Monthly Archives: November 2012

She likes us, she really likes us

I went to Stacey’s house for Thanksgiving, and she always has guests for large gatherings. This year, there was a foreign exchange student from Asia. The girl, whose name I can not spell correctly nor could not pronounce correctly until I had much coaching, is from either Kazakhstan or Kyrgystan. She explained it used to part of Russia, so after looking at the map I would assume it is the former rather than the latter. In her country, she attends a boarding school (she said she received a scholarship to attend there), and she plans to attend an American University in Turkey when she graduates from the boarding school. I said, “Oh, you must be smart to get the scholarship to attend the boarding school.”

She said, “I don’t think so.”

“Well, you are speaking English very well, so I imagine you are smart,” my conversation continued with her. “How many languages can you speak?”

“Russian, English, and…”  there were three more that I had never heard before, could not pronounce and wouldn’t have the slightest idea how to spell.  She could tell how foreign they were by my expression. She explained that they were dialects of her country.

“Oh…,” I marveled.

We spoke of many things, none important, all very important because the two of us (plus more) were communicating even though there were words neither of us understood. I talked about our idioms and gave her a couple examples. I could tell that the meaning of the idioms were foreign to her by her expressions, but she said she was introduced to them at her school in Asia. We touched on religions, and I learned that while we have many sects of Christianity, they only have the term Christianity. And Muslim.

Since this was Thanksgiving, I asked her if she liked our food. She was going to try turkey, yams, and cranberries for the first time. Wow!!! I asked her if she liked what she saw in the U.S. of A. and she said yes. We all danced to the Wii and she was good, very good. So, that is the same everywhere.

But, when all was done, I felt like Sally Fields felt when she received the Oscar. “She likes us, she really likes us.” So, all you naysayers out there, saying that we Americans are not liked, I know one who does like us. She really does. Oh, and she likes our turkey, too.

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Are you listening to me?

“The woman drove home with excitement, waiting and planning how to tell her husband the news about her job promotion.  She knew he would be proud of her achievement, that is, if he could hear her while his head was buried in his sports section of the daily paper.  She knew that his attention would be absorbed on the daily stats of whatever sports he was into that day.  She knew that if the sport was “hot” he would also be listening to the radio or television, which ever that could give him the blow-by-blow account.  She knew she cared less about the sports he was so into, and to get his full attention would be monumental. ”

 

Sound familiar?

All you need to do is change the people and the circumstances, and we deal with this listening problem every day in some way.  But before you jump on the bandwagon, or off the bandwagon, let me explain.  In all my studies, I remember learning that we hear every fourth word, so I decided to investigate that thought. It’s not that we hear every fourth word, we hear 25% of what is spoken. According to the University of Missouri Extension, we speak about 125 words per minute, and we can understand about 400 words per minute. That is roughly 25% of our mental capacity. So the other 75% of our brain is working on our own thoughts floating around our head — so now you know how and why our minds wander. We’re just built that way.  Could you imagine talking at 400 (or four times more) words per minute — it would be like listening to a vinyl 45 rpm playing at 33 1/3 rpm (and please, one of you music buffs correct me on that one, please)!

Maybe that is why some of us are good at multi-tasking. I know I have become a couch-surfer (don’t you love the new term?) because I can not give my full attention to any one thing unless if I am writing or teaching, but then I live in my own head while I am writing, carrying on full dialogues with these mind characters. My mind works overtime. Maybe that is what passion is, just like the man described above; he’s “into” it. And the rest, well I will hear enough to know what you are talking about unless if you pull me from my thoughts and make me focus on what you have to say. Teaching is focused-driven. You can not be an effective teacher if you are thinking of something other than the subject at hand. It’s that simple.

So, what happened to the lady…

“She knew she had to break him away from the playoffs, and it had to be sudden and exhilarating to gain that attention, if only for a few minutes.  She had the plan worked out in her head — she would open the door, stand in front of him,  and yell ‘we’re having a baby. At 49.’  She knew that would get his attention. Long enough for her to tell him the truth.

Perfect plan, she thought.

She opened the door to the house, and she couldn’t believe her eyes. He was not focused on the paper, nor was he listening to the  sports, he was…”

 

Hey, you finish it. What was he doing?

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Have you ever been “in a pickle”?

Could you imagine a person who is not familiar with our word idiosyncrasies to know that “in a pickle” has nothing to do with food but rather some sort of trouble? Actually, the idiom “in a pickle”  (in a mess)  is derived from food.

As background information, the earliest reference (phrases.org.uk) I found was when the 16th century Dutch or Low German used pekel when referring to a preservative of spices and salted vinegar. Then, in the 17th century, cucumbers and gherkins were vegetables that were also preserved and were called pickles.

So, how did we get from food to “in trouble” —

First, there is reference to King Arthur’s diet in The Morte Arthure when it is written (English translation) “He dines all season on seven rascal children, chopped, in a bowl of white silver, with pickle and precious spices.” I might say that those children were “in a pickle”.

But, who really gave the term the meaning we know today was Shakespeare when he used it in The Tempest : TRINCULO speaks “I have been in such a pickle since I saw you last…”

I believe that every person  has been “in a pickle” at least once, and sometimes a situation can be “in a pickle”. Take, for instance, the headline Reuters (U.S. edition, November 8, 2012) gave when explaining the recent passage of legalized recreational marijuana in Colorado and Washington: “Pot legalization puts bankers in a pickle”. Actually, it’s not the bankers who will be “in a pickle”, but the banks themselves (which in turn are the stockholders) because banks fall under federal rules and can not keep money for what the federal government considers illegal business. Oh, what a mess, that recent passage has opened a “can of worms” and I can’t even imagine how any banker will deal with “this pickle”!

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One word, so many meanings

When a teacher grades a paper, specifically a composition, there are many items the grader looks for to determine the grade for that specific paper. I am not going to go into all of the items, but I do want to talk about the words we use and how those words help us define the message we want to present.

Let’s take the word “fast”. If I were to play a word game and had to define fast with the first word that pops into my head it would be correlated with “speed.”   For instance, “I got a speeding ticket when I went too fast on the highway.” That’s an easy one.

But, what about when I talk about a “fast” friend. Actually, if I were to simply say I have a fast friend, it could mean two polarized meanings for my friend. My “fast” friend could be one who is loyal, or s/he could be one who is promiscuous. Quite a difference there!  

That brings me to grading that paper. Whether you remember this comment or are in school now, at sometime you probably saw “incomplete” written somewhere on a paper. What it means is that the thought is incomplete because the reader does not know exactly what you, the writer, refers to. If the words surrounding the word are complete, we can sense what the writer means (This is the same as when we speak and know what the speaker is saying because of the conversation’s subject.) and the thought is complete. Make that thought at the end of a sentence or a paragraph and you have simply made that thought dangle, made me wonder what you mean to say. This is a HUGE mistake in writing the composition and is very common because people assume we the reader know what the writer is thinking. Believe me, I do not know what you are thinking, so spell it out for me.

Let’s go back to the word “fast”. We now know it can mean speedy, quick; loyal; and promiscuous. And it can mean more.

We all know that time goes by “fast”, but then we could have a watch or a clock that runs “fast” (ahead of its time), and last, but not least, is what most of us in America want, we want to be “fast” (firmly) asleep. 

So, the next time you hear the word “fast” do not take it for granted. Time may go in a hurry, my friend may be loyal or promiscuous, the clock may run ahead of the real time, and I can only dream of a sound sleep, but for all, I can simply write “I live a fast life with a fast friend who is not fast morally, and though my clock runs fast, I always sleep fast in a fast slumber.” 

Have fun with words!

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