to become attached to your farm equipment. At least he didn't run off with one of the oxen.”

I later learned that a concubine is, “a woman who is the lover of a wealthy, married man, but with the social status of a subordinate form of wife, often kept in a separate home.” A combine of course, is defined as “a machine that reaps and threshes grain.” I was even more outraged though, to finally realize this Godly man was reaping — and quite possibly threshing – his concubine, or mistress, if you will.

Should someone call me “supercilious,” which means “full of contempt and arrogance,” I might assume they admired my “super-silliness.” I'm not ashamed of my humor, nor should I be. But I am never arrogant and I don't show contempt, except once for the court, which landed me in the klink, or “hooskow.”

These nearly-identical words and phrases can be misconstrued so easily that complimentary can turn caustic in the stink of an eye. I might write to an author, “I just finished reading your book and I was appalled throughout.” She might angrily reply, “Oh yeah, joke boy? Well, I just read your latest column and I too was sickened!” She would never realize I was “enthralled,” but my spell-check was too illiterate to understand context.

Countless word similes can get one into trouble — “onion” and “bunion” for instance, among other food-related requests. While ordering a burger at a fast-food window, if I was asked, “Would you like flies with that?” I might superciliously answer, “Well, what do you think, Stupid?”

Cognizant of this type of misunderstanding, I would never tell an overweight, hard-of-hearing woman, “Well, at least you've got your health,” since “health” and “girth” sound too much alike.

Not to belabor the point, but if I were to offer my opinion on a subject and someone accused me of “vacillating too often,” I'd defensively snap, “How dare you judge me? And what business is it of yours how frequently I do it?!” Obviously “vacillate” can easily be misunderstood for…well, “exacerbate,” or “promulgate,” to name a few.

I'd like to add that no matter how others might judge my friend, Sen. Al Simpson's sometimes-irreverent wit, I happen to find it quite regressing. And I don't just bring that up to name-drip.

Former Sen. Alan Simpson has had a long career in public service, and his latest contribution as co-chairman of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform may be the greatest service he has provided to the nation.

What Simpson and his co-chairman, Erskine Bowles have done, quite simply, is tell the truth to the American people, that we are all responsible for the current fiscal situation, and fixing it will require sacrifice from all of us.

(July 26, 1927 - Dec. 7, 2010)

Ann Gonzales Ramirez of Worland died Dec. 7, 2010, at the Worland Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center. She was 83.

(Dec. 24, 1939 - Dec. 5, 2010)

Norman L. Pomeroy of Lusk, died on Dec. 5, 2010, while sitting on his favorite stool watching football. He was 70.

Clever, holiday-festooned floats drew eyes at the annual Country Christmas Lighted Parade in downtown Powell Saturday evening. Saint Nick Knaks was overall winner. Business category winners included The Real Estate Connection for first place, and Crazy Cayuse Wranglers, second. In the club category first place went to the Little Hooves 4-H Club, and second place to Chaps and Chapeaus. Recreational category winners were, first, Absaroka Mountain Thunder, and second, Stomp and Company.

Last week's court ruling ordering destruction of sugar beet seed-producing stecklings is the second prong of an assault against sugar beet farmers, a Heart Mountain sugar beet grower said Monday.

Ric Rodriguez, who also is a member of the Western Sugar Cooperative's board of directors, said defendants have appealed the ruling that would destroy stecklings producing seed for the 2012 growing season. It would remove and destroy stecklings planted after the September injunction was issued, he said.

Roling to continue as temporary CEO at PVHC

After a telephone conference and lengthy discussion during an executive session, the Powell Valley Healthcare Board on Thursday voted to have Robin Roling continue as interim chief executive officer for the organization until a permanent replacement is hired and on duty.

Roling is vice president of patient care services for Powell Valley Healthcare.

Surviving sailor voyages back for USS Arizona dedication

The 69th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor is today — Dec. 7 — and will include a dedication of the new $54 million USS Arizona Museum.

Unfortunately, the survivors, now hitting their late 80s or early 90s, are dying off.


Jim Seckman (right) goes on the attack in his bout with Shea O'Neill of Livingston, Mont. in the finals of the Powell Invitational. Seckman pinned O'Neill in 5:33, his sixth pin in six matches during the competition, to win the tournament championship at 152. Tribune photo by Don Amend

Panthers take own tourney this weekend

Seven wrestlers reached the finals to lead the Powell Panthers to a win and a positive start to the season last weekend.

Five more Panthers earned medals as Powell picked up 329.5 team points to finish ahead of second-place Worland, who finished wih 243.5 points. Natrona County High School finished third and Greybull/Riverside fourth in the 21 team field.

Short bench a factor in 0-3 start

The Powell Panthers failed to bring home a victory in three attempts at Buffalo to begin boys' basketball season. The Panthers dropped games against Newcastle, Rawlins and Wheatland as part of the 3A East-West showdown field.

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