This Week’s Words

The Gamut

When I envisioned this weekly feature, I decided that I would feel free to use this space however I wanted.  After seven years of writing funny titles and captions for over a thousand of my photos at TheDailyGraff.com, I didn’t want to ever again be constrained by so narrow a format.

The writing here might be serious, light, topical, humorous, or maybe even profound.  This week’s topic could be accused of being borderline trivial.  But that’s OK.

Not Progress #1

Every once in a while I’m amazed at some new product development that is not progress.  A recent example: although they no longer do it, our local Walmart started using twisted tape closures on their loaves of bread and bags of baked goods.  What might have saved them millions of dollars annually resulted in a closure that could not be opened manually.  The only way to open the package was to get a pair of scissors and cut off the end of the bag, meaning that you had to end up using your own twist tie or clip to reclose the bag.

My current nominee for Not Progress is Men’s dress shirts.  Since the invention of the button-front shirt, it was a simple procedure to work your way down the row of buttons, using the same motions for each one.  Not anymore.  in recent years, shirt manufacturers have started making the bottom buttonhole horizontal, unlike the vertically oriented holes above it.

This change serves absolutely no useful purpose!  The bottom button is no more secure than the others, and the net effect is that the subconscious process of buttoning a shirt has a jarring end–the need to fasten the bottom button a different way.

I would like to sit down and talk to the designer who thought that this change was a good idea.  I would request, however that the person sit sideways in his/her chair the whole time.

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This Week’s Words

A SNAPPY TALE

I have six siblings.  We were so poor that our mom couldn’t always afford lunch meat or peanut butter for our sack-lunch sandwiches for school (and we certainly couldn’t afford the 25 cents per day for the hot lunches).  Once in a while my “sandwich” consisted of applesauce between two slices of buttered bread.  It never became a family favorite.

Back then, plastic wrap or plastic sandwich bags to protect the sandwiches didn’t exist.  The only choices were aluminum foil (too expensive), waxed paper, or waxed-paper sandwich bags (neither of which kept the air out).  Mom would save the plastic bags that store-bought items came in and use those to protect our sandwiches.

I had a friend who always bought the hot lunch, but he didn’t like it when they had spaghetti, so on those days he would give me his quarter so I could  buy the hot lunch, and he would take my sack lunch in trade.

On one such “spaghetti day” I returned to our usual table with my tray of food and found my friend’s face a vivid shade of red and the other guys at the table doubled over laughing.  I had failed to caution my friend to always unwrap the sandwich inside the lunch sack before pulling it out.

That day, my frugal mother had protected my sandwich in a plastic bag that had once protected a brand new girdle.

Copyright © 2017 by John Arthur Robinson

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This Week’s Words

READER PARTICIPATION

I have created a two-line poem for which almost endless possibilities exist for the second line.  I’ll give some examples and then invite you to add your own suggestions:

“Downhill from Here”

(1) Of that time and from that place three things remain:
fruit of the vine, taste of the grape, head pain.

(2) Of that time and from that place three things remain:
social awkwardness, major screw-up, lasting shame.

(3) Of that time and from that place three things remain:
weight gain, weight loss, weight gain.

(4) Of that time and from that place three things remain:
My delivery route, my tanker truck, propane.

(5) Of that time and from that place three things remain:
John Doe, baby Doe, wife Jane.

(6) Of that time and from that place three things remain:
that old line, that old ache, that old flame.

You get the idea.  Click on the heading above (“This Week’s Words”) to leave your suggestions as a “comment.”  You don’t need to give the first line; just leave your suggestions for the concluding line.

Copyright © 2017 by John Arthur Robinson

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This Week’s Words

If I Could Change My Nationality or Place of Origin

I am an American, a North American, from the U.S.A.

If I could change my nationality, I would be British, because to Americans all British people sound important and highly educated, just because of their accent.  I would be French because I love to hear their language spoken.  It’s the most lyrical language in the world.

I would be Italian, because I love pasta, and their weather is better than what we get in Ohio.  While on the subject of food, I would be Chinese, because I could eat Chinese food every day and never get tired of it.

I would be Russian, Eastern European, or Scandinavian, because the people seem really sturdy.  I would be Polynesian, because they seem so laid back.

I would come from India because the people are so handsome, wear the most colorful fabrics, and have a natural grace.  I would be Australian, because their manner of speaking, accent, and lifestyles are so playful.

I would be Canadian and suffer (almost) no culture shock at all.

I would be Spanish, because I could travel confidently in Spain, Mexico, or the rest of the Spanish-speaking world.  I would be from one of the Middle Eastern countries in the hopes of being a peacemaker.

I would be Irish because I AM half Irish and their country is so green.  I would be German, because I AM half German, and they have the Autobahn.  I would be from any of the other European countries because it’s so easy to travel across borders and cultures and enjoy the food and sights along the way.

I would be Japanese because no other people cherish their traditions so carefully.  I would be a Bedouin because my roots would be in sand.

I would be from a country in Africa because the continent is alive with potential.  I would be from one of the South American countries because I’d love to visit them all.

I would be Asian, because that would give me the largest land mass to call my own.  I would be from a country that ended in “istan” because I could always spell at least part of the neighboring countries’ names.

I would be from any of the countries I haven’t mentioned because all peoples make up the human mosaic and add color, excitement, news, and drama to our daily lives, and because each region has its own wonders of the world.

