STRANGE BUT TRUE- X-rated oldies: Seniors let profanity fly

 


DRAWING BY DEBORAH DERR McCLINTOCK

Q. As folks move into their golden years, do they finally clean up their language? –G. Burns

 

A. A retiree swearing surge is more like it, as if they're teenagers again, says psychologist Timothy Jay in Why We Curse. Like the old guys in the comic strip "Crankshaft" who sit around all day swatting flies and swearing, seniors don't have bosses and don't feel the need to please as much. Nursing homes are loaded with profanity– although not the F-word or S-word– more the D-word and H-word.

"When these folks get upset, they swear a lot– depending on their background, of course," Jay says. Some pathological swearing emerges now too, in people with Alzheimer's or other dementias. The words may come in torrents, seemingly unstoppable.

Q. You know about upper-case and lower-case lettering, but what about those CamelCase words such as the city of SeaTac, Washington, and actress ZaSu Pitts? Where's the camel and where are the humps? –LaTJackson 

A. Originally called "medial capitals" (or InterCaps, CoolCaps, BumpyCase), CamelCase is the formation of compound words by capitalizing each chunk to preserve its identity, thus forming a range of "humps," says New Scientist magazine. In the 1950's and 60's, this was occasionally used for corporate names and product trademarks, such as CinemaScope, VistaVision, AstroTurf. More recently, CamelCase is surging in Web addresses, an ideal application since it's not possible to put spaces into these. So surfers encounter the very common OneBlockOfText.com, preserving site identity in an easy-to-read way.

Q. If steel + gas + rubber are made to equal race car speed, what goes into making the car safer? How do drivers today survive some really spectacular crashes? –B. Labonte

A. At Daytona 2003, when Ryan Newman's car pirouetted twice, then slid across the infield and landed upside down, his major complaint was dirt in his teeth, says Diandra Leslie-Pelecky in The Physics of NASCAR. 

"However, we aren't that far removed from the days when drivers didn't joke about crashes," she adds. A race car at 180 mph has 16 times the motion energy as at 45 mph. If you used that same energy to shoot a 150-pound person from a cannon, it would propel the ejectee five miles straight up!   

In 2007, NASCAR started requiring six-point restraint harnesses, with two shoulder straps, two belts that wrap the legs and two lap belts that restrain the pelvis (the pelvic bone is one of the body's strongest). The harnesses work with the seat to keep the driver in the car and to distribute the forces across the body. When a driver goes from 180 mph to a stop, all his (and the car's) motion energy must be transformed into other types of energy, such as the brake force on the rotor, heat friction, sound energy, and light. Crush zones extend collision time for a softer stop, front and back bumpers absorb energy, full-face helmets protect the entire head.

Still, injuries will never be eliminated entirely from motorsports. As one official put it, "If you give 43 guys, most from age 20 to 35, cars this powerful, there's only so safe you can make them."

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Send Strange questions to brothers Bill and Rich at strangetrue@compuserve.com.

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