Tag Archives: Bluffton College

On words and a love for dictionaries

A zillion years ago, I majored in English at Bluffton College (now University). English. Not English education. Didn’t plan to teach. Had not a whit of an idea of what I would do with the rest of my life. But English was fun…all that reading, writing, analyzing, etc. And yes, I was one of a very few in my graduating class. Today, at least one of the others is a college professor. A few of us fell into journalism.

I love words. I love reading dictionaries. That wasn’t always true. Let’s blame that on my dad. Well, you can probably also blame him for the fact that eventually I learned to love dictionaries. When I was a kid and got stuck on a word, I’d ask my dad. Hey, he was a college professor with a PhD. He knew everything, right? But here’s the thing. He never gave me a direct answer. His usual response was, “You know where the dictionary is.” And yes, I did, but it was easier to ask. Eventually — probably after about 20 years — I learned to quit asking.

When our kids were growing up, we often played the dictionary game after dinner. It was a ruse to keep them at the table. Each person got to pick a word from the dictionary and try to stump the others. Yeah, we were a pretty nerdy, boring family. But it was a great way for the girls to learn new words. Thing is, they both surpassed us long ago.

So anyway, yesterday I was grading a student’s research paper draft. She’d used the word “continual.” My first thought was that she was wrong…that it should have been “continuous.” So, I logged onto my favorite online dictionary (I was not in my office and didn’t have access to the paper version, which would have been my first choice). Turned out she was right; I was wrong. She’d used “continual” in the right context.

And just in case you’ve read this far and wonder about the difference between the two? Look them up. You know where the dictionary is.

Doc says stop running; feet say “WHAT”?

Runners are a strange breed. This I know for sure. I’ve been one for more than 30 years. Most people eye us with distrust, give us nasty looks as if we’ve ruined their day by just being there. Oddly, there are those who try to run us off the road. I’ve never understood this animosity.

For example, it was a frigid, snowy day. A day when no vehicles should be on the road. Feet are okay, if they’re clad in spikes. So there I was heading south on Main Street/Dixie Highway toward the bowling alley, my turnaround. A large truck approached me from the south. A dad and son. No seatbelts from my visual. But hey, if they want to take chances. I raised my hand to wave, when the driver raised his own hand in an angry fist-waving rampage. Ummmm…okay. Gee, did I do something wrong? I puzzled over that one all day.

So anyway, running. It’s been my thing since sophomore year of college. The first time I tried, one college roommate convinced the other two of us to trot around the old cinder track behind Hirschy Hall on the Bluffton College (excuse me, University) campus. My memory is that Emily informed Vicki and I that we would slowly traverse a lap at a time. When I developed a sideache, Em, the veteran, told me to run bent over. I’m sure this looked pretty stupid, but fortunately it was dark.

That was it until about six months later when I decided to try again. Somehow it got easier and I discovered it was kind of fun. Over the years, it became habit. From somewhere within me, a competitive urge popped up and I began races. I actually won a few. In fact, I’d have won one more except they somehow registered me as male. I actually got the trophy 20 years later. I don’t know if it took that long to compute, or if Dick Boehr just felt sorry for me and had one specially designed.

So…here it is almost 34 years later. Miles and miles behind me. Assorted injuries, temporary layoffs (i.e. two pregnancies and one knee surgery, two sacral stress fractures)…and even a few months of thinking I’d never run again. But oh…minutes at a time, we idiots build back up to some semblance of running.

So recently, thanks to an ongoing health problem, my doc looks at me suspiciously and says, “Are you still running.” Guiltily, I peek at my husband, who is glaring at me. Ulp. “Um…yesterday.” How far, says he, the expert? Um….3? How fast? Um…oh about, 28-29 minutes, maybe.

Stop now — you can start again when you’re stronger. Okay, this is not the order I wanted to hear. I wanted to think I could keep up my usual routine — that piece of me that has become as natural as brushing my teeth. But okay, for the sake of saving my energy for some tough times, I agree. Walk, he says. That’s okay.

The next day I find myself enjoying an early morning walk with a friend, who says she is more of a walker than a runner these days. In fact, she explains to me why runners don’t want to be known as walkers. There’s something, she says, about being known as a “runner”. It sets us apart, lets us continue to be the oddballs we like to be. It also allows us to eat just about anything we want…well, at least those who don’t have genetically high cholesterol.

As my walking feet fight my running brain, I remind myself that I’m doing this for a good reason. It’s all about energy. Saving it. Somehow, though, my brain hasn’t quite accepted that. It will. Someday. I hope.