Literal-Minded

Linguistic commentary from a guy who takes things too literally

J. Philip Whitman Joins the Blogosphere

Posted by Neal on February 23, 2010

If you’ve read this blog from the beginning, you’ve heard about a guy who has…

If you read my brother’s blog Agoraphilia, you’ve even seen a picture of him celebrating Christmas with firearms.

That’s right, it’s my dad, J. Philip Whitman. Who is this man? you may have asked yourself. How can I find out more about him? Well, I am pleased to announce that following his retirement, he has started his own blog, called For Example. For example, it seems, has become almost his trademark in his line of work during the past couple of decades. After getting his master’s degree in chemical engineering, he spent most of his career in the oil and gas industry, starting out in refineries (see above), but ending as a consultant specializing in “cause and origin” investigations for accidents. In that capacity, he has spent numerous hours giving expert witness testimony, attempting (with a lot of success) to make chemistry and physics understandable to juries — an endeavor in which the phrase for example was one of his most useful tools. For his retirement, his colleagues even got him a nameplate with For Example written on it in beautiful Gothic blackletter script.

As you may have gathered from his appearances in posts here, Dad is also not shy about expressing his opinions, and he has a lot of them. The language-related ones are the ones that have shown up here, but he also has plenty regarding energy policy (of course), social issues, government, and probably much more. Judging from his first post, we can expect to read them on his blog.

What you don’t know about Dad from reading about him here is that he’s a spellbinding storyteller. For years, I’ve been recording him on occasion, telling some of my favorite stories from his childhood and onward, including “How’s Your Tallywacker?”, “I Don’t Go Looking for a Fight”, “Funny Tricks My Older Brothers Played On Me”, and “The Time Your Mom Kicked Me Out of the Car on the Way to San Antonio and I Had to Hitchhike the Rest of the Way There”. (Actually, she didn’t kick him out: She gave him the ultimatum of stopping his complaining or getting out of the car, and he chose the latter.) And then there’s his other story of hitchhiking: “Hitchhiking to Albany, Georgia”. It looks like Dad might be planning to write up some of these family classics in his blog: “Hitchhiking to Albany” appears in his second post (with the title “Headin’ Home”).

So Dad, welcome to the blogosphere! Literal-Minded readers, you’ll find For Example in the “Other Blogs” section of the blogroll.

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10 Responses to “J. Philip Whitman Joins the Blogosphere”

  1. Philip Whitman said

    Thank you, Neal, for such a kind and gracious welcome. I will try to keep the readers entertained. I’m a little bit embarrassed to see, though, that I neglected to use “For example, …” in my second posting.

  2. Your dad is a fine writer!

  3. viola said

    It’s great to hear these stories in detail from your dad! So nice of you to share him with us. :0)

  4. STMSTUDENT said

    I am a student of James Marsalis. I was wondering how you taught him to “smell money”.

    • Neal said

      Ah, that’s a good story. Dad told it to me a few years ago. Why don’t you head on over to his blog and ask him? Maybe he’d even write it up in a post (hint, hint, Dad), though I can’t say for sure: Magicians don’t take revealing their secrets lightly, you know.

  5. Philip Whitman said

    That’s a good question. A person by the name of Molly A asked the same question in a comment on my blog posting of February 16th. My answer is also posted there as a response to her.

    The ability to smell money is believed to be due to a little known recessive gene that can be carried in either the X or the Y chromosome. In order for the trait to be manifested “overtly” (if that’s the right word), the gene must be present in both of a person’s chromosomes. For example, using X’ and Y’ to represent chromosomes with the gene, and X and Y to represent chromosomes without the gene, an X’X’ girl and an X’Y’ boy would both “overtly” display the trait. By that, I mean that early on in their lives, it would become apparent to this girl and boy that they could smell money, just as obvious to them as their ability to smell, say, shrimp gumbo. Either of them would be what we might call a smelling guru. I happen to be an X’Y’ smelling guru, and as a result, smelling money has always been as easy to me as smelling Bar-B-Que sauce.

    In the case of an X’X or XX’ girl or an X’Y or XY’ boy, the trait would not be overt. These girls and boys would have what might be described as a “latent” talent for smelling money, but they would not notice it, unless and until that talent had been “awakened” due to something happening to bring it to their attention. Once these people do know that they have the latent ability, they can become proficient at smelling money through long practice under the tutelage of a smelling guru. My friend Jim Marsalis is either an X’Y guy or an XY’ guy, and he didn’t realize that he could smell money until I myself realized it and apprised him of the fact. Then, over the course of our time together in engineering school at Tulane, he and I held many practice sessions, and Jim eventually became as adept at smelling money as I have ever been.

    • Neal said

      Wow, so it wasn’t a trick after all! What’s more, this means that Glen and Ellen and I must all be carriers of the money-smelling gene, which means that with proper instruction, we could all be taught to smell money, too! I can’t believe you never tried to teach me. Oh, well, maybe you did and I just didn’t want to listen. I know that happened on occasion.

      This is a most unusual sex-linked trait. Usually, they’re carried only on the X chromosome, so it’s usually women who are the carriers, while men (without a second X chromosome to counter what they get from their mother’s) are usually the ones who display the trait. I wonder if there’s any significance to the fact that this gene is carried on the sex chromosomes instead of the autosomal ones.

      • Lee said

        Um… “smell money” as in distinguish different bill denominations, or just distinguish money from other pieces of paper (or metal objects, as the case may be)? When I tried to see if there were other discussions of this phenomenon out there on the internet, I came across this link, which may or may not be relevant.

  6. [...] Swedish to English reminded me of an email my dad sent me a couple of weeks ago. By the way, Dad (a retired chemical engineer in the oil and gas industry) has an opinion about this mother of all oil spills, too: It’s way, way past time to blow the [...]

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