Yes, “approacheth” is a real word. According to the brainy linguists at the dictionary factory it’s the “third-person singular simple present indicative form of ‘approach’” — but you probably already knew that. Well, I didn’t and I can hardly imagine having a job where people talk like that.

It’s sort of ironic that I’m trying to figure out English language terminology while writing and thinking in English. I only speak the language; I don’t pretend to understand it. Most of us are lucky to have English as our first language because, really, we might not be sharp enough to pick it up as a second tongue. It’s complicated and tricky, not to mention that some words don’t follow the spelling rules.

English, as it turns out, has more tenses than a stack of parallel universes. Apparently what we learned in grade school about verbs having a past, present and future tense is incomplete. There are 12 different tenses in the English language unless you throw in the “subjunctive” and the “continuous conditional” forms — then you have 20 ways to conjugate a verb.

I grew up in a household where my parents never sat me down to discuss conjugation. It wasn’t until college that I discovered verbs could be so nasty. Nowadays anyone can call up a verb conjugator on the web. Back in the day, we had to find verb conjugation publications in back-alley bookstores and nefarious newsstands.

Anyway, after a good deal of study I have determined that “approacheth” is another word (or pirate-speak) for “approaches.” And as much as I would like to conjugate “approach” 20 different ways, we will never get to the cool part about the comet, so just let me say, “I approach,” “you approach,” but the “2018 Halloween Death Comet approacheth.”

So: there is an asteroid out in space known by all straight- laced astronomers as 2015 TB145. But this is just so dull that it’s commonly referred to as the Halloween Death Comet. Why? It’s because this near-Earth object will pass closest to Earth on November 11, which in astronomers’ ways of thinking in terms of light years and time warp is close enough to Halloween that it may as well be at midnight on Halloween.

Secondly, it’s theorized that this “asteroid” is, in reality, a dead comet. Normal comets contain all kinds of volatile substances like water and, I don’t know, maybe vermouth that boil off when it approaches the sun, giving it the characteristic tail for which comets are famous. Some comets have been by the sun so many times that all of their water and vermouth have evaporated and we are left with a black, tail-less, ball of planetary dust and empty vermouth bottles that we call dead comets.

The best part of all this is that when astronomers got an actual image of this comet, it turns out that it is — are you ready for this? — in the shape of a skull! When you look at artists’ renditions, it is definitely a scary black skull hurling through space toward Earth. However, when you look at the actual image obtained by the astronomers, you have to squint your eyes, tilt your head and let your imagination go before it looks like a scary black skull hurling through space toward Earth. But still, a dead comet, looking sort of like a skull and coming by on Halloween: what could be better? Isn’t this the coolest astronomical event to happen for Halloween? Does nature have a sense of humor, or what?

Don’t get me wrong here. If the big black, dead, skull-shaped Halloween comet of death were on a direct collision course with Earth, that would not be so amusing. But since it will miss us, it’s suddenly amazing.

We have near-death experiences all the time. We slip on the stairs but don’t fall, we step out in traffic but pull back just in time, we are narrowly missed by a dangerously big falling object, and what do we say? We say, “Wow, I could have been killed,” using the first person, conditional, perfect tense, I think.

There is really no reason to be tense, as the comet will miss us and it won’t be by until after Halloween … but it still looks like a scary black skull hurling through space toward Earth, so until we can use the past tense, sound the alarm: the 2018 Halloween Death Comet Approacheth!