The Same Word, Twice

Giotto. The Adoration of the Magi. 1304-1306. Fresco. Capella degli Scrovegni, Padua, Italy. Wow. This is beautiful.

Gift giving shouldn’t be a chore. It shouldn’t be a great cause of stress. It shouldn’t be a venue for disappointment.

gift: something willingly given, without payment

This is a beautiful concept. First, it’s something that you do of your own will. There is no requirement to offer a gift. That would be more like a tax. Or maybe a bribe.

A gift has no requirement for a quid pro quo. That is, there isn’t an “exchange of goods or services where one transfer is contingent upon the other.” That is more like a payment or trade.

Bottom line, if the something is required in any way, or if there is a contingency, it doesn’t meet the definition of gift.

And, now, another definition.

give: to present voluntarily and without expecting compensation

Wait. Did you just see that, too?

Gift and give mean the same thing. They’re almost interchangeable. I guess one is the action; the transfer of the something. That’s the verb. And the other is the something itself. That’s a noun version. No matter the part of speech, that redundancy of meaning–of the essence of the idea–underscores the agency of the gift giver. Without that agency, there is no gift.

So, if you are giving a gift and you feel you MUST give that gift, this is NOT giving a gift. It’s fulfilling an expectation or a responsibility. That’s fine, but it’s not giving a gift.

“Stop, Doc!” you say. “You are making my head hurt.”

Sorry, Loyal Reader, but I want you to get your mind right. If you can’t get to the point that you’re freely presenting the something, there’s an opportunity to rethink your motives and, maybe, to really give a gift. Are you running into the store and going through the junk because you gotta find something? When you found it, did you feel like you checked something off of your list? Or did you hold it in your hand and imagine the joy of sharing this something?

I don’t really have any answers, except that I refuse to be stressed about doing something that comes from my heart. Because if I’m feeling guilty or rushed or anxious, maybe it’s not really coming from my heart.

It’s like this post that I am giving to you today. I feel like I am doing this willingly and without any expectation of something in return. Maybe you don’t want it, but thanks for being gracious and taking it from me anyway.

For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned.–Saint Francis of Assisi

Decoding Emoji

the new apple iOS whiskey emoji. on the rocks.

New EMOJIS! New little images for us to use when words just don’t do it. I wonder if a future society will look back at this batch of Apple emojis and wonder what the hell we were trying to say? Recent phone software updates makes it much easier to emoji-fy, offering a pictogram for words you type, next to where the correct spelling of the word should be.

But back to the emojis. Apple added a cute little fox face (wonder what she says?), bacon (like what took them so long?), a Vespa and two fingers of whiskey in a glass.

I’m not sure if they added any new flags. I’m not so good at flags. I don’t usually use them. They didn’t have a burning American flag, though. I checked. But after my review, I’m wondering about what seems a worrisome subtext. A subtext of worry, if you will.

My uneasiness sensors were piqued as I swiped past dozens of round yellow faces emoting emoji-style emotions. And, in the midst of yellow dots, I saw a creepy clown face. I had to look twice to make sure it didn’t disappear. Seriously, this is the stuff nightmares are made of; a creepy clown assaulting you from within a sea of seeming normalcy. Who decided to add a creepy clown?

I began looking at the new emojis with a more discerning eye. I saw a black heart and a wilted flower. There was a yellow emoji with a black hat. You know, the man with the black hat. Not known as a good guy, AKA the bad guy. Oh, and a shark. A big one. I could hear the strains of the Jaws theme and wondered if I was going to need a bigger boat.

I was unsettled by an erupting volcano and what looked like an asteroid with a flaming orange tail, heading toward our planet, ready to destroy life as we know it. Or maybe it’s an image evoking our new president-elect’s hair. Same result.

There was a disembodied arm (a zombie?!?) taking a selfie and someone throwing up. That combo seemed right. Is Apple trying to manipulate us into being more frightened? More off of our game? What’s their game? Were they infiltrated? Figuring out the meaning in these new images makes me feel like I’m Kremlin-watching. Up for interpretation, but with a big dose of suspicion.

I can’t unsee these disturbing images. There is no going back. So here I am, hit in the head with the reality of the emoji hard knocks life. Can I uninstall the ones that scare me? Or, if that’s not an option, can I at least drink the whiskey?


a dog pretzeled up on a bed

Too tired to finish a real post. Not for lack of effort. Not for lack of focus. Not for lack of concept. Despite a cascade of attempts that ended with the nodding head of a sleeping sickness, not because of anything but weariness.

The effort is not fruitful. It does not produce. Yet, and still, it was an effort.

But it isn’t the effort that gets published, but the words. These few words.

What you talkin ’bout Willis?

From Different Strokes, when Arnold'd look up and say, "what you talkin bout Willis??"

When I was growing up, I thought my name was roxgwemishDoc.

That’s what my mother called me. She would go through all the names in the credits before she finally got to mine. She’d do it quickly. It sounded like an ancient elvish language. Sometimes it might be Docrocksmish. Then I might be first. It wasn’t logical. Sometimes, in exasperation, she would just point and spit out, “You!”

I have spoken to The Spouse and got his attention by dropping the name of the dog.

For the record: I know that The Spouse is NOT The Beast.

I have seen The Spouse shudder at my error, but he knows it’s a mistake. Everyone knows. Even The Beast himself. He doesn’t move his head, cock an ear or raise an eyelid when I call The Spouse by The Beast’s name.

Sometimes, when I am speaking quickly, which is often, I say the wrong word. When it’s worth a laugh and could be misconstrued as a double entendre, we call it a Freudian Slip.

