The View from Mattie’s Pillow


A few years ago—or perhaps more—I noticed that my son began using the word “random” to mean “unknown” or “indistinct” as in, “Some random girl walked by,” or “We took a random cab.”  Even writing this, I have a hard time separating the new meaning, the slang meaning, from the one embedded in my English teacher memory.  Random: unpredictable, occurring by accident or without plan, without pattern or intent, as in “The leaves fell in a random pattern, the yellow and orange ones jumbled together.” Or “The dog would appear in our driveway at random times—sometimes before breakfast, sometimes in the late afternoon.”  Adding the term “random” into contemporary vocabulary may be an attempt to reflect the true randomness of experience, or it may be yet another post-modern “joke”—we know the girl meant to walk by and we expected her all along, but we’re giving a wink to the fact that we’re pretending that it is random.  In the facebook/cell phone age, when, as I was told once, “no one needs to plan” everything has the appearance of randomness, but if we all know what each other is doing all the time, it’s really all connected in some way and, however instantaneously, planned, not random.

All this philosophizing as a way of saying thank you to Sue Ann Bowling, Atmospheric Physicist, former dog trainer extraordinaire, animal color genetics expert, and science fiction writer, for choosing this blog for the Versatile Blogger Award, though it’s not clear where this award originated or what it means other than a chain-mail style means of linking readers to blogs and blogs to each other.  Still, it’s nice to be appreciated, and it gives me a chance to note five other blogs on this site.

As part of the award, I’m supposed to note seven random things about myself.  If you read this blog, you know some of them already, but here are a few bits that come to mind.

Astounding Beauty Ruffian Press has let me know that they only have a few copies of my chapbook, We Tempt Our Luck left and that they can no longer afford to keep their publications in print for more than a few print runs.  You can order the remaining copies through their website.   I only have one or two left, myself!

Fall is coming on here, though at a reasonable pace.  The birch leaves have gone from bright yellow to tan and line the roads, blowing up like confetti in the slipstream behind cars.

I almost have my voice back from two weeks ago.  I have been teaching by writing on the board and putting my students in groups to tell me what they know about writing.

Paragraph one is random number four.

Paragraph two is number five.

Sam is perking up with the addition of vitamin E to his diet.  He seems to have more energy and has regained some muscle tone, though I’ve been wrapped up with school, illness, fall preparations, and he’s had to self-exercise.  Mattie, as always, has a velvety winter coat coming in, pure black.  In summer, she’s dark bay.  That’s number six.

This weekend, we’ll harvest the potatoes from their buckets and the long raised bed.  We have purple skinned, red skinned, russet, Yukon gold, French fingerling, and some I-don’t-remember-what potatoes.  I’m guessing we’ll get nearly three five-gallon buckets of them.  We’ll pack them in spruce shavings and keep them in the new tack room, which is unheated but stays above freezing from heat leaking from the boiler room of the house.  It’s actually an arctic entry, but I’ve claimed it for my horse equipment storage and food storage.  OK. Seven.

Then I have to name five more blogs for the award.  Take a look at them, if you haven’t already.  They’re all friends of mine—a versatile bunch.

Alayne Blickle of Horses for Clean Water  Besides having lots of good information on her site and blog, she’s trained as a photojournalist and educational media specialist.  Her website is a model of good design—as is her farm.

Jamie Smith of Nuggets fame Cartoonist and friend and former and future art teacher.  He posts daily on the art of cartooning, on place, and on the comic traditions of beavers and moose.

Karen Douglas, another writer with a love of horses Good tips on writing and publishing literary nonfiction and poetry.

Steve Parker, Ph D A Jungian on Jung.  A dreamer on dreams.  Randomness.

Emily my neighbor and small homesteader.  Recipes and tips on gardening and kid rearing of the human and goat kind.


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3 Responses to “The View from Mattie’s Pillow”

  1. Dave Says:

    Language is always evolving. Whether or not that’s a good thing is quite beside the point as there is nothing one can do to stop it. I have another word for you to ponder: “prolly”. It’s shorthand for probably, a tongue twisting and, when typing, a finger cramping word if ever there was one. My son started using it in his texts and emails a few years ago and I must confess, I like it.

    I don’t like ur for you’re or b4 for before but I understand why they’ve become common. Our increasing use of email, texting and Twitter to communicate practically necessitates shortening, compressing or even discarding certain “random” English words. Nobody bemoans the loss of such words as thy or thine, or smote or slew. Good riddance, I say!


  2. mattiespillow Says:

    Um…”thy” and “thine” have specific uses as the familiar or singular form of “you.” In English, we’re so formal that we don’t use the familiar any more. But it didn’t go anywhere. To me, spelling retains the trace of the history of a language, so I resist spelling changes like “prolly” which don’t have semantic or structural roots in the language, though I see their usefulness as a shortened verbal form.

    But, you’re learning Thai. What parallels do they have to this?

  3. Dave Says:

    I’m definitely not in a position to know anything about Thai language etymology. I can barely make it through the 44 consonants at this point. Vowels are next. I think there are 32 of them. LOL Luckily for me it uses no tenses, plurals or genders!

    I reckon my counter to your reply would be to say that prolly would be traceable to its original form as much as thy and thine and riven and smote are today.

    At any rate, changes in the language are unavoidable. Did you know that the nonsense phrase yada-yada-yada appears in many dictionaries? I heard it was earmarked for inclusion in the newest OED. It’s usage that counts in the OED, not proper antecedents. Go figure.

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