There’s fun in words

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Literally. You can find fun in words. Like fungus. Maybe you know a guy, and he is fun, so you say he is a fun guy. And if his name is Gus, maybe you say he is one fun Gus.

As you know if you know what’s good for you, fungi rhymes with fun guy. Every time someone uses the other pronunciation that rhymes with fun jai, a dung beetle dies. And do you really want to live in a world without dung beetles? No, because once they are gone, we are in deep doo-doo.

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We eat fungi, which are both tasty and sometimes deadly. Fungi live on us and sometimes invade our toes.

Fun Guy: George, you’ve got some fungosity    going there on your toes.
George: You nailed it, Fun Guy. You’ve got onegood eye.

 

You also might have made a go of something fun like bowling blindfolded. Then you could say you made a fun go of it. And if you talked quickly, squeezing those last seven words together because you heard a loud yell after you threw the bowling ball, you would say you made a fungo of it, and it would be true. Or almost true if your bowling ball was just struck by someone’s foot three lanes over, because fungo is baseball talk for striking a ball thrown up in the air. And that means one of two things: you shouldn’t bowl blindfolded no matter how fun it is, or you need to work on your hook.

 

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The term fungo snuck into the baseball lexicon sometime in the 1880s, probably by climbing over the fence to watch the game. No one knows for sure, except for those people who think they know for sure. Like so many English nouns it has a second career as a verb. So, a person can fungo during practice, or have a coach who thinks fungoing is essential, which in my book is a fungoing coach.

If you think there’s a lot of fun in blindfolded bowling (and frankly, who doesn’t?), you probably think that there’s just as much of it in funambulism, aka tightrope walking. If etymology were done correctly, that fun in funambulism would derive from the word fun, or amusement. We would be left with a fun kind of ambulating, which is a four-syllable way of talking about simple two-syllable walking. However, the Romans lacked the kind of etymological skills that would truly benefit posterity because they spent too much time conquering and slaughtering barbarians to develop much of a sense of humor. In addition, they appeared too early in history to even know about the word fun. This is often true of people who show up too early at a party and then leave before the real party begins.

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Courtesy of Philip Bitnar

 

 

In what has to be the worst instance of word origin I’ve run across today, they borrowed that first syllable in funambulism from funis, Latin for rope. In one fell swoop, they cut the rope under my feet, so that instead of enjoying the fun of walking 50 stories high on a thin rope connected to two buildings on a windy day in the Windy City, I’m left trying to walk across a rope. Etymology is such a heartbreaker.

 

If I had more time, and trust me, you are going to be glad I don’t, I could write a ditty, a simple song, about etymology’s betrayals. Of course I would have to make it fun. I’m a positive person and very pro fun, so I would call it a profundity, but I don’t think anyone else would agree.

 

 

 

 

Learn another language – slam a door

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Courtesy of Patriiciiaa suga

Courtesy of Patriiciiaa suga

 

I taught myself to slam doors as a second language. I picked up a bit of it when I was a teenager, but I attained fluency after I got married.

 

By the time I said, “I do,” I had lived through almost thirty winters and considered myself a bona fide grown-up who dealt with problems in a calm and rational manner. Thankfully my husband thought I was calm and rational, too.

 

I also believed that my college education and years of reading books with big words allowed me to articulate my thoughts in a cogent and persuasive manner.

 

But after we each pulled tight our end of the knot at the wedding and began to live together, words failed me.

 

Since I was much too nice of a person to harbor ill will or feel irritated or hurt, whatever was bothering me was too petty to even mention, so I didn’t. Instead, I began to speak in slams.

 

Courtesy National Park Service

Courtesy National Park Service

One light slight slam of the cupboard or drawer meant I was chafed about something. To indicate that the problem needed more immediate attention, I slammed harder. Each slam and its intensity indicated my level of unhappiness or distress. Emergencies required a wall-shuddering large door slam.

 

Unlike English, door-slamming lacks subtlety. It consists mainly of nouns and adjectives: soft slam, lively bang, vigorous boom, and so on. The paucity of nouns is counterbalanced by comparative and superlative adjectives: the softest slam, a livelier bang, and the most vigorous boom of all.

 

In spite of these limitations, my husband learned to interpret his wife’s new language skills and use his words to coax me to use mine.

 

Me: Bang!

He: Is anything wrong?

Me: Headshaking and heavy snorting.

He: Do you want to talk about anything?

Me: Slam! Slam!

 

Eventually I would blurt out, “If you loved me, you would know what’s wrong!”

 

At the time, it was clear to me that if he would show common courtesy and read my mind, I wouldn’t have to speak in an unknown tongue. I was dumbstruck by what I interpreted as either obstinacy or lack of trying on his part. Clearly I was trying – very trying.

