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Personal

Weird Words and Intriguing Idioms

I spend a lot of time around people whose mother tongue is something other than English. And as a native English speaker who’s admittedly taken my language way too much for granted for most of my life, I have come to the undeniable conclusion that English is weird.

Attempting to explain the difference in pronunciation between sucks and socks to a Spanish speaker is challenging for both of us… not to mention navigating the vowel shift between ship and sheep with a Portuguese speaker. Let’s not even tread upon the precarious minefield of bitch vs. beach!

“English is hard, OK?! I’m sorry!!!” I’ve been known to exclaim, throwing up my hands in defeat.

And what about the baffling verbal and written shortcuts many English-speakers take. Some of my faves [favourites] are thx [thanks] and the minimalist k [OK].

“But why bother shortening a two-letter word? Why is that necessary? I don’t understand,” says a Colombian-born Canadian.

Sadly, I have no answers.

Then there are the silent letters. Useless. Taunting. Unexplainable.

A comb for your hair… but don’t pronounce the “b.”

Night and knight – yes, they mean totally different things. Yes, they’re pronounced exactly the same. No, I don’t know why.

So. I freely admit it. English is often weird and frustrating to those who learned it later in life. I feel lucky to be a native speaker who has never had to think about its oddities… until now.


But all is not bad. We also have some funky expressions and words that I love sharing. Here are some of my faves.

  • Whatever floats your boat (“You like to put ketchup on your pancakes? Why not, whatever floats your boat!”)
  • Let’s blow this popsicle stand (“I’m ready to go, let’s blow this popsicle stand!”)
  • In one fell swoop (“In one fell swoop, the pandemic changed the lives of everyone around the world.”)
  • Better than a kick in the pants (“You only got a $3.00 tax refund? Well, I guess it’s better than a kick in the pants.”)
  • Discombobulated (“I woke up in the middle of the night and had no idea where I was or what time it was. I was completely discombobulated.”
  • Rigamarole (“It was a massive rigamarole to gather all the paperwork I needed to apply for that program, including reference letters from five former professors.”)
  • Kerfuffle (“The roaming street performers caused quite a kerfuffle by doing acrobatics in the middle of the road while dressed in creepy clown costumes.”)
  • Keener* (“He had already finished all the assignments by the time classes started – what a keener!”)
  • Hole in the wall,** mom and pop, and greasy spoon (“Cosmos diner is a tiny greasy spoon with less than a dozen seats. It’s a legendary hole in the wall that doesn’t look like much, but it’s got the best home fries in Montreal. I really hope it doesn’t lose its mom-and-pop charm now that it’s been bought out!”)

*One of my all-time favourite Canadianisms
**Interestingly, this one means something completely different in the UK, where it refers to an automated teller machine (ATM), aka bank machine… a more literal hole in the wall, to be sure.

Categories
Personal

Pandemic Playlist

If I’d asked you in 2019 what this collection of things had in common, would you have been able to guess?

Anything to add to the roster of in-demand items from the last few months? Any predictions about what’s next?

  • Toilet paper

  • Jarred pasta sauce

  • Flour

  • Baker’s yeast

  • Hand sanitizer

  • Latex gloves

  • Computer monitor

  • Jigsaw puzzles

  • Face-mask pattern

  • Elastic

  • Sewing-machine needles

  • Sourdough starter

  • Weights

  • Bike

  • Seedlings

Photo by Jeffrey Zzum – Pexels

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Personal

Grownups Read Things They Wrote as Kids

Along with the home baking phenomenon I’ve noticed during the pandemic, I’ve observed another trend among those of us privileged to be staying home. There’s been an explosion of nostalgia, whether it’s digging up and scanning old photos, or reconnecting with older memories in other ways.

Thinking about this gave me the idea to share a memory of my own.

In 2019, I took a big break from public speaking at conferences. I’d decided that outside of my job itself, the entire year of my sabbatical would focus on taking care of personal things. While a lot of what needed to be done wasn’t fun at all, I was determined to get on stage at least once for something that was unequivocally fun. And I did.

Grownups Read Things They Wrote as Kids logo

In October I was thrilled to nab a spot in the Montreal edition of a show called Grownups Read Things They Wrote as Kids. It’s a super entertaining event and podcast, in which people read stuff they wrote as young people, whether a journal, a song, a poem, or in my case, a teenage diary. Here’s the podcast version of the show, in which I recount my high school grad-night antics. In case you want to skip ahead, I’m on at 24:00.

Making Grownups Read Things They Wrote as Kids host Dan Misener laugh with some of my teenage silliness
Categories
Personal

Empathy

I’ve been thinking a lot about empathy lately.

You can express empathy in different ways – with words, gestures, or even a caring look in your eyes, as your brow furrows while listening intently.

You can share the password to an online streaming service so I can veg out on TV, when I’m not in any shape to do much else.

You can reach out to take my hand, while riding in a taxi that you let take me home after dropping you off, “Don’t worry, it’ll just go on my account automatically.”

You can say kinds words like “I’m so sorry you’ve been struggling” or “Sending hugs. I hope it gets better.”

You can send an emoji. 💜🤗😿

You can invite me over for dinner and a movie. Or sweets and adult beverages. I know we wouldn’t have to say much, just being together would be enough.

Expressing empathy is not hard to do, but it’s not something that comes naturally to everyone.

For some people, empathy is a deep part of their soul. Sometimes it feels so intense that another person’s pain can leave you aching inside. I’m not sure this is necessarily a bad thing.

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Personal Technology WordPress

Women of a Certain Age

11:30am – Two “older” women enjoy their crepes (one savoury, one sweet) and caffeinated beverages in the downtown Chocolate Restaurant.

12:15pm – They pull out a couple of knitting projects, and peer through glasses while one repairs the other’s dropped stitches and gets her Scarf That Took Over Five Years to Finish back on track. (Maybe 2020 will be the year it’s actually completed?)

1:30pm – The brunch table is now strewn with a PC, a NexDock 2, a Mac, and a Raspberry Pi serving up the Ngnix server software. WordPress back ends are loaded up on multiple screens, and there’s talk of choosing Gutenberg blocks, creating child themes, programming robots, and using Raspberry Pi to block web ads at the network level.

Zero idea what the restaurant servers thought of us, but I do hope we defied at least a few stereotypes today.

Update

The original version of this post mentioned two PCs, but my friend has clarified that there was only one PC, with the other being a NexDock 2.