Contrarian

Contrarian: (n) a person who takes an opposing view

The contrarians of one generation are the high school teachers of the next.

It was a contrarian who stood up in 1847 and said slavery was wrong. Move ahead forty or fifty years and the whole country has fought a great war (if such a thing as a “great” war is possible) to confirm the point of the contrarian.funny wisdom on words that begin with a C

Contrarians are people like you and me who affix themselves to a notion they believe is universal or perhaps even divinely inspired, and rather than giving into the pressure to be average or common, they persist in pursuing their train of thought.

I have spent most of my life being a contrarian and have dwelt on this planet long enough to see many of the things that troubled me get worked out, discussed and now everyone assumes they were never issues.

I lived through the civil rights movement, and though I grew up in a white-bread-mayonnaise community, I decided to support equality.

While people were screaming about patriotism and Viet Nam, I listened carefully and gradually decided I agreed with the contrarian position—that the skirmish in Indochina was ill-conceived.

I was there to remind those from the Moral Majority that they were neither moral nor really a majority.

I have been a blessed man.

There’s nothing special about me except for the fact that I am not afraid to be a contrarian.

I am not terrified when the plurality of my society frowns at my outlandish contentions.

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Contraption

Contraption: (n) a mechanical contrivance; gadget; device.

Getting older changes my opinion on many things.

When I was much younger, I viewed myself as a discovery—a unique human being placed on Earth for some divine cause or mission. Such an idea was immature, short-sighted and arrogant simultaneously.funny wisdom on words that begin with a C

Getting a little more experience under my belt, I thought I might be an invention. In other words, the creative forces in the universe stumbled upon my attributes and decided to use me to make something else.

Yet as time marched on, I realized that although I was happy and did possess some ability, the combination was not unique to my person.

Pressing on, I now realize I’m a contraption, and like any such device, I’m about as usable as I am willing to be flexible.

For instance, a tire iron is a contraption. It can function to work on tires. You can use it to get something from underneath a couch. Or if an attacker decided to bother you, you might be able to scare him or her away with by brandishing it.

Yes—I am a contraption. I’m just about as functional as I’m willing to evolve myself to be.

I used to be prideful and say I would never do certain things. Once I abandoned the pride, I suddenly discovered there were many more inventive things I could do.

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Contraction

Contraction: (n) a shortened form of a word or group of words

I have been considered a writer by entities other than my personal ego.

I am grateful for that nod—humbled by the notion that someone would actually like to read a few words that I have put into sentences as long as they funny wisdom on words that begin with a Cdon’t extend beyond three paragraphs.

I have often stopped and wondered if I should use the contraction “it’s” instead of “it is” or “I’m” instead of “I am.”

Here’s an easy one—“let’s” instead of “let us.” (No one says “let us” unless they’re doing medieval theater.)

When is it valuable to shorten something and when does the extension produce greater impact?

It’s a decision I make nearly every day. There are actually times when “do not” is more effective than “don’t.” Don’t you agree?

There are occasions when “we’ll” does not appear as the word “well” and may be an on-point insertion rather than the words “we will.”

But in my limited and less-than-touted-in-fame journey, I have found that when emphasis is needed, remove the contraction. For at that point, it more resembles a contraption.

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Buzzer

j-r-practix-with-border-2

Buzzer: (n) an electrical device used for signaling.

Technology makes me giggle.

Day by day, we become convinced that the present innovation surpasses any previous revelation. That’s why we have to number our I-phones. If we don’t have the latest, we are completely in the dark–the Stone Age, if you will.

When I was a boy, I attended a church and we had an activity known as Bible League. It was similar to Jeopardy! or the old-fashioned “College Bowl,” where questions are fired at individual members of a team, and if answered correctly, the whole gang is offered a collective clue. Points were scored, egos were inflated, games were won and talent was touted.

Our sponsors brought us a surprise. It was a box with two buttons and two light bulbs, which they had constructed to enable us to “ring in” and light up, so everyone knew who was to answer the question. It even made a little sound, like a broken door bell with a whiny buzz.

I loved that contraption. I was convinced it was the best thing ever invented. I became so adept at using it that I knew exactly when to hit the button in order to interrupt the flow in such a way as to beat my opponent–and also to trap the inquisitor into accidentally saying a few extra words which would give me a sense of the meaning, enabling me to guess how to answer.

I did fine until the buzzer box broke. Turned out the grown-ups knew how to wire the thing but not how to fix it.

So then I was stuck raising my hand to beat out my competitor. This was more easily eyeballed, causing the questioner to stop more quickly.

