My dad didn’t pronounce words correctly. It embarrassed me so much, when I was younger, that I matured into something of a wordsmith. A wordsmith, in my personal definition of the term, is not necessarily more intelligent than anyone else is. We do not have a better hold on pronunciations than anyone else does, and we don’t have a gift for spelling or proper word usage. A wordsmith is someone who focuses (see obsesses) on such matters. A wordsmith is also so embarrassed by past, present and future mistakes that we make that don’t think we’ll ever live down. Such matters didn’t embarrass my dad at all. He didn’t care about any of it.
Even though I put more effort into pronouncing words correctly, spelling them correctly, and using them in a proper manner, I still make errors all the time. I mispronounced a famous person’s name one day, and it was so embarrassing to me that I don’t think I’ll ever live it down. It started out as a joke, and it somehow morphed into confusion in my mind, until I said it aloud to two people I sought to impress. I’m sure if I asked those people hear me do it what they thought, they probably wouldn’t even remember it, but it haunts me. I used a word that that we don’t recognize as a word in my formative years, and I used a tense of an adjective that is not considered one of the tenses for that word. I also used the word (“had”) too often, as in “if he had lived to see the day”. I hear professional speakers use incorrect terms and words all the time, and I hear them mispronounce words as often, and I don’t mock them. I’m mortified for them in a manner that constitutes the difference between empathy and sympathy.
People I knew and loved mocked my lexicon so often, in my youth, that I made it my life’s mission to eradicate errors. (I’ll let you know if I ever accomplish that feat.) I could handle most of the mean-spirited mockery directed at my other, numerous errors, because they meant nothing to me. The mockery directed at my lexicon concerned me, because I knew my dad’s casual disregard for the conventional rules of language, and it embarrassed me as a teenager.
They say that if we spend enough time in another part of the country, we might carry accents, and/or peculiar pronunciations for words that are otherwise indigenous to that area of the country. My dad said the word wash for most of his life, until he traveled to Tennessee. He spent one week there, and for the remaining decades of his life he said, “warsh.” Correcting that proved an insurmountable hurdle for him, as did “eckspecially”. He made up contractions, such as ‘kout’ for lookout and (‘Q’) or “kyou” for thank you. He also made various plural-sounding names singular and vice versa. McDonald’s was McDonald and Burger King was Burger Kinks. Don’t ask me how he arrived at that second (‘K’). He also said intentendo, instead of Nintendo. We could fault his hearing for some of it, but after numerous corrections, the man stubbornly maintained his fault-ridden lexicon. He subconsciously picked up on errors in usage, but he never picked up on my numerous corrections.
Speaking of word choices, how did we arrive at the word anus to describe an organ? We have to imagine that those in charge of the language used in medical periodicals and biology textbooks continue to use the word for the expressed purpose of being unfunny. Tradition probably guides current choices, tradition and the need for consistency, but there had to be a first. When the subject of origin of a word arrives, as we will discuss later, it can be difficult to impossible to source a word. The best question we can come up with is why do we continue to use this unusual and somewhat cute name for such a repugnant organ?
How extensive was their search for the ideal, unfunny sounding word? How many voices did they hear, pro and con various other terms before they eliminated all others and ended up with anus? “The search is over, we’ve found the ideal word to describe the organ that sounds professional and doesn’t lead to uncomfortable smirks and giggles. Going forward, we shall all refer to the organ as the anus in doctors’ offices, biology text books, and other professional settings.” No one can blame the collective we, for etymologists say the term predates English. The word anus derives from the Latin word anus, meaning “ring”. The Latin derivative annulus means “Little ring”.
In the search for the ideal term, the first thing they had to do was rule out the other, less professional alternatives. Imagine if your doctor said, “You’re fifty years old now, it’s time to see what’s going on inside your smelly freckle.” If my doctor used such a term, in such a sensitive situation, I wouldn’t care if they were trying to add some levity to an otherwise uncomfortable situation. I would seek another physician.
The term they decided on sounds so unusual and cute that all humans, no matter their age, gender, or background, giggle when they hear it. If we could remove all of the connotations the word has with otherwise repugnant biological functions, we might picture a cute, little bug if we heard the word for the first time. If the word had no connotations to our little ring, imagine if comic book writers used the word to name one of their bad guys. “Join Spider-Man, in next week’s issue, as he takes on the Anus!” There’s something so unusual and cute about the word that I don’t think it would strike fear in the reader, until we learned what her powers were.
We giggle, because it makes us feel uncomfortable in a way we can’t explain. One explanation might involve the idea that they chose such an unusual, cute term to describe such a repugnant orifice. What better punchline is there than, “… and I ended getting it stuck in my anus.”?
