Citizens of the World

The cards were inconspicuous enough.  Several small slips of yellow cardboard piled neatly at the end of our pew, silently asking for information.  “What are the respective ages of you and those family members attending this mass?” it read.   Behind us, Ms. Pat, our next-door neighbor whispers while the collection baskets circulate among the congregation.

“Better fill this thing out guys.  I usually forget this nonsense, but if they don’t meet their quota, they’ll cancel 7:30 mass.  You know what that means . . .” Continue reading

A Warning

Suddenly Shannon dived across the driving wheel, grabbing the switch for the Explorer’s high beams.  The oncoming Lincoln Towncar and its senior pilot, soaring down the highway nearly ten miles below the speed limit, were well-warned of the speed trap on the far side of the reservoir.  My brother seemed pleased with his stealth attack — despite the fact that I nearly lost control of the car.  He had won.  I had lost.

“We’re thirty feet from the cop car, dude,” I screamed.   “A red and blue flashing atop hill, visible for half-a-mile.  Why flash my own lights?  It’s like pointing out the obvious.” Continue reading

Word Families

bookopen2Every family possesses a language all its own, independent of its own nation, region, or race. Here in the U.S. despite the fact that we all (supposedly) speak the same tongue, we rarely understand one another. As Mark Twain reminds us during one of his visits to France: In Paris they simply stared when I spoke to them in French; I never did succeed in making those idiots understand their language. Perhaps French families teach their children a different form of the language then our American textbooks teach us.

Our family is no different; in a house of eight kids (give or take several) and two frazzled adults (not to mention aunts, uncles, cousins, and a multitude of friends), our home rivals the population of a small mid-west town. As such, variations in language emerge everyday to confuse and bewilder those foolish enough to believe that vocabulary should remain static. The following represents only a small chunk of aberrations of speech typical of the Murphey family:


A – (noun) abbreviation for ass or mule, an irritating individual

Etymology – a truly worthless substitution used by Mother Murphey in order to insult someone like my brother Sean without being crude (i.e. actually saying the word ‘ass’). Though the insult endures despite the replaced terminology, Mom still affirms that it is a much politer method to degrade an insufferable twit.


Mo-gift – (noun) a gift or present given to another solely for the benefit of the giver (presumably because both individuals live together)

Etymology – derived from the Christmas gifts given by my Aunt Mo, such as a blender to her husband, an iron to her daughter, and a Steel Magnolias DVD to her son


Ijit – (noun) A poor driver (i.e. one who drives too slowly, cuts others off, sidles between two lanes, drives without headlights in the rain, or generally reads, texts, shaves, applies makeup, picks nose, cleans car, or checks email all while driving)

Etymology – typically an ijit applies only to others never the speaker regardless of how many infractions he or she commits while condemning others.


Warsh – (verb) to clean, wipe clear

Etymology – origin unknown; however, Mom affirms that this word is quite common across the country (none of my college friends can confirm this despite their state of birth). Often mispronounced by the general public as ‘wash’ (note the absence of the ‘r’); after years of usage, this word earned several younger Murpheys poor scores on their Spelling Bee’s

See Also: Warshington D.C., Warshinton state, General George Warshington


Moth-van-bush-wooken – (part.) to shove up in one’s face

Etymology – created by Pat’s good friend Matthew, who irritated by the tendency of ESPN newscasters to make up words (i.e. winningest) wished to illustrate just how easy it is to report the sports when proper diction is no longer required.


Which-come – (noun) a missing object; a lost tool or instrument so well hidden that its very name eludes the speaker

Etymology – My family’s word for anything we cannot remember: “Ok, so we have our hammer, nail gun, and the jigsaw . . . where’s that whichcome I left here?” “Your iced tea is behind you, Dad.”


Japanese porn – (noun) manga or anime

Etymology – Sigh. Ok, so one little misunderstanding and my hobby deteriorates into an activity for freaks or deviants . . . anyway, term derived by Murph’s brothers and sisters after browsing through some Love Hina comics he had received for Christmas. Despite my constant and continued protests, this appellation continues. I am so sorry Mr. Miyazaki.

