Friday, March 26, 2010

quite redux

I didn't give you the whole story about "quite." Quite can mean boy "completely" and "somewhat" according to the OED (American Heritage agrees on "completely" and adds "actually" and "rather").  So in both British and American English, the word can mean opposing things (it reminds me of the Latin "altus," which means both high and deep). I'll go into this in altus detail for the sake of my "you should all know the bottom of this" feeling.

The Merriam-Webster Usage Dictionary makes this note:
By all accounts the subtractive sense is the prevalent one in 20th-century English, but in many particular instances it is hard to be certain if the subtractive sense rather than the intensive sense was intended [...] You would think that the coexistence of these two uses would lead to problems of ambiguity and confusion, but in practice this seems not often to be the case. For although the lexicographer must try to determine the exact meaning of each occurrence of a word, the reader is under no such constraint. The distinction between the two senses is not always crucial to a general understanding of the sentence; when it is, the reader has the larger context for help. And the writer can always use a negative with quite when he or she wants to emphasize a falling just short.
 My future mother-in-law pointed this variance of meaning to me, and her personal usage note is as follows:
When I use "quite" with words which could not normally be accompanied by "very", eg. remarkable, dead, awful, finished, pathetic, stunning, all right, amazing,  -  quite would tend to take the first meaning, one of emphasis. But the rule doesn't always work - "quite good" virtually always means somewhat good, unless expressed in a surprised tone of voice, in which case it means "better than expected" (and one's standards did not start off particularly high). "Quite nice" is dismissal; "quite delightful" is praise.
Could it be that "quite" accompanied by a strong term of praise or disapprobation usually gives emphasis, but accompanied by a weaker term, (nice, good, pretty, untidy, plain) it modifies the term to be weaker still?

This one is going to take a quite a little thought. Quite a little means "a lot" Quite a lot means  "A great deal." One thing I am sure of. Used on its own, "Quite" indicates agreement, but not necessarily friendly agreement. It's all in the tone of voice.
Indeed, tone of voice is important for all sorts of communication (sarcasm, flirtation, anger, etc.), which still makes a written "quite" difficult to interpret. It's one of those ambiguities we just have to live with unless the author is alive to question.

Monday, March 22, 2010


This is quite somewhat embarrassing, but whenever I'm around people with English (or South African) accents, I suddenly use words that strike me as more British. Words like "terribly," "washroom," "rubbish," "nice," and "quite." I don't know why I do this, probably because I'm not a prestige speaker; instead of using a consistent set of phrases and syntax, I imitate the language patterns the people I'm with, or at least, my perception of their language patterns. I say "What!" more around Hobbes and "Good Heavens!" around my roommate, simply because they seem to use those exclamations more.

There is a problem with this, since sometimes I get it wrong. "Quite," for instance, in American English, is a formal way of saying "very," but in British English it means "somewhat" or "kind of." So "that's quite nice" can mean "that sounds fantastic" or "that's kinda alright, I guess." It makes me want to go back and read Austen or Shakespeare with this new knowledge to see if people were actually being insulting when I thought they were being nicely polite. It also makes me annoyed that in the situations I'm most likely to use "quite," I'm most likely to use it in a semantically ambiguous way (or the "wrong" way from the point of view of the hearer).

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Part 3: Dating

After exchanging snarky comments while watching international cinema, Adam and I went on another date. We made sausage chowder and played Scrabble together. One night after playing raquetball, I still wanted to spend time with him and he took me to his step-grandmother's Christmas party and I met his dad and sister. We held hands on the way back and I remarked on how cute his accent is. At the end of the semester, he was patient with me while I stressed out about all my final papers. He tried to teach me how to program and I let him read my Calvin and Hobbes paper. I wrote things in my journal like "he is fun to talk with," "I think he's cute," and "he is optimistic and pragmatic."

I went home for almost two weeks for Christmas. I got to see all my family and some friends. It was wonderful. I called Adam to talk to him and we had conversations that lasted more than thirty minutes, which is pretty good considering how much I dislike talking on the phone. I think I asked him if he wanted to keep dating, and he thought it was a good idea. At our family New Year's party my mom told a friend of hers "I think this one's a keeper." I felt worried. Now if things didn't work both me and my parents would be disappointed. On the way to the airport my dad asked if I thought I'd marry him. "I've thought that about guys in the past, who I didn't marry," I reminded him.

