When I find myself looking both ways before crossing a one-way street, I think, Gee! I’m cautious, I must be getting old. Then I think:
Am I cautious because I’m old, or am I old because I’m cautious?
I’ve come across another instance of this verbal form in my new tennis improvement program, which advocates PLAY LIKE THE PROS.
Most beginners, most players for that matter, are taught that a good stroke is a combination of many coordinated movements: arm, wrist, torso, feet, legs—very complicated. My new guru says that the pros keep it much simpler, and in fact, the pros don’t swing the way most people are taught.
It is a commonplace, when beginners try to imitate the pros, the teacher says not to—that only highly skilled pros can execute those kinds of strokes, and that mere mortals such as we must compensate for our lack of special talent by doing our strokes in the prescribed clunky, mechanical, non-intuitive way.
My new guru says that the pros have become pros because their strokes are so simple, and should be imitated by all other players. So, the issue is:
Do they have simple strokes because they’re pros, or, are they pros because they have simple strokes?
And a different, but similar-sounding form: back before the resignation-in-disgrace, a reporter in a bull session referred to Nixon’s “semi-annual erection.” This was quickly corrected by a colleague, “Don’t you mean his ‘annual semi-erection’”?