Thursday, September 20, 2012

Sometimes, I forget.

Most of the time, I feel very much like a normal person.  I tootle along, doing my thing, and life is cool.  I think my thoughts, I behave my behaviors, I eat my foods, I say my words, and I brush my teeth twice a day.  I feel very normal.  I think this is an average life.

And then, occasionally, I am suddenly made hyper-aware of how far outside the realm of "normal" I am generally operating.  The realization hits me like a wave, and I am left shaken and confused.

Some of my coworkers didn't know what "pragmatic" meant.  That was today's sudden Weird Awareness Wave.

Doesn't seem like enough to set off an existential crisis, does it?  But it is.  I find the idea of an adult not knowing the meaning of the word "pragmatic" to be utterly, completely incomprehensible.

What do you MEAN you don't know what it means?  It's not that strange of a word!  It's relatively common!  It's used in general discourse!  I don't expect you to be able to give me the OED definition, but you can at least use the word correctly in a sentence, right?

We're teachers, for heaven's sake.  TEACHERS.


I called my parents to ask them questions about an unrelated event.  I asked them both to define "pragmatic."  Mom went with "practical."  Dad went with "realistic."  I felt less alone.

My brother is a smart guy, but is admittedly not a language freak.  He's an engineer.  He likes numbers and variables.  I had to help him with English papers quite frequently when we were in high school.

I called my brother and left him a message- I have a weird question for you, please call me back.

"Hey, you called, what's up?"

I need you to tell me what "pragmatic" means.

"What the hell?  Why are you asking me?"

I need to know that you know the definition of "pragmatic."

>uncomfortable, on-the-spot noises<

I don't need the official definition, just use it in a sentence.

"This is the pragmatic solution."

Sigh of relief.

"I guess it means... logical?  Reasonable? Why are YOU asking ME?"

I related the story.

"Dude, there's no way they've gotten through adulthood without having heard that word.  You'd think they could at least use deductive reasoning to puzzle out what it meant."

The fact that you just used the phrase "deductive reasoning" makes me believe that our whole family might be outliers in this situation.

"I guarantee that almost none of my coworkers could use 'deductive reasoning' or 'pragmatic' in a sentence.  The world is dumber than you think it is."

And the Waves of Otherness continue to wash over me.

What other words do I use casually that are incomprehensible to the general public?  I mean, I know I like words more than the average person.  I get a kick out of etymology.  If see or hear a word that I cannot immediately define, I will Google it.  Nuance is important.  I want my words to accurately describe my thoughts, and I will pick and choose words carefully to assure that I am conveying the message I intend to convey.

Is this really such a strange trait?

If this is strange, what the fuck is normal?


I'm sure that I will have returned to a feeling of normalcy by morning.  And I will tootle along again, oblivious to the actual state of normalcy, and I will continue to use clarifying words that only serve to obscure my meaning, and I will forget again.

But at this moment?

I feel like I just found out that the world is actually flat.


  1. I'm not really sure how to comment, but I can identify with this.

    I am placed in similar situations, if not nearly identical *in nature*... and I stress the latter. Most people see a little girl when they glance at me, and they treat me no different-- when they realize that I can not only use multisyllabic words, but formulate or join a conversation regarding worldy issues they seem bewildered like I had just taken a hammer to their perceptions.

    To me, you don't strike me as 'weird'... rather someone that would be good company. I think the world is taking itself too seriously by trying not to take itself seriously (and I admit fault in this), know what I mean?
    And you seem part of the few that are genuinely inquisitive but conscientious... that's not weird... least not in my book =P

    1. I'm not saying I'd like to be normal... I'm just floored when I find out what "normal" really is.

  2. Pragmatic - didn't have to Google it.

    I admire your ability to “pick and choose your words carefully”. A trait I wish I possessed, more often than not ... ;o)

    1. My coworkers think that I'm speaking slowly and carefully because I'm trying to be diplomatic, or to soften blows, or whatnot... I'm speaking carefully because I don't really think in words, and I'm essentially translating on the fly. Maybe that's why I like very descriptive terms- I can get people closer to the thought that way.

  3. Believe me, YOU, my darling, are not strange. YOU are perfectly normal in my circles and that's all good. See, Ed and I fit right into your club of strange and wonderfully intelligent weirdos. Geeks. Nerds. Freaks. And we like it that way. Being normal is vastly overrated -- name the movie and the character who says that! I read this out loud to Ed, who is a bit of a Wordie too, and he was horrified. So much so that he went on a anger-fueled tirade about people's laziness to learn, how the internet is killing intelligence and critical thinking ( with which I completely agree), how these "normal" people are on a quest to dumb down society, etc. etc.

    We both agree: It's NOT you. You are a perfectly normal, intelligent human being with fun and awesome interests. You are a teacher and should know these words. It's part of educational theory. YOU aren't alone at all, you have us in your camp of intelligent human beings.

    BIG ((((HUGS)))

    1. But that's just it... in the grand scheme of things, away from the world of academia, it IS strange. Strange isn't necessarily a negative thing, but it does give me pause to realize that I'm probably the only one of my kind in my immediate vicinity. I feel very much like Gonzo in "Muppets From Space."

    2. Tis true, tis true. My daily routine usually, and luckily, doesn't encompass meetings with regular people. If I'm home working, like I am today, I have good company with myself, my books and my kitty-moo. If I'm in the library working I'm surrounded by fellow scholars working on a variety of interesting topics. Even when I'm teaching the kids are there for one reasons -- to pass my class and hopefully learn something in the process. I sometimes forget what "real" people are like.

      Mom always tells me that the more you learn and the more schooling a person goes through, the less you are able to comfortably communicate with the rest of mundane society. I think she's right.

      Gonza is awesome and one of my favorites. ;)

  4. "Normal" is the lowest common denominator. Be glad you're not "normal."

    1. I don't want to be normal... I just like to know where "normal" is. Apparently, I have no clue where the bar is set.

  5. "I'm just floored when I find out what 'normal' really is." Mr. kitty regularly has to remind me how low the bar is for many people, because I frequently feel the same way. So many little things about being a quality person have simply vanished from the collectiveconsciousness of the mainstream.

    At work, I regularly get the "are you an alien from another planet" look of confusion any time I talk about myself. It's happened at every job I've ever had. Even when I think I am sticking to a "safe" topic, such as home renovation. People are stumped when they realize that my house isn't a run-down "handyman's dream" but that we are just customizing a fairly new home to our tastes. It's even worse when I tell them we're making it look OLDER. Rofl.

    And yes, you read that right: I do give myself a list of "safe topics" to discuss with co-workers. It's usually less frustrating that way, and VERY few of them will ever become real-life friends so there's just no point in exerting much effort to make them "understand" me. I'm just being pragmatic. ;)

    1. I cannot imagine having enough self-control to edit what I talk about. Then again, my ability to judge what's "acceptable" is so far out of whack that I'm afraid to meet new people, lest I start talking about bird salvage permits or rat pee or dinosaurs.

  6. I try not to keep a concrete definition of "normal" any more. I know how you feel and it can be very alienating. When I was in a highschool english class my teacher had never heard of the word "tsunami" until the big one in 2006 happened and was all over the news. At work I try to keep conversation to a minimum, just small-talk about the weather and upcoming holidays. It keeps me from getting frustrated and it keeps my co-workers from ostracizing me for being different.

    You're not abnormal, just intelligent and inquisitive. Those are traits that have allowed our species to evolve to the point we're at now.

    1. I just wish the rest of the herd would catch up.