Dull names for things

By David Grima | Jan 14, 2021

Treason, treachery, sedition, insurrection. But although my own first thoughts during the recent troubles involved reaching for my rifle and its small stock of ammunition, I thought better of it.

It did not seem the Constitution was under attack in Rockland, thanks be to God, and I sincerely did not want any slightly embarrassing interviews with the people in blue, so I set those thoughts aside.

Anyway, I have never come across a situation where I could genuinely justify shooting another human being, so I was glad I was able to dispel those dark notions and visions pretty quickly.

* * * * *

Locally, there was a modest insurrection in the letters to the editor last week, a slightly vexed reader writing to complain about the postal service and, somehow, at the same time, finding reason to disparage we poor ink-stained wretches, whose scraps of modest literary effort — personal essayists she called us — appear on these few pages each week.

If I read her letter correctly, it is her considered opinion that this newspaper should fire the lot of us, and use the money thus saved to hire one real investigative reporter who would undoubtedly expose the shenanigans within the U.S. Postal Service that have been delaying her mail these past weeks.

Oh, that it could be so!

The sad news is that if the paper were indeed to fire us, the money thus saved would not buy groceries for a family of field mice for even a week, let alone expose evil at the post office.

I do not know what illusions she is under about pay scales and other kinds of remuneration that prevail in these sad remnants of our once-glorious newspaper industry, but her fantasies must exist on a seriously distorted scale.

* * * * *

With the planned execution this week, of a woman who murdered another woman, we are told the federal government is on its way towards executing more people in the run-up to a change of administration than at any time since the 19th century.

For more than a dozen years the federal government placed a halt on all executions. But can you guess, dearest reader, which president decided to start the conveyor belts rolling again on death row?

Now, I do understand the execution of a murderer is not of very much interest to your average reader these days. In fact, it seems the treatment of prisoners in general barely excites a raised eyebrow, either.

So, I will pass on to another topic instead.

* * * * *

I had a conversation Monday, with a chap I know here in the Lime City, who is in the process of having a small tumor removed from his anatomy, and for which service he is obliged to drive to Bangor.

It seems that anything medical involving little more than a Band-Aid or the occasional pill requires citizens of the Midcoast to drive at least a 100-mile round trip. I think you can still give birth here, and you can certainly die here, but for the life of me I cannot think of much else you can get done at our local hospital.

It’s all rather distressing for a population that is growing ever older and grayer.

Back around 1940, ink-stained wretch E.B. White wrote one of those personal essays that so offend our reader (see above) when he described having to drive from Brooklin to Waterville to have his son, Joel, looked at for some medical reason or other.

Eight decades later, it seems that progress in delivering medical services in this state has barely been achieved, if measured by how little you can get done where you actually live.

* * * * *

I saw a report this week of a 26-foot basking shark washed up dead on the shore in nearby Bremen, where it was found Jan. 5.

Basking sharks are vast but have no teeth, although I bet they sure could give a passing swimmer a serious hard gumming.

* * * * *

Speaking of treason (see first bit) one might wonder, politely, what name will become attached to the shabby events of Jan. 6 at the U.S. Capitol. We don’t seem to be very imaginative when finding names for our national nightmares, do we? The attacks of Sept. 11 are known simply as that, for example. We have an even shorter version of that name, for use when we are in a hurry.

But fear not, for we are not alone in our dull names for things that happen. The French, I am told, have always referred to the events of May 1968 in Paris (riots, insurrection, cobblestones merrily thrown at passersby, etc.) as Les Evenements de Mai.

This translates, ever so wittily, as The Events of May.

* * * * *

I have been meaning to mention for some time that an illuminated Bumble has been staring down from a staircase on Suffolk Street in the South End for several weeks. Certainly since before Christmas.

If you don’t know, the Bumble is the Abominable Snow Monster from the 1964 animated movie “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.” I think he was tamed when a wannabe dentist, a runaway elf who didn’t like to make toys, extracted all his teeth, rendering him no more dangerous than a basking shark.

Maybe we should have had a few determined dentists on the front lines at the Capitol, last week?

* * * * *

That reader’s comment about firing me and my kind has got me thinking, I will admit. It seems logical that if I write less each week, then the ratio of labor to pay will be naturally adjusted in my favor, although the editor could respond by switching me to a rate per word.

In that case, I suppose I could retaliate by writing a lot of very short words, to redress the balance somewhat.

The trouble is, there are only so many options available to a writer and an editor under these confrontational conditions which, by the way, do not actually exist. I am not entirely sure which of us would cave first, but it would be an unpleasant experience for us both.

Better to leave things as they are, I suppose. More or less.

David Grima is a former editor with Courier Publications. He can be reached at davidgrima@ymail.com.

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Comments (1)
Posted by: Paul Chartrand | Jan 14, 2021 08:44

The Events of May are also known, in a less dull and somewhat ironic manner, as "le joli mai" or the pretty month of May! You can start a contest to name the Jan 6 events in an interesting manner. Perhaps Congressional Epiphany, or When chickens came to roost?

Paul Chartrand



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