A few unconnected thoughts

The other day at church, I was impressed by two things. One was Reyn’s appropriate use of the word comprise. “Washington Heights comprises several ethnic groups,” is more or less what he said. A lesser speaker might have been tempted to say, “…is comprised of…”

Secondly, during a question and answer session, Clifford, a young man who can wear a bow tie and get away with it, rose to ask a question. There was something rather old-fashioned yet dignified in that simple gesture. And practical too–his voice projected easily without a microphone.

I like to preface adages with, “Grandmother always said…” even if it’s not something my grandmother always said. I guess I do it as a nod to past generations’ ideas of civility and respect. Clifford’s gesture fits the model:

  • “Grandmother always said to rise when you ask a question.”
  • “Grandmother always said to rise when a lady enters the room.”
  • “Mother always taught me to write thank-you notes.”
  • “Grandmother always said that if you haven’t accomplished half of your day’s goals by 10:00 AM, then you’re in danger of not accomplishing any of them.” (Actually, I think that one is from Wuthering Heights, but I always think of it on a lazy Saturday when I have a hard time doing anything productive before noon.)
  • Any others from my readers?

And the other week, I was delighted to catch a verbal nuance when my friend William was talking about presenting a paper to some other grad students. He said–approximately– “My perspective is both originally and ultimately different from theirs.” He was speaking not of uniqueness or degree of difference, but rather was referring very precisely to the source of his ideas and their necessary conclusions. In a handful of words, he said that his ideas are different not simply in static nature, but in direction past and future. Without even trying, William is cool.

One final story. I laughed so hard I nearly cried when watching an episode from the first season of Frasier the other day. “It’s funny, sophisticated, and very white, Jonathan. You’d like it,” my friend Clint said of the show.

Frasier: “Well Niles, people can get set in their ways. Remember when you used to think that the 1812 Overture is a great piece of classical music?”
Niles: (dramatic pause) “Was I ever so young?”

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