Monthly Archives: October 2012

It’s a ghastly affair — or is it?

Wednesday is Halloween — the night when the dead and the living dead walk among us, as well as a few clowns and cheerleaders and cute little bunny rabbits. But where did all this start, and why?  Was it to get a few candy bars?

After a quick search, I found that celebrating on October 31st dates back well over 1000 years — wow! — and I thought it was all about who got the most and best candy! Originally, it was the time of the year when the harvest was brought in with summer’s end and people readied for the “darker” or “dead” part of the year — winter.

In Ireland, people celebrated a festival named Samhain (pronounced SAH-win or SOW-in) when they believed, according to Wikipedia,  “it was a time when the ‘door’ to the Otherworld opened enough for the souls of the dead, and other beings such as fairies, to come into our world.” Hey, some of those souls could be macabre, so people would dress in costumes so they (the living) would blend in with the dead souls and not have mischief done to them. Superstitions anyone!

The entire idea is also religious in origin.  I was raised that it was the eve of All Saints Day. That is correct also, and it is one explanation for the dispensing of food to those who ring your doorbell. According to Wikipedia there was ringing of bells on this day for the souls in purgatory (which is not recognized any longer) and poor children (why is always the poor that go around and beg?) would go door-to-door asking for cakes to pray for the souls in purgatory.

Here, in America, Halloween was not introduced until the Irish and Scottish immigrated  in the 19th century, and it was not until the 1900s that “trick-or-treating”  took hold in our society when those who asked for treats would first have to perform a “trick”, such as sing or tell a ghost story.

So, today, as we venture out of our house with our costumes and masks firmly attached, you never know if that Frankenstein, or Count Dracula or one of those walking dead  may indeed be from “the other side”. And, as far as the treats, I think I’ll have those who ask for a treat to tell me a story first. That is, if they will  want to come close to the mummy —- hahahahahaha!!!!

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What some people say!

Sunday night I was channel surfing when I stopped on the “Amazing Race”. It was towards the end of the program so  I  watched the conclusion. The program was recording in Bangladesh, a third world country where people and garbage was everywhere, and it was here that I could not believe what I heard. These two men were partners, and apparently, they hired a local to take them to a spot on the agenda and the local took them the wrong way. They were in last place, but by the local going the wrong way, they would definitely lose the race. That was when one of the men said to the local, “You caused me to lose a million dollars.” Whoa!! That is the most ludicrous statement  I could have heard. First off, they were trailing and from the looks of it, they knew it. Then, they are in a third world country where people live on less than $1000 dollars a year (Wikipedia.org). The local shrugged his shoulder after he heard the statement. Whether he understood what they were saying or not, who cares and who can comprehend what a million dollars is when you don’t even make $100 a month. Really?!?

That statement jogged my memory of other inane statements. I am sure there has been someone in your life sometime, when you have a cold and a horrible cough, and you are hacking  so hard that you feel  your lungs are collapsing and then, you hear “Stop coughing!” Really?!? As if you don’t want to.

Or, I love it when you have the hiccups, you hurt inside because you can’t stop, and there is that voice again, “Quit that!”

Or, you are in bed with your partner, slumbering along when you hear the train coming through the room and feel the earth move under the bed. In a sleepy daze, you know what it is. You, half-awake, turn over, hit your partner, and say, “Stop snoring.” Really?!?

But, the absolute best is when I was a child. I went to a parochial school and we sang in choir. Here I was in my navy blue pleated skirt, white blouse, curly hair pulled back, singing to my heart’s content when all of a sudden the nun taps me on the head with her pitch pipe and says, “Sing right”.  I’m going (in my head, we would never even think of responding to a demand from the sisters) I am singing right, in fact, I am singing the “Ave Maria” aria with the angels of heaven as the background accompaniment, and you’re telling me to “Sing right.” Really?!?

Honestly, what some people say!!!

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mispronouncing words

I will tell you upfront that I can mispronounce words. Sometimes, I may not intend to blemish the word, and sometimes I simply have never been exposed to the word and I am giving it my best.

Do you ever know the word, but it just comes out wrong? It is unintentional, and you know better, but it simply is not the word that is in your head, and you hear this other version when it rolls off your tongue. Once, I was having a conversation with someone and we were talking about the ability of a child. I knew I wanted to say precocious when I referred to the child; instead, it came out percocious. I slight slip of the tongue gave way to a non-word. There is no such word that I know that is spelled percocious.

