Rita is Back

How to Teach Your Dog to Come

Posted in Wordplay by ritaisback on December 20, 2009


I have a very special friend, to whom I will refer as “SM”  who inspired this post.  SM is lovable in so many ways, but what I most enjoy about him is his elegant sense of wordplay.  With his self-deprecating sense of humor, he has no trouble going into a health food store and asking where the “apples, fresh corn and orgasmic carrots” are kept.  Then there is his trip to clothing stores, where he will ask, straight-faced where the “socks, shirts and spermal underwear are.”  I think you get the point.

This is my recount of a story he told me, embellished with my “fly on the wall” take of events at a function to which I was not an attendee.

When SM and his then-fiancée took jobs at a very well-known and high-tech company, they had to go through two weeks of training with all of the new hires.  The culmination of the training sessions was that everybody had to stand up and give a speech to the other new hires to ensure that everybody was comfortable with public speaking.  As a teacher, I have never had a problem with getting up in front of a group of students and taking command of the room.  That is my job.  However, many people have trouble with the concept of public speaking.  It is not natural to them and to some it is anathema.

After SM and his lady gave their speeches (successfully, I would presume), a very non-assuming woman stood up to give her presentation which she had entitled “How to Teach Your Dog to Come.”  Once the title of the speech was announced, SM totally lost it.  Here he was in a room of technical gurus (read:  nerds) and all he needed was to hear the name of the speech before he was unable to burst out in uncontrollable laughter.  Few things tickle SM or myself more than the good old French term of the “double entendre.”

For those of you who might be unfamiliar with the term, or need a refresher course, http://www.dictionary.com defines it as -noun, plural

1. a double meaning.
2. a word or expression used in a given context so that it can be understood in two ways, esp. when one meaning is risqué.

The key word here, of course, is “risqué.”  SM can not hold himself back when a risqué term is suddenly uttered, particularly when meant in a different context.

Back to the story.  We now have a roomful of people who are desperately trying to encourage the speaker to continue her speech.  SM would have none of that.  He could not stop laughing.  As his lady kicked him, he tried to get a hold of himself.  Yet every time the speaker continued, his bursts of glee had the effect of taking the attention off of the speaker and onto himself.  There was a job at stake.  There was a marriage at stake.  Yet SM could not gain control of his emotions.  He thought that this was a hilarious situation and was not in a position to make any bones about it.

Public speaking is a lost art.  With the internet, we can now hide behind our identities and use any words we choose, safe in the knowledge that if we choose a wrong word, nobody will call us on it.  As a teacher, I have to stand up in front of a group of students and try to convey information that will be useful and meaningful to them in their academic careers.  One wrong slip and my job is at stake.  There is no margin for error in a classroom, where students look upon the teacher as “the final word.”  If a teacher tells a student something, the student will take it as fact and assimilate it into their breadth of knowledge.  Have I ever made a mistake in speaking to a class or student?  Of course.  I am human.  What has saved me on those occasions?  Careful planning.  If you walk into a classroom without a carefully crafted lesson plan you are doomed to err.  That is not acceptable.

Most people will eventually find themselves in a position to address a group of people for whatever reason.  Without careful planning one is doomed to lose their audience, or worse, embarrass themselves (or somebody else).  Lose your audience  and you’ve lost your point.  Engage your audience and they will listen with rapt attention.  That is the goal of public speaking in any capacity:  to be not only heard, but to be listened to. 

I am happy to report that SM did marry his fiancée and they both got the jobs, despite SM’s uncontrollable outbursts of laughter.  What became of the speaker, I do not know.  She made a critical error from the get-go:   she used a word in the title of her speech that was a double-edged sword.  Had she gone with “sit,” “give a paw” or “roll over” she would have had a more effective speech that captured her audience with no mistake for misunderstanding.

What was your most embarrassing moment in addressing an audience?  What word or phrase did you choose that mortified you because your point was lost from the beginning? 


That Awful Four-Letter Word That I Won’t Use

Posted in Wordplay by ritaisback on November 23, 2009

I love the English language.  I love to read.  I love to write.  Words are things.  I have touched upon this in the long-ago:  in the Hebrew language, the word “devarim” means either “words” or “things.”  There is such richness in the words we use.  We can use them to flatter, insult, tell a truth, tell a lie, spread a rumor, write a love poem, write somebody off.  Yet there is one word in the English language that I will NOT utter.  To me, it is the most vulgar of words.  It should be removed from the lexicon forever, as it is useless.  Of course, it is also a four-letter word.  And if you know anything about me, you know that this is the one word that I have never uttered.  

You all know the word.  It starts with a “c” and ends with an “n” and a “t.”  Are you with me now?  Yes, I knew you would be.  Why would anybody in their right mind ever use such a word?  It is totally inglorious.  It conveys filth.  When this word is used, it is, to me, the ultimate of ugly.  It is the only word that I can think of that makes the utterrer even worse than it’s intended victim. 

Here we are in a world of things flying by at wharp speed.  If  it happens, you will see it.  In the blink of an eye, words and images scatter around the internet.   We worry over our finances, argue about politics and religion, hope for our future and on and on it goes.  We go to other blogs, write comments, hope that perhaps somebody will be interested in what we are saying.  All of those fancy, frilly, lovely pages designed by males with multiple writing tools or women with worthiness.  Still, it is the words that matter.  I do not care if I have a beautiful blog.  I care only that the words are chosen carefully.  Is that too little to ask?  Too much?  I don’t care what my ratings are or if anybody wants to advertise with me.  These are my words.  I love my words.  I try so hard to choose them carefully, albeit not always successfully.  (Oh, we all know that, don’t we?)  And each few days when I care to craft a story, raise a rant, offer to opine, it would be delightful if you would visit my words and let me know what you think of them.  You can agree, disagree or say nothing.  These are my words.

Please, people:  don’t ever use that horrible, awful four-letter word here.  And if I slip even once,  please be gracious and understand that underlying my words is a humble human being.  A human being who will never, ever utter that one four-letter word that reeks of obscenity and inability.  That curse on the English language; the scourge of the soul.  I beseech you.  Please do not ever let me utter that word and do not utter it on my site. 

Rita is back.  This time I think I shall stick around a bit.  This time, I have no “editor,” nor a “partner.”  It is merely me.  I want to wish you all a wonderful, happy Thanksgiving (for those who celebrate it).   For those of you who have never read my words, I will give you a gift.  One time.  I will write the word that should be blasted to oblivion for all time:  CAN’T.

Did you think I meant something else?


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