Christmas is less than a week away, and procrastinators are just starting to realize they need to shop. Pity the online and brick-and-mortar stores that don't have what they want because they waited too long to even think about it. The language will be blistering.
In my family, we haven't done the present thing for years, except for the kids. (Do you really want to disappoint a small child?) Instead, we just get together, eat and talk ... and tell on ourselves a bit with funny stories.
While presents are all good and fine (especially chocolate), there are things I'd much rather have this year.
• No more Twitter tirades.
The times when a certain someone's phone has been apparently taken away from him are blissful. No strangely capitalized tweets with weird misspellings. No hawking of books or television programs favorable to him. No unsupported claims of malfeasance by his "enemies." None of what prompted The Washington Post Fact Checker to add to its Pinocchio rating scale a "bottomless Pinocchio," a "dubious distinction ... awarded to politicians who repeat a false claim so many times that they are, in effect, engaging in campaigns of disinformation." (The claims must have gotten three or four Pinocchios and been repeated at least 20 times; the president is the only elected official to have met that standard so far, with 14 of his claims.)
I know the president believes that Twitter is the only way to get his message out unaffected by the media. but countless polls have shown that people would prefer the president not tweet so much. Quite a bit of the negative news he decries (and again, just because it's negative doesn't mean it's fake) comes about as a result of his tweeting habit. I think we could all benefit from a slow news day now and then, which brings me to ...
• Normal passage of time.
When so much news happens in a short period, it makes it hard to remember just when noteworthy events happened. It's exhausting. Last week I was reading something about self-driving car accidents and was surprised that the fatal Tempe, Ariz., Uber accident happened not last year or the year before, but this past March. Vox's Brian Resnick delved last year into this warped perception of time; psychologists say it's a trick of our memories in which the more important (or emotional, troubling, unusual, etc.) things that happen in a time period, the more time we believe has passed.
Psychology professor Michael Flaherty of Eckerd College in Florida has conducted field studies on the phenomenon and told Resnick, "Abnormality is what they have in common. We pay more attention to our circumstances when conditions are abnormal."
Abnormal conditions? Why, hardly a peep has come out of D.C. Aaaand there's Pinocchio ...
• People who read without taking out or adding words to change the meaning intended by the writer.
You know, like that "holy" in last week's column. ("I wasn't aware the red-nosed reindeer was a holy part of the Christmas canon.") Maybe Santa, his reindeer and Frosty are holy to some, but most people I know consider Jesus and the angels, etc., to be the holy parts; at least one reader, though, completely missed that.
I've sometimes had to toss letters precisely because writers mischaracterized something written in this paper in just such a manner, usually because they disagree with whatever was written or they just don't like the author. It's quite possible that Bradley Gitz didn't say what you thought, nor did that Bloomberg wire piece, so maybe go back and check before firing off an angry missive. I'd say it won't take long, but with the way time's been moving lately ...
• Less taking offense.
We all could stand to calm down a little, and if we stop viewing everything through partisan lenses, it might help. When we're more upset about someone saying "happy holidays" than we are about people being killed at work, out shopping, at church or at school, our priorities are out of whack. If you're offended by someone opening a door for you, maybe step back and consider that perhaps that person is being polite rather than trying to imply you're incapable of doing it yourself.
There are truly offensive things out there we can be angry about--inequality, injustice, mass shootings, etc.--yet so many that we choose to champion are petty because we are so quick to take offense at the slightest perceived insult.
We'll get to the point that everything offends us. Then what will we do? Looks like it's panic rooms for all of us.
There's one more thing I'd really love, which shouldn't shock regular readers: words.
I want words that make me smile and think. I want words that have a colorful history, and those from workaday life. Give me synonyms, antonyms, Spoonerisms, malapropisms, mondegreens and eggcorns. Give me more puns than I can handle, then give me more.
And while you're at it, don't forget to send me the words and phrases you'd most like to bid adieu this year in preparation for Lake Superior State University's annual list of banished words.
Unless you take offense at that. Wouldn't want to cause a ruckus.
Assistant Editor Brenda Looper is editor of the Voices page. Read her blog at blooper0223.wordpress.com. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editorial on 12/19/2018
Print Headline: BRENDA LOOPER: My wish list