Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Yule Blog - Tradition

An old friend of mine had a lovely and fun tradition, there was a special ornament (a Christmas pickle) that their Mom would hide somewhere on the tree each Christmas. It was then a contest to see who could find it first. This wasn't as easy as you might think; the pickle was green, the tree was green, there were hundreds of ornaments on the tree...

Another friend of mine would go all out. Her home was decorated! I mean DECORATED!! No matter where you looked, there was something festive. I would say that she went overboard, but that really wasn't the case... she just loved the season and loved to show it.

Our tradition was fun. Dad's siblings all sent annoying, noisy gifts to us... he sent annoying and noisy gifts to their kids. The point was to see who could come-up with the most irritating gift. I think that my aunt who came-up with the boob-tubes, I think, won. The "boob-tube" was a truly annoying toy; a clear Lucite tubes filled with glass marbles... there were diaphragm every inch-or-so the length of the tube and the only point of the toy seemed to have been to make noise as the marbles clinked their way through each diaphragm from one section of the tube to the next.

My siblings and I continued this tradition when we started having children. My nieces and nephews got the "Chirpy;" a furry little animal with light sensors for eyes - Chirpy chirped every time the light changed in the room. Mysteriously, my nephew (the youngest of the next generation) got the same gift from all his uncles and aunt one year for Christmas. Billy, the singing bass. But how many times can one hear "Take me to the river?" - Ah! It just never gets old.

I hope the tradition continues. Who knows what the next generation will come up with to annoy each other! The laser stun gun?

Wherever you are today I hope you will have a lovely day!

Don Bergquist - December 30, 2008 - Lakewood, Colorado, USA


Anonymous said...

"My siblings and I continued this tradition when we started having children."

'We'? Is there something you'd like to share, Uncle Donald?

Stayin in touch, sorta,


Don Bergquist said...

Apparently, my dear nephew, I need to share with you a couple of things: how collective pronouns work and how to parse a sentence that is stated in the simple past tense. So let's go through these two points one at a time.

1) In this entry the collective pronoun "We" was used to refer to the previously named group of people: my siblings and I. When one uses a collective pronoun as the subject (or object for that matter) of a verb, the verb acts upon the group itself and not upon its individual constituent members.

2) About this group I made a simple statement: that "we started having children." For that statement to be true someone (anyone) in the group must have had their first child and that action must have taken place in the past.

You have a sister. (Well, two, but only one of them is important to this illustration.) Since your eldest sister was born (in the past) to one of my siblings, the statement that "we started having children" is proven true.

I suppose that you could assign different meanings to my original statement, but as I have never heard of a child having four parents (so we could not have all had the same child), and since I didn’t modify the pronoun in any way (such as specifying that all of us have, in fact, had one or more children) the logic of the statement holds and should have been apparent from the context of the sentence alone. Once any of the group had a child, the group (as a whole) started having children.

As another illustration of how collective pronouns work, let’s take the collective pronoun "they. " In this example, let’s discuss the class of people that is defined as that group of people born before 1961. (One of the classes of people, for instance, to which your father belongs but neither of your uncles, his siblings, do.)

I can use the pronoun "they" to refer to this group as I am not a member of that group. I can also make the statement that they have started to retire. I am sure that we would be able to find at least one person who was born before 1961 who is retired. I also know that your father has not yet retired.

You aren’t planning on telling me that because I can name someone who was born prior to 1961 who is not retired that the group of people that I am referring to as "they" haven’t started to retire? NO! They haven’t all retired but they have started retiring.

Had I made these statements in the past perfect tense "We had children..." or "They have retired" then you could infer that the statement was true for the entire group, each individually and all united. But that was not the case.

I hope that clarifies how this works.

Have a great day and get back to your studies! (…and you may consider taking another English course when you get a chance…)

Your dear and loving uncle,


Andrew said...

None of which denies that there might be something you'd like to share, Don. Can't distract me from the question with a lot of irrelevant words.

Still focused on the issue at hand,


Don Bergquist said...


The only other thing further I have to share is my distress at the lack of rhetorical prowess imparted upon students by the Alabama Public School system.