Thursday, February 26, 2009

Lots o' Words

There have been recent reports that this year - April, to be more exact, the English language will reach a milestone of having 1 million words in its lexicon.

Really? In all these years that people have been speaking English, we haven't surpassed that milestone yet?

There are all sorts of statistics - and frankly, I'm feeling a little lazy today and don't want to be bothered looking them all up - that even though we have all these words at our disposal, on any given day, the "average" English speaker uses only a tiny fraction. I had heard somewhere a few years ago, too, that the "average" English speaker communicates on a 5th-grade level, meaning that the more advanced words don't come up in conversation. I would like to see some more data on that.

When I was in college, I took a linguistics course, and remember the professor saying that we invent new words every day, and others that have been in use fade away with time if they become outdated/antiquated. I mean, in today's world, we generally don't use the same language or phrasing that Shakespeare used. Which had me thinking about Urban Dictionary, which brings us all things slang in the English language. Some of the words are just plain funny, and I'm sure the site is really no more than a modified "wikipedia" of language (yeah, you know what I mean).

So, do these slang words count among the verified million? When do we allow a word to become accepted as part of our lexicon and dictionary? Does the million-word-count allow for attrition? I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on our approaching one million words. Have any words to add?

Monday, February 23, 2009

Lightning Crashes

Death...and Life. The circle continues...

My previous post was about the anniversary of my mother's passing, 18 years ago. While the sorrow is still there, time has allowed me to move on. However, others I know are not as fortunate to have "time" just yet. In the last few weeks, it seems that so many people in my life have been touched by loss and grief, sickness and death. My thoughts and prayers go out to all of them during this difficult time.

On the flip side, during these last few weeks, I've also learned that several people I know are expecting, and for most of them, it's their first child. My heart is full of joy for their good news and blessing.

Such a bittersweet moment, trying to share in the happiness of some and console the anguish of others.

I think of the Jack Johnson song If I Could, and the lyrics "They say that new life makes losing life easier to understand." It may not help us to understand loss any better, but it should give us hope, at the very least, that life continues, and, in that life, there should be better days ahead.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Winter of '91

Today is the 18th anniversary of my mother's death. It was a day that changed my world in almost every way imaginable. I apologize for the somber tone of today's post, but wanted to pay tribute with this poem I wrote a few years ago.
---
The Winter of '91


The chill of the winter blast cut deep
with its icy razor, through the skin into the bone,
cut deep but blood froze on its way from the throat,
and the fingers of the brilliant sun
tossed salt onto the icy patch, salt upon the back
cut deep by the thrash of the cane whip.

In my 7th grade English class, I sat
still as the frozen day outside, limited speech,
eyes fixed on the sky, blue terrain over white,
I sat while the kids rehearsed diagrams and lines;
and they came. Called my name for the somber ride,
came up three floors to the unit hall, came
through the doors to the bed where she slept –
slept, but beginning the trip – packed and ready,
while we stood in the room unable to move –
in that room like all the rooms we’d known before.
Monitors kept time, breathing life, dripping slow,
keeping minutes like days. Could she stay
just a little longer?
No, no, she’s ready now.

I had walked away for a momentary break
but the clock stopped short before my return.
The words dropped from their lips, I paused
my reaction in disbelief. It cannot be.
She was the fortress of the lion, a Capricorn star.
The brightest constellation clipped its string from the sky.
Her brilliance was stolen by that demon sun,
The way it reared its head higher over white terrain.
A brilliance my eyes shunned, and that silenced the tongue.
Caught within the tunnel that allowed only half the light,
Like months of Arctic night, turning days to years.

I remember the funeral, and then pouring tea
for the comfort of friends, comforting them! Stood straight
in the room where she was, not a week ago –
her essence pervading the walls, her touch on the cups.
And all that I’d known, all who showed pity shifted
in tag-team parallels with those who stayed back from hell.

Then words stopped completely.