 

It took over two decades to realize that my thoughts were as opaque to him as his were to me, so I began to use my words and admit the things that bothered me. Big things. Small things. Trifling things that I should have been able to laugh off, but couldn’t. I married the man to be known, but my biggest fear was that he would fully know me, including my pettiness, my fears, and my insecurities.

 

Every door I slammed in the house mirrored a door I shut within myself to silence the words that would reveal that I am flawed and in desperate need of love and acceptance. And though my husband developed keen interpreting skills, he never attempted to speak the language.

 

Courtesy National Park Service

Courtesy National Park Service

I’ve lost my fluency in door-slamming and I think both of us are pleased about that. During the years I spoke in slams, my forceful manner of talking loosened screws, which meant both the doors and I were always in danger of coming unhinged. Having fewer loose screws is always a good thing.

Actually I could care less

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Caring requires time and effort. It’s like filling up a bucket, except it’s filling up the mind and heart with a person, a thing, or a cause. You have to think about the object of your caring, which means shifting your brain from idle to at least first gear.

 

Science moment: Assuming you have a brain, and frankly, the fact that you are reading this blog creates doubt, said assumed brain idles at about 6 to 11 calories per hour. Actual thinking increases the amount of calories only slightly, which explains why there are so many thickheaded people about.

 

If caring were math, it would be the whole numbers, which depending on who you trust and I’m not sure it should be me, includes zero. Getting from caring to the nothingness or zero of not caring requires sliding down the scale of care like a firefighter sliding down the firehouse pole.

 

Couldn’t-care-lessness is measurable and getting there requires another simile. It’s like untying a balloon full of concern and attentiveness and forcing all of it out by stretching the neck of the balloon to produce sounds not unlike those experienced during gastrointestinal distress. Once all of that air is satisfyingly released (and you know exactly what I’m talking about), you have emptied yourself and have reached the “Om” of OMG, I couldn’t care less.

Care-o-meter

Once this nirvana of carelessness has been achieved, you must never think about the subject again, so as to not disturb your care-o-meter. This explains why I avoid reading tabloid headlines in supermarket lines and tend to weep any time I come across bad words like…Warning! BWA! (Bad Words Alert)….Bieber, Kardashian, and Brangelina.

 

Hearing or reading about what the not-to-be-mentioned people wear, don’t wear, eat, don’t eat, kiss, or don’t kiss knocks my brain out of idle and forces me to not care about what I just heard or read. The very act of not caring about the information tires me out and often leaves me at the place where I could care less if I tried, but I don’t have the energy or inclination to do so. More often than not I exhaust myself into numbness and discover I could not care less, but this usually requires dark chocolate, wine, or both.

 

So, yeah, sometimes I really could care less.

What’s cooking?

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Barbecue season in Wisconsin begins once the top of your grill is visible above the snow drifts and ends when the snow is so high it’s impossible to find your grill out on the deck.

 

 

Take a walk around the neighborhood on a Wisconsin summer evening and you are bound to smell steak, brats, venison burgers, salmon, hamburgers, hot dogs, or lake perch smoking on planks of cedar, sugar maple, black cherry, or golden alder.

 

 

Last week after our own non-grilled dinner, I sat on the couch reading a book while my husband relaxed in the recliner working on his computer, and the grandchild conducted a physics experiment in the bathtub to discover how much sloshing was needed to saturate the bathroom rug.

 

 

The next thing I know, a sweet smell saunters into the house, sits right next to my nose, and says, “Get a load of me.” So I do, and I say to my husband, “What smells so good?”

 

 

He takes a big whiff. “Must be Ray grilling.”

 

chicken-grilling

The smell grows stronger and I get curiousier, so I walk outside to see what Ray is grilling in front of his garage. He isn’t. So I check out in the backyard, but he’s not on his deck either.

 

 

I look up and down the street, determined to find the source, but now I can’t smell it. I go back inside to check our oven. My husband is now as old as me and like so many people his age, forgetful. But it’s not that either. I check the basement, the back rooms, the laundry room, and the garage. I can’t catch a whiff of that pleasant smell anywhere except the living room.

 

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That’s when I noticed my hat. Earlier in the day I had been going in and out to work in the yard and had set my hat on top of the floor lamp. When I sat down to read after dinner, I turned on the lights and started slow cooking my hat.

 

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This method of cooking hemp hats allows the aroma to infuse the house.

 

Four years ago I bought that hat for my first trip to Europe and wore it the following two summers from England to France to Hungary to Russia. I have always counted on it to be on top of things, usually my head, but I counted wrong when I put it on top of the lamp.

 

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My smoking hot hat.

 

The first words of the grandchild after completing the bathtub science experiment were, “What’s that good smell?”

