Sunday, August 7, 2011

On cocks and beavers... major word confusion!

This is totally random, I know, but before judging me on the title, please read on...

I had an Internet exchange with a person (okay, old friend/ex friend - long story, don't ask) about the cultural confusion over these words. It all started with a reference to the classic beloved television family the Cleavers. Keep in mind, this was in a public forum so others joined in. Comments about "the Beav", June, etc. were shared and it was agreed that everyone loved them, of course. (Duh, like, who doesn't love Ward Cleaver? puleeze) Then a short time afterward I had occasion to correspond with one of the cursory contributors by private message. There had once been a disagreement between us and in an effort to clear it up once and for all the message contained an olive branch, something like, "sorry about the cock-up". Now, being a gal from the southern US the expression "cock-up" was new to me and frankly, conjured off-color ideas at first reading. Hush, keep reading... I was certain the context was on the "up and up" (sorry, again, too easy) but I still had a curiosity about the origin and true meaning of its usage. So I did what any self respecting, dumbed-down American would do in an effort to better my knowledge, I "googled it".

Well... it turns out to be a very old and well known way to label a disagreement. I had never heard it because, er, I have led a pretty sheltered life and until now, in my degenerating downward slide into elder care, I never really explored much. So, as with many things these days, I delved deeper into it (wince, again, I apologize) and found the most deliciously perfect thing to tie the two conversations together.

The poem or song written by Robert Burns in 1791 is entitled, "Cock up your Beaver" and it goes like this:

Cock Up Your Beaver
When first my brave Johnie lad came to this town,
He had a blue bonnet that wanted the crown;
But now he has gotten a hat and a feather,
Hey, brave Johnie lad, cock up your beaver!

Cock up your beaver, and cock it fu' sprush,
We'll over the border, and gie them a brush;
There's somebody there we'll teach better behaviour,
Hey, brave Johnie lad, cock up your beaver!

Granted, I was so tickled pink to find this element that so perfectly combined the two, I could hardly contain it. I shared my discovery with the parties concerned and again we all enjoyed the exchange of wit and cheeky (another new expression) repartee. If you haven't gathered, one of the said group was from across the pond, a Brit, self-professed. In recent years I have been researching my East Anglian heritage and so I immediately latched onto an opportunity to learn all there is to know about the common vernacular over there. After the initial "make-up" message I had sincerely inquired, "what is a cock-up", not so much for the entire context but for a description, in kind, from the source. I mentioned that my smutty American mind was such that the words themselves had made me flinch upon first reading them but that I appreciated the extension of such a gesture, blah, blah and all was settled between us on a high note. (ugh, jeez, I know, it just keeps happening...)

In continuing my in depth investigation I found the most interesting information. A "beaver", as used by Burns in his verses, was/is actually a hat. A top hat during that era was made from the waterproof fur of a beaver for its ability to withstand the rainy climate in that region of the world. It was important for a stylish man to keep his head dry and warm. Hence, the use of this most practical commodity already conveniently designed for the purpose in making such hats. Genius, I thought. I had never even ventured to imagine how a top hat was made, what materials were involved or why. I was hooked.

Then I was off in search of the significance of the "cock". I'd imagined it was used like "askew" or some other word to describe the orientation of the hat upon the head. I felt pretty confident I understood Burns' usage of the word taking that meaning. But as I came to find, the "cock", although I was partially right, was, indeed, a feather! Aha! A feather, I thought, a cock is a bird - bird has feathers - makes total sense. Got it!

What an education! So Burns is telling this bonny lad that he is a big boy now, with a hat and feather, to "cock up his beaver" and go teach someone some manners. Now, where I come from, there are people who do the same thing by removing their shirt, turning their ball cap around and charging violently toward the offending party. So, I was easily able to assimilate the scenarios as one in the same. Though, I much prefer the Burns version and absolutely abhor the idea of either one in reality.

So then, the expression, "cock-up" describes the resulting altercation something akin to a cock fight or other ruckus which flares up between two opposing views. I think the original reference to me was used to describe a misunderstanding of words more so than the extreme example I've outlined because it was more of a "cluster *bleep*" of opinions and words not a meeting of fisticuffs.

I just find it amazing how an ocean and a couple hundred years changes the entire meanings of words, especially, once you throw in slang usage and cultural differences. Funny-strange and funny-haha. I love it when that happens.

In regard to whether I still correspond across the pond... well, that was all just a waking dream, a mean and nasty joke of a friendship. No bother. I still got the cock-beaver education!

thank you:

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Eulogies Bite and Bless all in one breath...

I wrote this a few months ago when my dad passed away. Wow, has it really been that long? Yep, coming up on 4 months... ugh.

The whole idea of a eulogy just sucks. The circumstance for creating one bites, no doubt and I can't think of a single reason for planning ahead and doing it before necessary. So below is what I came up with in the parking lot of a fast food restaurant on our way from TN to FL.

One can never say it all or make sense of a complex lifetime relationship nor provide a complete rundown of all there is about a person for this occasion. So I guess we just do what we can to allow a window opened in on the unique love shared with the dearly departed.

Here's what I decided I needed to say:

We are here to celebrate the life of Homer Alexander Chambers Miller, also known as Dick, Uncle Dick or Papa… my Dad.

Bringing to your mind the Ecclesiastes verse from the reading… I think Dad’s favorite part would be the very last bit… “a time for peace”

In my mind, I feel, he spent a lot of time in pursuit of peace. Although he did enjoy a healthy debate, he wasn’t one for angry discord, he much preferred mutual understanding.

Now, if you lend any credence to birth order, Dad was the classic “middle born” of all five siblings. Among them, I think he assumed the role of the peacemaker… mediator… negotiator… some other “middle born” traits fit him as well; he was charismatic and kept many friends… for he was a good listener and loyal confidant. He was open-minded, independent, un-spoiled and not afraid to take risks. He was imaginative and competitive yet flexible and diplomatic.

My dad had many friends, colleagues and acquaintances. He was generous, gentle and thoughtful.

He was, fittingly, born on a Sunday, the Sabbath Day. According to an old adage, he was sure to be “bonny and blithe and happy and wise”. Birth on the Sabbath Day lends unto the child attributes of the sun and it is said that Sunday’s Child is favored by God…

I like that thought. He was a sunny person and he certainly brightened any room for me with his smile.

From his rich lineage, both Scotch-Irish and German, he was full of the strong stock and faith of his forefathers - men, in fact, who helped create this country. I saw in him the competitive, entrepreneurial spirit those enterprising men must have passed down into his very fiber.

Like them, he was high on talent… full of faith… and had a strong belief that God is good.

He told me of how his own father repeatedly and passionately, told him , “You are a Miller and being a Miller means something…” He, of course, was modest about this notion, himself. But as I look around today I see that it certainly did mean something… something pretty singular and extraordinary of which I am proud to be a part.

My entire life, he called me, “Sweetheart”. I hardly remember him ever using my name. It made me feel special…

I think he made a lot of people feel special. He had that gift.

To the bitter end he fought against the ills of disease. Ultimately, his will was simply overtaken as his body, decidedly, gave way... Gave way for this bonny, happy man… always seeking peace… at last, his given time to claim it… to spread it out on a sandy, sun-filled spot… (minus the highest SPF on the market) and finally take… his well earned peaceful rest…

Dad, you are missed… and the thought of you and your smile
will forever bring me peace.