Friday, June 15, 2012


I was just going to write a post about a certain hubbub that has surfaced in my consciousness and I looked up the etymology of this word. Everyone does that, right?

So, for some reason it was stuck in my moldy cheese that hubbub was either a Yiddish word or was of Turkish derivation. Not so. I'm also not sure where that notion came from or why I was so sure of it.

Whobub. Say it with me now. Whobub. I've got the quiet shaking giggles going on now. That is even more fun than hubbub. Apparently it's believed to be Irish in origin, dating back to at least the 1500s. Whobub.

"What is all this whobub? Ye aught to be diggin' yer potatoes!"

Forgive me. That was ethnocentric of me. But funny. I could have made worse jokes. I won't. Those kinds of jokes are dreadful. Ethnic stereotyping is a terrible thing.

You know what's not terrible? Whobub. Or hubbub.

Sometimes hubbub seems terrible. It is a wonderful, onomatopoetic word for a mind-splitting thing. There has been a bit of a hubbub that has foamed into my consciousness of late. It's not my personal hubbub (I have plenty of that, but it's manageable.) It's a general jostling and jockeying about. It's a rattling and ranting on. It's a golden age we live in. Any old knucklehead with a computer or a data plan can say whatever they like to whomever they like. They don't even need a firm grip on such pesky things as grammar rules or spelling or syntax. Just a half-formed opinion and some mad skills with their opposable thumbs.

"What's all that whobub?!"
"Aye, the monkeys have got hold of the internet again."

Sorry. I said I would stop doing that.

Here's why I love the knuckleheads, though. We have this thing called the First Amendment here in the New World. It enables all of us to worship how we choose, speak how we choose, petition the government, assemble peacefully, and so on. In short, it allows for hubbub. And whobub. It allows for me to be a knucklehead and write this ridiculous blog. It allows for people to comment and say appalling or wonderful  things to people. It allows for pornography, for Bibles, for Ku Klux Klan meetings, tent revivals, worship assemblies of every stripe. It allows for Gay Pride Parades and Occupy Wall Street. It allows for Pro-Life protesters outside of Planned Parenthood and the One Million Moms. It allows for the people who stand on street corners and ask you to sign petitions for everything from legalizing marijuana to saving puppies. It allows for cryptic "Oh woe is me, dark is the night!" status updates on Facebook, it allows for photoshopped pictures of kittens to be circulated ad nauseum. It allows for you and it allows for me. We are, all of us, knuckleheads.

This Hubbub Amendment is annoying, isn't it? It means that anybody can say anything. People say some really offensive things. With social media and 24-hour news cycles and the great Habitrail of the internet we can all talk a lot. It gets so noisy sometimes. There's a riot of information and mis-information right in our living rooms every day. You can choose the flavor of the pick-up fight (gay marriage, mommy wars, animal rights, legalization, reproductive rights, did you know that Tom Cruise's pet cause is keeping widescreen formatting on films when they are released on DVD?) you want to get into and throw yourself into the fray. If that's your thing, by all means, don't let me stop you. It is your right to shout long and loud about whatever you believe in. Or to quietly snark around leaving comments. Or to print your own fliers and hand them out to passersby. It is my right to completely ignore you. It is my right to not like you, even. What is not my right is to decide that because I don't like you or what you have to say, you don't get any rights.

I was in traffic behind a car with a custom license plate holder that said "Honk if your horny!" I did not honk. Blatant, sophomoric displays of sexuality and misspellings do nothing for me. Chances are, the owner of that car would bug the ever-loving crap out of me if we sat down for coffee. But I love him. I love him because he's a human. He's a person who expresses himself in the way he sees fit. He's a fellow traveler in this life and I wish him well. May he have all the horny honkers he seeks. But please, oh please, don't let it be me.

If there was a proposition up for a vote banning tacky license plate holders, I would vote that sucker down. Does that mean I would run out and put one on my car? Absolutely not. Does it mean that I approve of every last thing that people decide to declare with the butt ends of their cars? No way. "We're spending our grandchildrens' inheritance" is especially offensive to me. What it also means, though, is that I might have to inadvertently read dreadful cliches while I'm sitting at a red light. It also means that I don't decide that everyone who gets a custom license plate holder is an idiot and worthless as a person and has no right to have one because clearly if we let this kind of nonsense carry on, what will it lead to?

