BLUNT FORCE TRAUMA VERSUS RAPIER WIT – Marilyn Armstrong

The English language has more than 200,000 “official” words in its dictionary and probably another twenty thousand or so unofficial, idiomatic, or regional words used by specific groups which have meanings yet to reach a dictionary.

There is nothing you cannot say in English using real words. If you are living in an English-speaking country, using real words will not diminish your level of communication. More likely, it will enhance it while lending you credibility with other literate people.

You know: people who read books and stuff like that?

If you feel there is nothing you can say that is not cruel or insulting — and which will surely hurt someone? If you cannot make your point without hateful speech? Maybe you should consider just shutting up. Silence is golden, they say, so why not give it a try?

Hateful speech and bullying is not a symptom of how free you are. It’s a sign of a twisted soul. It is by definition ungrammatical and ugly.

Everyone knows the invisible yet obvious lines of what is acceptable speech and what isn’t. I think we all know this much by the time we get to first grade.

The people who regularly cross these lines are not ignorant. They know exactly what they are doing and why they are doing it. It isn’t any lack of education. It’s a failure to have sympathy or empathy for other humans.

This is a disease for which there is no known cure.

The language of the truncheon is not an accident. Those who speak like thugs do it intentionally.

You can argue this point until the cows come home. It will remain wrong.

One of the things I’ve always admired about the British upper class — possibly the only thing I admire about the British upper class — is their ability to be absolutely polite while verbally eviscerating their opponents.

It’s an art form. They at least understand that a rapier — a razor-sharp, tool — is a much classier weapon than a bludgeon. And on the whole, leaves less of a mess.

If you have to join the fray, put away the big stick and try the rapier.

LETTERS OR NUMBERS: CEE’S FUN FOTO CHALLENGE – Marilyn Armstrong

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Letters or Numbers

My husband takes pictures of signs and other posts. He says it’s a carryover from shooting news stories. If you shot a sign which said where you were, it was easier to remember, especially because he often shot multiple stories in a single day.

I’ve sort of picked up the habit, so now I shoot signs and bronze monuments too.

The one and only railroad bridge in town. Numbers on the orange sign but until I get my new glasses, can’t read it!
Capron’s memorial bronze by the Mumford River – 1791 – 1859
Our town’s very fancy crossing sign! Photo: Garry Armstrong – One fancy sign for a very simple crossing. Takes longer to read the sign than cross the street. There’s an 8 in the sign if you look for it.
Take a rock at Mumford Dam and give one to a friend!
Routes 16, 122 and 146– Meanwhile, vote for what? Photo: Garry Armstrong

THERE’S A WORD FOR IT IN JAPANESE – Marilyn Armstrong

When talking about photography, English doesn’t always make the grade. As it turns out, Japanese does.

The Japanese have a word for everything, I think. I just learned “Komorebi. It means “sunlight filtering through the leaves of trees,” and by extension, the natural filtering of light through anything. Like blinds or curtains, for example.

75-051214-Komorebi-Sunlight_12
I’ve been chasing that light for more than 40 years. This is the word I’ve needed. I’ve been trying to capture that forever.

Komorebi.

Remember it. It’s a great word.

A golden tree and the rays of sunlight
Then there is bokeh, a word so popular it is now included in American books about photography. Bokeh defines something difficult to say in English.

“Bokeh means the aesthetic quality of the blur
(a soft and out of focus) part of an image produced by a lens.”

Like this.

Dry weeds by the river

Or this.

Kaity
I’m sure there’s more, but this is my vocabulary lesson for the day.

WORDS ARE WEAPONS – Marilyn Armstrong

 


“Sticks and stones can break my bones,
but names can never hurt me.”


It’s an old childhood chant, a miserably inadequate defense against bullies and bigots when one is small and powerless. It was oft-repeated, not only by us, the little victims but by parents, teachers and other wise counselors. It was supposed to comfort us.

It didn’t because we all knew it was untrue.

Names can and do hurt. The hurt caused by a cruel name goes deeper than any mere cut or bruise to the body. Psyches heal, but slowly. Sometimes they never heal.

Horrible words. Can you still tell me — with a straight face — that names can’t hurt? Will you give me all your arguments that “political correctness” is stupid? That anything which makes it illegal or socially unacceptable to spew hate is too restrictive of free speech? Really? Your free speech? It’s not my free speech. I don’t talk that way and I don’t hang around anyone who does.

Do you actually believe it? Or did you read it as part of some rant on Facebook?

Of course, names hurt. They’re intended to hurt. Such words, hateful words have no other purpose but to cause pain. These words carry with them the ugliness of generations of haters.

It has been argued by otherwise respected bloggers that if a member of a minority (in your opinion) does you wrong, you have every right to strike back any way you can.

I disagree. Racial and ethnic name-calling epithets are never justified. By anything. Is it the word or its intent that hurts so much? I think both. Words have power.


