Monday, November 16, 2009

Be quite..ewe never should have sayed a whirred...

Okay,so much to my chagrin, I was politely informed by my extremely diplomatic father regarding my use of  the idiom "towing the line" in the previous post, that, in fact,it's  "toeing the line".As some of you know, I relish the world's grammatical and spelling mistakes and often pass them on to my wordsnob friends, and we all have a good chuckle and shake our heads at other people's ignorance.  I live for the moments like the woman asking if it was worth the trip to "Chicken Itza" to see the ruins, or Dan Quayle's famous quote about his party's understanding of the importance of"bondage between a mother and child." And let's not forget his butchering of the slogan  "A mind is a terrible thing to waste", when he paraphrased himself into history by attempting to incorporate it into a speech he gave before the United Negro College Fund: "what a waste it is to lose one's mind. Or not to have a mind is being very wasteful. How true that is." Or his defining moment as a total moron when he his corrected a student's spelling of the word "potato" during an elementary school spelling bee. Though his card read " potatoe",was he so unnerved by all of the third graders that he couldn't think for himself and simply make the correction on his own? It still gives me pause. Come on, really, the vice president did that?
Now, there remains the question of perspective. I assume that while African American jaws dropped all over the country,many folks' hearts went out to Mr.Quayle. What kind of a slogan is that anyway? Is it elitist to expect the vice president to know the slogan of the UNCF?  And maybe potato should have an "e" on the end of it. It sure sounds like it would have one.
There is salt of the earth, and down home and regular folk and then there is just- well, hmmm...I shouldn't say it. I suppose it all relative.I mean, I kind of understand, for example, why Cap'n Ron fired me from The Galley all those years ago.I was an okay waitress but didn't entirely fit in.Most of the girls had been there for decades and were earning the living wage rate of ten bucks an hour before tips,so outsiders were a threat.Most of the girls there outright unfriendly,except one who pulled me aside to tell me my breath smelled.Cap'n Ron also took me aside several times, in the two weeks I worked there, and questioned my integrity as a human being and repeatedly probed me for answers about who I was and how I fit in to the "family"at his restaurant. I wanted to say " Gee,I dunno Cap'n Ron", I took this horrendous waitressing job at your overpriced shmaltzy fish house where we are all forced to call you Cap'n Ron ( though somehow I think you probably don't know the first thing about boats-except the shrimp boat on page 2 of your menu) because I really need the money.Heh, heh, I mean, I have a family,Cap'n Ron, and boy, I thought they were fucked up, but this is like the fucking Twilight Zone!!!".
We weren't exactly talking people off of ledges.It was mostly giving them their fried shrimp and free coke refills and being approachable. Instead ,I said," Uh, well, Ron.. er... I mean.... Cap'n Ron, I am not a duplicitous person.I don't know what else to say.." He interrupted me,shaking his head and waving his hand in the air.." you see? " he said with frustration, " that's what I am talking about..I don't even know what you are saying with big words like that..".I actually blocked out the exact quote because I really didn't hear much of what he said after "big words". The guy was at least forty, and must have gone to school somewhere or taken an SAT test at some point. He could have at least pretended to know and looked it up later if it threatened him so much, but he didn't care what it meant and didn't want it used in his restaurant. I was fired the following Friday and still couldn't bring myself to tell him what an asshole he was. Or,could it be that  he was just a regular guy and I was the pretentious asshole....??hhhmmmmm....interesting...
I suppose none of us is perfect, but there are lines that shouldn't- no can't be crossed or I feel like we are entering "Idiocracy" several centuries early. I  was recently reading a post on friend's facebook page and noticed the first comment said"keep it sheik and simple". A second commenter echoed her sentiment to keep it "sheik". I was floored.Not one on the eleven other comments mentioned it.I brought it to the attention of my friend,via a private message of course, and he replied "Bugged me too,homonym police". There was the slight possibility that the whole "sheik" thing was an inside joke,since everyone involved was either a writer,a comic or an actor, in which case, I was the pretentious asshole again (!!??), not the commenter(s). However, as I did not go to a fancy college, I think that if I know something  then so should everybody else.. I suppose I undervalue my almost entirely private school education by saying that, but how does one,especially a woman, go through life never seeing "chic" in print?Not to mention that they really aren't homonyms at all, as "sheik" is pronounced "shake".I must mention that to my fb friend, and tell him my correct title is Malapropsim Cop, or maybe in light of recent posts, Malapropism Security Guard is better.
Which brings us to my gravely embarrassing faux pas.I realize that it is  a common occurrence, but I really have no recollection of ever seeing the expression "toeing the line" spelled as such. I suppose I have always had the image in my head of someone pulling a line with lots of exertion, implying that they are doing what is required of them. The two or three people I have mentioned it to have spelled it "tow" initially, but all corrected themselves before I could.  And my father did have twenty one more years in which to hone his vocbulary. The derivation is disputed as well- some say it came from the British House of Commons back when "sword-strapped members were instructed to stand behind lines that were better than a sword’s length from their political rivals in order to restore decorum.".It also pertained to foot races and boxing at different points and is still used by active and reserve components of the US Army  as a command to line up. At any rate, it's origins are traced back well before I was born, and as I was never British, a runner,  a boxer or in the US Army, I am not entirely convinced that my ignorance on this is all that big of a deal. However, I am  certain that there will be many many more polite emails about my blog and it's grammatical errors.Please never stop.
In closing, I guess it's a all mute point as long as I bare witness to my own ignorance. I can climb the imaginary bean stock looking for vocabulary gold, and hone in on the twenty dollar words.No one has to know that I am not the sharpest marble in the drawer. I can always tell a bold-faced lie about what I know. But like a horse chomping at the bit, I have a thrust for knowledge that often takes me into entymological territories beyond my apprehension.As the saying goes, a leopard can't change his stripes!

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