Daily Lessons! Day 7...Words have meaning, but we get to choose the meaning

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Today’s Lesson: Words have meaning, but we get to choose the meaning

For some reason, this morning I was thinking about an incident that happened in 8th grade. We were reading a story or a passage from a text book out loud, each student reading a paragraph. When it came to my turn, the first sentence had the word orangutan in it. 

I had never seen this word in print before. Growing up, I read comic books. Everyday. I am pretty sure that is HOW I learned to read. I had an amazing collection of Superman comics, the 30th century Legion of Heroes and my one Marvel series that I was addicted to was Sgt Fury and the Howling Commandos. Featuring the gruff, blustery, squared jawed Sgt Fury,  Izzy Cohen, the Flatbush mechanic who could hot wire any German car in under 10 seconds and Percy Pinkerton, with his "bumper-shoot" (umbrella) and forever needing his cup of tea at 4 o'clock

Having never seen the word orangutan before in print, I pronounced it as Orange Tang. Maybe my mom made us Tang orange drink, who knows? I think Tang had just come on the market having been developed by NASA for astronauts. If it's good enough for astronauts... Anyway, I got a reaction from the class. Everyone laughed.

Now I probably took it as an embarrassment at the time, "what an idiot, doesn't know how to pronounce orangutan"  but I have since morphed the meaning into "I sure know how to get a laugh." 

Actually, I wanted to improve my sense of humor and did a study on it. First I tried to watch open mic comics on Youtube. That didn't help me a bit. It was all vulgar language and body parts jokes that didn't strike me as being very funny. It actually hurts to watch that stuff. But then I got the idea: I googled "what makes things funny..." and I got this TEDx video on Youtube:


and later I learned about this guy. Here's two not so funny droll guys using humor quite effectively. 


So here are some quick takeaways: 
1. you get to choose the meaning of things. If you feel something is not quite right or you feel hurt or embarassed you are only looking at one side of the elephant, there are at least six more interpretations available to you. (Remember the six blind men and the elephant.) 
2. you are not stuck with the societal meaning you can choose a different interpretation. 
3. Learn how to pronounce orangutan before you have to read it in public. I still make that mistake with medical words. I think they purposely add six extra greek syllables just to prove how dumb we are in the presence of doctors. 
4. If you don't like the answers Google gives you ask the question differently. 

One of these days, I'll talk about Superman and my fascination with super heroes and Navy Seals. 

Hope this helps.

Garey Simmons
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