This word got me in so much trouble when I was…twelve, I think?
Background. Girls Scout camp in the wilds of central Indiana in the mid-seventies. Not a hotbed of inclusive intellectualism, let’s say, and I was in a unit led by a counselor who took the job because her friends were doing it, not because she liked camping. Many of us made made the mistake of knowing what we were doing in front of her those two weeks. (Building fires. Avoiding poison ivy. Taking the correct trail to the lake.) We annoyed her with these and other crimes like talking about books we had read.
So when the bookworm kid who annoyed her most (me) used the word “animated” in table conversation at supper, of course her only possible course of action was to mock me loudly and publicly — making a point to bring the whole dining hall of 70+ girls into the conversation — about putting on airs and being a stupid child who was too big for her smart-mouthed britches because everyone knew that animated means cartoons.
I don’t think I cried. I recall being furious, which usually means tears, but I don’t remember bawling. I do remember arguing the point (I’d been describing someone whose gestures were, in fact, animated and expressive) It ended in a tie. KP duty for me, but sympathy from my tent mates and affirmation by another counselor (albeit after the meal, in private, with a not-apology and some useful advice on how to survive the rest of the session.) I took my half a loaf.
ANYway. That’s undoubtedly NOTHING to do with what today’s word is supposed to signify (something about bringing things or people or ideas to life, I’m sure) , but that’s what animate will always bring to my mind: my first remembered experience being belittled for being stupid and wrong when I was neither.
It took me several more decades to learn that some people aren’t worth arguing with…okay, no, I still haven’t learned that. I did start amassing a huge arsenal of sneaky rhetorical weapons after that battle so that I could win future ones. That’s something I guess.
I don’t know where that takes us, but I’m way outta time.
Click here to see the global #AdventWord event/calendar I’m bending to my bloggish purposes: AdventWord
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