Tag Archives: Chaos

Singular Or Plural

Words, dude.

Words fascinate me. I love to learn new words, to revel in the onomatopoeia of certain words like tintinnabulation or bark. I love to learn the history of words as well, to see where we’ve come and possibly guess where we’re going.

I love words.

All of which goes to say that I’ll be talking about words today. More specifically, the use of is and are. Don’t worry, though, it’s not going to be boring. Promise.

Here’s my question: When did the United States become a singular noun, instead of a plural one? I mean, think about it. There are 50 states comprising the United States. Notice the s there on the end of State? That’s to indicate that there are more than one state involved in the whole enterprise.

Which should mean that, in discussing the aggregate, we should be saying “The United States are going to welcome people from other nations.” Instead, what we hear these days is, in fact, singular: “The United States is going to welcome people from other nations.”

The even more intriguing thing is that, in the beginning? When the nation first pulled itself out of the chaos surrounding English occupation? We referred to the country in the plural: The United States are. . .

In an interesting bit of internet detective-izing, a redditor poster LeftHandedMasterRace, aka Kyle, decided to investigate a rather old quote that purported to answer the questin of the pluralized singularity. The quote is this: “There was a time a few years ago when the United States was spoken of in the plural number,”reads an article published April 24th, 1887, in The Washington Post. “Men said ‘the United States are’ — ‘the United States have’ — ‘the United States were.’ But the war changed all that.”

Was this really the case? LeftHandedMasterRace decided to find out. So he went digging using some actual Google tools actually designed for this sort of thing and found, oddly, that the quote wasn’t really an exaggeration. It wasn’t a piece of fluff designed to make something sound even better than it was.w680

He set up a program to check the use of “the United States are” and “the United States is” between 1760 and 2008. What he found was almost perfect backing for the Washington Post quote.

Although the plural usage continued well into the 20th century, it was on a quick trend downward toward zero. The reforging of the union following the Civil War really did seem to put the United States into the singular feeling.

We became a nation, holding states, rather than many states that stood together to form a nation. It’s a subtle difference, but one that says a lot about how we look at ourselves and our country.

A hat tip to Robert T. Gonzalez at io9.com for bringing this up.

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How To Make Yourself Happy

There’s a growing body of thought that says happiness isn’t something that happens to you, but something you can go out and get, something you can create. Happiness isn’t a place, but rather a state of mind.

You can make yourself happy. If only you decide you want to do it, and find the right way to go about it.

Gretchen Rubin is one of the most thought-provoking and influential writers on happiness. Her booksHappier at Home andThe Happiness Project were both instant New York Times bestsellers, and The Happiness Project has spent more than a year on the bestseller list.

At her blog, Rubin talks about ways she goes about researching happiness and testing out various theories in her own life. One of those ways is to take on a happiness project. That is, consider creating a plan to make yourself happy. People resolve to do things that will make themselves happy.

And, according to Rubin, the number-one thing that people resolve, the first thing that they say will make them happy once they start doing it is. . . making the bed.

Yes, really.

Now, it’s true that some people thrive on a little chaos. They find a disorderly room to be comfy and casual. When one of my friends was growing up, her mother made such a big deal of keeping the house clean that now my friend has gone far in the opposite direction. Very far. Most people, however, even if they may find it tough to keep things tidy, prefer to live in orderly surroundings.

It’s a Secret of Adulthood: for most people, outer order contributes to inner calm.

You dudes have no idea how many times I’ve tried to drive this lesson home to the young dudes in the house. You should see their desks. Well, no, maybe you shouldn’t see their desks. They’ve been known to drive strong men to drink, less-strong men to scream and just-plain men to run into the night, even when it’s daytime.

“Why do I have to make my bed? It’s just going to get messed up again tonight.”

If your little dude or dudette is older than six or so, you’ve definitely heard that sentiment. And, yes, it will get messy again, but for the time it’s not. . . It’s as if theirs is a whole different room.

Rubin is right. When my bed is made, my room looks more open, less crowded, less like a cave and more like a space in which someone might want to live.

When my desk is clean and neat, I just feel better. I feel like I can get things done. Mostly because I usually use the excuse of straightening up to procrastinate when I’ve got work to do. Still, there’s nothing to beat that neat-desk feeling.

It’s something that really is difficult to get across to those young enough that they don’t understand it intuitively, as most adults do. Outer order contributes to inner calm. 

Give it a try. Even if you can’t get the little dudette in your life to do it right now, at least making your own bed will leave you feeling better, happier and more ready to face the day.

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Over There? No. Maybe Under The Couch. . .

by Richard

Just wondering where the time went.

There I was, up in the wilds of Northern Idaho with Sarcasmo and the lovely, soon-to-be-and-currently-one-year-older-than-spring-chicken-me She Who Must Be Whimsical To Be Catered To, making sure to post just about every day, when . . . boom.

Suddenly, here it is Wednesday and I’ve been missing for a day and a half.

Oops.

Not much else I can say. Getting back into the swing of things at Wonderful Elementary School, getting back into the groove with some of the coolest kids I’ve ever met (plus some teachers), and making sure Hyper Lad and Buzz, The Garbage Disposal That Walks Like A Dog, are all right. . .

That seems to take up a bit of attention. If you know what I mean. And even if not. It still commands some attention.

Even more, Zippy the College Boy came home from University of North Carolina Wilmington last night, courtesy of the neighbors, and proceeded to bring havoc back with him. It seems we’d become used to the relative quiet.

Because when Zippy the College Boy came home, so too did the Posse, a group of three to four boys around Zippy the College Boy’s age, and so too did the chaos. In only a short few weeks, it seems as if I’d forgotten just how loud four to five mid-to-late teens can become.

Very, just in case you dudes were wondering.

Very.

So now I’m sitting in the relative quiet of the early morning. Zippy the College Boy is doing what college boys since time immemorial have done: sleeping. Hyper Lad and his semi-constant companion Tip are passed out in the Creature Cave, following a late-night sleepover full of killing and blood. (On a video game.) And She Who Must Be Off is away to work.

Things are — for now — quiet.

Which means it’s time to catch up.

Which means it’s time for me to be off. I’ve got people to do and things to see. And so I will.

And also will be back tomorrow, when we talk about giving thanks.

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