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Archive for the 'Miss Sellany’s Stuff' Category

Acquaintance Overload

Monday, November 2nd, 2009

About mid-career, I realized one day that I was passing my friends in the hall without making eye contact. If I did, I would stop and chat and that would take 2-3 minutes (or more) out of preparing lecture plans or research. If I did that 15-20 times a day, we would be talking about major time loss for an academic. Academics have two jobs, after all: teaching and research. Add a family and house-repair on top of that and the time squeeze becomes a major one.

Upon retirement, I found myself not only talking more with friends but adding to that crucial and interesting group. My circle of friends began to expand. As I built the alphaDictionary Agora, Dr. Goodword’s blog, joined Facebook, LinkedIn, Xing, and Twitter, and added these contacts to my circle of friends here in Lewisburg and around the world and my alphaDictionary e-mail friends, I began finding myself having more and more difficulty keeping up with everyone. Will all the various types of social networking made possible by the Web lead to acquaintaince overload?

Friendship should be close, between people who know each other and enjoy company and conversations with them. But the brain has limitations. It is stuck in the skull so there is only so much it can retain. Don’t get me wrong. There are millions of interesting people in the world and I would love to be acquainted with them all. Now that we actually have the tools to do that, do we have the time and mind space required?

I write this because I have grown quite close to people I’ve never met and I really don’t understand what that means. Of course, when we communicate via websites and e-mail we present ourselves at our very best. Friends generally know our shortcomings and love us despite them. Perhaps this is the attraction of the Internet: we can protray ourselves at our best, shuck off our warts and create a new and shining self. We connect by our common points and delight to discover how many of them there are.

The question then follows, will these new and shiny selves that we create on line actually become us? Will we arise in a new decency that we never realized was in us as a result of the Web? That isn’t clear in light of the many genually evil websites out there, websites that protray the worst human beings can be.

I suspect as time grinds on, we will discover that most of us share most of our most important features. We will discover that we are all in this together. Together. That is not a bad thing that should make us angry, but a very good one. But then on a halcyon and idyllic autumn day like today I can’t help being a cock-eyed optimist.

Central PA Weather for Tomorrow

Tuesday, August 11th, 2009

According to my left knee, the temperature will approach 80° Fahrenheit tomorrow with a humidity around 80, winds no more than 15 mph from the Southwest, and the chance of rain 43.19%. I haven’t heard from my lower back, yet; stay tuned.

Top Language Blogs of 2009

Tuesday, July 21st, 2009

I know, I know—I haven’t been around for a week. In that week, though, I’ve finished The 100 Most Beautiful Words in English and sent it out for editing. There is yet a possibility that we may get it out by the end of August, so keep an eye out for the announcement.

In the meantime, remember all the good stuff you’ve read here in the past and vote for us at the Lexiphile website, which is running a “Best Language Websites of 2009″ contest. The page is here, just click this and look for “Dr. Goodword’s Language Blog” in the list.

Happy Fourth All

Saturday, July 4th, 2009

I’m trying to finish The 100 Most Beautiful Words in English while keeping up with the site, creating word lists, and managing translation jobs. I haven’t had much time to write blogs but I do have one for tomorrow. For today, let me just say, “Happy Fourth to All”, and recommend our Good Word for today, Yankee.

Jesus on National Prayer Day

Friday, May 8th, 2009

Ignoring “National Prayer Day” reflects the seriousness of President Obama’s Christianity. It is at moments like this that I like to review what Jesus of Nazareth has to say about prayer beginning in Matthew 6:5:

“And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.”

This passage is followed by the sample prayer Jesus provided for us, the Lord’s Prayer, which he admonishes us to use as a guide and never repeat (“But when you pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking”).

So, Jesus of Nazareth apparently considers those who participate in such activities “hypocrites” and “heathens” and he stands foursquare, unequivocally and unalterably opposed to the promotional efforts behind National Prayer Day—even as he opposes school and open church prayer.

Something to pray about.

Life in the Slow Lane Stumbles on

Sunday, April 5th, 2009

Lewisburg now has a new diner, replete with waitresses that call eveyone “hon.” Like true diners, where the cuisine never exceeds the flavor of the meatloaf, its menu is traditional diner food cooked in traditional diner ways by two recent immigrees from Mexico (no, not Mexico, PA—the original one). Since Lewisburg is a cultural center of Central Pennsylvania, however, our diner has been experimenting with some new creations.

You wouldn’t want to miss the meatloaf cordon bleu: meatloaf with several slices of chopped ham slatered with Cheez Whiz. It could also be called a Philly chopped steak. I tried it and was surprised to discover that it tastes like—last week’s meatloaf. I guess Cheez Whiz doesn’t cover up as much flavor as it once did.

Next time I want to try the Monte Crisco sandwich. They don’t use mayonaise on this one, so it shouldn’t break my diet. And guess what they warm up the meatloaf in.

I thought I would just drop this brief note to let everyone know that life in the slow lane isn’t speeding up.

