I’m reading the book, A Freewheelin’ Time, about the burgeoning early ’60s Greenwich Village folk scene that gave us Bob Dylan, written by his then-girlfriend, Suze Rotolo. In it, she mentions that an aunt of hers worked as an executive secretary. “Now her title would be executive assistant,” Rotolo writes.
Which made me think: The term secretary is better than assistant.
Follow me here. When I was growing up, I understood a secretary to be someone who had a wide and deep range of talents and training allowing her (always her) to operate any kind of office machine, to compose letters for any occasion and for any relationship, to take shorthand, to interact with a bewildering array of colleagues and co-workers from other departments or even other companies, to type as fast as hail hitting a windshield, to keep ledgers and journals and calendars so that the executive would appear to be in charge of all facets of his (always his) life — when he really wasn’t; she was. She’d learned all these things at what was then referred to as “business school,” which was really secretarial school although, I suppose, the operators of such institutions didn’t want to limit their student body only to women. After all, a lot of men back in the ’50s and ’60s took typing and bookkeeping courses just to make themselves more valuable to their employers.
An assistant, on the other hand, seems to me to be someone who puts the tools away when the repair job is finished or, more germane to this discussion, carries the boss’s coat and briefcase when called upon to do so and hails a taxi when he’s rushing to the airport.
Words have meaning and power, I know. That’s why I’d rather be called a secretary, implying I possess a myriad of professional skills, than an assistant who, y’know, sweeps up after the man in charge makes a mess.
I’m going to riff a little more on our 21st Century obsession with words over the next few days or weeks. That is, we sweat over words when, in reality, we’re losing sight of the larger battles we should be fighting. And…, and…, well, as I say, there’s more to come.
My Big Talk interview with a woman named Peggy wouldn’t have happened were it not for the gracious good help I got from Danielle Sorden and Forrest Gilmore over at the Shalom Center.
Gilmore (L) & Sorden
[Image: Bloomington Rotary]
I had a bit of an adventure, tracking down a homeless person who might submit to an interview. If you’re curious about it all, stay tuned for my Big Mike’s B-town column on Peggy in an upcoming Limestone Post.
Suffice it to say right now that Bloomington wouldn’t be what it is w/o dedicated, kind souls like Danielle and Forrest.
Still Literate After All These Years
Here’s a shocker, from the Pew Research Center:
A New Gong King
There’s a new version of “The Gong Show” and you’ll never guess who this lug is:
Me? I’m still loyal to Chuck Barris.
I finally caught that repulsive NRA video. One thing stands out for me: the repeated use of the word they.
Dana Loesch Warns Us About Them
[Image: 573 Magazine]
In the NRA’s lexicon, they and them are slurs.