Lauren Krueger & Matthew David Brozik

Across this or that.

In Definally on December 20, 2012 at 12:50 pm

Daniel Z.W. of Philadelphia asks whether it’s correct to remark that someone has moved “across the country” if that person merely went from, say, Minnesota to New York. It is not correct, Dan.

“Across” means “from one side to the opposite side of” (something). In this case, (something) = the continental United States of America. One has moved “across the country” only when he or she has relocated from one coast (side) to the other coast.

But wait, you’re probably thinking, because you’re never satisfied, what about the other opposite sides of the country? The “top,” so to speak, and the “bottom”? The northern border (the one with Canadia) and the southern border (the one with Mexico)? A fair question, but no one would ever say that. No one would ever say, “She moved across the country… from Sweet Grass, Montana to El Paso, Texas.” But Definally. concedes, reluctantly, that one probably could say such a thing, if one knew such a person who had made such a move.

Regardless, it is an affront to all things right and good to say that one has moved across the country if one’s journey has not taken one from a Pacific State to an Atlantic one, or vice versa.


In Definally on November 29, 2012 at 12:24 pm

Pop quiz: You tell someone that your pet gerbil (or whatever) died (or whatever). He says, “I’m sorry.” What do you say next?

If you think you should say, “It’s not your fault,” then it’s really no wonder that your hamster died. You’re evidently not very bright. Because it’s extremely unlikely that the other person was admitting to killing your pet when he said, “I’m sorry.” What he was doing, rather, is expressing sympathy (or the like). “I’m sorry” in this context or one similar is shorthand for “I’m sorry that your mole/vole/stoat passed away” or “I’m sorry to hear that (thing you just told me).”

So what you should say, if anything, is “That’s okay. It was just a ball of fur with a tail and teeth.” You should not say anything that suggests that you think the other person was confessing to rodenticide, because that makes you look both foolish and oddly suspicious and will lead only to awkwardness on top of a dead-pet situation.

Right of way.

In Definally on August 8, 2012 at 10:00 am

Randall W(oodsman) R. of North Cuba, Florida posits this scenario: I’m entering a room and you’re exiting the room simultaneously through the same door. I’m pushing the door in as you are pulling on it. Who has the right-of-way?

You do, Randall. (And Definally. suspects that you knew that when you made yourself the one pushing the door, you crafty man.) You do, for two very scientific reasons:

1. Torque. It is much easier (that is, it requires less rotational force) for the one pulling on a door to hold the door open for the other person than it would be for the pusher to hold open the door. (This is because the puller is positioned at the end of the door farthest from the pivot, the hinge.) Indeed, to hold open a door after you’ve pushed it open, you pretty much need to be completely in the doorway—that is, in the way of the puller. So the puller should hold the door open for the pusher because it’s easier for the puller to do so.

2. Momentum. The pusher can push open a door and move through the doorway without breaking stride. The puller can not. The puller must come to a stop at the door to open it—in the process halting (if not actually reversing) his momentum.

Thus, physics dictates that the pusher goes through first. When he does, though, he had damned well better then hold the door open for the puller.