There was never a board of lords assembled to determine what term we should use to refer to the inferior opening of the alimentary canal a term. As stated, the word has roots in Latin, and Old French, but the Indo-European language family that dates back to 4500 BC to 2500 BC influenced those languages. As with other words and terms, we can arrive at the first recorded use of a word, and Wikipedia states that the first recorded use of the word anus dates back to 1650-1660, but there was probably never an official orifice decree that suggested all professionals should start using the word anus in professional settings. Anytime we try to source a word, we encounter its complicated roots through a maze of variations of language based on migrations, and subsequent regional dialects that affect different shifts in pronunciation, morphology, and vocabulary. We then encounter various efforts at reconstruction of the Proto-Indo-European roots of the word to arrive at the conclusion that it’s almost impossible to source the origin of some words and terms. The one thing we can agree upon is that the modes of communication were so archaic in 1650-1660 on back that most words achieved staying power places via word of mouth, and that it just sort of caught on after that. Even with all that, the question remains why did one prehistoric person, with some biological knowledge, pass this agreed upon, unusual, and cute-sounding term anus to another, and how did it pass the smell test?
The continued use of this term probably has more to do with hundreds to thousands of years of tradition, and a certain level of consistency attached to it, as I wrote, but the professionals who continue to use the term whenever they produce a new textbook or periodical of any sort have a choice every time they pass it on. The question they might ask is what’s the best viable alternative? The answer is there probably aren’t any now, the term is too ingrained, but we have to wonder how many alternatives the linguists and lexicographers of yesteryear passed on, before they agreed the word anus should be the preferred choice for those in professional and scientific circles. If they hoped that their final decision might end all of the snickers, giggles, and uncomfortable smiles when the subject comes up, then I think we can all agree that they failed.
“Don’t text me during the game,” I text. “I’m taping it. I don’t want to know if it’s a good game or a bad game. I won’t even check my phone during the game, so save your, “You’re going to love this,” “Don’t bother watching,” or “Get out of your house, there’s a small Cessna heading toward your house.” I don’t know why it bothers me so much when someone texts me about a game I’m taping, but I think it has something to do with a compact I have with the game I’m watching. It seems pointless, to me, to watch an otherwise exciting 7-yard out route, on third and six, when I know the outcome. Thus, when someone texts me some hint about the outcome of the game, it frustrates me so much that I want to coat my naked body and run through the city streets, just to teach humanity a lesson. I know that I couldn’t live with that memory though, so I just avoid my phone during games.
Big Things vs. Little Things. We dream of big things, but we cannot accomplish big things without tending to all the little things that make big things possible. Before writing the Great American Novel, for example, the author has to write. That first page can be tough, but it’s not near as tough as page two. Page one is often the flurry of inspiration that led us to sit down and write. That inspiration probably struck at a relatively boring moment in our life. Page one often ends up gibberish, however, that doesn’t make it past Chekov’s Razor. Page one often ends up being deleted or tossed into the waste paper basket. Page three is often where the book begins, according to Anton Chekov. Page one is important, but it’s not as important as page three, or any of the pages that constitute continuing.
An important note I heard recently that contradicts that paragraph is, we don’t have to accomplish great things to be great. By taking care of the little things in life, we can still be great. We can be a great father, mother, businessman, and student. I knew a man who accomplished great things in life, but he turned out to be something of a failure as a father. I call it the Larry Bird Complex. There’s an old saying that “those who can’t do it teach” but the flipside proves to be true too. Those who can do it, often cannot teach others how to do it. Larry Bird was a man many consider one of the greatest to play the game, but he wasn’t a very good coach. The man I knew with a Larry Bird Complex had a personal resume so loaded with prestigious accolades that we might have to break the story of his life down to chapters. When they buried him, however, those of us who sat in the second row realized that he couldn’t take his accolades with him. We also realized those who sat in the first row were his legacy, and they were confused adults who lived a life of chaos. Was that his fault? It’s debatable, but he obviously didn’t do enough in his life to relieve them of their pain, and they were/are how the rest of us measured him. A man of great accomplishment enjoys telling people about his great accomplishments, but if he fails to tend to his own yard, that will be his legacy.
So, You Want to go Into Business. “My employees think I’m Daddy Warbucks,” an owner/operator of a local franchise said with a laugh. “They don’t understand how thin profit margins are.”
“Most people don’t,” I said. “I don’t for the most part. I’ve never owned my own business. Most of us think that anyone who does is in the money, especially if that business is a franchise. Most of us have no idea of the expenses involved in running a business.”
Most of us know-nothings loosely define profit as the difference between the wholesale and retail prices. We don’t consider the idea that an owner/operator uses that profit to pay employees’ wages, rent, utilities, various forms of marketing, the franchise fee, insurance, repairs, remodeling, various forms of security, and all of the other numerous costs associated with owning a business. Once the small business owner factors these numerous costs in, they still have to pay all of the federal, state, and local taxes and any fees associated with registering and owning a business. Some of us even begrudge the business owners for writing off expenses when it comes time to pay taxes. Yet, if we deprive them of the ability to do that, then they would have little to no profit at all. After paying off all of these expenses, the middle class owner/operators also have to pay off the loan the bank gave them to open the business.
