There were two very active strands of conversation on the ASHA twitter feed today. The first was about unswerving love and praise for the convention’s keynote speaker, Maya Angelou, who is described as a poet, novelist, playwright, activist, feminist et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. It’s a wonder she actually has time to do a keynote or write six (yes, six) autobiographies. I suppose the seventh autobiography will concentrate on her time writing the previous six. Her own website modestly describes herself as a “global renaissance woman;” nothing like a little modesty, eh?
Still, lots of people seem to like her and by all accounts, she was inspirational and comforting to the attendees at her morning session. The top tweets included such one-liners as ” “A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song” and “Be a rainbow in somebody else’s cloud.” People love these little snippets of home-spun, folksy wisdom, and the fact they can be used as sound bites or tweets makes them all the more popular .
However, I’m betting that Maya didn’t get caught up in the second great tweet discussion of the morning – the length of the lines for the bathrooms. You see, the builders of the Georgia World Conference Center, in a spirit of equality, made the same number of bathrooms for women as they did for men. Unfortunately, this has consequences when you have a convention of several thousand people, 90% of whom are of one gender. So while the dudes were able to walk into a bathroom, take care of business, and exit within three minutes, the average dudette was looking at a 10-minute wait.
In an effort to promote goodwill between the sexes, after using the facilities, I came outside and encouraged my colleagues to use the men’s room simply by going inside and turning right to get to the stalls. Turning left might have caused a little embarrassment but hardly enough to leave a poor chap scarred for life. And unsurprisingly, folks began to drop out of the line for the ladies and popped into the gents. Problem solved. Well, except perhaps for the guys who were still inside and who I hadn’t told I was going to invite everyone in!
The line for the toilets was matched by the line for the Starbucks. At one point, the store by close to the entrance to the center had a double line snaking up and down like Monday morning at the methadone clinic. It was actually faster to leave the building, go across the road to the CNN Center, and use the Starbucks there, where the line was nowhere near as long.
So where, you ask, did the Dudes spend the evening? Well, we started in the bar of the Omni Hotel and ended up at the Legal Sea Foods restaurant with a group of drunken SLPs. I suppose “drunk” is a relative term, but I suspect none of them would have been in a fit state to work with a client or ride a bicycle. I did learn a new word though; a whale tail. This is where a woman has low-waisted jeans that let the top of her thong show above the back of the pants – it looks like a whale’s tail.
Slang, as we know, is a vital and vibrant part of our language, although it can be fleeting and ephemeral, often disappearing after a few years . The Urban Dictionary first mentions the whale tail in 2003, and by 2005 it was on the radar of the American Dialect Society as one of its “most creative words of the year.”
For folks who are interested enough in words to visit a library or subscribe to a publication, the American Dialect Society (ADS) publishes a journal called American Speech, which has been in existence since 1925. It was founded by H.L. Mencken and Professor Louise Pound. The ADS is also responsible for the annual Words of the Year list that is revealed at the society’s annual conference in January .
We left the restaurant before midnight and while one of the Dudes headed off to spend a couple of hours at another bar with three of our colleagues, the other went to bed. I must be getting old.
 No, I’m not a big fan and though I can appreciate her popularity, I’ve tried to read her poetry and books but found them put-downable. Sorry.
 And slang, as a word, is one of those that has a mysterious, unknown etymology. It first appeared in print in the mid-18th century but prior to that appears to have no mentions. There has been speculation in the past that it relates to the Norwegian slengja, meaning to throw (in the sense of throwing out words), and thus back to Old Norse slongav, also meaning throw, but there’s no definite correlation and many etymologists stick with the unsatisfying “unknown origin” rather than dash off on a linguistic flights of fancy.
 For the curious, here’s a list of the past winners: occupy (2011); app (2010); tweet (2009); bailout (2008); subprime (2007); plutoed (2006); truthiness (2005); red, purple, blue state (2004); metrosexual (2003); weapons of mass destruction (2002); 9-11 (2001); and chad (2000).