I’m wondering when the Internet is going to start reporting on the inevitable psychological complex Right Shark will develop, now that pure chance has determined that Left Shark should be famous. Will Left Shark go on to fame and fortune, while Right Shark goes on to destitution and celebrity rehab, or simply the obscurity of the almost famous?
My 8 year old keeps saying crap salad. I’ll explain. Two weeks ago, we received a wedding invitation that included a website describing the meal choices. A typo turned Crab Salad into Crap Salad. I though this was funny enough to tell my wife, and the kids heard me. I can’t really fault them for repeating it and laughing, but that’s where it ended two weeks ago.
Today at dinner we are filling out the RSVP and reviewing the chocies on the site, and he keeps saying crap salad and laughing. We’re trying to keep our composure and failing. Finally he motions to the laptop and says, “Show me where it says crap salad.”
“They fixed it,” I said, “It doesn’t say that any more and neither should you.”
Parenting win!? Maybe.
Just as I thought I’d turned it around, my 12 year old son is stammering over the words mounting screw, he wants to say mounting screw but only the word screw keeps coming out, skipping over the word mounting. With frustration and anger he finally spit it out on the tail end of his last attempt, “…SCREW THE MOUNTING SCREW!”
No it’s not how he intended it, but it kind of gives you a glimpse into what they will be like as adults.
“These are not my children,” my wife says.
“I blame my mom. She’s the reason I think swearing is funny.”
Fashion is funny. It used to be you only saw knee high boots on horse women and hookers. Now every women looks like they are riding something.
“What does resurrected mean?” my son asked.
“Well, the word means to bring back to life, or rise from the dead, and people use it as an expression like, the project was resurrected because it wasn’t going anywhere and now it has new life.”
I considered ending it there, but not knowing in what context he heard it, I thought I should address all the possibilities.
“And then people also use it when they talk about religion. The Christian myth says that Jesus was killed and three days later he was resurrected.”
“Oh. So, like Frankenstein.”
“It was a bold question, and one which has ever been considered as a mystery; yet with how many things are we upon the brink of becoming acquainted, if cowardice or carelessness did not restrain our inquiries…In my education my father had taken the greatest precautions that my mind should be impressed with no supernatural horrors. I do not ever remember to have trembled at a tale of superstition or to have feared the apparition of a spirit. Darkness had no effect upon my fancy, and a churchyard was to me merely the receptacle of bodies deprived of life, which, from being the seat of beauty and strength, had become food for the worm.”
—Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein
A woman’s need to communicate her feelings is not unlike a man’s need for sex. You want it all the time, but you can’t get it all the time, so sometimes you have to do it alone.
Recently I was asked to participate on a panel of professionals for the benefit of English Majors at Eastern Connecticut State University. The subject for the panel was in particular, what is the value of the degree beyond being a teacher. The following is what I wrote in preparation for the event and delivered via the answer to one of the questions:
First I have to say that I’m feeling so much joy being surrounded by people, both in the panel and the audience, who have a passion for words, because I believe that words matter, the words we choose reflect who we are and how we are perceived.
Personally, I count my English degree as the single greatest asset I have. I can’t lose it, it can’t be damaged or destroyed, it doesn’t grow obsolete or lose value, and it confers on me two great super powers. I’ll get back to those in a minute.
But first, what does it mean to study English? What is it you’re really studying? They call it the study of English because that’s the language we speak here in this country, but it’s really the study of the transfer of knowledge, concepts, and ideas from one consciousness to another via words. So, whether it’s someone speaking to you in the moment, or from an 1000 year old text, the author’s purpose was to communicate ideas through words. Our job as scholars of this process is to discover the meaning the originator intended. Because let’s be honest, it’s not a perfect process. Anyone who’s ever read Kafka knows what I mean. And so you pour over various books, and essays, and oral stories intent on discovering their meaning. You are always asking the question; what was the author trying to say? When you do that as often as English majors do, you develop two super powers.
Eventually, you develop the ability to discern an author’s meaning with very little effort and very quickly, even if the originator isn’t communicating well. You can pick up a manual for a technology you’ve never heard of, written by a guy in another country whose primary language is not English, and where other people might be totally confused, you know exactly what they were trying to say. You pick up on clues in the word choice, or the sentence structure, and piece together the meaning that was intended, regardless of what was actually written on the page! And so the superpower that comes from this is the power to learn. Getting an English degree taught me first and foremost how to learn. And with that power you can learn almost anything else, any career, industry or task, and you can learn it very quickly because you’ve practiced this process so much. You can find a book, or tutorial, or online resources, and with what seems like nothing more than the power to read, you can master the subject. With this skill, you can accumulate knowledge and skills far beyond the more narrow scope of other disciplines.
And as you accumulate knowledge, the second superpower begins to emerge. Your ability to originate the messages (the other side of the equation, if you will) becomes quite sharp. The writers you study write for an audience, and so they consider their audience through every part of the process. And you begin to learn incorporate this into your own messages. So whether you are writing an email or a report, or a training document, or trying to communicate verbally, you take into account your audience, and the position and experience they come from. You become so adept at choosing words that clearly and efficiently communicate your meaning, the understanding of it seems effortless to the recipient. And if they still don’t get your meaning, you are able to reach into their background, whether it’s their field, or industry, or just the common human experiences we all have, and you are able to put your meaning into contexts they can relate to, because you’ve spent countless hours pouring over allegories, analogies, metaphors, and similes. So it just comes natural.
So in gaining your English degree, you gain both the power to learn anything, and the power to teach anything. The power to understand, and to be understood, and that is what makes us mighty!
Often we’re encouraged to be true to ourselves and not let anyone tell us differently, but when I do I’m told I should work on being a better person. Catch 22.
When I was in college, I had an opportunity to take two dignitaries from Bosnia to NYC. A Bosnian Supreme Court Justice who also taught International Law at the University of Sarajevo and his Chief of staff. After seeing some sights they asked me what I thought they might like. I’ve always thought that St. Patricks is a unique and outstanding peiece of architecture unlike the surrounding brick boxes that make up the majority of the buildings in that area. I walked them down 5th Ave., and with a big wave of the arms, introduced them to the it: violia!
They took one disinterested look and started looking elsewhere. I was confused. “Do you want to go in?” I asked. They spoke a bit in their language and the Chief of Staff turned to me and said with his thick accent, “Eastern Europe is full of this kind of structure. We want to see 5 story walk-up…” and then his face lit up with delight…”preferably with fire escape!”
OK then, let’s go to The Village.
Perfume should make its presence known when you get close enough to know that a kiss will happen. That place where both parties know it’s too close to talk anymore, but not close enough yet to touch. Perfume should act as the scent that pushes you past that line. Some people, however, think that it should announce your presence when you enter a room and make the occupants weep.