Wednesday, June 24, 2009

It's a doggy-dog world

In editor-speak and word-geek world, that is what's known as a "malapropism"; the act or habit of ridiculously misusing similar sounding words without bothering to consider their literal meaning. Do you know someone who swears Elton John is singing "...hold me closer, Tony Danza" even though the song's title is "Tiny Dancer"? (please don't tell me if it's you!) Even my super-smart daughter, at elementary school assemblies, would sing the song "America" in her own special way. She'd start out fine with "My country tis of thee...", but those last emphatic words in the first stanza, "Let freedom ring!", she heard as "...every dumb ring". So that's how she sang it. It didn't make any sense at all but neither does the rest of that song to most seven-year-olds.

The malapropism "It's a doggy-dog world" is a happy-sounding misinterpretation of the quite pessimistic saying "It's a dog-eat-dog world", an idiom that describes a world in which people fight only for themselves and are likely to hurt other people in the process. In business especially, it refers to the ruthless seeking out of one's own advancement no matter the expense to others. It's a life where staying ahead of the competition is much more important than how you got there.
These attitudes may have something to do with the predicament too many Americans find themselves in these days. In always striving to get more, to quickly climb the corporate ladder and stay one step ahead of the Joneses, many overextended and overestimated their abilities to remain in that world where conspicuous consumption and unprecedented returns on investments ruled. We've all been affected by our country's economic downturn in some way or another and continue to watch almost daily as unemployment, foreclosures and lost fortunes make headline news.

It might have been wise to keep in mind the words of actor, director and apparent crank, Orson Welles who said

"Living in the lap of luxury isn't bad, except that you never know when luxury is going to stand up."

A sound warning I suppose if by "lap of luxury" he meant, as is most commonly understood, always having the best of everything money can buy. Not that I wouldn't want to try that for a while. And as a designer/decorator, I like to think I know a little something about the finer things in life and how to go about acquiring them if one is so inclined. But that's not the only definition of luxury I choose to live with in my own life.

True luxury, to me, is having people in your life to love and who love you back. Having a place you're proud to call your own whether it's 800 sq ft or 8,000. Luxury is having so many choices of yummy foods to eat that you're always just a little bit over-weight. Luxury is surrounding yourself with pretty, meaningful things, even if they're not fine antiques or designer originals, and having lots and lots of books to read. It's being able to choose to play hooky from work today because you have enough money in the bank and a secure job. And having the time to take a walk just for the pleasure of it and not because you don't have any other way to get around. I don't mean to over-simplify, but I do think it's important, when times are tough for any reason, to be able to take a step back and try to be more grateful for what you have than dissatisfied by what you don't.

If these ideas of mine about the luxuries that are really important in life sound anything like your own, then welcome to my doggy-dog world! Where there's always something to be happy about even if it's just a cozy place to curl up at the end of an exhausting day spent chasing your own tail.

Images top to bottom:

"Dona Francisca Vicenta Chollet y Caballero" by Francisco Goya y Lucientes, 1806, from the collections at the Norton Simon Museum

Vintage Russian postcard, origin unknown

"Lap Dog", contemporary woodcut print by Stephen Huneck

Detail of vintage photograph via Antique Dog Photos on Flickr

Paris and her props, I mean pups, from all over the internet

"Portrait of a Lady with a Lap Dog" by Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn, c. 1665

Bob and Katey the malapropism-prone singer, c. 2001


Content in a Cottage said...

This post was a perfect way to start my day. Bob and Katey are adorable. Any chance of a more recent photo in the future?

Webster and I are so impressed with your new blog. It is really wonderful. ♥Rosemary

FrenchGardenHouse said...

What a fabulous, well written post! You hit it, squarely. Thanks for starting my day off with a happy post, a hopeful post. Kindred spirit!
xo Lidy

woof from Beau {who doesn't believe in eating other dogs}

Julia @ Hooked on Houses said...

What a fun post! I love it. And I've really enjoyed looking around your blog today. It's lovely! :-)

Cote de Texas said...

Lap of luxury - interesting.
you know - the ability to love dogs is something special that so many people don't have. my daughter's bf grew up dogless and he doesn't like them - she always mentions it as a bone of contention between them. she wants him to love dogs, he just doesn't!!!!!