“The pen is mightier than the sword.”


But wait a minute. I thought words could never hurt me? It’s a lie. Yes, words can hurt you, hurt me, hurt any of us.

Words bring with them the weight of history. A hated word carries the ugliness of everyone who has spoken it. Each time these words fly into the air, their potency is renewed and reinforced.

It’s time to stop forgiving bigots. We have to stop letting them off the hook. Those hate-filled monologues by drugged and drunken celebrities were not slips of the tongue. They were not the result of drugs or drink.

In vino veritas! Also written as in “uino ueritas,” is a Latin phrase that means “in wine lies the truth.” It suggests a person under the influence of alcohol (and in modern terms, also drugs) is more likely to speak his or her hidden thoughts and desires. (West German, Talmudic comment)

You could fill me with all the drugs and booze in the world and you’d never hear that from me. Because it’s not in me to say it. I don’t have a hidden pocket of hate waiting for drugs or booze to unlock it. But many do. And now, they seem to have been given permission to shout it to the world.



We are currently watching a Netflix production called “Five Came Back” about five internationally famous directors who went into World War II and created an amazing set of films. John Ford, William Wyler, John Capra, John Huston, and George Stevens created the war. Not a Hollywood war. The real war.

I look at it and I see tens of thousands of Germans shouting “Heil Hitler.” Trump may have his adherents, but they haven’t grown in number. They are not taking over our world. There are no brown shirts beating up minorities. They may want to, but most Americans draw that line. Whatever they believe, they do not believe it’s okay to form groups of bullies and beat down the rest of the population. It’s an important distinction.

People who talk hatred never do it by accident. It isn’t because of their environment, upbringing, or environment. It’s a choice they made. They know exactly what they are saying and why they are saying it.

It isn’t a joke. It isn’t funny. And most importantly, it isn’t okay.

Excuses are not enough. Phony repentance is not enough

Don’t give bigots and haters another chance.

GOT YOU IN THE CROSSHAIRS — Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Crosshairs

I know what crosshairs means today, but I got to wondering where the term came from. So I looked it up.

So it turns out it was originally a scientific term that came to be associated with gunnery.

I’ve never owned a gun with crosshairs, probably because the only two weapons I’ve ever owned was a 22mm-target rifle that belonged to my first husband and which only took one bullet and was used for competitive target shooting…

And — a Red Ryder BB rifle. They still make them and they look exactly like the one in “A Christmas Story.” They have a nice heft to them, though shooting them is an exercise in artillery. They don’t have enough power to shoot straight unless you are standing two feet away from your target, so you have to calculate the arc of the pellet. It’s really an exercise in calculus or is it geometry? Trigonometry?

We used that to slaughter paper plates with it in our backyard. I think Owen swiped it. Which was only fair since I just liked looking at it, but he enjoyed trying to actually aim it and hit something.

These days, the word is used rather casually to mean “I’m watching you carefully,” as in “I’ve got you in my crosshairs.” Not something I’m likely to say.

I don’t know that I’ve ever used the term myself, though I’ve heard it used in a thousand or two television shows. There are a bunch of shows on these days that could probably use “Crosshairs” as their title, especially “SWAT.”

Do the leveling things on a camera count as crosshairs? They aren’t hairs. They are software. Sort of crosshairs — in a virtual way.

A ROCK IS A ROCK IS A ROCK – Marilyn Armstrong

RDP-Sunday–ROCK

A rock is always a rock. No one argues whether it is a lady rock or a man rock unless the rocks argue between themselves. But yesterday, I was captioning a picture in Garry’s piece about the Oscars. It was the six actresses who are up for “Leading Actress” awards at tonight’s Oscars. I’ve noticed how everyone — male, female, and other — all refer to themselves as “actors” because we are not supposed to notice that there are actual physical differences between the sexes. Unless we are on a date, in which case we notice little else.

It brought to mind a sign I saw in a hospital — maybe 20 years ago? — which said, “Persons in need of gynecological care please go to the fourth-floor sign-in desk.”

Persons? How many male persons are in need of gynecological care?

As far as I am concerned, making all people the same effectively eliminates much of what makes us an interesting species. It certainly spells the end of much of the enjoyment we take in one another. I realize that women have been oppressed. I am a woman. I have been oppressed. I’ve been raped, nearly strangled by dates who had tentacles instead of arms. I’ve been paid less despite working harder — and better — than male colleagues. I’ve failed to be given a raise or a better job because I don’t have a dick.

I like being a woman. I don’t want to be a sexless “human” individual. I am not a rock. I like men because they are men and because they are funny and fun. Besides, I’m married to one and I like him. I think it’s mutual.

Left: female, Right: male

So for my caption, I wrote “Actresses.” Because they are women and the award is for best leading actress in a movie. If we are going to eliminate sex, why not just group all the leading actors — male, female, and other — in a giant group and just randomly give out awards because they are all actors, right?

