Why Is The Toast Burnt?

Why are there toasters flying across that computer screen?   If your immediate answer is  “…to prevent screen burn in,”  this marks you as a techie of a certain age.    If you answered,  “…cuz they’re cool,” this marks you as a non-techie of a certain age.  If you answered  “huh?   I’ve never seen toasters flying across my screen,”  this marks you as too young to know much of anything about computer history.

I am reminded again today that words matter.   The words we choose to describe or explain make a difference.   My friend Mandy published a piece yesterday about the word ‘partner’.    There was a time when partner most often referred to a business or law partnership.   While partnership was never the most common form of business ownership  (that would be sole proprietorship) I see little if any evidence that business partnerships have become passe.  But it is true that often these days gay people use the word partner to refer to their spouses.   I myself never cared for this usage.   Many years ago I lived with a guy in the Boston area whom I thought of and referred to as my “boy friend”.   He was rather adamant that we should instead refer to each other as partners.   It turned out to be a moot argument  however since the relationship did not last very long.

Sometimes it seems to me that gay people have already won everything but the term “marriage”.     When Ron was in the hospital to have surgery,  the hospital staff treated me like they would any other family member.   When the operation was done the surgeon came out and told us it had gone well and we were sitting at his bedside when he woke up.   My previous employer, before I retired,  treated us it seemed to me much the same as they did heterosexual employees.    And since we don’t in fact want to be married  (though I strongly support full marriage rights for gay people who want them) it seems to me as though the fight is just down to the word itself.   And then I hear from friends who live in other parts of this country or other parts of the world,  who continue battling to obtain their civil rights and I worry that the battle may never be really over.

PS–if the toast is burnt it was because someone set the slider in the After Dark program all the way to the dark end  🙂

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32 comments on “Why Is The Toast Burnt?

    • Thanks so much, Bob. Hope it’s a great weekend for you as well. And pssst— be sure to drop by tomorrow to wish my friend Henry Plumley a Happy Birthday.

  1. I think there will always be some prejudice by some to others (I live in the south and still see some open prejudice to this day, sigh, but I still long for the day when people are just people to each other, not ‘prejudice of choice’-‘label’ people.

    I must be too old (I am definitely geeky & older) to remember the flying toasters 🙂
    Have a lovely evening my friend.

    • It all tends to get quite mixed up– identity, prejudice, choice, discrimination. These issues can be quite complex and even an experienced social scientist may need voluminous pages to sort these issues out. The flying toasters were around 1990. They seemed a bit deal to me in Boston at that time, when I was a computer novice hoping to learn enough to go get a good job in Seattle 🙂

  2. My Best friend and I also have been business partners. We know each other so well that we finish each other’s sentences or read each other’s minds. We have introduced ourselves as partners for years and have very often gotten mistaken for a gay couple. I was very oblivious to what others had perceived us as until one day in the principal’s office at the HS I accompanied my BF for a meeting.

    You see my BF has MS and there are days that she cannot see straight, walk straight or even talk straight. She asked me to come along to speak on her behalf.

    It was smack in the middle of that meeting that I then realized that this new HS Principle sized us up as a gay couple. I walked away from that meeting with a whole new perspective of many things.

    Yes I have been responsible for burning many a toast and only because I like my toast burnt! One more thing that makes me odd 🙂

    Have a great Weekend!!

    • lol. I enjoyed your story abut being mistaken as a gay couple by your high school principle. I can certainly see how that would expand your perspective. Thanks so much for stopping by an for leaving such a great comment, Katie.

  3. Hi Alan,

    Ahhh yes, the famous flying toaster screen savers of days gone bye. I remember then as a techie who worried about screen saving and as a person who thought they were just cool regardless of why we needed them.

    As far as using the word partner, I think it boils down to what makes a person comfortable. It’s similar to your button blog talking about putting tags on people.

    Partner has so many connotations that it can easily slide in as a placeholder when the word girlfriend or boyfriend seems sophomoric. Or when lover seems just a little too descriptive.

    Roommate seems confusing (are they just friends or friends with benefits?) and sweetie sounds a little too goofy for many.

    Since partner seems so innocuous, I say, why not let people use it if they feel more comfortable?

    Oddly, before my husband of almost 25 years died suddenly of a heart attack some years ago, we often referred to each other as partner rather than spouse or significant other or husband/wife.

    It just seemed to fit somehow and we both felt oddly comfortable with it. Maybe it wasn’t PC because we were a straight couple, but you say potato and I say potaatoo.

    As always, great thought provoking topic. Thanks for sharing.
    ~Karen

    • How interesting that you and your spouse preferred the word I don’t care for at all, Karen. And you’re right of course that in some very real senses the whole discussion of the word “partner” really is a very stylistic “po-TAY-to/po-TAH-to kind of thing. And yet I know in my heart that the words always matter. Hope it’s a great weekend for you.

  4. I see prejudice every day on the internet. I just don’t let it bother me because if I do then I would be putting myself at their level if not lower. I just remind myself of this saying; “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” I do understand what the gay community is going through.

    I remember the flying toasters and the first computer I learned to operate was an Apple before the ios came out.

