Words, gizmos and just plain junk: cleaning house for 2005 | VailDaily.com

Words, gizmos and just plain junk: cleaning house for 2005

Elizabeth Chicoine

So here we all go with our lists of improvement for the coming year. Things must get better, right? New year, new slate. New chances for fresh beginnings.Let’s gather and list some improvements to better the upcoming year for our kids. I’d like to offer some food for thought with this one.First, focus on the words parents and children use in their daily vocabulary. The English language seems to be spiraling downward into meaningless words and phrases, yet we are unaware that the daily “speak” which we are using is wrong and nonsensical.The best and brightest of our generation are speaking what author Ken Smith calls, junk English. His new book, “Junk English 2,” is the book to check out for your family this new year.What is “junk English?” NPR’s Jennifer Ludden, of “All Things Considered” explains it as “referring to what happens when you take something ordinary and make it sound more exciting by giving it a new name. Thus, “spying,” becomes “intelligence gathering.” “A move or a change,” becomes “transition.” And “turn on” becomes “activate.” The problem with the added excitement in these words is that this is not correct usage. The power of words is that they shape people’s reality. Words illustrate and shape one’s perception of understanding. We need to be teaching our children with correct words if they are to learn accurately how to communicate their thoughts.A story is told in the NPR interview that on September 11, 2001 Ken Smith was in New York City picking up copies of his first book, “Junk English,” when he heard about a plane striking the second tower. The radio announcer said “this is incredulousthis is absolutely incredulous.” She was looking for a more impressive way to say “incredible.” The meaning was lost in the incorrect usage “incredulous” is a Shakespearean term, not accurate to use in defining the events of 9/11. Over the airways and on the news, Ken Smith says we are all inundated by the “de-evolution of the English language.”The author of “Junk English 2” explains that parents should be aware of what is happening to the English language. We can’t change the language, but you can change your language. Mr. Smith adds “the next time you are tempted to say ‘proactive,’ stop yourself and say ‘assertive.'” Use the simple common honest English word instead.” As parents, let’s arm against sloppy usage and take the lead in the battle of the language vs your family’s language.My second improvement for the new year is time. Let’s buy a little more for our families: GET RID OF ALL GIZMOS!I have a test. As you prepare to leave the house tomorrow morning, if you own an answering machine, turn it off. If you have a cell phone, leave it behind. Unplug any fax machines and make an oath to not retrieve any email until the following day. Fundamentally, anything with a prescribed job of communicating while you are unavailable is off limits for one day.Next, go off and enjoy the day with your kids and yourself. No need to interrupt a great ride up the chairlift together to take a call from the office. You are not available. Someone far more important needs you today your child.The best part of all this comes at the end of the day. No need to check messages or return calls. Any one really needing to speak with you can try again. Isn’t that how it was for our mothers?I tried this little test before I offered it to all of you. Funny thing, I found that all of the technology that I used to “save time” and “shortcut life” actually was silently creeping in on conversations and activities with my family. One trick I learned from a wise friend was to ditch the answering machine permanently. Caller ID can still keep a list of missed calls for you to view, so you will know who was trying to reach you that day if necessary. Will I hand over my message machine permanently? Probably not. But by doing so even for one day, I realized how draining these ease-of-life inventions could become. This little exercise certainly made me more aware of the burdens that can be streamlined in life.Related to my offering of buying time for 2005 is lending a hand. Locals this time of the year all seem to be looking a bit bleary-eyed and in need of a few extra winks. It reminds me of a postcard from my alma mater, The Colorado College, that depicts a glorious stand of Aspen trees. The card explained “Aspens grow from a large network of interconnected roots that can produce new trees for over a thousand years. Long after the visible portion of the tree is gone, the underground root system remains, waiting for the sun’s warmth to start another cycle.” Like the Aspens, we mothers of the valley need the sun’s warmth and support of our mother’s network to provide the best parenting possible to all of our children. If a friend needs help and can’t get a babysitter, offer to come by and help. Bring your kids, too. Support one another. Perhaps even do a sleepover party so that your friend can sleep in the next day. How many moms EVER sleep past 6 a.m.? VTElizabeth H. Chicoine lives in the Valley and writes about issues important to the family for the Vail Trail. She can be reached for comment at echicoine@centurytel.net.

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