ACTUAL LETTER TO DEAR JON:
Since Easter has just gone by, I was wondering how you get bunnies, eggs, chocolate and ducks from Jesus dying and rising again? It doesn't make much sense.
It is no less sensible than elves, egg nog, ginger snaps and reindeer to celebrate the birth of Jesus to a virgin. The difference is that I prefer chocolate to ginger snaps, so I am really fine with how we do Easter.
Eggs and rabbits point to the promise and fertility of life with the return of spring. As an analogy to the resurrection of Jesus it is inexact; it is much closer to the Greek myth of Persephone. When she spends several months of each year as Pluto's consort, the world is shrouded in winter. When she emerges from Hades, spring returns.
The egg as the sign of life's promise can be a reminder of the promise of new life forever with Jesus. This is not the best analogy; other metaphors can be found that are much more constructive. For example, the Bible likes to talk about trees. Genesis 1-3, Psalm 1, Matthew 13:31-32, I Corinthians 15, Revelation 22. But if our Easter customs mean I can eat a hard-boiled egg for breakfast and the ears of a chocolate rabbit after lunch, all while looking forward to eternal life in heaven, I'm fine.
ACTUAL LETTER TO DEAR JON:
During a dinner party, an argument was started about the origin and spelling of a word: "ditty bag." Then some young girl somehow discovered the "correct" answer by messaging or googling or something-or-othering her cell phone. How rude is that?
Easter Dinner Guest
Your letter reflects a Middle Brow sensitivity, a subject which I have treated in my column and which will be the theme of my second book, "Thus Spake Dear Jon."
If you were high brow, a child would not have been at the table with you. The little dears are the unfortunate necessity of continuing the species, but they ARE rather a nuisance. Best to have them eat in the basement rumpus room with the undocumented Polish au paar.
If you were low brow, the girl would have been eating in front of the t.v. but with ear-pieces plugged into rap music, and it is doubtful that an argument over the term "ditty bag" would have been resolved with anything less than a drawn knife or the calling of 9-1-1.
Being middle brow you presume that children can eat at the same table as grown-ups--provided there is room for the chairs--AND, that not only they but the grown-ups will behave themselves with respect and grace.
That means conversing on matters of relevance and taste. Here there is a great divide in the ranks of the middle brow. Some insist that it is impolite to discuss matters of politics or religion, because of the tendency for emotions to escalate. I have a problem with this theory.
When politics and religion are taken off the list of topics, then what remains are trivial matters such as sports, movies and t.v. and literature, visual art and music, and the medical complaints of an aunt with bunyons, intestinal surgeries, and so forth. The problems with these topics are: with sports, emotions run just as high; not everyone likes the same genres of fiction medium or has seen or read the same things; discussion of art and music is a risk among middle brow persons for having their low-brow tastes exposed to the other guests; finally, the medical stuff is embarrassing and spoils the appetite.
The other side of the middle brow debate says that we might as well talk about politics and religion, because this is where people really do become engaged at their points of conviction. If emotions will run high during a sports-themed discussion, why not have them run high on things that matter? Personally, I would rather be the sole middle-ground libertarian at a table full of socialists and neo-cons, then be sitting in the middle of a one-upmanship on the topic of aches and pains, especially of these varieties: gastro-intestinal, bladder, feet and veins, ears and nose.
Arthritis, certain eye-problems and most athletic injuries are okay to discuss at dinner. Dental topics might be all right if limited to things like a chipped tooth, fillings, crowns and braces. Anytime one wants to talk about "abcesses," "infection" and "pus" anywhere on the body, one should stop immediately, consider the appetites of those at the table, and redirect to a benign topic, such as:
"Has Tiger Woods lost his game?"
What happens when most everything is off the table because everyone is too sensitive about starting arguments or hurting feelings or spoiling appetites? Tensions boil over on the topic of "ditty bag." Who came up with that anyway, one asks. But as differing opinions come to the surface, emotions run high, because there has been no substantive outlet.
I would say that "ditty bag" is a fairly rude subject on the spectrum of middle brow dinner party conversation. It is rude because it is so utterly trivial that for an argument to start about it is quite rude indeed. Once the rules of a dinner party have been established: that an argument over the term "ditty bag" is fair game, then using a cell phone's connection to the world wide web to settle the argument can hardly be considered a breech of etiquette. That girl had the middle brow proclivity of "trying to help."
Interesting choice to put quotation marks around the word "correct." Apparently in your opinion if Samuel Johnson knoweth not the term "ditty bag" no other source can be trusted. I have a hunch that what really offended you is that the googled answer proved you wrong, so that the young person became the authority whil you were taken down a notch. Don't worry, "ditty bag" does not appear in "Dear Jon's Encyclopedia of Everything You Need to Know and Nothing Else" which has been offline for a few years since a server crash but will hopefully be back on the P.O. some day.
I haven't posted on "ditty bag" because I don't know where it comes from and I don't care and that means that no one else needs to know either. But here is the point, no one needed to have argued about it. Next time ask the question as to whether Obama's election was actually a mandate for a proto-socialist ueber-liberalism as he seems to think. That young person won't be googling any answers on the phone.