Friday, August 31, 2012

Oxford Dictionary's new words are simply ridic

It’s that time of year again. No, I don’t mean back-to-school time. I don’t even mean college football season. Of course I’m talking about the time of year when Oxford publishes its list of words added to the online dictionary.

And once again I am left sitting at my desk, head in my hands, weeping for the future of the English language. You think I’m overreacting? Tell that to the tweep with the ridic soul patch who has a hella nerve asking for a group hug. Yes, all of those words and phrases in that preceding sentence are now part of our lexicon at oxforddictionaries.com.

Sigh.

Let’s take them one at a time:

Date night, n.: “A prearranged occasion on which an established couple, especially one with children, go for a night out together.” Call me crazy, but I’m pretty sure we’ve already cemented the meanings of “date” and “night.” So couldn’t we have figured out the meaning of that compound word using nothing more than our wits?

Hackathon, n.: “An event, typically lasting several days, in which a large number of people meet to engage in collaborative computer programming.” So it’s like a dance-a-thon only easier on the feet. And less festive.

Hella, adv.: “Extremely; a large amount.” For example, that’s a hella stupid word you’re adding to the dictionary.

Inbox, v.: “Send a private message or an email to someone.” Fair enough. We all use it when we’re talking about our email, so I see how this should become part of the dictionary. Well played, Oxford.

Lifecasting, n.: Defines “the practice of broadcasting a continuous live flow of video material on the Internet which documents one’s day-to-day activities.” I think we call that “Jersey Shore” and “The Kardashians” and they’re horrible. Why encourage more of the same by giving them an official word? If it’s a word or phrase you’re after, I think the more appropriate would be “train wreck.”

Lolz, pl. n.: “Fun, laughter or amusement.” It was depressing enough when they added LOL (laugh out loud) a few years ago, especially because an entire generation of senior citizens thought it meant “lots of love.” This lead to disastrous misunderstandings, such as sympathy cards that were signed “I’m so sorry for your loss. LOL.”

Micro pig, n.: “A pig of a very small, docile, hairless variety, sometimes kept as a pet.” Um, haven’t we successfully described that as a “small pig” for years?

Mwahahahaha, exclamation: “Used to represent laughter, especially manic or cackling laughter such as that uttered by a villainous character in a cartoon or comic strip.” I have no words.

OH, n.: “A person’s wife, husband, or partner (used in electronic communication).” This one is wrong on many levels. First, as an Ohio native, it’s just confusing. Second, what does OH stand for? It doesn’t say in the entry. Old hag? Ornery hooligan? I’m left with more questions than answers.

Photobomb, v.: “Spoil a photograph by suddenly appearing in the camera’s field of view as the picture is taken, typically as a prank or practical joke.” In my day, we simply called that “Cousin Jerry being a jerk again.” Now I know the appropriate word to use.

Ridic, adj: “Ridiculous.” So let me get this straight. Instead of saying “laugh out loud” you say LOL (which is still three syllables, so you’re not making life any easier, I might point out). And instead of saying something is ridiculous, you get the first part out and just stop. Are you so apathetic that you don’t even have the energy to finish the word? Whatev.

And there are more. I just can’t bring myself to go on. You can see the entire list at oxforddictionaries.com if you can stomach it.

Why do I revere the dictionary so much that these additions make me cringe? Because my mom treated it like the Bible. Growing up, if we asked my mom what a word meant, she’d say, “Look it up in the dictionary” in her best Moses voice. It was most-used book in our home. The dictionary held all sorts of meanings, universes, ideas and helped explain the world around us. And I’m not seeing how “mwahahahaha” helps further explain the world around us.

In fact, I think it’s ridic and it makes me LOLZ.

Eileen Burmeister is a freelance writer in Winchester, Ore. She can be reached at burmeistereileen@gmail.com or you can follow her on Twitter at EBurmeister.





Saturday, August 18, 2012

Circle of Death turns into a top-of-the-world experience


As a kid growing up in Ohio, there were a surprising number of amusement parks to choose from for a state in the middle of nowhere: King’s Island, Geauga Lake, Sea World and Cedar Point.

It was during my youth that I started my life-long decision to avoid all rides that made me (1) convinced of the effects of gravity as I plunged to my death, (2) dizzy, and/or (3) want to (how shall I put this delicately?) return the corn dog and fries I had just eaten.

Okay, I may have tended toward the dramatic as a child, but a number of these rides had you spinning, going in 360-degree loops and dropping 300 feet in six seconds. I am not a fan of any of these activities, especially when all I have to separate me from the concrete below is a nylon belt over my shoulder and a wildly insufficient bar across my lap.

What did they take me for, a 10-year-old fool?

So, instead I hit the bumper car circuit with the all the other people – mostly grandmas.

Now fast forward a few years to last Saturday, the last day of the Douglas County Fair, and my own 10-year-old Lily had not yet attended. She couldn’t stop talking about going to the fair so she could experience the same things I did as a kid.

I’m not proud to admit that I had planned to avoid the fair completely by not driving past that area with Lily in the car for, oh, say two weeks. But I can’t control where her father drives with her in the car…

She kept asking to go, and I kept finding reasons to not go, and then she pulled out the “I’ve-never-been-on-a-Ferris-wheel-and-I’m-ready-now” card. The icicles around my hard heart melted and I agreed to take her first thing Saturday morning.

