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Quiet Desperation

It doesn’t matter what you say when what you say doesn’t matter


Jennifer went shopping on her own, and picked up everything we needed for a wonderful homemade meal, including something called a “salad kit.”

A salad kit comes in a clear bag, so you can see what’s in it. What’s in it is washed and chopped lettuce, and a number of washed and chopped vegetables, and a small plastic sleeve filled with dressing.

All you have to do is empty the salad on the plates.

Of course, you pay for the convenience. The vegetables, purchased separately, would cost half as much. But the vegetables would take far longer to wash and chop, and aren’t we all in a hurry?

“Edna. Where is he going with this one?”

“I wish I knew, Merle.”

Which brings me to an expression. It simplifies everything, just like a salad kit. It is inclusive, which saves you the trouble of a full, vivid explanation.

Here it comes.

Do you have a “go-to” restaurant?

Do you have a “go-to” sweater, or a “go-to” purse?

If you have been around the block with me, you already know how I feel about shortcuts when it comes to this blessed plot, this realm, this English.

Ixnay glib acronyms, is what I say. Ixnay truncations.

When someone says “go-to,” sure, it saves words, but the art of conversation is reduced to a sleeve of Honey Mustard.

I can’t track down the expression’s etymology anywhere. So I am going to blame it on New York City. That’s where a lot of these expressions get their start.

The first time I heard “in a New York minute,” I thought it was clever.

Now? Not so much.

And neither is “not so much.”

Don’t get me wrong. If I were on an airplane and we were headed into a mountain, I would truncate all over the place.

Have you ever had a disagreement with someone that ended when he said or she said, “Whatever”?

Don’t try that around me. It’s very dismissive.

Americans keep it simple. The English, on the other hand, value words. I admit that I can’t always understand what they are saying, but it sure sounds eloquent.

Whenever I watch a film that features English actors, I turn on the closed caption feature. It’s a must.

“Strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government,” comes from Monty Python, and until I read the caption it sounded like something being said backwards.

It’s called “phonetic reversal.” David Lynch experimented with it in “Twin Peaks.”

You can also find it in “Amadeus.” Mozart says a number of phonetically reversed phrases, and many of them are vulgar.

There’s a woman who works at my grocery store who says, “Have a good one, hon,” to every man, woman, and child she sees.

Doesn’t she know? Doesn’t she know that there are a million and one things she could say?

“Only in the agony of parting do we look into the depths of love.” (George Eliot)

“The pain of parting is nothing to the joy of meeting again.” (Charles Dickens)

“What’s so good about good-bye?” (Smokey Robinson and the Miracles)

If she started to say things like that, I would shop there twice a day.

“Have a good one, Honey Mustard.” Even that is an improvement.

Craig Marshall Smith is an artist, educator and Highlands Ranch resident. He can be reached at craigmarshallsmith@comcast.net.


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