Publishing, Slice of life

Turning the Tables: A Word Exploration

I recently completed a word-research project based upon the word table. The final product was a 1000-word argument that explored modern usage of this everyday word. Here is the abbreviated version.

. . . .

Table. The first thing that comes to mind upon hearing that word is a long, flat, wooden board, supported by four legs, standing in a dining room. It is loaded with memories of familial laughter, smells of good food, and the occasional spread of work-related papers across its surface. It is a mundane noun; the furniture that it describes exists in many forms, in many cultures, for many purposes. It is a common everyday object. And yet, it has become more.

We know words matter, but even the simplest of words can have a wide variety of meanings. 

The object this noun describes has become a gathering place. A place for discourse, learning, argument, and unity. It supports culture—that of culinary delights, entertaining games, artistic endeavors, and political debate—so much so that table has become a verb as well. We lay our thoughts on the table, and sweep them aside by tabling them. We turn the tables on our opponents and come to the table when we’re ready to participate in discussion again. Motions that are laid upon the table can also be negotiated at a metaphorical one. Even the shape of the table has historically represented social position. The legendary “knights of the round table” were each equally revered as authoritative figures, while the head of the table is still revered as a position of authority. All these meanings and nuances reside in the five letters that describe the four-legged object.

Oxford Dictionary defines table as, “A piece of furniture with a flat top and one or more legs, providing a level surface for eating, writing, or working at.” Besides this primary definition, I personally used table as a verb, meaning to delay an issue or discussion. Oxford dictionary attributes this definition to American English.

This would explain my confusion when I came across a BBC news article which used table in a completely different context. Earlier this month, the British Parliament “tabled a motion” of no confidence against UK Prime Minister Theresa May. Why would they delay a motion when they clearly meant to move forward with the vote of no confidence? This one word seemingly contradicted the point of the entire article, and dramatically hampered my understanding of it. After a quick Google search, I came across a helpful discussion post that explained the British-English definition of the word, which is to “Present formally for discussion or consideration at a meeting.”

Because words can have dramatic variations in different dialects, we must carefully consider words as they are spoken within their given contexts.

Which form of the word is correct? The answer is, both of them. It makes sense that the phrase, “tabled the issue” means to present an issue for review within British English, especially since Parliament uses table as a procedural term. “Tabling is the act of formally putting forward a question, a motion or an amendment in the Commons or the Lords.” Even Americans will occasionally refer to “laying it all on the table.” As tables have historically been a resting place for objects, it is equally understandable that the common American-English version of the word means, to postpone the review of an issue.

So what was the point of researching this common, everyday word? The usage of this table demonstrates even the simplest of words can have a wide variety of meanings across different dialects. Such word variances should not be taken for granted. It is important to maintain curiosity about language, and an awareness about the nuances of different word usages. It is a fact that one word, when heard out of context, can lead to confusion. Thus, the importance of context cannot be overstressed. To operate ethically within our world, we must carefully consider words as they are spoken within their given contexts, before jumping to misguided conclusions.

 

Politics, Slice of life

The Art of Civil Conversation

In light of the ongoing national conversation, I’d like to highlight a few sections of a previous article, Mindful Political Awareness

While mindfulness is important for daily life, civility is extraordinarily crucial for our daily conversations. It is an art, not a natural reaction, that becomes easier with practice. The truths we share are readily accepted when we share them respectfully. And yes, eventually we must move beyond talking and take action. But, if we begin from a place of respectful understanding through civil conversation, our actions can have a greater impact.

 

LISTEN & EMPATHIZE

When we participate in conversations, mindfulness can help us to empathize and speak our truths in a meaningful manner. Active listening is a discipline that helps us tune out our internal monologue and genuinely hear what other people have to say. When combined with mindfulness, it becomes a powerful tool that allows us to breathe, focus, and attune ourselves to what is truly important. We start to identify the strength of our emotions, particularly when we need to disengage from heated scenarios. Not only that, but we begin to hear political arguments differently. Our minds are suddenly receptive to new information and we begin to understand even when we disagree.

SAY THANK YOU

Please. Excuse me. Thank you. We teach children that these are ‘magic words’ but we may not fully appreciate their magical qualities. One of my friends regularly engages in political discussions on Facebook, but somehow these conversations never get caustic. How is this possible? As I was struggling with cordial dialogue, I began watching how he managed these conversations. The key phrase he frequently said was, thank you. “Thank you for joining the conversation,” he would reply to commenters before subtly introducing a counter-point for consideration. This did several things. It established a respectful tone, made the participants feel appreciated, and added value to the conversation – just through two simple words. A precedent of introspection and respect sets the foundation of healthy conversation.

The politics of democracy have governed our beautiful country for 242 years. It touches our lives in many ways, and we each have a claim in the conversation. With mindful political awareness, we can maintain focus and consider other points of view.

Slice of life

Who I Am is Not My Age

pexels-photo-206563

Growing up, I was a daydreamer who enjoyed reading books, climbing trees, and having interesting conversations with anyone. It didn’t matter if you were a toddler, a peer, or an awesome person rockin’ the age of 105. I didn’t care about anyone’s age… until they cared about mine.

“You’re so young!”

“You’re so mature for your age!”

That was the theme of most conversations I had with adults as I progressed from middle school to high school. When a well-meaning adult would ask my age, their demeanor immediately shifted. The assumption was, I couldn’t share their experiences. I didn’t fit into their ‘adult’ box. The conversations became static.

“What year are you in high school?”

“What do you want do with your life?”

Does any high school student honestly know the answer to this question? Sure, I dreamed about becoming a veterinarian with a blue convertible, but life has a way of changing our dreams so… let’s talk about anything else.

I quickly identified the adults I could really talk to. They would talk with me, not down to me. We chatted about our favorite movies, jobs, and our different life experiences. Our conversations sparkled.

Then I grew up. I worked an internship, achieved a full-time job, got married, and bought a house. I finally stepped into the ‘adult’ box. Little did I know, I still didn’t fit.

“You’re already married? You guys are babies!”

“You’re still in your twenties?! You’re so young! Well, you are too young to remember this reference…”

These statements sorted me into the ‘just-barely-an-adult’ box. Which was hilarious, considering my love of history, antiques, and jazz. I even watched every single episode of I Love Lucy. If there was an older pop-culture reference I didn’t understand, I could learn. But alas, I had been sorted out of the ‘adult’ box.

Currently, I have been rolled up and tossed into the millennial category where I am dismissed as a disrespectful, entitled brat. Woah! Wait a minute. Like everyone else in the millennial box… the baby boomer box…. and every box humans like to create…

I am not my age. Age doesn’t have to define us, because…

We are ourselves. An awesome mish-mash of messy experiences, embarrassing mistakes, and fantastic triumphs. And we are better because we are all different.

So excuse me, I am going to step out of my box. Can I offer you some of my idealism for a bit of your experience? Let’s have a conversation that sparkles.