Won’t Won’t Make Sense so I Won’t Ever Use It: In Defense of Ain’t

Ain’t is not a word. Every speaker of proper English has been told this. I agree. Ain’t is certainly no word. It isn’t even a contraction of two words. You would never say “I ai not going to do that.” Because ai is not a word. You can’t make a contraction of words when one component of the contraction doesn’t represent a real word.

“So why is he speaking in defense of ain’t?”, you may now reasonably be asking. I answer thusly: Ain’t has been discriminated against. Ain’t has been removed from the halls of education and spurned by the populace while won’t has been allowed to flourish. I have never once heard anyone get up in arms upon hearing someone say won’t. Why not? It seems unfair. Won’t, like ain’t, is no word. Nor is it a contraction of two words. You wouldn’t say “I wo not do that.” Everyone would look at you funny and call you a simpleton. To which you would then reply “I ai not a simpleton!”, thus strengthening their argument against you. Won’t is not a word. And since it makes no sense to use words that aren’t words, and since proper society rails against ain’t, I am taking a stand for ain’t against won’t.

Won’t won’t make sense so I won’t ever use it. Instead, I’ll use the more proper willn’t. Willn’t can replace won’t in every circumstance with no problem whatsoever and avoids alienating ain’t. Willn’t is fair and correct. Willn’t is right. Won’t just willn’t work for me anymore.

I’m also going to start saying amn’t. Not for any ideological reason. I simply amn’t a fan of saying am not.

I bid you adieu…and a don’t.

Adieu…speak as you wish. However, if you wish to be fair in the way you speak, use ain’t if you insist on using won’t. Or, take a stand with me and join the willn’t revolution; a small gathering of those who willn’t use won’t. Or ain’t.

A don’t…discriminate unfairly against improper words. Get them all out of the dictionary!

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Of Masks and Gas -or- Two Tired Men and a Happy Drill Sergeant: An Army Tale

I shared an Army story with some guys at work the other day. They all seemed to find it rather hilarious, so I thought I’d share it here also. It may not be so impactful in this medium as it will be lacking my physical recreations of certain instances within the tale and certain vocalizations that may be necessary for complete understanding, but I will do my very best to paint verbal pictures.

If you’ve never been to Army basic training, you may not know that your last major exercise before graduation is to road-march, loaded down with many types of cumbersome gear, to a extremely secluded location (in the case of myself and my battle buddies, in the dead of winter), where you must then dig a hole deep enough to stand in, fill sandbags to make a roof and live in your hole with another soldier for a few days, keeping your eyes peeled for “the enemy”.

We were in South Carolina. I never saw the enemy in human form, however if I had been able to shoot the cold I’d have put three rounds center mass in a heart beat.

Allow me to digress for a moment before I continue. Upon arrival at basic training we were all assigned a “Battle Buddy”. We were required to be accompanied by a battle buddy wherever we went and our assigned battle buddy was our partner when it came to tasks that required pairing off. Your battle’s mistakes were your mistakes and vice versa. If your battle incurred the wrath of a Drill Sergeant, by gar, you incurred it too by association.

My battle buddy and I were two very different people from very different backgrounds. I was a scrawny back woods white boy. My battle was a rather large big city black guy. He used words I had never heard before and couldn’t begin to interpret. I’m sure the same was true for him. He talked about bling and ‘Pac and something he called The Shy, which I later learned referred to Chicago. I talked about the rabbit skin underwear I once tried to make and how the Wal-Mart in my hometown should be open 24 hours a day by the time I got back home. There were many times when one of us looked at the other as though he were crazy. And we got each other in trouble a lot. Where I would defer to the Drill Sergeants, he would rebel. Not in any serious way, though. He had a very strong personality and wouldn’t stand by and take what was being thrown at him without putting his opinion out there. It isn’t a bad quality for a soldier to have, but it made for some rough days. In retaliation, I’d passive-aggressively not tell him when he had his helmet on backward. We would both push for each other’s transgressions, but it was worth it. I would laugh on the inside as my body tried to convince my brain it was dying.

I don’t want to imply that we were mean to each other or held grudges. We simply reacted in our own ways under stress. We actually worked together rather well when the situation called for teamwork.

The single exception to that, and the exception that seemed to cement our relationship even so late in the game, happened on our second day living in the hole we’d dug in the South Carolina sand. We had just been reprimanded because we had been caught not looking out for the non-existent enemy. We were cold and tired and hungry and ready to sleep in a bed again. As we stood berating the Drill Sergeant that had just berated us, my eyes beheld an alarming sight.

