Peeking Behind The Curtain

"It's called a word cloud," he said.

C and I were having a spontaneous dinner with some friends, a husband and wife, having met at a mexican restaurant two and a half hours away from home.  I realize that I do employ the word spontaneous with certain irony here, but to us it felt both dramatic and reckless... Let's go get us some guac. and good conversation!

The husband is a teacher, and he was explaining some of the techniques that he uses to engage his middle school students in class.  Both of our friends are remarkably creative and full of ingenious ideas regarding education, team-building and general all around rabble-rousing.  They're great.  In fact, there's so great that I nearly proposed to the guy a few summers ago at a local beach, by accident.

You'll do well to avoid things like this, which when I think about it, shouldn't actually be very hard.

Anyway, we're at dinner and our friend is explaining word clouds, which sound pretty cool in terms of their general use, but when applied to something personal, seem outright terrifying.  Each diagram/widget/list shows the most frequently used words in large, bold print and the least used in small, faint print. The rest of the words are collected in a spectrum of small to large, in varying fonts and colors, based on their recurrence.

(Wait, you already know what this is?)

(Of course you would.)

So when he suggested using one here on the blog, it got me wondering what the resulting word cloud might look like.  Doing this will only make me look bad worse, I soon realized.  After considering the possibilities for a blog-cloud, I got to thinking about what my very own thought cloud could contain.  Oh, the possibilities! 

I don't know about you, but the content of my mind is like a dollar store grab-bag suspended inside of a large gift balloon: the structure contains so many wonderous things and yet, at the same time, so... much... empty... space...

They can put anything in there. 

I can only dread what would appear if we were to figuratively release its contents out onto the kitchen counter.  All I'm certain of is that there would be the sudden and overwhelming sound of muffled laughter and a series of scathing, disappointed looks.  If I understand these "clouds" (insert finger quotation visual) with any accuracy, mine might look something like this:

      BRRR... go put on some stretchy pants
muffinbottomlate to [location] again
 you can't only wear stretchy pantswhy is it so cold?
MY GOSH, will you quit running into furniture?!
if it's not black, don't buy it   best. cat. ever. 
will someone please tell me why don't we eat horse meat? 
not again.

In truth, I would be horrified if I discovered that you could read my mind.  And really, in most cases, I don't want to look behind your wizard curtain, either (a few of you are strong exceptions - you probably don't know who you are).  Socially, most of us are too composed, too well-behaved, and far too eager to conform, which necessarily means that - while I admittedly have some weird cat-lady stuff going on in my head - underneath that calm, cool surface, you're probably daydreaming about getting the lead role in the next television super-drama (Law & Order: Medical Malpractice), and are anxiously fighting a wild obsession with adorable baby ferrets.

So while the concept of a word cloud does seem pretty intriguing, and really fairly educational, I'm pretty grateful that it only works on written text.  In light of how revealing this little word-picture could be, I'd like to suggest that people strive to become increasingly mindful about what they choose to write.  It would be a great shame for an author's words to betray a sagging intellect.

I'm relieved to have such a handle on that.   


  1. I... love... you. Laughed out loud in public reading this, which in NYC isn't SO bad... people just subconsciously lump you in to the crazy category and watch to see what you'll do next.

  2. Seriously, just show them the picture of those baby ferrets (unless it's you with the adorable obsession; in which case, show them the whole baby ferret portfolio). Who's crazy now?


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