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A Refreshing Knapp – Why do words have so many meanings?

By Ray Knapp

Last Saturday I made my weekly stop at the Erwin trash dump on my way to Johnson City. When I got out on I-26 there was a pesky gnat that I kept trying to brush away. I even rolled down the window to see if that gnat would be sucked out the window, but it remained off in the corner between the windshield and the door window. I pulled in at Home Depot and I guess it flew out when I opened the door. When I left, there it was again. What a pest! I tried to ignore it, but it stayed there all the way home. This was getting ridiculous. Then I “thought” I had figured it out. It must not be a gnat, just a spot of dirt or something on my glasses. Once home, I cleaned my glasses thoroughly and put them on. There it was again. I quoted a little Shakespeare as I re-cleaned my glasses. “Out damned spot! Out I say…” Putting them back on, it was still there.

“What are you mumbling about,” my wife Frances asked, poking her head around the door.

Like most men, your wife is who you go to when you can’t solve a problem, “Do you see a spot on these glasses? “

“You probably have a floater in your eye,” she said, with little concern. “It will probably go away.”

I had never heard of a floater in your eye. I did recall Steve Hamilton, a pitcher with the Yankees back around 1970 or so, who threw a pitch with a very high arc that became known as his famous Folly Floater. Then I recalled Dad saying voters that illegally voted in more than one district at election, were referred to as a floater. But I had never heard of a floater in your eye.

So, to prove my wife wrong, I went to the trusty Internet. She was right. Floaters are often caused by age, also by looking at black letters on a white background for long periods of time, such as a computer screen. (Which I’m doing now.) Age-related changes are the most common causes of floaters, it read. Aging alters the vitreous, a substance that fills and maintains the eyeball shape. As a person ages, part of the vitreous liquefies, causing it to detach from the inner surface of the eyeball blocking the light that passes through the eye and forming shadows over the retina. Apparently these pieces float around, as sometimes they’re there; sometimes they’re not.

Well, I’m not exactly a Spring Chicken anymore, and I do spend considerable time on a computer, but I’m not mentioning what I read to my wife. I know her, “I told you so,” look she gives me when she’s right and I’m wrong. I’m not giving her that satisfaction. However, I’m going to have an eye doctor check it out, as there are also other reasons for ‘floaters’ that can severely affect vision.

I’ve counted 3 different definitions for that one word already, and I bet there are a dozen more. I’ll have to get Dad’s definition of that word to Donald Trump who is wary of voting fraud in Pennsylvania. He could probably go

to the Supreme Court and have all votes in that state nullified if there’s a bunch of floaters up there.

With all the different definitions for English words, it’s a wonder people from other countries can learn it. But no matter what country I visited during my 20 years in the navy; at least all the shop keepers could speak English and generally 2 or 3 other languages as well. If I ever go over to one of those countries again, I’ll ask their secret.

With tweets, snapchat, face book and texts, learning a foreign language in the near future probably won’t be necessary, as language has really degenerated; like 1432 means I love you too; 182 means I hate you, and 478 means drop dead. Maybe instead of speaking in different languages the world will go to one common language and use numbers and acronyms instead of words. [email protected] (see you around)