Hubbub. All these voices. All these words, images, ideas, beliefs. Often contradicting, diametrically opposed. Frequently ill-informed, ill-reasoned, illogical. Gut reactions made gospel. A lot of times, if you stop and listen to the hubbub, one voice at a time, it doesn't even make sense. In the theater, if you are part of a background crowd that needs to make some noise, you do a little trick by repeating "watermelon, watermelon, watermelon" or "rhubarb, rhubarb, rhubarb" over and over. The voices overlap and it sounds like conversation. I took an American Studies class in high school and we would frequently get into intense debates over Alexis de Tocqueville and Dave Barry and the like. My Canadian friend would wait until the conversation hit a fever pitch and nod his head sagely and interject "penis!" into the hubbub. This was always hilarious. What was even more hilarious is that sometimes, people would be so caught up in the hubbub, they would agree with him. That's how you know when the argument has lost any productivity whatsoever. When we are so wrapped up in what we will say next that we will nod agreement with a Canadian (!) shouting "penis".

Sorry, that was also ethnocentric. I love Canadians. Some of my friends are Canadians. I've got no problem with Canadians.

I don't mind the hubbub. I choose what I will listen to, what I will read, what I will believe. I will choose when to speak and about what. I will grant you the grace to do the same, whether I like what you have to say or not. Whether I like you or not. I may even listen. I won't always agree with you, but I will always accept you as a person.

It seems a lot of what passes for discourse in our society today is the equivalent of everyone shouting "rhubarb" or "watermelon". We have the rhubarbs on one side, hide bound and determined that they are righteous. We have the watermelons on the other side believing the same about themselves. Occasionally we have a weirdo stand up and shout "penis!" but no one is really listening and it gets lost in the rhubarbwatermelonhubbub. Sometimes I get bent out of shape about all of this. But then I remember I have my own personal volume control. I can choose not to listen. Not to speak. Not to be a rhubarb or a watermelon (or a penis, for that matter). I'm glad they're all out there shouting though, offensive as they may be. It means they're using their First Amendment rights.

The right to create a hubbub. Or whobub.


  1. As a fellow knucklehead, I think you nailed it. I've so enjoyed Tara's posts that ask for conversation. It's a great right we have, to say what we want and to agree or disagree.

    Or to shut the voices out and just enjoy the quiet.

    (I might have honked just to see his reaction.)

  2. I don't like rhubarb OR watermelon, so I might use different words. But totally agree with you and am so thankful to live in this great country where we ALL have the same rights to speak, act, feel, and pursue happiness!!!

  3. I hate the noise. Even facebook and twitter can become too noisy for me. I know I am a part of the noise, but still. I have to take time away from it to soothe my own soul.

    My parents' were actors, and they were taught to say "peas and carrots peas and carrots peas and carrots". So Method, I guess.

  4. What I hate about hubub is that all the subtle flavors get lost and we are left speaking without the use of vowels. Everything sounds like the grinding, clicking and grating of lizards. All the poetry is in the subtle inflection of a word, that flavor that you can't quite place. You speak into hubub and all you get back is hubub, the howling having eaten up your intentions and vomited up lame excuses. You're for us or you're against us. I'm not for or against anyone. I am setting all my bumper stickers on fire and using them to cook something that nourishes. Thank you so much for giving me such a richly wrought word to rub on my tongue, TL: hubbub. Exactly.

    1. ...and, as you say, I equally love the fact that hubbub means we can exercise our right to speak. I hate hubbub and I get into the middle of it anyway because freedom requires discourse. If the thinkers are quiet, I am afraid that the guy with his license plate holder and the rhubarbwatermelon people will be the only voices we hear. I want to be there to shout "Penis!"

  5. You always amaze me with your posts, TL! I love this one - the way you get to the point and the point itself - both entertaining and thoughtful. Thanks for posting stuff like this.

  6. There is so much to say about and learn from this post. There always is. I agree, and Amen Sista!

    Yet, the 12-year-old in me is walking around the house saying "watermelonrhubarbpenis" and laughing until I cry.

  7. I swear KY makes a watermelon flavored ...never mind!

    As usual, your post is thought provoking and insightful. A very worthwhile read. My thoughts of course were, "I wonder if TL's Canadian friend would be banned from speaking Michigan?"

    Are all sexually anatomical parts off limits or only the vagina?

    Would Jesus Have Said Vagina

  8. I like this post, but it reminded me of something completely different. My step-dad told my son that when he had to perform in our church's Christmas children's program, if he didn't know the words (or just didn't feel like singing them) just mouth the words 'watermelon, watermelon, watermelon' and no one would notice he wasn't actually singing. My son did look like he was singing, so the advice worked!

  9. I don't have much worthwhile to add, but I thoroughly enjoyed this! Margi & I were just tossing around similar ideas on the phone last week... Sort of more about choosing your battles in life. Deciding from day to day which arguments and discussion to join, etc. Anyway, penis.


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