In January we kept going out (we ate out a lot), but I wasn't sure if Adam wanted to keep dating me, which made me feel sad when I thought about it. Maybe it was then he was deciding if he liked me enough to marry me. I realized that I wanted to do all I could to help us continue. It's hard to pinpoint when, but we fell in love, probably due to a combination of flirting and persistence. It's very personal to me and I was reluctant to write about it, but I think you have the general feel here.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Part 4: The Engagement

At the end of January, we found we were "in favor" of marriage. I felt so excited and at the same time a little anxious. Was I sure I was sure about this? But I didn't have any complaints about Acius - it was more like the opposite (I had plenty of compliments for him). He and his family are funny in entirely new ways when compared to me and my family (not to say that I'm dull, just that novelty has certain perks, especially w/r/t humor). Acius is really everything I wanted in a man. After a few more weeks I felt really good about marriage. I told Acius I was sure about it and he just said he'd known for a while that he was sure about it. I wanted to tell everyone! Acius said he was more traditional and wanted to wait until he had a ring for me. This almost made telling my parents about my "secret engagement" more fun. I had the thrill of a little guilt in keeping a secret, relief in finding someone willing to put up with me forever, and excitement about starting a new lifestyle (which will include a real shower and our own kitchen!).

Acius is a fan of Japanese food, language, entertainment, and culture. To be honest I've always thought that Japan is pretty cool (although since it's popular right now it's harder for me to admit that). I had two Japanese pen-pals growing up, I spent a lot of time researching Japanese customs online over long summer internet surfings, I made origami cranes obsessively, I watched what anime I could access, and we hosted a few Japanese students when I was young. Acius and I were watching a Japanese drama with his friends and in the show they celebrated Valentine's Day and later White Day. Basically, in Japan, women give men chocolates (or ties) on Valentine's Day, and then a month later, men return the favor with chocolates or cookies. White day is kind of interesting because it was invented by confectionery companies (like our Valentine's Day). So I feel completely justified in adopting a custom that isn't steeped in religious significance. And I think it's more fun to stretch it out - what else is there in March? St. Patrick's Day?

So, Acius was sick on Valentine's Day, which was on a Sunday. I had made these lovely dark chocolate truffles, and I had a treasure hunt that went with it (my mom always made us treasure hunts for Valentine's day; I'm not sure how that started). Alas, it was not to be quite as I planned. I dropped the treasure hunt and  hitched a ride with Adam's parents who were bringing dinner to the temporarily-invalid. It turns out that even a sick Acius is capable of appreciating good chocolate.

With some various hints, I knew Acius was planning his retaliation on White Day (a month later), but I wasn't sure how. He picked me early to have dinner at his parents' house, still in his shirt and tie, and he gave me a box of chocolates. We went to Kiwanis park and walked around (I left the chocolates in the car). After some stalling, Acius suggested going back to the car. I read a nice letter he gave me and he said he wanted to tell me about the chocolates he bought me. I noticed that it had the outer wrapping of See's candies, but not the side seals. I thought that it might be a custom collection and they wrapped it differently. Anyway, I opened them up and there was a ring in the middle. Acius (it's so weird to use his internet moniker) started to explain the chocolates: "These are chocolate truffles, these are the ginger chocolate ones, these ones on the side are different fruit flavors, and this is the will-you-marry-me one..."
"Of course I will!"
Afterwards we told his family and everyone was smiley and happy for us. It seems like everyone has a little advice for how to plan a wedding, but luckily no one so far has weird demands (well, except Acius's sister, who said we should have veggie sushi, but I think we were kidding). I'm sure Acius could tell a long story about how the ring almost didn't arrive in time, and how he had to wrap the chocolates himself - but I'll leave that to him. ;-)

Monday, March 15, 2010

Part 2: Blogs are part of my network

I have been blogging since high school. This is my third blog; the second is quite easy to find if you know me at all, and the first no longer exists online. When I first started blogging, I didn't know anyone else who blogged. My blog entries were mostly a transcription of the day's events. Here's a sample entry from back then:
:P  - 8/9/2001
Had a flute lesson, walked around while Joshua was having his swimming lesson. Read the first chapter of The Elfstones of Shanarra. Prtetty boring day so far... Also earned $$ in Harvest Moon II...
I read strangers' blogs and commented on them, and then they'd feel some sort of social obligation to comment back on mine. This was the entirety of my commenters - internet friends. With my second blog I found that some of my high school friends also had blogs, and we "subscribed" to each other's blogs. I still read blogs of strangers on the internet I had a common interest with, but I became fascinated by, well, internet drama and the insight a little research could give me to the lives of others - others I knew IRL (in real life). Comments became a kind of commodity of how popular my blog was. Now I feel like the dynamic of comments has shifted, at least in my blog-o-sphere. My friends read my blog to keep up on my life, and they only comment if they have something to say, and discussions in comment sections are rare. Discussions are much easier in person or on gchat or even on Facebook (either that or I don't discuss controversial issues).

