A man can learn…

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A man can learn … if he studies words, reads good books and goes to good movies.

We all grew up using the mnemonic device — i before e except after c. We used it to spell receive correctly then we studied all the exceptions — ancient, aweigh, beige, caffeine, counterfeit, financier, foreign, forfeit, heifer, height, inveigle, leisure, neighbor, neither, protein, science, seize, seizure, sleigh, sleight, sufficient, their, weigh and weird.

My personal contributions include Auburn restaurant to remember to put the a before the u, and my favorite — we are weird.

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The word mail, as in deliver the mail, was delivered to America by way of Latin to German to French to English.

According to The Merriam-Webster Book of Word Histories, the word mail was an old Germanic word meaning bag when the French brought it to the 11th century to use as a word for leather sack.

It was spelled male by the French back then, but nowadays, the French spell it malle and use it to mean box or trunk.

Middle English borrowed mail from the French around 1200, spelling it first as male, and eventually as mail.

In the mid 17th century, mail came to be applied specifically to a bag of letters or mail bag, and then to the letters themselves.

* * *

And now some wisdom and insight from the book, “Fly Fishing Through the Midlife Crisis,” by Howell Raines who is coming to Auburn University in April as a speaker for the Neil and Henrietta Davis Lecture Series. Raines was editor of The New York Times.

From a review in 1994 of his book:

The obligatory metaphor — the stream of life — flows through these pages with the force of a strong writer, Howell Raines.

“Hear me, my brothers. You know who you are. Neither the old fathers, nor the sons you love can carry you now.

“I leave you a note pinned to a tree in the heart of the forest. It contains all the advice any man can offer. The black dog (the midlife crisis) is on your trail. Get ready to meet him.”

There is humor, soul and the art of fly fishing in this book.

On that note in the forest is the battle cry of the Dog Soldiers, the Warrior Class of the Cheyenne: “It is a good day.”

How could such a battle cry bring courage to man?

Shift gears for a minute and think of the question in “Moonstruck” when Olympia Dukakis’ character asks Danny Aiello’s character why does a man chase a woman?

“I don’t know,” Aiello’s character says, “maybe because he fears death.”

“The battle cry,” Raines wrote,” is not about dying. It’s about freedom.”

And if a man would understand this, he would lose his fear of the crisis in his life, which is to say a man like that middle-aged character in “Moonstruck” chasing a woman would realize he is chasing his youth.

Then he would come to his senses.

A man can learn if he studies words, reads good books, goes to good movies and goes fly fishing.

Gillis Morgan is an associate professor emeritus of journalism at Auburn University and an award-winning columnist. He can be reached at morgarg7@aol.com

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