Prop 4 – Conversation Mugging
Most of my conversations of late have been with people I hardly know or have never even met before. Being ‘stranded’ in Tralee means that I am so far away from my real friends that I’ve had to improvise with anyone who crosses my path, whether they are willing or not. Or even if they haven’t gone anywhere near my path.
It’s a highlight of my day if I can spot the postman and rush out to collect the mail directly as this means we can swap a few words. Even if they might be mumbled in a thick Kerry accent. One nasty wet and windy day when I felt glad I didn’t have to leave the house I spied the man coming up the drive clutching a few envelopes and the promise of some human interaction. Gao..ch… ahirid.. day he said with a concerned look and gestured around him. Wading through the impenetrable dense Kerry fog of pronunciation I assumed that he was complaining about the weather. I mean everyone’s at it – it’s either that or the economy really so I felt pretty safe in responding oh I know, it’s terrible isn’t it? All of a sudden his enunciation improved dramatically and he looked at me in fierce alarm as he replied with accusation I said isn’t it a grand soft day.
After that I took to conversing online. Well not so much conversing as leaving opinions on news articles on thejournal.ie. I was delighted when people replied. It stroked my need for interaction, at least somewhat. And then I discovered that people not only can show their appreciation of your view point by clicking a little ‘thumbs up’ icon but also convey their disgust by choosing the downward pointing alternative. I began to quickly despise those nasty little thumbs and wondered with hurt how so many people could vote me down. Butthe more comments I read the more I was shocked at how many horribly racist and narrow minded people are on that site thumbing down anyone with reason or a progressive mind. I vowed to abandon this medium of communication but not before I sprinkled a shower of thumbs up in the hope that a few there would feel good about themselves.
Instead I found myself texting radio shows and writing to newspapers. Unexpectedly I then became penpals with my local Supervalu supermarket. But the less said about that the better as it more than borders mortification (although I will admit that they subsequently provided a box to recycle batteries and restocked my favourite products).
One successful venture was my communication with the Oxford English Dictionary. On the topic of same sex marriage one (of the many) fools on thejournal.ie had said the word marriage should not be used as the Oxford Dictionary defined it as ‘The formal union of a man and a woman, typically as recognized by law’. Cue the following frantic e mail to said dictionary;
I wish to question your definition of the world marriage as ‘the formal union of a man or woman’. I have countless friends around the world who are married to a partner of the same sex. Their marriage is completely recognised by the law and society. In fact there is no other term to describe their union. This is not a judgment or an opinion but a fact.
Even more puzzling is that the OED further implies that there is an informal use of the term between married partners of the same sex. I will admit that there can be an informal use to describe other unions between differing and same sex couples however a legal marriage is clearly different. I must reiterate that my friends are legally married – this is not informal in any way and there simply is no other term that can be used in this case. It is not a civil partnership but a marriage, as recognised by the law.
I would appreciate if you could clarify what English word they are to use to describe their union as the OED would seem to imply that there is none.
Thank you for your time and attention,
I was ecstatic with joy when I received the following the very next day;
Dear Mr Conortje,
Many thanks for your email to Oxford Dictionaries regarding our definition of marriage. Your point is a very valid one, and we have been considering this issue in some detail recently.
As a result we have revised the wording of the definition so that the subsense previously reading ‘informal a union between partners of the same sex; a civil partnership’, now reads ‘(in some jurisdictions) a union between partners of the same sex’. This revised definition will appear on our website at the next update (which should be in around a month’s time).
Thank you, once again, for your comments on this matter. They are most appreciated.
While I have all this time on my hands nobody is safe from me pouncing on them to elicit some sort of response to remind me that I am still alive. Most of my attempts sadly end up annoying or embarrassing me, but I have time on my hands and I can only take so much daytime TV. Although it’s startling how your tolerance for mediocrity can change when you’re unemployed. Of course all this means that if you write to me I will definitely reply, probably every day for a month. Whether you like it or not!