Accidental Activist

Five Words Ben Loves

Ben thanks his readers for their awesome acceptance of his willy-nilly swearing. Well done!

By Ben Bull
Published March 01, 2006

Last issue I wrote about words that I hate. And not just any old hate. I'm talking Shania Twain, Bare Naked Ladies, "New" Country music hate.

I'm talking the kind of intense irritation that exerts involuntary physical reactions such as squirming, writhing and collapsing, whenever these words are spoken (or written - right Ryan?).

Yes indeed, with those ten words, and a few more suggested by RTH readers , I got it bad. But today, to quote another expression I really don't care for - it's all good. I want to write about five words that I really really like, and would like to hear more often.

1. Great, Wicked, Awesome

We'll start with some enthusiasm. I love enthusiastic people. Maybe it's because I'm not one.

My eight year old son, Jack, is hopelessly infectious. To him everything is "awesome!" Even when he lost his two front teeth in the play ground and got beaten up at school, he wasn't down for long.

"They probably didn't mean it," he told me before skipping off to the Principal's office to shake hands with his offenders.

Then we have nutjobs like Jason. RTH's motormouth Downtown Bureau chief is forever bubbling with dreams and schemes to hasten the turnaround of his beloved downtown. I used to find myself wanting to believe him but now I think I do.

Unabashed enthusiasm and positive energy can make things happen. Let's hope, here in Hamilton, that we don't run dry.

2. Willy-Nilly

Of course I'm biased, but I think the Brits have some of the best expressions on the planet. Whenever the dictionary draws a blank the Brits don't sweat it - they just make something up.

Back when I was Nurse Bull, I remember witnessing the birth of a new word. I was clearing up the dinner plates on a ward one day, wondering why there was so much food left over.

My nurse colleague suggested that the patients were getting "Overfaced."

"What does that mean?" I asked.

"The portions are too big," she replied. "It puts them off their food."

I asked her if that was even a word, to which she replied, "It is now."

So it was. I started using it and so did everyone else. Eventually the canteen scaled down the portions because someone told them the patients were getting "overfaced" and they knew what it meant.

Brits cut right through it. They are too often depicted as xenophobic, narrowminded and bigoted; or if you're feeling sympathetic, quaint, quirky and blunt.

But if you boil it down you'll find that Brits are just wonderfully opinionated. I don't know about you, but I'd much rather have a conversation with someone who speaks their mind and damns the consequences, than a mild-mannered Clark Kent Canuck who refuses to say "Boo!" because they don't wish to offend.

The Brits are not renowned for their quirkiness, comedy and creative energy for nothing. It comes from a conversational culture that challenges people to think for themselves and express their opinions.

Unlike Canada, where you risk being chastised for just asking someone "Where are you from?" in England the conversation sparks ideas and brings colour to your day.

Don't agree? "What's this bloody plonker prattling on about?" you're thinking? Well speak your mind! After All, there's nothing I like more than a good chinwag, natter, barney...

3. Well Done

I hate criticism. I hate giving it, and I hate getting it even more. One of those lifestyle guru blokes - I think it might have been that Steven Covey fella - said that everyone should ignore criticism. Or avoid giving criticism. Or both, I'm not sure.

To me, our success in life and contribution to the world depends not on our assessment of other people but on our assessment of ourselves. It's about attitude. Maya Angelou once said, "If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude."

I love positivity [I count five syllables. You're so busted! - Ed.]. Again, like enthusiasm, maybe it's because I don't have any, but I could be worse. I have a friend who thinks the whole world is against him. He got sacked - again - recently for not showing up for work on Fridays.

"They make me work too hard," he moaned. "How am I supposed to work five days a week?"

Attitude is everything. "Attitude not aptitude determines altitude," as the saying goes. Anyway, my point is that telling people 'Well Done' (even if it wasn't) is a great way to spread the love and keep the positive energy flowing. It makes you feel better and everyone around you feel better too.

Holy crap! If we keep this up we'll all have to stand in a circle and start singing the Coca Cola song: "I'd like to teach, the world to sing..."

4. #$%^&*()!!!

Time to take it down a notch - right into the gutter, in fact. Swear words rock. Much as I know it pains my good friend and RTH compatriot Mr. Leach to read this, the reality is that swear words are a fact of life.

Ignoring them doesn't make them go away, and whether you use them or not, you cannot deny that in our society, expletives abound. In my experience, most foul-mouthed people I meet turn out to be the wholesomest, sweetest, nicest people on earth. It's the people with plums in their mouths that you gotta watch out for...

Swearing is real. It might not always be eloquent (although it often is) but to me, it gets the job done. Swear words, when used appropriately (as in most sentences), can be a lot of fun.

My number one frustration with our province is the lack of colour in the people and the dialogue. If it's not "You're welcome," it's a thousand other expressions that people seemed to have gleaned from the Dictionary of words we can use that won't upset too many people.

What's with Ontario? Why is it that people from the Northern reaches are so much fun and everyone in the GTA is so restrained, careful, and downright proper? And what is it that makes these Newfies and Calgarians such a riot?

There's more to this than swearing, of course.

During my first week as a corporate robot, working for the audit firm Ernst & Young in Toronto, I cracked a few off-colour jokes, forwarded some sweets and garbage through internal mail, and generally behaved like any other normal employee. One work colleague told me to "be careful," and another said I was a "real clown."

The limited range of acceptable behaviour in Ontario alarms me. Anything that even approaches the boundary of "normal" behaviour is perceived as unwholesome, inappropriate, or just plain disruptive.

I wish to God my fellow Ontarians would stand on their desks from time to time, and tell me what they really think. You don't have to swear to loosen up, but for #$%^&*()!!! sakes, come on - you know you want to!

5. Thank You

A few years ago in a fit of niceness I bought a box of chocolates for a lady who helped me fix a small IT test problem I was having.

It was during an on-line IT Certification exam and I desperately needed to pass. Unfortunately, half way through the test the screen went blank. The Test Inspector couldn't do very much; she just made a few phone calls and re-scheduled the test.

However, I was so unbelievably nervy and stressed, and she was so wonderfully understanding and calm, just when I needed her to be, that I simply had to go back and say, "Thanks."

So the next day I popped back in and gave her a small box of chocolates, and she almost started to cry. And so did I. Then I vowed that I should avoid saying "Thank you" too often because it just wasn't manly for grown-ups to cry, especially complete strangers.

I don't do "nice" very often (maybe because I'm not) but I know I should really try harder. Despite the everyday frustrations of road rage, 407 customer service and befuddled Hamilton Councillors, I think most people are just doing their best with their lot.

We should all try and say "Thank you" a little more often (so long as they don't respond with "You're Welcome", of course).

So I'll sign off today with a little gratitude: Thank you!

By the time you read this I will be on my way back down the QEW to Toronto, a Hamiltonian no more. I've had a hell of a ride over here and I've learned a great deal.

Probably the only thing that has kept me here this long is the likes of Messrs McGreal, Shaw, and the inimitable Mr. Leach - and Raise The Hammer with its ever expanding readership has given me a reason to do what I love - to write.

Sometimes, when I choose to reflect on just the grittier side of Hamilton, I forget about all the wonderful and inspiring people that have kept me here so long. So, to you I say, "Thank you" and "Good-bye" (for now).

Ben Bull lives in downtown Toronto. He's been working on a book of short stories for about 10 years now and hopes to be finished tomorrow. He also has a movie blog.

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By YO (anonymous) | Posted September 28, 2006 at 16:13:04

umm i know ben personally and the only words he likes are SHHT and FFCK...so back the FFCK off u FFCKN SHHT heads!!!!!!!!!

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