Posted in America, Blogging, Politics, tagged Accusations, America, Blogging, Hard Feelings, Internet, Liars, Politics, Words on September 8, 2012 |
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As we move closer to the election, feelings become stronger and political passions worm their way closer to the surface. It becomes harder and harder to have a discussion about politics without increasingly sharp words being exchanged.
Words matter. Mean-spirited, unnecessarily harsh words can leave a permanent scar. At our jobs, and in our daily lives, we somehow manage (at least, most of the time) to express and discuss things in a civil way. We might “disagree” with a co-worker, or “see things differently” than a friend, but we typically don’t call people “liars” or accuse them of standing with Stalin, Hitler, and Torquemada as among the most malign people in history. We refrain because we don’t want anyone to say such hurtful things about us and we know that such statements can cause long-time relationships to die in a blaze of bitterness. I’m happy to note that, on this obscure family blog, where our posters and frequent commenters — elroyjones, Mike N, Cousin Jeff, and Marcel, among others — clearly occupy different points on the political spectrum, we can express our differences without flame-throwing or rancor.
I contrast this little world with the political and internet worlds, where grossly excessive, over-the-top overreactions are so absurdly commonplace. In those worlds, simply failing to provide the detailed context a writer might think is necessary — say, about the unadopted recommendations of the Simpson-Bowles Commission — can convert a perfectly accurate, limited statement of fact into a “lie.” I’m not sure how I would react if one of my friends or colleagues accused me of “lying” under those same circumstances, but I’m sure I wouldn’t like it.
I know there are those who think that such charges and counter-charges are just part of “the game,” and if you want to swing in the spotlight of politics you just need to suck it up and develop a thick skin. I don’t care how hardened you are, however — no one wants to be called a liar, or a communist, or a person who desires nothing more than to put people “back in chains.” Americans often bemoan how inert and ineffective our political institutions are; I’d wager that part of the reason is that it is incredibly difficult to sit across the table from somebody who just publicly accused you of being a liar or a fool, put aside your anger at what you consider to be an unfair charge, and work together to strike a reasonable compromise.
We’d all be better off if we toned it down and strove for civil discourse that won’t leave our country bruised, bloody, and bitterly divided when the morning after the election comes — whatever the outcome.
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Posted in Growing Up, Ohio, tagged Bath Township, Growing Up, House Names, Houses, Ohio, Suburbs, the '60s, Words on July 6, 2011 |
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When we were kids in the suburban wilds of Bath Township, Ohio, a family living nearby did something weird: they gave their standard-issue ’60s house a name. And not just any name, either. They called it “Don-Can-De-Mar,” the combination of the first few letters of the first names of each family member.
I was about 10, and I thought naming your house was the coolest idea ever. Why live in a plain, boring house, when you could live in a house with a name that sounded grand and exotic at the same time, like a foreign word?
It made me want to name our equally standard-issue ’60s suburban house, too. But the first name approach that led to the fabulous “Don-Can-De-Mar” wouldn’t work in our seven-member family. “Jim-Ag-Jim-Bob-Cat-Mar-Je” didn’t exactly roll easily off the tongue. So I tried to think of other approaches. We had an enormous rock in our front yard that Dad had tried to dig out but only managed to uncover, so I thought “Renbew Rock” might be a candidate. It had alliteration going for it, and a secret back story (with “Renbew” being Webner in reverse, of course). But it sounded too fake, like a name created using pig Latin, and I couldn’t think of anything else. Eventually I gave up, as kids usually do.
I don’t have any recollection of what “Don-Can-De-Mar” looked like, but I will never forget that near-mythical name. It’s a good example of the power of words.
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Every so often the authoritative Oxford English Dictionary decides that new words, phrases, and slang have become sufficiently accepted to be included in the next publication. For those interested in our language, it is a momentous occasion.
The most recent announcement features many new words, like “tinfoil hat” and “couch surfer” and (horrors!) “wassup,” as well as new usages, like recognizing “heart” as a verb (as in “I [heart shape] NY”). A number of the newly recognized words are in fact acronyms — or, to use the word used by the OED, “initialisms.” These new selections would delight Valley Girls, emailophiles, and hard-core texters. They include “OMG,” “LOL,” “IMHO,” “TMI,” and “BFF.” For those of you who, like me, wonders whether “TMI” refers to Three Mile Island, it doesn’t — it means “too much information.”
The continued generation of new words and usages shows that English remains a vibrant, growing language — so much so that an English speaker from the year 2350 reading Catcher in the Rye would find its English as distant from their usage as Shakespeare is from the modern tongue. But if “OMG” and “LOL” are now regarded as proper uses of the King’s English, can “CYA” and “WTF” be far behind?
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