According to the prevailing beliefs of the nation he oversaw, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia is himself being judged right now, his good deeds and repentances weighed against his bad calls. There is considerable discussion back here on earth about his lifetime of work and its impact, as well as the usual chorus of do-gooders insistent that to speak ill of the dead is disrespectful. Unlike Scalia, we are told to reserve judgment for a higher authority.
That got me thinking about what judgment is, where it came from and how we appoint those who administer it.
I admit it, I have a secret love of early 1990s R&B. I’m talking Mark Morrison, Montell Jordan – even Blackstreet gets a spin on my road-trip mixtapes. That’s why I found myself pondering recently: What the hell does No Diggity mean? Come down the rabbit hole with me and we’ll find out together.
The waitress asks me if I would like some more hot water for my tea. I smile, meet her eyes and then I say something that instantly makes me wince.
“That would be great,” I say. “Thanks.” Read More
Having worked crazy shifts and from home, I am a big believer in the post-work ritual that draws a line under the work day and starts home time. Mine usually involves a loud proclamation about the needlessness or evilness of wearing pants. It’s not the pants’ fault, really, just that I need to shut out the world. And just like me, people the English-speaking world over have ascribed deep meaning to these ubiquitous ass-huggers. Let’s look at how.
My husband makes fun of the English because they call most desserts “pudding.” And he is right. It is quite ridiculous that cake, pancakes, lava cakes, and cheesecake are all called pudding; but it’s also ridiculous that they’re all called cakes. Adding to the complexity is Yorkshire pudding, which is savory and eaten with the meal.
Fair point, husband. But what about America’s obsession with boxes?
I am having one of those days when I sharply and sincerely regret getting out of bed. Comprising a soaking wait at the bus stop, a tooth injury, a soggy two-hour commute into work, a setback at the office and the discovery that a leaky roof had caused rain to flood my garage, I am having a pretty awful day. And it’s only 2pm.
Usually, my style is to get angry, then determined, then break all the problems apart with my bare hands until they’re fixed. Today, though, I won’t do much about any of this. I’m enervated. I’m deflated. I’m blue.
Last weekend, my husband and I found ourselves at dusk in a park we frequent in Sunol. We were procrastinating because it was Sunday night, the park was lovely and we didn’t want to go home yet. We stopped in a clearing because a few red-breasted robin were flitting around but as we stood there, the few became many and the many became hundreds.
The next thing we knew, the birds had started to form a murmuration, an undulating wave of birds that swooped and swarmed ahead of us. Where I come from, birds are a little more raucous so I was delighted to see this display for the first time.
Lately, I have been spending a lot of time in my own head. Grieving the matriarch of the family, who died this month, and beset with some big work and personal challenges, I have retreated into my worries. A kind of everyday, pedestrian sadness has me speaking only when spoken to and avoiding connection when it is offered.
So when my friend Leah suggested I discuss insouciant as my Word of the Day, my interest was piqued. What is insouciance, really? What is it like? Have I ever had it? Is it eligible for Amazon Prime?
Today, I introduced a friend to the delightful Australian term “shithouse”. Evocative of an outdoor toilet, it’s not even considered a curse word there and is synonymous with something that is shoddy, broken or sick. It just slipped out, and she understood what I meant, but I apologized because in that one word I had conveyed much more than just the image of an outdoor dunny – I had inadvertently dragged her into the mire of Australian English.
At its heart, English is pretty lazy. Words that mean easy are frequently conflated with those that mean good. We say good when we mean done, and things that are easy are “a joy” or “child’s play”.
The root of easy is the French word aisie, or ease, which betrays our ancestral roots as stressed-out monkeys barely one step ahead of famine and desperate to avoid becoming lion chow.
My favorite is the word cinch. Meaning easy and sure, it usually describes a task that is easy to do well – like walking or sleeping or buying a donut at the coffee shop when you already have your credit card in your hand.