Sunday, January 23, 2005

Always improving the English language 

My kids have been fascinated for the past few months with the concept of Type A and Type B personalities, with A's being the uptight perfectionists and B's being the laid-back easygoing souls. They can talk for hours, analyzing their friends and relatives and trying to pinpoint the types. (Interestingly enough, they are surrounded by Type A's with only a very few B's showing up here and there.)

Of particular interest is the topic of whether or not it's possible to change one's type. Can we A's apply sheer force of will to transform ourselves into B's, or is it paradoxical to worry about not being relaxed enough? This ongoing controversy has spawned a new catchphrase for us: "Be a B." Sometimes we punctuate this with a buzzing sound (get it? "B" = "bee").

So a typical exchange goes something like this:

Should we go to this movie or that movie? Or should we even go to a movie at all? Traffic could be bad. Maybe we should just rent a movie. But which one?

Oh, for pete sake, be a B! Bzzzzzzzzzz!
We were discussing travel the other day, and one of the kids posed an interesting question: Who makes a better traveler, an A or a B? I suggested that travel gives us the opportunity to make the most of both our A and B attributes, as A tendencies are helpful for making plans and B tendencies are useful for adjusting easily when the plans inevitably change.

"For example," I said, "in order to figure out an itinerary and book tickets, it's good to have a lot of A-ness."

Mike and Annabelle burst out laughing. A-ness? Did I really just say that?

I explained further: "But B-ness is a good thing to have when you miss your train or wind up dealing with an unexpected national holiday." By now the kids were howling.

My dad got into the merriment by noting that perhaps it's fortunate that there's no Type P, as we would then have to worry about the P-ness.

It's only been a week, but it seems that my slip of the tongue has been forever enshrined in the family vernacular. "Your A-ness is showing," we warn each other. Or "A little more B-ness and a little less A-ness, please."

English speakers of the world! The people who brought you the verb "to Fred," meaning "to put something away before the user is finished with it," are now happy to offer the terms "A-ness" and "B-ness" for your use and enjoyment. No charge.

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