I Have A Lover

I love language, and because English is the lover I grew up with, I love her best.  She’s subtle and sensible in slingback Louboutins and knee-torn Levis.  She can dance all night, gliding like a princess or grinding the stage burlesque or rustling between the trees like a black wind witch.  Because she is a witch — with conjures that — in magic — change her words to whatever she wants, whenever she wants them.  Yet she prefers straight talk — prepositions and modifiers that let you know exactly where and what and when — even if it isn’t now.

And my lover is a thief, stealing without remorse.  A freebooting pirate who, with cutlass in hand, takes the words she needs — and more — just because she can, gloried by the theft.

She’s an inventor.  Eagerly seduced, she will abandon herself to satisfy whatever necessity desires.

She is a mechanical engineer who fits strange words together with invisible nano-weld precision, producing new tools that exactly fit their employment.

But she’s also a glutton who dines at her sisters’ banquets, selecting the most delicate morsels to claim as her own, licking the tips of her fingers and never tiring of the feast.

Yet my lover remains lean and strong, hunting with the predators, hair flying, howling with the chase, sure-footed and agile.  

And she can be angry, too.  Her voice as fierce as cracked open thunder, her eyes black with homicide.

But she is always a flirt, tempting, enticing, inviting the wanton need to touch and hold and caress the words she speaks.

And she is always beautiful: sometimes drowsy as the sleeping mists of fog on the dawn forest floor; sometimes sad as a puppy’s tears, sometimes quiet as a spider’s abandoned threads and sometimes gauze angel white in the shimmering starlight.

But mostly, my lover loves me.  She laughs and sings and listens.  She speaks only truth (and the occasional lie.)  She stays with me even when I’m foul with blank page fury.  And when I have no words for her – when I’m on the edge of the wilderness, lost and alone, it is she who comes and finds me, and she takes my hand and whispers, “Let’s go home.”

Killing English

We are killing the English language.  I’m not talking about government euphemisms or corporation obfuscation.  No, this is ordinary people taking ordinary words and choking the life out of them.  Let me demonstrate.

Old — Where did all the old people go?  Apparently, they’ve all been rounded up and taken to an over-the-horizon retirement community where they’re enjoying senior living.  (I have no idea what this is BTW, but it seems to involve a lot of manicured lawns, plastic patio furniture and drugs.)  Then, one day, magically, they all become elderly and get carted off to an Elder Care Facility where … uh … I don’t know … we never hear from them again.  But old people?  No, our world doesn’t have any old people. 

Fat — Nobody’s fat these days, so unless you’re a supermodel, you have three choices — plus size, curvy and we’re not going to talk about it.  Apparently, the world believes that if we don’t actually say the word, people won’t know when their pants don’t fit anymore.

Brat — Let’s get real!  Not every obnoxious kid on this planet has a diagnosed illness.  Sometimes, they’re just brats, but if you want to get into a fistfight, mention the word.  It is amazing to me what lengths bad parents will go to, to avoid being called “bad parents” — including saddling their child with an incurable psychological disorder.

Stupid — “There’s no such thing as a stupid question.”  Think about this!  Of course there is, and they’re normally asked by stupid people.  The Law of Probability alone says half the population of this planet is stupider than the other half.  However, use the word to describe someone who is obviously in Group A and you’re liable to get lynched by a Twitter mob.

Ugly — I’m not even going to go there.

Died — When I was a kid, people died.  It was a harsh reality of life.  Then, suddenly, people quit dying and began passing away (like sugar dissolving in the rain.)  It’s a cute idea, but honestly, when someone goes headfirst through the windshield, “he passed away” doesn’t really describe it.  And, of course, these days, folks don’t even pass away anymore; they merely pass (as if it were a spelling test.)  The #1 preoccupation of literature, religion, philosophy and life itself, and we’ve reduced it to this bullshit?  How bland has our existence become?

This is the language of Shakespeare, Blake and Yeats — have some respect.  But the real problem is, as we continue to drown our language in mild, we’re starting to think that way and that scares the hell out of me.

Originally written January, 2016 and gently edited

BUT . . .

The most powerful word in the English language is “but.”  It’s a grammatical Liam Neeson with a very particular set of skills that kicks ass.  It’s way better than that greedy little “and” who’s always looking for something extra the minute he shows up.  And, don’t get me started on “or:” grammar’s Hamlet, who couldn’t make a decision if his life depended on it.  No, for sheer conjunctional word power, go with “but” every time.  Here’s why:

1 – “but” sugarcoats the punch in the face — When you want to rip somebody a new one but you don’t want them to get so angry they go home and get a shotgun, throw in a “but.”  For example: “Jennifer, you are one of our most valued employees, conscientious and hard-working, BUT you have the math skills of a goat, and if you don’t get with it, I’m going to fire you so hard your grandchildren will be unemployed.”

2 – “but” pleads your case — When you know you screwed up and you’re looking around for something else to blame, use “but.”  Once again: “I know I drove your car into the side of that guy’s house, BUT you didn’t tell me it had sticky brakes when I borrowed it.”

And if you play #2 correctly…

3 – “but” can even get you off the hook — “Normally, I’d pay for the repairs to your car, BUT if it wasn’t for me, you wouldn’t have ever known about those bad brakes.  Actually, I did you a big favour.”

Also

4 – “but” lets us look on the bright side — When your situation seems about as bleak as the slums of Mordor, try “but” to turn the lemon into lemonade.  “Hey, bro!  Sorry I had sex with your wife and your little sister last month after your birthday party, BUT they both phoned today, and guess what?  They’re not pregnant.  Cool, huh?”

And finally the most badass tool of all:

5 – nothing important ever gets said until someone says “but.” — In any conversation, discussion or argument, you can discount everything that’s said before “but.”  In fact, you don’t even have to listen.  Check it out:

“I understand your point of view, but only the part that happened before you opened your mouth.”
“Of course I agree, but not enough to quit arguing with you.”
“That’s an interesting opinion, but I’m not all that familiar with LooneyTunes cartoons.”
“Certainly, this current refugee problem is a crisis of biblical proportion and Western governments have a moral obligation to offer as much assistance as possible but what are all these gypsies, tramps and thieves doing in my country?”
“I like pasta, too, but there’s no way I’m eating that Italian glue tonight.”
“I’m not a racist but, man, those people are weird.”
“I love you dearly, but if you leave the toilet seat up one more time, I’m going to shoot you in the head.”
Etc. etc. etc.

So here’s to you, “but,” you sassy little conjunction!  Thanks for always being there for us.

Originally written November, 2015