Tag Archives: School

‘Like’ puts our lazy lexicon in spotlight

Image from abreezyday.typepad.com

My tenth grade English teacher was on a crusade to eradicate excess usage of the word “like.” He went out of his way to assign more class speeches and presentations to demonstrate that our minds didn’t consciously seek out the word “like.” Rather, it was a byproduct of thinking faster than you can speak or failing to find the right word and feeling that a speech should be fluid without pause.

Mr. Phillips understood the word “like” was necessary to draw comparisons between two similar objects. After all, you can’t form a simile without “like” or “as.”

Phillips was unaware of Facebook, as it did not exist when I was in high school. Had it, I believe he would have taken shots from the nearest clock tower after hearing its fundamental form of communication was a “like” button.

Perhaps Phillips hated valley girls. Maybe he was just a bitter man; after all, he was teaching English to a demographic of students who made up new words every day … none of them English. The latter seems more likely.

After his class, I consciously picked out every extraneous “like” from a conversation. I can only conclude that Phillips is a madman, because this attention to detail can drive a man insane.

I thought, at the time, kids my age would grown out of the “like” trend. Surely, with more high school education and higher education, we would learn more words as we gained more experience. After all, the adults I knew didn’t use the word “like” as if there were a daily quota they had to meet. This didn’t happen. So many people my age – early, mid or late twenties – fill the air with “likes.” Their stories are unbearable (if they ever get to the point.) Conversations with them are nonsensical and obnoxious. “It was, like, this and he was all, like, what am I, like, supposed to do?” Just get the bullet. I got your target right here.

Communication quantity, not quality

There are many things my undomesticated generation cannot do that it should be able to do. I have a cousin that filled a dishwasher with Dawn dish soap. And for some reason, the “art” of laundry eludes many college freshmen.

Communication should not be a foreign anomaly for my generation. We have more opportunity to communicate than ever before. Facebook, Twitter, cell phones, texting, office messenger communicators … even face-to-face communication. (Look it up)

There is an interesting pattern on that list, however: Nearly all of them involve a keyboard. How come I don’t read the word “like” a dozen times in a text message, but hear it in verbal communication? We only seem to be succinct when we type out what we are thinking. (I’d say write, but who has the motor skills to do that anymore?) When many of us try to speak verbally, our language becomes cluttered and gaudy.

Lazy lexicon

At a point in time, I was just like this (High school.) It ended after Phillips’ class. We had lots of vocabulary tests in his class. His theory was that you can’t become a better conversationalist if you don’t know words to help you improve and become a more efficient speaker. Again, however, students succeeded on paper where they could see what they were writing. When it come to verbalizing their ideas, out came the “likes.”

Then he told us to shut up.

Huh? We’re supposed to evolve into better speakers by not talking? Then he told us to mimic his tone and pace of conversation. Phillips was a slow talker with a smooth voice. I called him “white Morgan Freeman.” His point of advice: Talk smart. Talk like a snob (without the accent.) Slow your thought process down and your verbal skills will grow and follow in pursuit.

It worked … in his classroom setting, at least. Speeches and presentations became tolerable. Phillips seemed less homicidal.

So, please. If you’re older than 16 but talk like you’re 16, learn some new words and think about what you want to say before you speak. Not only do people turn you out and not hear what you say, but they don’t care because they associate your inability to verbalize a sentence with a meaningless sentence.

A conversation I can follow is a conversation I “like.”

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Columbus Day is no reason to celebrate

Image from law.marquette.edu

“They do not bear arms, and do not know them, for I showed them a sword, they took it by the edge and cut themselves out of ignorance … They would make fine servants … With 50 men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want.”
Christopher Columbus

And here we are today – October 10, 2011. America! The great white man’s world! We deserve this, right? Our happiness and quality of life was created and maintained on hard work and perseverance, right? We owe it to the great mariner himself, Christopher Columbus!

Well, sort of. But, not really.

Let’s give Columbus credit where credit is due. (This shouldn’t take long): Kudos on finding America, even though you weren’t looking for it.

Christopher Columbus

Now that praise has been offered, let’s look further into the ambitious one’s discovery. Now, I accept that I probably wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for Columbus’ inability to own a GPS in 1492. But that doesn’t excuse his ruthless tactics in destroying the Native Americans’ way of life.

Columbus is responsible for a level of genocide that can only be described as astonishing. Ever since this point, Native Americans have been treated as second-class citizens. For this, Hawaii, Alaska and South Dakota refuse to recognize the formal holiday of Columbus Day.

The University of California, Los Angeles published documents from the era in which Columbus and his gaggle of slave owners founded America. The editor of that project, Geoffrey Symcox, had this to say:

“While giving the brilliant mariner his due, the collection portrays Columbus as an unrelenting social climber and self-promoter who stopped at nothing – not even exploitation, slavery, or twisting Biblical scripture – to advance his ambitions … Many of the unflattering documents have been known for the last century or more, but nobody paid much attention to them until recently … The fact that Columbus brought slavery, enormous exploitation or devastating diseases to the Americas used to be seen as a minor detail – if it was recognized at all – in light of his role as the great bringer of white man’s civilization to the benighted idolatrous American continent. But to historians today this information is very important. It changes our whole view of the enterprise.”

Other documents detail Spaniards within Columbus’ fleet “knifing Indians by tens and twenties and of cutting slices off them to test the sharpness of their blades.”

This day is a cause for celebration? The only difference between Columbus and Osama bin Laden is that bin Laden never set foot in America.

Ignorance is bliss

How, exactly, does the factual evidence of the Columbus massacre not penetrate deeper into society? Why is it not taught in schools? Why does it take a book like “A People’s History of the United States” to put something like this on the map?

America must get over its squeaky-clean image it has fabricated for itself. We’re not a Norman Rockwell painting. We have a disgusting past that we must accept. And by accepting that, we must take Columbus Day down from the pedestal of being a federal holiday. (One more day of work for some of you. I’m sorry.)

This does not mean we must feel guilt for being in America. Sure, we’re ruining it. But that’s a different post for a later date.

Remember today for your heritage. But don’t let the atrocities slip your mind. What that motto we used for 9/11? “Never forget?” Well, let’s remember and never forget where we come from and who lost their lives for out life of luxury.

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