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The English language and its perplexities

It has now been a number of years since I became acquainted with the English language, which is at times a confusing experience.

Some time ago, I was at a meeting with some local men who were talking about a person who was gay. Now, to me that meant the person was a happy fellow. But according to the group he was most of the time sad and greatly depressed. How can this be? I wondered.

Next came talk about one who was “straight.” But I was informed that even a straight person could be crooked, and a crooked one could be straight. Come again? I just didn’t get it.

I readily admit that I am not the sharpest tool in the shed, but please say what you mean and mean what you say.

I have a female friend, a rather old-fashioned lady. Don’t think there was anything romantic between us. There was not. Now, wait a minute, I almost lost my train of thought. I often wonder as to what kind of train we are talking about. Was it one by steam propelled, or was it an electric one? But then I’ve been told that this train was not your regular choo-choo train.

Back to my friend, who was always quite delicate and elegant, especially in the use of her language. I was told that she was a spinster, and I asked her one time as to what kind of yarn she was spinning. This did not go over too kindly with her.

During the war years, I used to spin using the wool of sheep on a spinning wheel. I produced some fine yarn, which my mother used to darn the socks of our Dad, or she would knit more socks. My sisters, too, used yarn, but that was a different kind. They would embroider tablecloths and pillow slips.

My lady friend, according to those in the know, did not use a spinning wheel, but it was said that she could spin a great yarn. I still don’t get it. I never did roam the hallowed halls of academia, and that is probably my fault for being so ignorant.

Well, this lady planned to attend a reunion, so she wrote to the campground where this reunion was to be held to make her reservation. She wanted to be sure the campground was fully equipped, but did not know how to ask about the toilet facilities. She just couldn’t bring herself to write the word “toilet” in her letter. After much deliberation, she finally came up with the old-fashioned term “bathroom commode.” But after reading it, she felt she was being too forward, so she started over, rewrote the whole entire letter and referred to the bathroom commode merely as the B.C.

“Does the campground have its own B.C.?” is what she finally wrote.

Well, the campground owner wasn’t old-fashioned at all, and he couldn’t figure out what the woman was talking about. After pondering it, he showed the letter to several campers, but no one could understand what she meant.

He finally concluded she was talking about the location of the Baptist Church, and he wrote this reply: “Dear Madam, I regret very much the delay in answering your letter, but now I take the pleasure of informing you that the B.C. is located 9 miles north of the campground and is capable of seating 250 people at one time. I admit it is quite a distance away if you are in the habit of going regularly, but I know a number of people take lunches and make a day of it. They usually arrive early and stay late.

“The last time my wife and I went was six years ago, and it was so crowded that we had to stand the whole time we were there. It may interest you to know that right now there is a supper planned to raise money to buy more seats. It will be held in the basement of the B.C. It pains me very much not being able to go more often, but it surely is no lack of desire on my part. As we get older, particularly in cold weather, it gets harder to go. If you decided to come to our campground, perhaps I could go with you the first time, sit with you and introduce you to folks. Remember, we are a friendly community.”

She read the reply and fainted. Even after I mentioned to her the TV commercial with those two little bears saying, “Enjoy the go,” she did not go to the reunion. She, too, like me so often, was definitely perplexed.

Tony Antonides lives in Central Point.


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