Crib Notes

funny wisdom on words that begin with a C

Crib note: (n) a translation, list of correct answers, or other illicit aid used by students while reciting, taking exams, or the like

Perhaps two of the more frightening words in the English language are “spontaneous” and “improvisation.”

Working in the theatrical community over the years, I have discovered that certain actors, directors and even writers extol the value of being spontaneous or applaud the introduction of improvisation into the set. Let me explain that the only people who think that spontaneous thought or improvisational input is clever are those who are doing it.

Most of us realize that if we’re listening to someone and we know they are going “off the cuff” or using crib notes they’ve written on their shirt sleeve, or they’re referring to an index card palmed in their hand, it’s just goddam nerve-wracking.

You have to start rooting for them, hoping they don’t implode into meaningless babbling or nonsense.

The truth is, if you have something that you want to come off with a flair of impromptu, you should memorize it.


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Copulate

Copulate: (v) to engage in sexual intercourse.

“Making love” may be the safest term.

When referring to sexual interaction, trying to find a dainty way of describing the explosion of lust that occurs, turning normally rational human beings into grunting and groaning grizzly bears, has left the human race devoid of a good term.funny wisdom on words that begin with a C

Most people will be honest and admit that the actual process of intercourse is not “making love.” Love may precede it and sometimes even follow it. But human sexual response is very similar to getting your back scratched—it feels so good at the one place that its being done that the rest of your back starts screaming for similar attention.

It is animalistic. This is not a slam on the action or the meaningfulness of it because I have nothing personally against animals.

So if I get in a particularly clinical mode, when I am around adults who have an understanding of the English language, and I’m trying to be careful about how I’m phrasing it, I will occasionally say that the two people are “going to copulate.”

I don’t do it very often because it’s pretentious.

Actually the word is kind of silly. It sounds like an accusation a man might make to a woman after intercourse, when she is unable to achieve orgasm:

“Cop-you-late!”

But setting that aside, let us realize that some human actions are better to participate in and enjoy, minus a whole bunch of uncomfortable discussions.


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Comrade

Comrade: (n) a companion who shares one’s activities

In the English language, many words get tangled up with each other and are perceived to be synonyms when they actually are not at all–and funny wisdom on words that begin with a C
when distinction is made, their purpose is more powerful.

May I show you what I mean?

Here are five words that are sheltered under the larger house of “friend”:

  • Teammate
  • Acquaintance
  • Fellow-traveler
  • Family
  • Comrade

In concluding this essay, I will give you definitions for each word so you can distinguish one from the other:

Teammate: someone who is on a team with you, who is focusing on his or her part in the game and demanding that you do the same.

Acquaintance: an individual who exchanges smiles and greetings with you in a casual, pleasant way, because no conflict has challenged the depth of the affection.

Fellow-traveler: the human beings we meet every day who, like us, deserve a seat on the bus and should never be told to go to the rear.

Family: folks you share genetics with, Thanksgiving with, embarrassments with and who also, unfortunately, may be prejudiced one way or another because they know you too well.

Comrade: Of all the patrons lined up at the bar in all the beer joints of the world, this is the person who has decided he or she wants to stand next to you and will fight for the privilege of that proximity.

 

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Bailiwick

Bailiwick: (n) one’s sphere of operations or particular area of interest.Dictionary B

The English language is in hospice, dying of the cancer of over-simplification.

All language is now based upon whether we like it, understand it or can easily write it down, rather than whether it is accurate or just plain beautiful.

For example, take the word bailiwick.”

I have personally never used the word in a conversation for fear that someone would think I was trying to be pretentious. But it is a gorgeous word.

And even though I do not use the word, I know what it means, so when I do hear some articulate human being express it, I am able to comprehend the meaning.

But as a writer, I find it necessary to sit down at least once a week and listen to a group of teenagers talk. After all, they are deciding where the English language is headed.

Occasionally I throw a word or two at them which I think is fairly common, only to be startled by their bewildered faces as they wonder why I decided to speak as if I were reading from a dictionary.

This may sound like a lamentation, but I will tell you that by no means am I a stick-in-the-mud who thinks America is going to hell one discarded word at a time.

But I do believe the preservation of certain language, and the ability to write with a bit of literary flair, cannot be completely estranged from our everyday efforts or we will eventually be a society that breaks everything down into initials, acronyms and slang.

So here’s to the use of the word “bailiwick”–at least every once in a while.

And also to the gentle patience which will be required from those who use it … to explain to the surrounding, dumbfounded hearers.

 

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Alphabet

Words from Dic(tionary)

dictionary with letter A

Alphabet: (n) a set of letters or symbols in a fixed order, used to represent the basic sounds of a language

Sometimes I understand a concept and can even put into the works a plan of action, but become completely baffled during implementation.

