A couple of past tongue-in-cheek articles from Toastmaster magazine inspire a launch point for observing some foibles in our use of the English language.
First of all, consider my use in the first line of ‘tongue-in-cheek’. Have you consciously tried to maintain this juxtaposition physically? Not only is it uncomfortable, it’s rather difficult to focus on doing much else while so engaged – although the effort can serve as an alternative tongue strengthening exercise in speech preparation, so you could conclude that there is a silver lining.
Or is there? By what standard do we determine that a particular circumstance has a ‘silver lining’? Since silver is a limitedly malleable metal, it’s debatable that it would really make a great lining. Besides, why should we be restricted to silver – if gold and bronze are good enough to go along with silver in medals, then they should also be good enough to serve in linings. It makes perfect sense.
Or does it? How can some perspective make ‘perfect sense’? Notwithstanding the former word is an accepted part of our language, one is hard pressed to declare unequivocally that any aspect of life is perfect. Even if, scientifically, some physical property could somehow be deemed perfect, the notion of sense is always subjective to some degree. One could spend a small fortune attempting to make this expression finite.
Whoops! What constitutes a ‘small fortune’? it would seem that the definition of fortune would conflict with a descriptive inclusion as small. To those who would insist this could be so, my counter would be nothing doing.
Oh-oh… Once again we are faced with an oxymoronic issue. If a situation is divested of any content, it could be nothing. But as soon as someone is doing or something is being done, then it stops being nothing. Therefore, one would have to evaluate differently, at least for the foreseeable future.
Now we have another problem: what part of the future is ‘foreseeable’? Unless one has a crystal ball – which, of course, would have to operate ‘perfectly’ – we can’t presume any of the future as explicitly foreseeable. That’s the thing of it.
Which brings us to that amorphous word ‘thing’. By itself, it serves as a useful, dependable, but indefinite, catch-all term. We have things, we do things, we see things, we know things. ‘Thing’ represents that shapeless some thing which we latch onto, in lieu or search of some thing more specific. Indeed, as noted, thing often attaches itself onto other words, often turning something into almost anything. Just as in the classic John Carpenter horror film remake, eponymously revered as ‘The Thing’.
Unless that thing was really meant tongue-in-cheek…