Friday, December 27, 2013

Words Are Important (or Merry Christmas Mr. Semore, Sorry This is Late)

I was driving home Christmas night after an attempt at going out that was thwarted by a fevered frenzy. As much as we try to fake fevers as children, when the real thing hits, it brings even the most headstrong adults to our knees. I was breathing heavily, shivering, and talking myself through each red light so that I could make it home to shiver and whimper under a mountain of blankets until the fever broke. And I was nauseated.

Rewind a bit and join me on an OkCupid date that was doomed from the start. I had already decided that this handsome, older, lucrative man wasn't quite right after he fully described to me the time he spent deciding what shoes to wear, but the deal was sealed when he found himself struggling to find the noun to match his repeated usage of the word, "nauseous."

What is the noun that goes with nauseous?

Those of us who speak English as a first language have an innate understanding of the structure of how we speak, but we often struggle, and usually give up, when it comes to actually succeeding in the process of proper sentence construction.

The noun that belongs in the canon for all things nauseous, is NAUSEA. The gentleman buying my drinks that evening settled on nauseousness. He was trying to explain that he felt nauseous, and was tired of all the "nauseousness."

I will never forget the correct forms and usage of the word for the feeling you get right before you boot just as I will never forget the day Michael Semore proudly displayed the Queen Elizabeth I Barbie that he had found ON THE CLEARANCE TABLE at a toy store. There are teachers that you remember because they tried too hard, and there are teachers you remember because they simply were. They were knowledge, language, sharing, teaching, faith, and, most importantly, vulnerable (I realize that, in order to make this sentence stylistically more pleasant, the last word SHOULD be "vulnerability," but that doesn't further my point..OKAY).

"If you come to me to ask for a hall pass and tell me you feel nauseous, I will respond by telling you that, yes, you are making me want to throw up too, but I don't see why that qualifies you for a hall pass."

Why? It is something that is NAUSEOUS, like a big ol' pile a' crap, that induces NAUSEA. If you experience something NAUSEOUS, you may become NAUSEATED.

I know, I know. I'm a sad grammar nazi,

the type of person that has to silently correct your grammar to make myself feel better about the future of civilization, when it probably doesn't really matter in the grand scheme of things and if I could just chill out about it I wouldn't be so frustrated/might not be single/(insert some form of existence that you find suitable because your ideas about living are just as valid as mine, if not totally different).

It's true. It doesn't REALLY matter. Saying, "I feel nauseous" is acceptable (according to the sacred Oxford English Dictionary that Mr. Semore introduced to us in it's original tangible form that required a magnifying glass just a few short months before the internet would transform absolutely everything). It's accepted. No one will be confused if you tell them you feel nauseous. The only person that might be confused is you, when you are trying to explain to someone that you felt nauseous to excess, and you stumble upon the word/notword "nauseousness," when you could have simply used the term "nausea" and been done with it.

The beauty of language is that it evolves. It exists for the people. It is the only way that we can truly tell the difference between ourselves and the world around us, the only way we can describe our experiences to each other, the only way we can communicate. Language is not merely words; it is symbols. It is a collection of signs to represent the signified, and that is everything that is not us. Even those who cannot speak find a way to communicate, to form symbols that add up to thoughts and feelings and experiences.

I suppose that is why I find it so sacred, so beautiful. I can take words, and what I know about words, and I can use them to tell someone what it feels like to fall in love, or what it feels like when one falls out of love. I can describe what it feels like on a day when I spring out of bed full of excitement about the day ahead and what it feels like when a sudden bout of nausea leaves me huddled in the fetal position and unable to go about my day.

The depth and breadth of language knows no bounds just as humans are capable of more than we can imagine. It's almost nauseating to think of the fact that there are words for feelings in other languages that don't even exist in English. In English we have to find another way to describe that feeling you get when you're standing alone against the wall at a high school social, and that cute boy you've always liked asks you if you want to dance. Usually we resort to using other words, or similes and metaphors to describe that particular brand of nausea, but I'll bet it stands alone just fine in one of the love languages (and by that I mean Latin based languages).

It takes a big person to tell a room full of 16-18 year olds that he loves words and wants them to respect his love by respecting the words. Perhaps that is why Mr. Semore has stayed with me all these years. True passion requires vulnerability, and true vulnerability is daunting, nauseating at times. The only way to affect change in our own lives as well as the lives of others is to be vulnerable. When we open ourselves up to love something or someone or many, the more capable we find ourselves of opening even further, of finding new ways to express ourselves and our feelings. Thus, language evolves further to accommodate our changing needs.  More importantly, we find we are more capable of loving, fully and unabashedly, not just words or shoes, but living and life, and eventually...hopefully...ourselves.