Posted tagged ‘non-effective sympathy’

Buck Off!

July 30, 2010


Terry Pratchett, my favorite writer of all time (other than, perhaps, William Shakespeare), has a wonderful scene in Guards Guards! in which Lady Sybil Ramkin surveys the rank and file of the Ankh-Morpork City Night Watch–that is, Corporal Carrot, Sergeant Colon, Nobby Nobbs, and an orangutang (the Unseen University’s Librarian) who is serving as an ad-hoc guard.

‘A fine body of men….errr anthropoids,’ Lady Ramkin puffs as she sails down the line.

The guards, their chests sticking out, felt considerably “bucked up,”  by Lady Ramkin’s inspection, Pratchett notes, ‘which was several letters away in the alphabet from how they usually felt.’  (This is quoted from memory but you get the gist.)

Bucking up, cheering up, “chin up”, are old British watchwords;  activities as seemingly traditional as stiff upper lips and tea at 4.

With all due respect to Lady Ramkin, just give me the tea.

Bucking up makes me feel trivialized; patronized, sometimes furious.    (Does it even make traditional Brits feel better?  Or does it just make them adopt other “up” activities as in “put” and “shut.”)

Sympathy implies someone sharing your feelings, not trying to lever them away.  (I have a  image of the bucker heaving dirt from a hole in the ground into an upper level window box, which, ironically, holds only plastic flowers.)

The sharing of gloomy feelings may confirm gloominess, but that comfirmation, that added firmness, gives me, at least, a foundation to step up from.  (And a step works better than a push, here.) 


Bucked-up Exchange:

Low Person:  “I’m so low.”

Bucker-Upper:  “Awww.. Just get going and you’ll feel better.”

Low Person:  “No, I won’t.”

Bucker-upper:  “You will, I promise you.”

Low Person:  “I WON’T.  [There follows a compendium of the many ways in which the bucker-upper is contributing to the “won’tness.”]

Non-Bucked-Up Exchange:

Low Person:  “I’m so low.”

Ideal Answer:  “Boy, you sound really low.”

Low Person:  “Yes…  But I’ve got to going.”

Ideal Answer:  “It’s hard.”

Low Person:  “Yes.”  {As Low Person begins moving.)

Of course, the tea helps too.