Two Months of Wilfing Later

WILFING: It's not illegal or even salacious, not even remotely devious.

I wish I had coined this acronym-turned-word:

This encapsulates much of what I've done the past two months in the little spare time that I've had.

Sometimes I wonder why the English language still has certain synonymous words. Why don't we prune the unnecessary ones? (By the way, I'm pretty sure there's a character out there in some novel that someone told me about a while ago who prunes words as he ages to eliminate the space they consume in his brain.) Why do we have words that mean almost the same thing? Sardonic and sarcastic, OK, fine--we need both. But what about pusillanimous and cowardly? Redundant! Also, probity and integrity? According to (my very favorite vocabulary site), probity means "complete and confirmed integrity," a definition which implies that the word "integrity" connotes neither completeness nor confirmation. Another case of superfluity.

The term "wilfing," however, captures a phenomenon or activity supposedly bound by our technological era, but which those with wandering minds know all too well. Thanks to Macmillan Dictionary, we have the etymology of this unfortunately obsolete yet still necessary word.

I'm pretty sure I stumbled on this wonderful word by wilfing, and even though I found the entry only a few minutes ago, I couldn't tell you how I ended up on it. I couldn't tell you how I find most of the things I find. While the word originated from people loafing around on the Internet, it applies to my off-screen life as well.

So, I now present the possibly amusing highlights of the past two months of wilfing:

Ginger -- This app/web extension (I have the free version) works as a spellchecker, grammar-checker, and sentence-structure-suggestion-maker. It's very easy to use, as you just paste in the text you want to check, and then it offers suggestions. From the app, you can send email, messages, etc. I'm hoping it will be a game-checker for some of my students for whom a regular spell check will not catch their mistakes.

Georgetown's Mascot, Jack the Bulldog -- This canine rides a skateboard. What else is there to say?

Other than this, that is!

Bad Feminist, by Roxane Gay -- She writes about a feminism that is strong, confident, and accepting, not one that insists on a requirement of "nots"--not shaving, not wearing a bra ... because that's not what feminism is about. I've only read the free sample, but what I've read is challenging and insightful.

Invisibilia, The Podcast -- A new podcast from NPR about all things invisible. Per NPRInvisibilia (Latin for all the invisible things) is about the invisible forces that control human behavior - ideas, beliefs, assumptions and emotions. It's conversational enough so that I don't have to work so terribly hard to understand it (because 1. that's annoying, and 2. I'm not good at listening, especially when doing something else, which is usually how I listen to podcasts because there's no way I can ever--barring illness--just sit still and listen) but not so chatty as to seem unedited. There are some podcasts out there in the ether that are on such fascinating topics but cry out so desperately for editing that I can't bear to listen. Seriously, editing out "ums" is not that difficult.

For more, here's a New Yorker article about it.

Massive Headphones (Bose Quiet Comfort 25) -- Ever since massive headphones became a cultural phenomenon, I have judged people who wear them. Seriously, what is so wrong with the ear bud? Well, I was very wrong. This discovery emerged from desperation. Back in November, about to board a Wednesday-Before-Thanksgiving flight filled with rowdy toddlers, I panicked. I walked over the kiosk with overpriced electronics and asked the man which listening device which was the cheapest that would also block out noise. I paid $18 for in-ear buds that blocked out most noise. Bliss ensued. But my ears began to hurt. A little bit of research later, I found these. Here's the thing: I can actually concentrate. I can think clearly in a way that I've never been able to before. You know when you get run-down and then develop a cold, and then you get well, and you realize you've forgotten what it's like to actually be well? These headphones are like being well, only for the first time. I developed an instrumental music playlist on Spotify (how am I just realizing how amazing that is, by the way?) that helps me drown out inanity when I am trying to get work done in a public place. I'm still self-conscious when I pull them out on the bus, but the peace of mind gained is worth a little self-consciousness lost.

Americanah by Chimamanda Adichie Ngozi — Definitely didn’t find this book just by wilfing, but finally got around to picking it up. And couldn’t put it down. It’s the first novel I’ve read in a long while that I was absolutely absorbed in. It feels silly to say that this book is about race and identity, because that diminishes the nuance of both subjects, but at the same time, it is about both race and identity. But not in an overt or obnoxious way, but instead in a brilliant, enlightening way. I’ll leave you with these snippets.