January 30, 2009
Out of respect to Bethany's point-of-view (in comments), I have edited this post to remove a word that some found offensive in the context that I used it.
Middle schoolers have more words to describe things they don't like than the Eskimo-Aleut language has for snow. I have had a hard time catching on to this. At first, I just noticed the invoking of the invective "stupid" a lot more than I ever did when Erin went to elementary school. My addled brain heard "stupid" from the back seat or at the dinner table so often, I made a mental note to find a time to encourage her to expand her vocabulary.
(ASIDE: This tactic and a bar of ivory worked wonders with the primo when he started experimenting with cursing. The soap was the stick and the promise of teaching him much more creative and interesting ways to insult people and express himself was the carrot.)
Another tack I took was using "stupid" myself so she could see what it sounded like. For instance, if I pulled up to the curb to let Erin out for school when I intended to park so I could go in and take care of some business, I would say "That was stupid." The look in Erin's eyes that I'd catch in the rearview mirror told me loud and clear, I didn't "get it."
Obviously, I missed the boat completely on "stupid." As I paid attention, I noticed that "not cool" came up as often as "stupid," with an occasional "r_______" stuck in for variety. I finally got Erin to explain it to me, WITH EXAMPLES.
Clearly, a lot of negative things happen on a day-in, day-out basis to people, and it requires a rich and varied language to describe what's happening so that everyone can understand your level of misery.
If someone (usually a friend) takes your pencil without asking for it, and you notice, you say, "not cool." I think this applies to a lot of situations that your friends do things that you wouldn't tolerate from acquaintances or random classmates. Since they are your friends and you want them to know you didn't like or appreciate what they did, you use the relatively benign phrase "not cool."
"Stupid" also covers a multitude of situations, but all of them are "more" bad than things that are "not cool." Having homework in more than three classes in one night is "stupid." Leaving your mandatory ID lanyard in the car in the morning is "stupid," but not as "stupid" as getting caught in the hall without it. Your friends can do "stupid" things (but not usually to you), like the kid who video taped himself (AT SCHOOL, WITH HIS SCHOOL-ISSUED LAPTOP) lighting the aerosol from a deoderant can on fire BEHIND a teacher's back, THEN UPLOADED IT TO YOUTUBE (don't go searching for this. . .it's already come and gone). This is the first example Erin gave me that I actually agreed that "stupid" was the appropriate descriptive word, and thought perhaps it bordered on the next level up.
"R_______" is for things that go beyond the pale. For example, it is "r_______" when you get the same lecture eight periods in a row about remembering the rules for the appropriate use of school-issued laptops.
I happen to think that cancer is not cool, stupid, and r_______, all at the same time. I'm sure I will add some other descriptors soon. After I master the first level and can use these words correctly, I'll get to move on to more specialized words with more subtle nuances.
Erin has had a mostly good week, with some complaints of tiredness, some off and on stomach issues, variable use of tylenol, and an increasing number of meds to keep track of (the main side effect for zometa is a couple of days of flu-like symptoms). I wish she felt better, but I'm glad she doesn't feel worse. She has plans to make lanyards and watch movies with Leslie Borski after school today and see Hello Dolly tomorrow night with her friend Toni. Next week looks busy already, and we haven't even gotten there. She has an eye doctor appointment on Monday and clinic in Houston on Tuesday afternoon. More importantly she has student council after school on Monday and Wednesday (much to do before the Valentine's Dance) and UIL on Tuesday and Thursday. And of course, the highlight of the week, fencing starts next Thursday.
I bought a new scanner yesterday. What do you think?