Why Me? Why Write? Why Now? Why Not?

The Me is Doug Curran…Douglas M Curran…Douglas Metcalf Curran. Douglas is Celtic for “dweller by the dark stream”. Curran in Gaelic means “little spear”. And Metcalf? Scottish for “I met a calf”? Hey I don’t know! I don't have all the answers. I'm still trying to get the questions right. At least I seem to be a spear fisher by some dirty water. Or maybe I'm a Druid. And that Curran thing may not even be as Irish as my Irish American wife, Colleen Fitzsimmons, hoped it was when she married me. Ok, I might be a Viking. It's like this. I was reading this book, The Lion Of Ireland, see, and the author, Morgan Llewellyn, recounts a last battle between Brian Boru and the Viking invader king, to regain Irish dominance again throughout the island and kick the fureners out. The Viking king's name? Olaf Cuaran? Cuaran? Curran? I'm a Viking now, so I am? And a descendent of one of those marauding and murderous pillagers and plunderers? I've never pillaged a thing in my life...well, maybe a book or two from somebody. I'm really just a gentle giant who loves books and music. Ok, I bought a sword recently, but only as a wall decoration to enhance my Irish family history coat of arms! Honest! Viking, Schmiking, so rest my Irish soul! Or my wife will have my old bald Irish head!

November 27, 2009

'Twas the night after turkey and this turkey's stuffed...

Another annual feast of the Curran pilgrims has come to pass, this time with two kids traveling to our East Coast Summerhays clan for hosting. We had our new Tucker son-in-law and his three kids to help make up the difference - and good belch was had by all! Colleen and I were counting the dishes we crowded all on one designer paper plate and eight was enough! Let's see...Sweet Potato surprise by Shannon and Ryan, Turkeys by Tucker/Currans(one smelled bad so that one was shot), String Bean Casserole, Mashed Potatoes and Stuffing by Colleen, Steamed Corn and Butternut Squash Cubes and Pecan/Maple Glazed Baby Carrots by Yours Truly and Frog-Eye Salad by Nos Dois! Chega, basta!

Then came the desserts! New Zealand Trifle by Darlene and Quinn, Baked Apple Pie by Shannon and Ryan - and Pumpkin, Pumpkin Cheesecake and Pecan ala Costco! Deeeeelish! But we forgot to invite the Indians! Dang! Hope no one goes on the warpath. But we are thankful, truly thankful for family, faith, friends and so many blessings - and now here's a little essay on my version of where we get some of "Thanks/Welcome" language traditions...

"Now that I’m older and 'wiser', I have a lot more questions than answers. Like why do we say 'Thank you' and 'Your welcome'? Or is it 'You’re Welcome'? And who or what is welcome anyway? These are two of the most commonly used phrases of appreciation and courtesy in the English language, but yet the way they are used almost defies reason. I know you’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, so let’s get into it.

"Yes, let’s talk about these phrases literally, what they might have been before they got into our language as abbreviations, and whether digging into their histories might take the mystery and even a little tiredness out them. And who cares anyway? Look, language is dynamic; but in being so, maybe some former meaning can get lost, and lost meaning is like a hot dog without a bun.

"Maybe when we say “Thank you” or just “Thanks” or even “Thank you very much” – (and there are other variations like “Thanks a bunch”, “Thanks ever so”, “Many thanks”, “Thanks a lot”, “Thanks Muchly” if you get my drivel) – there is a small linguistic incongruity. The way it is written, it literally could be an imperative, a command, by which we are telling someone to “Thank” themselves? “Oh go thank yourself!” “Thank You(rself!” Ludicrous, yes, because the other meaning has been with us for so long.

"So how did we get the phrase 'Thank you'? That may be pretty self-evident if you think about it. Somewhere along the progressive line of language development, something got left out. How about an 'I' or a 'We' on the front end, that after too much use just got dropped as being an understood pronoun. I know people who leave out pronouns all the time in my local church culture. 'Grateful to have you here today.' How hard would it be to put those pronouns back into the phrase and say 'I thank you'? Wouldn’t we feel like we were talking antiquated English, the language of cabbages and kings? So we have shortened it to 'Thank you'. At least it’s not as confusing as being in Hawaii, where the Hawaiian word for “Thanks” is written on the flap of every trash receptacle – 'Mahalo!' Tourists think it’s the local word for 'Garbage'!

"But it’s the reciprocal response to the thanks that really gets me. Is someone really 'Welcome' for saying 'Thanks'? How does the word 'Welcome' get into the response? 'You are so welcome' or 'You are very welcome' or 'You are most welcome'! Many people use these phrases unwittingly, yet so fervently gushy, thinking they are really emphasizing and underscoring their recognition of the thanks being given to them. It all tries to be so genuine – but is so gosh-awful gooey when you think about it. And it makes no sense either. But then is all language supposed to make sense? Can we say just about anything and have it be ok as long as we all agree on its shared meaning? I'd just as leave think so, say many a Canadian. See?

"What might have been lost or dropped from this phrase to make it what is today, a weird and wacky, though oh-so-typical response? How about 'Your thanks are welcome', with the 'thanks are' left out? This way there is no more confusion as to whether it’s “your” or “you’re”. Surprise!! It’s the possessive 'your', not the contraction of 'you' and 'are'. So nobody is really 'welcome', right? But somebody’s 'thanks' are.

"Remember Mr. Miyagi of 'Karate Kid' fame? When Daniel-san thanked him, he only muttered that subdued 'Welcome'. But it isn’t the same 'Welcome!' we use when inviting someone into our house. Does anybody say that very much anyway? Unless you’re a greeter at Walmart? Well, it is kind of warm and fuzzy. Or maybe we confuse the 'Welcome' response with 'You are welcome here!' How about 'Much obliged'? Now there’s an abbreviated form of 'I am much obliged or obligated to you.”' In Brazil, they say, 'Muito Obrigado' or just 'Obrigado', from which 'Obligated' comes. Wow, bet you're impressed now!

"And then there’s always the occasion when I thank someone, and they say 'You bet.' Now where did that come from? 'You bet your welcome?' What’s up with that? Or maybe it’s a shortened version of 'You bet your life!' from that crazy tv show of the ‘50s. I don’t know for sure, but when I moved to Utah from Hawaii, nobody said the “W” word. 'You bet!' has got to be the State idiom! One day after making the great voyage across the Pacific, I was in the local thrift store shopping for some cheap mainland duds for my transplanted waifs. I walked by a big old friendly clerk-type guy, who, after we made eye contact, just grinned and said 'You bet!' And I hadn’t even said anything yet! I’m still trying to figure that one out. And then there’s the Latinos with their 'De nada!’ 'It’s nothing.' Yeah, that still works.

"Now I know you had all this figured out long before I got here, instead of following my convoluted theory trail. And what’s my point anyway? Maybe just a greater recognition of the language we use everyday that we never think about and which has become more idiomatic and less literal. We shorten language in so many ways. Do we lose anything by doing so? Doesn’t language just represent thoughts and emotions anyway, a sequence of sounds and scratches that stands for things we all agree on, as I mentioned before? And maybe the most important thing we can get out of this silly little linguistic exercise is that we feel and express our 'Thanks' at all, and often, and from the heart. We can’t lose by thanking others for the many little things done for us – and to the Creator for the many big things, including life itself on this beautiful planet. It’s a gratitude attitude. Oh yeah, and Happy Thanksgiving! I thank you."

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