A Naming

Sun 01/22/12 at 12:01 pm

I strive for precision when I speak or write. I search my mind for words and phrases, trying them on my syntactic model to see which fit the best. Many years ago I came across the statement, “There are no synonyms.” Since then, I try to parse the nuance, if any, between two words generally considered the equivalent of each other. I try to be aware, and appreciative, of those instances when someone uses the perfect word to convey meaning.

I take note of new words that are created to give meaning to new phenomena. Sometimes I come up with a word that I think might be a “new” word. Years ago I came up with “observative.” The other day I used “misclick” to explain a misdirected email. I checked the OED and it wasn’t there. Then I checked the Urban Dictionary and there it was, defined (split infinitive and all) as “to accidently click on the wrong Internet link.”

And then, of course, there is the practice of nouning and verbing. More often than not, I find this practice irritating. I cringe when people talk about “journaling-” – though I have no objection to “googling.” I leave for another day an examination of why I am of two minds concerning this subject. On a related matter, I find dropping articles, and thereby turning a noun into a proper noun particularly grating.  I want people to say they are “in a relationship” not “in Relationship.” Still, in terms of immortality, striving to have one’s name turned into what I guess, in such a case would be described as becoming a proper Proper noun, or a verb, is certainly one way to go.  The ultimate, of course, would be for one’s name to become a meme. (Visually this happens when someone becomes a widely recognized spokesman for a brand – for how many of you did “Mr. Whipple” just come to mind?) There I go, showing my age again. How about the Progressive Gecko?

For those of you who are wondering, I intend to get to a point. To do that, I need to tell you a little bit about my big brother John. First and foremost, he was a gifted musician. If he heard a song, he could play it in four-part harmony, in any key. There were certain songs, however, he simply refused to play. Feelings comes immediately to mind. (For me, it’s Fernando.) There were several others that he also considered unworthy, such as Memories from Cats. If someone requested one of these songs, he would instead play a different one from the same musical that, while less popular, he considered acceptable.  Sondheim and Porter were his favorites, Andrew Lloyd Weber, an irritation.

John’s musical opinions translated into other aspects of his life. He simply had exquisite taste and a dislike for the mob mentality. He had an uncanny ability to spot a trend that by the time it went viral (long before “it went viral” had become an everyday expression, or any expression at all), he had been there, done that and either incorporated it into his life or dismissed it. He was the first in our small town of 2500 to wear blue jeans – Levi’s to be precise. By the time everyone began sporting Polo Ponies, he, while still appreciative of Ralph Lauren, would only wear Polo clothes that incorporated a Polo pony anywhere but on one’s upper left side. He considered Polo Sport a travesty. His first cat couldn’t just be a cat, or even just any old purebred feline, she was a Cornish Rex. (Though later in life he acquired a huge orange tabby named Oscar whom he also loved and adored.)

Ultimately some would say he was a snob. For me, the better word is “snobbish,” and I think he might even agree with that description. His snobbishness was authentic, grounded in conscious consideration and arrived at independent from the crowd. And there were constants that remained favored even after popularization, Gucci and Tiffany’s for example. He was discerning and just somehow “knew,” appreciating quality and excellence wherever and no matter where he found it.

And so to the point, because for me, it’s all about the destination, progress be damned. For that matter, any journey be damned unless there is one, a destination that is. These days, I spend a fair amount of time listening to the songs I’ve transferred to my iPod Touch (by album, alphabetically). The number of songs in my iTunes folder now total in the several thousands, taking up nearly 45 gigs of disk space.  I often “thrill” to certain songs that I find particularly fine. Sometimes, in the midst of listening, I experience a flush of shame interrupting this delight – Sarah Brightman is perhaps the best example – as the realization dawns that I’m loving a song which my brother would dismiss out of hand.

One day I realized there was an already existing word, the definition of which could be expanded to give a name to this feeling. I still remember when an old friend (maybe you even know who you are) first used the word and explained the meaning. Now, when I experience the sensation of enjoying something of which I know my brother would disapprove, I tell myself I’m feeling Bourgeois. 

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