English is fun. It has so many amusing juxtapositions of meaning. The following are not quite jokes but exhibit the material out of which humor and delight can be found.

If you earn a diploma you do not become a diplomat. Diplomacy is based on proper papers, the basis for these somewhat different uses. In ancient Rome such papers were folded, the root for the term. It’s nice that having such papers is assumed to be positive when people are diplomatic, but a diploma is no guarantee of that.

A prodigy is very good at something but rarely called prodigal. In both cases a lot of something is assumed, talent for the prodigy and wealth for the prodigal, as in Jesus’ story about a guy who wasted it.

Minutes are minute parts of hours. Minutes are also the minutia of meetings recorded by the secretary, no clocks really necessary.

Corn is ubiquitous in American food — that is literally amazing, maize being its Native American name. But British usage calls all grains corn, which confuses some readers of their literature. In no case, however, is corn really corny.

For appointments and events I arrive early, I’m rarely late. But after I die people might refer to the late George W. and be amused by the inappropriateness of the expression.

Trivial Pursuit is difficult because three roads are involved. Why should things be more common at that intersection than where two roads cross? Because it’s a “why” (pun intended).

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