Silent letters are one of the difficulties in learning written English.
There are a lot of them! (There are a lot of other weird features to spelling in English, too. I pity anyone having to learn it as a second, third, or fourth language.)
I realize other languages have them, too. I never studied French but occasionally have to sing in it. I’m always having to cross out letters that aren’t pronounced.
The first opportunity I had to study a second language was in high school. I chose Italian for a number of reasons. My mom’s grandparents spoke it, although in dialect which is not what you learn in school. Also, Italian is used extensively in music markings. In the US, Latin is sung using Italianate pronunciation and I often have call to sing in Latin.
Learning to spell and pronounce words in Italian is much more straightforward than in English. There are almost no silent letters. H is the letter that is sometimes silent and sometimes a signifier of a change to another consonant sound. Once you learn the pure vowel sounds and a few little rules, it is very easy to read a text in Italian. You might not know what you are saying, but it will sound beautiful! ***** Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week is “a word with a silent letter.” We could write about it or about silent letters in general. Join us! Find out more here: https://lindaghill.com/2022/09/09/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-sept-10-2022/
“Why (this, that, or the other thing)?” is a question I try not to ask.
When I was a kid, the answer to “Why?” was often “Because” which could lead to a succession of “Because whys?” which were meant to be taken as a joke, but were really just frustrating.
“Why” questions are often unanswerable. I’m thinking of questions like “Why do people suffer?” and other existential things like that. Maybe “Because” is the appropriate answer. Because that is the way it is. Because this is reality. There isn’t really a reason or logic involved. It just is.
Sometimes, people use why to introduce a questioning of someone else’s motives or behavior. “Why did they do that or say that or think that?” The questioner often seems to not want an answer as much as voicing disapproval.
Where “why” questions seem most helpful to me are in fields like science where they can spur research that leads to actual answers. Most of our understanding of the universe started with asking why.
Now that I’m thinking about it, another useful realm for “why” questions is introspection. Unlike someone else questioning or speculating about my motives, I find it helpful to ask myself why I do or think or say certain things. The better that I can understand myself, the more likely I am to be able to learn and improve and be of help to others. ***** Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week is start a post with the word “why.” Join us! Find out more here: https://lindaghill.com/2022/09/02/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-sept-3-2022/
Earlier this year, I joined the Madrigal Choir of Binghamton and was somewhat shocked but definitely honored to be offered a seat on their board.
I’ve never been on a board before, although I’ve been on lots of committees. Even though I don’t think being on committees is my strong suit, I did accept.
I haven’t had enough time to figure out yet if it was a mistake.
It’s not that I don’t have ideas to contribute. It’s more the incredible stress of trying to get them out.
I’m an introvert who finds talking to more than two people at a time really stressful. So a board meeting where I know almost no one is daunting. Add in being thrown into the midst of discussions that had been ongoing and for which I have limited background and the stress level goes up exponentially.
I am, however, determined and dogged and faithful, so I will try to do my best to contribute and be a good board member.
At least, for now.
We are coming up on the one year anniversary of my father’s death. After the months of having to deal with all the paperwork and estate settling, I had been trying to re-prioritize my commitments. I thought that I would be doing mostly solitary activities, other than poetry workshopping. Well, and rehearsing with Madrigal Choir.
It hasn’t quite worked out that way.
Besides Madrigal Choir Board, I’ve been involved with the Creation Care Team at my church, which has now also morphed into involvement with the diocesan creation care task force. Dealing with anything on the diocesan level is fraught for me for more complex reasons than I could possibly tackle in SoC.
For sanity’s sake, I know I should scale back, but will I?
When I saw that Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week was “key,” I knew that this would be another intersection with JC’s Confessions, my occasional series in which I “confess” to things that aren’t really sins but that I feel vaguely guilty about. (I’ll paste the usual intro to JC’s Confessions at the end of this post.)
I sometimes wear my Phi Beta Kappa key when I am nervous about a challenging meeting as a confidence booster. It’s on a necklace chain, so it isn’t that noticeable and, if someone does notice it, they are likely to think that it’s just my sorority or my husband’s fraternity key. (This would only be possible if the person doesn’t know us. I went to Smith College, which does not have sororities. B’s university did have fraternities but he would never have considered joining one.)
I think the origin of my feeling guilty about it is that I’m wearing it as a secret reminder that I am intelligent in the best liberal-artsy way, that I can use those skills to delve into new terrain, and that I can contribute to solutions to complicated problems.
That I want my membership in Phi Beta Kappa to be a secret is the problem.
So, I was always a good student. I was valedictorian of my high school class. I graduated summa cum laude from Smith College, which, at that time, placed me in the top 1% of my class. I made first election to Phi Beta Kappa in the fall of my senior year.
There is somehow in the United States an undercurrent of suspicion of people who are “smart.” Having been a good student is taken to mean that you must hold yourself above others. This is not at all true of me but others may assume it is and react in a hostile way.
I nearly always kept my little secret undetected. The one time someone noticed and commented on my key was when I was serving as a parent volunteer on a school district committee doing curriculum work. It was daunting for me to be the one person who was not a professional educator. We did do training together for the work but I had to rely on my personal skills and intellect rather than on pertinent academic background in education. Thus, my need to boost my confidence with my key.
During a break, one of the teachers commented on my Phi Beta Kappa. I probably blushed! In retrospect, it shouldn’t have surprised me, as he earned a couple of degrees from Harvard himself and would certainly have known those Greek letters when he saw them.
It was nice to have someone in on my secret that day, someone who understood what it meant without thinking I was being a show-off.
It’s been quite a while since I’ve worn my Phi Beta Kappa key. My life has been much more contained, especially since COVID appeared.
Maybe I’ll wear it someday not as a confidence booster but as a celebration of my now long ago academic past.
