PSA: Words Really Matter

There’s the old saying we have all heard:

“Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”

To this I say…

Bullshit!!!

Words do matter whether written or verbal. They just f-ing do!

Once they are out there you can’t take them back. And words do cause damage. They can do a lot of damage.

Example-

My left eye goes blurry. It’s this way for four days, so my husband and I decide to get an appointment at the place where I normally get my eyes checked. I see an optometrist that I have never seen before. She performs a variety of tests and when it all said and done. She says that there doesn’t seem to be anything wrong and occasionally this happens. Unfortunately, I will just have to put up with a blurry eye for a while longer until it heals itself. She says I should have it looked at again in three weeks. I make said appointment and go on my merry way.

My husband and I go home, eat a bite of lunch, and are talking in the living room when the phone rings. I get many spam calls, so I let it go to voicemail. A minute later my phone indicates that a message has been left, so I listen to it. The message is from the doctor saying on second thought should would like me to go see a retina specialist because my optic nerve is bugging her and that I should give her a call back.

I call her back confused because an hour ago I was told I was fine.  She says that she just wants to make sure that we cross all our “t”s and dot all of our “I”s because quote “This is where we get into scary stuff like brain tumors and MS.”

WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU LADY?!???!!!!

That is all it took; the damage was done.  There was no taking it back. Naturally, a full-blown panic attack ensued along with two and a half days of tortuous anxiety making every slip of the tongue and forgotten to-do a sure sign I had a brain tumor, and every muscle spasm and joint ache (even after putting in 9 miles of running in two days) an absolute hallmark testament that I had MS.

This doctor’s stupidity caused chaos for me, my husband, my parents, my friends, and my co-workers (because they are awesome and care). It even put the ophthalmologist I ended up seeing due to this drama on guard as he tried his best to ease my concerns. (He seemed rather confused why these things were even mentioned.)

The downside is my eye is still blurry, and we aren’t sure why yet. Hope to have more news Monday, but even though I’ve been given qualified medical information that there is nothing that suggests these horrific outcomes. Until I know what it is, I will always have this lurking fear that it is one of those very things that were flippantly said.

Luckily, the ophthalmologist seems to understand this and hence the reason I return on Monday for further testing. He wants to get to the bottom of this to give me complete peace of mind.

As writers and readers, we know all about word choice in making a good description or scene, but it also matters in general communication. And sometimes, things are best left unsaid unless it is truly necessary and if you are truly qualified to say them.

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The Weirdness of English

I love words and language.  I love their flow and magic. I find other languages tantalizing, and I have on numerous occasions attempted to learn another language.  In high-school, it was Spanish. In college, it was Italian, and currently it’s French.  I haven’t been particularly successful at any of them, but I’ve probably stuck with French the longest.  This is probably due to the fact that I don’t have a grade riding on it. I chose to try and pick it up, so I’m less hard on myself and get less frustrated.

When I was younger, I thought all the other languages were stupid-difficult and why couldn’t they be nice and easy…like English? To be clear when I say “easy,” I’m referring to verbal communication. While I’ve always loved to read and write, I’ve struggled with spelling and grammar since…forever.  But I’ve never had trouble speaking, ask my Dad. Apparently, once when I was about two, and I was chattering away he looked at my mother and said, “We couldn’t wait for her to talk…”

Anyway, as I got older, I learned that English is one of the most difficult languages to learn (both verbal and written) because it doesn’t make a lot of sense. Sounds love to morph in weird ways, and we have nine-hundred words that all mean the same damn thing.

We even have “rules” that have more exceptions than followers, I once saw a statistic that said only 44 words follow the “i” before “e” rule while 900-plus words break it. It will never be obvious that the plural of moose is not meese, or that the plural of goose is not gooses.

However, the difficulty of English didn’t really sink in until I saw a sign that read, “Through, though, cough, and rough. None of these rhyme, but for some God forsaken reason pony and baloney do!” After I dried my tears from laughing, I decided that I didn’t have a reason to complain about the French and their obsession with silent letters after all.

