Words have meanings, and sometimes one word can have different meanings. When you are learning a new language, those are the kinds of words that are difficult. It was during my time as a substitute teacher that I became aware of a most common word with multiple meanings.
The scheduled activity after lunch was ‘put-up circle’. I had no idea what that meant, but thankfully the kids did.
They came back into the classroom after lunch and recess and immediately stood in a circle with one child in the middle. (This child was picked by the teacher, not by me. It said on the plans for me: ‘Put-up circle with girl xyz).
All kids had to say something nice about this child.
To be honest, I had mixed feelings about this. I knew that some kids would have a hard time with being literally in the center of the attention and I also knew that for some kids it might be hard to come up with something nice to say on the spot. On the other hand, both being able to give and receive compliments are great skills to have.
The chosen child of that day took compliments really well and even coached the more reluctant kids into ‘thinking about it, I’ll come back to you’. The child in the middle was clearly not an introvert and a natural leader.
A few kids would repeat whatever their neighbor said: “I really like your laugh.” -“I also really like the way you laugh.”
And a few kids said: “I like you, because you are weird, but weird in a good way.”
After ‘put-up circle’ I asked those kids what they mean with that: ‘Weird in a good way.’ First explanation: “Well, you know, when you are slightly different than the rest, but it suits you. It makes you a better person.” “Yes”, added another, “you know, more unique, not so ‘cookie cutter’.” “Interesting”, I thought, and I think I got what they meant.
But then I asked: “So what does it mean when a person is weird, but not in a good way?” The kids thought about that and one said: “Well, when someone is weird in a not good way, he is just, well, uh, weird. Like strange.” “Strange how?”, I asked, not willing to give this up. “Strange as in creepy, just uh weird!”
One girl took the lead. “When a person is weird in a good way, he makes you laugh and makes you think he is cool. When a person is weird in a bad way, he makes you feel uncomfortable.”
It was time to send the class to PE class, but while they were busy exercising their bodies, I kept thinking of the ‘weird’ definition.
‘Uncomfortable weird’ versus ‘weird in a good way’. I think it comes pretty close to the Dutch words of ‘gestoord’ versus ‘prettig gestoord’. (Crazy and happily crazy)
I consulted the dictionary:
adjective: weird; comparative adjective: weirder; superlative adjective: weirdest
suggesting something supernatural; uncanny.
“the weird crying of a seal”
|synonyms:||uncanny, eerie, unnatural, supernatural, unearthly, otherworldly, ghostly, mysterious, strange, abnormal, unusual; More|
very strange; bizarre.
“a weird coincidence”
|synonyms:||bizarre, quirky, outlandish, eccentric, unconventional, unorthodox, idiosyncratic, surreal, crazy, peculiar, odd, strange, queer, freakish, zany, madcap, outré; More|
Even in the synonyms I saw a lot of contradiction: quirky (A quirky person is quite funny in a sort of unusual way) versus eerie (I think of an eerie person as a person I should be somewhat scared of).
One ‘put-up circle’ and my brain is swimming. These fourth-graders were so good in giving me descriptions of the words they used and all kids totally got the ‘weird in a good way’-thing. That in itself is a really good thing, but with so many words in the English language, isn’t it weird (in a good way) that one word can have such a variety of feelings and meanings?