by Constance Daley
American Reporter Correspondent
St. Simons Island, Ga.
May 20, 2008
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. -- "Yak" is a trivial or unduly persistent conversation. That's how Webster defines it. And yakety-yak is just more of the same.
On the other hand, the Roget's Thesaurus offers more options: chew the fat, shoot the breeze, have a chat, gossip, chitchat and converse.
I wanted synonyms for the insignificant small talk our exercise group practices each morning. We could call it convivial, genial, bantering among the group that braves the cold and suffers the heat of the year in an outdoor swimming pool - purportedly heated.
The initial words spoken as we each in turn put a toe into the water is always to get a take on the temperature of the pool.
"Is the water cold?"
"Get in and see for yourself."
"They said it was 85 degrees today."
"Don't you believe it."
"We pay them for this privilege - you'd think they paid us for this torture."
"Oh, you know you love it! Wait until the sun comes out."
One by one we brave the chill and duck down below shoulder level and start moving. The music is either too loud or not loud enough and finally, after adjusting the knobs, it's just right. Just like the water.
Once that three-minute yak is over, someone says "it's a nice day" while another, says, "Yes, but look at those dark clouds coming from the north."
An optimist and a pessimist; there's one of each in every crowd.
"Did any of you watch the Preakness Saturday? Wasn't Big Brown spectacular?"
"Yeah, there was a lot of space between him and the rest of the pack."
"United Parcel Service is donating $5000 to charity in his name."
I didn't want my chit-chat to turn ugly so I didn't say, "Duh." Instead Isaid that UPS has been called Big Brown for generations because of its big brown vans.
"Oh," she said.
As a general conversational tidbit, someone asked if we knew who or where Preakness Stakes got its name. No one knew. And where was it run? "Maryland," someone said. Maryland sounded right; it created a bright, sunny, grassy image to go with the rolling syllables in its name.
"Yes," someone countered, "Baltimore." There was an instant, collective, downward spiraling sigh. Baltimore sounded harsh - like a freight train on a track.
"It reminds me of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad going through coal and steel cities," I said, not horse country with its grassy hills and majestic horses nosing over the weathered corrals when we drive by.
Pat asked if there were any hurricane predictions announced yet.
"No, not that I've seen," someone said. "Usually, by now we know the names of some already developing somewhere, even if it's not near us until August or September."
And all the time we're jogging in place and splashing the surface of the water.
The conversations each morning are pleasant, good-natured, enjoyed by people whom for one hour each morning know they are doing the right thing. Some have been aware of the need for physical fitness their entire lives and work exercise into their schedules. Most of us have come to it more recently - begrudgingly at first, but now aware of the feeling of well-being it often brings.
We start the day with a built-in vigor we may have thought we lost. Yet, the sociabilizing is just as important. The people in the "aquacize" group learn a different side of us - a side our close friends and friends and family don't even see.
Someone embarking on a long journey through many airports en route to foreign places learns from someone else what not to leave behind and what to look for. "And, if you happen to have a titanium knee or hip, have the documentation with you as you go through airport security," they note.
During our pool exercise, our instructor advises us that with a hip replacement, we are not to cross one leg too far over when you do opposite leg lifts." We learn from those who've gone before us.
Yes, we yak, and we chat, and we stimulate our brains while we increase our heart rates doing cardiac-building exercise.
When I mentioned we were just yakety-yacking, I was asked what it meant. Well, I realized not everybody knew the slang of 1945 so I did my best to parody the meaning, finally referring to the more respected Webster's Dictionary.
Just plain "yak" is a Tibetan wild ox, ugly beyond belief but good to have around for milk, meat and to carry heavy burdens. Thus, seeing no connection, I will suggest there is no connection between a yak and to yak -- unless you count Dr. Seuss and his easy mockery and fun with language.
I spoke too soon: I would have thought 1945 slang predated Dr. Seuss, but just discovered Dr. Seuss recently celebrated 100 years of his Yak in the Sack - his fictional yak.
Small talk, again, or as Webster defined it, "trivial or unduly persistent conversation." Perhaps tomorrow there will be some sort of earth-shattering news to break us out of our habit of talking about the pool temperature or which way the wind is blowing. Maybe Southwest's 8:30 A.M. flight, which always leaves contrails miles overhead, will change course and leave some of our sky-watchers perplexed. We will all suggest possible reasons for the change and we'll shield our eyes as we gaze into the sun, just to observe - but we'll never know the answers.
Does it matter? Not to me. Not to Southwest. But it's a pleasurable moment in time, one in which we think of nothing else. We look at the clear, blue sky, perhaps graced with a small puffy white cloud, and although we may pause in our minutes of laughing and chit- chat, or stop shooting the breeze for awhile, we keep our arms and legs moving in time to the music.
With the water as the strong weight-bearing force keeping us in shape, we leave unspoken thoughts that acknowledge our good fortune and silently speak volumes of gratitude:
"Oh... to be living ... here, and on a day like this."