Sometimes we humans think we're more intelligent than is indisputably the case. From time to time it may be a good idea to do a reality check. After all, a little dose of humility could be beneficial. As the noted philosopher Steven Tyler (lead singer for the band Aerosmith) once said: “Humility is really important because it keeps you fresh and new.”


For example, Independence Day has just passed and we all celebrated being citizens of this great country. However, it might be interesting to know if you could pass a simple citizenship test. 


“The American citizenship test wasn’t standardized until the 1950s, and before that aspiring citizens were quizzed on their understanding of American history by a judge.” 


There were several questions you could be asked if you wanted to become an American citizen in 1944. Four of these were: 1) Which of the following states seceded during the Civil War -- Florida, Maryland, Delaware, Kentucky? 2) Which of these cities has not been a capital of the US – NYC, Boston, Princeton, Philadelphia? 3) Where must all bills intended to raise revenue originate -- Popular referendum, the House, the Senate, the president? 4) Which was not one of the original 13 colonies -- South Carolina, Massachusetts, Georgia, Maine?”


To find out if you can answer some simple citizenship questions and thus be eligible to be admitted into this country (in 1944), take a twelve question interactive test at:


While the citizenship quiz may be a bit of a knowledge challenge, business managers from around the country have a suggestion that could make all of us sound smarter. “We asked dozens of managers what bothered them the most when they talk to employees. The most common complaint? Too many of us fill our conversations with useless, clunky and pretentious words and phrases, especially ones that have duplicate meanings. It’s always best to err on the side of caution and stick with the standard rules of business communication.”


A CNBC article identified twenty-four of the most overused words and phrases that irritate managers the most. 

  • "Actual fact – A fact is something that’s known to be true, and actual means existing in fact. An actual fact, then, pretty much just means a factual fact. Stick with just plain fact.”
  • “At this point in time –  Why not just say now? It’s a lot shorter, too."
  • “Feel badly – For some reason, many people think adding the 'ly' to 'bad' makes it sound better. But that’s wrong. Do you ever say 'I feel greatly'?” 
  • “Postpone until later – Of course if you’re going to postpone something you’re not going to do it until later. What are you going to do otherwise, postpone it until earlier?” 

The entire list of “overused words and phrases that make you sound ‘pretentious” is at:


Avoiding those phrases may work to your advantage, but some people are beyond hope. Despite expert advice, they post things on that Interweb contraption that doom them to ridicule. I found a list of fifty dumb Facebook posts that prove this point at:

  • For instance, you were probably unaware that “the Bible was written by the greatest American who ever lived – Jesus.” 
  • A cooking dilemma is a head-scratcher. “I was thinking of baking cookies and I need to double the recipe, but if I double the temperature my oven won't set to 800.”
  • Speaking of cooking, be careful with chicken. “Has anyone ever gotten salmon vanilla from chicken that's not properly cooked?”
  • Even math aficionados will need a calculator to solve this brain buster. “When I was six my sister was half my age. I'm now seventy, so how old is my sister?” 

Then there was the guy who must really like television. “The California Highway Patrol said an officer recently pulled a vehicle over when he noticed an unusual visual obstruction on the hood -- a satellite dish mounted right in front of the windshield.”

This probably makes no sense to you, but the driver didn't think it was a big deal. The officer asked the driver if the satellite dish impeded their view. The driver responded: "Only when I make right turns." (


All of this proves that humans are a odd collection, to say the least. That said, there's a direct route we can all take that solves all of our problems. Simply put: “Listen to your mother!” 


“Let's be honest: moms are real-life superheroes. And, like superheroes, they come with their own nifty catchphrases that they love to insert into daily life.” Heed the advice and your life will be smooth sailing and mistake free. Thirty-one of these gems are at: All these pearls make make perfect sense.

  • A case in point, for every time you do something stupid, "'No brains, no headaches.” 
  • There's good advice for whenever you leave the house. “Remember who you are and whose you are.”
  • Plus: “Act your age, not your shoe size.” 
  •  And for those times when you doubt the maternal wisdom: “Don’t look at me in that tone of voice!” 

All of this proves that we humans sometimes need to have our hat sizes reduced. On the other hand we can accomplish some mighty monumental feats when we all pull together. I am referring to something so colossal that it alters the course of civilization. Specifically, something underway right this minute!


“Hot dog wieners come in packs of ten. Hot dog buns come in packs of eight. Enough is enough. That’s why we started the Heinz Hot Dog Pact. We’re calling on Big Bun and Big Wiener companies to find the answer to this hot dog packaging mismatch, once and for all.” 


To sign the petition go to We can eliminate this scourge on mankind. If not for yourselves, do it to end the suffering of future generations. 


Jim Neff is a local columnist. Read Neff Zone columns online at and