Years have passed now – how I’ve grown!
My sister and I became women too quickly, we were
women of 12 and 17, yet I still dreamed
of that winter white brilliance, transcending
the bitter incision and salt-sting on my back.
How the skin pulled tightly over the sores and blood,
frozen from its way up to the tongue.
Now my blood flows swiftly and warmed by the sun,
I take in the light, swallow its rays – swallow
and keep it to counter other sharp winter days.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Unreality TV

Last night I was flipping around the tube to see if there was something better to watch than "The Biggest Loser: Couples;" I stumbled upon "90210," this century's version of the 1990s TV staple. The thirty-seconds I watched were painful to say the least, with a strained conversation between Kelly and Brenda, also staples from the 1990s that were brought back to life for a new generation.

I'll admit - I watched the original "Beverly Hills, 90210" back in its hey day, for all the trash and unlikely circumstances they all found themselves in. It was the "Dynasty" of our age. And what girl didn't swoon over Luke Perry or Jason Priestley?? When they recently decided to bring the show back, I rolled my eyes and thought, "oh great, another show about spoiled teens in California. How novel." However, when the original debuted, believe it or not, it was novel. Back then , us kids didn't have a show to call our own with heavy drama - however unrealistic...and we had to walk to school in the snow, uphill, both ways, with newspaper tied around our feet...

In those days, I also watched another "novel" show that was created to counter the fake sun baked brattiness of BH - "The Real World." It was one of the first "reality" shows to grace TV, and, although it played on character stereotypes, seemed about as real as it could be - then. But it opened the door wide open - actually, you could say it just broke the door off the hinges - to more seasons of "The Real World" and cheesy spin-offs, and now we find ourselves swimming in a sea of so-called reality TV that is about as real as the Tooth Fairy. You name it, there is a reality show about it, and more often than not, the people on the shows depict the lowest denominator of our society.

Sure, there are good, scripted shows on TV today - some of my favorites are "House" "Flight of the Conchords" and I hear "Dexter" is worth a view. But these days, I have to wonder when we will ever return to quality programming that doesn't involve ex-strippers, jockeys, fat camps, wannabe rappers, wannabe singers, wannabe dancers, and just plain wannabes.

I thought about this last night as I changed the channel back to "The Biggest Loser."

Monday, February 16, 2009

Happy Monday

I have nothing earth-shattering or thought-provoking to say today, but I'm feeling good and thought I'd share.

Today is President's Day here in the U.S. My company had the good sense to declare a holiday, so I have been savoring my extra day out of the office. Some other things about the long weekend that brought a smile to my face:
  • My wonderful husband and the nice Valentine's Day we spent together, eating Indian food and seeing a new movie in the theatre
  • Reconnecting on facebook with not one, but three people from Germany that participated in a student exchange with me back in the day
  • Learning that a good friend of mine is expecting
  • Successfully baking for the first time, from scratch, all fresh ingredients - eggplant parmesan
  • Finally taking a step toward home-reconstruction. Finally.
  • Having the sun shine in a way to remind me that spring is coming soon
  • Sharing an afternoon shopping trip and lunch with my wonderful sister

It's the little things that make me smile. What has made you smile today?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

L-O-V-E

Whether you're humming "L.O.V.E" or shouting "Love Stinks" lately, the inevitable is coming...in just 4 days...

Valentine's Day!


It's such an odd holiday, really, wrapped up in chocolate coating and Hallmark tissue paper. For those who may be single, the day has a tendency (not always, mind you) to exasperate the feeling of being single and alone (even if only in your head). For those in relationships, it's a day programmed in our psyche where we MUST buy gifts and go out to dinner and spend all kinds of money to show the person you're with that you REALLY love them. But the TRUTH is that if you really love the person you're with, you should be expressing your love every day, not just on Valentine's Day. Plus, as J Lo would say, "Love Don't Cost a Thing." But I digress.