 

That sweet smell, child, is my hat, my hemp hat.

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Oddly a hat is also called a lid.

 

I ordered a new one, identical to the first, and will save my smoked version for fishing and gardening. I learned two things from my own experiment in hat cooking: one, a floor lamp does not make a good hat stand; and two, the saying “Put that in your hat and smoke it” can be as literal as it is figurative.

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This hat is still raw and crunchy.

Seven degrees of separation from busy to lazy

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1_Earth_(blank)Before Walt Disney had the Sherman brothers, Rob and Rick, create the earworm* known as It’s a Small World (After All), the Hungarian writer Frigyes Karinthy wrote about the small world concept in his short story Chain Links. If you take the time to read the four-page story by clicking on the title, you’ll see how Karinthy is able to establish an association between two people unknown to one another with just two acquaintance links between them, and another pair with four acquaintance links between them.

 

Most people today attribute the idea of six degrees of separation to Karinthy. According to the 6° of separation theory, every human being is connected to every other human being by six or fewer links (friends or acquaintances) between them. In its various iterations, the concept now includes Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, a game connecting every Hollywood actor, ham or otherwise, to Kevin Bacon in the required six or fewer links. Go here to test it out.

 

Chain-link-Fence

If the SDS theory is true, we are all just six or fewer acquaintance links from Pope Francis, Macklemore, your crazy neighbor, and every terrorist on the face of the earth. This is good news for the acronym known as NSA (National Snooping Agency / No Secrets Allowed), because the theory can justify snooping on all of us. We are all guilty by association. Of course, the national acronym shows some restraint, restricting its snoops to three degrees of separation for persons of interest. Or so they say.

Someone is watching all your links.

Someone is watching all your links.

What does this have to do with busy and lazy? Back in the old days of crossword puzzle books, I used to play a word game in which you had to start with one word and end up with another by changing one letter of the word in a designated number of steps. I thought of this the other day when I realized how I seem to alternate between busy and lazy. So I started a word list and discovered the two states are separated by seven degrees of separation.

 

I start out BUSY, and all that frantic effort leaves me BUSHed. Tired and frustrated, I begin to BASH my head against the wall and LASH out at some of the people around me. Then I withdraw and build a flimsy retreat of LATHs. Confined by a cage built by my own hands, I postpone what I am supposed to do and find I am LATE for deadlines and for completing my well-laid plans. Once that happens, I lose focus and begin to LAZE around. That hammock-like verb leads to LAZY (hours wasted staring at moving objects on my computer screen).

It looks something like this:

busy

bush

bash

lash

lath

late

laze

lazy

What does this all mean? And why do I keep starting paragraphs with questions? I don’t really know, so I’ll make something up. First, words and how they are spelled can be linked. I like that because I enjoy words and wordplay. Second, ideas can be linked, for example, Frigyes Karinthy’s chain links and Kevin Bacon’s cinema links. Someone clearly needs to discover the links between toilet paper and nuclear fission, as well as vaccines and peanut butter. And I could be that someone if only moving from lazy to busy were as easy as moving from busy to lazy.

 

*Earworm = A song or musical phrase that 
burrows into your head to consume part of yourbrain. The earworm extracts tiny bits of 
sanity, extruding addle, which causes you to
become addle-brained. An ear worm can also 
make bad words come out of your mouth.

 

Photos courtesy of Wikimedia:   Big chain link     Earth

 

In praise of my bed

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Our bed 2

No other lover has been so faithful as you, who wait for me at day’s end, unmoved by my failures and lack of grace, ready to bear me up without complaint and hold me in your embrace through every dark hour.

Magician of the night, I give you weariness and you transform it into rest. I drink the great elixir you prepare for me and awake refreshed in body and soul.

You are the skiff I row to carry me from past to future across the Sea of Dreams, where I have drowned a thousand times.

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Atop your still rink, I glide and spin through the dark hours. When the ice melts, I fall beneath the depths, swim the length of night, and crawl to shore.

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You are the dance floor of my memories.

Each night I meet monsters, lovers, and my other selves, reincarnated from remembrances past. We play upon your darkened stage – dramas, comedies, and mysteries – to our forgetful audience.

You are the envelope I fold myself in to mail myself to tomorrow.

I plant the seed of me in your rich soil, grow new again, reborn each day older than the day before.

You are the cocoon I wrap myself in to shed my younger selves, all the people I used to be.

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I am sovereign of your continent, where I rule over a legion of dreams.

You are the sheet of paper on which I write stories of love and loss, tales too sad to tell or remember.

Unafraid I climb onto the ledge of night and jump. Then I wind myself in the shroud of yesterday’s me and die once more, until I can die no more.

Photos: skiff by phil smith    skater   cocoon