Maybe (slightly) Reducing the Consequences of Government Education

Government education generally carries with it certain traits.

  1. The history books they purchased by the government tend to focus on the government’s history instead of the history of the people.
  2. They see everything as geography based.
  3. They introduce jobs that tend to have heavy ties to the government. Ask a group of students in elementary school what they want to be when they grow up and you’ll get a bunch of firemen, police men, teachers, lawyers, astronauts, and doctors. Every one of those industries is heavily involved or subsidized through the government.

I’m probably a little more sensitive to this issue than most parents, but there is a part of what my kids were being exposed to at school that seemed nothing more than a marketing campaign for public sector jobs.

So, I decided to do something about it.

Thankfully at precisely the time that I discovered Erin McKean online he was getting asked what he wanted to be in school. So I trained him that if he ever gets asked that question he should respond with ‘I want to be a Lexicographer.’ Then explain that it’s the person who puts words in the dictionary. I then went the next layer knowing that my son would probably get asked what his favorite word was, I proceeded to teach him the word absquatulate.

Fun adventures have ensued.

We’ve learned that Lexicography will not pay a living wage, but he’s no longer trapped in the firefighter, police officer, teacher paradigm. He wants to be an engineer.

No Bad Words

Our imperfect brains like to categorize things with broad brush strokes. This is how we create stereotypes. While not always true our broad brush strokes and stereotypes are a good starting point for learning.

Yes, it’s ok to have stereotypes as long as we recognize that they are very basic categorizations that need refinement.

We can see these stereotypes not just about people, but about the things around us.

My 9 year-old was talking about bad words the other day. I didn’t have the the opportunity for me to help her refine her impression at the time, but it’s on the list of things to do. How she categorizes her language will impact her future. For now, I’ll address it with this audience.

Yes, dear reader. I’m practicing on you.

There are no such thing as bad words!

Now, if you’re of the sensitive ear set the way to discover this might not be completely palatable. Helen Zaltzman’s work with language through her podcast The Allusionist revealed that it’s not the words themselves that are offensive. It’s that language has an aggressive aspect in both its content and delivery.

You see it’s not the list of words that we see as bad or good that’s really at play. That would simply be a checklist. It’s the words that our society only sees as aggressive.

This would be an aggressive — reverent scale. Not an aggressive — passive scale. Passive refers to tense, not tone.

The words used to create aggressive or irreverent language changes over time. The folks who screen movies might have a checklist of what can/can’t be said for certain movie ratings, but in our everyday life where we don’t have that checklist it’s not that we should check our words. We need to check our tone.

Are we communicating with an aggressive tone that will reduce our ability to collaborate?

If so, maybe that’s what we need to change. It’s not the list of words we’re using, but the choice of language we’re using in comparison to our desired outcome.

Words of the Flapper Era

Ah, the flapper era! What a great successful fad. While the legacy of the flapper era appears in fashion and music it also appears in our language. We have some wonderfully creative words and phrases remaining from this era of American history. I’ve written earlier about the Bee’s Knees. Now it’s time to share a few more entries. Thanks to BookFlaps for compiling the list.

Which one can you use in an email today? Leave a comment below or Tweet using #FlapperVocab

