IF YOU TELL THE TRUTH, YOU DON’T HAVE TO REMEMBER ANYTHING (Mark Twain) – March 20, 2015
Words. I love words. I love the sound of words. I am totally intrigued by their meanings and their origins. When it was suggested that I begin writing my own blog – that would be my wife, Lori’s suggestion – I was, naturally, drawn to the etymology of the word “blog”. Not surprisingly, the word was nowhere to be found in any of my old standby dictionaries resting comfortably on my work desk – The Concise Oxford, the Funk & Wagnall, and the Collins English Dictionary. Nope. I had to go online to discover its meaning. According to Dictionary.com, a blog is “an online diary; a personal chronological log of thoughts published on a Web page – the shortened version of “weblog.” Hence, the verb “to blog” – “to express or write about on a blog.” That definitely struck me as something very doable. I think all day long; I’ve just never bothered to collect my thoughts in any organized manner.
Why a blog? Why now? I suppose I should come clean. Now that I am writing other people’s memoirs for a living, I guess it is only fair that I share publicly some of my own memories of, of – of just about anything. Truth be told, I have always been attracted to storytelling – well, storytelling, but not necessarily storytelling in the classic sense of the genre. I love the type of story that unravels spontaneously during the course of a relaxed, informal family gathering. As a child growing up in Hamilton, Ontario in the 50’s and the 60’s I was fed a steady diet of outrageous anecdotes courtesy of my uncles and aunts and their circle of close friends. Every Sunday afternoon, come rain or shine, this unruly group of 2nd generation immigrants and Holocaust survivors gathered around my grandparents’ dining room table to drink some tea, to eat some strudel, and if time permitted, to solve most of the world’s pressing issues. The conversation was animated, boisterous, and deemed serious when the language of discourse was switched to Yiddish.
I never received any formal lessons in Yiddish, but over the years I managed to incorporate many of the more important words and phrases into my own lexicon. I learnt from my Bubbe that the Queen of England was human just like the rest of us; according to Bubbe, Her Majesty relieved herself no differently than the rest of her loyal subjects – trust me, in Yiddish, this startling revelation sounds significantly more dramatic. There were other Yiddish idioms that remained a mystery to me for most of my youth. Whenever we asked permission to do some sort of activity that was deemed questionable or frivolous in our elders’ eyes we were invariably told something like: “Sure, you can go to the movies today. In your head, you can go to the movies.” In your head – ahf dein kop – seemed to be the appropriate response to most of life’s more controversial subjects. When you are 12 years old, you are not equipped to debate this kind of logic.
Do I pine for those simpler times? Sometimes, but not always. I find nostalgia is most tolerable when meted out in modest doses. The reason I write memoirs is not to relive the past, but to record it. According to Wikipedia, as of 20 February 2014, “there were around 172 million Tumblr and 75.8 million WordPress blogs in existence worldwide.” That’s an awful lot of blogs. That’s an awful lot of words. Will a few more words make any kind of an impact on someone or something? Not likely, if this column remains a monologue. If anybody is still listening, I invite your comments, memories, criticism, and hopefully, a few good lines in Yiddish.