A few holes over I saw another Drill Sergeant. He had his campaign hat off and the whiteness of his bald head stood out starkly against the black straps of the protective mask (the Army insists it isn’t a gas mask), stretched tight against his scalp. A few wisps of steam wafted from up from his head and he had what appeared to be a pest controller’s industrial pesticide sprayer in his hands. As he walked, he danced to a beat only he could hear, obviously enjoying himself. As he drew closer, I began to see the fog his sprayer emitted and I decided to go ahead and mask up. After I was all cleared and sealed, I glanced at my battle and he had that “you’re crazy” look on his face. I pointed at the approaching Drill Sergeant and said “You should put your mask on.”

“Nah”, he said, “They ain’t…” and then, mid-sentence, his speech devolved into what I can only verbally describe as a mass of moist burblings broken by intermittent coughs that, at one point, became quite severe. He scrambled for his mask and then scrambled to clear it. When he was finally successful he spent a few more moments coughing into the mask. As his noises of distress finally subsided, my own mirthfulness began to emerge. I laughed so hard I fell over. I was so tired, and needed the humor so much, that I didn’t pause to consider the fact that my battle could’ve broken me in half had he wanted to.

Thankfully he didn’t.

He laughed too and there was silence after we regained our composure. “I wanted you to help me.” he said.

“I did!” I exclaimed self-righteously, “I told you to put your mask on!”

As we parted ways after graduation my battle admonished me to “Hold it down, battle.” I still don’t know what he meant, but I think I know what he wanted to convey.

I bid you adieu…and a don’t.

Adieu…take care of you “Battle Buddies”. You might need them one day.

A don’t…be afraid to laugh at their misfortune. If they’re truly you’re battle, they’ll understand.

Robots, Clues, Caramel Mustard and Various Mind Numbing Endeavors -or- Love Your Kids at the Risk of Losing Your Mind; Board Games vs. Bored Games

Do you enjoy board games? Do you have children? If you answered no to either, you may not understand this post. By continuing to read, you risk wasting precious irreplaceable minutes boring yourself with nonsense. It’s up to you.

It is our Christmas tradition for “Santa” to bring our family a board game. We all open it together then play it together until the wife and I hate “Santa” for having brought it. It is getting much easier now that the kids have moved past the “junior” versions of most games. Have you ever played the little kid version of Candy Land? Maybe it’s the actual version, I can’t remember that far back into my childhood with much detail. Either way, it numbs the adult mind. You draw a card, move the number of spaces indicated, and on and on and over and over and it never ends until you can convince them there are better things to do.

Don’t get me wrong. I love playing games with the kids and I treasure the time we spend doing it, but I need to involve my brain at least a smidge. This year our family game was Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots. Admittedly, it doesn’t require much in the way of conscious thought, but at least there’s frenzied action. It is more satisfying than Monopoly Junior Frozen Edition, in which you can’t even place houses or hotels, by a far cry. Robot fights have become our new household decider. No more arguing about who has to take the first bath. This used to be an endless conundrum because somehow every child in this house took the first bath last time. I don’t know if their memories are really that defective or if they’re just vehemently opposed to taking the first bath. Logical reasoning doesn’t work on them. They don’t seem to understand that they’ll have to take a bath either way and getting it over with makes at least a little sense. Thankfully it isn’t a worry anymore. Neither is “There’s only one fruit snack left and I don’t want a granola bar.” or “I had that seat.” or any of the countless other arguments that they somehow come up with.

What I really want to talk about, though, is the fact that I got Clue from my wife as one of my regular Christmas presents. The kids love it, even though the younger two, aged 7 and 5, aren’t quite mentally ready to enjoy all the intricacies of game play. My daughter, the 7 year old, whispers in a voice that can barely be classified as a whisper, the legends writ upon her cards as she marks them off on her little deduction sheet. My son, the 5 year old, takes the cake with his gameplay.  First, he always grabs the Colonel Mustard token, (my favorite, by the way. He forces me to begrudgingly adopt the persona of Professor Plum. I know there are other options but the way I see it, if I can’t be a Colonel, a professor is better than a mere mister) and moves it erratically around the board between turns, visiting every room that holds a murder weapon, confiscating it and then stockpiling them all in a random room of his choosing. When it comes his turn, he rolls the dice, counts the pips, then plunks his token down in whichever room he wishes and declares, “It was Caramel Mustard in the room an’ ‘e used the shotgun!”