Just not Antarctican.  I wouldn’t come from Antarctica, because it’s (1) cold and (2) requires too much luggage.

Copyright © 2017 by John Arthur Robinson

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This Week’s Words

This appeared 15 years ago (Oct. 1, 2002) in our local newspaper, The Athens Messenger.  I was invited to be on the Board of Contributors–about two dozen community members who were asked to submit approximately four columns per year. The only payment was a free subscription to the newspaper.  (Update: Our children are now grown and on their own, and our dog is now gone.)


Have you ever met anyone who is an “afternoon person”?

I have never met anyone who claims to be an “afternoon person.”  Among people who get off work around 5:00 p.m., I don’t know a soul who finds afternoons the best part of the day.  In fact, everyone I know employs an arsenal of survival techniques, such as vertical napping, to get through the afternoon.  Afternoons are to workdays as potholes are to roads–gaps to get over.

People I know are either “morning persons” or “night persons.”  These days, children as young as three know which they are: “I can’t go to bed now, Mommy.  I’m at my peak for coloring inside the lines!”

People didn’t always label themselves by their optimal hours.  When I was growing up, no one used the terms “morning person” or “night person.”  We knew some “early birds” and “night owls,” but most people didn’t fall into either category.  Both types were considered odd enough that we allowed them extra personal space (then called “a wide berth”).

I didn’t realize that I was a morning person until I was 29 and started working an 8:00-5:00 job.  I found I woke up energized, needing only a cup of early daylight.  Ten years later I needed a cup of coffee to achieve the same level of enthusiasm, but even today I can accomplish more between 6:00-8:00 a.m. than I can in all of the after-work hours put together.

Today, morning people marry night people, and the children must choose one camp or the other.  Unfortunately for me, my wife and two children are night people.  They think that the day is still young at 10:00 p.m.  I can’t think that my clanking around in the kitchen at 6:00 a.m. on weekends is as irritating as their house-filling racket at 10:00 at night.  The moon is a night light, not task lighting.

By 10:00 p.m. my cognitive day is over.  Trying to hold thoughts in my head at that hour is like trying to float bowling balls.  I have to keep repeating the mantra “Bathroom, then bed.  Bathroom, then bed” to find the stairs and successfully retire for the night.

Night people don’t understand.  Around 10:00 my son will ask me to double-check his 37 math problems, or my daughter will want me to read her 12-page paper.  My wife, interpreting my glazed-over look as “needing something to do,” will bring up every important decision we need to make in the next 5 days and ask what I’ve decided.  What part of “Bathroom, then bed” don’t they understand?

My only ally is our dog, who is a morning dog.  She glazes over even before I do, and first thing in the morning she’s ready to “go.”  Over time she has learned that even morning people can snarl before their first cup of coffee, so she patiently counts floor tiles until my cup runneth empty.  Then she puts me on the end of a leash and takes me outside.

Copyright © 2002 by John Arthur Robinson

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This Week’s Words

TWO WORDS TO AVOID (CONNECTING)

For the first couple of decades of my life, I said “Oh, dear!” a lot.  I think I picked it up from my maternal grandmother.  She had other expressions, such as “My land!” (for surprise) and “Oh, my aching back!” (also for surprise).  My grandmother was 70 when I was born, but she lived to be 104 and was a huge influence on my life (do the math: until I was 34).

Oh, dear, I’ve lost my train of thought.  Actually I haven’t–I just wanted to show how the expression might be used in a sentence.  I was cured of saying “Oh, dear” during a breakup with a girlfriend when I was in my 20s. In the litany of my many faults she painstakingly enumerated was this final one (in what was possibly the first use of All Caps in a face-to-face breakup): “. . . AND ONLY MAIDEN AUNTS SAY ‘OH, DEAR!'” (OUCH! It was all I could do to keep from exclaiming “My LAND!”)

I hate to think what my life might have been like had I not stopped joining “Oh” with “dear.”  I might never have married and had children.  I might have spent my entire life in a meticulously kept house where teacups and doilies were prominently displayed–a house with cats, embroidery in progress, and a cabinet of collectible crystal (certainly with one or more African violets and maybe a secret stash of wine.)

But I’m stereotyping maiden aunts.  The only thing for certain is that they are someone’s unmarried sister.  These days they are more likely to take up skydiving than collecting crystal.

But that’s NOW!  Forty years ago when I was admonished for using the expression, maiden aunts didn’t have all the thrilling life options they do now.  They were teacups/doilies/cat people, and I came this close to being one of them.

I’m just glad I’ve lived long enough to find some humor in “. . . AND ONLY MAIDEN AUNTS SAY ‘OH, DEAR!'” My best recollection is that, at the time, it wasn’t funny.  And my grandmother from whom I got the expression?  SHE lived long enough to have 13 children, 48 grandchildren, and more great-grandchildren than she could count.  SHE was never in danger of becoming a maiden aunt, and SHE used “Oh, dear” for about 100 years.

This Week’s Words

Despite Vladimir Putin’s illegal takeover of The Crimea and his machinations in attempting to subvert democracies everywhere, the average Russian people on the street are not our enemies.  When you get right down to it, they are a lot like us.  I wrote this a few months before the Berlin Wall fell:

The Red Scare

Russian children fear the dark;
Russian parents worry;
Russian lovers fall in love
(their parents think too early).

Copyright © 1989, 2017 by John Arthur Robinson

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