Bill Moeller Commentary: A Significant Anniversary and a Lesson on Proper Use of English


I wanted to mention this last week, but the column about Kenneth Kimball had priority by far.  And the significance of that column would have been the marking of the beginning of another year of writing these gems for The Chronicle.  

If you were with me from the inaugural columns, you would now be beginning to read the 16th year of these literary compositions.

It may be some kind of record — or not — for this newspaper. A quick look at the late columnist Gordon Aadland’s book “Saturday’s Child” lets us know that he wrote his gems for “nearly 12 years.”  

The only difference between us is that he wrote in a better style — the kind that English teachers such as he can compose.

With that thought, I shall add some “professional” critiques over the years of the “proper usage of English.” For instance, it grates on my ears when I hear the 23rd letter of our alphabet pronounced “dubya,” and as in Dubya F. West Bearcats.  

Then there’s “hunnert” as in 35 hunnert feet. Honorable mention must go to the Olympia area car dealer who once sold “Toyduhs.” Let us not forget the second month of the year, which has two, count ‘em, “Rs” and should be pronounced accordingly. It’s “February” not Feb-you-ary.  But you knew that, right?

When I was in high school, my English teacher had a pet peeve that she managed to implant into my brain as well. She abhorred the use of the word “aggravate” instead of the word “irritate.”  Aggravate means to take an existing situation and make it worse — such as rubbing a spot that is already sore. Iritate is what made the spot sore in the first place.

My parents always drilled into me the fact that if I were attending a function other than, say, work, I should dress appropriately for the occasion. I can’t count the number of local concerts over the years where I have been one of the only men wearing a tie and at least a sport coat.  

Speaking of concerts, I was taught that the proper behavior of local audiences should be to hold back applause until the entire piece is performed and not respond between each movement of the piece. However, I noticed in the recent event I attended, the conductor did mention the number of movements the audience might hear before any applause would be expected. This is, sometimes, mentioned in the program.

Oh, and related to that, the platform on which a conductor stands is called a podium and what you stand behind when you give a speech is not a podium, it’s a lectern. Nine people out of 10 still get those two twisted around today.

And this next — and final one — is going to make a lot of people angry: the tendency of a minister — or any other religious leader — to urge a large congregation to pray, when Jesus himself specifically insisted that prayer should only be done alone. Modern translations of chapter six in the book of Mathew says praying should be done in a private room. The older King James Version suggested that it be, preferably, accomplished from within one’s closet. But that word probably meant something different from what it does today. So I ask you for how long, and why, have we altered those early teachings of Jesus?  

And, on that note, I shall try to prepare myself for the responses. Remember, I’m an old man and, maybe, I can’t be held responsible for my observations and opinions. Kind of like some old guys in political office now?


Bill Moeller is a former entertainer, mayor, bookstore owner, city council member, paratrooper and pilot living in Centralia. He can be reached at