Monthly Archives: February 2017

“World’s Best Cup of Coffee” – the case against superlatives

By Jacki Wood, That they might have joy

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Disclaimer: this is not the best column I’ve ever written. But it’s probably also not the worst.

“You did it! Congratulations! ‘World’s Best Cup of Coffee.’ Great job, everybody.”

This line is from the movie, “Elf,” when Buddy is walking down the street and excitedly enters a diner when he sees a neon sign that says “World’s Best Cup of Coffee.”

It makes me laugh every time I watch it. You know, because, how is that even quantifiable?

Whether a cup of coffee is amazing or terrible depends on one’s personal taste preferences, right?!

Best, worst, most. These are all examples of superlatives, an exaggerated or hyperbolical expression of praise.

And with Valentine’s Day approaching, we’ll be hearing a lot of these expressions, which generally makes me want to vomit.

Not that I don’t love the day of love or people sharing their affection for one another. The issue is the “best ever” phrase. “I have the best wife ever” or “I have the best boyfriend ever.”

We’ve been hearing other superlatives a lot recently, especially from Donald Trump’s campaign and into his presidency.

“I will be the greatest jobs president that God ever created.”

“I’m the most militaristic person ever.”

“I get the biggest crowds. I get the biggest standing ovations.”

“I would use the greatest minds. I know the best negotiators.”

But this is nothing new.

In 1900, literary critic and author Arthur Waugh wrote, “we are living in an age where everything is ‘most impressive,’ ‘most heroic,’ and ‘most immortal.’”

“The great arguments against the indiscriminate superlative are its insincerity and vulgarity. No man can use the perpetual superlative sincerely, since he cannot frankly believe that everything he has to describe is for the best in the best of all possible worlds.”

He continued by saying this may seem trivial, however, “whenever the literature of a country lacks dignity, there is something amiss with the national life and character.”

Superlatives can also be harmful in relationships.

It’s like posting on Facebook that I have the best husband ever on Valentine’s Day and then two days later posting how annoying he is because he leaves his dirty laundry all over the bedroom floor.

How can this be? He’s supposed to be the best husband ever.

“They are really hard to live up to,” relationship mentor Jana Kellam said. “And no one wants to be compared and have to try to live up to these superlatives.”

For example, she said, your partner cooks dinner, which was delicious, and you say, “this is the best meal ever!”

“Your partner may have felt great in that moment, but underlying your compliment is the implication that nothing will ever be able to compare favorably.”

“The next time you’re about to compliment something or someone,” Kellam said, “find a way of doing it that is empowering, engaging and motivating instead.

“‘I love this meal. Thank you so much for doing this for me. It’s beautiful and delicious.’”

In our “superlative-saturated world,” Amy Bailey, writer for MyScoop, said our society is not just addicted to but has overdosed on superlatives.

“When everything is super epic and the best ever, there’s no way to differentiate between really cool and just ok… What happened to just being good?

“In the Bible, we read that when the universe was created, God saw the light that it was good. There’s no epic, there’s no amazing, there’s no best ever – it was simply good.”

Now, I’m not advocating for mediocrity but I’m also very much a realist. Life is hard. I do believe, however, that we have the capacity to change, to learn and grow and become something greater than we ever imagined.

Instead of setting unrealistic expectations, though, how about we simply look for the good and say so sincerely.

I might not go to that diner because of the neon sign advertising “World’s Best Cup of Coffee” (I wouldn’t go there for the coffee anyway, since I don’t drink it).

But I might go there for a “Decent Cup of Hot Cocoa,” to hang out with a friend or my husband or my children, and have a conversation that’s honest, sincere and real. And good.

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Home away from home: German student attends MHS to improve language and gain new experiences

picking-jenny-up-at-the-airportBy Jacki Wood for the Nodaway News Leader

Jenny Ahlgrimm describes her hometown of Hamburg, Germany, as “ big, modern and busy.”

With a population of 1.7 million, it’s sure to be a bit different from Maryville, where she is living during the 2016-17 school year as an exchange student.

But calling it a bit different might be an understatement.

“Pretty much everything is different,” she said. “Maryville is small and peaceful. Everything is green. The climate and the sky are so different. The school is completely different and the activities you do after school. In the US, everyone drives everywhere, and in Germany, you walk or take public transit.”

‘it’s America!’
Experiencing all of these differences is one of the reasons Ahlgrimm decided to become an exchange student.

“(I wanted) to see what it is like to start over where you don’t know anybody,” she said, adding she wanted to improve her English and gain more experiences. “And it’s America!”

At home in Germany, she works as a lifeguard and swimming instructor and also babysits. She enjoys running, something she has been able to continue at Maryville High School where she was on the cross country team in the fall and plans to be a member of the track team this spring.

During her time in Missouri, she has enjoyed attending Kansas City Royals and Chiefs games, taking senior pictures, hanging out with new friends, kayaking and spending time with her host family, Paul and Cathy Rybolt and Dalylah and Shayleigh.

She’s also has fallen in love with Reese’s peanut butter cups and Sonic blue raspberry slushes with rainbow Nerds.

‘I am torn’
But Ahlgrimm said she misses things from home. German tap water, German chocolate, her family and friends and swimming.

And she’s faced a few challenges as well.

“The language barrier; I have a hard time coming up with the correct English word sometimes,” she said. “American History is extremely difficult if you are not American. I also had a hard time with the heat and humidity when I got here in July.”

She’s also had some interesting and humorous experiences since she’s arrived.

“Someone really asked me if we have electricity in Germany,” she said. “The answer is yes. Someone else said that being from Hamburg is not that special because it is only one hour away.”

And in case you were wondering… Hamburg, IA, is 60 miles from Maryville and Hamburg, Germany, is 4,567 miles from Maryville.

With all of her experiences – the good, the challenging and the odd – Ahlgrimm has mixed feelings but is grateful.

“I am torn,” she said. “Part of me can’t imagine living here a whole year, but the other part of me can’t imagine having to leave my family here.

“It is a once in a lifetime opportunity.”

‘I was intrigued’
Cathy Rybolt said a friend suggested she look into it becoming a host family.

“I was intrigued,” she said, and after sharing the information with her husband, Paul, they decided to do it.

Paul is a student at Northwest and Cathy is the outreach director/MIS team leader at Community Services in Maryville. Dalylah is in fourth grade and Shayleigh is in third grade at Eugene Field.

“We have enjoyed sharing our love for the outdoors with Jenny,” she said. “Since she has been here we have been camping, boating and kayaking at Mozingo Lake. We also took her hiking at Indian Caves State Park.”

She said it’s been enlightening and educational for their family as well.

“In school you learn about different cultures but living with someone from another culture is very different,” she said. “Teenagers from different countries are most definitely not like American teens.”

Dalylah and Shayleigh are enjoying their time with Jenny and learning new things from her.

“I like having an older sister,” Dalylah said. “She has never had any siblings, so I am glad that I get to be her younger sibling.”

Shayleigh said: “I love my Sissy Jenny because she gave me a birthday present and she makes crafts with me. I like Jenny spending time with me and tickling me. She is teaching me German. We love her accent.”

And everyone loves that she shares her German chocolates with them.

    To learn more about becoming a host family or being an exchange student, visit ciee.org.