This little story was one I wrote with a very different intent a few weeks ago. I made some changes about a week ago, and hadn’t intended to post it yet, but, I had run out of ideas on what to write for today, and decided to use it.
Today is College in Colorado Day, which is meant to show the importance of higher education for Colorado’s youth. Now, this is a worthy goal in and of itself, but, more importantly, it means I got to wear a college-related t-shirt to work today (instead of something more ‘professional’) AND free Qdoba chips and queso and free Cold Stone ice cream cones to people wearing college gear, at locations all across the Front Range.
Mrs. Anne Reynolds, housewife, had been called to Norman Vincent Peale Middle School to talk with the principal regarding her son Johnny. Johnny had never had problems at school, but the office had not been forthcoming, and she worried that perhaps that rowdy math club had gotten themselves into trouble.
She waited outside the office, sitting on the bench reserved for all manner of reprobates, hope that she didn’t look guilty, or reveal how nervous she felt. What would people think to see her sitting there? The anxiety of getting called to “the office” did not change with the passage of time, and she felt singularly conspicuous.
Finally, the door cracked, and the principal welcomed her inside.
“Mrs. Reynolds, Johnny is egregious, and that is the reason for this meeting.”
“What?” Her voice shook. “My Johnny? i don’t believe you. He’s never been a bit of trouble. Who told you this? Whoever it is, is lying.”
The principal looked confused. “I think you misunderstood. “He’s exceptional. That’s all. It’s a good thing.”
It was Mrs. Reynold’s turn to look confused. “But, you said he is egregious. I must take offense at that. He is a good boy, and not ‘egregious’ in any way.”
“My dear woman, egregious means just that. He’s not simply good; he’s exceptional. We wish to promote him two full grade levels, and possible accelerate his coursework even as he enjoys a new baseline level of learning rigor.”
“But, egregious, that not ‘exceptional,’ it’s bad. It always precedes the word ‘errors’ or ‘mistakes.’ ”
The principal tried to make it clear that this was a common misunderstanding, until finally he pulled his large, ancient looking unabridged dictionary off the shelf and showed her the entry. She scowled.
“When was that book published?’
“Madam. That has absolutely no bearing on the matter. It is a dictionary. They do not have an expiration date.”
Mrs. Reynolds reached into her bag, and pulled out a dictionary of her own. She flipped to the entry for egregious, and pointed. “It says here that that meaning is archaic.”
The principal squinted, and scowled.
Mrs. Reynolds, now feeling quite at ease, looked at the principal and asked, “Now, what were you wanting to me about my brilliant son?”
I won’t go into the original version of this story, except to say, that I was pretty much the principal. Language, as I should be intimately aware, is a living creature, and it changes. So, go out and enjoy the power of education, and some free junk food! Happy Friday!
egregious / eh – GREE – jus / 1. distinguished, exceptional. (archaic) 2 : conspicuous; especially : conspicuously bad or flagrant