Coping: With Senseless Directions

This morning began in a particularly ungraceful way.  As I sat down in the semi-dark corner of the house (rather than walk the 50-feet out to my office, where I hadn’t turned on the heater last night, so it would be frozen in there this morning) I realized that I was sitting on my wireless keyboard.

And the mouse, that rests on the arm of this chair (wood) had departed the vicinity as the full coffee cup spilled hot liquid on the family jewels (so to speak).

By the time the mess was cleaned up, my mood – which had been “Friday is a Happy Day” – had returned to its usual dour self.

Ii set about work, anyway, realizing that some good could still come of the day if I could only spot the really important news.

Suddenly, there it was:  An advisory from the National Weather Service…

…Freeze warning remains in effect until 9 am CST Friday…

* location…along and southeast of a line from Palestine to Cameron.

* Temperatures…lows in the mid 20s.

* Impacts…cold sensitive plants could freeze and die. Outdoor pets will need extra protection from the cold. Cover outdoor faucets to prevent plumbing freezing up.

Precautionary/preparedness actions…

A freeze warning means that the seasons first episode of sub- freezing temperatures are likely to occur. These conditions will kill sensitive plants and residents are advised to protect tender vegetation. Automatic sprinkler systems should also be turned off to avoid creating ice patches on nearby roads…driveways…and sidewalks.

All of this made perfect sense because Zeus the Cat had bitterly complained about spending the night outdoors and was threatening another pet abuse lawsuit.  Well, most of it made sense.  The part my attention came to rest on what the phrase “prevent plumbing freezing up.”

I made a mental note to discuss this with you one of these mornings – senseless directionality used in language – but we went over that ground a long time ago (on the old version of this site) and it seemed premature just yet.

But apparently not. 

The I-Ching In-box – nothing more than Outlook’s ability to send just the right email to me with impeckerble timing produced this in-your-face hint in an ad::


Another senseless direction.

A quick check of a definitive book on phraseology revealed only the definition of freezing up – a period of extreme cold.  But missing was the why that direction.  After all, the mercury or alcohol always goes down, so a freeze down would make make sense than one going up.

What I did find, along the way is that the phrase lock up is often used in the same way:  The engine seemed to freeze up, whereas a different mechanism would simply lock up.

You and I happen to know that the lock up is really jail. so perhaps there’s something legalistic about how stopped up mechanisms work.

Unable to reach any conclusions, I moved on to hunkering.

squat or crouch down low.

1. squat or crouch down low.

2. apply oneself seriously to a task.

In either event, the addition of a directional signal to a useful word displays Repetitive Thinking Diseases (RTD) which runs rampant. 

Another  dangerous phrase is “snuggle up” that is often heard at this time of year.  As in “I’m going to go snuggle up in bed for a while.”

When used as an invitation, however, as in “Let’s go snuggle in bed…” the “up” direction seems no longer necessary.  Couples don’t snuggle up together, so much as merely snuggle.

I can envision a “high hunker” as being a kind of slight crouch, but adding the directional indicator is stupid.  It would be like saying crouch down-down.

I’m going to drop you the hammer down…” comes a voice from a workman on a roof.  Apparently not realizing that dropping is always a function of local gravity.  It’s possible that centrifugal force on the orbiting Space Station could result in a third-body reference where dropping a tool UP would be possible.

Two astronauts on a space walk above the earth might (at the extreme of imagination) encounter the astronaut closer to the Earth saying “I’m gong to DROP the 5/8ths open end wrench UP to you…”

Where Elaine and I occasionally misconnect happens when senseless directionality is applied.  “Turn the heat up” makes sense because that’s which way the thermometer goes when the heat is turned up.

But the real problem is when I “turn down the air conditioning” which to me makes it colder, but to her means “Have the air conditioner do less work, by turning it down” which any non-blond would understand makes the temperature go UP.

If you’ve been around engineers much, you get more than a smattering of word-use lectures; engineering is a kind of precision of thought disease that presents as a strong urge to correct people who were just fine beforehand and didn’t feel a need to be corrected.

They are wrong.

I’d go into dozens of additional examples, but my plumbing, previous frozen up, is now thawed out and needs to be directed somewhere to be flushed down.  No point in wearing my fingers down, any more, is there?

Unless I can figure out the key to highly successful writing which might be a formula that literally spins up reader involvement in a magical way that makes certain kinds of writing hard to put down.

So is the average directional indication of speech on a daily basis meaningful?  Yet another software engineering question for Grady over at the site…

Email of the Week

This is short, but way true.  From reader James d’ iMac:

“back to bed” reminded of of the following quote which goes something

like: “you know that feeling you get when you meet someone you really like? that sort of tingly feeling all over? well, that’s the feeling of common sense leaving the body.

And therein lies the great conundrum:  What exactly did we just work another week for?

Write when you break-even