Monday, January 21, 2008

People Labels

On New Years Eve, I had a long conversation with Tasha about some country songs that I really like. After writing them down for Tasha to check out, Sister Michele asked me, "How do you always know about so many new songs?"

Just a week later, I was given a wonderful gift by some wonderful friends. It was a book, and it was inscribed, "From one who cares to another who cares." Below is a chapter from this book, On Words: Insight Into How Our Words Work - and Don't by Paula LaRocque.

The answer to Sister Michele's question? See the last paragraph for the answer. As if you needed a label to know it!

Chapter 18
People Labels

Let's forget for a moment all of the reasons why we shouldn't label each other and observe that the labels we do use are often at least lazy and threadbare. Even those lovely words conservative and liberal carry so much emotional baggage that we've lost sight of the potential nobility they suggest: How nice to conserve. How nice to be open-handed.

We need fresh and imaginative words that identify people without being either meaningless or mean-spirited. And many such labels exist. We just don't use them. For example, we frequently talk about introverts and extraverts, but how do we identify those who are neither, those who balance sociability with healthy self-interest? There's a word for such people. It's ambivert.

Speaking of "ambi," we know what to call someone who is equally skillful with both hands. That person is ambidextrous. But what do we call someone who is equally clumsy with both hands? That person is ambisinister. "Ambi" is a prefix meaning both, and "sinister" means lefthandedness. So being ambisinister is a short form for saying we have two left hands.

What about people who have two left feet? No such word seems to exist, so let's play wordsmith and coin one. Since "ped" means foot, what about ambisiniped? (A wordsmith, by the way, is a logodaedalus.)

What trait would you say the word monoculist identifies? It means to have only one eye. And speaking of eyes, are you a presbyope? Or a myope? If you'r far-sighted, you're a presbyope, near-sighted, a myope - hence, the more commonly heard terms, presbyopia and myopia. But how might we label the near-sighted person who is lucky enough to have reached middle-age - and the age of the bifocal. Is that person a presbyopic myope?

Still speaking of eyes - are yours blue? And do you have blond hair? Then you're a glaucope. Now there's a label that sounds far more unattractive than the condition. No wonder we don't hear the term.

Or what if your eyes are brown instead of blue? Then you're a cyanope - a fair-haired, dark-eyed person. If you're a redhead, we can call you a pyrrotist. And if you have freckles with that red hair, you're a lentiginous pyrrotist. Sounds like something you could be arrested for, doesn't it?

We have fewer labels for thin people than we have for fat, and labels for skinnies are not as unflattering as those for chubbies. Of course, there are such terms: beanpole, stringbean, or bag of bones. Or the more clinical term ectomorph. But there's a finer, friendlier label for the naturally thin. It's leptosome. Compare that word to the porknell, which labels a fat person and means not only a pig, but a stuffed pig.

This next label is probably one you can put to use immediately. Do you know people who wake to music, drive to work to music, fall asleep to music, and spend the rest of the time wearing headsets that pipe music directly into their ears? Those people are melomaniacs. Bet you thought they had to be some kind of maniac, didn't you?

When I came to my job five years ago and found out our boss would not allow radios or CD players in our offices, I was devastated. And, I felt like I couldn't handle it. So this was me some years ago. Not any more. Not to this extent. But it is true that I love listening to music. All types of music. A good amount of the time.


Dani said...

That sounds like a book that needs to become a birthday present for my brother! haha :)

strem said...

It's a good one for word and grammar geeks, so I love it. I'll be making some future posts about some of the other topics included in the text.

Elizabeth said...

So you're a melomaniac in recovery?

"-Hi, My name's Michelle and I'm a recovering melomanic, I've been clean for five years.
-Hi Michelle."

I'm sorry; I'm laughing with you not at you. But I couldn't resist imagining the Anonymous Meeting for Melomanics! ;)

Oh it makes me chuckle.

strem said...

Elizabeth, YES! How did you know??? ;)

jsarber said...

Hi, I'm Jeremy. I am also a melomanic. I have been since junior high, I guess. I cannot remember the first album I owned, but I do know the very first CD I owned was The Best of the Doors. Between good ol' fashioned rock and roll and the gospel singing of the Primitive Baptists, I'm not sure I'll ever be able to kick the habit.

strem said...

Melomaniacs UNITE!