A Writer’s Random Ramblings

Naturally, I feel a little lost on what to write from time to time. I started this new-fangled writing schedule. It’s going well thus far, but it’s been less than two weeks, so I will keep you posted.  Nevertheless, I find myself writing more (yay!) But what the hell am I to write about? (Boo!) I want to write stuff for my blog, perhaps strike upon an idea for an article, but I think that too much pressure scares off the ideas. Nevertheless, I have found that writing is a bit like running you just have to put in the miles, or words, in order to get what you really want.  It can be frustrating as hell, but it’s just how it works.

I feel very excited to write, but I just don’t know what the heck to put down on paper. But I’m thankful to be excited, that’s a step in the write direction (ahh…I can hear those sweet, sweet groans.)

I realize there is a weird paradox about a blank page.  It can be anything, and it has no expectations; however, we as writers want it to be perfect, whatever it is.  But that is something we impose on ourselves. I’m not sure where the concept of, “we must write the perfect first draft!” comes from.  I guess we all really hate editing, or we don’t want to “waste” our time writing something unworthy. But editing can be interesting, surprising, and even fun. And no writing is a waste or unworthy.

Again, like running, they say that the only bad run is the one you don’t do and the same goes for writing.  The only truly wasted draft is the one you don’t write. Not everything written needs to be published or should be.  Some writing can just be for yourself.  In the grand scheme of things, writers are kind of an uptight bunch who need to take a chill pill and putter a bit.

Puttering is a great thing because it can lead to all kinds of interesting places.  One needs to allow for exploration and see what happens.  I don’t do this enough, but I’m working on it.  But I also need to learn to not feel bad when my putterings actually turn into fruitful pieces.

I know this sounds barmy, but I sometimes sit down to write, and I think to myself: “Today I’m writing a stream of consciousness just for myself. This won’t be publishable and that’s cool.” Then I get started and something strikes me, and I start writing a publishable idea. I freak out that I’m not doing what I am “supposed to be.” Yes, I know I have issues, but putting the pressure off is probably why something came into my brain that’s usable.  That’s awesome and not something to feel bad about. I have to remind myself that there will certainly be times when writing sessions won’t produce much of anything, but when they do I need to embrace it and forget about the intentions.

Writing is a strange and bizarre process, but perhaps that’s why so many are drawn towards it. It’s an elusive medium, and one that we are all in the pursuit of tackling. What makes it even more interesting is that we tackle it one day, but then the next we can’t grab on to it to save our souls.

Yes, it’s a skill and needs practice and experimentation.  It has rules and general practices, but it is a fluid thing which presents so many options as well as so many pitfalls.  This is what makes writing so awesome, so beautiful, and so enticing because it’s full of surprises and never gets old.

The Machine- Going Old School

On a ridiculously rainy day in Chicago, my mother, my aunt, a family friend, and I ventured to the American Writers museum.  It is a small establishment but very interesting. One of the more interactive exhibits were the typewriters.  They had four or five sitting out that people could plunk away on. Now up until this point, I had only seen typewriters.  My mother has a collection, but I had never actually typed on one before.

I grabbed a sheet of paper and looked helplessly at the group of ladies I was with.  I knew generally to insert the sheet in the back and then crank it through.  My mother then said, “lift the bale.”  To which I responded, “English, please.”  They all laughed and came to my rescue.

I then started typing.  It was awesome.  I could have sat there for hours.  It’s such a different feeling than a computer keyboard.  And the satisfying ding at the end of the line is marvelous. I knew instantly that I wanted one.

So, I put one on my Christmas list and Santa (aka mom) pulled through.  Mine is a portable typewriter, so she’s less beefy than the traditional desktop version.  She has a few quirks such as she doesn’t have a number one key.  It’s not missing.  It was never there, but she is a beauty.

Obviously, such a fine machine needs a name. It needed to be epic and old school, like Masil, but with more spunk. Louise could work, but that didn’t strike me as studious enough.  Vivan was nice and sassy, but lacks the needed industrious tone.  But Agatha, now there was a name. It’s old school, studious, industrious, and the nickname Aggie had just the right amount of spunk. It was perfect.

(As a side note: when I told my husband I named the typewriter Agatha he responded, “Oh like the mystery writer you like.” My jaw dropped it had never occurred to me that the random name I chose also was the name of one of the greatest writers ever!  What a happy accident!)

