Monday, February 4, 2013

the big game

It probably comes as no surprise: I am not a huge football fan. Despite my best efforts over the past 30 years or so I really don't understand all the arcane rules. Well, not really my best effort, more like a half-hearted attempt to make the men in my life happy, because honestly I have a hard time caring.

As more and more findings come to light about the damage the game does to players' brains, my feelings have cooled even more. Now it is akin to watching a time-delay blood sport. Witnessing grown men subject themselves to a high probability of catastrophic injury or degenerative brain damage for my viewing pleasure is not my idea of entertainment. Was it just me, or did all those ads by the NFL suggest that the organization is feeling a bit on the defensive?

I caught a few of the commercials, when I wasn't in the other room watching Downton Abbey, and of course there was one that stood out from the rest.

Our entire room was silent while watching this, and I suspect that the commercial had the same effect in the majority of viewing rooms across the nation. The scratchy recording and simple yet beautiful still-frame shots were arresting. The speech by Paul Harvey was recorded at the 1978 FFA National Convention, and the commercial is being promoted in conjunction with the FFA's campaign against local hunger.

There was one phrase that I couldn't quite catch—then I realized the text was printed right below the frame on youtube.
God said, "I need somebody strong enough to clear trees and heave bales, yet gentle enough to yean lambs and wean pigs and tend the pink-comb pullets, who will stop his mower for an hour to splint the leg of a meadowlark."
Yean lambs? All these years with sheep, and that's a new one! Of Middle English derivation, Merriam Webster says it means "to bring forth young [from] sheep or goats." Is it a word that has fallen out of disuse in the last 35 years? Or is its use restricted to certain areas of the US? Or did Paul Harvey find it in a thesaurus and think it made a nice contrast to "wean" (which it does)?

A little less than two months until we start yeaning here (we hope). Paul Harvey's words will probably still be on my mind then, as they were this morning while I did chores. At the very least I will have to drop "yean" into conversation once or twice.


  1. I, too, shall casually drop the word. 'yean'--and pretend I've always used it.