Live From New York
Inside Up
Sticks and stones may break our bones but words will never...
By Jackie Mason & Raoul Felder
Published 7/6/2005 12:06:44 AM

Because we both make a living by words we are very sensitive about them and more importantly, in our respective occupations, with better or worse results, we utilize them as a mechanism to communicate our thoughts. Sadly, from what we observe, the art of effective communication by words is dying the death of a dog.

People throw words around like indescribably: indescribably delicious, indescribably beautiful, etc. If something is indescribable, how does putting the word indescribable before the thing it is supposed to describe in fact describe or even help in describing that thing?

Before we receive e-mails (excessive e-mails) we know that indescribably is an adverb. However, putting a respectable name on a word that does not make sense, makes no sense, no more than putting a Chanel dress on a streetwalker changes her profession.

Similarly, people also toss around the word fabulous. How was the girl? She was a fabulous girl. The chopped liver? It was fabulous. How can you use the same word to describe a girl and chopped liver -- unless it's some of the girls we know?

Then we get words that really mean the exact opposite of what they say. When a girl says the boy she went out with is hot, she really means he is cool. When another girl is asked to describe the guy who just picked her up, the girl might say, "He is really Bad." Usually this is pronounced BAAAD, and of course she means he is real good.

How about, "The rain kept up for an hour"? If it kept up, it never would have come down. When somebody says "kept up," they mean down, unless, of course, they live in Australia, which is down from us, on the other side of the world, so when we are up, they are down. When it rains on them, in that case, we would be correct if we say the "the rain kept up," because their up is our down. However, if you stand on your head in New York, then in that situation up would then still be down. We trust that we clarified this matter.

The last place we expect to hear strings of words that are self- contradictory or that don't make sense is from the United States Supreme Court. But what did we just hear from it? It says it's legal to have the Ten Commandments outside the courthouse, but illegal to have them inside the courthouse. The unworthy thought occurs to us that to get inside the courthouse you have to walk there from outside, so the same person is walking from a legal environment into an illegal environment, and doing nothing more than putting one foot in front of the other. To make things more clear, the Court also said you have to consider each case on its own merits and its own facts, so theoretically, in certain cases, you could have the Ten Commandments outside the courthouse and it would be illegal, and yet inside the courthouse would be legal. Actually in terms of its own building where the Ten Commandments is inside the courthouse, the Supreme Court said that was legal. But if it were illegal outside, and legal inside the courthouse, people would have to walk on the outside where it is illegal to get to the inside where it is legal. And we didn't even discuss the cases where it is illegal both inside and outside, which seems to us to be a great way to get out of jury duty, or showing up to pay a traffic ticket.

In all this talk of language, we are not even mentioning expressions like "Keep your shirt on," when nobody in the house ever thought of taking it off. Or "Keep your eyes peeled," which we find too painful to contemplate.

We like simple stuff -- spit on the subway and you're fined $50.00. That we understand!

Jackie Mason is a comedian. Raoul Felder is an attorney.