Column: We're often buffaloed into using specific wordsI was talking with Bill Keitel, Bill of the Buffalo Billfold Co., one evening last fall. Bill has put together a patio in front of his Lake Street house; you can sit on the patio and look west over Lake Okabena. It is a wonderful place.
By: Ray Crippen, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — I was talking with Bill Keitel, Bill of the Buffalo Billfold Co., one evening last fall. Bill has put together a patio in front of his Lake Street house; you can sit on the patio and look west over Lake Okabena. It is a wonderful place.
The topic of conversation was we — we Americans — have a major city named Buffalo in New York State. I don’t know how many counties are named Buffalo. There is a Buffalo County, S.D.; a Buffalo County, Neb.; a Buffalo County, Wis.
Our currency through decades included buffalo nickels. Buffalo Bill (whose name is immortalized by Buffalo Billfold Co.) — Buffalo Bill was an American icon. Buffalo Bill is an American icon still.
There may be a thousand U.S. restaurants which feature buffalo burgers. I remember — I might have been 10 years old — I rode with neighbors to Sioux Falls one Sunday afternoon to see the little herd of buffalo, which once were the chief feature of the Sioux Falls zoo.
Along came some biologist or linguist. Some smarty pants. “You know,” said Pants, “those creatures aren’t buffalo. They are bison. Check the taxonomy of biological sciences. Bison.”
I remember saying, “buffalo,” one day and being corrected. “Those are bison.”
That was the time we — all the tens of millions of us who speak American — we should have put a foot down. We should have said, “You will have to change your ‘taxonomy.’ These are buffalo.”
We let it slip by. We shrugged. “Whatever you say.”
Next thing we knew, someone was telling a story of a cyclone that caused great fear across in Nobles County one summer .
Came another voice of scientific authority: “Those aren’t cyclones. Cyclones are storms in Asia. In America, we have tornadoes.”
Read our newspapers from the beginning, newspapers for every town around. Every paper tells of cyclones. One of the first things homesteaders tended to was digging cyclone cellars. You remember: Dorothy was holding Toto. Auntie Em screamed, “Quick, Dorothy! Run for the (cyclone) cellar!”
Wrong, oh ignorant one. Tornado. Not cyclone.
Once again, “Whatever you say.” This made the experts more bold.
“There is no such thing as ‘cellar.’ You talk like a frontiersman. Those are basements.”
But. But. But. There are cellars in the Holy Bible.
“The word is basement!”
Porch? The word is deck! Lady? No, no. Woman!
Singer? Not. Singer is artist. Recording artist. Actor is performing artist. Salesman is agent.
I rode the train. Uh, uh. You went light rail.
I took a picture. No, no, no. You made an image.
We have made our way over many hurdles. Bison. Tornado. Basement. Deck. Artist. Agent. Light rail. Image.
I was given a questionnaire. Second question:
Can you read and write? Think about this. If you don’t read, how do you answer?
I checked, “Yes.” I read. I write. I don’t sign checks with X-es.
I learned reading and writing in grade school, in junior high school, in junior college. See that boy rolling his eyes? He wonders where I came from. He says there are no such schools. He says there are elementary schools, middle schools, community colleges.
It may be because of my quaint education that I am having greater difficulty reading, almost day by day. I pick up a newspaper. I don’t know the words any longer. Papers report:
Mn/DOT and DoD faxed FEMA about light rail to NASA, NASC and NASCAR.
The HDTV comes with FM, RC and DVD to replace the old VCR. Programs TBA. Their PC has DSL and CG, plus an LED.
GM has a 4WD with DOHC but an MPG rating below BMW. YMMV. That takes a MOU — with a piece of an NL FundX and a CD with a low APR, according to their FAQ.
With your BMI, you must hope some RN in ER checks your BMR, HDL and VLDL or you could be DOA.
Ask the IRS: AMT will bolster ATM.
George Eastman invented an Optical Reproduction Device. ORD. Never forget: George said, “Everything needs a name. Call it Kodak.”
Adam was naming the creatures. When he saw the giant, four-legged African beast he did not say GFLB. Adam said, “Elephant.” He gave the beast a name, for COL (for crying out loud).
Ray Crippen is a former editor of the Daily Globe. His column appears on Saturdays.