Opinions

Tue
12
Feb

VanHaren: 'Uncle' was card player while 'aunt' took cookie recipe to grave

We called them “Uncle Albert” and “Aunt Annie,” even though they were not directly related to us. Albert and Anne Konitzer lived across the road from us on Konitzer Road south of Oconto Falls. We were surrounded by Konitzers in those days, but only one of the families (our Uncle George, Aunt Irene and their 15 kids) were directly related to us. Aunt Irene was our dad’s younger sister.

But to my sister Joyce and me, Uncle Albert and Aunt Annie were “special” relatives. They were also Joyce’s godparents. They were a generation older than our “regular” aunts and uncles, contemporaries of our Grandpa VanHaren, who lived with us on the home farm.

Uncle Albert and Aunt Annie’s son, Greg (the best man at our parents’ wedding), took over the family farm about the same time our parents took over the VanHaren homestead. They remodeled the family home, and Uncle Albert and Aunt Annie lived in an upstairs apartment in the house until they passed away in the mid-’60s.

Wed
06
Feb

Roger VanHaren: Snow and cold snap remind us of other bad winters

“The weather outside is frightful …”

As I’m writing this, the outside temperature is minus-27, and the wind chill factor is making it feel like -50. Frightful! I’m thankful that I don’t have to be out in the cold for any amount of time, but I did go out to fill my bird feeders because the frenzy of activity out there has been nearly triple what it has been leading up to this cold snap. Perhaps some of our neighbors have not braved the elements to fill their feeders, so all the birds are making their way to our yard.

I was outside for less than than 10 minutes in the knee-deep snow. Mother Nature dropped a foot of the gorgeous white stuff, and the wind has piled it up drifts in the back yard. It’s well above the tops of my boots. I was wearing cotton-lined leather work gloves, and by the time I’d finished filling the feeders, my fingers were so numb that I was having trouble holding on to the scoop.

Wed
30
Jan

VanHaren: Another foray into the world of words

Fair warning: If you aren’t a “wordie,” and you don’t want to waste 10 minutes reading about words, it’s time to pull out now, because we’re about to wander into some new territory.

Last week, I wrote about ablaut reduplication, an unwritten linguistic rule that almost everyone follows without even thinking about it, and I raised the possibility that I might want to tell you about some other kinds of reduplication. Well, here we go.

Remember I explained what reduplication was? Well, you’ve probably forgotten by now (because I said there’d be no quiz). So here’s a definition: In linguistics, reduplication is the expressive repetition of a single word, or the pairing of a word with another of similar sound or spelling. So we looked at word pairs like ding-dong, ping-pong, etc. Remember?

So, okay. Here are some different kinds of reduplication:

Wed
23
Jan

VanHaren: Pish posh! Why did I not know this?

When this column hits the paper, it will be one day before my 80th birthday. My mom used to say I started talking when I was nine months old, and I have not shut up since. So for over 79 years I’ve been using the English language, and I taught English for 37 years. And yet, before a few days ago, when my friend David texted me a clipping from a BBC magazine (Where did he find it, and why? He was a math teacher!), I had never heard of ablaut reduplication.

Have you ever wondered why we say tick-tock, not tock-tick, or ding-dong, not dong-ding; King Kong, not Kong King? Tock-tick and dong-ding just don’t sound right, do they? I could give you lots of other examples, too. How about dally-dilly, shally-shilly, top tip, hop hip, flop-flip, song-sing, chat-chit, pong ping. They just sound wrong, don’t they?

Wed
16
Jan

Mom's remark flushed out old memories

Dear readers: I’ve had a week full of appointments, so I’m resurrecting a column from 2006. Forgive me.

About a year ago, while my mom was in the hospital after suffering from two heart attacks, an incident occurred that I was delighted to hear about. My mom, God rest her soul, was 90 at the time, and even though she was greatly distressed by the heart attacks, she was able to retain her sense of humor. Because she was so weak, Mom asked my dad, also 90, to help her into the bathroom and to stay with her while she did her duty. So Dad took a chair into the bathroom and sat next to her.

Mom said it reminded her of the old days of the “two-holer” out behind the old log house.

When my sister told me this story, I was transported back into the “golden-olden” days of my kidhood. Boy, how that place stands out in my memory!

Tue
08
Jan

Oh, to be a Packers quarterback!

I have been a Packers fan since I was a little kid, and believe me, I was a little kid for a long time! I go back to the days of Packers blue and gold. I idolized the Packers that I read about in the Press-Gazette and listened to on the radio.

I played a lot of imaginary football games, too. I was Tobin Rote at quarterback, and I’d throw the ball as high as I could and run under it; Tony Canadeo or Billy Grimes, very sure-handed, would grab the pass and zig-zag across the yard for a record-setting season for the Pack.

I was Jug Girard, the punter, and my object was to punt it over the house. I was Ted Fritsch, the place kicker, kicking field goals over the clothesline poles. Straight-on toe kicker, no soccer style for me. (What did I know about soccer?)

Wed
02
Jan

VanHaren column: Are you a soap-saver like me?

Note: Because of the busy-ness of the season, I’m taking a break and re-running a column from May of 2004. Happy New Year to all my readers.

What happens at your house when the soap in the shower shrinks down to a paper-thin sliver? You know, that little wafer of Dove or Dial left after the rest of the bar has been rubbed away. At our house, the Super-Senior Soap-Sliver Saver (that’s me!) springs into action.

Never one to waste things, I take it upon myself to carefully meld that slippery little sliver to a new bar. I hate to throw it in the trash; it’s just as soapy as a regular bar. I can’t stand to see the once-proud sudsmaker, now a pinched, tenuous, slightly twisted form, relegated to sharing its temporary home with a new shiny bar, losing all attention and respect.

Wed
26
Dec

VanHaren: Christmas really does last 12 days

When this column hits print, it will be the “Second Day of Christmas,” the second of 12, right? We’re all familiar with the irritatingly repetitious song of that name, but what do we know about the 12 days of Christmas? I did a little research, just for the fun of it, so here are a few things for you to think about, and some reminders about the song.

Dec. 25 – the first day of Christmas, celebrating the birth of Christ. (A partridge in a pear tree.)

Dec. 26 – the second day, also sometimes called Boxing Day (Two turtle doves). It’s celebrated in only a few countries, mainly ones historically connected to the U.K. (such as Canada, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand). During the Middle Ages, it was the day when the alms box, collection boxes for the poor often kept in churches, were traditionally opened so that the contents could be distributed to poor people. Also, the Feast of St. Stephen, a martyr. “Good King Wencelaus went out on the Feast of Stephen.”

Wed
19
Dec

VanHaren: Farm magazines were a part of learning to read

I started thinking the other day about what kind of stuff I read when I was a kid, because I saw an item on the internet about the value of having reading materials in the home if kids are to grow up reading.
Well, when I was a kid — I’ve said this before — we were basically “poor.” I’ve said this before, too; I didn’t really know we were poor at the time, but we were! We were like a lot of other farm families at the time. We kind of lived off the land. We never went hungry, but we didn’t have much money.

Wed
12
Dec

Roger VanHaren: Funny 'Pearls Before Swine' can be somber when necessary

I am a big fan of Stephan Pastis’ quirky black comedy comic strip, “Pearls Before Swine.” The title for the strip most likely comes from Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 7:6): “Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces.” I interpret that to mean “don’t offer what you hold dear to someone who won’t appreciate it.”

The strip “Pearls” uses dark humor, at times involves topics such as death, depression, and human suffering — not funny topics, usually, but Pastis’ treatment of them can deflate the seriousness of many situations. I said it was “quirky,” didn’t I?

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