Does anyone think that’s a good idea?

As long as we don’t use word discrimination because that’s BAD. Of course, we will still pay women less for the same or better work. Stranglers, rapists, and gropers won’t give a rat’s ass about wording. They know who is who and word games won’t change them.

Maybe it’s time to recognize that words have power, but proper phrasing is not going to change the interactions we find most hateful and cruel? Maybe it’s time to focus on the real problems and try to fix them — the cultural upbringing that tells boys it’s okay to maul a woman because they can. Maybe it’s time to pass that equal pay amendment. Maybe it’s time to make rape a serious felony and use the investigative information we have to nail the bastards.

Maybe the women competing for Best Actress should proudly remain women, too.

STICKS AND STONES by Garry Armstrong

A while back, Marilyn wrote a piece using the word chutzpah. This is a word I’ve badly mangled when I try to say it. It’s just a word, what the heck?

That was my take for many years until Robin Williams and Billy Crystal gave me a proper public whupping for butchering the pronunciation of chutzpah.  I don’t try to say it in public anymore. It’s a word. I respect it because it carries its own meanings and images.

These days, people often use words or phrases without understanding their origin or meaning. I hear political aspirants, celebrities, athletes and civic leaders say things that make me scratch my head and run back to my dictionary.

Words!  They can be powerful tools — used correctly — but dangerous used ignorantly.

I grew up in a home full of books including dictionaries. Huge dictionaries the size of an Austin and, of course, pocket-size dictionaries for all purposes. I always carried one when I worked and I can’t begin to tell you how many time people asked me why — being on television — I needed a dictionary. Or why I cared about spelling or punctuation.

My parents insisted on using proper language and crisp diction. Street slang guaranteed a head slap or a smack. My two brothers and I were warned about using prejudicial clichés. Since my head has never been properly wrapped, I’ve been guilty of violating those warnings because of my warped sense of humor.

Marilyn warns people that I have toys in my attic.  This is true and some of those toys are pretty old.

A friend and I were trading insults the other day. I snapped at him with, “That’s very white of you”.  His smile said everything. Words!  You gotta know who, when, and where to use them. It was the right word for him and would have been deeply insulting for someone else.

When I was 19 years old and worked in a department store in New York. I was the only goy working in the children’s shoe department. I was waiting on a customer who drove me bonkers. I couldn’t take it anymore and told the parent he was a schmuck.

The manager quietly called me into the stockroom, explained what schmuck meant and asked me never to use it again — even if the customers were jerks. I think he was smiling although reprimanding me.  It was a word I’d often heard used in friendly banter, but I didn’t know its origin or meaning. It was just a word. What was the big deal?  I was 19 and knew everything.  I used big words — “20-dollar” words — to impress people. People often complimented me, saying I spoke very well.  I didn’t understand the veiled insult behind many of those compliments because apparently, being Black, I wasn’t supposed to “speak well.”

After all, they were just words.

John Wayne, of all people, once commented on words and ethics.  It was film dialogue which still reverberates a half-century later. The 1961 movie “The Comancheros”  had Texas Ranger “Big Jake” Cutter (John Wayne) lecturing his younger sidekick, Monsieur Paul Regret (Stuart Whitman).

Regret asks Big Jake to spin a lie to his superiors to alleviate a problem. Big Jake refuses. Regret doesn’t understand, saying they are just “words.”

Big Jake, with that iconic Wayne frown, says softly, “Just words??  Words, MON-soor, are what men live by. You musta had a poor upbringing.”

Regret looks puzzled, not fully grasping the ethical code of this rough and ready Texas Ranger.  It’s a sublime moment and perfect for the 1960s when youth was defying the older generation’s moral code.

I recalled the scene years later in an interview with John Wayne. He smiled, shaking his head because he was in the middle of on-going national dissent against the Vietnam War.  Wayne was one of the most visible and vocal “hawks” in the Vietnam controversy. He had been ridiculed by strident protesters at a Harvard University gathering earlier that day.

“Words, dammit,”  Wayne looked at me, both angry and sad. “My words! No damn Hollywood script. I have as much right as those damn college kids.”  Wayne was fuming. The Hollywood legend collected himself as I redirected the conversation to my time as a Marine. I had enlisted in 1959, fired up by the “Sands of Iwo Jima.

“Words. Good words,” I said to Wayne who smiled broadly.

Today, words are often tossed around loosely on social media with little regard to truth or the repercussions of ill-advised words. We have a president who uses words without a thought in a daily barrage of tweets. Our media is engaged in a daily war of words, ignoring crucial issues facing our nation and world. Those of us of a certain age shake our heads as we watch young people immersed in tweets rather than a direct conversation with friends in the same room. Words have become an endangered species.

I remember the good old days when I and friends went face to face with verbal jousts like “Your Mother wears combat boots!”

Words!  I love’em.