I’m not supposed to write while I’m writing, but this was irresistible. Today, my five-year old daughter asked me a very interesting question after her daily communication session with me. Most people would probably laugh if they were to actually observe any one of these sessions and attempt to correct my perceived misspeak by saying; “Communication what? You’re just teaching her English!” English? Now that’s funny! What’s English? I’m not sure that I would recognize actual English if I heard it, in fact it’s hard to pinpoint exactly when we warped and twisted what used to be referred to as ”The King’s English” into the absurd jargon that we call English today. I most definitely am not teaching my daughter English, to me that would be like teaching one’s own child where to stab a person so that it kills or where it only causes trauma: it would be perverse. I’m teaching my daughter how to communicate with other people; one certainly can’t communicate with another person by using English! Everyone knows that you only use English to confuse or antagonize others but never to communicate; that’s what money is for. Do you see? You’re already paying more attention at its mere mention.
Apologies, I digress; back to the point, namely my daughter’s question, which was: “Dad; if the prefix in- means “not”, then why does the dictionary say that the word “indifference” means to not care or to consider something unimportant? That’s not what “not-difference, or not-different” means. According to the rules, indifference should mean that there is no difference in something – like when making a comparison, even though it’s easier to just say that one thing is the same as another instead of saying that it’s indifferent from another –that sounds like too much work! So what’s the word that should be used to mean that someone doesn’t care? There’s got to be a word, Dad! This doesn’t make any sense!”
A few minutes later; after the pride, amazement and wonder subsided a bit, I contemplated the question and replied;
“You’re right, honey; it doesn’t make any sense. That’s because it is the wrong word, just as you figured. The word that should appear in the dictionary in the same place where you now see “indifference” is “indeference”. The problem is that if you try to look up the word “indeference”, you won’t find it because it is a ‘forgotten word’; we simply forgot, for some reason, and replaced it with “indifference”, maybe because they sound sort of the same, who knows? In this case the formative prefix in- is added to a noun to form another noun representing the effect of a negative force on the original word. The word “deference” means ‘to show respectful courtesy” as to character or to be ‘respectfully submissive” as to a point of conversation or debate. When the prefix in- is added, the result should be “indeference”, but that word doesn’t exist in the dictionary; instead the definition of “indeference” is what appears as the definition of “indifference”; which means some else entirely. Do you understand now, sweetie?”
She looked at me with eyes that would make Puss-n-Boots envious and then she asked me:
“Buy why, Dad? Why would we do something like that?”
I sighed, and with compassion and clarity, I answered my daughter’s question:
“Because in the end, sweetie, we are nothing more than a bunch of punk-assed sissy bitches and straight-out pussies who would gladly admit that shit and shinola are the same, as long as they didn’t have to get up or do any thinking. The human race has become but a sad whimper when compared to our potential and we forget words just like we forget to care or to participate. It’s possible that humanity has forgotten so many things that no one believes that they can make a difference anymore.”
My daughter looked me straight in the eyes and lit up with awe and understanding. She jumped up and down and with jubilation and excitement shouted:
“Of course! That’s it, Dad! Now I understand! We just got the words mixed up! “Indifference” should mean ‘to not be able to make a difference’ and perhaps everyone feels that way because they forgot that feeling that way IS indifference and what they thought was indifference is actually indeference! Right, Dad?”
It was my turn to be awe-struck. I couldn’t decide if it was just the innocence of a child or flawless logic that inspired my little girl and it really didn’t matter, she blew me away. All I could do was to look at her and say: “Maybe, sweetie; it just might be exactly that.”
She served up that look again; its power is irresistible and with every ounce of strength she could muster, she made the “please” gesture with her hands and said:
“So why don’t’ you just explain that to everyone, Dad? You’re the best explainer in the whole world! Every time you explain something to me, I understand it right away! Please, Daddy, everything will be okay if you just explain this to everyone!”
So I am.
Thank you, honey, for helping me to remember what it means to be human. I love you.