Do you do that too?

Such was the case with a cereal called “Alphabets.”

As a kid, when I watched the commercial on television I saw children much like myself (except made more gaunt due to Hollywood’s requirements) sitting at a breakfast table, taking their little pieces of cereal and laying letters out on the table in front of them to make words.

It was perfect.

It was like going to school, feeling a sense of accomplishment upon completing an assignment–but then being able to eat it.

I was so impressed with what I saw during this advertisement that I begged my mother to buy me a box of Alphabets so that I, too, could sit in my nook and build my own personal dictionary made out of overly sweetened cereal product.

The only trouble was that every letter I pulled out seemed to be either an X or an O. Apparently the manufacturer found it easier to make those particular letters, so the box was not adequately stocked with all twenty-six representations used to form the English language.

They failed to share this in the commercial.

So by the end of breakfast I had dumped the entire box of cereal on the table in the quest of forming language, only to have my mother walk in and think that I was goofing around instead of pursuing the Rosetta Stone.

I can tell you of a certainty–there are absolutely no P’s, R’s or T’s in a box of Alphabets. I think I found two A’s, one E and four U’s.

I was vowelless.

So what I came up with were a bunch of Eastern-European-style words, a table covered with cereal and the dust that accompanies it, and an angry mother, who swore never to buy me another box of Alphabets.

The next week I found myself back to eating oatmeal, which, by the way, doesn’t evoke any other words than Y-U-C-K.

 

Alchemist

Words from Dic(tionary)

dictionary with letter A

Alchemy: (n) the medieval forerunner of chemistry, based on the supposed transformation of matter. It was concerned particularly with attempts to convert base metals into gold or to find a universal elixir.

“I need more.

Those three words form one of the more useless phrases in the English language. Yet the proclamation–or at least the sentiment–is in the air constantly.

I don’t know when we established the notion that pleading poverty, lack or futility is an acceptable profile for human behavior. What I mean is, even though we all pull up lame and make excuses, we privately hate it when it is done by others.

I have really noticed this over the past ten years. About a decade ago, I realized that whatever is going to happen in my career, dreams and aspirations has already happened, and unless I learn to take what is available and turn it into something better, I will become disgruntled.

One of the more stupid attributes of the human family is the insistence that we’re waiting for our “big break.” It’s why I would never buy a lottery ticket. Buying one would demand buying at least a dozen others in order to increase your potential, even though the odds of the bonanza coming my way are astronomical.

I want to stop complaining about what I have–and turn it into gold (or at least some yellow material that would pass.) That’s what the alchemists did. Their main claim was that they could change lead into gold. (Maybe that’s what we mean by “getting the lead out.”)

Yes, if I stop looking at the lead that comes my way and start using it more productively, maybe some gold will come out of it. I don’t know about you–I’m a little tired of seeing people turn gold into lead:

  • I’m weary of a religious system that takes a gospel of love and transforms it into a mediocre pabulum of rules and regulations.
  • I’m angered by the nobility of the American dream and the cause of freedom being denigrated down to voting, campaigns and political gridlock.
  • And I am certainly bedraggled by the hounding about “family” in our society, while we simultaneously have entertainment and shows portraying the relationship as detrimental or even destructive.

You and I have one responsibility: stop bitching about what we’ve got and try to turn it into something more.

Because quite bluntly, if we don’t understand that this is the mission of human life … we will end up leaving behind much less than what we were given.

 

Akin

Words from Dic(tionary)

dictionary with letter A

Akin: (adj) of similar character: e.g. genius and madness are akin.

One of my favorite quotations from the Good Book is: “Wisdom is justified by all her children.”

What that means to me is that great ideas, noble causes and desirable notions are not always spawned from altars and pulpits.

Wisdom bears children which point to certain parents. What is the mother and father of great wisdom? What is akin to divine understanding?

I’ve discovered there are three great uncles who let me know when I am in the presence of lasting promises and golden principles. Everything akin to these three entities is worthy of our time and eternal in prospect:

1. Nothing is going to happen without me.

Every time someone tries to convince me that good things can occur without human involvement, I quietly slip out of the room to avoid the pending disaster.

2. It’s not about what I deserve.

Actually, what I deserve is not relevant. If it were balanced, I would also have to accept the times when I deserve punishment and instead am granted grace. The word “deserve” should be eliminated from the English language and replaced with “get.”

3. Nothing acceptable is accepted until it is rejected and continues to insist on being accepted.

Please understand, I do not think human beings are devoid of intelligence, but our intelligence suffers from blindness. We seem incapable of catching a vision for anything that isn’t immediately in the spectrum of our present doings.

So when I run across anything that submits to, aligns with or honors these three ideas, I realize I just may be sitting in the presence of greatness … because greatness is always the blending of need, sensitivity and curiosity.