Last night, I happened to catch a Music Awards show on TV. I don’t usually watch them because they generally don’t impress me. This particular one was no exception. I wasn’t really listening, but then it dawned on me why I wasn’t listening. I realized that one of the presenters was making absolutely no sense. He had just spoken, or rather ‘yelled’ at least three sentences comprised totally of acronyms. I can’t even repeat them because they had no meaning for me. So, here was an obviously well-known guy, speaking a new kind of English, which made me wonder, ‘what the heck is he talking about’. It was alien to me.
There’s definitely something going on with the language lately. I asked myself: Is it the effect of texting, or twitter – people relying on short forms for their communications all the time? Poor old English – so rich and varied, so replete with marvelous synonyms – reduced to phrases and letters, some of which can’t even be pronounced, and only the young can understand. Isn’t that a bit ‘exclusionary’?
It’s not that I’m opposed to the practical need for brevity, and some expressions are quite useful at times. I can tweet in less than 140 characters. I’ve just started texting, so U and 2 have their place. I just hope we don’t lose the power that a rich vocabulary offers us. If you don’t use it, you lose it!
We're hoping that some of you will enjoy revisiting our A-Z blogs. They're all still here somewhere (just keep on clicking 'previous' at the bottom to go back). The topics we covered were:A - Apparition B - Bumblebee (picked up and published by Woven Tales Press, http://issuu.com/sandratyler/docs/woventalepressissuefinal_2) C - CommunicationD - DamE - EthosF - FoodG - GremlinsH - HarmonicaI - ImaginationJ - JabberwockyK - Kali (poem)L - LightM - Moth's song (poem)N - NurseO - OddP - Ping pongQ - QigongR - ReflexologyS - SilenceT - Today (poem)U - UkuleleV - VeracityW - WelliesX - Letter X Y - Yurt Z - Zeus
Well, we did it; it always feels good to finish something you started, doesn’t it? It became a little complicated at times because one of us wasn’t here for part of the time – posting from the other side of the country was a wee bit of a challenge. You know that you’re in holiday mode when you don’t realize it’s Sunday (and you don’t need to do a post that day) It then takes a few days before the dates start making any sense again! Oh well.
Our appreciation goes out to:
- Arlee for organizing such a fun and challenging project
- All the other bloggers (and other folks) who read our posts and encouraged us to keep going
- Everyone who left comments for us – we got some really heart-warming comments. They were truly appreciated.
- All the other bloggers whose posts we enjoyed. We read a lot, even if we didn’t often leave comments (trip complication). We visited some very well-written, creative, and interesting blogs. Thanks for the memories.
As anyone who has read any classical mythology knows, Zeus was the king of the Greek pantheon. He was an ethically challenged, womanizing bully, who might be a prototype for a few of our modern politicians. He’s not the Zeus I’m going to write about.
The Zeus I remember was a very large, very patient Hunting Airedale with a quiet, stately manner. He didn’t pull on the leash when out walking and he always came when called in an off-leash area. In all ways, he was a beautiful, gentlemanly dog. This, given his size, was fortunate because Zeus had a companion canine named Echo.
Echo was a rescued female Yorkshire terrier whose favourite place in life was beside Zeus’s left leg. Now, imagine a 5lb Yorkie trying to keep up with a 85lb Airedale; she certainly did not lack exercise. Even a leisurely stroll for Zeus meant a vigorous trot for Echo. If the food bowls were placed beside each other, Echo would push hers with her nose until it was situated in proximity to Zeus’s left leg. The only item she would share on an equal basis was the water bowl: there was only one.
Observers of this odd couple often remarked on Echo’s seeming subservience to Zeus. Certain male chauvinists joked that it was as it should be; that is, they did so until they noticed that they were no longer very popular. Even Zeus didn’t seem to like them very much. Then one day, Echo had to have a benign tumour removed, which meant an overnight stay at the veterinary hospital. Zeus was bereft. Where was Echo? First he searched the whole house, following his trusty nose to seek her out. Then, on his walk, he investigated every bush, post, and fence he could find, marking them with much less vigour than was usual. At supper time, usually the high point of his day, Zeus retired to their shared bed with a deep sigh. The nightly bathroom outing consisted of a quick pee in the back yard.
The next morning when Echo returned, Zeus nearly wagged his tail off; in fact, his whole rear end was in lateral motion. He let out one deep woof and approached Echo gently as if he sensed that she was feeling somewhat fragile; then he sniffed her from stem to stern. After this, he turned around and Echo, knowing her cue, positioned herself beside Zeus’s left leg. Together, they trotted off to the dog bed to recuperate from their mutual trauma.
Traditionally, a yurt is a portable bent-wood framed, felt covered dwelling used by nomads in central Asia. In the U.S. and Canada, the idea of the yurt, a round, semi-permanent tent, has been adopted and adapted to meet extreme weather conditions using modern engineering techniques and materials.
I want one!
A couple of summers ago, we visited a large rural flea market not far from Ottawa. An enterprising young man and his wife had erected a large, eco-friendly yurt on the premises. They were using it as both a sales model and as a store for displaying the other eco-friendly products they had for sale.
It was a chilly spring day, but when we stepped into the 30 foot diameter yurt it was warm and peaceful. The centre of the roof was at least 12 feet above our heads, and had a transparent cap made out of the material they use for the windows of space vehicles. The octagonal shape of the base lent itself to area zoning and the spaciousness of the whole dwelling was very appealing.
I found myself fantasizing about sitting in yurt beside a lake. I would be sitting in a comfy chair and writing stories to my heart’s content in this peaceful, expansive space.
Of course, I’ll have to win a lottery first because expansive is also expensive. Oh well, one can dream!