100 Funniest Words Book Signing

Tuesday, March 17th, 2009

100 funniest wordsI hadn’t planned to be this delinquent at the blog again but the weekend was complicated by the book signing. None of my academic book publishers offered a signing opportunity or a book publishing party—that isn’t part of their marketing strategy. However, when Murrie A. Zlotziver of the Page After Page bookstore in Lewisburg asked me to do one, I saw it as a new experience and accepted. I was not disappointed.

It was more of a social event when the majority of my friends came and chatted me about their favorite funny words, what makes words funny, etc. At 5:30 we moved the party to the house and opened the champagne.  The party went on way past the 7:30 deadline and was equally as enjoyable, despite losing a few people to the library auction, which began at 7:30. (I donated a signed copy of the book.)

Anyway, I’m back and will have a few more things to say this week.

Charlotte Russe’s Charlotte Russe

Tuesday, January 27th, 2009

Sorry to have been away so long. I have been hammering away on my first book since retiring and finally got it off last week. We are hoping to get it out in February, so keep an eye out on Amazon.com for “The 100 Funniest Words in English”.

I’m writing today because I received one of Joe Kozuh’s pleasantly teasing letters today, a response to our word ineluctable, which I exemplify with these two sentences:

  • An ineluctable attraction to the open road often overcomes Lisa Carr in the middle of faculty cocktail parties.
  • Charlotte Russe found herself fighting an ineluctable urge to cross the restaurant to the dessert cart and help herself rather than wait for the waitress.

Joe wrote: “While I can “Lisa Carr” or “lease a car,” I do NOT follow the double meaning of “Charlotte Russe” … ??? This dilemma is keeping me awake at Knight … ; is this some obscure food item known only in rural Pennsylvania … ???”

In responding I thought of an amusing anecdote that you might enjoy, too. Here is my response.

Chalotte Russe's Charlotte RusseOh, Joe, you have to try Charlotte Russe. It is Bavarian crème topped with fresh fruit surrounded by lady fingers. Which reminds me of a friend whose mother wanted to make a Charlotte Russe but had no lady fingers. She gave her 5-year-old son a dollar and asked him to go to the store and get some lady fingers. 20 minutes later he returned and said, “The butcher didn’t have any.” This happened long ago but try to imagine what went through this kid’s mind on the way to the store.

Drunk Driving Central PA Style

Wednesday, August 6th, 2008

More Life in the Slow Lane
Not much crime has happened in Central Pennsylvania since my last report on the one-man riot. Last Thursday, however, the local police arrested a man for driving under the influence of alcohol—a man driving a horse and buggy.

Yes, we still have horses and buggies in Central Pennsylvania. We still have hitching posts on Market Street in downtown Lewisburg. The Amish do all their vehicular travel in buggies; in fact, the next town over, Mifflinburg, PA, was once the buggy capital of the US and today has the museum to prove it. When Henry Ford began manufacturing cars in Detroit, he purchased his first bodies from a Milton buggy shop but soon changed to buggy shops nearer to his factory.

Up to the time our Amish and Mennonite neighbors swept into Lewisburg in 1971 to help dig us out of the remains of the 50-year flood brought upon us by hurricane Agnes, there was no record of any Amish or Mennonite arrested in Union County. However, the incident in question did not occur in Lewisburg (our Amish are quite sober people), but in neighboring Milton, PA.

The arresting officer, of course, was astonished to see a horse and buggy being driven recklessly along a Milton road without even the required lighting. When he asked the arrestee if he were Amish, here is what the driver replied according to the Sunbury Daily Item: “Well, sort of. I left and sort of came back. I’m a bad Amish.” I’ll say. His blood alcohol was 0.165, a bit above the legal limit of .08.

The Amish lad had attended a nearby fair and, on the way home, stopped at a local tavern where he inhaled about 12 drafts. When asked why he decided to drive home in such a state, he frankly responded that he thought the police would leave him alone because he was Amish. “They always get away with things,” the arrestee opined. Hmmm. That may tarnish the record I mentioned above.

Anyway, I thought you might be interested to know that crime does occur in the slow lane.

A Meeting of alphaDictionary Minds

Thursday, July 17th, 2008

Paul and BobOver the 12 years I have developed this website, from the Web of Online Dictionaries, through yourDictionary.com and on to alphaDictionary.com, one of the greatest joys has been meeting logophiles of like mind around the world. I use the term “mind” literally, since the Internet community is a community of minds, as I’m sure you are well aware, stripped of all the psychological and social  accoutrements of traditional acquaintanceships. 
 
One of my oldest Internet friends is Paul Ogden. Paul has edited my Good Words two years now and even touches up the blog from time to time (including this one). He lives in Tel Aviv but at the beginning of this month he visited the States and stopped by for a visit. We stayed up into the wee hours talking language and continued from breakfast to lunch the next day. We were two old friends of 9 years who simply had never seen each other before. Minds matched, all other aspects of physical acquaintance slipped deftly into place.

Paul’s visit illuminated for me the delightful notion that a community has bloomed around alphaDictionary. It is a community connected by this blog, the Alpha Agora, and the e-mail system, a community of minds fascinated with the world of words. This is a reward in a class all its own.