Dubitable Things You Didn’t Know You Didn’t Know—Madalena Cruz-Ferreira SpecGram Vol CLXXVI, No 1 Contents Sprachgeist Guides for the Linguist on the Go!—Part IV—Book Announcement from Panini Press

Bar None

By Donald N.S. Unger

The ‘bar business’?” I said, interest not entirely feigned, gesturing with my glass to the tiers of booze, stacked in a cascade that began flush with the mirror.

Well, if that was her field of studyand not just a brushback pitch because she thought I was coming on to her; whadda ya do? I’m in the bar business, Einstein: buzz offwe were in the right place.

But she shook her head.

Clearly I had misheard.

Never been good with homophonesnot that there’s anything wrong with that.

I can laugh at myself: whether this conveys self-deprecation or hints at mild insanity, I am likely not the best person to ask.

“Okay!” I said jovially, “So... more like, Mom, if you’re looking for me, I’ll be at the ballet barre?

That one made her frown.

I took a sip of Bourbon and pretended to think.

“The legal profession,” I said, snapping my fingers. “Taking the bar exam.”

She just raised her eyebrows slightly in mocking dismissal.

I tried to remain calm and to look cool; I’ve never quite understood why collected is the final part of that trinity; language is weird.

“The prison-industrial complex,” I threw out. “People behind bars.”

She stared; clear enough.


Almost whispered that one; just seemed like the obligatory follow-onI had no meaningful hope that it was the right answer.

More silence in response.

I tossed back what was left of my drink, signaled for another, rolled my shoulders.

“The manufacture, sale, purchase, storage, or investment in bars of precious metals?”

I could smell that I was wrong; on I steamed.

“The practice of excluding people from entry into places or professions based on demographic or racial considerations?”

I could hear that I had started to hedge my answers; they sounded more and more like questionsand increasingly tinged with a measure of pathos.

“The construction technique of pouring cement around a framework of metal support members, referred to as re-bar, a shorthand for ‘reinforcement bar’?”

Yes, when I get frustratedand am trying to maintain the appearance of calmmy diction can take on the cadences of a reference book.

Sorry about that.

Having deeper problems here at this point.

“Barricading doors? Ruling out possibilities? A computer screen element? Part of a goal post? A unit measuring either music or atmospheric pressure?”

OKyeahI machine-gunned her there: so sue me; I was getting a little panicky.

This drew six, fast, minute and curt, head-shaking dismissals that could have been mistaken for a long tic or a short stroke.

“Oysters? Salad? Wet? Dry?” I was repeating and overlapping; it was getting hard to breathe. “Part of a towing rig?” I was starting to wind down.

“A band of color or light?” My voice sounded hoarse to me. It was embarrassing.


What could possibly be left!?

Candy bars!” I cried, triumphantly.

Clo-ose,” she crooned, first stretching then breaking that single syllable in two.

Then she pursed her lips, took a brief, delicate andwas it my imagination?ever-so-subtly-mocking sip of wine.

And shook her head.

Dubitable Things You Didn’t Know You Didn’t KnowMadalena Cruz-Ferreira
Sprachgeist Guides for the Linguist on the Go!Part IVBook Announcement from Panini Press
SpecGram Vol CLXXVI, No 1 Contents