While writing to an Australian friend this morning, I found myself tempted to describe a planned hike as a bushwalk. I immediately checked myself, as expats so often do, and realized that I had not used the term bushwalk is so many years that it had been lost from my vocabulary. It made me so sad to think that there were parts of my speech, perhaps even parts of my Australianness, that were slipping away.
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.
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
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.
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.
It is said that my generation doesn’t believe in heroes. On the surface, it’s easy to see why: When we rejected the values of our Baby Boomer parents, we also shook off their unfaltering (and to us, inexplicable) faith in authorities – political and social.
Gen Xers side with the nerdy, the misunderstood and the maligned. We scratched Nirvana lyrics into our desks. We liked Bender in The Breakfast Club, not because he was smart but because he was right, and we wondered why Danny wound up good in Grease when naughty Sandy was so damn hot. There is some Bender-style self-sabotage at work in all of us, and some days it wins out.
But here’s the rub: Just because we don’t believe what our parents did doesn’t mean we believe in nothing. The outpouring of grief today over David Bowie’s death has me musing about our relationship with heroes and the sheer force of love and passion I see in my peers. The famously dead-inside generation has a heart after all, and it beats in 4/4 time.
Oh, that hurt.
I have Americanized my website, swapping esses for zees, swapping licence for license and removing that all-important letter u from color.
If the English language were a person, it would surely be a hoarder.
I can see him holed up in a dank flat with words he had found in the gutter the day before scattered across a table of phrases from the 1600s that are infested with foreign word lice.
There is so much regional variation in our language it is a wonder we understand each other at all. Though what interests me most is when words diverge into two paths, often close enough to be confused, and why so many of these words are so very naughty.