Anyway, over the past few weeks, Aggie and I have gotten know each other. I’ve discovered she requires a lot more force to get a clear letter to appear on the page than one of my generation would expect.  The hunt-and-peck method is really the best.  This way you use consistent force for all the keys.  If I use proper typing method, all the “a”s, which use the pinkie on my non-dominate hand, don’t show up, and it looks like I’ve created some weird cipher for WWII communication.

I’ve also learned to anticipate the ding.  If you’re typing along and see that you’re getting close to the end and you need to bust out a big word like “hornswoggled” you will need to start a new line because in the fight between a big word and the ding.  The ding will almost always win.

Anyway, I’ve been able to manage.  I even typed out a thank you to my parents via Agatha.  It had some mistakes, but I figured that added to the charm and nostalgia. She is epic in every way possible. She does her job loud and proud. I’m kind of intimated by her. I try to use her in a timid manner as to not break her, but Aggie will have none of it. She’s a sturdy girl, and we will be the absolute best of friends! Ding!

 

Why Use Seven When Two Will Do

I’m at my desk. I take a sip of my coffee and wait for the company database to load. I see an e-mail notification pop up. It announces that my 62-year old boss who begrudgingly uses technology, has just sent me a rare e-mail.

I immediately click to see what could have prompted him to take on this laborious hunt and peck task. The e-mail loads and reads:

Jill,

Do you know how to do an electronic signature?  I am old and helpless.

-B

My lips curl in on themselves. This might be the most hilarious and yet precious e-mails I’d ever received. There is subtle yet remarkable implicit trust in this query.

I reply simply, and wish that all e-mails would be this raw and honest. And realize that, “Why use seven words when two will do?” is a poignant question. This masterful work stated its purpose and made me smile. What more could I ask for?

Some Serious Wordiness

I really like science. I find it generally fascinating and wonderful, but there are certain topics within science that really get me giddy.  One such topic is cephalopods. I did my science fair project involving the bacteria that make squid glow when I was in ninth grade, and I’ve been gaga for the creatures ever since.  They’re just so nifty.

Whenever I see articles about new discoveries regarding this magnificent group, I’m all in.  I mean what isn’t cool about squid having a symbiotic relationship with bio-luminescent bacteria that reflects moonlight, so it can move about without casting a shadow on the sea floor and thus protecting it from predators?  Or that Octopi have this crazy ability to change shape and texture to blend in with their environment?

Anyway, the other day I was scrolling through my Facebook feed, and I saw an article regarding the octopus.  I was instantly excited. What other coolness could I learn? But then, sadness struck. I couldn’t take this article seriously.  They had spelled the plural of octopus as “octopuses.”

What dopes, I thought.

Anybody who knows anything knows that octopus becomes octopi.  This article obviously had no credibility. But something in me just couldn’t let it go.

I soon found myself on Merriam-Webster’s website and to my sheer delight I learned that octopuses is indeed an acceptable plural of octopus. In standard English, octopus would be pluralized to octopuses.  But because people wanted to be more in-line with Latin root words they pluralized words ending in “us” with an “i.”  The rub is that the root word of octopus is not Latin, but Greek, making the plural “octopodes” which is really weird and confusing. In conclusion, technically all three plural forms−octopuses, octopi, and octopodes−are correct.

This was great news! I could read the article after all.  I will still default to octopi, but this is captivating stuff.  See, even the words used to name these wonderful beings are crazy fascinating!

Happy wordy Friday!

Source:

https://www.merriam-webster.com/video/octopus

Nutella Proves a Point

The other day I was in the mindless pursuit to waste time, and one of my favorite places to do that is Pinterest because all kinds of goodies can be found there. I like my time wasting to possibly turn into productivity, then I don’t feel so bad about it. Technically, this happened because I stumbled upon this quote and thus I could write this post. The quote was:

“You can’t make everybody happy. You aren’t a jar of Nutella.”

I started laughing. It has a very solid point.  It’s a general concept that’s been around of awhile but this was a fresh twist.  However, what I found so amusing wasn’t the wit of this new wording, but the fact that this quote isn’t true.

What do you mean? You may ask.

Well…I don’t like Nutella.  I guess it just makes the point all the more accurate.

This why I love words.  They’re good for a laugh and a ponder.

Happy Friday, everyone!