Word Play

Tonight while Mom and Dad braved the cold and frigid winds to attend a wedding, the kids and I tucked into our bed clothes and played some board games. Our game of choice was Balderdash, a wonderful game of creativity lies, archaic words, and fake definitions. Needless the say, I love this game, whose principal purpose involves creating definitions for obscure words and then trying to uncover the true definition among the false. Players receive points not only for guessing the correct definition, but for tricking others into choosing your own. Unfortunately, not everyone takes the game all that seriously. Between the following definitions can you guess which ones are fabricated, authentic, and one of my bored brothers’:

Amaranth

· an imaginary flower that never dies

· love of ancient Chinese folklore

· a chemical used that was believed to make someone fall in love with another goat

Ollecranon

· the funnybone

· an element used to convert crude oil to gasoline

· a person from Olekron

Tragelnaschalia

· excessive body odor emanating from the armpits

· a disease infecting most sailors who have traveled to the Gold Coast of West Africa

· the gay guy from the female sex

Oneirocritic

· an interpreter of dreams

· black credit

· one of those pricks who still refuse to acknowledge the greatness that is Boondock Saints

Thrunter

· a 3-year-old female sheep

· a person looking for a foreign object

· a hyper rabbit (‘Hey, they call me Thrunter ‘cause I like to thrunt!)

Zori

· a thronged Japanese sandal

· the wife of Zorro

· outfits that Chinese prostitutes wear

Ennead

· nine of anything

· an epic sea voyage

· someone who is in need of something, ya heard?

Mancinism

· favoring the left hand

· the belief that the world is flat

· extreme affection for a mannequin or doll

Systems Analysis

The instructions on the assignment bore into my brain like a drill. Look through Flickr. After finding three photos, derive your own tags for the photos and then compare them with others’ tags and the metadata provided by the Library of Congress.

Gah . . . every word tightens my nerves like another turn at the medieval rack. My sinews stress, my jaw clenches, I yearn to visit Florida and sip pina coladas with Michelle, my masseuse, professional model, and online guild leader. I read another sentence of instructions and feel my stomach clench.

Summarize the main points of the following articles. More PDFs which discuss adapting information retrieval tools to the digital age flash onto the screen, now rendered dull and soporific with words like “utilize,” “protocol,” and “incremental process.” I wonder how many authors collapsed writing these sentences, whether the end of each paragraph was toasted with a long draught of cooking sherry, followed by a primal scream atop a high balcony, a fleeting desire for sun-baked beaches and lengthy breezes before turning back to the laptop for another page.

Slowly I begin to type my own summary.

You see, I am a big fan of universality. Two thousand years from now Shakespeare will still remain a genius, two plus two will still add to four, and unless the moon jumps from its orbit to collide with earth, a feather and a brick if dropped will still accelerate at the same rate – minus air resistance.

Yet a mere five years from now, the tagging and metadata methodologies of today will not exist. These systems will not matter. The conventions, abbreviations, and technology that I use, memorize, and ultimately reiterate using my own words today will cease to matter then. I have a big problem with that. Mom and Katie simply tell me to act like a man and suck it up.

“These are simply the hoops everyone has to jump through in order to get that diploma, honey. I know it’s a pain, but it has to be done.”

Yeah, but once again the professor is asking me to memorize facts for the sake of a test and then jettison the material afterwards, a strategy I have tried long and hard to abandon since grade school: learn for the sake of a grade then forget everything. If I follow Mom’s advice, I will have spent nearly fifty-thousand dollars for a piece of non-recyclable paper and tabula rasa.

I suppose that even a semi-blank mind supersedes abandoning amino acid tables, Shakespearean sonnets, and those few memorized lines from Casablanca. Nonetheless, the assignment makes me cringe like the sound of an anxious cat thrown against a chalkboard. In the end, you are left irritated and slightly befuddled, questioning the sense of it all.

“Hold on,” you ask. “What purpose did hurling the cat serve?”

“It’s part of the curriculum,” they respond.

“Why not then hurl her at something softer, less irritating, like a mattress or at least mildly interesting like a flock of geese or a pool of Jello?”

“Who knows?” they respond again. “Just be sure to fill in the circles completely with a No. 2 pencil. You have five minutes remaining.”

Sigh. Well, no one said education was going to be easy.

I’m no good at being noble, but it doesn’t take much to see that the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. Someday you’ll understand that.

— Rick

Sigh. Yeah, someday maybe I will too . . .