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Joe DeRouen, Author of the Small Things trilogy: The Language We Use

Friday, September 22, 2006

The Language We Use

My wife bought a new comforter for our bed. When my four-year-old son Fletcher saw the new comforter, he asked what happened to the old one. We told him it had a rip in it and that we didn't need it anymore. He was still curious what we'd done with it. The conversation went something like this:

"Where's the old comforter with the rip?" Fletcher asked.

"It's in the back of the car," my wife said, "so we can donate it to Salvation Army."


"So other people can have it."

"Who will have it?"

"We donate things so that poor people can use them."

"Poor people like things with rips?" he asked.

My wife and I broke into laughter. As far as I know, poor people don't enjoy sleeping under a ripped comforter any more than rich or middle-class people enjoy sleeping under a ripped comforter. And, really, it's probably poor form to refer to whoever ends up with our castoff comforter as "poor people."

But the whole thing made me laugh and, later, thing about just how influential language can be. Which ties the whole thing into this column, which is, after all, supposed to be at least vaguely about writing.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go find some more ripped stuff - an old shirt, perhaps, and more than a few pairs of socks - to give away to the poor.


At 6:40 PM, Blogger anahbird said...

Kids say/think things we would never even think of. Sometimes it makes me feel like the older I get the more imagination I lose because kids say some very creative things and have some very interesting associations. I have a friend who started growing a beard and his 4 yr old cousin asked him why he had rust on his face! (red hair looked like rust to the kid...)

At 4:50 PM, Blogger Richard Arooga said...

I think it's disgusting that you think the ripped comforter is suitable for other 'poor' kids, while you feel it is not acceptable for your own son.

You donate it to the 'poor' folk who you expect to then hang a medal on your breast to thank you for your geneorosity and kindness.

Shame on you! It's not about helping the poor, but soothing your own consience.

At 6:23 PM, Blogger Joe said...

No, sir, shame on you! You obviously missed the entire point of the entry, and to use a blog comment to make a personal attack against someone you know nothing about and a story you obviously misunderstood is asinine, to say the least.

I don't think the comforter in suitable or unsuitable for anyone. We no longer needed it, so we donated it. End of story. If someone else can get use out of it, great. If not, c'est la vie. It seemed better than throwing it away.

The entry was about language, the words we use to convey ideas and the way children interpret said words. To read anything more into it than that is just plain silly.

At 10:19 AM, Blogger Richard Arooga said...

So if you no longer needed it, why did you buy a new one?

At 12:51 PM, Blogger Joe said...

We no longer needed it, because we bought a new one. Is that also a crime?

At 2:02 PM, Blogger Richard Arooga said...

Maybe you should have kept the ripped one and given the new one to the 'poor' folk you pity so much!

At 10:09 PM, Blogger Joe said...

Or, perhaps, you should simply bite me.
Seriously, what's your problem? Should I have burned the old comforter rather than donate it to Salvation Army?

At 5:08 PM, Blogger Richard Arooga said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.


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