Beetle

Beetle: (n) an insect of an order distinguished by forewingsDictionary B

It’s a language which I have affectionately, but sarcastically, dubbed “Marjorian.”

It was named in honor of a woman I once knew named Marjory.

Marjory had developed a way of speaking in which she would address any problem that ended up falling in her front yard with very gentle language, while summarizing the actions of others she did not like with more sinister terms.

Let me give you an example.

When Marjory’s daughter became pregnant in high school, she insisted they had planned on having the young girl marry her beau, but the pavilion they wanted to use was not available, so normally the pregnancy would have fallen after the marriage, but preceded it only because of a scheduling conflict.

Yet when the young girl next door found herself with an unwanted pregnancy at age seventeen, Marjory whispered to the neighbors that “the lass was a tramp” and that such declining morals were ruining our country.

She spoke Marjorian–a language generous to oneself while condemning to others.

I bring this up because one day I was sitting in Marjory’s home and a bug crawled across the floor. Instinctively I leaped to my feet and crushed it with my foot. I knew the insect to be a roach. When I identified the bug to Marjory, she immediately disagreed and said, “No, no. That’s a beetle.”

Apparently it was completely respectable to have a beetle crawl across your floor but not a roach.

Being in a playful mood, I picked up the remains of the bug and carried it over to Marjory, causing her to launch into a hissy fit.

I put it toward her face, showing her that this bug had no wings, and was therefore not a beetle.

Without missing a beat, Marjory countered by saying that “it was a Japanese beetle. They don’t have wings.”

I immediately realized that Marjory had no idea of the flight habits of the Japanese beetle. But it was not worth arguing about, so I tossed the carcass into the garbage can, finished my conversation and coffee and was on my way.

I have met many people who have their own dialect of “Marjorian” language, but it always amazes me that after all the claims are made, all the exaggerations espoused and all the false belief preached, that somehow or another… the truth still has a way of winning the day.

 

 

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Algebra

Words from Dic(tionary)

dictionary with letter A

Algebra: (n) the part of mathematics in which letters and other general symbols are used to represent numbers and quantities in formulas and equations.

X marks the spot.

Actually, it marks the spot where I crinkled my brow and totally ceased to understand mathematics.

My high school algebra teacher was a recent immigrant from Japan who had a mastery of numbers and a limited capacity for language. He created a double whammy–I was trying to learn something that was Greek to me, with a Japanese accent.

On top of that, it was his first teaching position, having just graduated from The Ohio State University, and although he was eager to be an instructor, he was less than versed in some of the more humane possibilities.

So after he tried to explain algebra to me for the fourth time, he became frustrated and started to curse. It was in Japanese, but I will tell you that swearing has the same intensity in every langauge.

I don’t know what it was about algebra. For some reason, I was granted a B in the subject, even though I have no concept about the process whatsoever.

Imagine my glee when the next year I discovered that I would be taking Algebra II. It was very similar to the sensation of, “even though I’ve never been on a date, here is the woman I am going to marry.”

Honestly, I have never used algebra in my whole life. Perhaps I could have put it to some practical purpose, but that would have required that I understand its value, in order to know what purpose would have been practical.

Candidly, I toil under the concept of eduction. What I mean is, I do believe there are things we are taught which may not have any immediate value to our lives, but still have an esoteric importance.

Flatly, they make us seem civilized.

So I’m happy to report that I actually survived a semester of algebra, and Algebra II, and then ran out of the room in horror at the mere mention of calculus.

So for me: X=the 24th letter of the alphabet.

 

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.