    • You know, John, I don’t actually see prejudice every day. I definitely try not to hang out with people who voice ugly prejudices, although in my heart I believe that most humans do have some deep-seated prejudices, even if they are skilled in saying things that are politically correct. And I’m afraid I must disagree with the famous aphorism you quoted. In my experience of life, words most certainly can hurt.

  5. I am not a linguist but it does seem to me that English needs a 100 words to express what other languages do in one or ten. Maybe that is both our blessing and our curse, that which allows the Bard to write a “rose by any other name would smell as sweet”. Why do we try to boil everything down to one word when it does take 100 to express what is meant? Why do we pick on one word as if that says it all? We are human and there are so many different aspects to who we are and what we are. Language is only one of them.

    • Tom, for many, many years most writers were paid by the word. Being able to say in 100 words for the newspapers what was conveyed to one in 10 words by telegraph kind of WAS the skill set that any professional writer needed. These days of course the best writers are learning to create short, meaningful pieces that can gain attention and traction from readers with ever decreasing attention spans. I try real hard never to dumb it down on this blog. But I also have a cardinal rule of never posting more than 600 words and trying to make most posts significantly less than this limit.

  6. I am a huge supporter of equal rights and equal treatment and regard for people, without any slight whatsoever for those who love people of the same gender. I wonder, when the aliens land, imagine what they’ll think of how much importance we place of who’s junk is joining with who’s? (And then, how after breeding, the female does not eat the male – usually – despite humans being the most intelligent life form on earth.)

    • Saul, I do think it is worth remembering that we are just one species in an isolated backwater of a very big universe. Then too, an alien invasion might be just the thing to get the all too divided peoples of this planet to get together and pull in harness.

  7. My wife is English and we have a home in London. In the UK the term “partner” has been used to describe a heterosexual couple for some time now. Even today after 11 years of marriage my wife will still introduce me as her “partner”. I have never really like that as the word is also used in reference to those who merely cohabited. This is the woman I choose to live my life with not just some broad I am shacked up with. I want that to be known. If I was gay and had found the one I am sure I would feel the same way.
    For the record my wife does not want to be introduce as my wife or my partner but has instructed me to introduce her in a way the best describe our relationship “she who must be obeyed”.

    • lol. Thanks so much for another story that illustrates how the US and the UK are two very different cultures separated by a common language with two distinct variations. As for the last bit, my kitty has at times instructed that he be introduced that way as well 🙂

  8. My mom’s name was Gay. (Well, it still is.) I never thought anything about her name until I was older and everything was so “gay” or so “lame”. Of course, my mom didn’t really get the worst of it in terms of names. Her sisters are Joy and Merry. As for flying toaster, I will quote Oobla from Jimmy Neutron, “Hello Toast! I greatly admire your ship!”

  9. Seems I a techie of a certain age… sad for me? Or exciting that I’ve lived through so much change… including the other changes you’ve discussed. I find that people who experience more are open to more. If you surround yourself with people who haven’t had much life experience, don’t expect them to understand your differences, or to respect them

  10. I do remember the screen savers of many different varieties. Maybe we are all a lot like your back ground picture of black olives and mushrooms on the pizza. Some like it and think it goes well together and others do not. Partners can be anyone in business or in life, and they normally relate well to each other and achieve success together.

    Do we really need to judge what it means? If it makes someone happy to have a partner, it is fine with me. I have not been so lucky in my life, my choices were not the best so I have gone for a while without, and that is fine. I do not judge anyone who is happy.

    • I remember being blown away when I bought After Dark and had so many cool screen savers that I could change it every day and not duplicate for almost a month 🙂

  11. The flying toasters were new to me, presumably because I loathe Apple Macs? I know this is a very sad thing to admit, but if you are chiefly a word person rather than a visual person, Apple Macs aren’t nearly as flexible as common or garden Microsoft Word on a PC.
    How do I know? Well, I have had to use an Apple Mac twice in my life: once when I was editing the neighbourhood page of Gulf News from Abu Dhabi and the other, worse, time was when I wanted to get a book published and I was living in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania in the 1990s (Oh, I just remembered, you said you didn’t want War and Peace-length comments. Never mind…). The publisher said I had to prepare my own camera-ready-copy (no joke). I worked on the document on my PC at home (for one thing, the index is vastly superior) and then I would take my floppy disc to an un-airconditioned converted garage dowtown, convert it to Apple-ese and work on the page layout. I had to do this several times. Oh, how one suffers for one’s art!

    • Laura, I have never owned only once or twice used any Apply computer products. I remember buying After Dark for my Windows PC around 1990 or 1991. War and peace length comments are MOST welcome by the way. I don’t want to talk divisively about religion or politics. I do want to discuss issues at any length my commentators are willing to type it in. And your story about composing on a PC then laying out on an Apple system, reminds me a bit of when I was editor editor of my high school newspaper in 1982. We typed our stories on a typewriter, turned them in to the printer who typeset them, then we arranged the typeset stories on thick cardboard masters that the newspaper was printed on, using wax to hold them in place. A long way from laying out in Photoshop 🙂

  12. I don’t think it goes down to the word, it gets down to being able to have the same tax benefits of married partners over civilly unionized couples. But I could be wrong. Cheers.

    • Well, Hajra, I have to say that’s a depressing thought. I can’t really argue that you are mistaken. But I can’t bring myself to quite share the cynicism inherent in your first statement either. Hope you’re having a great weekend.

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