Whiplash: Maybe They Have an Excuse

The person in front of you is driving way, way, WAY too slowly. That woman in the express lane is taking FOREVER to count out her nickels and sort through her coupons. That idiot getting on the bus is moving like a sloth, that telephone operator screwed up your trans-Atlantic call, that bank clerk gave you the wrong form TWICE, what is the MATTER with people, why can't they get their acts together, why must they make your life more irritating and difficult than it is, don't they know you have important things to DO???????? Well. Maybe that man in the slow-moving car just watched his wife die, her last breaths puffing out the creases in her oxygen tent. Maybe that woman at the checkout counter is recovering from a stroke, or just learned that she is HIV+ or that her daughter committed suicide. Maybe that slug stumbling onto the bus just cleared out his desk after being fired (20 years, no pension). Maybe that person making the reckless lane change is NOT, as you conclude, a drunken menace, but the father of a toddler with leukemia or the brother of a man with Alzheimer's or the uncle of a little girl who yesterday died of SIDS. Maybe that clumsy telephone operator just lost her entire family in an auto accident, endured her fifth miscarriage, or viewed the CT-scan of her inoperable tumor. And that fellow taking so long at the ATM? You may not know, but perhaps he does, what it's like to have schizophrenia and feel the medication wearing off. Again. True, that guy piddling around at the DMV counter may be an inconsiderate bottom feeder, a creep expecting everyone to accommodate HIS petty little priorities. But maybe not. What date would it be if Christ were never born? Who decided we were in modern time and what the proper date is? And what did they write on the birth certificate? "Born 0000; father: God only knows"? --Age of Aquarius For some people this is not 1995 A.D. but 17 A.D.E. (After Death of Elvis); to each groupie his own deity, eh? It IS intriguing that so many humans use the Jesus birthday-based calendar inaugurated by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582; why wasn't there a movement (picketing, boycotts, calendar pyres?) to retain the perfectly-functional Julian calendar, which had served western nations well since 46 B.C.; or an outcry to restore the one that simply counted years since Rome (Christ's birth year was year 755 by that system)? But no, since 1923, when Greece came on board, all major cultures hew to the Gregorian (in China and Korea, both the Gregorian and the lunar calendars are used publicly). Gee, if nations can get together on something so complex as dates and time, why can't they adopt a universal language, universal gun laws, and universal health care? At any rate, you have filled me with self-disgust. Why do I write 1995 on my checks? I'm not a Christian. I'm a toadying hypocrite! I think we should number years from when the universe came into existence (wouldn't those zeroes be hell on postal cancellation stamps?), or when written language emerged, or when Leonardo was born. Or why not date events based on when Halley's comet blasts by? I don't like the idea that I'm capitulating to a long-deceased pontiff. Excuse me while I engage in protracted self-flagellation. Why can't you tickle yourself? --Twitchy Trickster Believe it or not numerous studies have been done on this subject. First of all, people vary in their susceptibility to the tickle response. Experiments suggest that this is related to left/right brain dominance. But the tickle response is also affected by body perception, body acceptance, and "disposition to perceived positively connoted stimuli." What's more, human subjects respond the way they do to a tickle. This "expectation" response is not terribly complex; most of us would scream at the approach of a scythe, too. As for the reasons something tickles "less" if you do it to yourself, they are as follows: predictability of the stimulus (you know exactly what's coming and when), presence of feedback from the limb doing the tickling, corollary discharge from voluntary movement of the tickling arm, and the absence of a social/sexual context. This last item is most intriguing, because tickling is in fact an interaction, and our responses to it vary greatly depending on circumstances. You will react differently if tickled with your eyes closed, tickled by someone holding you at gun point, tickled by your own hand but with someone ELSE moving the hand, tickled with your eyes open and in the company of someone you want to please. You would respond differently, too, if you knew you were part of a study and were going to be asked to write down your reactions. I hate tickling. Always have. Probably something to do with my being a control freak, although experts might say I have "deficient body acceptance mechanisms." But if you DO want to tickle yourself, use something other than your own hand--a spray of water, a strand of hair blown by a fan, or a companionable vibrator. As for me, I'll stick to metaphorical and figurative tickling. Here's something I've wondered about for a long time. It has to do with the transliteration of names of Chinese places and persons. In the fifties, it was Peiping; in the sixties, Peking, and now it's always Beijing. How come? Similarly, we once had Mao Tse Tung. Now he is referred to as Mao Ze Dong! And when and why did "the Ukraine" become just "Ukraine"? --Spelling Spazmo Fortunately I am acquainted with a transliteration hobbyist, and he tells me: To standardize spelling of Chinese in Western languages, the People's Republic of China devised the pinyin system of transliteration, which was officially adopted in 1979. It is gradually replacing the traditional Wade-Giles system (always favored in Taiwan). The change from Mao Tse-Tung (Wade-Giles) to Mao Ze-Dong (pinyin) came with the warming of relations with the PRC. Both spellings are meant to convey the same pronunciation, which is roughly "mah-oh dzuh doong." The spelling of China's capital is more complex. "Beiping" and "Beijing" are the pinyin spellings of two different Chinese names for the city. "Peking," on the other hand, is like "Canton" ("Guangdong" in pinyin); rather than being a current Mandarin pronunciation, it's based on pronunciation an earlier period. As for Ukraine, when it became independent, its government eliminated the peculiar article from the English name (Ukrainian doesn't have articles, so it wasn't an issue for their own name.) Why it was there in the first place is unclear. Normally countries with the definite article in English name some geographical region as well as the country (the Sudan), name a river (the Gambia), or have a common noun in their name (the Czech Republic). Contact Whiplash by Email (74710.3505@compuserve.com), fax (503-297-6620), or slug mail (4119 S.W. 58th Avenue, Portland, OR 97221-2081).

Understand the importance of honest news ?

So do we.

The past year has been the most arduous of our lives. The Covid-19 pandemic continues to be catastrophic not only to our health - mental and physical - but also to the stability of millions of people. For all of us independent news organizations, it’s no exception.

We’ve covered everything thrown at us this past year and will continue to do so with your support. We’ve always understood the importance of calling out corruption, regardless of political affiliation.

We need your support in this difficult time. Every reader contribution, no matter the amount, makes a difference in allowing our newsroom to bring you the stories that matter, at a time when being informed is more important than ever. Invest with us.

Make a one-time contribution to Alternet All Access, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you.

Click to donate by check.

DonateDonate by credit card
Donate by Paypal

Don't Sit on the Sidelines of History. Join Alternet All Access and Go Ad-Free. Support Honest Journalism.