I like to keep this blog positive. I like to write about amusing observations, fascinating things I’ve learned, and great places to visit. But about ¼ of the time, I’d say that my posts are full on rants. Politics. Environmental concerns. General stupidity. What can I say? I’m nuanced.
I usually have about 10 blog posts waiting patiently in queue for their time in the spotlight. But here lately, there are some posts that I keep having to push further and further back in line. There are rants that have been waiting to vent their virtual spleens for weeks now. It feels as though I’m throwing a tantrum in a straight jacket.
But honestly, how can I complain about anything right now, with COVID-19 hiding in plain sight? What is more concerning than an invisible death threat? How can I expect you to take other things seriously when you’re worried about your health and livelihood?
I’m spending a lot more time sitting at this keyboard and staring at a blank screen, trying to figure out what you could possibly find of interest in light of the fact that the entire world seems to have been turned upside down. I’ve been writing a lot lately about COVID itself and how it is impacting us, but even I am getting a little sick of hearing about COVID. Except for those of us who are in deep denial, our lives seem to have become all COVID, all the time. It’s exhausting.
The irony is not lost on me. Technically, this is a rant about not being able to rant. I don’t know what else to say.
“Pish tosh,” I replied. “You’re extremely creative. I’ve seen it with my own eyes.”
“Yeah. Think of it as an alternative to ‘tsk’”
My friend suggested that she should start saying pish tosh every so often, but I doubt she will. She doesn’t strike me as the kind that would tsk anyone. She’s a lot more respectful than that.
From there, we talked about how many ways there are to express disapproval, contempt, disbelief, irritation, and in general, how easy we find it to be dismissive in the English language. We are quite good at discounting the beliefs of others as trivial or inconsequential. Once you start thinking of all the available words and phrases of this type, it is really quite shocking.
What follows is a list that is by no means comprehensive. I suspect you can come up with a few of your own. The fact that I can’t get through a day without using at least one of these says something about me that I don’t find particularly attractive.
I think that perhaps we should move away from this habit of being flippant, and move more toward being supportive and inclusive. But will we? Probably not, as long as there are so many creative ways to contradict others.
Which leads me to the last two words I came up with: Ugh, whatever.
So, I’m in a foul mood. I’ve been ensnarled in an idiotic bureaucratic bit of insanity, and the only one who will suffer is yours truly. To say that I’m irritated is putting it mildly.
I’d get it if it made sense. I’d roll with it if the hoops I’m being forced to jump through were mandatory. But no. I’m being put through my paces simply to avoid inconveniencing everyone except me.
And the worst part about it? My brain is sputtering. I can’t think of a single thing to blog about.
I’d really rather not turn into one of those bloggers who does nothing but rage against the machine. Okay, yeah. I do that every now and then. But I don’t want to only be known as the voice for the malcontents. I don’t want to simply rant so that no one else has to.
I want to be both light and dark, happy and sad. I want to be nuanced. I want to be layered, like an onion, only without bringing tears to the eyes of everyone who comes in contact with me.
So I’ll simply say that today I’m annoyed, and here’s a picture of a kitten. See? I can be nuanced, gosh darn it.
Oh, I’m so happy right now! It was recently announced that the American Dialect Society has named the singular “they” as 2019’s word of the year. This auspicious body always chooses a word that reflects the way we express ourselves in the modern world, and this one is perfect.
They made this choice because of its ever-increasing use as a gender neutral pronoun. And indeed, I can think of several people in my inner circle who have chosen they as their pronoun rather than he or she. I also see they used more and more to protect identity, such as in the case of Trump’s whistleblower. These are both excellent reasons to use the singular they.
And while those things are enough to make me happy, I’m positively ecstatic that this decision has opened up a discussion of the singular they in general. In fact, it’s finding its way into more and more usage guides. I wish my favorite, the Chicago Manual of Style, would get with the program, already. The snobbery over the use of this word has long been a pet peeve of mine.
Even the esteemed Oxford English Dictionary admits that the singular “they” has been in regular usage since at least 1375. They also point out that no one complains about the use of the singular “you”. Yup. “You” is a plural pronoun just as “they” is. The singular for you is, technically, thou. But wouldn’t you feel silly saying thou? I definitely would.
I’ve always felt that most grammar snobs are hopelessly pompous in their insistence that the English language remain timeless and inflexible. Don’t even get me started about those fools who still believe you can’t end a sentence with a preposition.
In fact, I view language as a sort of living, breathing organism that shifts and grows across time and culture. That’s one of the things that I love most about it. Language is a tool that we employ to communicate clearly. It’s not a cage in which we lock ourselves.
Besides, whether they admit it or not, every single person who is reading this post has used the singular they within the past 24 hours. (See what I did there?) I guarantee it. So join me in casting aside your grammatical guilt. Let they come out to play!
December 1, 2019 was the 7 year anniversary of this blog. Seven years, writing a new post every single day. That’s an amazing accomplishment, even if I do say so myself. When I started, I assumed it would be a 6 month project at most, because how on earth would I come up with a new topic every day? Surely no one has that much to say. And yet, here I am.
So you’d think I’d have remembered on the day. I should have taken myself out to dinner or gotten a massage or something. But no. It totally slipped my mind. WordPress had to remind me with their automated congratulations. I celebrated by eating apple pie for breakfast the next morning.
