March 30th, 2011 § § permalink
I’ve been re-reading Anne of Green Gables recently after rediscovering it in e-book form. It’s a book (and movie) I utterly loved as a child (I lived in a bit of a pre-modern fantasy at that age). In re-reading it, though, I’m struck by the history she tells of herself: orphaned at 3 months, rendered child servant, essentially child slave, emotionally abused, probably beaten, driven to fantasy and an inner life, and yet a providential turn of fate redirects her life. She embraces the redirection, doesn’t look back, succeeds in reviving the emotionally vacant lives around her, excels in school, makes friends with all who encounter her and generally becomes the kind of person we all aspire to be and befriend. And, of course, she does all of this without a lick of therapy or a whiff of antidepressants. We could attribute Anne’s success to the tidy narrative arc necessitated by the storyteller or to our collective love of heroic tales of overcoming, but I think it’s also an interesting meditation on how we understand, or fail to understand, the traumas of childhood and their aftershocks.
We assume that children are resilient in the way of Anne, that the intervention of love and structure can redirect even the most unfortunate, allowing them to lead the most successful kinds of lives. And perhaps children do have a kind of resilience, a capacity that causes them to turn quickly from traumas to rebuild, to regroup and to move forward—in fact, this is a coping strategy employed by children in order to live through events that are beyond their comprehension and that threaten to undermine their structures of understanding—but, then, my question is why is this something we admire and foster?
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March 12th, 2011 § § permalink
You might have thought we were finished with collective nouns. Sorely (or happily), you were mistaken. Collectives don’t just win at protests, they also describe gangs, groups and troupes of people. Of course, there are the obvious (and boring): a faculty of academics, board of trustees, crowd of onlookers, or panel of experts. But, there are also the much more whimsical: a melody of harpists, a decorum of deans, a galaxy of beauties, or a glozing of taverners. The are the evocative: a pack of Brownies, a sneer of butlers, a hastiness of cooks, or a stalk of foresters. And then there are the outright apt: a converting of preachers, an obstruction of dons, a flock of tourists, a superfluity of nuns.
Language is far too fun to leave to the linguists, though. And, a bottle of wine and a too-short list of these collective nouns virtually impels one to add to the list. So, in no particular order, and with much further fanfare, how about these? (Disclaimer: as far as I know, though I have not done any extensive or exhaustive research, these are illegitimate and do not [though I will not say will never] appear in any dictionary, thesaurus, or any other listing of such things):
- A piping of plumbers
- A beaker of chemists
- A sextant of sailors
- A meridian of geographers
- A lobe of lobotomists
- A copse of arborists
- A sight of optometrists
- A drill of dentists
- A clef of composers
- A screech of race car drivers
- A scare of poltergeists » Read the rest of this entry «
March 4th, 2011 § § permalink
Walking past The Bay in Toronto this past weekend, I mistook their window displays advertising Madonna’s new “Material Girl” line (which I learned about at that moment) for posters touting a new line of “Maternity Girl” clothing. I’ve heard rumours that teenage pregnancy is becoming faddish, but, for now, at least, I was mistaken.