Happy Pi Day, everybody! I hope I’m the first to greet you on this great occasion.
As you know, each March 14 honors that mathematical constant pi, because we can write today as 3-14 and we all know that pi starts with 3.14 and keeps going into infinity.
Hey! Don’t turn the page. We’re not going to dwell on math today, even though pi has been around for millennia in many cultures and is used today by many people in their work or studies. We can set it aside for now, though, to think about all those other important days this month.
Thursday was St. Patrick’s Day. Spring starts on March 20 this year. Good Friday is March 25, and Easter, of course, the following Sunday.
I understand, too, that you’re probably still trying to recover from setting the clocks forward, or back, Saturday night.
Don’t worry, then, that you didn’t get me a gift for Pi Day. Because pi also can be written as a fraction, 22/7, each July 22 (7-22) is known as Pi Approximation Day. That means you have more than four months’ of shopping days to pick me out something nice.
Speaking of shopping, I saw a young woman at the mall wearing a hoodie with the letters YOLO on the front. I asked her what it meant.
Here is what she said, translated into standard English: “It means ‘you only live once.’ ”
“But that makes no sense grammatically,” I said. “Shouldn’t it be YLOO?”
“That’s right. ‘You live only once.’ That is correct English. ‘Only’ is an adverb, and its placement in a sentence is vital.”
I could see her trying to inch away, but I continued: “What you – or rather, those letters – are saying is ‘you only live once,’ right? By extension, there are no other things that you do only once.
But I’m pretty sure that if you live only once, you also die only once. And there are probably other occasions that happen just one time, for good or for bad.”
“Well, yeah, but –”
“Let’s turn the words around again. ‘Only you live once.’ We know that’s ludicrous from the start, because everyone lives just one time. What if we turn it into: ‘Live you once only.’ OK, that’s dumb. Nobody but Yoda would talk like that.”
“Uh, I kind of like that last one. What’s the point here?” she asked.
“Simple. Words matter, and their order matters. You might want to go get your money back on that shirt.”
“Yeah, right,” she said, but I noticed she didn’t rush off to correct her sentence. Kids today!
That wasn’t the last time I was confused that day. I stopped at a supermarket to buy coffee, and I found several brands that had “doughnut shop” blends. (Well, actually, most of them were “donut shop” blends, but that is an abomination. A doughnut is made from dough, not do – but wait, another time.)
What does “doughnut shop” coffee taste like? Like doughnuts? I’d like to find out, but only once.
Reach Glynn Moore at firstname.lastname@example.org.