A To Z Challenge – U

april-challenge

When NBC convinced Johnny Carson to move his Tonight show from New York City to California, the changeover happened quite quickly.   His Burbank studio was ready far before he had a chance to buy or rent accommodations on the Left Coast.

He was put up for almost two months in a luxury suite at a ritzy local hotel. I don’t know if it was just having to live in unfamiliar, if posh, surroundings; if there was some friction between him and hotel staff and management; or if it was just an easy target for the gag-writers jokes.

Every night for weeks, there was a snide comment, and the Sheraton Universal was changed and referred to in his monologues as the Sheraton Unspeakable, the Sheraton Unreasonable, the Sheraton Uninhabitable, the Sheraton Untenable, the Sheraton Unbearable.

It was almost amazing how many U-shaped insults were crafted.  Finally, one night it became simply the Sheraton Unique, and we come to the word for this post about

letter-u

I recently composed a post about how huge percentages of the population have an overwhelming compulsion for conformity. They must be like everyone else, and everybody else must be exactly like them.

When the grandson was small, he was diagnosed with a variety of food allergies. Several of them caused behavioral problems, something the non-plagued are often not aware of.  Certain chemicals and compounds in food can cause physical and neurological stress, in turn causing moodiness, edginess, irritability, anger and lack of focus.

As a child it was relatively easy for his mother to watch his intake and ensure that he took his medication. As he neared puberty, and his character was developing, he regressed to sullen disinterest, if not disobedience, more so than most tweens.  Careful cross-examination revealed that he was sneaking foods from classmates, and not taking his pills.

When he was asked why he was doing this, even knowing his allergies, his answer was that he didn’t want to have allergies. He didn’t want a restrictive diet.  He didn’t want to take pills.  He just wanted to be like everyone else.

It didn’t take long to prove to him that ‘everyone else’ wasn’t like ‘everyone else.’ His Mom and his Grandma had to avoid certain foods and take medications.  When he looked closer, he found classmates with similar restrictions and needs.

Grandma, the chef, pointed out that the spelt-based cookies, cakes, bread and rolls, even the spelt-crust pizza, with lactose-free cheese and tamarind sauce, instead of tomato, were treats that no-one else got to have. Did he want her to stop making them for him?  The way to a man’s head, as well as his heart, is often through his stomach.

As a knowledgeable adult he can control the allergic affects, although he is still careful. As well as being a friendly, caring young man, he is largely indistinguishable from the rest of the herd, but he takes pride in knowing that he, like all the rest of us, is one-of-a-kind.  He is unique!  I don’t know why more of us can’t embrace that.

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Intelligentsia

I have previously written about haunting a website called Dictionary.com.  Since I started blogging, I visit less often, but still stop in at least once a day, to do my on-line crossword.  I also use it to translate foreign words and phrases, sometimes to get an idea of the meanings of non-English names.  Johnny Carson commented one night about the awe and fascination Americans have for foreign names.  “There’s a fancy new restaurant in town, named La Fourchette.”  It’s a French fork!

I used to read a couple of articles a week about the development of the English language.  There were discussion threads under them for people to make comments, ask questions or disagree with the post.  I was amazed by a couple of things.  I would have thought that those coming to a dictionary site would already have a fairly good grasp of the language.  I was hugely disappointed to see grade six level usage by people who mentioned jobs.  Even a McJob these days requires decent language skills.

I also thought that only those interested in improving their English would show up, but read posts like, “im Amanda and im going to miss upshalls grade five math class at xyz elementary school.”  This isn’t Facebook chicky.  Take the time you spent formatting this non-message and study the word-of-the-day.

Another thing which perplexed me would be an interesting word usage discussion, followed by one or more yahoos posting things like, “you guys are dum who gives a shit”.  Obviously we do, but if you don’t, why are you hanging around an English site?  Why don’t you go to a NASCAR site, or watch a fishing show, Bubba?

Some of the comments showed real (illiterate) antipathy for anyone trying to improve themselves and their language skills.  I’m obviously not the only one to notice or comment on this phenomenon.  I read a post the other day where the writer said, “It is a seriously scary thought that there are sub-sets of American society that think being intellectual is a BAD thing!”

We sometimes blame teachers, or the education system, or even society, when Johnny can’t read.   Johnny’s immediate society may have something to do with it, because he’s obviously been raised with the intent not to learn – reading, or anything else.  In an article about food served to children at schools, the government had decreed that, for the purposes of nutrition, pizza was (contained) a vegetable.  The following is Bob Johnson’s considered opinion.

“i think that pizza being a veggy is hoped mostly because it only has a veggy dose not mean that checan pot pies should be a veggy!!!!  if pizzas a veggi then cows are envolpopes”

I only hope that Bob Johnson is a school student, and not the student’s father.  Actually, a real McJob doesn’t require you to read.  Some fast-food places have had to install cash registers with little pictures of the foods, so that geniuses like this push the right buttons.

There was a story that Webster’s Dictionary was removing 20 words from its smallest, abridged dictionary, to make room for new words and usages.  They based this decision on their counts of how often these words were accessed on their online dictionary.  The discussion thread was immediately full of comments from people who thought that these words were somehow being removed from the entire language.  One of the clearer thoughts on the subject was the following.

“why do people have to think that have to rid of these words when it it the people who chose to say what they say and half the time it is what they have grown up listening to”

I saw a suggestion today that people who are caught texting or talking while driving should have their cell-phones impounded, the way we impound cars for DUI, or racing.  I’ve been told that, despite the stupid abbreviations, texting actually improves teens’ spelling and composition skills.  Ladies and gentlemen, check your children’s language skills.  If your kid’s writing skills look like either of the above, confiscate the cell-phone and stick it up….where it will make them sit tall to study their English text.  Confiscate the game console and the TV in their bedroom too, and don’t give them back until they can submit a clearly written letter, requesting them.

Do school-kids even have English texts anymore?  In a conversation about language, I was asked, “Why do you study English?  We all speak it.”  And then the native-born Canadian asked the immigrant from Chile to help him fill in his production report.  Am I repeating myself from a previous post?  It bears repeating, and at least I’m doing so with correct construction and spelling.

I don’t know how to inspire our youth to study and learn our home and native language.  I don’t know how to change our schools and education system so that students actually acquire skills and knowledge.  I’d like to eliminate the feel-good, lib-left bureaucrats who design basket-weaving curricula and promote students who don’t know subjects.  I’d like to go back to solid rote-learning, and tough-love teachers who expect, nay demand, that students learn something, and can prove they did.

We’re on the slippery slope kids, and the bottom of the handbasket has been greased.  Something needs to be done.  Does anyone have any informed opinions?