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patterns of ink

How fruitless to be ever thinking yet never embrace a thought... to have the power to believe and believe it's all for naught. I, too, have reckoned time and truth (content to wonder if not think) in metaphors and meaning and endless patterns of ink. Perhaps a few may find their way to the world where others live, sharing not just thoughts I've gathered but those I wish to give. Tom Kapanka

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Pimp My Toad!

Photo by Paul Ouboter / Conservation International
From AP wire, June 4, 2007: A toad [atelopus toad] with fluorescent purple markings was discovered in the mid-2006 by Surinamese scientists Paul Ouboter and Jan Mol as they surveyed the remote plateaus of eastern Suriname, South America.
Full article here.
I should begin by saying I’m aware of the origins and distasteful connotations of the word “pimp,” and I don’t generally use the word. For a guy my age to say “it doesn’t mean that anymore,” is as ill-advised as insisting that “gay” still means “carefree and happy” because it meant that from the 1920’s to the mid-60s when the Flintstones ["gay old time"] Theme was written. I’m fascinated, however, with how words “mean” and equally intrigued that their meaning can change significantly over time or in an instant.
Two examples: I just Googled the word columbine, but the top entries had nothing to do with this beautiful blue bloom for which a school was named in Littleton, Colorado. Perhaps someday, my children’s children will think only of a flower when they hear the word columbine.
Example two: when we were kids, my brothers an I used to wear nothing but thongs all summer long. Especially when we were camping. Mom insisted we wear our thongs to the bathhouse. People would sometimes stare at us--I think it was that flip-flop sound they made against the soles of our feet. Sometimes we wore tennis shoes, but mostly we wore our thongs. My kids hate when I slip and call them that.

Words can change. The title verb “pimp,” for instance, has assumed a common "positive" meaning that has upstaged its origin. It no longer refers only to a vile, degrading, illegal enterprise nor to the way such entrepreneurs walk (strutting down the street of school hall as if rhythmically pushing aside waist-high wheat [circa 1970]).

At the turn of this new century, the verb “pimp” began meaning transforming something that was uncool into something cool—so cool it’s HOT, so hot it’s good, so good it’s BAD (in the good sense of that word). One could say that the word “pimp” has been “pimped” into a better word. My Grandma used to say of a creative friend who had a Be-dazzler, “She could make a silk purse out of sow’s ear.” Now she could say to a teen, “She could pimp a pig's ear into a purse.”

This new meaning is best illustrated in the title of the hit MTV show (which I’ve never seen) called Pimp My Ride, meaning “Please give my junky car an extreme make-over.” Each week’s show begins with a junky car that is artfully transformed into a cool hot rod with all the bells and whistles and “BLING.” The transformed car is more about show than speed—it’s about turning heads with the help of all senses. The end results include traveling "light shows" and powerful speaker systems that redefine "earth moving equipment."
Have you ever shared an intersection with these hidden speakers? It's annoying. The bobbleheads in all the cars start shaking. If you can't tell where that bone-rattling sub-woofers beat is coming from, just look for the driver who seems sort of... well, JUMPY... like a frog, which brings us back to the subject at hand....
When I was a kid I caught a green tree frog like this one and kept it all summer in a gallon glass jar. I named him Toby (“Awwwwwwe,” I hear you.)
Tree frogs are so cool because they have suction cup toes and can climb up glass and bedroom walls, but their neatest trick is changing colors to blend into their surroundings. The first time Toby did it, it freaked me out. This gray frog [right] is the same one on that green leaf to the left .

