Growing Your Vocabulary


⚽ It is well known that writers make grammatical “mistakes”.  It happens to us all, regardless of our efforts not to.  For centuries, we have searched for a gender neutral missing third-person pronoun. that could be used in place of he or she when gender is unknown or irrelevant.  Grammarians have always insisted that it is plural, but more and more it has become accepted to use “they” as a substitute for the singular he/she.  Personally, I have used it in that way for several years, knowing it was plural, but ignoring my college English teacher’s admonishment against doing so.  I believe that most of us can find instances in our life where we ignored accepted practices and discovered later that what we did previously had become outdated.  For example, most people believe that it is better to read a book than listen to an audiobook, but today it is a fact that more people listen to audiobooks.  In the past, most people kept up with what was happening in the world by reading newspapers and today most people get their news online.  Now, most of us file our taxes electronically, whereas in the past we used paper forms and struggled with tax codes.  Yup, times have changed, and we need to change with it.  I now feel comfortable using “they”.  Times have changed!     

⚽ “Now that I’m old, my teachers are the young”… Robert Frost

Robert Lee Frost was an American poet. His work was initially published in England before it was published in America.  He died in 1963 at age 88, and he was known for his depiction of rural life.  How odd it is that back then (‘40s &’50s) he thought adults could learn from the young, because I grew up during that time and adults, in my experience, paid little heed to the young.  I’m not saying we weren’t loved, but that we had very little influence on adults.  I do think the current generation of adults are influenced by the young.  We have high school students lobbying for gun control laws, Greta Thunberg (age 15) of Sweden is lobbying in behalf of climate control All Over the World and as I watch the evening news, I see young people trying to make their voices heard everywhere.  The Democrats currently have a relatively young gay man (Pete Buttigieg, age 38) running for their party’s presidential nomination.  John F. Kennedy was our youngest president at age 43. You must be at least 35 years of age to run for that office.

So, yeah, I think young people influence us, and in more ways than we think.  While in my twenties I cursed often, influenced by coworkers, but believing I could avoid those words at home around my two young children.  Well, it eventually happened at home and seeing the bewildered look on my 6-year-old daughter’s face, convinced me to change my ways.  I never had that kind of influence on my dad 😊.  An old Swedish Proverb says, “Being young is a fault that improves daily”. 

⚽ My wife and I went to her post-op (post operation) visit with her surgeon two weeks after her operation on January 21st to reattach her colon & small intestine.  I asked him at what point could we feel safe about the reattachment not leaking and he replied, “Very rarely at this stage does that happen, I would say once in a blue moon”.  I know that a “Blue Moon” is two full moons within one month and it only happens every 2-3 years (It happens again on October 31). That made us feel a lot better because the elephant in the room was whether this could go south quickly and without any advance notice?   Later, while pondering his “Blue Moon” statement, I wondered about other colloquialisms.  As a kid, I was told, “You can wait until the cows come home”, meaning wait until it happens and that may take a while.  If Mom wanted to get something done quickly, she would tell me to “juice it up a little”.  She would also admonish me when I was in trouble, “You’re in a pickle now”.  That normally meant she was going to tell Dad of my offense when he got home from the coal mines and he was going to give me a “whuppin”.  I recall one time that my brother and I got into some mischief and she waited until we all sat down at the supper table and told him.   He firmly informed us that after we finished our meal, he would take us to the bathroom for a whipping (that’s always where the dastardly deed was done).  We ate every morsel of food on the table and that amused my father so much that he broke out in laughter and the lashing was avoided.  He was never very good at whipping my brother and I, seems he just didn’t have the heart to do it.  I can only recall him doing that twice in my life and I deserved both. 

To clear up the “Supper” thing; in the mountains of Virginia when I was a youth, we ate breakfast, dinner (lunch) and supper (dinner).  We carried our groceries in a “poke” (bag) and bought bottles of “pop” (sodas).  If you were afraid to fight another kid, you “chickened out”.  I kinda miss hearing those old expressions, but when I go back home every summer, those words are like music to my ears, reminding me of the kid I was all those long years ago, and how much I love the people that still use them.  If I had to draw a picture of my hometown, it would have to be drawn on my heart.    

⚽ Students are over 4 times more likely to drop out of school if they are unable to read proficiently by the 3rd grade.  I ran across that fact a few days ago and was dumfounded.  I know that by the time I was in the 3rd grade I had a stack of comic books that were waist high.  Our little two room grade school didn’t have a library, so the only reading material available were comic books.  If I came across something I couldn’t pronounce, or understand, I went running to my mother with my index finger firmly glued to the offending word.  By age 9 (1950), I felt I had mastered the art of reading😊.  I recall that in one comic book the person was watching TV, and I wondered “what in the heck is a TV”?  I also remember reading Dick Tracy in the Sunday Comics and being amazed when he would talk to someone far away by speaking into his watch.  It took about seventy years for that to happen.  With all the opportunities to read now, it’s inconceivable that our young children cannot read well.  I do believe the ability to read is a cornerstone for success in life.   I have only known three people that were illiterate.  One was very successful, one lived comfortably, and the other one depended on her husband for her livelihood.  I believe it is important to stress the importance of an education to our young people. Likely, today’s environment demands a college education to live a fulfilling life, but it is not impossible to make a good living minus a college degree.  It just makes it infinitely harder to accomplish.  

How do we help our young people get their education without incurring a mountain of debt?  Well, immediately after WWII, we allowed all ex-servicemen to attend 4 years of college under the GI Bill for free.  That investment in America’s future paid dividends, so why can’t we do something similar now?  Allow each high school graduate the opportunity to get 4 years of college for 2 years of community service in their chosen field immediately afterwards.  Failing to do so would require repayment of the cost of their education.  Also, if the student dropped out of college before completion, they would have to repay their educational cost to that point.  I’m confident the law would have to be more complex than what I’ve described, but smarter people could surely come up with a viable plan. 

Alice James said, “I wonder whether if I’d had an education I should have been more or less a fool than I am,”.  You know, I sometimes wonder that same thing! 😊    

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