I’ve told him over and over that the “shotgun” is a revolver. We’ve had many a heated debate over that simple fact. I inform him that a revolver is a type of gun and it just happens to be the type of gun that plays a part in the classic case of who-dun-it in which we now so frequently engage. He alleges that since it has a trigger, it is a gun. Guns have triggers, no, no, there’s a trigger so it’s a gun, it’s a shotgun. I guess we’re making progress because he used to refer to all manner of firearms as “shooty-guns”. I’ll take what I can get.

If you think I’ll ever try to correct him on the “Caramel Mustard” thing, you’re quite mistaken.

I bid you adieu…and a don’t.

Adieu…enjoy quality time with your children. Even if it numbs your mind, the silver lining here is that you’re building memories and engaging in important family bonding time. All this for the low, low price of your ever receding flow of sanity.

A don’t…be a huge stickler for the rules. You never know what inventive methods of rule breaking a child may employ.

Figgy Pudding…? Holiday Hooligans and an Odd Demand

Figgy pudding? I ask you “What?” in a couple of ways. And quite rhetorically, mind you.

I’m not only going to ask what it is, I’m also asking what it isn’t.

It obviously isn’t pudding made with figs. If that were the case, it would be called fig pudding.

Figgy indicates that it is fig-like without actually containing figs. But fig-like in what way? Is it of a fig-esque consistency and/or color? Is it any sort of pudding you like with a false fig flavoring added? Or is it a British form of pudding that isn’t a sweet at all and figgy means something in British English that doesn’t even reference the fruit?

All of these questions are rhetorical, as I mentioned. I don’t care to know the answer. Either way it goes, I’m determined not to like figgy pudding. If I want a dessert pudding, I’ll go with banana or butterscotch. If I want a savory pudding my go-to is the Yorkshire variety.

Now we come to the Holiday Hooligans. I have been blessed in that never in my life time have I been accosted by roving Carolers. I’m sure they mean well. Well, I used to give them the benefit of the doubt until I thought deeply on the subject.

Before I get into that, though, let me tell you how I felt about Carolers before I learned that, whether they know it or not, they are in reality hooligans.

I don’t know how to handle Carolers. I don’t know the etiquette. I have thought about it a lot because I am a person for whom the big setbacks in life are inspiring, but the minor irritants are sources of extreme worry and anxiety. What is expected of me if Carolers tromp into my lawn and, with warm and happy hearts, serenade me with songs of the season? Do I part the blinds and peer out at them? Do I stand just inside my screen door and listen? Do I step out onto the lawn? Do I join them or applaud when they’re done? Do I have to indicate somehow that I’ve been sufficiently caroled and they can move on? Do I tip them? Or do I just sit in my house and wonder when they’ll leave? Thankfully, I’ve never had to find out.

Now, the hooligan thing. I don’t believe present day Carolers, if they exist somewhere, intentionally threaten anyone. But they do give a clue in a common carol as to how to indicate that they’ve done their job. They just do it in such a threatening manner. “Bring us figgy pudding!” They demand. “We shan’t leave until we get some!” They threaten. “Fa la la la la!” They harass.

There are two problems here, should I ever find myself caroled. First, I don’t know what figgy pudding is and, based on the terrible implications of its name, I refuse to find out. If they are true to their word, I’ll have permanent living yard art should Carolers ever ply their craft upon my lawn. Second, what if they don’t sing this song? I’ll have no clue how to let them know the time has come to depart.

I suppose both eventualities present the same conundrum, but at least if I ever find myself being shaken down for figgy pudding I can call upon some neighbor to produce some and satisfy the good-hearted hooligans who threaten and harass in a spirit of good cheer.

I bid you adieu…and a don’t.

Adieu…be sure that you keep homeowners such as myself in mind should you ever go caroling. Some of us simply don’t know how to handle such things.

A don’t…think me a Scrooge-esque individual. I don’t yell “Bah!” in the faces of purveyors of humbug. I don’t have the money to be a miser. I don’t have it in my heart to hate anyone for attempting to spread cheer. I simply dislike the method of satiating Carolers. Also, I’d say that at best I’m merely semi-social. I’m very awkward socially. I’ve no idea how to react. I’m sure if I ever was caroled I’d offend the Carolers with my clumsy attempts to go through the motions of appearing appreciative.

I Believe in Bigfoot, But Does He Believe in Me? A Question That Doesn’t Really Need to be Answered

As may or may not be evident by the photo accompanying this post, I believe in Bigfoot. I won’t say that I believe completely in his existence; instead, I believe in the idea of Bigfoot and his plausibility as a living creature.

But is the reverse true for Bigfoot, if he exists? Does Bigfoot believe in me? As far as I’m aware, Bigfoot has never seen me. I’ve certainly never seen him. If he believes in the few representatives of Humankind he may have seen, he at least believes in me by proxy and this brings me some sort of comfort.

