Be Alert · 25 September 2021

Be alert! After all, the world needs more lerts.

I do not know when I last told that lame joke, but I do know that I like lame jokes. After all, that is about all I can tell. At least when I do tell jokes.

I was talking to a friend and colleague about jokes last spring. Apparently, he cannot tell jokes either. He told dad jokes as warm ups for his classes while we were teaching remotely. The thing is, he could not tell them if he did not have the jokes up on a web browser on a screen that was separate from the one his was using to talk to his students. He is like me. He can remember the setup or he can remember the punch line, but never the twain shall meet. I never knew there was anybody out there like me in that way.

Needless to say, I was relieved when I found out that there was somebody out there with such a joke telling condition. We could commiserate about our lack of joke-telling skill. And as much as we all love being in mutual admiration societies, we all love being in commiserating communities even more. (I like that. Maybe I should trademark Commiserating Communities. Nah. It will never stick.)

I do not really know why we like to commiserate, but we do. Of course, commiserating communities are just proof of the adage, “Misery loves company.” Which is strange in and of itself. Think about it. Why do we love to complain about stuff? Why do we love to talk about the bad things in our lives? Why do we compare our pain with other people’s pain? Why do we like to show each other our scars?

Well, I am not sure why we like to compare our pain to other people’s pain except that maybe we want to know if our pain really is worse than somebody else’s. If not, maybe we really are not so bad off. I do not know. But I do know why we show off our scars. At least physical scars. We just want people to know that we have done stuff. Sure, we might have failed doing whatever we were doing at the time we got the scar, but we tried something great and failed fantastically. At least fantastically enough to get a scar.

But back to joke telling. I felt relieved when my friend told me that he could not tell a joke to save his life either. We could be the founding members of non-joke telling dads. Then again, that is probably where the term dad-joke came from. There must be tons of dads out there who cannot tell jokes. Or who tell jokes so lame that the jokes get thrown in the pile of dad-jokes. Those jokes that get groans instead of laughs. Dad-jokes. Ah well. I am okay with being a founder of the no-tell joke club. Maybe we should call it the lert club. After all, lert is half a joke.

Which brings us back to the beginning.

Be alert. After all, the world needs more lerts.

© 2021 Michael T. Miyoshi

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I Can’t Stand Contractions · 18 September 2021

I don’t know if you have figured this out yet, but I don’t like contractions. At least not when I write.

I know that I use contractions when I speak. Won’t, don’t, can’t. Well maybe not “can’t.” After all, I’m a coach and I tell my athletes that “can’t” is akin to a swear word so they get pushups. At any rate, I know that I use contractions when I speak. But writing is a whole different subject. Literally. (Looky there. Two word plays in one. Or was that two word plays in two sentences. And is a single word sentence really a sentence? Oh, the horror.)

I’m not sure why, but I don’t like to use contractions when I write. Unless, of course, I’m writing dialogue. (By the way, I like spelling dialog with a ue at the end like it used to always be spelled. DIALOGUE. I think it looks better with those silent letters for some reason.) I don’t even know how not using contractions started for me. I just can’t seem to use them when I write. (Which is also to say that I might’ve missed one or two in this post.)

There is one exception though. Ain’t. “Ain’t” is a great word. Probably because we used to say a little ditty when we were kids.

Ain’t ain’t a word,
‘Cause it ain’t in the dictionary,
So I ain’t gonna say it,
And I ain’t gonna use it anymore.

As a matter of fact, we used to see which dictionaries had the word ain’t in it. The big old ones did. Those dictionaries said it was improper to use ain’t. But they never did say what ain’t was contracting. Think about it. The apostrophe in a contraction usually takes the place of an O. Or at least of some letter. Or even groups of letters. So what did that apostrophe take the place of in the word ain’t?

