Saturday, March 21, 2015

Electrical Votes

Clichés abound. They litter our speech like Ladybird's roadside flowers in Spring. I think most of them attained that status honestly. Because they ring true for us, we say them often enough that they become little phrases stuck in our rote memory jar, to be pulled out at will.

That's why is it is really funny when someone does that little thing Yogi Berra used to do. They say most of a cliché, or observation, then substitute a word that is similar but not quite right. One quote Wikipedia sites for Yogi Berra is, "Texas has a lot of electrical votes". Well, that's true. And I have no doubt that Mr. Berra knew exactly what he was doing with that small change.

What got me thinking about this is my instinct to correct the speaker if they get the cliché wrong. But, I'm asking myself why I want everyone to conform in that particular area, when I am a fan of individuality, of uniqueness and originality. Or am I? Is it easier for me when others follow the rules, and I get to be the only one who decides when it is okay to deviate? I am married to a man who likes to follow rules that he deems practical, and disregard the ones that seem foolish. Sometimes that makes life more fun, and sometimes it gives me a rash. And therein lies the rub. For some pesky reason, I like to be the one who decides when coloring outside the lines, or getting the cliché ever so slightly akimbo, is fun, and when it is too messy to abide.

Back to the instinct to correct...maybe the human need to be right is really the human need to run in packs. A loner is scary. A non-conformist has seen our rules and judged them unworthy. Now, that might be acceptable in an artist. How I loved E.E. Cummings in my teenage years. No rule-following for him. No capitalized letters (I learned only recently that he didn't use lower case letters for his own name, others did), no approved punctuation. And, T.S. Elliot's Prufrock. I read and re-read it, trying to make sense of it for myself without the literati telling me what to think. Neither of those men were rule followers, and both changed poetry. In a way, they had a lot in common with Yogi Berra. They jarred the reader, shaking up our expectations. They got away with it because they were intellectuals. We allowed them to carve their own way. I doubt either cared about the approval of the masses anyway. (whispered aside) Unless Prufrock was Elliot.

I have a new goal about correcting others. Instead of biting my tongue, thinking to myself that I know the real words, my goal now is to listen to the newness of the idea. To let the change, the unexpected, be original rather than wrong. It is grace I surely want for myself, because I am not a grammar whiz. And a lazy proofreader. And I forget things. And I forget what it was I meant to stop doing to others. Yogi got so many things right. Texas does have a lot of electrical votes. You can feel the voltage leading up to elections. A potent observation. Would I allow him to make it if he wasn't famous? I hope so. He was a very smart man. And very funny. Coloring well outside the lines of his baseball fame. No "dumb jock" label will stick to him. We do love our labels.  Electrical votes. Ha!

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