This is a "red-eyed tree frog. He and his friends in the next two photos live in the rain forests of South America along with that new species at the top. Seeing them makes me wonder if the common, plain colored frogs and toads are jealous of the "flashy" tree frogs? If they were hanging around down at some little froggy A &W by the swamp, don’t you think these tree frogs would kind of strut past the plain toads as if to say “Yo, check it out. I got BLING to spare.”
Wouldn't it be funny if there was a little froggy tattoo shop where the plain frogs and toads that don't dramatically change their looks went and pointed to a picture on the wall and said, "I want that lime-green job" or "I saw racing stripes you did on a toady friend of mine last week. Do you think they would make me look fat?"
On the other hand, maybe the plain toads aren't jealous at all. Maybe they think these fellas looked a little “carefree and happy.” (“Not that there’s anything wrong with that,” croaks a frog named Jerry.) When I first saw the AP picture of the "new species" at the top of this post, I thought the Discovery Channel had launched a pilot for a new show called "Pimp My Toad!"
Can't you just imagine the plain brown-paper-bag toad below watching that show, thinking, "That'll be the day I let my kid run around in a get-up like that. Hey, you guys, come get load of this toad." Then his family hops into the TV room and his daughters say, "We kinda like it, Dad," and the dad-toad's smile turns to a frown.
Seriously, though, we humans can’t complain. At least we are all content with our natural appearance. We don't care what people think about our "looks," and are not affected by the tone of our surroundings. Right? Okay, maybe not, but at least we all get some love and attention before we croak.
It's a beautiful Sunday afternoon here. Time to go "pump my ride." We're taking the bikes out for a spin!


Blogger Josie said...

Tom, what a great post. I had no idea toads were to beautiful.

The English language is interesting,isn't it? Words can be hijacked and used for other purposes, but hopefully in time they are returned to their rightful meaning.

I hope you had a great bike ride.


10/6/07 11:40 PM  
Blogger SusieQ said...

It is interesting how the meaning of a word can change over time. I did not know that about the word "pimp."

I remember quite well when I was a teenager and the day I came home and used the term "brown nose" in describing someone at school to my dad. He hit the ceiling. He told me never to use that term again, and then he explained to me what it really meant. I was shocked. I don't think I used that term for several years after he enlightened me as to its real meaning.

10/6/07 11:41 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

It started out about toads being jealous of these flashy frogs, but once the word in the title came up, I knew I'd better explain it, because in my head, the word will forever have a bad connotation. The bike ride was much too short, but served as a good "diagnostic" for bike tune ups before the next one.

I think our dads were on the same wavelength. We had the same talk. There's another vulgar sounding two-word term that means the same thing as "brown nose" that people say without thinking. It makes use of the same word this generation uses for displeasure. We would say, "Well, this stinks." They would use this word instead of stinks.

In my ears, it is vulgar and we don't use it in our house. I discourage my teachers from using it, but TV has made it so mainstream, that it no longer strikes most people as bad.
When I took my daughter to see “Madagascar,” there’s a funny scene in which the zoo penguins break out, hijack a ship to Antarctica, step out into the driving blizzard, and one of them says this phase. It’s the first time it made me laugh. I still don't use the word or phrase but no longer react to it or explain why others shouldn’t. The fact that I haven’t said it and yet you know what I’m saying sort of proves its mainstream acceptance. Language is an ever-changing cultural oil painting that never quite dries.

11/6/07 8:03 AM  
Blogger Jody said...

HAD to read your post with a title like THAT! =) I knew you'd explain in detail...and your thoughts didn't disappoint. Funny! Interesting...and made me think of other 'words and meanings'. One of the first that came to my mind was last summer when my parents had to attend an employee meeting (they are caretakers/clergy at a senior independent living facility). One of the issues addressed was that of appropriate footwear...especially among those who work in the kitchen/dining area. The woman leading the meeting mentioned more than once that 'thongs should not be worn at anytime'...some of the younger female employees were taken aback. My mom and others found it funny...and my dad didn't get it until further explanation from my mom. Finally someone said outloud, "Maybe we should be saying 'flip-flops' in stead of thongs." Language is ever-changing.
I also couldn't help but think of Kermit-the-Frog in your post. I think there is a song called, "Happy being green"...I am learning that the best way to enjoy life is by accepting me- as I am- be comfortable in my own skin. And to constantly seek to change and become more like Christ- if in fact any change IS needed in my life. Not an easy task in such a 'colorful, enticing culture and world' in which I am a part. Thanks for this post. I always enjoy the different 'levels of thought' you present. Thanks and best to all of you with the last minute wedding plans going on in your lives at this time! Crazy, but fun, I'm sure. =)

11/6/07 8:30 AM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

I typically "tweak" a post after its up for a day. As I tweaked this I couldn't resist adding a second example in the second paragraph. I've written about "thongs/flip flops" before but this was a perfect place share it again. We used to wear out our "thongs" (flip flops)and only then did we get a new pair (every few summers). Now, my girls have countless pairs of flip flops by the side door into the garage. It's crazy!
As for the "independent living facility" rule, I'd say "yes" to the flip flops no to the "thongs." =)

11/6/07 1:59 PM  
Blogger Dr.John said...