I like to think, though, that there are fringe Bigfoots (Bigfeet? Thank you Tolkien for your Proudfoots/Proudfeet exploration. It intrigues us still today.) out there that, being more adventurous than their contemporaries, have sought out the strange sounds blasting through the woods and laid eyes upon a Human or group of humans. Perhaps these “outsider” Sasquatches lope home and grunt excitedly to their families and peers about the small, hairless, bi-pedal Sasquatchoid creatures they have seen.

Perhaps Bigfoot, too, knows the sting of being thought crazy by the majority of his society.

Maybe there are even Bigfoot Human watching groups. Perhaps it is called something like the H.uman B.eing R.esearch O.rganization or the Bigfoot grunting/howling equivalent of that. Perhaps they try to imitate the sounds of shotgun blasts or are hard at work producing the fluorescent orange colors they’ve seen during deer season. Maybe there’s some enterprising young Bigfoot developing scents he associates with people. I don’t know what they would be. Something unique that we probably can’t smell since woodsmen and hunters generally avoid scented aftershaves and colognes and such while searching for creatures to eat or study. Perhaps to Bigfoot we smell as bad as I’ve heard Bigfoot smells to people. Skunk Ape indeed. How crude and completely uncalled for.

And what if, just what if, the responses people claim to hear when they are call blasting into the night aren’t actual Bigfoot responses at all. What if these recordings people play to attract Bigfoot are something else altogether and Bigfoot, hearing these strange sounds and sometimes then seeing people, thinks these are the noises people make and is simply regurgitating what he hears in an attempt to attract us?

What if somewhere there is a Bigfoot attempting to imitate human speech and some Bigfoot researcher or frightened camper will one day hear from back in the tree line a tentative and gravelly “Hello?”

Just some food for thought. Bigfoot, whether real, imagined, hoaxed or misidentified, is a veritable buffet of such mental edibles.

And maybe he even believes in, or doubts the existence of, us.

I bid you adieu…and a don’t.

Adieu…try to see both sides of all arguments. Some arguments, however, have two different sides from two or more distinct sub-groups. These 4 or more dimensional arguments are worth looking into from every angle.

A don’t…get caught up in the Bigfoots/Bigfeet plurality conundrum. It just isn’t really worth it. After all, rather than aruging semantics, you could be busy looking for a group of Big…well, you get where I’m going, I’m sure.

Europe and the Sights You May Not Want to See or A Confused and Innocent American Abroad

It seems I look like a drug user. Now, before you get up in arms and accuse me of stereo-typing or profiling, consider the following facts:

  1. Substance abusers often tend to develop certain physical traits. These traits are generally the result of the havoc their substance of choice wreaks upon their bodies. These traits have nothing to do with the individual on a personal level and are therefore not stereo-typical of anyone of a certain race or background, rather of people with a proclivity toward certain substances.
  2. If you want to accuse anyone of profiling, accuse those who deal drugs on the dark street corners of Berlin and Amsterdam. They apparently assumed that I use drugs based only, I assume, on the facts that I am a white male and that I was passing through the dark street corners of Berlin and Amsterdam.

I can say this because I did not travel to Europe alone. I went with a Vietnamese friend and not once did anyone offer him drugs of any sort. I would say that perhaps these dealers assumed my friend spoke no language they would understand. This cannot be the case, however, because when a small man stepped out from behind a statue in Berlin he walked directly to me and said, in English and with no hint of question, “You want hashish.”

I asserted quite strongly that I certainly did not. He then, without ever addressing my friend, melted back into the shadows of Germany.

In Amsterdam a similar occurrence occurred. We passed a dark corner and from the shadows leapt, actually leapt, a small man. He, also without inflecting his voice to indicate a query, offered me illicit substances. This time it was cocaine. This time, he also used default English, though it sounded as if he barely spoke my language himself. Upon my decline he also faded back into the night, never addressing my friend.

It seems as if these discriminations are poor business practices for these guys because, based on a later incident at an Amsterdam coffee shop, my friend showed that he was in no way opposed to obtaining at least certain types of drugs. Perhaps he only wished to procure legal intoxicants and perhaps somehow these street dealers sensed that.

But how? And why didn’t they sense that I wanted no substances, legal or otherwise?And why did they always start with English? Unless they’d been following us and heard me speak, they’d have had no clue that I’m aware of that I speak English. What is it about me that identified me as an English speaking potential purchaser of illegal drugs? I wasn’t overweight at the time, although the Army with their nearly anorexic guidelines said differently, but I was by no means emaciated. I wasn’t covered in sores. I don’t have any involuntary twitches or any of the other tell tale signs of drug use I’ve come to recognize in the time I’ve worked at my current job.