We thought maybe ain’t was a contraction of am not. But that would be amn’t. Surely amn’t wasn’t a word. Then we thought maybe ain’t was a contraction of are not, but aren’t was already a contraction. Then we figured it out. Ain’t was a contraction of ain’t not. It was just that the apostrophe took the place of the ‘tno in the case of ain’t not. So ain’t not became just ain’t. Simple and brilliant. At least for elementary school kids back in the seventies. (Especially, since we knew that double negatives infuriated our teachers.)

If we’d been trying to figure it out now, we would’ve just looked on the internet. And we would’ve found that ain’t is a contraction of to be not. Boy would we have been excited. We were right after all when we thought about amn’t. More than that, we would’ve talked about those be verbs like our sixth grade teacher taught us.

Is, are, was, were, am, be.

That was shorthand notation. We just had to say “Is, are, was, were, am, be,” and we knew what all the be verbs were/are/might be. ‘Twas crazy. (How’d’ya like that contraction?)

When it comes right down to it though, I like our kid definition best. Ain’t is a contraction for ain’t not.

Well, I suppose I oughtn’t’ve used all those contractions in this short blog post, but I suppose I couldn’t’ve done it without ‘em. Okay. I could’ve. Then again, if shoulda, woulda, and coulda were in the dictionary, I coulda’ve and oughta’ve used ‘em.

I’m not sure where I was going with all of this, but let’s suffice it to say that you can really just replace pretty much any letter or group of letters in a group of words with at least one apostrophe to get a c’ntr’ction. (Notice how I replaced the o and a with apostrophes? Pretty nifty, huh?) Even if’n you shouldn’t oughta do it.

Well, when all is said and done, maybe I do like contractions after all.

Nope. Even after rereading this post, I still don’t. Then again, it is my own writing.

© 2021 Michael T. Miyoshi

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A Normal School Year? · 11 September 2021

Another school year has just begun. I am hoping it will be mostly normal.

The last couple years of education have been quite the challenge. Going home for COVID in the middle of the 2019-2020 school year. Then, staying at home for the first half of the 2020-2021 school year. Then, having hybrid classes for the second half. Quite the teaching and learning experience. I know it was not the same for every school or every student. But whatever the case, the last couple years were not normal by any stretch of the imagination.

To be sure, some people handled the situation with grace and aplomb. Some people experienced quite the fiasco. And there were, of course, people everywhere in between. Which is why I am hoping for a mostly normal school year. Sure, there will still be people who handle every situation with grace and aplomb, and there will be others who experience quite the fiasco. That is sorta normal. But at least with what I consider a normal school year, we can do it all together. In the same place.

People are social beings. We experience life together. And we are better for it. Why else would solitary confinement be considered cruel and unusual punishment? So when we are isolated as many of us have been for the past 18 months or so, we long for that normalcy of being together. At least most of us do. That small percentage of people who do not need other people are either a bit off or they are lying. Or they are just different. I suppose that just means that people need different levels of social interaction. And getting what they need is part of being normal.

Which brings me back to school.

A normal school year is full of lots of social interaction. There are, of course, the interactions in the classrooms. Students interact with other students and with teachers. Teachers interact with students and with other teachers. And there are a whole lot of other interactions between all the kids and all the adults in the buildings.

By the way, if you do not think that all the adults in a school building are educators, you should go into one someday. (At least if it does not bring you too much trauma.) Every custodian, secretary, cook, aide, and administrator (and anybody else I missed) is there to educate the kids. The teachers do their part too, but everybody teaches and everybody learns. It is quite the team effort.

Now where was I? Oh yes. Interactions.

There are a whole lot of interactions between people in a school. And those interactions can produce much learning. And much growth. Especially, when they are positive and personal interactions. What it really boils down to is that we all need each other. We need each other in life, and we need each other in school. We need each other whether we have a normal school year or a couple crazy ones like the ones we just had.

When it comes right down to it, all I really just want to say that I hope we have a nice normal school year. A normal year with lots of learning through lots of positive personal interactions.

© 2021 Michael T. Miyoshi

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