I appreciate good English and careful usage. I grow an urge-to-kill with a decided inclination toward a painful ending when I hear strained and overreaching justifications. These often come from the heart. I accept that. But if someone argues a point they ought to know the difference between racism and bias before assaulting others with accusations. If we want good public discourse and decisions we need respect definition and convention. Fussing with wording is a bore for many, but if the issue is a public one (laws and ordinances) fuzzy religious justifications or injections of “belief” represent errors to be steadfastly challenged.

It is not easy to parse these things out. I am quite often stymied at tangles of issues. I’ve frankly no firm grasp just how a new Y M Christian A in Grand Marais escapes separation of church and state concerns when built on public land with collected taxes and supported in part through local government. This has nothing to do with the wonderfulness of a fine pool and gym attached to School District buildings. Cooperation between government entities is a good thing, but to what extent does this lead to complications? A public school joined to a Christian titled facility (the door swings freely between them) is a link more direct and potentially troubling than Bethlehem Lutheran across the street. Has the need for stretch-the-bounds cooperation increased because we have pulled back support for public education so it can exist without potentially problematic entanglements? This is possibly so, though I also see public schools overfunded in terms of readiness to build facilities (very good for a Superintendent resume) while paring down staff and limiting curriculum. Complicated issues need use of precise language to at least help us pin down the issues to clear and agreed upon essentials. This doesn’t always happen, but we must try.

Before departing the YMCA topic I’ll tell of a recently heard claim that if (of course virtually unknown in a public facility) there were to be any shortfall meeting costs the parent Y in Duluth will make up any difference. This is a generosity on your part I am told will never come to pass, so there is no need to thank anyone in Duluth for doing what they will not have to do. But the real reason I brought this up is as an example of how a simple thing can run deeper than surface impressions. More than Highway 61 joins Grand Marais Y to Duluth. In any case, a Duluth Y member can use the one here at no additional cost, so feel free to visit and enjoy. We are only two hours away along a scenic drive with the state’s only tunnels.

The above paragraphs on language defining terms/issues is about all I can handle at the moment so I’m switching to another side of language, the colloquial, meaning ordinary speech and use. Sam Clemens broke the stuffy mold of propriety when he had Huck Finn speak as an unschooled boy. Grammarians hated it. The book was rejected as unsuitable by many library boards, but readers knew that in Huck they’d found one of their own. While there is a place for proper and formal language there is as much a place for the lively and down-to-earth side of the language as most people use and misuse it. I became (or at least my ear did) familiar with colloquial while we lived in Chicago, at the time rich in ethnic areas where Italian, Polish, German, or Hebrew were heard with Latin filling in on Sunday. My parents used Polish to talk about things I wasn’t supposed to know about, but there was no missing the overall message of scandalous sexual misconduct attached by salacious tone to the name of someone mother always said “dresses like a career woman.” At one time that designation by stay-at-home wives was damning. That’s changed along with excess rigidity, though we might argue too little standard is bad as too much.

In Chicago visiting relatives I’d lurk near the kitchen (that’s where the food was) and along with aromas took in the wonderful mix of English-Polish as only the women of the family did it. There IS a Chicago accent, and yet another (a variant I suppose) was found in my aunts making Kolachky while uncles sat facing the TV where whatever the Sox did was cause for bursts of profanity highly interesting to a boy curious about things that were only revealed in this oblique manner. In Hoyt Lakes the accents changed. One friend’s mother was of Anglo Saxon origin gone Methodist but keeping a style of talk that fired off the page at me as I read a woman in Huck Finn telling of Jim’s Nebuchadnezzar antics. With her added bit of Wisconsin Midwest she had it spot on. Another friend across the street was from a family of North Western Minnesota Puritans who also went by Norwegian. Their house was always damp and smelled of laundry with bleach. (Household mold didn’t seem to exist those days; don’t know why.) I was a frequent visitor and though not at all a grubby kid felt I should always scoot home to wash my feet and put on clean socks and underclothes before going over there. My friend’s mother was never unfriendly, but inside her house (where shoes were removed pronto) I felt like a fly in a cup of milk, though at age 13 that feeling accompanied me virtually everywhere. I’d stand waiting in stocking feet for my friend to come from his room. Those were terrible moments of hoping I wasn’t dirtying the floor. Often as not he’d appear in underwear with hair nap-rumpled. I learned to anticipate his mother’s suck of disapproving breath to say “Shame on all over you,” which leaves no gap, doesn’t it? He ignored censure while I with a smile drew in every syllable of sound.