Feminine diminutive

Harry Drabik

Every week I’m sore tempted to substitute a letter “a” for an “e” in week; my urge based on no more than a sense of personal exhaustion; weakness if you will. Why I don’t is a mystery. On the plus (I hope) is feeling no moral or intellectual victory for an urge denied. Does this mean I think not doing something is of less value or  than doing it? I hope not.

Untutored raw experience has shown me that not starting down some tracks is by far more constructive than the too often desire to ride the razor blade of life into division and subdivision again on again. In ways so small we might not notice them we become captive to conceptions beginning with our own and all the unknown preconceptions that led to it.

But getting to today’s speed imagine a grocery full of surreally spaced masked individuals all like chess pieces moving according to invisible lines of rule. In that new commonplace I was in search of a product I privately refer to as Little Women.
I don’t, out of presumed respect for the feelings of others – aka fear of sexist censure – call it that in public. I use a more acceptable turn of phrase and ask a masked person (white aprons are a big help in determining which disguised felon to approach) if they have in stock any My Newt Female House-worker Beverage.

You’ll believe such a question will draw a silent open-mouth reply saying “WHAT?” clearly as if they actually said it. An intent to speak clearly and correctly in a complex environment seems not to be much success because despite the careful wording, clerks and stockers don’t understand the simple request that I’m looking for Minute Maid Lemonade.

Follow me now. In a majority of instances the word “minute” refers to a measure of time either precise as Greenwich or vague and open to definition as a person’s minute in the bathroom, which can mean take your coat off and stay a while because I’m not ready and need a half-hour.

The dictionary, which most users commonly ignore in this instance, is very clear that minute means “My Newt,” as in tiny, small, diminutive, little, minuscule, and so on.

In any case would any of us want to drink lemonade made in a minute? That’s simply not a long enough period of time to crank out a decent beverage. My rule would be “if you can make it quicker than you can drink it then it does not warrant the effort.”

Happily for readers this piece is not about my (which I find silly and personally amusing) picture of tiny housemaids tidying up (which I could use) and making my lemonade.

The subject of this piece, if I don’t bungle it, is how our great human capacity for words is so nimble and quick that it can deceive us (or we unseeing allow ourselves to be misled – often easier than bucking the flow).

We readily insert minute as a time measure rather than one of size. Human willingness to go along and get along is the lifeblood of self-deception and the main tool of con-men or women. (Note, please, the “con” gender bias.)

A phrase placed on target is helpful but can be too much so by putting a conclusion in place before we know what’s being targeted. Unless the individual is content being a language consumer taking regular pauses to question and look critically are of vital need, especially where there’d seem to be no argument.

Take the expression “hate crime” as example. You know this does not apply to a hatred of broccoli. Hate crime can include things such as assaults or arson, but those acts often aren’t the focus when hate crime is referred to.

I frequently (far too often in my view) hear hate crime used to describe supposed crimes of thought on a level with heresy or blasphemy.

I’d be very leery of any process that lends toward censoring expression of thoughts or ideas, including (and most importantly) things we don’t like to hear or see expressed. Calling unpopular expression hate crime employs freedom of expression to stifle expression.

In another sense an accusation of hate crime becomes a version of bullying others into submitting to one (supposedly orthodox) version of what’s real.

Religion and politics are the two historically worst actors when it comes to repression. Saving souls or societies is such serious work that dissension can’t be encouraged. Objections get in the way of social progress or hallowed salvation.

The lesson I take from the My Newt Maid is how easily and how far we might get led down the pathway of assumption before seeing “Oh, it didn’t mean that at all.”

Spotting hate crime as possible imposition of blasphemy/heresy regulation is fairly easy compared to spotting the dangers of the tiny maidservant’s smiley face.
What you ask? Luckily I am here to tell you, huh?

You’ll hear the likes of this often. “I’m (or we’re) here to help you.” Sounds nice but is a lie because at that moment the message is one of self-congratulation and not help.

Is a promise help? Might not hurt, but how much actual help is it?

Instead of the horn-tooting announcement of promised help I’d find a direct statement more promising. “What can I do? How can I help?”

That too may go nowhere because if the answer is “I need a million dollars” you’re going to be SOL from my side.

But in any case a sense of caution when accepting statements is a decent habit to develop.

As an aside, when I’m most praiseful of an idea is exactly when I think the notion most pathetic. Aside from movie and social “artists” highly classifying their own work, an over-the-top glowing appraisal of a questionable proposal can be a most useful way to get some rethinking.

It’s more fun to do and goes over better than a frontal assault. Unlike the Pollyanna who says anything is possible I modestly only go so far as to assert certainty is uncertain.