From Pimp to Post , I would say that was a bit clever.

11/6/07 7:40 PM  
Blogger Jody said...

What strikes me funny is I can't imagine having such a conversation 'in real life with you, Tom'. But online- here at Patterns, it feels completely appropriate and fitting. Funny how that works.
Maybe that's just me. Anyway, I enjoyed your 'tweak'. =)

12/6/07 1:09 PM  
Blogger the walking man said...

As you very well have reminded me I have no limitations on my own particular use of language but I had to laugh my un brown nosed area off at you Tom, using the word pimp. Especially as like so many other words in culture of today it can be noun, verb, adjective. but those were some sick pimped out frogs.

12/6/07 2:28 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

Dr. John,
Sorry I missed "Leave-a-comment Monday." There's an old book about dog walking called "From Pillar to Post." Your comment reminded me of that.

You're right. The strange thing is that "real Life" is often less conducive to conversation, though I doubt this topic would come up. =)

I hope I didn't shock you. =) I want you to know that it has not gone unnoticed that you keep my readers in mind. At this very moment my youngest daughter is sitting beside me reading as I type and begging me to put this away and make some popcorn... so I really do appreciate it. (We're watching "The Shop around the Corner"--the original "You've Got Mail.") It is interesting how words change. This title word will always sound a little crude to me. It doesn't help that its origin and sound has to do with "pimples."
Gotta go make some popcorn!

12/6/07 7:33 PM  
Blogger SusieQ said...

Tom, you might find this interesting, because it goes along with your post about the word pimp and so on. At this blog Experimental Theology a discussion was going on that started with the 5/22 post about whether it would be appropriate to use the word "a**hole" in a church setting for the purpose of enhancing religious instruction with church members. In the opinion of some there, no other word will do in describing the kind of behavior Christians need to avoid.

I am curious as to what you think.

12/6/07 9:57 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

This will be a long reply, but just think of it as an un-posted post. This may be the best place for it.

I went to the site and found the topics and discussion there very interesting. First off, I agree that any behavior that elicits that term should be avoided. I would prefer that people in my circles neither use that word nor deserve it. =) But your question is not whether people do things to “deserve” the term… it’s whether there is an effective substitute for it.

I’ve not read the book in question at that post, but I would not use the term in its title. I know of young pastors in the “emergent movement” who would, but I’m glad my pastor uses effective language that makes the point without perking up the ears of our younger listeners. Unless a we the young people in his church using such language, he shouldn’t introduce it to the church liturgy or classrooms.

The subtitle of the book in question is “Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn't.” Sounds like a good read. I suspect that subtitle, however, would get less attention and sell less copies than the “The No *** hole Rule”—-just as “Isn’t this a Pretty Toad” would have prompted a much less interesting post and string of comments here. (Though I don’t think the word "pimp" [which I’d avoid beyond this space] crosses the same line as the word in your question.)

One commenter at the Experimental Theology site mentioned Dallas Willard. I took a class two summers ago taught by Dr. Willard, former director of the School of Philosophy at USC who still teachers there. He is a fascinating teacher. I tend to agree with Willard's caution about calling someone “raca.” (usually interpreted as “fool”).


[BTW, how do you get links in your comments?]

There is a principle I try to use in communication: “Address the problem without attacking the person.” If someone’s behavior merits this epithet, my goal should be to help him see it and change it. It probably doesn’t help if I brand the person with this word. It’s a natural human reaction to use words like stones and when we do we like our stone-words to pack a punch. This word does that at many levels.

