Aren’t words wonderful? Anyone remember “It Pays to Increase Your Word Power” from Reader’s Digest? Logophiles like me turned to that section as soon as we finished “Laughter, the Best Medicine.” Sadly, as new words get added (adulting, teraflop, whataboutism, lame stream and fo’shizzle) others like glabriety (baldness) are scuttled to the wayside. Let’s skirr (go over rapidly) those ditches and byways for picturesque words that can hold their own with such 21st century delights as “bae” and “upvote.”
THE TUESDAY PRUDE WORD OF THE WEEK GRABBLE verb Origin: Dutch, late 16th century (Dutch and German aren’t the most mellifluous of languages, but they are so dang fun)
Feel or search with the hands; grope about.
Sprawl or tumble on all fours.
CHALLENGE OF THE WEEK Use grabble in a sentence. Demonstrate physically if you must but be aware that onlookers may assume you are fuzzled.
A bucket of Legos has been sitting dormant in our basement since the Clinton era. Not totally dormant. Since the bucket is now twice as full as when it got shoved under the basement steps, we assume the pieces get lively around Lego mating season.
Now that our youngest grandchild reached the Age of Reason, (no longer consuming every potential choking hazard), we excavated under the stairs and unearthed the red bin. But before the grandsons are let loose on the toys their daddies played with, their grandma has work to do.
The sorting of the Legos has begun.
One grandson jump-started the process when he turned the bin upside down to find a particular Lego piece. And I’ve now spent half an unabridged audiobook and two podcasts sorting the dross from the gold, tiny specialty pieces from the standard Lego bases and blocks, thumbtacks and screws from the $100 Star Wars set.
“Tacks and screws?” The alert reader may ask. Yes. If memory serves me correctly we didn’t give our children sharp objects to play with. Here’s what I think happened, in those long ago clean-this-mess-or-else days. They tended to sweep everything from floor and dressers into the Lego bin. Which accounts for the ancient candy wrappers, pennies, and Mancala stones. And K-nex pieces. Do they even make K-nex any more? I’m a little concerned about the counting bears. We used to have hundreds. Now down to two. Maybe Legos eat them as part of their mating rituals?
And what kind of high-falutin’ set did we buy that has chess pieces?
Also. I wouldn’t want to be alone in a room with the only fighting guy who has all his body parts.
These are the Lego accoutrements.
Tiny coins, chalices, leering heads and weapons. Do you know that a 2 millimeter drinking stein is as painful to kneel on as a lumpy rock?
This sorting business is the kind of self-appointed task that leads me to reflect on the compulsive desire to do something stupid.
Like the child who throws a softball at a wasps’ nest. Mid-flight he ponders. Was this a good idea?
Like the suburbanite who rakes leaves while autumn gales blow or snowplows the driveway during a blizzard. In the upper Midwest we commonly refer to these as ‘exercises in futility.’
Like the gambler who puts all his money on the long shot at the track because the horse reminded him of his mother and too late wonders if he should have thought this decision through.
I should realize the the grands probably won’t fully appreciate the effort that went into the Lego Sorting Project. They most certainly won’t maintain the separation of bits from pieces for long.
Shouldn’t the little voice in my head say, ”Don’t you have more productive and slightly less futile tasks to do? Pay the monthly bills, feed your husband, clean the floor around the toilet from the last time the little boys came before they come again?”
Likely, I’ll continue to suppress the voice.
I’ll imagine the excitement I hope to see on my grandson’s faces when they find just the right Lego figure for their current make-believe scenario.
And that possibility will make this lousy idea, exercise in futility, poorly thought-out scheme all worth while.
Extensive research on two websites this morning revealed interesting facts about squirrels. One squirrel year is equal to five human years. Squirrels in my neck of the woods live about 12 years if there is no outside interference.
The ones around here are mostly gray squirrels so it’s already hard to tell the elderly almost-60-year olds from the sprightly young adults. But while I used to think roadkill squirrels must be the daredevil youngsters, my nephew introduced me to a saying a few years ago that changed my perspective.
“Auntie,” he said while I hesitated between two doors in a Chicago underground, “just pick one. The world is full of flat squirrels who couldn’t make up their minds.”
Much musing on this led to an understanding. Those dearly-departed rodents couldn’t make up their minds. True, but not because they were feeble-minded. They didn’t know which was the RIGHT way to go.
It was my lightbulb, sea-change moment. The behavior of squirrels gave me insight to my deepest self.
I’m not indecisive. Not in the way my nephew thought. He couldn’t understand that it’s a matter of right or wrong.
Those of us raised on the Ten Commandments, playground rules, and a constant diet of morally upright books in which the heroine had to make the right choice OR ELSE have come to see the world in terms of a binary choice. Black or white, yes or no, right or wrong. For some of us, no decision is a small one, no choice unimportant. Which door in the underground? This one? Or that one? Run back to the left side of the road? Or dash to the right? We hope the pedestrians behind us or the nephew in front of us will be patient while we wait for a revealing of the right door. We hope the oncoming vehicle will slow while we ponder the correct side of the road.
