The letter was the result of an earlier "Learning Matters." Raymond J. West wanted to know what people are called that come from certain places. People from Ephraim are called Ephraimites but people from Paris are not Parasites. He noted that there seem to be no rules. Are those from Maine Maineites, Mainicans or Mainoneons? He wondered in his letter if I could send him the language rules so at age 70 he could learn them.
Since I am some 20-odd years younger than Ray, I haven't gotten to that part of my education yet. I'm still on i before e except after c and thirty days hath September all the rest I can't remember. Neither can I remember if there is a rule about what to call people from Maine.I do know that Facts on File Inc. at 460 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10016-7382 has a residential dictionary titled "What Do You Call a Person From. . .?" Ray may not find his answers in this dictionary, but he has found something much more important in asking his questions. He has discovered the Fountain of Youth. Ponce de Leon should have met Ray West in his travels through the Southeast, and then he would know that the secret of youth is not in a secret fountain but in education.
There are some needs that we as humans can satisfy and call it done. We can feel safe with an enjoyable but humble shelter and know that we will have enough food for tomorrow. There are other needs that can never be satisfied. The fact is that the more we get the more we want. When people understand love, the need is never completely satisfied. The more they get the more they give and need to give.
Education is a similar human need. Some people find that learning just opens more doors of an insatiable appetite to know. Those who find pleasure in new ideas just keep discovering new ideas. The Rays of this world that ask about grammar rules at the age of 70 have an appetite that increases with each new bit of information that is discovered.
"I enjoy looking up things in order to better understand what I am seeing or reading. Everything from phrases, or even names on TV interest me. Ideas found on printed pages or heard on the radio are an education in themselves when I look up the words." Well said, Raymond.
It was heartening to hear our 68-year-old President Bush say when he introduced his education program that he wanted to learn how to use a computer. He didn't say what he wanted to be able to do with his computer and was quite clear that he wanted to learn just for the sake of knowing. He is at an age when most people are retired and is not only a busy administrator but wants to learn something new for its own sake, not because it is required. He probably could get though life quite well and never know any more about a computer than the fact that a properly programmed computer could automatically determine what to call a person from Maine. This might not be so bad to know, since "as Maine goes so goes the nation."
I expect that urge to know is the Fountain of Youth for many people. Those who can get up each day and learn something new and exciting will always be young. They may even discover that a person from Maine is a Mainer.
- Roger G. Baker is associate professor of English/education at Snow College. Comments or questions about "Learning Matters" may be addressed to Dr. Roger Baker, English Department, Snow College, Ephraim, UT 84627.