Phonetically, this term is a unique combination of “aspirates” [no pun intended]. Aspirates are sounds that can be intensified by the amount of air dispensed with them. So the medial “hiss” of the double “s” is an aggressive sound followed the “h” boosted by the following long “o” sound, which allows the most possible air to pass the vocal tract. Compare for instance, the difference between saying “He He He” and “Ho Ho Ho,” Say them again loudly. The latter is far more powerful. If casting word-stones is the objective, this one is packed with aggressive phonetic sounds (as is true for most curses people hurl. That is no coincidence.)

Beyond phonetics, this term literally equates a person with the passage of waste. [Most of the vulgar expressions in the human arsenal have to do with the bodily functions or its elements (be they gas, liquid, or solid).]In a given moment the person using this term assumes the duty of letting a fellow know that he is a waste. He is full of waste. The only thing that comes out of him is waste. [It is not the marvelous and vital dependence of our body on this God-designed feature that gives it its negative usage... it is the waste.] So we throw that word-stone at an individual. “There! That’s what you are! And that's all you're worthy of producing!” Some may say, "I don’t use the word to mean all that. I just use it to mean 'jerk'.” Fine. Then say “jerk.” It's is a much better word if solving problems is a higher priority than throwing stones.

As I understand the word “jerk,” it is short for “knee-jerk.” Knee-jerks are reactions. The doctor taps our knee with his little rubber triangle and our “reflexes” kick the leg out as if to bypass the brain. There is no thought involved. No dialogue. No instructions. Just a stimulus and a reaction. I’m not saying there is no place in life for fast action and quick thinking, but would you rather live with a person who takes a moment to think and respond to life’s stimuli or a person who is constantly reacting—-knee-jerking—-to it? The latter is a person we call a jerk. Some use another compound word, but I think jerk is more accurate and leads to a helpful discussion of how to solve the problem—-don’t bypass the brain. Think then respond.

There's another principle I try to follow: "There's only room for one jerk in a conversation." If someone's knee-jerk behavior prompts knee-jerk language on my part… now there’s a pair. =)

I just looked at this comment's length. Sorry to use so many words in answering a question of so few words about only one word.
Boy, do I feel like... a jerk!

13/6/07 4:02 PM  
Blogger SusieQ said...

Thanks Tom. Everything you said makes perfect sense to me. And you are no jerk for writing at length about this. I just wish I could write at length like that and make as much sense.

Frankly, I was surprised that this word was under consideration for use in a church setting with church members. It certainly would be shocking to the ears and get people's attention. But for me the fact that it would be shocking is one of the major problems with using it. It is insulting for someone to think that church people need to be shocked with vulgarity so that they will pay attention to the central message. I believe I could think of better ways to get and hold people's attention in church.

Do you think you might try to follow the Experimental Theology blog in the future?

I will get some info to you soon in another comment on how to include links in the comments area. I can't tell you off the top of my head at this point. But I will be back with that.

Thanks again.

13/6/07 4:25 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

Our wireless has been down for several hours. Back up now. Glad that long reply made sense.

I may go back to that blog again. It's a bit more "academic" than my evening blog spots, but that's often true of professors, and I don't mind treading water at the deep end now and then. =)
(He can certainly hold his own in a discussion. I often have enough of such in real life and use blogging as a "change of pace.")
I did find the bullets of his 5/22 post interesting and I'm trying to decide which one fits me.
I see as I'm writing this that you just sent instructions on how to put links in posts. I'll give it a shot next time I need a link in a comment. Don't feel bad if it doesn't happen right away. Your instructions seem clear. I've never done that. Thanks for the help.

13/6/07 9:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

SusieQ said...

In explaining to you how to create a link within a comment, I can't type all the actual symbols in this particular comment otherwise it will get rejected. So, here is how I will explain it to you.

To begin type this:

Left arrow followed by a small a followed by a space followed by href="

Now you are ready to type in the web address. Here is an example:

Follow the address with this:


Now you are ready to type in what you want to call this link. Here is an example: SusieQ's Place

Follow the name you give the link with this:

Left arrow followed by /a followed by right arrow.

