It’s all good if things get better on the way to becoming the very best

BY BOB WACHS, News + Record Staff
Posted 3/1/19

My favorite high school subject, other than lunch and U.S. history (both of which are still favorites even today) was English. Part of that comes directly because of two great ladies — Mrs. Annie …

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It’s all good if things get better on the way to becoming the very best

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Posted

My favorite high school subject, other than lunch and U.S. history (both of which are still favorites even today) was English. Part of that comes directly because of two great ladies — Mrs. Annie May and Mrs. Strowd Rigsbee — who were my teachers of English.

English not as in “literature,” although we did have some of that.

Rather, English as in the study of the language itself and its parts of speech and when and where and how to use them. For instance, I loved diagramming sentences and if you’re a certain age and don’t know what that means, find an older person to explain it to you.

That love of language, too, is still with me this day. And I’m still learning and trying to master it and I’m not there yet even though it’s my mother tongue.

For example, there’s the use of two similar words but with different meanings: “less” and “fewer.” “Less” means “amount;” “fewer” means “how many.” So, grammatically speaking, there’s less coffee than we had yesterday but there are not “less” people to drink it. Instead, there are fewer people since some of them left when we started running out of coffee.

I say all that as a lengthy introduction to another group of words: “old,” “older” and “oldest.” The simple rule we learned was that “older” was when you compared two people or things, as in “that coffee is older than the other.” As for “oldest,” well, that was what you said when the coffee you’d been drinking had been around longer than any of 43 varieties in the house.

And here is where I am having some difficulties with my mastery of English.

From time to time in this space I will refer to my two brothers. I am the last born of the three sons of our mama and daddy which makes the first one the oldest. But when I take me out of the equation, how do I distinguish between the two since they are both older. If I say “my older brother” to whom am I referring – not to mention I should never in such a situation use language such as “who am I referring to?”

Now that I have run all this into the ground, I will come to the point — mercifully for you, dear reader, if you’re still here. My oldest older brother — or is its older oldest brother — continues to pile up birthdays.

I’m glad. So is he.

He had one the other day. He used to say his claim to fame was that George Washington had the same birthday as he did. Now his claim to fame is that he keeps having birthdays.

Interesting thing about those birthdays. He has 10 more than I do or, put another way, I have 10 fewer. Years ago, those 10 were more like 30 or 40. Today, now that both of us have to keep a fire extinguisher close to the candles on our birthday cakes, those 10 years have melted into about 15 minutes.

One of my pet stories is that I’m here because of him, that mama and daddy had him first and said, “That’s not so bad; let’s have another one.” Then along came the younger of my two older brothers and the folks said, “Well, that’s pretty good, too. Let’s take a break and in a few more years try for perfection.” And bingo . . . here I am. He, of course, if he gets to go first, says the opposite, that things were going downhill fast so they applied the brakes. Either way, here we both are. It’s good; I like it.

Hopefully, it’ll keep on getting gooder...or more better.

Is that OK, Mrs. Rigsbee?

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