It ain’t easy being us absolute-type people. We spend too much time dithering, praying a neon arrow will point to the right choice, whether it’s a flat of annuals at the greenhouse or a lifetime spouse. One spouse, one flat of petunias, one door is right. Every other one is wrong. So we vacillate, we waver, we dilly-dally. If we were squirrels, most of us wouldn’t have made it to our twenties.
You probably don’t realize how many of us roam the world. We don protective coloring. (Mostly because we know that it is wrong to inconvenience others with our hesitation.) We have a modicum of intelligence and know how to function in a prescribed set of circumstances. We’ve established the right way to do things in most instances, weeded out the incorrect people, places and things, and learned to forgive ourselves for buying the absolute wrong color shoes when we were nineteen.
But present us with two unknown doors in a previously unexplored underground, force us to choose this side of the road or that without weighing the relative merits, and you may see us hesitate. Be patient.
(This is an edited reprint of a post from several years ago—back when I referred to myself in the third person. My youngest son is getting married this week and I’ve done everything in my power to make certain I volunteered for too much. This is a secret weapon for making my family think I’m indispensable. I’ll share more tips in this in a future post.)
I have a dream. A dream in which thousands of people from all walks of life, sporting skin tones from freckly pink to glorious midnight, join for the next big March on Washington. We won’t come together because we agree on everything. As a matter of fact, we agree on very little. A bevy of priggish types who propound the glories of modesty meet up with the ‘America Gets Nekkid’ folks, who arrive clad only in sturdy walking shoes and an admirable set of goosebumps. Grammar Anarchists trickle in. Known best by their slogan ‘For all intensive purposes; we could care less’ they champion for, among other linguistic improprieties, a participle’s right to dangle.
Various other assemblages join us, like a small, unnamed but vocal group who hold etiquette responsible for the world’s inequities.
What, in my dream, could bind such a disparate groups? What do they have in common?
A desire for civility.
So we come together, holding firmly to individual convictions, but demonstrating jointly for a fundamental cause. This is the Civility Rights March.
It has its own platform.
CIVILITY STATEMENT OF RIGHTS 1) We will not mock, scorn, or call those with opposing viewpoints nasty names. 2) Interruptions, speaking out of turn and out-shouting others is not tolerated. We all have a chance to express opinions, but only while holding the Stick of Civility. 3) We do not make our opponent appear foolish, or take remarks out of context. 4) Under no circumstances, no matter how major our differences, do we engage in fisticuffs. 5) We vow to use the proper facilities for dealing with bodily functions, leave said facilities looking better than when we came in, and inform management if facilities require attention. 6) We will not litter. 7) We promise to guard the above rights of civility via the use of civility against any and all who might come and try to undermine the rights of civility.
Demonstrators will come together to actually demonstrate what civility looks like…Ahhhhh. What a dream!
A Grammar Anarchist says: “Ain’t nobody going to tell me apostrophes aren’t for plural nouns.” Instead of mocking the extensive overuse of negatives (“So someone IS going to tell you how to use apostrophes?”) we tell them we are charmed bytheir use of the vernacular ‘ain’t’ and any time the language subversive wants to discuss punctuation more fully we are ready and willing. They thank us and admit to occasional appreciation of subject/verb agreement.
The most rabid of full-body coverage zealots realizes that even anti-clothing extremists get cold. While looking the au natural directly in the eye (and only in the eye) the super-modest type won’t say, “Serves you right.” Instead she offers a blanket for the birthday-suit clad nonconformist to ward off the chill. (“No, I don’t need it back when the temps warm up. Really, you keep it.”) The person in the all-together, recognizing the prudish-types’ sensibilities, willingly covers public seating areas with newspapers or napkins before settling down.
And even though the throw-off-the-yoke-of-etiquette people believe salad greens stuck in the teeth or dangling dried nasal secretions are symbols of liberation, they know they haven’t won over the entire world to their perspective. Therefore, upon seeing a dab of marinara sauce on the chin of a dainty etiquette-lover, our napkin-hater refrains from outward rejoicing and tactfully points it out.
Protests seldom go well. The 60’s antiwar demonstrations always drew a crowd who defended America’s policies. Bitter recriminations erupted from both camps. Those who picket abortion clinics in turn are picketed by their polar opposites and the Occupy Anything people are met by vocally indignant Go Home Now and Get a Job groups. They all employ their constitutional right to protest. Sadly, many assume this assures the right to scream and belittle and deface what isn’t theirs.
But at our Civility Rights March, any misguided prudes who come planning to humiliate our opposition will find themselves politely shushed. We won’t tolerate name calling, finger pointing, or twisted words. Disagree with us, or disagree with those we disagree with. Do so in an uncivil manner and we will inform you how we plan to defend the rights of civility. And then we will courteously point out the little piece of spinach in your teeth.