Last week, I watched Love and Other Disasters - a cute film about the complexity of budding relationships. One of the lines struck me: "Love is not an event but a process." That's probably one of the best arm-chair therapist clich├ęs about love and romance that has graced the silver screen (anyone remember these cheese-filled quotes: "Love means never having to say you're sorry" or "You had me at hello"?) For all the advise dispensed out there to, well, just about anyone who is of age to be in a relationship, what it comes down to is this: You gotta figure it all out for yourself.

Still...think about it. Love is a process. You may experience love in a new relationship, but it grows deeper over time (or at least, it should); it evolves. It's not like once you're in a relationship (or married, even) that you've reached the summit and that moment is the end-all, be-all. There's more, if you allow it.

The other thing is that it's a process within ourselves. Hopefully, we grow and mature and learn from the other person. If the relationship doesn't work out, maybe even ending horribly, with any bit of luck, you'll come out more aware of yourself and what your needs are. {This has been a PDA from yours truly}. But seriously. I didn't truly understand that until just a few years ago and I think most people don't. You have to love yourself first before truly loving others.


So, while Valentine's Day is that "special time of year" to celebrate the love of your life, take time to love your life and yourself, too. Here is a big hug from me to get you started!

Friday, February 6, 2009

When the Moon Hits Your Eye...

...like a big pizza pie, that's amore!

And amore for pizza it is!

Without hesitation, that's probably the one food that I can eat every single day without a problem. Well...maybe a little problem - ok, maybe a huge problem. Weight gain.

Even Papa John's founder would agree - all in moderation.

Now, I haven't had chain-store pizza (i.e., PizzaHut, Domino's, Papa John's) in about 10 years. I want the authentic taste of cheesy goodness melding just right with the sweet tomato sauce and spices - not the taste of a grease wash. Not to say those chain-store pizzas don't taste good...but for me, it got to a point when the grease overpowered the pizza, and, well - without mincing words or imagery - I just found that my stomach and gastrointestinal track couldn't handle them quite as well. No, I prefer my local pizzeria.

So, I think it's kind of ironic that the founder of one of the gr-izza chains would say (to a British audience, mind you, not to the markedly-obese U.S.) to limit your intake of pizza to 1 or 2 slices. This is a reaction to current anti-obesity regulations in the U.K., where the chain has a strong presence.

All of that is good and well, but what isn't emphasized is just what is included in those 1 or 2 slices from Papa Johns in terms of nutritional value. Clearly, no one eats pizza because it's healthy; we eat it because it taste good and is quick and convenient. But, knowing some statistics about pizza consumption in the U.S. (94% of the populations eats it and is the most popular prepared food), and that there's even National Pizza Month (October), maybe these chains should focus on making their pizza a tad bit healthier because, even if we stick to only 1 or 2 slices, our collective waistbands aren't shrinking and, unless you have the strongest will power known to man, it's only inevitable that pizza will remain the fast food of choice that we will continue to consume in the foreseeable future.

At least, I know I will. Probably tonight.

Monday, February 2, 2009

California Dreaming

I just spent the last few days in one of my all-time favorite cities...ever. San Francisco. Those words alone give my heart an extra beat. Tony Bennett sure knew what he was talking about. Of course, I was in the city to attend a conference, and, as with most business-related travel, I hardly had any time to step outside the hotel let alone go sight-seeing. Still, when I did leave the hotel, it was a pleasure to find myself soaked in warm sunshine and not requiring the typical 5 layers and a parka that I normally wear this time of year.

I traveled West on the day that we here on the East Coast received yet another reminder that it's still winter - Wednesday. It wasn't a terrible storm, just an annoyance. I returned home just in time for another one of Old Man Winter's calling cards; tomorrow, we're supposed to have more snow, then colder temperatures. And I ask myself all the while, why did I leave the 70 degree weather of a beautiful city? That, my friends, is the question of the day.

Especially since our little furry friend, Punxsutawney Phil, decided to see his shadow today and claim 6 more weeks of winter. Not very scientific, I know. Quite a stupid tradition, if you ask me. But nonetheless, there it is. I'm certainly California dreaming on this winter's day.