When 'Golly' was a Word
In composing these things—I don’t really know what to call them—I sometimes spend what seems an inordinate amount of time looking for just the right word, which I haven’t been able to find for these things I’m writing. When a typewriter was the tool of choice I wore out a couple Thesauruses, or Thesaurus’s… Thesaurusi? You know, the plural for the book that contains synonyms of words, of which there is none for ‘Thesaurus’, or I’d certainly use it.
At any rate there is often a number of words you could use to describe something, but there is only one word that fits what is being conveyed perfectly, if you can find it. Back in the 60’s JFK threw the gauntlet at Russia to begin the race to the moon. Up until that time my knowledge of space was limited to what I gleaned from science fiction books (okay, comics) and movies. The consensus was that a big chrome rocket resting on three giant tail fins out in the desert behind a chain-link fence would carry a few astronauts, one of them a scientist’s daughter, directly to the moon where it would land gently and drop a ladder down.
Boy did they get that wrong. In the 80’s I was writing an article I hoped to sell to Air & Space about those days and how the actual approach to spaceflight was so much different than what we thought would happen. We didn’t just rocket away to the moon like we were supposed to. Baby steps are what happened; first earth-orbit satellites carrying nothing, then a dog, then a monkey etc. etc. So my article had a sentence that read something like this; ‘Instead of using one big shiny Moon Rocket it appeared we were going to climb up there rung by rung…’ but it needed a word to show how excruciatingly slow this process was unwinding. I tried ‘rung by skeletal rung’…, no. ‘Rung by hopeless rung’…nope. Out came Roget’s Thesaurus and I spent a good while thumbing around until…there it was! ‘Pauperitic’! It comes from ‘pauper’ and describes the poorest of the poor, as in ‘we were going to climb up to the moon rung by pauperitic rung’. Now that is a perfect line, although apparently I was one of the few who thought so. Air & Space sure didn’t. However, I am absolutely certain that someday it will be the exact fit I need again so I keep it around. Hopefully I will get to use it before it becomes obsolete, if it isn’t already.
Words do, you know, become obsolete, especially nowadays. Take ‘golly’, for instance. I don’t know that I’ve heard ‘golly’ since ‘Leave it to Beaver’ went off the air.
Then there is ‘shan’t’, which is a contraction of shall not. I didn’t think it was even in use anymore until an editor told me they shan’t be in the office Thursday. I actually had to mull that over for a moment before it dawned on me they wouldn’t be there on Thursday. It’s a good thing they were talking to me, huh? A person of lesser mind may have spent all day Thursday waiting in their parking lot. Nowadays I believe ‘won’t’ has replaced shan’t, but that’s even worse; ‘won’t’, by those rules, turns into ‘wo not’, or maybe ‘woll not’. Perhaps we woll not ever know.
Well however that pans out there are other inexplicable words. For instance who exactly does ‘whom’ refer to? Is ‘whomsoever’ somebody other than whosoever? I get all wrapped up in stuff like this because editors are all wrapped up in it. They are literally too specific for my own good, but since I’m such a stickler for getting the exact adverb I have no choice but to carry that on through the whole thing.
It’s hard though, and it’s becoming harder by the moment. A word that was acceptable yesterday, such as ‘confederate’, is not politically correct today, and if you don’t have the TV on all the time—I think ‘all the time’ is now called ‘24/7’—you have a good chance of unknowingly using a word that might ‘trigger’ someone in a position to cause them extreme grief. Trigger used to be what activated the bullet to fire out of a gun, so in that way I suppose it could vaguely translate into something that would offend someone of utmost sensibilities, but man, is that a far cry from the intended meaning.
I don’t mean to trigger any hurt feelings out there, but I do wish the adults among us at least try to get a grip. This is not to say that words aren’t powerful, they most certainly are; if you are a creationist—and I am—you know that God created the entire universe with words, so they aren’t meant to be bandied around carelessly, as they too often are. Words do have meanings and in most cases precise meanings, thereby my insistence on the correct adverb. But because nouns have become so murky that Washington Redskins aren’t acceptable anymore, not to mention insults that might be provoked with inflammatory names like the ‘Lincoln Memorial’, I’m going to try to avoid place names altogether. So here’s what I will try to do from now on whenever I, say, get hungry;
I will go to a place that has eatables you can take with you, and I will get things that you can mix together to make more and bigger tasty things. I like bigger tasty things and although I’m not very good at mixing them I have a person at my living place who can mix and heat things very well , so I can have different eatables, etc.
See how well that does not work? It would seem the cancel culture in this country is cancelling out their entire existence. Well, that would be alright with me except for the fact that they’re determined to take all of us down the rabbit hole with them.
However, on the bright side it would make coming up with a descriptive handle for these articles a genuinely futile exercise, so I wouldn’t have to worry about that any more. The concept itself makes writing completely uninteresting, so, wait a minute…let me see…yes! I could call these things “Pauperitic Musings”, followed by blank sheets of paper, perhaps a whole ream of them if l wanted to make it into a book.
Golly, I can see how this might turn out pretty darn nifty!