TAHOE CITY, Calif. - I've never done a Grasshopper Soup word of the day, but Presidents Week and spring break, or whatever you want to call this colossal convergence of such a spectacular variety of biological specimens vacationing in this deceptively entertaining winter wonderland, is a good week for something frivolous. Winter vacations are complicated enough. The last thing you want to do is read a serious column about, oh, say, class envy. So let's be frivolous. Life is too important to be taken seriously.
We're just here to have fun this week. I am not a big fan of routine. I prefer spontaneity, variety and lots of surprises. So I'll make it the words of the day, and ruin this perfectly good, never to be seen again day with not one, but two words! How exciting is that? Then this convenient excuse to write a column won't be totally unoriginal.
I never did care much about words either, especially obscure words the common man and woman never use. Not caring about words can be a very important, and necessary skill if you want to be a verbose, prolific writer.
Maybe, just maybe, the word factotum will impress you, and, of course, another word from the top of my list of favorite words, jejune. I rarely use my favorite words because hardly anybody in Hirschdale knows what they mean. There are probably more people in Tahoma who know what factotum and jejune mean than there are in Hirschdale.
Webster's 1938 Collegiate Dictionary (I like to be current), says a factotum is a busy body; a person employed to do all kinds of work. Kind of like a gopher, a person who goes for this and that, usually in response to an order from a superior who likes to watch people jump and run when he or she says jump and run, and keep jumping and running so the superior can go do something jejune. But even a superior can be a meddling factotum.
Jejune means something insignificant, without nourishing benefit, like navel lint and politicians. Jejune also means something uninteresting, boring and unable to satisfy, like leftover meat loaf, or going to work instead of hitting the slopes on an epic powder day.
I will admit to being at least a part time jejune factotum, and very proud of it. I'm in good company in a world full of part and full time jejune factotums. But, we are all of some significance no matter whose business we are minding, as long as we do it well.
In high school, vocabulary studies was interesting, but memorizing hundreds of them a semester was jejune to me. I knew the graduation party would erase them from my mind.
Factotum and jejune are like yes and no to me, good all around words for every day use, as I am sure you will agree, no matter what kind of rare biological specimen you are. If you don't like factotum and jejune, feel free to use words everybody around here already knows, like perks, comp, schwag, shifter, gratin, shitake and demi-glaze.
Maybe you know what those words mean, maybe not. Guess. If you get them all right you might do well on an important social studies survey. If you know all those words it might mean you can identify with both the rich and the poor, which would make you more useful. How many biological examples of each social class are familiar with all the other classes? I know, familiarity breeds contempt, that is obvious. But I digress.
Jejune factotums are like the status quo, another good word, or two. The status quo was very jejune to us hippies in the sixties, an intrusive factotum like no other. We rebelled against it. But status quo just means the way things are. Rebelling against that can be like beating your head against the wall. Sometimes it makes more sense to embrace reality.
Once we know we all have a little jejune factotum in us, it is simple to identify with, and get along with all the other organisms. You can't ask for anything better than that!
Bob Sweigert is a Sierra Sun columnist, published poet, former college instructor and ski instructor. He has a B.A. and an M.A.T. from Gonzaga University. He has lived at Lake Tahoe for 30 years.