Dago

Dago (n): a contemptuous term used for a person of Italian or Spanish descent

I was seven years old and not about to lose the blessings of my youth by questioning grown-ups on what they did.

There was fifty cents worth of allowance at stake and the occasional affectionate pat on the head—plus a half pound of pickle pimento loaf, purchased once every two weeks just for me at White’s Market.

I had much to lose.

So when I heard grown-ups say “Spic,” I thought it was short for “spicy.” After all, Mexicans do like their hot peppers.

When they said “Chink” I thought it was a tribute to Chinese armor, or that protective gear worn by the Samurai.

“Negro” sounded to me like “Negro,” which I believed to be an appropriate term for a race of people I rarely saw.

“Injun?” I had convinced myself it was the Iroquois word for “American Indian.”

And of course, “Dago,” for Italian folks, seemed logical to me because it sounded like pizza dough, and I sure did like pizza.

I was a full blown-out adult when I realized that these terms were not only derogatory but disabling.

I repented quickly of my foolishness and tried to find a way to understand the ignorance that brought this nasty language my way.

Anchovy

dictionary with letter A

Anchovy: (n) a small shoaling fish of commercial importance as a food used for fish bait. It is strongly flavored and preserved with high amounts of oil and salt.

The dangerous thing about knowledge is that it rarely accentuates your pleasure, but rather, puts a pin in your balloon and leaves you with the reality instead of the misrepresentation.

There are many examples, but on this day, they seem to be embodied in the tiny anchovy.

Little did I know that they were bait.

Even though many of my friends like anchovies on their pizza (a taste, I have explained to them, which could just as easily be achieved by dumping a salt shaker on the crust) I really don’t think any of them know they’re eating fish bait.

But it should be obvious. Don’t the little things have hairy legs?

Now, I have on occasion eaten a pizza with anchovies because I was surrounded by individuals who thought it was a status symbol to prefer the little boogers on their Italian delight.

I have even pretended to enjoy it. Even though I pride myself, to some degree, in being a candid-type fellow, I am not without my pretense. And the specter of being the only person in the room objecting such a refined pizza-topping choice has left me succumbing to the mob mentality and participating in eating what I now know is fish bait.

  • I suppose I shouldn’t make the point that we wouldn’t eat night crawler pizza.
  • Anyone up for minnows and onion?

But truthfully, I have no problem with anyone who has a certain taste, unless they have selected it because they think it makes them more refined and sets them apart from the sausage servants and pepperoni paupers.

Now, if I run across one of them, I will inform them that they’re hooked on what belongs on a hook.

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Thank you for enjoying Words from Dic(tionary) —  J.R. Practix

Allegro

Words from Dic(tionary)

dictionary with letter A

Allegro: 1. (n) the name of a passage or movement of music in a fast tempo 2. (adj.) at a brisk tempo

I used to believe with all my heart, soul, mind and strength that appearing to be smart, intellectual, well-versed and verbal was essential in order to maintain the integrity of the self-deception of my general superiority. I did stupid stuff:

  • I lied about my qualifications.
  • I embellished on my abilities.
  • I touted my sexual prowess.
  • And I exaggerated the depth of my understanding.

I was afraid that the package of human ability provided for me was insufficient to my personal indebtedness.

One day I just woke up and got sick of being a fool. I stopped wearing the jester’s hat and dancing for the kings. I realized that the greatest gift I could give myself was to stop faking it.

The greatest gift I could give to God was to find a way to get along with human beings.

And the greatest way to get along with other human beings was to simplify what I shared with them.

You see, when I read the word “allegro,” I think of all the pretentious musicians I have ever met, who think they are extraordinarily sophisticated by expressing musical notations in Latin or Italian, which, when translated, still mean “fast, slow, loud and soft.” You see, the Italians were not trying to be “poofy”–it was just their language.

If you find yourself searching for a word to express a simple idea so that you can impress those around you, then you are probably suffering from a severe case of viral “jerkitis.” Especially if you need to say the words with a foreign accent or a bit of flourish in your pronunciation.

So when I’m discussing music in a recording studio and find myself surrounded by the “hierarchy” of the craft, I don’t use the word “allegro.” I merely say, “This is faster.”

Yes, often they correct me, using the proper term for such a maneuver.

But I just smile, knowing in my soul that the art of simplicity is the true definition of intelligence.

Accent

by J. R. Practix

dictionary with letter A

Accent: (n.) a distinctive mode of pronunciation of a language, especially one associated with a particular nation, locality or social class

Anyone who spends any time whatsoever in theater realizes that it is often a bigoted representation of society’s perception of all races and nationalities.

What I mean by that statement is that if you’re playing a part in a production and your director wants you to convey a certain immediate energy to the audience, he will often ask you to consider using an accent to trigger an image or attitude in the mind of the hearer.

Could anything be more prejudiced? Yet it is standard practice–and an admission that we human beings often draw conclusions based on what we hear and therefore perceive.

Let me give you an example:

Let’s say you’re playing the part of a snobby, high-falutin’; upper-class woman. The suggestion may be made to give her a British accent–therefore concluding that all Brits are really pricks.

Are you gonna play a boxer in the movie? Then you probably should have a New Jersey accent–“Joisey.”

Let me run a few more:

  • Mafia? Italian, of course.
  • A slick gigolo lover? French.
  • A bigoted ignoramus? A Southern Dixie accent.
  • How about a surfer? A California Valley-girl accent.
  • What if the part demands you be a spy? I would suggest a Russian accent.
  • A karate champion? Japanese.
  • How about a dictator? Gotta be German.

Since it is so obvious that we equate certain attributes to accents, it might be a good idea to be careful how you round your r’s and punch your syllables.

Because as much as we may discount the value of prejudice, it was here when we arrived–and it will stand over our graves.