Sunday, April 26, 2009

J. L. Giles Elementary, Floor 2...

Two years have passed since we toured the first floor of J. L. Giles Elementary School located in the South Park District of Beaumont. The dismissal bell interrupted us. At that time I promised you that we would return and tour the second floor. And remember that the school building is not there literally. They tore it down years ago to construct a Postal Service Center.

This means that the tour will be in my memory. And, as last time, I must ask you to step lightly and talk softly as I have a bit of a headache. Thank you.

As we leave the gymnasium and head up the steps we are coming out onto the second floor. The door to the right leads to the balcony of the school auditorium.

Across from that door is Miss Murrah’s classroom. She is the homeroom teacher for me and all the other 4th graders. The first floor is for first, second, and third grades. The second floor is for fourth, fifth, and sixth grades.

Miss Murrah is one of my favorite teachers. Even though I am a year younger than my classmates, she is going to let me have a lead part in the school Christmas play. This one act gives me more self-confidence than you would ever have guessed. I think she knows that I feel like a little runt compared to all of my older classroom peers.

OK, look across the hall. That is Miss Moore’s art class. They are busy working with all sorts of projects. Miss Moore is a good artist in her own right. Oh by the way, whatever you do, don’t make her mad. She has a very capable voice and when she gets upset you can hear her all the way down to the other end of the hall. Believe me. I have been there and done that and heard that.

Across the hall from Miss Moore’s room and down a bit is Mrs. Pietzsch’s room. She is my fifth grade homeroom teacher. I love her. She encourages me to write poetry.

One day while she was teaching us in her World History class, she saw me writing what should have been notes on our class lesson. She eased by my desk and saw that I was writing short poems. She took up my notes and told me to see her privately after class. I was scared to death. Would she have me kicked out of school or what?

After class I went to her desk. She looked over my notes and said, “Winston, these poems are wonderful and I hope you will write more of them. But I don’t want to see you writing poems again during my class time.” The way she handled the situation gave me great motivation to continue writing poems. But not during World History class.

Across the hall from there is the school library. Our librarian is Miss Syler. She is a quiet and fascinating person. See over there on the shelves along side the books? Those are coconuts. Her hobby of collecting coconuts always amuses me.

Then across the hall is Mrs. Reynolds’ classroom. She is my sixth grade homeroom teacher. Also, she teaches us arithmetic. Not bragging but I was the only one in class to make 100 on our multiplication tables. During that test I was stumped on the correct answer for 12 x 12 so I guessed 144 and got it right. That one guess got me the perfect score.

I regret that we have had to rush through our second floor tour but the dismissal bell is about to ring. We want to head downstairs before that stampede of kids gets turned loose.

Thank you for stepping softly…my headache is gone.

Winston Hamby

Sunday, April 05, 2009

More Truth Than Fiction...

A wordsmith is defined as, “a person who works with words.” Certainly I make no claims to being an expert wordsmith.
There are so many words I do not know and so many words that I cannot pronounce. Yet words make for a very fascinating study.
The extensive process of studying words and their history is called etymology. Etymology is a new hobby of mine so allow me to apologize should I attempt too many references as to how we derived our words.

For example, look at the word “gospel.” Literally this term means “good news.” Primarily the word refers to the gospel (good news) as found in the New Testament portion of the Holy Bible. Sometimes if a person is driving home a point religious or otherwise with great emphasis, he or she may say, “That’s the gospel truth.”

“Gospel” made its way into our current usage from Old English.
In those days the expression was “god spel.” Good was spelled “god” from the German “gut” or “guten” and spel was a word meaning “communication.” Thus “god spel” meant “good communication.”

Another interesting word used largely in religious circles is the word “atone.” If you want to be “at one” with God, just combine the terms “at” with “one” and you get “atone” If you are seeking “at onement” with God then you are seeking “atonement.”

The word “list” is interesting. If you look this one up in a good dictionary be prepared to see definitions of at least nine different words denoting “list.” Being from the Beaumont area I think of ships that carry an unbalanced load. They will tilt to one side or the other. In other words they will “list.” When I “list” my ear to your conversation it is the act of “listening.” Sound far-fetched? Don’t answer that.

When you “think” then you will find a solution to your problem. And that comes from Old English which was two words, “then can,” later becoming “thenken,” and finally to our current “thinking.”

Sometimes we make up our own words that have little or nothing to do with etymology.

Julia, my 9-year-old granddaughter came up with a word that makes a lot of sense. Of course Julia is brilliant. Whoever had a granddaughter that was otherwise? Her word came from the term, “vegetable oil.” To her, this was more syllables than necessary so she settled for the term, “vegetaboil.” Pretty clever, huh?

My wife contrived a word. At least we think it is original. She navigates while I drive. Houston traffic is horrendous at times and she has to talk fast. Rather than say “next exit” when we need to get off of the freeway, she will announce “nexit.” This is not an official word to my knowledge but it certainly works for us.

And I think that I have contrived a word. “Bitterful” is a term I use at times. When I have one of those good/bad days at the office I’ll tell my wife that today I experienced both the beautiful and the “bitterful.” She pretends to know what I mean.

Perhaps you have a family word that you have coined. By the way, “coin” means, “made up or invented.” If so, e-mail me and I’ll collect the “new” words and print them in a future column (keep them nice).

Words are interesting and mysterious. Each word has a fascinating story to tell. The dictionary seems to strain for a definition of the “written word” that being, “… a speech sound or series of speech sounds that symbolizes and communicates a meaning without being divisible into smaller units capable of independent use.”

And that’s the gospel truth.

Winston Hamby