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Wednesday, 14 December 2011

A New Word for It

By Lyn Burnstine

I have been dragged kicking and screaming into the technological world of computers, blogs, social media, digital cameras and all kinds of gadgets that require remote controls, programming before using and other processes that overwhelm and bewilder the mind of this nearly-80-year-old digital immigrant.

My children, digital natives by virtue of a father who was part of the pioneer wave - an IBMer back in the days when a computer filled an entire room - have urged me on all the way. Without their help, I never could have done any of it and I am grateful to them.

Sometimes they praise me; sometimes I try their patience with my old brain’s inability to grasp or retain information as easily as their younger brains can.

I grumble and grouse a lot about changing language and the role media and social media plays – to its eventual decline, in my opinion. I resist all those cutesy phrases that are so popular on Facebook, many of them expressed in just letters: LOL (laugh out loud), LMAO (laugh my a** off) WTF (you don’t want to know!).

I deplore television’s acceptance and encouragement of bad grammar. There is hardly an actor or a news reporter left who uses lie, lay, laid, and lain properly. (I tell my writing workshop that if someone “laid” down or is "laying" down, there had better be an egg there when she gets up!

The same for “feeling bad” versus “feeling badly.” I tell them that if they write “I feel badly” there had better be fingers involved!) We all knew better when we learned fourth grade grammar, but the constant barrage of improper usage has wiped out our teacher’s voice that we used to carry around in our heads.

So it is with almost embarrassment that I discovered a new word meaning which came from computer terminology that I find strangely useful and appealing: "default." In computerese, the word “default” means the standard setting that one always goes back to unless something is done to change it.

I suddenly realized, recently, that the word may come in handy to try to explain (to the people who really do care how I am when they ask) what it is like to have an autoimmune rheumatoid disease for 55 years. Pain is my default! My normal, standard everyday setting.

When someone asks how I am and I say, “better,” they say, “Oh, have you been sick?” (yeah–for 55 years). And when I answer, “good,” or “I’m having a good day,” they assume I’m all recovered now from whatever that mysterious thing is I have – rheumatoid arthritis - that they think is like the early-morning stiffness in their fingers. Except that mine is capable of and has tried to destroy many of my internal organs and necessitated multiple surgeries as well as crippled my skeleton like your grandma’s kind of arthritis. (Oh, wait! We are our grandmas now, aren’t we?)

I’ve written about pain being my constant companion. Now I’m writing about a new label for it. And guess what? Yesterday I was able to change the standard setting – the default – and for a whole day-and-a-half, I was free of pain! Go figure!

Blog sites have taught me more than I ever knew about my own disease, so now, to give back, in a way, I have become active on social media in an effort to try to help people to better understand autoimmune diseases – the invisible diseases, they are called – that affect so many people, children included, and thereby encouraging more and better research for a cure.

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. PLEASE read instructions for submitting..]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


Love it! The computer stuff is the perfect jumping off place and you explained it in a manner that makes sense to us old folks. Also I love the way you discovered default and another use for it. It's a good way to describe "how are you feeling?"
Maybe that was why you had a day and a half free of pain.

Tank you, Lyn, for the delightful grammer and computerize lesson.

I'm always so glad to read your blogs Lyn! Thank you for sharing them with all of us!

Lynn - Neat piece. I'm afraid that I would flunk your grammar usage test!

BUT, I would say that your "default setting" is creativity. (Music, writing, photography, . . .) - Sandy

The place I would like to default back to in my life is my memory. Information continues to go in (I think). It just seems harder to get it back out. In my professional career, I learned that the reason phone numbers have 7 numbers in them is because our short-term memory can only process and remember 7 bits (bytes?) of information. When area codes were added, it was against all we knew about memory processing.
At the present time I am down to 3 bits/(bytes). I can no longer do double didget math in my head. Of course that was what calculators were made for.
I love the idea of having a "default" button to press. Wish I still had one.
Michigan Grandma

When I was diagnosed with RA at the age of 13 my parents told me that I would have to define for myself a "new normal" because my life was going to be changed forever. My new normal is "pain". It will always be with me and I really don't remember what it was like to be without it.

Thank you all for your thoughtful and thought-provoking comments. Dani, I am so sorry you had to have the juvenile form of RA. My concern for all the children in pain made me start speaking out and joining blogs to get "attention paid" to the desperate need to find a cure.

Lyn, you and I are referred to as "Grammar Nazis" these days. LOL The one I hear constantly which drives me wild is, "Bob, he.." Mr. X, he..." "The defendant, she..." I want to collar the newsreader and send them back to Mrs. Rutledge's third grade grammar class! But your gem is the use of the word "default". I am stealing it - shameless I know but I moderate a list of people with a genetic illness which doesn't "get better" and it's a great word to use to describe the abnormal "normal".

oops! My fault.
Meant Thanks and grammar.

Fingers "default" early morning?

Lyn, I went to school at a time when grammar really wasn't taught. In fact, I hadn't had one day of grammar all the way through high school. Not only that, but I grew up in a family that used grammar as it suited them, so it's amazing I ever became an English teacher. It is my struggle, something I work on as I can. The fact that I speak as well as I do, grammatically, that is, has been pointed out by my family members as "talking differently" than they do. It's so alienating. So I can relate to your comments about trying to deal with a different language. It's a hard thing for me...I don't fit in the world of those who know how to use our grammar correctly, nor can I fit in the world in which I was bred. Thank you for sharing.

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