Word Campaign: “Thisclose”

posted in: Day In The Life, Word Nerd 2
That'll do it. Bullfight, Plaza de Toros, Madrid, Spain, 2007. Photo: Wikipedia
Oof. Bullfight, Plaza de Toros, Madrid, Spain, 2007. Photo: Wikipedia

Language is a living, breathing thing. It morphs, it adapts, it sheds its skin. Being that this is true, I would like to propose that “thisclose” to enter the English lexicon. One sees this word being used in certain cases and I feel thisclose is legitimate, needed, and rather elegant. Allow me to make the case.

I am beside myself that in the past few years the word “literally” has lost its original meaning. “Literally” used to mean “actually,” so if you said, “The hotel room was so gross, I was literally barfing,” it meant that you were actually barfing because you found your hotel room unacceptable. You were saying that vomit was coming out of your head because the definition of “literally” meant “taking words in their usual or most basic sense without metaphor or allegory.” But some point, “literally” came to mean something like, “I was totally barfing over that hotel room,” or “I felt like barfing.” The way I see it, this is a bad morph. Whenever someone says, “I was literally over the moon,” I just stare at them and envision him or her actually flying over the actual moon.

But I have to get over it. Because that’s what language does. This is the nature of the thing. Language adds to itself, e.g, “That dude’s jacket is on fleek” and it subtracts, e.g., “That dude’s jacket is aces.”

Now that I’ve buried the lede, let’s go back to thisclose.

When there’s a close call, or when someone is on the verge of doing something but chooses not to do it, “thisclose” is precisely what they mean. Examples:

“I was thisclose to throwing my computer out the window.”
“I was thisclose to asking her out but I just didn’t have the nerve.”
“The bull was thisclose to skewering that dude and it was a shame because his jacket was on fleek, dawg.”

Right? (The pronunciation would be “THIS-close,” by the way.) Golly, I think it’s tops. You see it out there, but it needs to be official. It might be the word-of-the-year at some point (the Times chooses one of these each year, along with the American Dialect Society and the Oxford Dictionary and when they do that, it goes into the dictionary.) Maybe I’ll start a campaign, except I’d be crushed if this great word would lose out to “fleek.” As in:

“My favorite new word was thisclose to being selected but it lost out. I feel like throwing my computer out the window.”

Go-Go-Gadget Grad School!

posted in: Chicago, School 0
Penny, from Inspector Gadget. She had the first tablet computer, you know.
Penny, from Inspector Gadget. She had the first tablet computer.

I’m in grad school. 

The Master’s of Liberal Arts at the University of Chicago is a degree tailed for professionals who need classes at night/on the weekends. It provides a curated buffet of (magnificent) everything rather than focusing on just one discipline, e.g., aeronautics or French philosophy. Candidates take biology classes, humanities courses, physical science courses, etc. I applied and was accepted earlier this year. When I had my interview, I realized just how different grad school at the University of Chicago would be compared to my previous college experience. That experience was great (B.A.,Theater Arts, University of Iowa, ’01) but this seemed instantly to be a world apart. 

The program’s director, upon welcoming me into his office, offered me a chair and then looked out the window. Then back at me. Then back to the window.

“It’s a lovely day. Let’s take a walk.” My heart sank. Surely I hadn’t gotten in.

Mr. Ciaccia put on a hat and a trench coat and I collected my purse. We walked across the beautiful Hyde Park campus; he pointed out buildings and houses of note. The sun was shining after a rainstorm, and we skirted puddles as we talked about architecture, the gods, music. It was so grad school-y, I almost giggled about six times. I think he used the word “epoch” a couple times.

Turns out I did get in. By the time we rounded the corner to the building where we began, I had to ask. “So… Mr. Ciaccia, did I get in?” He looked at me with a warm smile.

“Yes, you did.”

I squealed and jumped up and down. (I’m a nitwit like that.)

Last semester I took a class called “The New Cosmology,” which was all about space, particle physics, dark matter, etc. It was so mind-blowing, so awe-inspiring, I got misty a couple times in class. This semester, I’ll be in a class called “The Problem of Evil.” Check it: 

“This course will consider the theological problem of evil, starting with the Book of Job. We will next investigate the problem from the perspectives of St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas, for whom evil was the major, stumbling block in the proof of God’s existence. At issue will be the question of whether the view of evil initiated by Augustine as the “privation of good” represents an adequate explanation of evil. This pursuit will lead into the problem of theodicy: can–or should–God’s ways be justified to human beings? We will look at theodicy in selections from the works of Hume, Bayle, Voltaire, Leibniz, and Kant. We will then study several fictional treatments of the problem of evil, including Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov, Melville’s Billy Budd, and the Coen Brothers’ movie No Country for Old Men, based on the novel by Cormac McCarthy.”

For a geek like me, the prospect of starting this class in a couple weeks is like sitting in a mink coat on a generous tuffet as someone brings me an entire pecan pie a la mode, a spoon, and a note from a doctor who has ordered me to put on a few pounds. I’m excited.