“So we keep waiting (waiting), waiting on the world to change.”
-John Mayer, “Waiting on the World to Change”
I’m an author. I’ve been known to read and understand words from time to time. I know how to put together a few complete sentences despite what some people claim and Microsoft decides to point out with their stupid green lines. With that being said, with all my experience in fiction and journalism, I will admit that some stories and linguistics trip me up – it’s just a little degrading when it happens to be a children’s story.
This isn’t just some random story thrown together by a couple of people trying to figure out what they want to do with their life, this is a classic: Rip Van Winkle. What? Can’t a grown man, an adult – or of adult age at least – capable of making his own decisions read a fairy tale for whatever reason? It’s better than living in a fairy tale like the heartbroken dreamers who convince themselves that Disney stories are a factual way of life or some 20-something-year-old who scrounges for something to eat in their parents’ fridge to fuel the late hours they spend thinking about working on a children’s book.
Most people know the legend of the sleepyhead, but like most childhood stories, there’s usually a more advanced, darker take to the fairy tale. Here’s an excerpt from the Washington Irving short:
“Their tempers, doubtless, are rendered pliant and malleable in the fiery furnace or domestic tribulation…”
“The great error in Rip’s composition was an insuperable aversion to all kinds of profitable labor. It could not be from the want of assiduity or perseverance…”
Okay, this didn’t necessarily trip me up as I claimed earlier, but the language was rather unexpected. Say you’re reading this to your child – Are they going to understand it? Probably not – and don’t say, “Well the doctor said that my kid is so smart, more advanced than most others their age.” Spoiler alert: your doctor probably says that to a lot of parents. And we wonder where the modern mentality of delusion and regression begins.
On another note, maybe stories like Rip Van Winkle do explain a child’s fashion sense at times:
“They were dressed in a quaint, outlandish fashion; some wore short doublets, others jerkins, with long knives in their belts, and most of them had enormous breeches, or similar style with that of the guide’s. Their visages, too, were peculiar: one had a large beard, broad face, and small piggish eyes; the face of another seemed to consist entirely of nose, and was surmounted by a white sugar-loaf hat, set off with a red cock’s tail.”
“There was one who seemed to be the commander. He was a stout gentleman, with a weatherbeaten countenance; he wore a laced doublet, broad belt and hanger, high-crowned hat and feather, red stockings, and high-heeled shoes with roses in them.”
Oh, those crazy Dutch killer gnomes. Also, if I may point out, I think this commander might be suffering through an identity crisis. Wait, am I not supposed to say something insensitive like that? Good, I didn’t think it was insensitive either, but you never know who’s reading.
Perhaps the tales were meant to build a child’s vocabulary, but let’s face it, these stories are a thing of the past and don’t translate to the modern era. People had better control of the language back in the day. Case and point: my writing now. And to think, they didn’t have the dependency of autocorrect or dictionary apps on their phone (what phone, am I right?) or the ease of right-clicking for synonyms to make them sound smarter. They actually knew the meaning of certain words and how to use them correctly.
Things have changed, that’s for damn sure. Are we happy with the direction we’re going or would we rather distract ourselves with petty indifferences, avoid major conflict by presenting meager complaints, and wait for a solution?
Moral: Get black out drunk and pass out to avoid your troubles. We all have our own Dame Van Winkles, am I right, fellas? I’ll pay for that one.
Better Moral: The world is going to keep changing whether or not you stop or whether or not you like it, so you need to adapt.
Bonus Moral: Don’t listen to John Mayer and wait for the world to change; if you don’t like it (whatever your world may be), don’t be lazy, and do something about it.
Bonus Bonus Moral: 20-year naps only grow beards, and most people have those already anyway.
Okay, I’m done. I need to make a change and progress. Do you?