Our Twisted Way of Speaking

By Tommy Clarkson from the December 2009 Edition

Though I have no Sancho Panza compadre faithfully galumphing by my side, today, with all the zeal, enthusiasm, focus and sense of Don Quixote, I strike out to fend English!

Variations of “deconfliction” seem the buzz word de jour. For example, a lead sentence in a recent feature story in the Kansas City Star read that “We have police trained to confront and deconflict.”

Beyond that, we can well anticipate a story or two in each day’s evening news about “destablilized” situations, countries and regimes – as reported on CNN but 12 hours prior to this writing, “The Colombian government is . . . destabilizing Venezuela.”

Semantic forensics reveals an innocent enough analysis of these words. My old and trusty College Edition of the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language divulges that the prefix “de” means “1. Reversal or undoing; 2. Removal; 3. Degradation; or, 4. Disparagement”. Now that certainly seems simple enough.

So by these definitions, many of us must have experienced no few bacles before encountering a debacle, right? In turn, before something became debris it must have been bris. H’mmmmm, something’s not computing here!

Following that logic further, prior to one of Hollywood’s evil corrupt cinema individuals debauching a young innocent was he busily bauching. Further, if we were to debrief would we be making something lengthy? And, if – as so many claim – society is, today, in the sorry state of decadence, was it then once, in years of yore, marching along in blissful cadence?

This seems to beg the question, why is it that “to die” is to decease, if cease means to “put an end to or discontinue.” By that rationale should not the former mean to not stop? In the words of Cher’s character grandfather in the movie classic “Moonstruck”, “I’m so confused!” But, in our quest to clarify, forward let us march.

Some of us who have previously lived in the island environs are aware that a cay is “a small, low islet composed largely of coral and sand” – waves gently lapping on a sun kissed isle comes to mind. To change thought of such must we then decay?

Might this word useage be misleading? Deceptive? And hence, then, by its very nature is our language deceitful? If so, should we purposefully strive to make it – or, in fact was it ever – ceitful? Mentally trudging forth, let’s see, the flowers in our entry no longer exude their sweet, fresh smell. So they must now be descented. . . which the dictionary says means “Way down, passage or ancestral extraction.”

Unable to decide what is going on with this “de” stuff, I admit that I must have been, up to this point, ciding in a wallowing vacuum of confusion.

I guess that I dare not declare my abject confusion with this all as to do so I would have to admit that I have, heretofore been claring!

With this in mind I close from whence I commenced. I simply will no longer defend my native tongue. Utterly confused – my natural state anyway – I’ll just fend with it!

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Tommy Clarkson is a bit of a renaissance man. He’s lived and worked in locales as disparate as the 1.2 square mile island of Kwajalein to war-torn Iraq, from aboard he and Patty’s boat berthed out of Sea Bright, NJ to Thailand, Germany, Hawaii and Viet Nam; He’s taught classes and courses on creative writing and mass communications from the elementary grades to graduate level; He’s spoken to a wide array of meetings, conferences and assemblages on topics as varied as Buddhism, strategic marketing and tropical plants; In the latter category he and Patty’s recently book, “The Civilized Jungle” – written for the lay gardener – has been heralded as “the best tropical plant book in the last ten years”; And, according to Trip Advisor, their spectacular tropical creation – Ola Brisa Gardens – is the “Number One Tour destination in Manzanillo”.

Tommy Clarkson

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Tommy Clarkson is a bit of a renaissance man. He’s lived and worked in locales as disparate as the 1.2 square mile island of Kwajalein to war-torn Iraq, from aboard he and Patty’s boat berthed out of Sea Bright, NJ to Thailand, Germany, Hawaii and Viet Nam; He’s taught classes and courses on creative writing and mass communications from the elementary grades to graduate level; He’s spoken to a wide array of meetings, conferences and assemblages on topics as varied as Buddhism, strategic marketing and tropical plants; In the latter category he and Patty’s recently book, “The Civilized Jungle” – written for the lay gardener – has been heralded as “the best tropical plant book in the last ten years”; And, according to Trip Advisor, their spectacular tropical creation - Ola Brisa Gardens – is the “Number One Tour destination in Manzanillo”.

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