Tuesday, 14 April 2020

Faking it.

The lock-up affects us all in different ways.

In a moment of madness I went looking for face  mask patterns through Google search and found several. My helpful husband also found and printed off one for me to use. I dug into boxes of craft materials that I have not accessed since the grand girl got too old to come out here and make things while we looked after her for her parents (she was putting in her own zippers by her last visit). I have piles of suitable fabric and filter material. I looked for and found an incredible assortment of sizes of elastic. And got at it, yesterday.

Needless to say, the first try was an abject failure. I used the pattern JG found
and it turned out to be way too big and too loose. I am now about to embark on a second that strikes me as being a bit small, but we will see. Goodness knows I have lots of stuff to keep at it until I get one that actually works. In the meantime, a Facebook friend who is an incredibly talented seamstress has made one mask (that she posted about anyway) that not only works and fits but has a matched pattern on it. Oh, well.

More on this topic later. Maybe. For non-sewers, I promise to warn you.

My other preoccupation has been, of course, news. On the internet, on the radio, in our two daily papers. Quite a bit of it is very confusing. Quite a bit of it is bad for my blood pressure. Some of it made me cry. And I made a most embarrassing discovery about a mistake I have been making for quite some time.

I have this prejudice about the meaning of words. I like them to be used the way I think is accurate. I can work myself up to a really good grumble when someone uses ‘decimate’ to mean a high but indeterminate number of deaths. You see, I was a Roman era scholar back in the day and learned that ‘decimate’ means ‘destroy one in ten’, * I know that the meaning has broadened, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.
* Definition of decimate (transitive verb)
1: to select by lot and kill every tenth man of, decimate a regiment
2: to exact a tax of 10 percent from
3a: to reduce drastically especially in number. cholera decimated the population
The connection between decimate and the number ten harks back to a brutal practice of the army of ancient Rome. A unit that was guilty of a severe crime (such as mutiny) was punished by selecting and executing one-tenth of its soldiers, thereby scaring the remaining nine-tenths into obedience.
It's no surprise that the word for this practice came from Latin decem, meaning "ten." From this root we also get our word decimal and the name of the month of December, originally the tenth month of the calendar before the second king of Rome decided to add January and February. In its extended uses decimate strayed from its "tenth" meaning and nowadays refers to the act of destroying or hurting something in great numbers.

Decimation by William Hogarth Beavers, Roman Military Punishments, Chapter 4 (Wikipedia)

Um, I was going somewhere before I got diverted into Merriam-Webster. Oh yes. It finally percolated through my thick skull that the modern world is using ‘fake news’ not to mean something that is made up rather than real but to indicate something that is exaggerated by the press beyond its neutral news value. Not as in ‘fake it till you make it’. Back to Google.**

** adjective: fake, not genuine; counterfeit.
Similar: forgery, counterfeit, copy, sham’ fraudulent
(of a person) claiming to be something that one is not, "a fake doctor"

There are even several definitions*** of ‘fake news’ that could have clued me in earlier if I had not been so arrogant.
*** Fake news is written and published usually with the intent to mislead in order to damage an agency, entity, or person, and/or gain financially or politically, often using sensationalist, dishonest, or outright fabricated headlines to increase readership, (Wikipedia)

Words that ‘stray from their original meaning’. Little lost sheep, Bah, humbug. I feel obliged to take a different look at what President Trump has been trumpeting about, much as I would rather scrub toilets.
It is so easy to misread someone’s comments when a word is not being used in the same sense by both parties. I recall pleading with my junior high school students to regard language as a tool and realize that the sharper the tool, the better the result. I have not long since been hammering at my ESL students to try to get them to understand that there is a difference between the simple tenses and the progressive tenses. (‘I eat my breakfast at 8:00’ am vs ‘I am eating my breakfast’) My father was a lawyer, my mother a life-long student and teacher of English. They used to argue about language, my mother accusing my father of obfuscation in some legal document he had written and my father complaining that Shakespeare was not poetry because it did not rhyme. (Not hard to see why I turned out the way I am, eh.) And misreading plays hob with cooperation and fellowship.

To top it all off, of the patterns I found that made sense to me, only one mentions seam allowance width and it is not clear whether you are to cut it outside the provided pattern or not. I am going to have a lot of masks of wildly variegated sizes before I get one right, I can tell. Ah well, I do have a lot of time to spend on this project.


  1. You really know your words and etymology. I know about decimate, but it is in the background of my brain, so I am quite likely to use it incorrectly -- which is becoming correct, of course. Good luck with the masks. Sue has fashioned two non-sew masks that we haven't needed to use yet since we are being ridiculously unsociable.

  2. One needs only see the title President attached to the current occupant of the White House to see how far words have strayed from their original meaning. The depth of my outrage, sorrow, and fear because of that particular Word Debacle is boundless.