It could be calling a quarterback by the name of a point guard. It could be misnaming a river. Maybe I say rock when I mean sugar. It could be using the brand name of a cookie for a wine. I know, weird.

In each and every case, I am making a mistake.

Any day I might speak 10 thousand or 15 thousand words. I get some wrong for reasons of speed, laziness and the actual phenomenon of brain efficiency in which I autoinsert a word or phrase that doesn’t belong but could.

Like I might say 7-11 instead of 9-11. Where I am talking at length about how we came together after the terror attack and my brain subbed out the slurpee store on the way.

I know the difference. You do, too. So let’s talk about something else.

Bad Word Choice

The Urban Dictionary gigI’m thinking that we need an Urban Dictionary chrome extension. Or at least some tool to help contemporary writers check their words at the pre-review state.

I have, more than once, and maybe more than fifty times, checked my “cool words” against the Urban Dictionary. This is because I don’t know what is happening in linguistics.

Really, writers, it doesn’t take much time. You think you are being “right on” but you are actually being stupid. And, nobody likes being stupid. Well, except for some of the people running for president. But, seriously, we don’t need to be like them. We can try a little harder, and write a little better.

It’s ridiculous to get it wrong. We have the internet!

That is all.


A building with the sky behind it. There are clouds, too.

If a picture is worth one thousand words, I have completed today’s post successfully. Including these words, it’s one thousand and twenty three.

First Word Struggle

Tearing down the green drapes to make a dress.

I did a bunch of writing at work today.

Unsatisfying writing.

It’s writing something that requires a specific straightjacket–I mean format. It’s the reworking of reworked copy.

These drafts have passed through so many, like a hand me down jacket. They’re  misshapen and stretched out around the cuffs. Some of the hands manipulating the draft may have been full of newsprint. Some of the fingertips may have just kneaded dough and are full of flour. Nobody washed before handling. It wasn’t because they didn’t want to, there just wasn’t time.

Now the scrolls have sat for a while. While we finished and published one branch, we ran out of time and deferred the rest. Anyway, it’d be better if we took some time.  The time has been taken. We lost some momentum. So now we might have taken too much time. The words are starting to funk. Or put me in a funk.

I’ve been working on trying to rebuild a rhythm. One like we had for the first round. But holding on to this pile of nouns and verbs, of bullets and hyperlinks-to-be isn’t making it better. It’s making me bitter.

It’s like that mess in the pantry that needs to be cleared out, reshuffled and restocked. Yet it  just feels recycled.

I’ve been fighting with this unsatisfying project for too long. I need to put a pen to it. An end to it.

Instead, I say in my best Katie Scarlett O’Hara, “Fiddle-dee-dee! I’ll think about it tomorrow.”


Words Describe

shoveled walk with 2 feet of snow

The only thing that anyone is talking about today (and yesterday, and yesterday’s yesterday and, very likely, tomorrow and tomorrow’s tomorrow) is the snow.

There is a lot of it, to be sure.

It is a big event. Much discussion has been had about the naming of this event.

People were a little concerned about originality–we’ve had Snowmageddon in 2010,  and The Snowpocalypse in 2009. So you can’t go there. Some weather media conglomerate decided to make it a named storm, a la a hurricane. That didn’t catch on. [hmmm, nobody mentioned snowicane]. I’ve decided to use the Blizzard of 2016–kind of old skool.

Other words that we use to describe this snow include snow storm, blizzard, packing snow, powder, drifts, avalanche, moguls, glacier, flakes and flurries.

But people hunkered down since the snow started in earnest yesterday afternoon have many other words that they are using for it. Some of these names are not appropriate for your eyes, my Loyal Reader.

The words come out in inches and then feet. They speak of closings and delays. Words to describe back breaking shoveling and the schadenfreude of seeing the city plow itself stuck in the snow.

We have many words to share our experience, giving lie to the myth of the great Eskimo snow hoax. You know, when some amatuer linguist spawned

…the familiar claim about the wondrous richness of the Eskimo conceptual scheme: hundreds of words for different grades and types of snow, a lexicographical winter wonderland, the quintessential demonstration of how primitive minds categorize the world so differently from us. — Geoffrey Pullum, Professor of General Linguistics

See, it isn’t true that indigenous people of the north have hundreds of words to describe snow. Turns out that, in fact, people who speak English have the same or more words.

Dr. Pullum is quite critical of the full scale and uncritical adoption of this myth.

The prevalence of the great Eskimo snow hoax is testimony to falling standards in academia, but also to a wider tendency (particularly in the United States, I’m afraid) toward fundamentally anti-intellectual “gee-whiz” modes of discourse and increasing ignorance of scientific thought. 

How we describe things matter. Science matters. Critically and objectively looking at data matters. Making things up because they are more interesting or make you look better is fiction. Not truth. Okay Iowa?


College paper. Printed out.

My son wrote a very good, very smart paper.

It was all the more remarkable by the restraint. His argument was tight. His passion was clear. He made his points with clarity and only a hint of his impressive vocabulary that he wields as a poet.

And I couldn’t throw it out.

It was the print copy that I proofed for him. I was clearing the table for dinner, and had to move the pile of pages, unnumbered and with only a very few specs of my penciled carats in the margin. It interrupted the laying out of pork loin chops, Swiss chard and a very, very good warm potato salad with Dijon and capers.

And I couldn’t throw it out.

As if it was an original. Irreplaceable.

I know that the bits and bytes, the zeroes and ones, the binary form of this paper that are these smart words are in the computer. I know they are also accessible via The Cloud. And they can be reproduced easily via .

And, still, I couldn’t throw away these sheets that made the words real. Because if they are not held in my hand, can the thoughts disappear? Forever? Unretrievable?

I can’t throw it away. I want it.  For real.