A Spoken Cliché – literally

“We literally had a snowstorm in April in Kansas City.”
As opposed to a figurative snowstorm?
Simply, “We had a snowstorm in April in Kansas City,” or
“We actually had a snowstorm in April in Kansas City.”

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A Note to Terry Gross

Terry Gross hosts a daily radio program called Fresh Air, distributed for National Public Radio. She interviews guests for the better part of her hourly program.

After a break for news and announcements (at the half-hour mark) she says:

“If you just tuned in, my guest is . . .”

Does this mean that if you’ve already been listening her guest is someone else?
Perhaps this malapropism is her trademark, and she doesn’t want to change it?

When I slapped our son’s face

I don’t believe that corporal punishment works. It only demonstrates that I’m bigger and more powerful than our son or our grandchildren.

This one time that I hit our son, though, seemed to be the only way to reach him. His attitude was so arrogant.

He was in eighth grade, and we were sitting at our kitchen table. He was genuinely proud and showed mock innocence of how he and a friend had addressed their English teacher. They were convinced that it was perfectly acceptable to say “fothermucker” since they had exchanged two letters. Of course, both boys knew perfectly well how they had started with a disgusting word.

I wasn’t getting across to him that speaking in such a way was not innocent. His listeners knew perfectly well that he was behaving atrociously.

So I slapped his cheek. He was astounded because I had never hit him before. Besides this, the suddenness was shocking. With that slap, he promised that he would never speak that way ever again.

He may have behaved atrociously again in the next year or two. I reminded him of how I couldn’t reach him then, and I didn’t seem to be reaching him again. “Listen. I’m not going to hit you again. You’re older and wiser. Think about your audacity then and now. I expect you to behave better.” Then I walked away.

I really believe that his memory jolted him. I’m not aware that his behavior was other than “age appropriate.” He was a teenager and lapsed into the poorer behavior and attitude that teenagers sometimes exhibit. But teenage behavior during the teenage years wasn’t going to change much with chastisement. In addition, I had already taught him a life-long lesson.

She Who Deserves Her Privacy – SWDHP

I’ve been divorced for a while. I don’t like to say the expression ‘ex-wife’. I usually refer to her by name as I would any acquaintance. I do mention that she is my ‘ex-wife’, but only to establish our relationship.

In this blog I will call her She Who Deserves Her Privacy – SWDHP.

An idea for this comes from the British television series Rumpole of the Bailey that was broadcast on PBS. Horace Rumpole is a barrister who refers to his wife as “She who must be obeyed!”

If I had been Rumpole, I would have abbreviated this to SWMBO when writing. It’s one thing to give his wife a long title when speaking. It’s another for me to want to write out such a long phrase often.

Similarly, the woman who I was once married to and now am divorced from deserves a name that protects her privacy. But, as I wrote above, calling her my “ex-wife” leaves a distaste in my mouth. She is, after all, still our son’s mother. Note how I wrote “our son.” In certain contexts, he is certainly my son. However, he came to be born as “ours,” and he didn’t change when we got divorced. We both raised him together, under the same roof, for about thirteen years.

Actually, there is no full divorce when you have children. The children bring you together when they get married, when grandchildren are born, and so on. This is something to consider if you entertain the idea of getting divorced.

Hot Tea WITH Sugar

Zeide muses . . .

We sit along a well-used, white, oil-cloth covered table. The Ein Ya’akov books are open for today’s lines.

“From the rising sun until it sets . . .” — tea with sugar. WITH — the only English word here. I’m the only speaker of English sitting on the bench, but no matter. My great-grandfather hunches over my shoulder, whispering.

His whisper swirls through the mouth of the zogger — the one who says what’s written, and I hear.

“Someone who reads the Megillah backwards didn’t go out.” Go out? Where? Why read it backwards anyway? Spoiler alert!

The table sprouts glasses of sweet tea, too hot to drink. The sun is setting, but slowly. I dovvened  this morning, and then we sat down to drink hot tea with sugar quickly.

“I heard that you’re from Chicago. The Rebbe was in Chicago.” Perhaps my Zeide Segal saw him. (Now I’m Zeide Segal.) “Do you remember whose yohrtzeit is tomorrow?”

