I’ve fetched the dictionary, in a moment of anger. Big red one. I wanted to confirm if I had the right word in my head.
Yes. I had it.
Bingo. That’s the word I want.
It means “not straightforward, crafty.” Another dictionary (online) has it thus: “not candid or sincere, typically by pretending that one knows less about something than one really does.” And apparently the 1913 Websters had it like this:
a. 1. Not noble; unbecoming true honor or dignity; mean; unworthy; as, disingenuous conduct or schemes.
a. 2. Not ingenuous; wanting in noble candor or frankness; not frank or open; uncandid; unworthily or meanly artful.
But I like this word particularly because these concepts are in the perfect container. There’s that “Dis” part, which is very key to the feeling. And the “in” part – which repeats the negative theme. A double-hit, if you will, right in the word, like the double-hit feeling you get when you experience it. And the word slithers all over the place, five syllables where one or two could have done it. Something slippery and crafty in the very word.
Do you remember those kids, when you were little, who would deny that they were tagged when you got them fair and square?
You had done your part, you had run and you had panted all around the school yard and you finally got them, finally cornered them? Your hand manages to make contact. Tag.
Yet they slither away, refusing to acknowledge what just happened. They don’t play it straight.
Ha ha, didn’t get me, didn’t get me.
Do you remember them?
Do you remember those kids, when you were little, who could be shot at point-blank range in a game of cowboys and Indians or whatever, and yet they had the audacity and dishonesty to say to you, “You missed me, you missed me.”
What did you think of that behaviour? What did you think of them?
Did they not want to make you scream? And here, I must apologize to Chesterton for being even half-amused at the prospect of him screaming in frustration. I can identify, these days, so thoroughly with his agony that it doesn’t seem the least bit funny.
The thing is, this behaviour continues in the adult world, and it’s even worse.
Perhaps the same adults who do it now did it as a kid. I don’t know.
What I do know is that there are still some adults who slither away, refusing to acknowledge what just happened. They don’t play it straight. Twisted or odd apologies, feigned misunderstanding, feigned cluelessness. It’s even less attractive from an adult than it is from a child.
You’ve punched them in the nose, figuratively speaking. They get up, nose bleeding and they say, “I’m a bit puzzled here. Does this mean you don’t want to have tea with me at half past three?”
Or they say to you that when they “read between the lines” (do you see the tea cup and the little pinky finger?) they sense, perhaps, that you’d like things to be done differently.
Reading between the lines? You can’t be serious. You find that to be necessary after I wrote you what I just wrote you?
How about, instead of reading between the lines, how about, reading the actual lines? Those little black symbols are called letters and when you put the letters together, there are words. The words are then strung together and the sequence makes a difference.
As for the white spaces between the lines, that’s the part YOU DON’T READ.
Right now, I take issue with the word “puzzled.”
If I see that word one more time, I think I’m going to lose it. Sure, sometimes the person is, in fact, puzzled – you know, a bit confused. But the other times – (!!!) Oh, the other times.
So let’s set out some ground rules. Why don’t we say that the word “puzzled” should be used when you understand the lion’s share of something but you have some little bits and pieces that you’re struggling with. That’s when you use the word “puzzled.” You understand 90% of it, but you want clarification about the last 10%. How about something like that?
But nowadays, it is entirely and excessively overused.
Nowadays, “puzzled” is being used to say:
1. I hate what you’re doing and or saying, or
2. I am completely and utterly baffled by what you are doing or saying.
It is used by that same group of disingenuous people who want to seem unflappable, cool, calm and collected. You see, they don’t want to seem like they ever get the least bit emotionally invested in anything. And of course, they are never utterly confused, because they just know so darn much. The most they ever get is a little teeny weeny bit ‘puzzled.’
And of course, they wish you didn’t tag them, so they just say (or act like) you didn’t.
You can rage a tornado through their home, and they will say, “I’m puzzled. Things seem ever-so-slightly messier than they did this morning.”
You can set their home on fire, and they will say, “I’m puzzled. It seems a tad bit warm in here, and just slightly on the smoky side.”
Where’s the normal reaction? Where’s the human reaction? Where’s the genuine reaction?
As Jesus said, you give them a happy song, they won’t dance. You give them a sad song, they won’t weep. The reason St. John the Baptist spoke about being the voice that cries in the wilderness was because nobody reacted properly to his words. He felt like he might as well be talking to the rocks, so dull and empty was everyone’s reaction. “Ha ha, you didn’t get me” as they slither away.
Five syllables: Dis•in•gen•u•ous.
Or two: Liar.
Liar, liar, pants on fire
Is what we kids used to say.
Let’s please speak plainly to each other. If you hate what I’m saying or doing, then tell me you hate it, don’t tell me you’re a “bit puzzled.” That’s not true. You’re not confused at all. You disagree.
If you’re entirely baffled, then please say so. Why say you’re “a bit puzzled” when what you really, actually, badly want to say is, “WTF?”
I’d rather see “WTF?”
I would find it refreshing, and, as a matter of fact, I plan to use it soon myself, in reference to something I just read by John-Henry Westen, Mr. Lifesite“News.”
So yes, in a WTF situation, don’t look down from your tall tower and tell me you’re “puzzled,” while holding your little pinky in the air with your little tea cup. I will want to shoot you.
The kiss of Judas.