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The Idle American
At a Gain for Words…
Wednesday, June 4, 2008 • Posted June 4, 2008

In this “text-‘til-you-drop” world where youngsters’ and others’ fingers sweep across computer keyboards at warp speed, there’s ongoing competition to see who can use the fewest letters to represent the most number of words.

We should have seen the trend sprouting when personalized license plates came along. Those, though, are mostly “cutesy.” Even the dullest among us, no matter length of tooth, can finally figure the messages out, even if it’s three traffic lights later.

Text abbreviations, however, are more advanced. Most of them are harder to figure out than chemistry lab element charts. I can decipher LOL (laugh out loud), BRB (be right back) and BFF (best friends forever), but beyond these, I’m clueless….

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I miss complete sentences, written and verbal.

At the rate we’re going in our text-bent world, it won’t be long before axioms are modified to fit the era.

To wit, “a picture is worth 10,000 text messages.”…

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To get a strangle hold on gaining instead of losing words requires discipline few are willing to embrace.

In the world “out there,” though, are troupers—few as they are—who spice up our lives and enliven otherwise predictable scenarios. Somehow, they have the rare poise, keen minds and vocabularies that we hope will never be reduced to abbreviations.

These may be the same people who chew each bite 28 times, deep breathe regularly and maintain exercise regimens after most of us have said “to heck with it.” (The late Congressman George Mahon, undefeated during a half-century of public service, routinely got double-takes from others on elevators. They weren’t accustomed to seeing a man doing knee-bends during the elevator ups and downs.)…

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Our antennae reach out for priceless emissions—sometimes words, sometimes babble and sometimes Cheerios—from the mouths of babes.

Most remain in “listen up” modes to soak in the verbal gems provided by our kids and grandkids as they sail on through pre-school years and beyond. I’m in this group, but my tent is broad, including those in the autumns and winters of their lives.

I want to cite verbal responses made recently by three quick-witted folks in their mid-80’s, all with well-worn, three-digit AARP cards. A couple of ‘em I heard with my own ears….

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One was Walter Buckel, long-time publisher of the Lamesa Press-Reporter. At age 17, he hitchhiked from California to Big Spring, TX, where he heard the semi-pro baseball team needed a shortstop. Alas, a fresh bunch of new aspirants had arrived earlier; he was a day or so late and as many dollars short.

But, the West Texas-New Mexico League team in nearby Lamesa did, in fact, need another infielder, so he landed there. That was almost 70 years ago, and he’s still there. Playing baseball actually was a minor part of his career. He worked for Lamesa Schools, was county clerk, sold insurance and spent seven years in the radio business before entering newspapering at age 46.

He made a big journalistic splash and received numerous honors. Inducted into the Texas Newspaper Foundation’s Hall of Fame earlier this year, he reflected on his baseball years, and on one point was emphatic: “I did it without steroids.”….

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Other honorees included Alvin Holley, an East Texas publisher whose “newspapering” dates back to throwing the Corsicana Daily Sun. Two other giants in the field were cited posthumously—longtime Fort Worth Star-Telegram publisher Amon G. Carter and Harold Hudson, former president of the National Newspaper Association. Hudson’s widow and daughter still publish the Perryton Herald.

There were apologies to Ruth Carter Stevenson, who accepted her late father’s award. The emcee figured Mr. Carter would have preferred receiving the award anywhere but in Dallas, the city with which he had a running feud. (It is said that he took sack lunches when he had to be in Dallas, determined not to spend any money there.)

Mrs. Stevenson eased the moment, revealing that “Mother and Daddy spent their honeymoon in Dallas.”….

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They’re still laughing in Weatherford, TX, about the clever response of Mildred Beard, who was cited among “alumni of the year” honorees at this year’s Weatherford College homecoming. She is a 1942 graduate, and over the years has maintained intense interest and support for “her college,” where she’s on hand for virtually every public event.

She’s tickled several shades beyond pink that a dozen relatives have attended WC. Someone said she’s as likely as the cheerleaders to be waving pom-poms. And at 85, she may well be up to such waving. After all, during her college years, she was a member of the women’s tumbling team, a forerunner of today’s gymnasts.

“I try not to tumble nowadays, but when I do, someone has to pick me up,” she joked….

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So there you have it—examples of solid, disciplined people who are at a “gain for words.”

They’ve enriched our lives with words and deeds without texting.

Such grand folks live in your community, too. Watch for them. Listen to them.

If they haven’t been honored, get crackin’ to do so. And maybe it’ll make the newspaper….

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Dr. Newbury is a speaker and writer in the Metroplex. He welcomes comments and inquiries. Send email: Phone: 817-447-3872. His website:

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