I got thrashed. I lifted my hand too soon and was left with no idea what the question was, trying to rattle off information from Adam to Zachariah.

But I will never forget my buzzer box. It was my friend.

And like friends occasionally do, it gave out on me in my hour of greatest need.

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Antic

dictionary with letter A

 

Antic: (adj) grotesque or bizarre

What happens when you use two words to define one word and the two words you apply–which were meant to be synonyms–have absolutely nothing to do with each other?

Because bluntly, I would have to admit that there were times in my life when people would characterize my actions as bizarre, but I would never believe them to be grotesque.

To me, grotesque means “ugly” and bizarre means “unusual.”

Unless we’re trapped in some 21st Century contention that if you happen to be a bit less than beautiful, you’re unusual enough to be considered grotesque. Is that the message?

And an antic is not an appearance, it’s an action–and I, for one, can think of at least four antics off the top of my head which were considered bizarre, if not grotesque in their time, but have proven historically to be life-saving:

1. John Brown attacking the arsenal at Harper’s Ferry in an attempt to free the slaves.

If any of us had met John Brown we would have called him grotesque and certainly bizarre, with his zealous appeal against slavery and his antic of attempting the take-over of a government installation with a bunch of church friends.

It wasn’t exactly well-planned, yet the Union soldiers went into battle singing about his antic to inspire them to destroy an antiquated and evil institution of owning human beings.

2. Jesus of Nazareth calling himself the Son of God–or if you want to be really picky, not raising any objection when others did so.

How much guts would it take to have faith in someone you were sitting next to, who had just farted, as he contended that he was possessed of divine inspiration? I don’t know if I could have pulled that off.

Yes, believing in the resurrected Christ is certainly easier than following the unkempt Galilean.

3. Winston Churchill.

When Adolf Hitler had taken over most of Europe and had set his sights on the British Isles, Churchill and a few of his cronies decided to make a last-ditch stand against the tyranny of Berlin. It wasn’t popular and certainly the bombing of Londontown was grotesque and bizarre.

But the action halted the progress of the Third Reich, allowing time for the United States to rally and help chase the bully back into the bunker.

4. And finally, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr,. who by the way was raised in an era when Jim Crow was not only tolerated, but was considered to be evidence for how the Old South was resolving the colored/white issue.

What a bizarre notion, to think that people of all colors should be able to ride on a bus together, when in your entire life you had been taught by your elders that separation was inevitable, if not righteous. And how grotesque it was to see little girls blown up in churches because your antics were being objected to by the white plurality.

I think the definition offered by Mr. Webster portrays that antics are displeasing and therefore perhaps should be shoveled away.

Yet without antics, we don’t have any of the practical nuts and bolts that somehow or another, miraculously hold this contraption together. 

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Answering Machine

dictionary with letter A

Answering machine: (n.) a tape recorder or digital device that supplies a recorded message to a telephone call and can record a message from the caller.

A “Duophone.”

You see, I even remember the name.

It was one of the first answering machines put out by Radio Shack in the mid-1970’s, for those innovative, upbeat, contemporary souls who wanted to make sure they didn’t miss any calls or commercial opportunities.

I had to have one.

I bought it and after about four hours of comprehensive attempts at understanding the directions, I successfully hooked it up to my over-priced AT&T phone.

I then spent another four hours deciding what message to leave, gyrating between a brief but officious speech and a more silly, fun-loving and comical greeting.

Worst of all, I decided to blend the two. I even remember what I came up with as the final product:

“Hi, there. It’s not really me, it’s my Duophone, which enables me to get your message so I can get right back to you if I end up being right back. Just kidding. I mean, not about getting back to you. About when I will be here to hear the message. Anyway, call you soon.”

Awkward.

Amazing, though–after you listen to something four or five times, one convinces oneself that it’s really cool.

The problem with my Duophone, other than the fact that it had a hit-and-miss quality to it, having been spawned from Radio Shack, was that one of my friends thought it was really funny to keep calling and leaving abstract, silly, or even profane messages until he totally filled up the space provided.

After a while, when other people got answering machines and it was no longer a novelty, the American public became perturbed with having to listen to a contraption instead of completing calls, so my playback upon returning was often a series of hang-ups or disgruntled complaints over my absence.

Mercifully, on one of my moves to another location, the Duophone fell out of a truck and crashed on the pavement and I selected never to replace it.

The problem with answering machines is that they really don’t answer. They just put off a much-needed conversation to a later and usually less fruitful time.

 

 

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