This blog represents most of the newspaper columns (appearing in various Colorado Community Newspapers and Yourhub.com) written by me, James LaRue, during the time in which I was the director of the Douglas County Libraries in Douglas County, Colorado. (Some columns are missing, due to my own filing errors.) This blog covers the time period from April 11, 1990 to January 12, 2012.

Unless I say so, the views expressed here are mine and mine alone. They may be quoted elsewhere, so long as you give attribution. The dates are (at least according my records) the dates of publication in one of the above print newspapers.

The blog archive (web view) is in chronological order. The display of entries, below, seems to be in reverse order, new to old.

All of the mistakes are of course my own responsibility.

Wednesday, February 27, 1991

February 27, 1991 - sniglets and Maddyisms

Almost a year ago, my daughter Maddy wandered up to ask me what I was doing. "Typing on the computer," I told her. Being two-and-a-half at the time, naturally she wanted to give it a try.

To my surprise, she very purposefully typed four letters, calling out the names of each one: G-U-R-B.

Now I try not to brag, but you name me just one other two-and-a-half year old who can type "gurb." Most kids can't even spell it.

I bring this up because it's a swell introduction to several Significant Points. Here's one of them: in the automation age typing is close to a survival skill. You can even call it a "key" ability.

The other, related Significant Point has to do with learning how to write. Small children can learn to recognize letters long before they can master the fine motor skills necessary to print them.

So why do our schools torture kids' little hands and minds into doing what they aren't quite ready to do, while at the same time trying to teach them to read? Why focus on what's difficult, associating physical cramping with the written word?

Instead, wouldn't it make more sense to encourage young children to identify and tap the letters on computer keys, and thereby move more swiftly into the joys of reading and writing? Teach them to type -- THEN teach them to print.

But the more I think about this, the more I think the most Significant Point of all doesn't really have much to do with typing. It has to do with the unalloyed delight I felt when Maddy typed a word that didn't exist until that moment -- when I witnessed yet again the astonishing capacity of the human mind at almost any age to generate language.

Here's another couple of Maddy-isms. We were driving through a snowstorm, and she observed, "You call them 'snowflakes,' but I call them 'starflakes.'" Just last weekend, she got to fooling around with a box of plastic disks someone gave her for Christmas. She poked about six yellow ones into one white one, then proudly introduced it as "a rose of sunshine."

A friend of mine back in Illinois came up with another brand new word that -- now that I've heard it -- I can't imagine doing without. You know how you sometimes start walking into somebody, then both of you step aside in the same direction, then step aside in the same direction again, then again? According to a friend of mine back East, that's "roscillating."

Here's the perfect description for those ultra-modern apartment buildings that -- the instant they're finished -- suddenly look miserable and cheap: "high-tack."

A woman who works for the City of Greeley museums told me one day how much she hates "administrivia" -- a brilliant contribution to the lexicon of American speech.

There's something funny and glorious and quietly awe-inspiring about the innate ability of human beings to come up with stuff like this.

Sometimes I think real learning takes place not when you crank out the right answers to the usual questions, but when you discover the sheer pleasure of the unexpected -- but fitting -- phrase.

But that's enough Significance for one day. Tonight I'm just typing and toodling, watching the starflakes roscillate in the evening sky, admiring a rose of sunshine prickling on the stairs, and all-in-all, feeling, well, gurby.

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