I’ve always been a bit of a late bloomer – even the slang term used in the title of this post is probably already out of date. But things are cyclical. Just look at how leg warmers have made a comeback!
Oh excuse me, I just had a minor spasm at that memory. I’ll shake it off…
A few weeks ago in class, we were discussing the story “A&P” by John Updike. The climax of the story involves the teenaged main character, Sammy, making a grand gesture to defend the honor of three girls in bikinis. The problems was, they had already left before they could witness Sammy’s largess and presumably shower gratitude and adoration over him. Instead, he is left in an empty parking lot.
At this point, a student said, “Sammy just got deaded!” My reaction? Continue reading
One of the joys of reading is discovering that I still need the dictionary. I seem to have a vocabulary that is large enough to handle most of the words that I encounter in my usual or typical reading material. This isn’t to say that I feel my vocabulary is exceptional; it’s not that shabby, but the truth is that I am probably not reading things that are as challenging as they should be. Either I am wimping out or the author is. Whatever the cause, the result is the same: I generally don’t need a dictionary when I’m reading.
There are, however, some authors who use words that send me racing for my Webster’s. Sometimes it’s just the odd word or two, but there are some writers – H.L. Mencken, for one – that I will not read without easy access to a dictionary. Recently, to my delight, I’ve discovered that E.B. White is another. (Does it have something to do with the double initial, I wonder?) From his essays, I learned what a bivouac is, a word which is fun and interesting, regardless of the fact that I’ll probably never have occasion to use it. But one never knows, right? After all, I did once find myself in a conversation which presented me – organically, with no manipulation on my part at all – with the opportunity to use the Slovenian word for dwarf (pritlikavec – literal translation: “close to the floor guy”), which nearly exhausts my knowledge of Slovenian vocabulary. So there may be hope for bivouac.
And so, in an effort to consciously find more challenging authors and add to my vocabulary in a more consistent, systematic way, I launch a new Friday feature: Word of the Week. Here I will post my favorite of the words that I have learned during the week, whether it be an obscure word from days past, a new idiom or slang term in current use, or something that lives in the middle of these two extremes. I invite any and all contributions from anyone who wants to come along on the journey.
The semester draws to an end in less than 2 weeks. It’s so close I can taste it. It tastes sweet.
But I’m not there yet. I type this from under a mountain of research papers waiting to be given a grade that is surely going to be lower than most of the students believe they deserve. “I’m sorry, there will be no A’s simply for effort in this class. You’ll actually have to write well in order to earn an A.” Lessons go unlearned, expectations go unmanaged. The papers will be stained with my tears, to be sure. Possibly some sweat. Definitely no blood. Most likely either coffee or bourbon.
NB: The spell checker inexplicably wants to turn ‘unmanaged’ into ‘unman aged’. I don’t even know where to start on that one.
I should be in bed.
Until I reach the sweet oasis that is summer break, I offer an interesting phrase that I learned from students this week: macking. I’m sure I have deep and profound thoughts about the etymology and sociolinguistic development of this word, as well as some superficial thoughts about my vanity over feeling old because all the slang has gone and changed on me, but as I mentioned, I should be in bed. So that’s where I’ll be. I’ve given you a topic. Discuss!