With only a couple of weeks left in 2011 — and good riddance is all I will have to say to this particular year — the media is scurrying around in the annual effort to recognize the superlatives and noteworthy events of the old year passing. Sometimes these choices are a bit premature. Who knows what might happen between Christmas and New Year’s Eve?
But I suppose the various shows and publications have to be a bit pragmatic in their schedules and have to cut a few days off the calendar for the sake of expediency. Sports Illustrated named both a Sportsman and a Sportswoman of the year this time. Coach Mike Krzyzewski of Duke University basketball fame graced the SI cover on behalf of the male gender and it is little wonder we choose to call him "Coach K." I wonder how old he was before he learned to spell his last name. I bet most of his school teachers never did.
Pat Head Summitt of the Tennessee Lady Vols was the female winner -- and nobody has ever deserved an award more. She is simply the best there has ever been at what she does.
Time Magazine chose "Protestors" as their "Person of the Year" and claims the choice represents a global movement and is not intended to glorify the social misfits and malcontents that are camping out all over the nation as part of the "occupy" movement. Just remember that in 1938 Time chose Adolph Hitler for that distinguished honor and in 1979 they chose the Ayatollah Khomeini.
Several country music groups have held award shows as of late, but I didn't hear anybody on any of them that sounded like George Jones, so they are all a little suspect to me. The Screen Actors' Guild announced their nominations this week and the Heisman Trophy was handed out at the Downtown Athletic Club last Saturday night -- to a very deserving and well-spoken young man from Baylor University. I am certain that Marshall Edwards, currently of Blowing Rock, N.C., has found some way to take credit for RG3's success.
Our own newspaper even announced our own Reader's Choice Awards a few weeks ago, and I am as proud of my recognition in those pages as Coach K is of his. But you get the idea. We love to pause and reminisce this time of year while gearing up for what's to come. It's fun and harmless and everybody likes to get in on the fun -- which brings me to the topic of the day.
Did y'all know that we have a word of the year? Well, we do -- and it is brought to us by those wonderful folks at Merriam-Webster. They are the dictionary people, don't you know -- which seems at least as appropriate as a liberal weekly magazine choosing the person of the year.
The Webster folks began the practice of choosing the most significant word in our language in 2003 and the word that year was democracy -- which was the form of government we were trying to help create in Iraq and Afghanistan. The next year's word was blog -- because everybody and his brother -- or sister -- with access to a computer and the Internet became a writer overnight.
2005? Integrity. Really? Don't ask me. I'm just giving you the facts. The next year, 2006, the word was "truthiness." The next year it was "wOOt," which, ironically, was not even included in the dictionary that year. It supposedly means "a spontaneous expression of joy." You've all seen it. Just picture dancing middle-aged women pushing their hands toward the sky screaming "wOOt! wOOt!" and you'll have the general idea.
In 2008 the word was bailout, but it should have been "uh-oh!" In 2009 it was admonish; 2010 gave us austerity and the word of the year for 2011 is -- drum roll please -- pragmatic. It means practical -- as opposed to idealistic, and, if you ask me is one of the most boring of the quarter-million or so words listed in the modern English dictionary.
I've never been one for practical. A pragmatic person plans out his or her life. They lay out their clothes the night before and always carry an umbrella if the weather report calls for rain. They stay home and rest when they feel a cold coming on and put a certain percentage of their income in a passbook savings account each week.
I have always cottoned more to the fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants type person -- that free spirit who lives a life of spontaneity. "Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we may die!"
I realize that those of us who embrace that romanticized lifestyle drive the practical people crazy, and we spend a lot more time on the edge than our counterparts -- but we have a lot more fun, too.
At least that's my take on the word. Peter Sokolowski, who is the editor of the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, claims that pragmatism is "an admiral quality that people value in themselves and wish for in others."
Maybe. Maybe not. Luckily for me my wife is the pragmatic member of our family, and that certainly comes in handy. Every household needs someone like that. But remember, if you always carry an umbrella you will never know the joy of walking in the rain.
Darrell Huckaby will be signing his books at Cowan's Ace Hardware at Honeycreek, Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.