So what was it?

No idea.

And apparently, whatever it was, it was pronounced enough that it wasn’t only drug dealers that recognized it. My friend and I, after landing in Frankfort, visited Berlin, London, Edinburgh, Wexford (a coastal town in Ireland with a very cozy B and B that had three or four beds to a room and a husband and wife that showed up at the door early every morning with a very satisfying breakfast and a newspaper), Paris and Barcelona. After Barcelona we sailed to some port in Italy and made our way to Rome where we were robbed by Gladiator impersonators who take your picture with your camera in various “I’m being killed by Gladiators” poses in front of the Coliseum, then demand an egregious amount of money for the honor of being photographed, on your own device, as they “kill” you.  After all this we took a train back to Munich to catch our flight home.

As we attempted to depart the train station three German police officers, one male, one female, one canine (a German Shepherd, of course), approached me. Me. Not my friend. The male officer asked, immediately in English although this time that was understandable because I had my touristy backpack on, “Where are you coming from?”

“Rome.”

“What is in your bag?”

“Clothes”, and reluctantly because I didn’t know the import/export/customs laws and had no desire to go to German jail, “A bottle of wine for a friend.”

“You have drugs in your bag.” Again, no hint of a question.

“No.”

“I will look in your bag.”

“Ok.” I said. I removed the pack from my back and held it out to him.

He sneered at me and then said, in what sounded like a Schwarzeneggeresque attempt to be intimidating (he was successful) “Get out of here.”

I gladly went. But so did they. They never once addressed my friend who had only barely remembered to rid himself of his remaining “legal” substance before we left Amsterdam.

I know you likely don’t know me, but there is nothing about me that I can see that indicates I have a desire to buy drugs or do drugs. Perhaps it’s simply a European thing. I’ve never been offered drugs on the dark streets of California or Seattle or even Las Vegas.

Who knows.

I bid you adieu…and a don’t.

Adieu…visit Europe if you have the chance. There are many beautiful sights and sites to see. Stonehenge is especially impressive, as are Windsor castle and Notre Dame. Try the Donor Kebab. They are prolific and quite tasty.

A don’t…go unprepared. If you share whatever characteristic it is that identifies me, somehow, as an aspiring drug addled fiend, expect to be fending off small men at every shadow you pass. You could simply stay in at night, but where’s the fun in that?

Sweet and Then Sour; A Five Year Old Imitates a Popular Gummy Candy Although the Order is Reversed

I habitually call home as I leave work. I do this because I love my family and I can spend a few extra minutes interacting with their minds, even though we aren’t physically together.

A couple of days ago my wife was busy straightening up our board game cabinet. (We are huge board game people. Our Christmas tradition is to buy a game for the family. This year is going to be Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots and I couldn’t be more excited.) She was a little stressed so she handed the phone off to the five year old boy we love so much.  I asked him how his day went and shortly after this conversation petered out he said “You’re my favorite sweet-pea.”

I responded with similarly sappy drivel and said “Thank you, buddy! You’re my favorite sweet-pea too!”

I drove on for a few seconds reveling in the pure love my son had just expressed. My son was silent also and I could hear muted conversations in the background over my son as he breathed right into the phone.

I was nearly startled off the road when he snarled “I’m going to fight you.” It sounded as if a demon had stolen the phone and spoken to me from the depths of the appalling Inferno envisioned by Dante. I was understandably taken aback and remained silent for a moment before uttering a tentative “What?”

“I’m going to fight you!”

“You’re going to bite me?”

He wasn’t speaking clearly and my brain was busy composing a “The power of Christ compels you!” type of speech.

“No. I’m going to fight you!”

“But…wh…wh…wh…wh…why?” I stammered, confused.

And then, in a sweet, nearly sing-song voice he said “Because you’re my favorite sweet-pea!”

“Why would you fight your favorite sweet-pea, buddy?”

“Because,” he said, “you’re my favorite sweet-pea!”

I’m still pondering whether or not to contact some Catholic authority.

I bid you adieu…and a don’t.

Adieu…enjoy your family despite their occasional demonic quirks.

A don’t…forget the look up the Pope’s address. You know. Just in case.

P.S. Here’s a demonic quote from my seven year old daughter, just so you understand my concern: “I’m thankful for the dead people because they died.”

Sweet dreams fellow bloggers and blog readers. I hope your family is much less demented than mine apparently is.