JANUARY 7, 2016 -- BY JIM NEFF
THE NEFF ZONE
ONWARD TO 2017
The transition from 2016 to 2017 presents a conundrum. Should we approach the coming year with elation or trepidation? After the riotous political season that ended 2016, perhaps the words of Michelangelo might apply: “The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.”
Regardless of your outlook, it's good to have some new words to utilize as we march forward. The Word Warriors at Wayne State University have published a list of words that they feel deserve to be used more often in conversation. As per the list, it might be difficult to avoid “acedia” (mental sloth or apathy). We have been subjected to so much “blithering” (senseless talking) that being a “mugwump (independent of party politics) is a challenge indeed. (http://wordwarriors.wayne.edu/2017/)
Even words from the 19th century might apply here. I mean, we have been subjected to such a “slumgullion” (distasteful mess) of “flummadiddle” (nonsense) it is a full-time job just maintaining an even keel. As George Orwell emphasized in his novel 1984: “It is not easy to become sane.”
It's enough to make a person use an expletive. Luckily, doing so could actually be good for you. “There's something about a good curse word that has a healing effect. Profanity helps in some situations, and science backs that up. Researchers say there are plenty of ways that cursing is good for your physical and emotional health.”
According to a book by Benjamin K. Bergen, a cognitive scientist, there are at least nine benefits of cursing. Among those: “Swearing is important for creating close relationships, friendship or intimacy with others, and bonds can be formed around it.” Okay, if you don't buy that, how about this? “It makes you feel in control. By swearing we show, if only to ourselves, that we are not passive victims but empowered to react and fight back.” (http://www.mnn.com/health/fitness-well-being/stories/9-reasons-swearing-is-good-for-you)
I leave it to you as to whether or not you are going to add swear-bombs to your 2017 repertoire. Be cautious, though. I seem to recall using some “creative” wording during my youthful years. My grandmother introduced me to the tasty treat called Lifebuoy.
This swearing study proves language can be a tricky thing. Just making yourself understood has some pitfalls. Business Insider recently published a graphic look at how words are pronounced differently in certain parts of the country. For example, east of the Ohio River the word “caramel” is “carra-mel,” but the rest of the country (including Michiganders) say “car-ml.” In Michigan, a “crayon” is a “cray-ahn,” but in California it's a “cran.”
Pronunciation aside, what we call certain things differs by geography. “The Midwest calls carbonated soft drinks 'pop,' the Northeast and the West Coast call them 'soda,' and the South is really into brand loyalty. Wisconsin and Rhode Island call a water fountain a 'bubbler.' The Northeast puts on sneakers. Everyone else finds a pair of tennis shoes.” Now, you could get the courts involved to sort this out. However, even that is a problem. In Michigan you'd call a “law-yer” but in Alabama you'd contact a “loyer.” (http://www.businessinsider.com/american-regional-pronunciation-2016-9)
If all of this makes you want to just keep your mouth shut and chill out to some music, there is some good news on that front. Remember when your parents kept yelling at you to turn down the volume? It turns out they were wrong. An article titled “Three Decades Later: The Life Experiences and Mid-Life Functioning of 1980s Heavy Metal Groupies, Musicians, and Fans,” in Self & Identity Journal says so. “The 'metalhead' identity served as a protective factor against negative outcomes. They (metalheads) were significantly happier in their youth and better adjusted currently than either middle-aged or current college-age youth comparison groups.” (http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/15298868.2015.1036918)
So you see, listening to KISS, Motley Crue, Grand Funk Railroad, Poison, Alice Cooper, Twisted Sister, and others was/is actually good for your mental well-being. Crank it up and be happy! This could be the reason you are so brilliant (and now you know why).
All of this is a bit tongue-in-cheek, to be perfectly honest. The year 2017 does have the potential to be one of the more interesting 365 days of our lives. Just remember the words of Confucius: “He who learns but does not think, is lost! He who thinks but does not learn is in great danger.”
PS: The series of meaningless exhibition games (also known as college football bowls) is almost over. Today at noon on ESPN2, James Madison University meets Youngstown State University in the national championship of the FCS (NCAA Division I). These teams earned their way to the championship game by winning a 24-team playoff. This honor was won on the field of play rather than being “anointed” by a committee. This concept is used by every division of every level of every sport other than major college football. Do yourself a favor and tune in to a “real” national championship game.
Jim Neff is a local columnist. Read Neff Zone columns online at CadillacNews.com and NeffZone.com/cadillacnews.