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 So many words are used these days ( even in this world of diminishing adjectives.) The young and less well-educated of our global population would no doubt tell us that something they like is awesome, wicked, cool, sick, hot or some such other word that bears little reality to its original meaning. 

I would hate to have to write a dictionary for today's  younger generation. How something can be cool and hot at the same time is beyond me. A young man may see a young woman and say " she is hot. " or " she is so cool. " Both phrases mean that he has just seen a particularly attractive female to whom he is sexually attracted. I am not suggesting for one moment that Cary Grant would have said that Doris Day was a " particularly attractive woman, " but in his movies, he may have ventured to give an appreciative smile and a backward glance and allow his mind to do the walking. And the talking.


I watched a snippet of a movie the other night when some African American man saw a woman sashay down the road and he said " Ohh, man, that woman is smoking! "  His friend looked at the young lady concerned and agreed " brother, she is one cool mother! "

I knew exactly what they meant. But it caused me to ponder how our vocabularies have shrunk over the past few decades and how even our very spelling has become a shadow of its once glorious self.

We have become a generation of abbreviations, alphabet names and slang. 

Where words have lost their meaning and a missing comma can change the entire intent of a written message.

Years ago, I heard the late great Victor Borge talking about his phonetic punctuation. He opened with a few simple words. I write them here without any punctuation whatsoever.


What is this thing called love

Depending upon how it is punctuated, it can mean a great deal of different things.

 What? Is this thing called " love "?


" What is this thing? " called Love. " 

Similarly, it could be punctuated in this way:

"What is this thing called love? 

" What is this? " Thing"  called " Love? " 

I can almost see an angry spouse wondering who Thing was and why his wife had a nickname of Love and what the hell were they up to? 

And on it goes.


When we do not understand is the power of the full stop and the power of the capital letter or the power of having an active and wide vocabulary, How can we communicate with accuracy? 

I was once in sales and listened to a man who said that when you write or speak, target your message to a 12 year old. That way you will never be condescending nor over the top.

I am often a bugger for using " big words " but it is normally when I cannot think of a simpler word to take its place. 

My children and grandchildren were encouraged to expand their vocabularies when they were young. I told them that words have a great deal of power. 

Without understanding punctuation, words can be so easily misinterpreted.

My daughter was being bullied at school and she did not know what to do. I taught her the word ignoramus. I said to call the young person concerned an ignoramus. Chances were that they would not know if they were being insulted or praised.


Moses ben Maimon, commonly known as Maimonides and also referred to by the acronym Rambam, was a medieval Sephardic Jewish philosopher who became one of the most prolific and influential Torah scholars of the Middle Ages. In his time, he was also a preeminent astronomer and physician, serving as the personal physician of Saladin

She did so and returned from school delighted and told me that the bully backed off and said " well, yeah, you would think that if you know what's good for you! "

It was a triumphant day for her.

Words are powerful ammunition. I taught my offspring big words when they needed to outsmart their opponents, but I also taught them the simplicity and beauty of the English language.

Simple phrases like " thank you " and you're welcome. " and " I appreciate that. "

A powerful phrase my daughters mastered with great ease was " I don't agree with you. "

How I regret teaching them that one.

Fortunately, I had a response that got them every time: 

" I pay the bills. Until you pay the bills, that is immaterial. "



Once, I got a call to the boarding school my girls attended. My eldest had just been expelled but my youngest was still attending. 

I was out shopping with Redhead and I got a call that my daughter had assaulted a Nun. 

My horror was off the scale. Redhead and I leapt in the car and immediately drove the 4 hours to her school to face the music, as the saying goes. I can assure you that the mood in that car was not cool. It was HOT. In fact, it was smokin'.

We arrived and learned that the person who made the call was mistaken. My daughter had not assaulted a Nun. She had insulted a Nun.


My initial reaction was enormous relief. I just about wept with gratitude. I had to try not to smile, such was the sheer enormity of the weight lifted off my shoulders. 

Redhead sat there and looked at me, and we exchanged a glance that said " Thank God! " 

We both looked back at the head honcho Nun and with great solemnity, I asked " what did she say, Sister? I am so sorry. "

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Sister explained that my daughter and her fellow boarders had all been locked down in the boarding house because a couple of the girls had left the boarding house without permission so the entire house was being punished.

My daughter had objected and declared that she did not agree that she should be punished for the actions of other people. 

Sister explained that it was her decision and that was an end to it. 

My daughter declared that " it wasn't fair and you are nothing but a Nazi! "

Oh dear.



I cringed. I shuddered. I wanted to slink under the table. 

I told Sister that I would deal with it. I met my daughter and explained to her that it was not appropriate to call a Nun a Nazi, no matter how strongly she felt the injustice.

I tried to explain that it was important to use the right words to express outrage and that, whilst I agreed with her, it was not her view or opinion that was at fault, but her lack of respect for those charged with her education.

I asked her to apologise.

She did and with such eloquence that I was very proud.

She met with Sister and said 

" I apologise for my words. I should not have said that.  But I do not apologise for my belief that this punishment is wrong. "

The lockdown was lifted that night.


Over 35 years later, I am thinking about this and wondering how we deal with this situation whereby we are being locked down, through no fault of our own, and someone is punishing us when we did not break the rules. It does not seem fair.

We have a government who is telling us that we must do as we are told  I don't agree.  I think it is unfair.

When the majority are punished for the actions of the few, there is nothing fair in that. 


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