Another element of the equation that should’ve been obvious but wasn’t until I attended a “Welcome to [the franchise]” meeting for potential owners of a nationwide franchise, is that the individual franchisee has to purchase everything from the vowels on the sandwich board, to the floor, to the franchise chairs and napkins from the corporation. If the owner/operator’s franchise runs out of napkins, for instance, the owner/operator cannot simply run to the supermarket to purchase napkins, they have to fill their napkin holders with napkins that have the corporate logo on them. Failure to do so could result in franchise infringements penalties. To ensure individual franchises are adhering to the level of uniformity the franchise, and their customers, expect throughout the chain, the corporation hires what some call secret shoppers. The primary goal of these insects is to prove the value of their employment, so they grade the owner/operator’s franchise on everything from the significant to the seemingly irrelevant. They find things to write in their report, because they fear if they gave the franchise an (‘A+’), “no infringements found” the corporation might not hire them again. The infringements they find could lead to more penalties and other unforeseen costs for the franchisee.
The corporation will also send out trainers who train the owner/operator and the incoming staff on how to do things “the corporate way”, and the franchisee then “helps” pay their salaries.
The corporate advisers, who provided us this “Welcome to [the franchise]” presentation, did not provide an itemized list of the total costs of purchasing and running a franchise. I had to do my own research to find some of them. One look at this list and every potential franchisee should wonder how anyone makes any money in this business. When I emailed some leading questions regarding my findings, to the advisers, they said, “[This corporation] will help you with any costs and expenses,” they wrote using the specific name of the company. “[This corporation] wants to help you open a location in your city, and they will do whatever they have to to help you make it happen.” This was a blanket statement the corporate advisers made throughout their presentation, and it was the theme of most of their answers throughout the “Welcome to [the franchise] presentation”, but they often avoided providing specifics.
“Profits in food service are so thin that I would seriously advise you consider another business,” a former owner of a mom and pop restaurant advised me. “We obviously didn’t have to pay all the franchise costs you list, and we barely made it month to month. You probably won’t make money for years, and even then you’ll probably want to consider opening two or three different locations if you want to make any real money and each of those franchises will each take their own time to turn a decent profit.”
A franchise owner/operator then wants to pay the person most responsible for opening the location. Themselves. They want money for their time and headaches. “Expect to work at least 60 hours a week,” the mom and pop owner told me. “At least 60 hours. You’re the one responsible for all the hiring and firing, and after a number of incidents, you’ll probably develop a greater tolerance than you predict for misbehavior and poor performance. You will put up with whatever you have to from your employees, to avoid going through the headaches involved in firing an employee, hiring a new one, and training them. Other than all of the headaches and time involved, you’ll eventually view it as an unnecessary expense. Then, you’ll have to fill in for those who call in sick, and when you finally pay yourself for all the hard work you’ve done, before taxes, you should expect to make less, per hour, than you’re making now. Most business owners, like your friend think it’s cute and funny when their employees consider them Daddy Warbucks in the beginning, but when they hear it four or five times, they might accidentally launch into a rant about how wrong they are.”
Some of us celebrate when we see “big business” fail in our neighborhood to the point of closing down. We see their big name as a blight on our community. Some of those franchises are corporate owned, but a number of them are not. We might see it as sticking it to the man when we contribute to their failure, but that failure might be a man or woman who is seeking an alternative way to feed a family of four.
Why do flies, moths, and other insects want into our home so badly, and they want out just as badly and just as quickly? If it were nothing more than a mistake, why do they bump against the glass trying to get out? Are they just dumb? No, they’re not dumb, some argue. Okay, then why do they immediately fly to the nearest glass trying to get out shortly after getting in?
Light guides most insects at night, and the only light at night that guides them is the moon. Their internal guidance systems lead them to fly according to the light of moon, and our artificial light messes with their internal guidance system. Do they then recognize their faux pas soon after making it? If the moon explains the nighttime insects wanting in our home, how do we explain daylight flies trying to get in? Do they smell our food? When do they recognize their faux pas? Some of them might be attracted by the smell of our trash, but they rarely visit the trashcan. They usually bump to get in and turn around and bump to get out. Do they recognize their error to get in, or are they just dumb beings driven by instinct?
Why do birds only fly so high? We’ve all witnessed a predator fly higher than other birds. Why do they fly so high? Answer, they want achieve a vantage point where they can see their prey. Why don’t other birds fly just as high? Answer, they’re more affected by low levels of oxygen, as they’re not as equipped, as their predators to extract necessary oxygen from the air. The temperature is also cooler at greater heights, and most birds cannot generate enough heat with their muscles to counteract that. These latter two paragraphs describe the mysteries and functions of the every day lives of some of its smallest contributors to our daily life.
My Favorite Teacher of all time performed a miracle. He led me to believe the subject of Economics might be interesting. He made the subject so interesting that when I left high school, I became an Economics major. In college, I discovered how boring Economics could be in different hands. On the flipside, I considered Shakespeare so boring in high school that I found it difficult to hide my disdain for the material. In college, I found a passionate teacher who made Shakespeare sound like a genius. My takeaway, every subject is one good teacher away from being interesting.