This blog has been a major part of my life. I spend at least 16 hours on it every week, and even more than that if you count the hours of stress over writer’s block and utter lack of inspiration. It’s been the source of great friendships and fascinating feedback. It has also been the source of my first book. I’ve also halfway cobbled together a second book, but I can’t seem to get motivated to finish it. (I was about to say that follow through is not my strong suit, but if that were the case, this blog wouldn’t exist. So the lack of a second book is due to basic laziness. Ouch.)
The bottom line is that I can’t imagine who I’d be anymore without this blog. I’m grateful that you’ve taken the time to read it, dear reader. I’ve marked my calendar so that I won’t miss this anniversary in future years. I hope there will be many more celebrations to come.
I can’t help but wonder, though, why it’s so easy to overlook our own accomplishments, even for those of us who wouldn’t think of overlooking the accomplishments of others. That sounds like the topic for a future blog post. Hmmm…
I fell in love with The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer when I was introduced to it in high school. It’s a satire of 14th century England, and it lampoons a whole series of character types. The characters are fictional, but some people link them to actual people living at the time. Either way, it’s brilliant.
What I love about writing is it immortalizes the subject in question. No mater what that person does after that time, his or her behavior is trapped, like a fly in amber, forevermore on the page, all at the whim of the author. That’s pretty powerful stuff.
Chaucer has shown us buffoons that, if living, would now be 700 years old. If you’re an idiot, beware, because a writer could be watching you, and you will be forever linked with your muddleheaded behavior. Take that.
Although I’m no Chaucer, in memory of him I’ll now immortalize a fool that I encountered once in my bridgetending career. I’ll call him the Hot Pink Glasses Guy. He shall wear those tacky glasses forever more within this blog, long after his taste in fashion has (hopefully) improved.
One day I was at work, and I began a bridge opening for a very large gravel barge that was making its way to a concrete processing plant. This barge passes back and forth on a daily basis. I’ve probably opened the bridge for him a thousand times. I could do it in my sleep if I didn’t care so much about minor things like not getting people killed.
It was a beautiful day, so I had the windows open. Because of that, I could hear someone shouting as he walked down the sidewalk. “Too soon! Too soon!” he screamed.
I had the bridge completely open by then and the barge was slowly passing through, so I looked out the window at the shouter. It was a skinny white guy, in his early 20’s, jumping up and down in extreme agitation, causing his hot pink glasses to fairly dance on his tense little face. “Too soon!”
Then he crawled under the gate and approached the bridge, which at this point is about 1 million pounds of lurching, swaying concrete and steel.
“Uh, sir, you need to get back behind the gate for your safety.”
“Safety? What do you know about safety? You’re an idiot! You don’t know how to do your job! You opened the bridge way too soon! I studied engineering at the University of Washington. I know what’s safe and what’s not! How is this not safe?”
I could have talked about the fact that the barge weighs more than 3000 gross tons, and can’t exactly slam on his brakes or do a u-turn in the narrow channel, and therefore needs a lot of lead time for safe passage. I could have listed all the people who have died on drawbridges while doing stupid things. I could have talked about my 18 years of experience. But what would be the point? Sigh.
“Well, sir, for starters, you’re behaving irrationally and I don’t know what you’re going to do next. I can’t close this bridge until you get back behind the gate.”
He sat down on the concrete, looking smug. So I added, “Sir, do you see all these other people? You’re holding them up. I could call 911 and wait for them to arrive, but you’re going to have a very angry crowd to deal with until then.”
And sure enough, people started shouting at him. (There’s nothing like public humiliation to get a bridgetender’s desired results.) He slinked back under the gate, but not before one more petulant retort. “Idiot,” he grumbled.
I closed the bridge, but before it was completely seated, this genius walked across the street, crawled under that gate, and crossed the still-closing bridge. Because that’s safe. Because he’s an engineer. He can do anything.
Well, it seems I’ve ruffled more than a few feathers of late. Most of those feathers seem to be firmly attached to Trump supporters, and that’s perfectly okay with me. I can’t imagine that we’ll ever see eye to eye.
Here’s the thing. I’m not a journalist. I’ve never claimed to be one. I’ve never wanted to be one. If you’re looking for facts, you’ll want to look elsewhere. What I write are for the most part opinion pieces.
My whole life I’ve been told that I have strong opinions. For decades I took that as a character flaw of some sort. I tried really hard not to have opinions, but it just wasn’t in me. Those failed attempts caused a great deal of self-loathing and wasted time.
Then, with maturity, I realized that everyone has opinions. I just tend to express them more than the average person. So why not turn that into an asset by way of writing a blog? Well, that isn’t going to make everyone happy. So be it.
I think the confusion occurs when people assume that I insist that everyone should agree with my opinions. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. After all, who the hell am I to dictate what anyone else thinks? I don’t consider myself an influencer.
I speak for me, not for anyone else. My opinions are mine. This blog is mine. It’s therapeutic for me. If this were the 19th century, I’d probably be writing a diary. It’s wonderful to have a broader forum. But rest assured that your participation is voluntary.
I’m writing it for me, and if my readers enjoy it, I view that as a delightful side benefit. Many times you give me broader insight, or inspire other posts, or get me interested in topics that I would never have thought to pursue. I’m grateful for that.
But if in the process of writing this blog I step on a few toes, I’m guessing those toes will take themselves elsewhere eventually. I hate to say this, but I really couldn’t care less either way. That’s one of the few facts I’ll lay claim to.