By the way, precocious means when something has matured before its time.

I think not knowing how to pronounce a word is one reason why our oral language has been corrupted to simple, one-syllable words and slang words. That, and the ongoing problem of getting the young engaged in reading and exploring new words and ideas outside of their sphere. But then, that’s another story….

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One last word on hearing

Before I leave the subject of being misunderstood because of hearing loss, I would like to share a story written in The Daily Journal in Kankakee, Illinois. The author of the story is J. Dennis Marek, who has been a practicing attorney in the city for a number of years. I thought the story funny, and it really brings home why it is so important to hear words correctly.

“A couple of weeks ago, I related in my column a hearing mistake in a courtroom that led to my first hearing aid. The word I thought I heard turned out to be ‘peanuts’ rather than a male body part. When I realized the young attorney was trying to tell me my peanut order from Kiwanis was in, I was relieved greatly…”

That is so, so true. Can you imagine what went through his head when he heard his p… is in, instead of his peanuts? I really wanted to pass this story on, it is just so funny and , oh, so true when it comes to mishearing words.

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Huh?

Choice of words are not the only reason why people are misunderstood. Words are misconstrued when a person can not hear the words because of a physical deficit or because the speaker is garbling the words by not speaking clearly.

Everyone (I would think) has spoken with a person who does not speak clearly, and the message has been, at the least, not fully understood. I know that speech is quite different from the written word, but  to be a conversationalist, one must speak clearly and articulate the words to form the message one wants to deliver. When people mutter in a low voice, they could be saying something of importance, but they will never get the point across because people do not hear the message. Now tie that to the receiver of the message who doesn’t quite hear every word, and you may produce a volatile situation.

Most people know at least someone who has a hearing deficit, and whether if they are patient with that person or not, the person with the hearing deficit will always not hear every word and the message will be misunderstood. That is a given when there is not a hearing aid used.

For example, I recently watched “The Patriot” with Mel Gibson. There was one scene that was classic — Mel Gibson’s son wants to “see” one man’s daughter, and he goes to the the man and asks, “I’ve come to call on Ann.” The man, who is portrayed with a hearing loss by using a funneled ear piece, puts the hearing aid to his ear, and replies, “Of course you call yourself a man.”

Completely different meaning! But, I understand how the sounds were confused, and that mix up gave a new meaning to those words. I’m sure those words were explained because the young man married Ann; but, what would have happened if he was not able to explain his words? What would have happened if Ann’s father would have heard, “you’re not a man” instead of “call myself a man”? Where would that line have led? It may have been the end of the scene, or one that ended with a fight.

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Idioms, cliches and proverbs

Idioms, cliches and proverbs drive me crrrrrazzzyy!

An idiom is simply a phrase which has a different meaning than its words, such as “cooking with gas”. Literally, it means that we are cooking (a meal) with gas (instead of electricity). But, that is not how we use the phrase, when we say someone is “cooking with gas”, we mean that person is  going fast or accomplishing a task at a speedy rate.

Gas stoves came into use during the 1800s (before that was the wood burning stoves) and this term came from advertising the gas stove as cooking fast, “cooking with gas”.

A cliche is similar to an idiom but is worn out, overused. “Oh, for crying out loud” is a part of our language, definitely overused here in the Midwest, and has nothing to do with crying or saying anything out loud. Actually, it means that the person thinks someone is doing or saying something that is absurd or ridiculous.

A proverb is a phrase that is derived from the Bible and has become a part of our everyday language, such as, “climb the wall” (Joel 2:7). I climb the wall in winter after a long bout of zero temperatures and snowy days. What I am really saying is that I am restless, ready for some type of activity instead of being “cooped up” in the house.

Foreigners may think that we physically climb a wall; instead, the meaning is nearly the opposite.

I can not even imagine how hard it is for people who are learning our language and trying to understand our words, then hear someone say “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush”, or “bite the bullet”, or “how now, brown cow”. Now really, “how now, brown cow” is suppose to mean something! Eh, “what’s up!”

I will be writing more on idioms, cliches and proverbs because they make up so much of our language (at least here in the Midwest). If you are from the East coast or West coast or the South, do you use these phrases as much as we do in the Midwest? What about the people we encounter who are not from America and are trying to learn our language, do you think that every time we use one of those phrases, our communication is being jeopardized? I would be interested in hearing from you and to know “How do you like them apples?”

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