Bill Moeller Commentary: An Old Booklover Contemplates Words, Phrases and More


Is it “spring cleaning” to try to organize the accumulation of scrap paper notes scribbled to myself and scattered around on both my desk and the small table at the side of my lift chair? 

One note recalls my dislike of using the word “even” as an adjective or adverb. It’s useless in any situation because it isn’t needed.

I might have said it “just” isn’t needed, but that word is unnecessary as well. Maybe if I mention it enough times, it might “even” be accepted as a common practice in writing — or “even” in my speaking for that matter? 

That last sentence included an attempt at a joke?

I almost cheered while reading the old book “The Egg And I” before I turned it into a column of its own not too long ago, because the word “gantlet” was used correctly as compared with today’s tendency to replace it with “gauntlet, ”which is, of course, a glove. A gantlet is the word you want to use for a narrow passageway through which a miscreant must run while being beaten from both sides. I promise I won’t write about that pet peeve for at least another couple of months.

There must be those among us old timers who have read a book or two in our earlier lives, a few who might shed a tear when they learn that only three books by Robert Benchley exist on the shelves of the entire Timberland Library system. There is a copy of “A Benchley Roundup” in Olympia and in Belfair and a single copy of “Chips Off the Old Benchley” at Shelton.

Benchley is all but forgotten these days, and it’s a shame. His humor was sly, original, clean and copious. His many short appearances in movies are legendary.

In short, he was unique in every sense of the word. The entry about him in Wikipedia is the longest I remember seeing, and — I repeat  — he’s almost forgotten today. Pity!     

He was a member in good standing of the Algonquin Round Table, a legendary gathering of the wittiest writers and performers in the country back in the 1930s.

And I think in these attempts to use up some of your valuable time, I might have made mention of that collection of brilliant minds before? I could fill an entire column (or even two) describing them, but it would only make me feel regretful that I was not born at the right time, nor was I brilliant enough to join those gatherings.

And I can think of no better way to kill a rainy afternoon than typing “Robert Benchley” on your computer and letting Wikipedia take over from there.

I just came across an email from Don Mac that got lost in my filing cabinet nearly two years ago. He reminded me of many words and phrases we just don’t hear anymore. Words like hunky dory, moxie, holy moly and fiddlesticks. And attire, including spats, knickers, fedoras, poodle skirts, saddle shoes and pedal pushers. Or lost phrases such as “living the life of Riley,” “not for all the tea in China,” “going like 60,” “hung out to dry,” “you sound like a broken record” and “in like Flynn.”

We could say there are more of these words and phrases than “Carter has liver pills” if it wasn’t for the fact that “Carter’s Little Liver Pills” are gone, too. Thank you for those examples, Don, and I apologize for not giving you credit long ago.


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