Differences, for Better or Worse, 2017

by Arleen Lorrance

Retail stores may soon vanish from view. They are large behemoths, filled with an overload of merchandise on floors devoid of customers. They are quickly being replaced by on-line shopping from the comfort of home. Back in the day, people used to shop that way, from catalogs, in small towns across America where there were no department stores. Now we do it from screen-catalogs, with free shipping. What goes around, comes around, sometimes even better than before.

 People prefer to text rather than talk to others. While it is less intimate and we lose meaning conveyed with intonation, it is highly efficient. We no longer need to engage in pleasantries and unwanted lengthy conversations. We no longer need to engage with people! We can send a single sentence and get a single reply. Excess verbiage is happily being eliminated as we get right to the point and get on with our lives (for better or worse.)

 The English language is collapsing before our eyes. Reporters in reputable newspapers inappropriately use the word apropos instead of appropriate: “She wore an apropos dress to the dance.” Whaaaat?

Television writers have no idea there is a difference between who and whom, or even he and him or she and her. A character will say with aplomb, “Her and John went to the party.” Her and John? Without John in the sentence, they would be saying “Her went to the party.” Whaaaat? Or they will say, “Who are you going to the game with?” (Never mind using a preposition at the end of the sentence.) The answer would have to be, “I am going with he (or she). To respond, “I am going with him (or her)” they would have had to have asked, “With whom are you going to the game.” Oh, well. For whom does that bell toll? It’s not for he, that’s for sure.

Or, how about this for massacring tenses: “I haven’t went to the store yet.” Whaaaat? Of course, there are many people who lay in the sun rather than lie in it. We don’t know what it is that they “lay” since they leave no eggs behind, but they did lay there rather than lie there.

 The speed of speech is rapidly approaching a velocity where the brain can no longer keep up with the words or the meaning of what is being said. People talk so fast it rattles my equilibrium. I am not sure where, when, or why this started. If I put on captioning on television, I can’t even read fast enough to make out what actors’ lips are racing through with their dialog. In part, I suspect this is because TV folks don’t want us to lose interest, which could happen, I suppose, if there was a breath between sentences. To hold us captive, a second character begins speaking exactly (or maybe even a second before) the other character finishes. It is often exhausting trying to keep up. The same phenomenon occurs during unwanted solicitation phone calls when the pitchman rushes to sell you a service. It is nearly impossible to interrupt, other than to rudely hang up. Sometimes, the whole thing has the feeling of the Earth’s population racing to the edge of a cliff and falling over the abyss by the millions. I note that sometimes, when I engage in conversation at my normal rate, others jump in and finish my sentence, or cut me off altogether and begin their own. Yikes!

 Once upon a time people were taught to be humble. This was so drummed in that it was easy to feel guilty if you took credit for something you did. Don’t toot your own horn; let others praise you, and lower your head in response. It was bound to happen that there would be a revolt in this department and that the replacement behavior would be in the extreme as a way of bringing balance to years of squashing of the ego. And it has happened. Brashness, bragging, and egotism have overtaken the White House. No matter what the new president does, he proclaims it as a great success, a homerun. True or not, the throngs who support him (no matter what he does or doesn’t do), cheer him loudly and tell everyone else to get over it because he won the election and that’s that.

President Trump is most certainly creating his own reality consciously and he is a master at it. This may well be a good change in the way things have been because others will surely emerge from the woodwork and speak their minds without the restraints of polite behavior.  Frankness may become a way of life. When the president lies and the supporters shout their approval, others may find the courage to point their finger and say aloud, “You are lying. You will not get away with that!”

President Trump is a perfect example of one whose life is a “waking dream.” Practically everything he says about others (creating “fake news,” for example) is true of himself. He proclaims to be the victim of a “witch hunt,” while he, himself, was the primary witch hunter of his opponent for the office he now holds. The president is the opposite of humble, in the extreme. He is loud and nasty, and a sniper who takes refuge in Twitter where he doesn’t have to engage in dialog or answer anyone’s questions. He is the crusading voice for thousands who were humble or suppressed for too long. 

 Like it or not, great differences are afoot, for better or worse.