  • Absent Treatment—Dancing with a bashful partner.
  • Airedale—A homely man.
  • Alarm Clock—Chaperone.
  • Anchor—Box of flowers.
  • Apple Knocker—A hick; a hay-shaker.
  • Apple Sauce–Flattery; bunk.
  • Barlow—A girl, a flapper, a chicken.
  • Bank’s Closed—No petting allowed; no kisses.
  • Barneymugging—Lovemaking.
  • Bee’s Knees—See “Cat’s Pajamas”
  • Bell Polisher—A young man addicted to lingering in vestibules at 1 a.m.
  • Bean Picker—One who patches up trouble and picks up spilled beans.
  • Berry Patch—A man’s particular interest in a girl.
  • Berries—Great.
  • Biscuit—A pettable flapper.
  • Big Timer—(n. masc.)—A charmer able to convince his sweetie that a jollier thing would be to get a snack in an armchair lunchroom; a romantic.
  • Billboard—Flashy man or woman.
  • Blushing Violet—A publicity hound.
  • Blouse—To go.
  • Blow—Wild party.
  • Blaah—No good.
  • Boob Tickler—Girl who entertains father’s out-of-town customers.
  • Brush Ape—Anyone from the sticks; a country Jake.
  • Brooksy—Classy dresser
  • Bust—A man who makes his living in the prize ring, a pugilist.
  • Bun Duster—See “Cake Eater”.
  • Bush Hounds—Rustics and others outside of the Flapper pale.
  • Cancelled Stamp—A wallflower.
  • Cake Basket—A limousine.
  • Cake Eater—See “Crumb Gobbler”
  • Cat’s Particulars—The acme of perfection; anything that’s good
  • Cat’s Pajamas—Anything that’s good
  • Cellar Smeller—A young man who always turns up where liquor is to be had without cost.
  • Clothesline—One who tells neighborhood secrets.
  • Corn Shredder—Young man who dances on a girl’s feet.
  • Crepe Hanger—Reformer.
  • Crumb Gobbler—Slightly sissy tea hound.
  • Crasher—Anyone who comes to parties uninvited.
  • Crashing Party—Party where several young men in a group go uninvited.
  • Cuddle Cootie—Young man who takes a girl for a ride on a bus, gas wagon or automobile.
  • Cuddler—One who likes petting.
  • Dapper—A flapper’s father.
  • Dewdropper—Young man who does not work, and sleeps all day.
  • Dincher—A half-smoked cigarette.
  • Dingle Dangler—One who insists on telephoning.
  • Dipe Ducat—A subway ticket.
  • Dimbox—A taxicab.
  • Di Mi—Goodness.
  • Dogs—Feet.
  • Dog Kennels—Pair of shoes.
  • Dropping the Pilot—Getting a divorce.
  • Dumbdora—Stupid girl.
  • Duck’s Quack—The best thing ever.
  • Ducky—General term of approbation.
  • Dud—Wallflower.
  • Dudding Up—Dressing.
  • Dumbbell-Wall flower with little brains.
  • Dumkuff—General term for being “nutty” or “batty”.
  • Edisoned—Being asked a lot of questions.
  • Egg Harbor—Free dance.
  • Embalmer—A bootlegger.
  • Eye Opener—A marriage.
  • Father Time—Any man over 30 years of age.
  • Face Stretcher—Old maid who tries to look younger.
  • Feathers—Light conversation.
  • Fire Extinguisher—A chaperone.
  • Finale Hopper—Young man who arrives after everything is paid for.
  • Fire Alarm—Divorced woman.
  • Fire Bell—Married woman.
  • Flap—Girl
  • Flat Shoes—Fight between a Flapper and her Goof
  • Fluky—Funny, odd, peculiar; different.
  • Flatwheeler—Slat shy of money; takes girls to free affairs.
  • Floorflusher—Inveterate dance hound.
  • Flour Lover—Girl who powders too freely.
  • Forty-Niner—Man who is prospecting for a rich wife.
  • Frog’s Eyebrows—Nice, fine.
  • Gander—Process of duding up.
  • Green Glorious—Money and checks.
  • Gimlet—A chronic bore.
  • Given the Air—When a girl or fellow is thrown down on a date.
  • Give Your Knee—Cheek-to-cheek or toe-to-toe dancing.
  • Goofy—To be in love with, or attracted to. Example: “I’m goofy about Jack.”
  • Goat’s Whiskers—See “Cat’s Particulars”
  • Goof—Sweetie.
  • Grummy—In the dumps, shades or blue.
  • Grubber—One who always borrows cigarettes.
  • Handcuff—Engagement ring.
  • Hen Coop—A beauty parlor.
  • His Blue Serge—His sweetheart.
  • Highjohn—Young man friend; sweetie, cutey, highboy.
  • Hopper—Dancer.
  • Houdini—To be on time for a date.
  • Horse Prancer—See “Corn Shredder”.
  • Hush Money—Allowance from father.
  • Jane—A girl who meets you on the stoop.
  • Johnnie Walker—Guy who never hires a cab.
  • Kitten’s Ankles—See “Cat’s Particulars”.
  • Kluck—Dumb, but happy.
  • Lap—Drink.
  • Lallygagger—A young man addicted to attempts at hallway spooning.
  • Lens Louise—A person given to monopolizing conversation.
  • Lemon Squeezer—An elevator.
  • Low Lid—The opposite of highbrow.
  • Mad Money—Carfare home if she has a fight with her escort.
  • Meringue—Personality.
  • Monkey’s Eyebrows—See “Cat’s Particulars”.
  • Monog—A young person of either sex who is goofy about only one person at a time.
  • Monologist—Young man who hates to talk about himself.
  • Mustard Plaster—Unwelcome guy who sticks around.
  • Munitions—Face powder and rouge.
  • Mug—To osculate or kiss.
  • Necker—A petter who puts her arms around a boy’s neck.
  • Noodle Juice—Tea.
  • Nosebaggery—Restaurant.
  • Nut Cracker—Policeman’s nightstick.
  • Obituary Notice—Dunning letter.
  • Oilcan—An imposter.
  • Orchid—Anything that is expensive.
  • Out on Parole—A person who has been divorced.
  • Petting Pantry—Movie.
  • Petting Party—A party devoted to hugging.
  • Petter—A loveable person; one who enjoys to caress.
  • Pillow Case—Young man who is full of feathers.
  • Police Dog—Young man to whom one is engaged.
  • Potato—A young man shy of brains.
  • Ritzy Burg—Not classy.
  • Ritz—Stuck-up.
  • Rock of Ages—Any woman over 30 years of age.
  • Rug Hopper—Young man who never takes a girl out. A parlor hound.
  • Sap—A Flapper term for floorflusher.
  • Scandal—A short term for Scandal Walk.
  • Scandaler—A dance floor fullback. The interior of a dreadnaught hat, Piccadilly shoes with open plumbing, size 13.
  • Seetie—Anybody a flapper hates.
  • Sharpshooter—One who spends much and dances well.
  • Shifter—Another species of flapper.
  • Show Case—Rich man’s wife with jewels.
  • Sip—Flapper term for female Hopper.
  • Slat—See “Highjohn”; “Goof”.
  • Slimp—Cheapskate or “one way guy”.
  • Smith Brothers—Guys who never cough up.
  • Smoke Eater—A girl cigarette user.
  • Smooth—Guy who does not keep his word.
  • Snake—To call a victim with vampire arms.
  • Snuggleup—A man fond of petting and petting parties.
  • Sod Buster—An undertaker.
  • Stilts—Legs.
  • Stander—Victim of a female grafter.
  • Static—Conversations that mean nothing.
  • Strike Breaker—A young woman who goes with her friend’s “Steady” while there is a coolness.
  • Swan—Glide gracefully.
  • Tomato—A young woman shy of brains.
  • Trotzky (sic)—Old lady with a moustache and chin whiskers.
  • Umbrella—young man any girl can borrow for the evening.
  • Urban Set—Her new gown.
  • Walk In—Young man who goes to a party without being invited.
  • Weasel—Girl stealer.
  • Weed—Flapper who takes risks.
  • Weeping Willow—See “Crepe Hanger”
  • Whangdoodle—Jazz-band music.
  • Whiskbroom—Any man who wears whiskers.
  • Wind Sucker—Any person given to boasting.
  • Wurp—Killjoy or drawback.

