This, That, and My Mother

“So, I have been misusing the word “misnomer”.  Irony, much?”  Me, via Twitter.

Wow.  I cannot believe how long it has been since I last wrote.  How is it possible for someone to have so much jetsam and flotsam floating around in their brain without skimming the waters from time to time? So, here is the stuff I have thrown over the rail and the stuff I tried to fish back out of the sea….

The Inadvertant Racist

Anyone who has known me for more than a minute knows I have no tolerance for racism.  Call it a pet peeve if you will but just because you and I both tend to burn before we tan does not mean I want to hear your ignorant rants and sotto voce slurs. 

I was thrown smooth off my high horse, however, by a casual Facebook post by a friend. 

Susan refers to herself , with a wink, as a Chinadian (Chinese-Canadian).   Incredibly smart with a cutting edge wit that I absolutely adore, I first met her when I started visiting her coffee-house.  On my second or third visit I walked in and Susan greeted me with a loud and enthusiastic, “You’re on Facebook!”.  And it was on. 

Then she posted the following:

Please stop speaking so slowly and so loudly at me. ai no engrish.

This is typical Susan. Wry and hilarious.  But it was her friends posts that got to me.   Apparently many in the Asian community have been offended by the term “ni hao ma”.  Strictly speaking it means Hello, how are you, (roughly) in Chinese. However, the Urban Dictionary defines it as:

   ni hao
Hello in Chinese. Most commonly used by non-Chinese people to show off the only chinese phrase they know to a Chinese they just met, who can speak fluent English ironically.
“Hey I have learnt some Chinese from another Chinese friend…ni hao.”
“Oh, wow. That’s great. I wish I know how to say hello in your language.”

This is SO something I would do.  Guilty guilty guilty.  Granted, I would never assume that someone did not speak english without first speaking to them, but I love to try out little blips in other languages; “Uno mas cervesa, por favor,”  “Konnichiha, watashi ni nomimono o kōnyū suru?”, “Ēka acchā cīzabargara mila sakatī hai?” (okay, THAT one is offensive, but funny).

It never occurred to me that someone would be offended.  Then I started thinking about other little verbal tics I have picked up over the years.  Es no bueno for shit.  Ghettoblaster, (this is what we always called boom boxes. My mother, however, took offense and informed me this was actually a racist statement.)  It wasn’t all that long ago that I found out Oriental is also a slur. (This time it was my sister, “Deanna, a RUG is oriental, a PERSON is Asian!” Did I mention that the whole anti racism thing runs in the family? No? Well, it does.) An Eskimo is now an Inuit.

In most cases, referring to someones racial heritage is irrelevant.  However, when circumstances warrant (such as when writing an article on the racial makeup of a jury for a minority defendant), I am still unsure in many cases.  Do you prefer black, African-American, or person of color? Latino/a, Hispanic or ChicanoAsian or country specific (Korean, Japanese, Chinadian)? I realized that in my effort to be respectful of culture  I may have instead offended.  For this I truly and sincerely apologize.

Yes, dear, they actually said that….

”I’m blacker than Barack Obama. I shined shoes. I grew up in a five-room apartment. My father had a little laundromat in a black community not far from where we lived. I saw it all growing up.”

—Ex-Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, in an interview with ‘Esquire’ magazine

”I didn’t really have a good answer, as so often — is me. But then somebody sent me the other day, Isaiah 49:16, and you need to go home and look it up. Before you look it up, I’ll tell you what it says though. It says, hey, if it was good enough for God, scribbling on the palm of his hand, it’s good enough for me, for us. He says, in that passage, ‘I wrote your name on the palm of my hand to remember you,’ and I’m like, ‘Okay, I’m in good company.”’

Sarah Palin, on writing notes on her hand during her Tea Party convention speech

”We had no domestic attacks under Bush; we’ve had one under Obama.”

—Rudy Giuliani, Mr. 9/11, forgetting 9/11,

”Now, they’re saying I groped a male staffer. Yes, I did. Not only did I grope him, I tickled him until he couldn’t breathe and four guys jumped on top of me. It was my 50th birthday.”

—Ex-Congressman Eric Massa (D-NY), talking to Glenn Beck after resigning amid allegations that he sexually harassed his aides

”This will play right into Obama’s hands. He’s humanitarian, compassionate. They’ll use this to burnish their, shall we say, ‘credibility’ with the black community — in the both light-skinned and dark-skinned black community in this country. It’s made-to-order for them. That’s why he couldn’t wait to get out there, could not wait to get out there.”

—Rush Limbaugh, on Haiti earthquake relief, Jan. 13, 2010

Things My Mother Taught Me

And finally, in honor of Mother’s Day, a few things my Mom taught me.

The love of reading is the greatest gift you can give your child. 

(One of my fondest memories of childhood is being on the porch with my brother Kirk, sitting at rapt attention while Mom read to us from Where the Red Fern Grows.   I cannot remember a time when I was not surrounded by books.  Mom always has a shelf full and my love of the printed page springs directly from her.)

When surrounded and outnumbered, always go for the one with the biggest mouth.  If you can take him down, the rest will fall like dominos.

Watch your speech.  Regardless of how smart you are, if you use the term “irregardless” people will think you’re stupid.

There is no “r” at the end of “sherbet”.

Family loyalty is not optional.  They will be there when no one else is.  We can say whatever we want about each other but if anyone else dares, you had better stand up and set them straight. 

You can make an incredible frosting with just whipped cream and Jello pudding.

The correct phrase is “water heater”.  If it were already hot it wouldn’t need to be heated, now would it?

Dogs are people too. 

Never trust a man who pays his rent in singles.

Look it up.

When a gentleman takes you out for an evening he has had the pleasure and honor of your company. This has more than compensated him for any expense he may have incurred. He is in your debt, you are not in his.

If someone forces you to choose between themselves and another, always choose the one that isn’t making you choose. 

I don’t care what they say, undercooked meat is NOT good for you.

Tattoos are permanent.

And the most important lesson of all:

Always be good to your mother.  She loves you like no one else ever can.


~ by D.L. Graves on May 9, 2010.

One Response to “This, That, and My Mother”

  1. Thank you, Deanna. You have no idea how much I want to hug you right now!!

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