Got Milk?

Got Milk?


I heard a new word the other day, gymfie. For those of you who do not know what that is -and I really hope it is a lot of you- a gymfie is a photograph that you take of yourself in the mirror at the gym, or a “selfie” at the gym. You may ask why I am telling you this; well, for some reason, it just really fired me up and not in a good way that would create an urgency to work out. It made me think about how we need to attach a label to each experience that we have, and if one does not exist, we make one up. Is it really important to have a word that describes us taking a picture of ourselves at the gym? For me, the answer is an unequivocal no. However, I do recognize the need for many to add to our dialect by creating some new verbiage; the question I wonder is: why?

I have been mulling this over for the past few days and here are my thoughts on the rapidly expanding vernacular in our culture. It reminds me of the enormity of choices that we face every day in places like grocery stores, coffee shops, and restaurants, to name a few. The same thing is being sold in an ever-growing array of disguises with just the tiniest bit of difference in most cases. When was the last time you bought something that was truly unique? Something that did not come in other colors, forms, sizes, flavors, the list is endless. This has gone beyond giving consumers choices; for me it has brought a varying level of angst and second-guessing to many of my choices. “Did I choose the right thing?” Barry Schwartz wrote a wonderful book on this concept called The Paradox of Choice: Why Less is More.

When I first came to the United States from Ireland some 30+years ago I was overwhelmed with my first visit to the grocery store. I had gone to buy milk, coke (back in the days when I still drank soda…) and a few other items. I stood in the milk section feeling like I was on an episode of “Candid Camera.” There were so many choices of milk; I could not wrap my head around it. Up until then I crossed the street in my Irish hometown to the local grocer and picked up a quart of milk. That was it, one choice: milk, maybe a few different dairies, and 4 at the most, but all carrying the same product, milk, from a cow that was recently sent to a local creamery for pasteurization and packaging. I recognize that this might be close to the other end of the spectrum, however, I want to give you some background to my quandary.

Now, I was in a veritable emporium of moo juice, with so many variables I was rendered choice less. The dairy clerk saw my bewildered gaze and dropped jaw, and he approached me cautiously and asked if he could help me find anything. I now laugh at what came out of my mouth. Standing in front of the vast milk display I asked, “Where can I find milk?” Taking a step back he started to recite a long list of previously unknown types of milk for me. After he stopped talking I looked at him with even more bewildered eyes and in all innocence said, “Do you have milk milk?” To his credit, he did not call security but politely replied, “I don’t think we carry that brand, but I can see if we can order it for you.” I decided to give up on my quest for milk and instead I set my sights on the soda aisle. As most of you who have visited the beverage aisle already know, my dairy disaster was superseded by my cola conundrum. Yes, you get the picture; I couldn’t find “Coke coke” in the midst of all the other choices. I left the grocery store feeling like I would never again be able to make a simple decision without being confronted with so many options.

Getting back to ‘gymfie’, seeing as that is what I started talking to you about originally. There is a method to my diversion here. You see, I am concerned that I am now facing a new dilemma. What do I call something when there are so many different ways of saying the same thing? I am transported back to that time in the milk and soda aisle and feel like whatever I say may be the wrong thing, sound offensive, ignorant, out of touch and certainly not what I had originally intended. I am all for creative, original thoughts, expressing oneself in our own unique manner, but for now I think I will stick with what resonates with me. If I should ever take a picture of myself in a gym, it will be exactly that, a picture of me at the gym. There are so many wonderful words in the English language that have gone the way of Pluto, is this trend a desire to fill quorum?

PS: Just in case you think that I am a complete Neanderthal, the milk I choose now is almond milk, but I still struggle with if I got the right brand, flavor, or consistency.

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