Saturday, March 1, 2008

Now we're talkin' real words or What did you want to be when you grew up?

In 6th grade we were given an assignment in school. We got a form and a list of classes and were to design our four-year high school schedule in preparation for what we wanted to be when we grew up. I looked at all the choices - English, Algebra, History, Chemistry, . . . until I found the most enticing word - Stenography. That was it. I wanted to be a Stenographer. I had no clue what a Stenographer did. All I knew was that it sounded exotic. As it turns out, it could have been even alluring. I could have planned to be an amanuensis.

Word of the Day for Saturday, March 1, 2008
amanuensis \uh-man-yoo-EN-sis\,noun: A person employed to take dictation or to copy manuscripts.

The chore of actually writing the words in the end fell to a hand-picked amanuensis.-- Austin Baer, "River of Desire", Atlantic, October 1996

On this blue day, I want to be nothing more than an amanuensis to the birds, transcribing all the bits and snatches of song riding in on the wind.-- Barbara Crooker, "Transcription (Poem)", Midwest Quarterly, March 22, 2003

When it comes to literature, the French count the largest number of Nobel Prizes; their authors include one who wrote a whole book without using the letter 'e' and another who, suffering from 'locked-in syndrome' after a severe stroke, dictated a memoir by blinking his eye as an amanuensis read through the alphabet.-- Jonathan Fenby, France on the Brink

Amanuensis comes from Latin, from the phrase (servus) a manu, "slave with handwriting duties," from a, ab, "by" + manu, from manus, "hand." Entry and Pronunciation for amanuensis

When I finally got to high school, taking Stenography was not permitted for the college-bound students. It was only for girls planning on going into business. Business for them meant Secretary and taking shorthand.

One course that I couldn't avoid, a requirement for all girls in our high school, was Home Economics. (Boys were not allowed. They got to take Wood Shop.) We learned the proper way to iron a shirt; how to cut a hole out of the center of slice of white bread using a glass and then fry an egg in it; how to sew on buttons. The final project was to create a scrapbook of our Dream Wedding and Dream House. We were given stacks of magazines and directed to find pictures to cut out to paste into our books - photos of our gowns; bridesmaids' dresses; bouquets; silver; china; furniture; towels; you name it, whatever was going to make life after graduating from high school complete. I can't remember if we cut out pictures of our dream husbands.

1 comment:

Alice said...

This really struck me. I was forced to take the same kind of class and my grade depended on my turning out a perfect baking powder biscuit! I would have had a better time taking slop from the lunch room to the hogs the boys were raising in agriculture class. The pity is I didn't realise how stifling it really was! I was trained to be a good girl.