Strangers do comment occasionally. One significant comment of this sort happened in September. This Acius fellow was somewhat unknown to me, but with our mutual acquaintance and Google's recommendation, he couldn't be terribly weird. I shelved researching this connection until I recovered from my summer fling (recall). When I felt like dating again, I reviewed my possible leads. Acius had a non-annoying, informative blog. With Hobbes's help, I found out that he was single and introduced myself on Facebook (I didn't see how he could find me non-creepily, but women on the internet can get away with more). For our first date (actually I called it "hanging out" but that was just to make it sound less scary) in November we saw a movie at International Cinema and afterwards Acius said "I guess I can give you a ride home." And thus started our knowledge of each other IRL.

Part 1: An Appropriate Background

Many things that later become important to me kind of lurk around in my life. I think I met Hobbes at a Russian 101 review before we were Board writers. He wore a leather jacket and headed up the Soviet Union, a Russian language study group (I kept meaning to go, but never attended). One summer ('07) at a Board party I saw him again. He gave me and Tangerine a ride to the grocery store so we could get buns for the hamburgers. Slightly crazy yet awesome: it's what I expect from other writers.

Hobbes likes to go places and do things to answer his questions. As the Red Team he'd get some writers together on a Saturday and we'd all answer overhours questions together. We went to the courthouse to try to talk to a policeman about some law. We surveyed the grass by the greenhouse and decided which kind was the best to lie on. One day the Red Team was just me and Hobbes and his brother Acius (also back in the summer of 2007). We investigated a huge pile of gravel on 2300 N and Canyon or University. "Yes, it looks like a pile of gravel" was the result of our investigation.  

Tangerine and Hobbes answered a lot of questions together (as team HaT), and I suspect that's how they started dating. Tangerine is a good friend of mine and she told me about how she adored Hobbes's family. She had Sunday dinner with them even when Hobbes was in Russia. She encouraged me to meet his family, but I couldn't think of a non-awkward way to do this ("Hi, my friend thinks we could be friends?"). So that is how I started to meet them.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

in which I write about hating writing

Something I don't understand about myself right now is why I don't want to write anything. I dread writing short papers or stories. I can write well, and I've enjoyed it in the past, so what the heck?

My recent theory is that since I've been reading so much FANTASTIC writing, I realize that mine is vastly inferior and have developed an inferiority complex. I don't think this is quite the case. I'm reading about the same amount or less literature now as I did in the past. However, as a writing teacher and a student of English, I do feel much more self-conscious about my writing. Instead of just writing my ideas down, I'll often worry about how to write it. Instead of letting my natural voice take over, I find myself trying to guess what my professor or what other people will want to read. And I really hate that.

I started working on a personal essay (about last year's job) for the creative writing workshop I so stupidly decided to take. I find that the weightier material is actually more difficult to write about (I know other people have said this, but I didn't believe them). I found myself concentrating on the details of events rather than how I felt. It's hard to talk both about my feelings and explain the situations that led to those feelings. I'm not even sure if it's therapeutic to re-visit those feelings. I don't know what the point of writing about hard things is.

Another thing I don't like about my creative writing workshop is that because of my stupid and sudden dislike of writing I never have anything prepared for everyone to read, and I end up submitting something half-baked and now everyone knows how I can't write. And I'm going to have to hear them tell me all the problems I felt so painfully aware of. Instead of addressing my problem of difficulty of expression, we'll be discussing the problems of the things I wrote and what I unintentionally expressed.

I think part of the difficulty in writing about supervising parents was that I felt frustrated about so many things. I felt frustrated that the majority of the time my notes would not make a difference in court decisions. I felt frustrated that courts ordered stupid things. Like that a teenager had to visit with her dad every Monday night when she rather would have been with her friends. Even I didn't spend that much one-on-one time with my parents as a teenager. I felt frustrated that good parents didn't have much time with their children and that bad parents had oodles of time. I felt frustrated that money had to determine how often some parents could visit their children. I felt frustrated that I couldn't stop parents from continually emotionally abusing their children. I felt frustrated that some parents, despite their best intentions, continued to emotionally abuse their children. I felt frustrated that I had to choose between being polite and liked or being assertive and hated and following the rules. I hated how I became less sensitive to the suffering of children.

But I think focusing on all those things I didn't like isn't the whole picture. I became more appreciative of my own parents, and I learned that I want to marry someone who will be a good father (not just a good husband, if that makes sense). And I think in some ways I'm more sensitive to child cruelty. I've decided that I don't want to be sarcastic about my children until they'll understand it, because I know that that's something I could very easily slip into. I still don't know what I think about parental rights. I find myself varying between too extremes ("screw biology!" and "let parents do whatever they want!"), which probably indicates that some medium value is how I really feel. And now you have all the reflection that I should have included in my personal essay, because I was too worried about how it would come out and how all those MFA students would read it.