How To Never Have A Sick Day


   I obviously like words.  I have the OED on my hard drive and enjoy just cruising through it from time to time.  My son used to call me Mr. Big Words, but truth be told I am almost always dead last in a Scrabble challenge.  Guess I’m just good at looking stuff up.

  I should probably come clean though and fess that my favorite words are monosyllabic, terse, and widely understood.  Even among non English speakers.   I remember a drunken Swedish stevedore reeling them off on a North Sea wharf long ago even before I heard George Carlin do so. 

  They come in handy.  Our first dog would hide when she heard me strapping on my tool belt because she knew what to expect.  Our recently passed pal Sauger wouldn’t though, but he was a guy and must have understood. 

  I’m sure I’m responsible for the, uh, clever part of our three kids’ vocabulary.  Isn’t it an event of which to be proud when your child is first heard to say “oh crap” when the family gets caught outside in the rain?  Or drops the f-bomb at Thanksgiving dinner while sporting a cherubic first step grin?

  Furthermore, I’m happy to relate that there is no longer any reason to feel even a twinge of guilt for having set such an example.  Exemplar is more like it.  Salty language has been proven to be an avenue to salubrity.  “I would advise people, if they hurt themselves, to swear” said psychologist Richard Stephens of Keele University in England in his study “Swearing as a response to pain”.

  He and his colleague Claudia Umland undertook a project in which subjects held their hands in freezing water for as long as they could.  Some were told to spew epithet(s) of choice without relent and others to keep mum.  The former withdrew their hands long after the latter group gave up.

  Scientists theorize that cursing emanates from a different part of the brain than does pitter patter.  A part (the amygdala) more closely associated with emotion and the fight or flight response.  It has been an evolutionary advantage to feel one’s self gird quickly up at the first note of pain through whatever sensory system the message might have arrived.

  Hmm.  I read somewhere that Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney said that trolling his mind for just the right word was indeed like throwing a line in a pond to catch a fish.  What could be the metaphor or simile for my more base proclivity?  Like plunging a stool? 

  Oh well, could though be why I haven’t had a sick day in thirty-five years.  I’ll have to ask Dr. Brother.  And hope he doesn’t say anything to Mom.

*Study was published in the journal NeuroReport in July 2009.  I read about it in Scientific American.

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