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Word Play


Fri, Aug 1st, 2008
Posted in Commentary

Words are fun. Words are powerful. I love them. I wish I could roll around in a field of them and chew the sweetest and stomp on the ugly ones. I'm no linguist, plain old Midwest English is the best I can handle and I have been accused of sounding like a Minnesotan. What can that mean? We speak perfect American English- okay then.

I don't mean BIG words. They can be too show-offy and in Minnesota we don't like show offs. However, there can be great weight in those ordinary words. Pay attention to those. It's an election year; we'll be seeing a lot of those ordinary words in ordinary places.

A table is a table, a chair is a chair. Red is a color and water is wet. Gertrude Stein told us, "a rose by any other name.." and all of that. Beware of words that bypass the brain and go straight to our unthinking places. (These are the kind of words that often drive romance movies.)

Freedom: Who isn't in favor of that?? Weigh it-whose freedom is this? We are free to get sassy, to make choices about our leaders and our personal lives, to travel, to eat and wear what we please, to work at a job we hate or love, to build a shack in the woods (the property we build upon is not free) and to choose to live within the law or take the risks of living outside of it.

Bumper stickers tell me "Freedom isn't free." That's true enough. The cost is paying attention to those who protect it. What cost have polluted and corrupt nations paid for our freedom?

God Bless America: We sing it and get breathless at any other idea. Are we asking God to disregard, say, Bora Bora or France? If God created all of us, did we earn some extra blessing by rejecting King George? I met a little kid in Peru that needs a great deal of Gods attention and if millions of voices are calling for exclusive blessings here, poor little Tony could be overlooked.

No Child Left Behind: Well, maybe except that one goofy looking kid who always picks his nose and nobody likes him anyway. What does such a phrase have to do with our policy on public education? Those are four short words that nobody can disagree with, but who read the long version? Small words; weigh them.

Support Our Troops: Three words. Those ribbon shaped magnets were a great boon to manufacturers of gee gaws for cars and rodeos. Who would say, "Naw, let 'em starve out there with tee-shirts instead of chest protection!" We all support young men and women put in the most critical of dangers and sent on a mission that is allegedly on behalf of "freedom." Is a bumper sticker our best means of dialogue? I want to produce a ribbon shaped car magnet, in red, white and blue, that says, "Is this all I have to do?" How dare we, send them into such horror and insult them with a bumper sticker.

Family Values: Two words. Huh? Is this a cul-de-sac cooperative with one white mom in a minivan and a dad with a briefcase, two darling kids and a shaggy dog? Do you know any such group? What "values" do they monopolize that other loving combinations don't treasure? Don't they have odd relatives or do all the criminals, divorced people and unwed mothers come from one tribe? Let's just find that errant group and isolate them. We can get a bumper sticker that says "No family values, No vote."

We are about to elect national, state and local leaders. Many of those putting themselves out there to be drawn and quartered do so because they really have an interest in governing and making us the best we can be. Some are just Schmucks (a good Yiddish word). All of them deserve more attention than can be put on a coffee cup.

Words. Some are concrete. Many are emotional. Like the "funny uncle" at a family reunion. Emotion laden words deserve respect, and close attention.

Beadrin Youngdahl lives in Peterson.

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