Essay: Why Mind the Gap?

Who said, “We’ll leave the light on for you?” Most adult Americans probably know who (Tom Bodett) and why (Motel 6 ad). It’s a famous advertising end tag.

I don’t advertise, sell, or profit from either of my blog sites. But I do use the static intro taglines feature of WordPress themes for both blogs. You can’t see the intro tagline on Our Literary Journey because this page is a clean and sanitized theme. While the menu icon brings up more info, it does not display the tag line (Driveling twaddle by an old flapdoodle). Maybe I should create something less self-effacing.

However, the intro tagline is front and center on the Dispassionate Doubt theme. I do not use an end tag there; usually it’s just a relevant meme or quotation.

On September 4, 2016, a few months after I started Our Literary Journey, I began using the Look both ways end tagline. I change it slightly each time to relate to the post. Seven weeks later, on October 21st, I added a second end tag, Mind the Gap (or gaps), also changeable.

Both end tags are philosophically metaphorical phrases for living life—staying alive and healthy. They suggest considering all sides (pro and con), hearing people out, looking for answers (or for questions), discerning danger, being careful and taking risk, learning and remembering lessons, and trying new and different things. Although, consistency and longevity are credible virtues.

Over the years, I’ve become more aware of the word gap (retail clothing notwithstanding) and how we use it. For a three-letter, one-syllable word, it can mean so many different things. To the degree that gap is synonymous with crack, I find much meaning in Cohen’s song verse.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.
—Leonard Cohen, lyrics from his song, Anthem

Gap has several definitions. It could be a break in a barrier (such as a wall, hedge, or line of military defense), an assailable position, a mountain pass or ravine, a separation in space or an incomplete or deficient area. A gap can be a break in continuity, a hiatus, lack of balance, or a disparity such as the gap between imports and exports. It could mean a wide difference in character or attitude, such as the generation gap, or a problem caused by some disparity such as a communication or credibility gap.

Mind the gap comes from the warning on the British Underground/subway. So, when I say mind the gap or gaps, it is a cautionary plea to protect oneself. It is also a suggestion to be careful and pay attention to your environment, particularly what you might not see. Yet, it is more than that. There are gaps in our knowledge, gaps in scientific explanations, gaps or figurative holes in our lives, or maybe gaps growing in our relationships. There is even a god of the gaps.

In my opinion, the biggest gap is between human imagination and reality.

This TEDx talk is about minding the gap. It’s what sparked me to write this post.

And yes, look both ways, into your imagination and toward reality.
And mind the gaps, those eternal infernal spaces
where the light gets in and shines upon mystery.

Essay: Rapturous Word Smithery

If I use the word rapture, what do you think?

Is it a feeling of intense pleasure or joy, or something religious? I recently used it, but reconsidered because of the second coming link. That’s not where I wanted my reader’s mind to go.

I’m not paranoid about selecting words, but many good words have been hijacked into meaning other things. I just saw click bait titled, “100 common slang phrases no longer used.” It included terms such as passion pit, talk to the hand, booyah, pad, or cat. Things change with words, phrases, and language in general. But I’m no linguist.

Admittedly, all words are subject to being absorbed into contemporary slang. Even lexicographers surrender to words morphing from misnomer to intentional slang to first or second-level meanings in dictionaries.

For example, gay as an adjective is often now defined first as homosexual (especially a man). As a noun, it means homosexual. Queer is another one that has waffled from meaning something odd, then to disparaging slang (homosexual), then back to acceptable, as in LGBTQ. I confess my confusion.

I try to keep up. I can say that’s cool and not be referring to a temperature, but I may be. Same with cold (as in cruel) in various uses. When my son started using the word bad to mean exceptionally good, I failed in making the sarcastic adjustment. Can we just stick with bad ass for that? Of course, that may also mean a tough or rough person.

I like it better when we make up new words rather than creating slang from old words that have established meanings. As it is, even when used correctly and in context, some words have so many meanings. For example, “the word set has 126 meanings as a verb, 58 as a noun, and 10 as a participial adjective,” and those do not include new jargonistic aberrations.

I just counted seven specialized dictionaries on my bookshelves. I like to read them because words fascinate me as much as spelling them frustrates me. Additionally, I use several on-line regular dictionaries, thesauruses, and encyclopedias (wiki’s) every day.

I got A’s in spelling in elementary school, “A” for atrocious. Now there’s a word nobody has screwed with (yet).

The nuns in my grade school taught me the word atrocious. I heard it often and haven’t forgotten. If only my spelling was better. It’s embarrassing to call myself a writer and spell so poorly.

However, Bill Bryson helps reduce my guilt feelings in his book “Bryson’s Dictionary of Troublesome Words” by telling of the physicist Richard Feynman’s intended retort to other professors who complained about their students’ failure to correctly spell particular words. It was, “Then there must be something wrong with the way you spell it.”

In the same book, Bryson (who I love to read) goes on to say of our language,

“One of the abiding glories of English is that it has no governing authority, no group of august worthies empowered to decree how words may be spelled and deployed. We are a messy democracy, and all the more delightful for it. We spell eight as we do not because that makes sense, but because that is the way we like to spell it. When we tire of a meaning or usage or spelling – when we decide, for example, that masque would be niftier as mask – we change it, not by fiat but by consensus. The result is a language that is wonderfully fluid and accommodating, but also complex, undirected and often puzzling – in a word, troublesome.”

I find that rapturing, as in when rapture means ecstasy, bliss, exaltation, euphoria, elation, joy, enchantment, delight, happiness, and pleasure. My feet are planted firmly on the ground and shall remain so, no matter who’s coming or how often.

Look both ways when wordsmithing or researching meaning and spelling.
Mind the gaps in dictionaries, they often mean something.
With your merciful pardon and leave, I shall write on, seeking
the dispensation and assistance of good spellers.
My eternal envy and gratitude are theirs.