Friday, June 24, 2011

Adjectives are Subjective

Adjective: n. a word used to modify a noun or other substantive


Okay, I'm pretty sure we all know what adjectives are, but have you ever noticed how their meanings can vary depending on either who's using them or the situation involved?  Take adjectives like pretty, hard or scary for example.  I think we're all familiar with these words and their definitions, but let me illustrate what I'm talking about. 


Pretty.  A fellow hiker once told me I was the prettiest girl on the trail.  After an uncomfortable moment I said, "Really, even with my gray hair, pointy nose and this fang?"  Then, after flashing a smile to reveal said fang – to which he was largely unamused – I just humbly said, "Thanks."  See, that's what he thought and he's entitled to his opinion.  Who am I to argue with what he deems pretty.  Beauty, as they say, is in the eye of the beholder. 


Here's another one: Hard.  When I first started doing crossword puzzles, I found them challenging, and since their difficulty increases as the weekdays progress, the NY Times Sunday puzzle was extremely hard for me – well, often the Thursday puzzle was just as tough (as any puzzler knows) – but that's not the case anymore.  Don't get me wrong, it's not that they're effortless, but they've gone from hard to, not only doable but, enjoyable.  So, although I wouldn't describe these puzzles as hard anymore, others still may.  Or on a completely different note, take push-ups.  Many people can do these – some can even add fancy claps in between or do them on one hand.  I can't do them at all.  So, where brain-teasers are easy for me and hard for others, push-ups are easy for some, yet hard (more like impossible) for me.  Get it?  The meaning changes depending on the person.


Or how about this: Scary.  There are those (who are out of their minds) who enjoy bungee jumping.  These folks describe this activity as exhilarating.  I'd describe it as scary – more like terrifying, actually.  Now, I've performed live on stage many times, which I find exhilarating, but I know there are others who find that prospect terrifying.  In fact, I know people who'd rather jump off a bridge than perform on stage – see, it's subjective.


So, here's the latest contradiction of terms, if you will:  Fun/Humiliating.  My sister-in-law asked me to participate with her in a fashion show at our local Anthropologie.  "It'll be fun," she said.  Fun?  Nothing fits me in that store.  I'm a shoulder less, small-chested, short-waisted, long-legged deformity with a big behind.  Fun?  Try humiliating.  And to really seal the deal with that one, I'd have to walk in heels while showcasing my flouncy outfit.  I've been in sneakers and flip-flops for years.  When I walk in heels I look like a man in drag on his first day on the job.  At the risk of being redundant, fun?  Fun for whom, exactly?  Well, I'm a good sport if nothing else, so without mincing words, I agreed.  "Yeah, okay," I said, "it'll be… fun."


Well, what could have been disappointment to someone else was a major relief to me.  Turns out they had enough participants (read: people who actually wanted to be there), so my services were not needed.  (I feel I should tell you that their roster was full and I was excused without ever being seen.)  But here's what's interesting – once the pressure was off, my initial relief did sort of turn to a mild disappointment.  You know, it might have been fun.


~ M.