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Thursday, June 09, 2005

So, what do you do then?

Whenever I meet someone new, usually their 2nd, 3rd or 4th question is, 'So what do you do?'.

I live in dread of that question because there are so many ways to answer it, but none which ever quite fit into the smalltalk nature in which it was asked.

I could answer, variously:
  • Nothing, I'm mad

  • Lots of things, I'm just not paid for any of them

  • I'm studying

  • I do mental health stuff

  • I hate people who define others by what they do

  • My main achievement is still being alive at the end of each day

  • I cry a lot, have panic attacks, and hear and see allsorts that noone else does

  • I leech my money from your hard-earned taxes

They're all true, but I rarely want to go into any of them really. And rarely do. Other than 'I do mental health stuff', which I say quite frequently while avoiding the real meaning of do, the others depend on my moods and that day's bitterness level towards a scary and presumptious world.

In any case, DH Kelly explores this exact issue on Ouch this week.


Every week I receive a newsletter in my Inbox from World Wide Words, a fantastic resource full of great information for linguaphones (a word? or just a company selling foreign language courses for £loads?) like me. From last weeks, I loved,
Weird Words: Valetudinarian

A person who is unduly anxious about their health.

The everyday word for a person of this sort is "hypochondriac", but
this polysyllabic and literary term is a good alternative at times
when it is desirable not to seem too unkind. In November 2004, the
word appeared in an obituary of the football writer Arthur Hopcraft
in the Independent: "Fastidious, set in his ways and prematurely
balding, Hopcraft had an air of the valetudinarian bachelor about
him from a relatively early age."

The word appears in the language in 1703, in the third volume of
William Dampier's A New Voyage Round the World. Dampier was an
extraordinary explorer, map-maker and buccaneer; a couple of years
after he published this volume he commanded a privateering voyage
during which Alexander Selkirk, the model for Robinson Crusoe, was
marooned. He wrote: "Many of our English Valetudinarians have gone
from the I. Caimanes, live wholly upon Turtle
that abound there". (He's referring to the Cayman Islands, these
days famous more as a refuge for the money of the reclusive rich
than for sick people.) A writer in the Gentleman's Magazine in 1787
remarked that: "Every one knows how hard a task it is to cure a

The word is from Latin "valetudinarius", in ill health.
And I can't say I'm not wondering whether I'm a valetudinarian would be a good answer to the question I opened with... it wouldn't be accurate, but it would at least be something to say!


Waste Online is a fantastic resource. If you want to know how to dispose of pretty much anything in as environmental a way of possible, they have ideas for how to re-use, recycle, donate it. So if you're wondering what to do with old video tapes, or cooking oil, or old hearing aids, freezers or even fire extinguishers, you'll find great ideas there.


I am very, very, very happy to hear that Fathers for Justice have disbanded. I was informed of this by the rather excellent Truth About Rape women, and the F4J statement on the issues has caused me much cackling. Ha.


Ellie said...

Hi there! I'm glad to read a post from you again. You are on my blogring...