Category Archives: Word Spin

Seth gets pedantic about semantics.


If you’re not a hockey fan, but want to impress a friend or enemy who is, try this sentence on for sizable reaction:

YOU: Did you know that Gordie Howe had only one Gordie Howe hat trick in his 26 year NHL career?

(A Gordie Howe hat trick is not simply a hat trick—three goals in a game—by Gordie Howe (a.ka. “Mr. Hockey”). Instead, Gordie’s trick is a bundle of three specific hockey behaviours, but not all goals, and like the standard trick, it can be completed by anyone. However, it was named after Mr. Howe because he seemed the most likely to achieve it, which is why it should seem odd to a hockey fan such as your friend or rival that Mr. Hockey managed only one in his lengthy tenure.)

Now your friend should not only be surprised to learn that Howe had only one Howe-style hat trick in his career, but also that this intriguing stat came from you, someone we established earlier is not an aficiando of their favourite game.

So here comes the experimental part. Your Sethblogs predicts that—even if you still haven’t guessed exactly what a Gordie Howe hat trick is—you shouldn’t need the definition in your conversation with your hockey friend or foe because we think they’ll assume that anyone capable of the expression must know its meaning.

Instead, then, SethBlogs suggests that most fun will be had if you play expression roulette with the phrase, and try it out with your hockey friend or foe without looking it up in advance. If you do so, you’ll achieve your own hat trick:

(1) You’ll impress your friend;

(2) You’ll show courage against the possibility that—against Sethblogs’ prognostication—your friend does inquire as to what you think the expression means; and

(3) you’ll entertain SethBlogs when you report your findings back to us!

Thank you for your attention to this daring endeavour.

In the meantime, for a look at Mr. Hockey in action, consider this footage from a 1979 contest between Moscow Dynamo and the WHA all-stars, which included 50 year-old Gordie, his son Marty, and a 17 year-old apprentice to Gordie’s scoring records.


As the new hockey season (and so the post-game interview season) arrives, it is important to refresh our understanding of hockey players’ special metaphorical math in regard to percentages. In standard, boring old mathematics, that is, “percentage” is up to a maximum of 100, but hockey players (as well as other athletes) use an alternate system known as “emphasis percentage.”

You see, in reality, it’s actually quite difficult to always give 100% effort (that’s a sure way to burn one’s self out), but nor is it very safe to admit to the picky journalists that one gave, say, 80% on a given night. Thus, a special alternate system of percentage was invented just for athletes and motivational speakers. Emphasis percentage works exactly like regular percentage, except that, instead of counting the number of points within a 100, E% has a maximum total of 150.

Thus, after a game, an athlete can happily, and honestly, state that they put in “120%,” which looks great for emphasizing that they tried really hard, but doesn’t provoke nit-picky questions from reporters about why they didn’t give their maximum.

If you’re curious, however, to know what an athlete actually put forth, just remember the exchange rate from E% to regular % is .67. If in doubt, here’s a handy chart:

Regular % Emphasis %
             73% →  110 E%
             80% →  120 E%
          100% →  150 E%

Note: 110 is the E% minimum.

If, however, you ever hear someone claim that they gave 200%, don’t believe them: it’s impossible.

P.S. Of course, not everyone agrees with my assessment of hockey percentages:

P.P.S. Also, to further prepare you for the hockey cliche season, consider this:


There’s a chef-school advertising on TV presently (I won’t advertise them by naming them) who boasts that it is taught by:

“…experienced chef!… instructors.”

It’s really quite funny to listen to the line as the announcer voice-punches the “experienced chef!” part of the sentence so forcefully that you are briefly left with the impression that the teachers are, in fact, experienced chefs, but then, just a tiny moment later, you hear the muffled “instructors” slipped in, and suddenly your mind does a double take:

“Oh, that’s something quite different, isn’t it?”

For the contrast between the well-emphasized “chef” and the under-noted “instructors” is so distinct that it stands out like a grape juice stain on a white carpet, and so the listener can’t help, but inquire:

“Oh, so you were trying to hide that they’re chef-instructors instead of actual chefs?”

Truth be told, if they’d just called them “chef-instructors” without playing emphasis games, I wouldn’t have known that “chef-instructors” aren’t as good as “chefs who instruct.” But now I do. Thanks, unnamed-chef-school for your helpful emphasis in advertising: it allowed me to clearly see this as a weakness, and so, if I ever decide to get my chef’s licence, I’ll certainly know where not to look.

Just kidding: I will attend your school!… (if you pay me a million dollars).


I’ve been giving the sitcom How I met Your Mother a chance lately and I like it so far.

(Of course, the premise is a wee bit troubled: the idea of dedicating a plot to explaining to one’s future children how one discovered their mom is nice, I think, for a defined timeline such as a movie, but in the case of an open-ended TV series, it seems too difficult for the writers to keep each episode on point considering they don’t know when exactly to bring the mother in, and so in turn they don’t know how exactly to relate each show to her eventual arrival. Instead, as far as I can tell from my few initial viewings, the show has quickly become just as much about following and laughing at the surrounding characters as it is worrying about the initial basis for the show.)

But, as my sisterly advisor to HIMYM explained to me, if you don’t worry about the loose-premise-connection, it’s a decent sitcom.

To that end, I would like to compliment some writing I enjoyed in a recently-viewed episode, wherein one of the characters (I believe it was Lily) was explaining to another character why her friends Robin and Barney might have difficultly dating. The dialogue (I’m paraphrasing) went a little something like this:

LILY: The problem is they’re both… honey, what’s the nice word for “selfish”?

MARSHALL: “Independent”.

LILY: Yes, they’re both independent.

Hee, hee, well played, HIMYM.

I think it’s a well-delivered point that one person’s criticism can with, slight re-wording, become another person’s compliment. Let me try coming up with some other words that could be “HIMY-Mothered” into compliments:

Loud and ObnoxiousGregarious
IgnorantFan of The Matrix  (Okay, I guess that one was a lateral move, hee, hee.)
ForgetfulAbsentminded (professor)
Homicidal Over-population-reducing

It’s harder than I imagined: my favourite is still the original “selfish” to “independent”: so my humbled compliments to the HIMYM writing staff. In fact, double that, because I am reminded of News Radio (one of the top 5 sitcoms of all time until Phil Hartman’s departure), and its wordplay regarding the different versions of pretty.

LISA: …I did not ask for this stupid award.

BETH: If I were you I would be upset, too, I mean, you? Cute? Come on.

LISA: Well… I’m not entirely… uncute. I… why are you being nasty about this?

BETH: I’m not being nasty. You’re pretty. You’re very pretty, in fact. But cute? I don’t think so.

LISA: Well, I wasn’t aware that there was a difference.

BETH: Of course there’s a difference. Pretty means pretty. Cute means pretty, but short and/or hyperactive, like me.

LISA: Ahuh. Well, what’s beautiful?

BETH: Beautiful means pretty and tall.

LISA: Gorgeous?

BETH: Pretty with great hair.

LISA: Striking?

BETH: Pretty with a big nose.

And so on for my amusement (see the video below for the full scene).

Note: A portal to the future that takes place after I finally finish viewing HIMYM is now available! Will I support my above assessment, or will there be a SethBlogs vs. SethBlogs battle. Tune into this link to find out!