Here’s the deal, though: I had never been on a Ferris wheel either. Ever. (See bumper-car-only rule above).

The conversation in my head went something like this, “Eileen, it’s been long enough. You’re an adult now and have made it through far worse events in life than a possible death from Ferris wheel. Woman-up and take your daughter to the fair.”

So we went. And my plan was to pay for us to get in, pay for one trip on the Ferris wheel, go see the animals in the barns and avoid all other rides.

But when we got in line for the tickets we discovered it was bracelet day, which meant that for $23 we could ride all of the rides we wanted until our hearts were content or we lost our lunch. Huzzah!

So, we got the bracelet and lined up for the Ferris wheel. As we approached the line I got excited when I saw that you had to be a certain height in order to ride the Ferris wheel. Could it be possible that I didn’t yet meet the height requirement? Fear leads to fanciful thinking, apparently.

I blew away the height requirement and stepped into the line. The next 10 minutes were a blur as I talked non-stop to calm my fears of getting on the death trap. Poor Lily nodded, while looking at me quizzically, wondering where her usually-sane mother had gone. (Those of you who know me please stop laughing).

Before I knew what happened we were getting into a gondola THAT ROCKED and heading upward. Let me clarify: We were not only going around in circles, but rocking back and forth. “This was not in the brochure!” I wanted to yell.

Instead I pulled out my phone and started snapping pictures of Lily to keep my mind off our impending death. At one point I realized we were at the tippy-top when Lily said, “Look how pretty it is from up here.”

She was right. It was gorgeous. The views were breathtaking, but in a good way. More importantly, I was at the top of the world with my favorite little girl.

Every rotation found me calmer and calmer until I was …. wait for it … moving about the gondola to get a better camera angle. Yeah, we Burmeister girls totally rocked the Ferris wheel.

And after that? I followed Lily on every ride she wanted to go on. We spun, we flew sideways, we slid down a huge slide, and we created a wonderful memory. Me and my girl.

Eileen Burmeister is a freelance writer who lives in Winchester, Ore. She can be reached at burmeistereileen@gmail.com or you can follow her on Twitter at Eburmeister.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Heading to Rio in 2016, with a quick stop in Bermuda

My sister Peg, a high school English teacher from Ohio, came for a visit during her time off this summer.

This year, her trip coincided with the Summer Olympics. So in between road trips to Seattle, evenings on the river, and drives through the 100 valleys of the Umpqua, we’ve been watching a lot of Olympic events with the family.

The other night we watched the U.S. Beach Volleyball team of Kerri Walsh Jennings and Misty May-Treanor. There was one point where Misty dove to save a ball and missed, and I said, “I would have gotten that ball.”

After their win, the interviewer asked them both how they felt about being older. Kerri quickly said, “I’m 33 and Misty is 35, so I don’t think of us as old.”

“See?” I said to Peg. “It’s not too late for us. We could totally do this event in the 2016 games in Rio.” Granted, we are a little bit older, but still. Just last week we hiked to the top of Multnomah Falls. Yes, it took us two hours but WE DID IT. Plus, Peg played volleyball in grade school and I played three years in high school, so, you know, we know our way around a volleyball court.

What I’m trying to say is we’re qualified.

Never mind that we were sprawled out on a sectional couch eating a bowl of cherries during this conversation. We knew in our hearts we could be ready at go-time.

Our main concern quickly became the volleyball uniforms. They would have looked good on us in, say, 1985, but today … not so much.

However, after thorough research (Wikipedia), I found out that the Fédération Internationale de Volleyball allows female beach volleyball players the option of playing in shorts or a one-piece swimsuit. We’re going with the shorts option, and make them Bermuda shorts, thank you very much.

Seeing that we had only played indoor volleyball, I checked on the differences between indoor and beach volleyball. Here are some of the distinctions between the two, and my response to those differences.

1. Playing surface is sand rather than hard court. Well, growing up in Ohio, we are no strangers to sand because of all of the beaches…Okay, so we spent some time in sand BOXES, which totally count.

2. Team size is two rather than six, with no substitutions allowed. That’s okay; we don’t play well with others anyways.

3. Open-hand dinks are illegal and hand-setting standards are tighter in the beach game. I don’t even know what “open-hand dinks” are so we’re good.

4. Coaching during matches is not allowed. Which means you have to be quiet, Mom.

Now the distance between Ohio and Oregon could pose a problem for our training, seeing that we live 2,600 miles apart. But I’m pretty sure that if we commit ourselves to doing the Jane Fonda Workout video a MINIMUM of three times a week, we’ll just need a week or so together before the games in Rio to find our groove.

If you or someone you know is interested in sponsoring us, let me know. After all, we’ll have more than enough clothes covering us, giving your logo plenty of air time.

And just FYI, Peg and I are big fans of Starbucks and Diet Pepsi, respectively, so send those sponsorship dollars our way.

After all, nothing says “athlete in training” like Starbucks and Diet Pepsi, right?

USA! USA!

Eileen Burmeister lives and writes in Winchester, Ore. She can be reached at burmeistereileen@gmail.com or you can follow her on Twitter at EBurmeister.