There are approximately 2500 pages of words in my old Random House dictionary. Two of them are dedicated to words beginning with the letter “x”, and all of the words on these pages seem to have been borrowed, or derived from other languages, mostly Greek. Since we acquired the letter from the Greek alphabet via the Etruscans, I guess this makes perfect sense. However, for the purpose of the A-Z challenge, Xerxes just doesn’t cut it for me.
Although it’s true that we do use “x” in the middle of some of our more common words – for example, ‘example’ and ‘extra’, etc., very few words beginning with “x” are familiar to most English speakers –xylophone seems to come the closest.
This doesn’t mean that the 24th letter of the alphabet isn’t very useful, however. We use it to indicate our choice on a ballot or on a bureaucratic form and we use it to identify something as wrong, or in need of deletion. X also represents a person, thing, or factor of unknown identity, and an unknown quantity or variable. In Roman numerals X is the number 10 and in math it indicates multiplication. In our leisure time, some of us do cross stitch (lots of x’s), play X’s and O’s, and a few nameless souls may watch X-rated movies, and, of course “x marks the spot”. And last, but not least, what about our beloved Generation X – I have two sons in that group –they’re not easy to forget.
Okay, in the spirit of kindness, I’ll quit, although the list could go on (and on).We could have a competition to see who can come up with the most uses for the letter “x”. As I said earlier, Xerxes doesn’t cut it for me.
Rain boots, rubber boots, call them what you will. I love wellies. My favourites are bright yellow knee-highs. When the weather is grey and sodden, I don them gleefully, knowing full well that I can slosh straight through the puddles to arrive wherever I’m headed with perfectly dry feet. In fact, in early spring, when our local snowfall is still often measured in feet, but sloshy, boot-soaking feet, I’ve been known to line a pair of wellies with heavy wool socks, and put ice grips on the bottoms of them. Then, I can venture defiantly forth in the most colourful boots I possess, while thumbing my nose at the weather; and best of all, I don’t have to worry about water damage. Sheepskin lined leather boots are wonderful when it’s 28C below zero, but nothing beats wellies during the freeze-thaw cycles of spring. I can even slog through mud, and then just hose them down to make them as good as new.
There is a caution to be heeded about mud however. Many years ago, when I was still an undergrad, I used to cut across an open field to shorten my route to the university by about half a mile. Well, one especially soggy spring, that field swallowed one of my lovely white wellies, and wouldn’t give it back. I limped home (the weather still quite cool) and missed my class that day. Thank heaven that we didn’t need notes to explain our absence. Can you imagine telling a grizzled old professor of Old English that a field ate your wellie; it wouldn’t have impressed him one iota.
The next day I bought a new pair of wellies. They were navy blue because there wasn’t a large selection left. However, from then until I could wear shoes that year, I avoided that field. I wasn’t completely stupid.
These days that field is a housing development with tree-lined streets. When I drive through it from the other side of town, I often wonder if the men who built the houses ever found my white wellie, or if it’s still buried beneath the street somewhere.
Veracity is truthfulness, the real deal.
Although, with the exception of pathological and compulsive liars, most of us don’t spend our lives telling lies to other people, there is one area where many of us have strayed far from veracity, perhaps without even realizing it. Cosmetics, hair dyes, and the increasingly popular use of Botox are all methods of disguising our so-called short-comings in perceived beauty and youthfulness; that is we attempt to hide what we really look like. This means that most of us don’t want others to see us as we really are.
The frightening thing about this is that we don’t even read the lists of potentially toxic chemicals in the products we slather on our skin and hair. We seem to think that skin is impermeable rather than the absorbent living tissue it really is, and while hair is dead enough except for the follicles, our scalps are not.
Then there’s BOTOX – AKA botulism toxin, the most acutely toxic substance known to man. In the days when home canning was the norm, botulism was the number one danger from improperly preserved (translate as ‘rotten’) food. This means that in our quest for eternal youth, we have a potentially lethal substance injected into our faces.
Since most of us aren’t fooling anyone anyway, why do we do it? We must be crazy, or desperate. ‘Cultural pressure’ is a very weak answer.
I bought one recently. It’s a mellow little instrument with a very nice sound. Alas, I have two challenges in learning to play the ukulele: First, many years ago, I learned guitar chords; ukulele chords are all different, so I have to root out all my old programming, and relearn everything. Hopefully, this is good for my brain. Second, my fingertips are soft. After a practice session, they burn, then they go numb for a while – they have to toughen up.
If there could be a sub-heading on this blog, it might be ‘overcoming one’s prejudices’. My memories of ukuleles’ are not great; when I was young, a certain ‘old-time’ British singer with a soprano ukulele/banjo was famous for his rendition of ‘I’m leaning on the lamp post at the corner of the street...’ In my youth, this was definitely not cool; it belonged to the previous generation. Then, there was the infamous ‘Tiptoe through the tulips’. Nuff said! But now, ukuleles are becoming trendy again. When I visit my favourite music store, they carry quite the selection, and young ‘cool’ guys are buying them. Even our local book store is carrying them!
I’m so impressed by some of the examples of ukulele playing out there – YouTube is great for finding them. You can find a classic version of ‘Somewhere over the Rainbow’ by the late Iz, a Hawaiian virtuoso. When I first watched his video, I was entranced by the breathtaking scenery and the laid back playing. He was a really ‘big’ guy, but his gentle spirit emerged so powerfully through his playing and singing. You can see it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V1bFr2SWP1I It’s haunting; it’s mellow, and I can play it now! There is something so appealing about it. I’ve watched it a few times, and will definitely watch it a few more, especially when I want to be transported to somewhere warmer than our frozen North!
Words by Megan. Photograph by Shirlene.