Individuality vs. the common good

David Christy

Words we use in our everyday walk through this life mean something.

Or, do they?

I’ve been told I’m easily amused by everyday, mundane things.

But, that’s just me.

When I was younger, and the light came on about something I took for granted when interacting with others, or just sitting on a couch, with my mouth slightly agape and a glazed look on my faces watching TV, words and phrases matter to me.

Language — in this instance English — is not universal.

Oh, multi-millions of us across the U.S. and Canada, in most parts of the old British Empire, and many countries where English is a second language, have our own way of talking, our own favorite phrases and we all generally can understand one another when we use everyday speech.

Well, not quite.

Ever watch a movie with British, Irish or Scottish actors playing everyday people? And you can’t understand but a word here or a word there. And expressions, colorful phrases used by English-speaking people don’t sound like English to us.

We, as Americans, say things in everyday speech that are almost automatic, many times without thinking. It’s more a reaction of the mind.

If I like something or it strikes my fancy — now there’s an old term — my brain stores that automatic response. I’ll look favorably on whatever it was I had liked. We all do it.

I have a strong penchant for saying the word “cool” when I like something. It was a term I heard many times while growing up, and it stuck with me — it stuck with my generation. I say it automatically, without thinking. But then, I looked up the term cool, and it’s been around since at least 1933. It means fine, great or excellent.

Funny how things — how words or expressions — come to be. Sometimes, they just catch on with us.

Over the years I heard the words/phrases like something is gnarly or funky. While they became wildly popular with many in everyday speech, they wore out their welcome and just went back to being fairly obscure, once-fashionable words some used when they thought they “were cool.”

See where is this is going?

These words no longer have the meaning that they had for several years; they are no longer fashionable and they just kind of one day drop away. I still occasionally use the word funky, but it’s almost aways used to describe a particularly odd or bad odor I can’t describe — and the smell becomes “funky.”

Language is an odd commodity. In England, they might want to say the word “cool,” but they most likely will use the expression “that’s wicked mate.” Same thing as cool. Same thing as great or excellent.

Same meanings, just different words — a different expression.

In Australia, they like to use the term “brilliant.” It’s an Aussie’s way of saying cool, just in a different way. It’s still English, a part of the English language, the term means the same as “cool” but in a different usage.

So, my rambling in this column is more me wondering about things than it is bringing something to the readers’ attention.

A large segment of people that live on this globe speak the same language, yet we don’t at the same time. We speak differently, use different expressions than someone who lives in Boston, for example. Or for that matter in Louisiana or Oregon or Florida or Michigan. We are an amalgamation of states with many, many different peoples, different expressions, different meanings to our English words, and are tied together economically, in being American, in being an Oklahoman, in being a Garfield Countian. I can hear a person from New York City speak, and understand what they are saying, but do I really hear what they are saying?

We tend to judge others by the way they speak, the way they act, the way they interact or are oblivious to the things around them.

There are certain things in the King James Bible I try to adhere to, some better than others. But Matthew 7:1 may be number one: “Judge not that ye be not judged.” Those words were spoken Jesus of Nazareth in his Sermon on the Mount, and it is one that probably is broken more than any other in the Bible.

I hear or see people judging others every day. I sometimes find myself judging how a person talks, how they react or think about things, and I have to take a step back and think that I need to stop judging. Unfortunately, way too many Americans don’t offer the same courtesy. They judge and think nothing of it.

Our differences seem to sometimes set us apart, but it’s our commonality that keeps us together. After all, we are the “United” States of America.

The alternative is that we are not.

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Christy is news editor in charge of the layout desk and a columnist for the Enid News & Eagle.

•• The News & Eagle has traditionally published personal opinions of writers and readers through editorials, columns and letters to the editor on its Opinion Page. The opinions shared are those of the writers and not the newspaper.

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Have a question about this opinion piece? Do you see something we missed? Do you have a story idea for David? Send an email to davidc@enidnews.com.

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3rd-generation journalist, Univ. of Oklahoma School of Journalism 1968-1972, OU Sports Information Office, sports editor Sherman (Texas) Democrat, editor weekly Waukomis Hornet, news editor Enid News & Eagle. Retired 27-year volunteer firefighter and EMT.

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