Monthly Archives: December 2015

Defending my language

          Many, many years ago, when I was young and extremely foolish, I loved it when some really “cool” person in his or her 7 1/2 minute of fame decided to repurpose some word or phrase (like “cool” or “daddy” or briefly “aesthetic”) just to prove how in – the – moment they were. I even held back a right cross the first time some slick car salesman promised to “put me into” this car or that one. But since I entered adulthood, albeit belatedly, I find this to be less  a statement of avant garde mastery and more proof of stupidity.
          I can’t really buy the first Hollywood-type who used the word “issue” when he or she meant “problem” had any clue that they are different words. An issue is a bone of contention, or a subject for discussion or debate. A problem is, well, a problem: Only an idiot would call a broken leg “a medical issue”. Who is going to argue that the leg might not need attention? It’s a PROBLEM and it needs to be fixed. Deciding which doctor or medical facility to use might well be an issue: I like Dr. X and you like Dr. Y. But the leg is NOT an issue. And please, if you value sanity, don’t let anyone get away with saying in a superior way “he/she “has issues”. That statement surrenders the concept that that word ever had an actual meaning; that adding an issue to an agenda ever meant you were adding a subject for discussion to the planned meeting, not necessarily throwing a few more problems into the mix.
          The current gratingly annoying misuse is the word “iconic”, although not as commonly used as yet, it   still rankles. Until recently one rarely heard “iconic” used unless in some scholarly or informative context. Then I vaguely remember hearing it on a national news broadcast referring to the “iconic” photograph of the American sailor kissing a girl on the streets of New York on either VE Day, or VJ Day. The photo was run nationally in the newspapers, and became a legitimately iconic symbol of the joy people felt at the end of WWII. But as they will, local newscasters heard it and suddenly any recognizable building, geographic feature, local sight  or even person of note is dubbed “iconic”. Yet the word means a thing “is like an Icon”, referencing the fact that early artists created Icons of specific religious persons and scenes which are instantly recognizable anywhere in the world, and have specific meaning. I somehow doubt that local libraries or elected officials are universally recognized and loved the world over.
          The language has real meaning to me, and I assume to most people. It would be nice to see someone step in and snip this kind of ignorant abuse in the bud when it first happens, instead of taking the chance that it will become another daily irritant.

 

Defending my game

          I’ve played the game of golf nearly all my life. I have loved it, hated it, and for a time avoided it altogether, but I always came back. But the thing that bothers me most is that it no longer resembles the game I learned from my father and uncle some 61 years ago. Let me explain:
          My first set of clubs, bought from a friend of my uncle, consisted of five clubs: There was the obligatory wood (in this case a “2” wood or “brassie” as they were then called – I don’t know why); and what was labeled a putter but actually looked like a shortened 2-iron; a niblick (about the equal of and 8 or 9-iron); a mashie (about a 4 or 5-iron in today’s reckoning); and what some clever business man and labeled a mashie-niblick (or roughly half way between a mashie and the more lofted niblick).
          The four “irons” (they were actually made of steel) listed above all had wooden shafts (hickory, I was told), and the brassie or “woodie” had a steel shaft. I’ve described these clubs in some detail because they were part of the game I learned all those years ago. They were originally made in the 1930s, and well worn by the time I came to have them. I was especially proud to be learning on “full sized” adult clubs.
          Now, back in the mid 1950s, no-one outside the country club  set ever had a real lesson. I was simply told to watch what the adults did, and copy what I saw. It seemed to frustrate the heck out of my father that I in fact did just that, and rather well for a kid. That’s when I fell in love with the game. You see, I was never taught to memorize a swing pattern, or how to make clean contact with the ball. It seemed to come naturally to adjust the motion to the current shot: to swing harder or softer with a given club, depending on the position of the ball or the distance to the flag. With only 3 useable irons and a single wood it never occurred to me that one should swing exactly the same way for each shot, and adjust only the loft of the club. It would have made no sense to me.
And that’s the point of all of this: Today’s clubs include 2 thru 9 irons, a pitching wedge, a sand wedge, and most probably a “lob wedge. Also available are a complete selection metal “woods”, hybrid combinations of the iron and wood designs, metal (no wooden clubs are even made) drivers as large as your foot and bigger, and even (God help us) something called a “rescue metal”. The science behind all of this is sound, and professional s can use this array of clubs to make the ball literally dance in mid air. And with all of this, the guy whose skill lies in adjusting himself instead of his club selection is no longer viable on the course. He doesn’t match the trained golfer’s distance, so he slows play down on the busy courses. He shoots mostly “line-of-sight” and hunts for his ball on every hole that is less than arrow straight. And even though he knows what is possible with the newer equipment, something inside draws him to the unique challenge of adjusting again for every shot and in every condition the course has to offer.
          Of course,  I am the “he” I’ve been talking about. And I still find the joy, the wonder of my game in the challenges each shot provides, not just in the better score we all look for on the fairways.