There are only two places where spaces will exist: after the first a; in between the words of the name you give the link.

I hope I have given you accurate instructions.

14/6/07 6:33 AM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

I mentioned having sat under Dallas Willard and that he came up in that site's discussion. It may not apply perfectly to the word in question, but if the attitude behind the word is anything like what is mentioned in Matthew 5: 21-23, it may fit. Here's what Willard says in his book The Divine Conspiracy :

"Contempt is worse than anger... It is never justifiable or good. Therefore Jesus tells us, "Whoever says 'Raca" to his brother shall stand condemned before the Sanhedrin... The Aramaic term 'raca' was current in Jesus' day to express contempt for someone....we can be angry at someone without denying their worth....Today, of course, we would not say 'raca'...
“To belong is a vital need based in the spiritual nature of the human being. Contempt...just by being what it is, is withering to the human soul. But when expressed in the contemptuous phrase--in its thousands of forms--or in the equally powerful gesture or look, it stabs the soul to its core and deflates its powers of life." PP 151-152.
Me again,
Do I think every time that term is used it in this sort of contempt? Probably not, but it is inherently a contemptuous word, and I think it's a limited mind and vocabulary that cannot avoid it. Like you said, it’s a reflection on our view of the Gospel if we think it needs vulgarity to catch people’s ear.

[Did you see that link. Good instructions!]

14/6/07 7:35 AM  
Blogger SusieQ said...

Tom, I don't like being the bearer of bad news, but your "Divine Conspiracy" link doesn't seem to be working. Maybe it is just my computer...or me. But don't tell anyone that I gave you instructions for creating a link, please...just in case my instructions were worthless. ;-)

15/6/07 11:29 PM  
Blogger SusieQ said...

Tom, I am becoming obsessed with your Divine Conspiracy link and why it is not working. I think the problem is simple. You do not have the correct address for the site. Or the complete address perhaps.

16/6/07 9:59 AM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

I'm sure the problem was not your instructions because I just tested the other link I left and it worked.
Dallas Willard's book has a great first chapter that opens with a wonderful illustration. Some chapters are kind of deep. It's a long read because it's very thought provoking. You can pick up a copy at most book stores and Amazon.com, etc.
Here goes...

Here is another test:

16/6/07 11:12 AM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

Well, the links work, but I did something wrong. =)
The Divine Conspiracy title somehow became "here's a test" and "My Father's Hands" became the date. If you click on those to items above it will take you to the intended sites.
Hmmmm... I still need some practice. =)

16/6/07 11:15 AM  
Blogger It's a FLIP-FLOP World said...

We have so many different meanings to so many different words. When my husband and I moved from Illinois down here to Savannah I found a whole different set of words. Here you hear all kinds of words. My friend says when she is mopping...that she is "passing the mop" or at Walmart the cart is not a cart it is a buggy. Well I can go on and on...thanks for stopping by my humble blog. Sandy

16/6/07 3:02 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

I know what you mean. I had a friend down south who used to say "mash the foot feed" to get someone to drive faster.

18/6/07 5:43 AM  
Blogger toothdigger said...

love your style.

23/6/07 2:13 PM  
Blogger HeiressChild said...

thanx tom, for the link about this post on my blog in regards to the particular comments. i wouldn't use particular words either. we're not to let corrupt communication come out of our mouths, and of course, there are other back-up scriptures that speak to "the church" pertaining to what should and shouldn't come out of the mouths. people justify what they say, and probably always will. however, that still doesn't make it right. corrupt communication isn't limited to "cuss" words either.

i'm not pruddish, but i do think if anyone should be an example, it should be those within the "church." when i refer to the "church," i'm specifically talking about christians. we are to be an example, not only to those within our church walls, but to the world as a whole.

i personally wouldn't sit under a leader who would use certain words, but there is this one t.v. pastor who uses colorful language during his sermons. i thought at first i was hearing things, but then my daughter heard him too. we met one of his members who told us we get the watered-down version on t.v. i shudder to hear the "un-edited" version.

29/6/07 4:12 AM  

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