Tag Archives: cussing

Tales From The Ice Age

Down here in the South, we’re not used to being snowed in.

Well, we are, but normally by snow we mean sunshine and by snowed in we mean enjoying the warm, sunny day. But I’m guessing it’s not really the same thing.

Anyway, the Great Blizzard of 2014 lasted from a Tuesday through a Saturday, which was when even the most timid person could drive on roads that had most recently been covered by snow and ice.

So, the other day, I was talking to some of my fellow survivors and we were discussing our various problems that surfaced when we couldn’t leave the house for almost four whole days.

With no further ado, I bring you one of those stories. I warn you, it’s not for the meek at heart, the timid nor the easily frightened. It contains instances of cannibalism* too frightening to be discussed in polite company.

Allow me to introduce Henry Tudor, who works as a freelance educator here in Charlotte. He’s a young dad, with two kids. His youngest is a little dude, who is about 2 years old. His first child, a young dudette, is about 4 years old.

“I got home Monday night and couldn’t leave the house until Saturday when I started calling people up and begging them to see if they needed to meet anywhere.

I mean, don’t get me wrong. It was fun. We made snow forts, built snowmen and threw snowballs and all that stuff. But we were Cheetos are a great snack, even though they leave your fingers all orange and sticky and with yellow crumbs all over your mouth.basically stuck inside for four days. And that’s inside for four days with two kids under 5 years old.

It seemed like all I was doing all day, every day, for all those snow-in days was picking stuff up. I would pick up one batch of stuff, get it squared away, then turn around and find another completely different batch of stuff scattered all over a different room. I almost got to the point where I was seriously considering that they were doing it on purpose, that they were out to get me.

As bad as all these messes were, nothing will beat what my son did.

I was putting away another armful of toys and stuff when he darted off behind my back to the pantry. There he got out a bag of those cheese crunches, like Cheetos. He ran to the couch and emptied the entire bag all along the length of the couch.

Then he stripped naked and started dancing all up and down on the Cheetos-filled couch.

I had a hard time getting angry about it because I was laughing so hard. It just made no sense. I asked him why he did it and he just looked up at me, completely innocent and shrugged. He had no idea. I guess it just seemed a good idea at the time.

I mean, it drove me crazy, but, I had to admit, as performance art, it was definitely next-level stuff.”

I’m happy to report that mother, daughter, son and father all made it through the experience only a little the worse for wear. The couch mostly cleaned up and the son had a nice midnight snack between his toes for the next day or so, which made him happy.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is kids in a nutshell. Not just dain-bramaged adults, but completely alien beings, who only happen to look like chubby, little adults.

*No, it doesn’t. I lied about that, mostly just for the lulz. I mean, the idea of a giant Cheeto eating a bunch of little Cheetos and it can’t stop. . . That’s comedy gold. Too bad I didn’t actually include anything about that in the post.

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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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Potty Mouth

Just about the hardest thing I ever did was to stop cussing.

I used to have to wash the inside of my car’s front windshield almost every other day just so I could get rid of all the spit on there from me screaming at all the drivers on the road trying to kill me. Or just ruin my day. I was, you might say, in a rage every time I got behind the wheel. I used to blister the leather from the steering wheel on a weekly basis. So, yeah, I cussed a blue streak so dark it was blacker than night in the bottom of a cave.

Then, of course, I had kids and decided that I didn’t want to hear them parroting back some of the words exploding from my mouth. The only way to do things right was to go cold turkey. I basically quit cussing. Totally. Completely. Heck, darn, gosh and golly entered my vocabulary and stayed. It took a while, but it became my preferred way of speaking.

Now, I have to actually force myself to use an actual, honest-to-goodness cuss word. I flinch when other adults say f***, s***, etc. My wife, who works in the adult world much more than I do, still curses like a drunken sailor on leave in a brothel and it drives me crazy. I feel embarrassed by words I used to drop without a thought.

However, I think the effort has been worth it. I’d much rather hear my little dude!s say stuff like gosh and darn than what they could be saying. They hear enough bad language from the rest of kids in their cohort. They don’t need to hear similar garbage from their dad. Changing my vocabulary was hard, but definitely worth it. You should definitely consider it.

–Richard

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