The little things that just don’t make any sense

As a news reporter, my instincts have been finely tuned for maximum efficiency and effectiveness, much like the strings of a Stradivarius or the soundboard of a Steinway grand piano. This unique skill serves me well in my profession, of course, but in my private life, it is often a hindrance more than a help.

Unfortunately, I can’t help but notice things that — in my humble opinion — don’t make any sense, and I’ve made it my personal mission in life to catalog as much of these nonsensical things as I possibly can.

For example, the word for a female representative of a certain milk-producing species of domesticated ungulates is “cow” or “heifer.” A male is called a “bull,” or a “steer” if it has, well, lost some of its “bull-ness.” The young of either sex is called a “calf,” and the plural is “cattle.”

If you get into some of the finer nuances of age, or the regional colloquialisms, you’ll find enough terms to fill a small dictionary. But there is not a single word — not one — that describes an individual, adult representative of that animal group of a non-determinate gender.

I don’t understand how this has never come up before. Hasn’t there been at least one other person in all of human history who wanted to be able to go to a livestock auction and say, “Hey, yeah, I’m looking for a horse, a couple chickens, and one of those big, beefy, speckly animals, you know, like in the dairy commercials. Like, a grown-up calf.”

It infuriates me that such a word does not exist, so I invented one. I wanted to call it a “cat,” as in short for “cattle,” but that was taken. So, the word is “blattle.”

Next time you find yourself at the Woodburn Auction looking for some fresh beef, just ask for a blattle. They’ll know what it means.

Friday was Halloween, and in preparation for the festivities, my wife and I took some kids from our church out trick-or-treating. As you might expect, most of the haul was in the form of miniature candy bars and small bags of chocolates and gummies and other sweets.

The weird thing was that most all of the tiny treats — whether in bar or bag form — was labeled “FUN SIZE,” presumably, to differentiate it from the regular-sized models.

But that’s what I don’t get: What is more fun about having way fewer M&Ms or Sour Patch Kids than you’d get in a normal bag? What is more fun about a Snickers or 3 Musketeers that is roughly 75 percent smaller than a regular candy bar?

Nothing, as far as I can tell. If it were up to me, I’d label the miniature versions “RIP-OFF SIZE,” or at the very least “LESS FUN SIZE.” Guess that’s why I didn’t go into marketing.

Speaking of candy, I had to go in to see the dentist recently. I don’t mind my dentist, but I’m not a big fan of the annual cleaning. It’s not that I have anything against dental hygienists, per se. I’m sure they’re generally polite, educated, dedicated, kind-hearted and well-meaning people.

But why do so many of them insist on asking me complex, multi-layered questions while they have their fingers up to the knuckle inside my mouth? Seriously, what is with that?

By all means, they should do whatever job makes them happy, but the ones I’ve met have such a keen sense of curiosity that I can’t help but feel they could have better served humanity by pursuing a career in investigative journalism, or philosophy, or maybe even the hard sciences.

I just don’t understand why they feel the need to make conversation. Again, I’m sure they’re nice people, and they’re obviously quite friendly, but I personally don’t book dental appointments for the companionship.

And I promise, I’m really not all that interesting. But if you really want to talk to me, bring me a keyboard. We can IM.

At this point, you may be wondering something yourself: Did I really just write a whole column about basically nothing, and if so, why?

It’s a fair question, and it’s one I actually can answer. You see, I went to a funeral last week, the second in my wife’s family in less than six months. Cancer. Again. And the past few weeks hasn’t been a particularly easy stretch for our community, either.

Death invites questions, and they’re questions I can’t answer. Going to and leaving that funeral last week, I had questions.

The only answer, for me, was not in some profoundly deep and moving words of wisdom. Because, as much as I love words, I do recognize that there are times that words fail.

No, the only answer I found was in holding my little girl, and laughing with her as she practiced her newest skill — the ever-impressive ability to make spit bubbles.

Life is, if anything, a mixed bag. It certainly carries struggles and dark days. But there’s also light and joy and hope and, as we discussed above, things that are just so silly and ridiculous you have to laugh.

I wrote this column because I needed a laugh. I hope it brought you a smile or two, as well.

Cross-posted with the Woodburn Independent.

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