The Chicago connection fails me. The tea connection doesn’t. The Rebbe was escorted from a wintery train platform to a hotel where they surely served him — a glass of hot tea with sugar. A glozz tay.

“Every year I go up to the Mount of Olives to pay my respects. But this year . . . it’s dangerous. Reb Boruch Mordecai of Bobruisk is my ancestor.” The Great Luminary. The Spicy, Biting Sharp. Wise but Humble. He was summoned to the Yeshivah of Above, 14 Elul 5617.

But it’s not dangerous here in Jerusalem of Above. Tomorrow afternoon I’ll go pay respects.

“Absolutely not. It’s dangerous. I take no responsibility.”

This was worn into the pavement of Mazkeret Moshe Street near Congregation Yismach Moshe. I wore my hiking boots then, and then again when a Yerushalmi bochur accompanied me to the Mount of Olives Cemetery. “Aim for the resting place of the holy Ohr HaChaim, but swerve south about ten meters before you reach his tziyun.” Believe me, I toiled and I found.

Congregation Knesseth Israel is hosting me for this evening’s hot tea and Ein Ya’akov lines. “From the rising sun until it sets . . .” — tea with sugar.

  • Ein Ya’akov
  • “From the rising sun until it sets . . .” – Psalms 113:
  • the only English word here – Tea has probably entered the English language from Ancient Chinese after several hand-offs over time. Sugar has probably entered the English language from Sanskrit after a number of hand-offs over time.
  • “Someone who reads the Megillah backwards” – Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Megillah, 17a.
  • didn’t go out – I’m having fun with the Hebrew term that means “didn’t fulfill the mitzvah.”
  • The Rebbe was in Chicago – His Holiness, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Scheersohn, the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, visited Chicago in 1942.

Noah’s Ark landed where?

Why do so many people believe that Noah’s ark landed on a mountain in or near today’s Armenia.

Typically, the answer is, “The name of the mountain is Ararat, and the Bible teaches us that the ark landed on Mount Ararat.

A fallacy here is that no location on the face of the Earth has an essential name. People give names to geographical locations, and people change names as it suits them.

Who knows who named this mountain “Ararat”? It’s not unlikely that people who heard about the Bible wanted their famous mountain to bear the name of Noah’s mountain. So, who knows that this mountain was named Ararat in Noah’s time?

This is a topic for investigation, to find evidence. I’m fond of suggesting topics for post-graduate dissertations, and this is a topic.

Currently, scientists believe that the earliest community of our ancestors lived near the horn of Africa, around the location of today’s Ethiopia. It’s as likely that Noah’s ark landed in Ethiopia as it is that it landed in Armenia.

Noah and Na’amah had three sons and three daughters-in-law, who themselves had children and grandchildren. There is no saying which family or clan succeeded in heading north leaving Africa and entering southwest Asia. Who knows whether another family followed the pioneers. We don’t even know whether some of these early people backtracked to where Noah and Na’amah had settled.

We don’t know how fast some people moved across Asia. General experience is that people follow water-level routes. Sea coasts tend to be level, generally unblocked by mountains that jut into the ocean.

Sea coasts abound with sea food. Berries, nuts, and fruits are as abundant near coasts as they are inland. It’s not especially difficult to find fresh water nearby. “All waters flow to the sea.”

What about shelter? It seems to me that erosion from wave action creates caves and projecting overhangs. Early humans were as intelligent as we are. Will someone tell me that a family or clan didn’t send a scout ahead to find, among other things, the next location of shelter? Perhaps these people were reluctant to backtrack to the previous shelter, but can you tell me that they didn’t when they urgently needed protection?

Experts believe that evidence of human life along sea shores readily wash into the ocean or are buried by rising sea levels. What I’ve written is speculation — one of my history professors would likely call these musings “idle speculation.”

No matter. Archaeologists are actively exploring sea coasts along the Indian Ocean to Southeast Asia.

If you’ve heard of people experimenting to find out how practical sea level journeys are using primitive strategies, or even safe compromises with contemporary equipment, please tell me. Thanks.