“Prefixes can really change the meaning of a word. For instance if you add ‘non’ before violence, you have given the word the exact opposite connotation…

“Prefixes can really change the meaning of a word. For instance if you add ‘non’ before violence, you have given the word the exact opposite connotation…….” I drifted off to sleep. Miss Bryant was a nice enough English teacher but come on, PREFIXES! My mind was “connotating” on the ninth inning of the World Series. I was stepping up to bat against the flame throwing Ryne Duren with the winning run on second base. He’d just steamed a fastball past me and tried to sneak another one across the outside corner. I leaned into it and hit a blue darter toward the right center field gap. Mickey Mantle was off with the crack of the bat. I tracked the flight of the ball and Mantle’s headlong rush as I headed toward first—

            The whole class was starring at me, expectantly! The roaring Yankee Stadium crowd went dead silent. “Mr. Colbert,” I really liked Miss Bryant a whole lot, but she could drawl out “Colbert” with a fair amount of sarcasm if she thought the moment demanded it, “we are not in the habit of repeating ourselves, but we are still waiting for your example of a prefix that would give a contrasting meaning to the original word?”

            Duren and Mantle dissolved as if by magic.

            “Uh…….uh…….would it be like if you put “not” in front of “smart” or “double” in front of “dumb”?

            I haven’t been a fan of prefixes since they embarrassed me in junior high.

            “Grammatical affixes”, as Miss Bryant would call them, have been in the news recently with “in” being inserted before “tolerance”. It has created just about as much confusion as when we were trying to sort them out back in the classroom. I can’t tell exactly who is tolerant and/or intolerant of whom. The finger pointing and accusations are flying faster than that smash I hit off of Ryne Duren.  

            I wish I’d a’paid a little more attention in Miss Bryant’s class. She knew syntax like the back of her hand and could actually distinguish the antecedent from a dangling participle. She could certainly tell us if someone was not using a prefix correctly here. I remember distinctly her saying you couldn’t understand the word with the prefix added if you didn’t understand the original word.

            I don’t pretend to be an expert, but I have had a few bouts with intolerance myself. Charlotte Melton and me fell in love over by the monkey bars. We weren’t sure if “en” was a prefix to “gaged”, or not, but we did say it was going to be forever. We rode horses together. I bought her a milkshake up at John Motheral’s drugstore after the movie where Old Yeller died. She did my math homework. We talked of when we’d both be playing high school basketball. And what it would be like to go on a real date. Forever lasted from late summer to almost Christmas of the eighth grade! 

            It turned out to be “un”requited love. She ran off with Martin Paschall while I was visiting my uncle over in Lawrence County. Now folks, it was a situation that clearly demanded some intolerance! I obliged with all my heart. I ranted and raved, cried, bemoaned, lamented and stomped the ground. I said some nasty things about Charlotte and Martin. I wished a pox on the both of them.

            Do you reckon my grandiose show of intolerance carried the day? You wouldn’t believe how much nobody cared! Leon declared it was not the end of the world. Ricky Gene offered to introduce me to his “good looking” cousin from Gleason. Daddy said, rather roughly I thought considering the circumstances, “Get over it, son”!  My own Mother gave some silly reference about all the fish in the sea. Now, I had to “get even” with Charlotte and Martin, of course…….AND Leon, Ricky Gene, Mom and Dad. This intolerance thing can grow on you in a hurry!

            Time is an amazing spacer. Martin turned out to be one of the best friends I ever had. We played ball together throughout high school. When I got over my hollering and shouting, Charlotte became more like the sister I never had than the girl who jilted me. I cried again, the day she left us way too early. I saw Mom, Dad and Leon in a much different light as I matured through the peaks and valleys of high school. And danged if Ricky Gene’s cousin didn’t turn out to be a lot better looking than he described.

            You’d a’thought I’d learned a lesson forever!

            But that intolerance thing is hard to stem. I was a mite “short sighted” on those “didn’t see it my way” college professors. Cranky children, lost cell reception, unrealistic business acquaintances and “gifted” in-laws all work on your intolerance quotient. 

            Old age is roaring up on me today. I have to check each morning to see if all the parts are working. I walk into the den and then stop and think, “What did I come in here for”? I drink energy drinks not because of the taste. Life, down toward the end, can be a tad intolerable at times……..then, of course, I think of the alternative. 

A little tolerance is not that bad when you consider all the options.