For All Intensive Purposes

My father was directly hit by an A-Bomb while fighting the war in Korea, and he survived it.  Part of this introduction is true.  If you are over the age of six, you probably can figure out which portion of this intro may be realistic.

Napalm and the A-Bomb, at the tender age of six, seem synonymous when asking your father about war.  What’s the difference between napalm and the A-Bomb when you are six years of age?  It would take an elementary teacher to describe the subtle difference to my brother during a show or tell session in the nineteen seventies.

While the teacher, probably suffering from a hangover, and not properly preparing for Monday’s lesson plan, asked my brother and other students about their father’s background, he responded by providing misinformation regarding our dad’s military service. Rather than disclosing the fact our father was burned by napalm in the war, he stated, “My dad was hit with an A-Bomb in the Korean War.”  This quickly sobered up his teacher.

“An A-Bomb?”

Confident with his remarks, “Yes.  It burned the back of his legs.”

“Are you positive it was an ‘A-Bomb’?

“Pretty sure.  My father would never lie to me. He has the scars to prove it.”

Not wanting to embarrass my brother, the teacher simply suggested he clarify this with our father before discussing the matter any further.

Indeed, our father had the scars to prove he was burned by napalm, so my brother wasn’t lying.  Mistaking “napalm” with an”A-bomb” my brother was just was a little hazy about the truth.  I can’t blame him.  Six older sisters yelling, singing, or just talking drives a man either insane or develop a poor sense of hearing.  He chose the latter.

Everyone makes honest, unintentional mistakes whether they are six or sixty. The English language perpetuates this fact.  Years ago, while struggling through college, I took a job at a worm farm where someone I worked with continued to improperly use the phrase, “for all intents and purposes”.  Instead, he would say, “for all intensive purposes”.  Not knowing him very well, and not wishing to hurt his feelings, I didn’t have the heart to correct him.  Someone else working at the farm did, and we all had a laugh, including the man misusing the phrase.  In fact, he thanked the person correcting him.

At the age of six, people should be excused for replacing napalm with an A-bomb, and at the age of sixty, you are excused from using the phrase, “For all intensive purposes”.  And, if the person uses it in an angry manner, just let it slide.  It actually is correct.

We already live in a crazy world.  Just think about how much crazier it would be if we added phrases instead of words to the lovely game of Scrabble.

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