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Sometimes, that humane phrase is stripped of all humanity and flung at another like a javelin...

Contributed By:Dorothy Nevils maslivend@sbcglobal.net

Excuse me... please

Okay… so whadya think about when you hear the term excuse, a word that is legitimate as a noun or a verb, with the pronunciation defining it? You know the difference, right? And that difference is in the inflection. If it’s drawn out, with the s sounding like a z, it’s a verb; if the s is short, like a c, it’s a noun.

No. This isn’t a grammar column. Unbuckle your eyebrows. I know. Some of you haven’t changed that much since high school, except a tad… around the waist, perhaps… under the chin, maybe… beneath the eyes… around the waist… the hair – well, Lady Clairol, or one of her grandkids can fix that… Plus, if some of it has gone AWOL, you can always dye it blonde – or orange – and comb it back!

Nope. We’re not going there. We’re just gonna stay in the dictionary, and “keep it real,”or, to borrow from Jay Graves, http://www.thejaygrvesreport.com/, “put it where the goats can get it.” That word “excuse” has two sides to it, and folks get them all crossed up, and it “gets my goat.”

Let’s look at how we – or others – use it. What do you mean when you say, “Excuse me”? Ideally, you’re being courteous. We’re practicing what our parents taught us, especially if those parents were born in the very early part of the 20th century.

“Excuse me” was used and taught in the schools and at home as a requirement, as important as reading, writing, and… manners! It was an entreaty, a request to share someone else’s space, even when that space did not belong to someone else… if it was communal space.

That phrase was heard in the theatre, on the bus, at the dinner table – anywhere two or more were gathered. It was recognition of shared space, Those two words took the place of a lengthy explanation: You were here first, and even though you have not claimed this space the way one does property, or a house… and even though you haven’t paid to sit here, you are here… and even though my occupying this space doesn’t actually take it away from you, “Excuse me,”… and the person smiles in acknowledgment.

Nobody would die if you didn’t seek pardon for this brief occupation. It’s not like you’re gonna stay right there in front of the person for the whole train ride! The other person simply looks up from the book she’s reading, moves her knees a bit to the side, smiles, and you move on, a member of a civilized community still!

Sometimes, however, that humane phrase is stripped of all humanity and flung at another like a javelin… or a dirty rock… or a dirt clod aimed at another’s eyeballs. We don’t “aim to please”! We aim to agitate! We aim to get in your face! It’s the human version of the emoji with balled up fists, and eyebrows resembling a V with the bottom wiped out! It’s an indictment, not a request… our way of balling up a perfectly humane and humbling request, and hurling a “how dare you” insult at another who thinks, quite mistakenly, that he or she has the same rights as we!

Well, we’ve covered – somewhat – the verb form of that simple word. Next week, we’ll look at the noun. Hopefully, those who most need to revisit this simple word, will take the time to do so.

Two words, together simple, but so powerful. Offer them, and they soothe. Hurl them, and they hurt!

Story Posted:03/02/2018

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