It’s Not Froot

We have a problem.

I thought I was the sort of person who paid attention to things. Then I had breakfast this morning. That breakfast was the Kellogg’s cereal, Froot Loops.

Looking at the box, for the first time I noticed it wasn’t Fruit Loops. I knew it didn’t really taste like fruit but I thought the colors paid loose homage to the potential that fruit might have been involved–somehow.

Now, I’m just not sure how I can maintain my word nerdom with this glaring mistake. Froot isn’t really a word. The closest you get to it being used outside of the cereal box is the album title for a Welsh singer.

The Bee’s Knees

There’s a great post over at the Telegram about this phrase and other slang terms from the flapper era.  Wiktionary gives us this background:
Attested since 1922, of unclear origin.[1] There are several suggested origins, but it may simply have been in imitation of the numerous animal related nonsense phrases popular in the 1920s such as the cat’s pyjamascat’s whiskerscat’s meowgnat’s elbowmonkey’s eyebrows etc.[2] A popular folk etymology has the phrase referring to World Champion Charleston dancer Bee Jackson.[3] Another suggestion is that the phrase is a corruption of business[2][4] but this may be a back-formation. The singular bee’s knee is attested from the late 18th century meaning something small or insignificant in the phrase big as a bee’s knee. Also as weak as a bee’s knee is attested in Ireland (1870). It is possible that the bee’s knees is a deliberate inversion of this meaning, but is not attested.[4]
Today the phrase seem’s pretty common.  I’ve heard t used on the 2003 film School of Rock with Jack Black.
How common is it in 2018 is somewhat difficult to track.  Five Thirty Eight‘s online tracker doesn’t have it as an option.  Google’s Ngram Viewer only tracks until 2000, but is still a wonderful graph.
Maybe the more important thing to be aware of isn’t how popular a phrase is (cat’s pajama’s was slightly more popular in 2000), but how cool you look when you use the phrase is probably more important.  Unfortunately there’s no graph I can show some one for how cool they look when they use the phrase.  If I could find a graph for that I’d be sure to share. When it comes down to it, though I really don’t know anyone who doesn’t like the phrase.  This is probably because it’s predominantly used as a compliment.  We could use a few more compliments in our daily discourse.  So, have a go at it!  Why not toss out “the bee’s knees” today in a conversation? adult beard boy casual

Gnarly, Rad, & Awesome

Google’s Ngram Viewer tracks the appearances of words or phrases in written books.  Sometimes it’s fun to review a word used in the past to see how it’s popularity changes over time.

Having been alive during the 1980’s I remember several words that were predominantly fads during that decade.  The graph clearly shows the emergence of the fad phase for rad during the 80’s.  Those well versed in the era will remember a movie of the same name that focused on the BMX phenomenon of the same generation.  I’ll drop the trailer below the graph in case you’re interested in what passed for a movie back then.

Screen Shot 2018-12-07 at 9.49.37 PM.png