In the first few seasons of The Late Show, Stephen Colbert did a recurring skit, then a best-selling book, called Midnight Confessions, in which he “confesses” to his audience with the disclaimer that he isn’t sure these things are really sins but that he does “feel bad about them.” While Stephen and his writers are famously funny, I am not, so my JC’s Confessions will be somewhat more serious reflections, but they will be things that I feel bad about. Stephen’s audience always forgives him at the end of the segment; I’m not expecting that – and these aren’t really sins – but comments are always welcome.
There is a huge amount of disunity both between states and within states and it’s very upsetting and disorienting.
As with any democratic country, there will always be differences of opinion of how to govern and how to prioritize our obligations to each other and to other countries but we have fallen into a situation where we can’t even agree on facts.
I’ve written before about the issue of abortion, which now has each state making their own laws about it, but some states are trying to forbid going to another state to receive care, which is not something that should even be considered in the United States. We are supposed to be able to travel freely between states and to engage in commerce there.
As it happens, I’ve lived most of my life on a state border, growing up on the Massachusetts side of the border with Vermont and living for the last several decades on the New York side of the border with Pennsylvania. The concept that there would be any restrictions on crossing the border or engaging in a legal activity there is just bizarre and un-American.
While this disunity began before the Trump presidency, he has thrown the problem into overdrive. As non-US folks may be aware, Trump’s home in Florida was searched under warrant by the Federal Bureau of Investigation earlier this week. Yesterday, the warrant and receipt of what was removed by the agents was released by the court. The former president had kept documents that, under the Presidential Records Act, he should not have in his possession. (All presidential records belong to the people of the United States and are administered by the National Archives.)
This is part of an investigation at this point; there have been no charges that we know of. I suppose there could be charges that have been made but that are under seal but that seems unlikely at this point. At any rate, it seems clear that the former president had in his possession documents that he has no right to possess and that he did not turn them over when he was asked about them. When the archivists realized some documents were missing, they asked for them. Over the winter, fifteen boxes of material were sent back to Washington. When they analyzed them, the Archives realized there were still materials missing. There was a subpoena for them issued in June but they still were not returned, which led to the warrant and search this week. More materials were found and removed by the FBI agents, including some materials that are considered so sensitive that they are only supposed to be read in special rooms that are very secure with guards and prohibitions against having any electronic devices near them.
I’m not a lawyer, but the known evidence at this point looks bad for the former president.
The problem is that, in this time of disunity, even facts seem to be in dispute. Trump and his apologists are running through all kinds of excuses and obfuscations. There were claims that none of the president’s – well, ex-president’s – staff were there but his lawyers were present during the search. There were accusations that the FBI agents planted evidence, although, not only were Trump’s lawyers there but also DT and Melania watched the search unfold over the extensive surveillance system of Mar-a-Lago, the Trump golf resort which has become their primary residence. Trump was in New York at the time of the search to give a deposition in a civil case about his business practices pre-presidency; in hours of questioning, the only question he answered was his name, invoking his right against self-incrimination hundreds of times. (It’s true that that is his and every person’s right under the Constitution, but this is a civil, not criminal case, so jurors will be able to draw inferences from the refusal to answer in ways that are not possible in criminal cases where taking the Fifth is not able to be used against you in any way. Yeah, stream of consciousness can lead you off your path into what should probably be a separate post…)
So, yeah, back to other excuses. Some are saying that everything is okay because DT declassified everything he took, trying to obscure the fact that he should not have had any of these materials AT ALL because all presidential records belong to the people of the United States through the National Archives. Also, there is an extensive process by which a president can declassify materials which was not followed, as there were materials that still have stamps for classification at various levels, which would have to have been removed with documentation if they were truly declassified.
Unfortunately, there has already been a life lost due to the lies about the search. A man, responding to false reports that the FBI had done something illegal, attacked an FBI office, fled, had a standoff with agents, and was killed when he raised his weapon against them.
I’m very afraid of violence becoming more widespread. Unlike our Civil War which was between the Union and a group of states which broke away, this violence would likely take place within communities. There are homes that are flying the United States flag upside-down, which is a signal of distress, and displaying Trump banners and Second Amendment flags with guns on them and flags with vulgar messages toward President Biden. There are lots of people with multiple firearms and lots of ammunition. There are various s0-called militias that are anti-government and/or white supremacist, anti-Semitic, Christian nationalist, etc. And, of course, because of the January 6th insurrection, we know that they are capable of organizing and attacking at Trump’s behest.
It’s terrifying and bewildering and disorienting. I never thought I would have to fear that the United States might fall apart, or worse, fall into authoritarianism. I never thought one entire political party would so flagrantly violate their oath of office and still manage to get elected through riling up fears and manipulating the election system. I never thought the courts would take away rights that had been recognized.
It’s discouraging that, with facts as clear as they have been from the Select Committee taking testimony about January 6th and from the search warrant and results from this week, that so many, especially Republican members of Congress, are continuing to lie and lead people astray.
I try to do my little part to keep facts out there, even in stream of consciousness, but sometimes the disunity seems insurmountable. Millions of us will keep trying, though, to make our country the United States again.
And I won’t bother all of you with writing it here.
But, #SoCS can get checked off soon…
I admit that I’m in a bit of a lull when it comes to writing these days, especially creative writing. We’ve been travelling quite a bit. I’m also waiting out a grief wave.
The bigger issue with blog posts, though, is that there are a lot of heavy topics about which I want to write, most of them follow-ups to previous posts. JoAnna of the Forest suggested that it is better for my health and well-being to mix in some lighter posts, so I’m hoping this counts!
I had two parents, but they are both gone now. A few days ago, we observed the first wedding anniversary for them since Paco died last September. They celebrated 65 anniversaries together and this year would have been 68.