Grammar Moses: How long does a Filibuster Parfait last?

  • The Dairy Queen on the Fox River in East Dundee is a popular spot on a hot summer day. But does it have my Peanut Buster Parfait -- or a Filibuster Parfait?

      The Dairy Queen on the Fox River in East Dundee is a popular spot on a hot summer day. But does it have my Peanut Buster Parfait -- or a Filibuster Parfait? Jim Baumann | Staff Photographer

 
Updated 9/3/2022 5:41 PM

I don't know about you, but my go-to order at Dairy Queen is a small chocolate cone.

I view even this as a rare extravagance these days, now that I'm squarely in middle age.

 

But back in the day, what I wouldn't give for a Peanut Buster Parfait.

Except I would refer to it -- and have ordered it -- as a Filibuster Parfait, partly to see whether the kid at the window taking my order would notice.

I have pulled similar gags when making dinner reservations. I'd giggle to myself when the hostess would signal me with, "Donner, party of four!"

It occurred to me recently that it would take me a very long time to polish off a Filibuster Parfait these days, so there is some legitimacy to my nickname for it.

It also occurred to me that there are probably many people who read news stories about the constant power struggle in Washington, D.C., who don't know what the heck a filibuster is or bother to consult a dictionary.

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I'm lookin' at you, Dairy Queen workers.

I happen to despise the filibuster, no matter who is in the Senate majority, because it's all a lot of time-wasting blather -- a way of intentionally getting nothing done.

And, despite what you're reading right now, I'm not a big fan of time-wasting blather.

A "filibuster," for those of you who haven't bothered to look it up, is a ploy to delay a vote.

According the U.S. Senate's website, "The Senate tradition of unlimited debate has allowed for the use of the filibuster, a loosely defined term for action designed to prolong debate and delay or prevent a vote on a bill, resolution, amendment or other debatable question.

"Prior to 1917 the Senate rules did not provide for a way to end debate and force a vote on a measure. That year, the Senate adopted a rule to allow a two-thirds majority to end a filibuster, a procedure known as 'cloture.'

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"In 1975 the Senate reduced the number of votes required for cloture from two-thirds of senators voting to three-fifths of all senators duly chosen and sworn, or 60 of the 100-member Senate."

In 1957, Strom Thurmond, a segregationist Democrat, launched the longest filibuster in Senate history. He prattled, blathered, shouted, mumbled, rambled and blabbered for 24 hours, 18 minutes in an effort to deny passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1957.

It didn't work.

Thankfully, President Eisenhower signed it into law 11 days later.

Thurmond, who would declare himself a Republican in 1964, might have claimed the longest filibuster on record, but nobody could filibuster as effectively as my niece Marina.

When we were visiting and her bedtime came, the 6-year-old version of Marina would come out of her room and list a litany of injuries, ailments and needs that prevented her slumber.

It was my wife who normally ended the filibuster with: "You had better not come out of your room again unless your arm is broken or your bed is on fire."

Too bad my wife never ran for the Senate. It could have used her.

Enough civics class for today. What's in my mailbag?

Reader Don Frost wrote to me in response to last week's round-robin column with some of my editing corps on grammars things that drive them nuts.

He took exception to one editor's explanation that the difference between "its" and "it's" is the latter is a contraction of "it is" or "it has" and the former shows possession.

"I was taught that 'has' never contracts," Don wrote. "If you do contract it, no one will take your meaning as 'it is' if you write, 'It's been great having you here.'"

The "it's" issue is a product of erosion. Many younger people today probably find "it is" or "it has" borderline stuffy.

We didn't always have contractions. I'm sure there was a time when saying "can't" instead of "cannot" foretold someone's low social standing.

I dasn't say Mark Twain took some guff when he used "dasn't" instead of "dare not." But Twain relished his coinages.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Language changes as those who employ it change. Rather than fight the tide too hard, go with the flow.

Come on in, boys, the water is fine.

Write carefully!

• Jim Baumann is vice president/executive editor of the Daily Herald. You can buy Jim's book, "Grammar Moses: A humorous guide to grammar and usage," at grammarmosesthebook.com. Write him at jbaumann@dailyherald.com and put "Grammar Moses" in the subject line. You also can friend or follow Jim at facebook.com/baumannjim.

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