lalita larking

An obsession with cryptic crosswords. Everything else falls in place.

Location: Kolkata, India

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

And children

Compliment best, fair idea; try! Admiration imperfectly best.
Impatience forms bitter lady. Flattery bedims imprecation.

If you are a cruciverbalist, it probably jumped out at you. All the above statements are anagrams of the adage 'Familiarity breeds contempt.' If you want to read more, go here:

Why should familiarity breed contempt? It does so by virtue of becoming the usual instead of the strange. It is not so much contempt but taking for granted, being secure and sure of things.
I have grown accustomed to her face, bemoaned Professor Higgins. There are things that are so familiar that we forget their distinctiveness until they are absent or change.

Our homes are our castles and we know each nook and corner. Who hasn't woken up in a strange bed in another city and felt disoriented? Who hasn't felt ill at ease after moving house or changing jobs or cities?

I don't notice the books in our house as anything out of ordinary until new eyes look at them and remark on the sheer number. I am too used to them.

We all know our families; each member's quirks and mannerisms, ways of thinking. We know our spouses and can complete each other's sentences. We know them too well.

Familiarity makes things indispensable, sometimes. I'd be all at sea in another kitchen than my own, without my pots and pans, my knives and measures, my jumbo chopping board and my spatulas and ladles.

Cryptic crossword clues are familiar territory to me, but I find that I have to explain the reasoning and solutions in great detail to non-enthusiasts. For instance: 50= x (6) or, Actress (G is for Gloria) leaves no more to be said (4-4). The solutions leap out and are obvious to a regular solver, but not to the neophyte.

But familiarity also means casualness of manner. We detest near strangers invading our space; we dislike people who presume too much on short acquaintance. Read this poem, if you want some more on this.

And then there is the other meaning of familiarity: an act of undue intimacy, like the kissing controversy that raged a while ago. It is taking liberties, unwarranted liberties at that.

But if familiarity breeds casual acceptance, it also breeds a sense of comfort. In times of stress, the familiar routine is an anchor. It reassures and grounds us.

Some years ago I was talking to a friend in my gym. She was smitten and was contemplating an affair. "It's so tempting," she sighed. "But I don't think I will be comfortable, what with my extra pounds and stretch-marks and all." I agreed with her; you are comfortable in your skin with your spouse, and you are familiar with each other's moods and likes and dislikes. Why exchange that for an uncertain and uncomfortable new relationship?

Familiarity also breeds security and confidence.



Anonymous Ash said...

There you go again, with your obscure titles. But, good post, Lali.

8:12 pm  
Blogger Raj said...

Ha, the title was meant to convey - "dismayed, irritable flincher ( 11,6,7)", right?

8:59 pm  
Blogger Rimi said...

Comfort, security, all very true. I've often wondered why people said this too, especially since my parents very firmly believe in keeping 'friends in their places, the family in it's' so neither relationship affects the other. you know what I mean?
But of course, you always do :-)

Thing is...I don't know, sometimes familiarity strips the magic of strangeness. I'm not saying keeping the intriguing vagueness is a good thing, but (in several 'love' marriages, for instance), familiarity seems too much because it tears away the veil of perceived prettiness from life.

That was one hell of a convoluted comment. but please tell me you get it?

10:30 pm  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

Ash- Who get it, get it. Stop giving me grief.

Raj- Umm, that is (11, 6, 8) and you have earned a profitably semantic demerit; Ratified best, complimentary. You can collect your prize at leisure.

Rimi- Ah, the Princess deigns to post a comment. I get you, sweetie. But young people need the strange and the unfamiliar so they can get used to it, and so on and so forth.. ya know what I mean.

10:56 pm  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

@ Rimi- There is always a hidden, unexplored and unknown thing you will find, dear. Familiarity doesn't really tear away all the veils. Aging together has its own rewards.

11:03 pm  
Blogger db said...

Very profound and arcane .. Can't seem to make too much sense of it .. but then blogs are meant to be that way, aren't they? ... Or perhaps its my dim-witted self as usual ..

But an excellent write-up .. your vocab is simply outstanding !


1:32 am  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

Ram- :D It isn't profound at all. Perhaps a bit esoteric, but definitely fluff rather than deep philosophy.

Thanks, crosswords do keep my vocabulary refreshed.

7:18 am  
Anonymous Rajesh said...

Hey. You forgot to give the answers to the clues. I will be going slowly mad until you do. Not fair.

9:08 am  
Blogger Priya said...

Completely agree with that last line. Besides, unfamiliarity is my patent excuse for not going anywhere near my mi-l's kitchen when I visit Cal;) And being a total extrovert, familiarity is my second name. And, the disadvantages thereof often become difficult to handle[:(]

10:52 am  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

Rajesh- Listen, Swan-song. Okay? Now go figure.

Don't say I drove you to madness now. :-)

Priya- That's my excuse, too. I feel inadept in any kitchen than my own.

Aren't you mixing up friendliness with overly familiar behaviour? I am sure you don't presume or invade private space; or even take liberties uninvited. :D

12:06 pm  
Anonymous Rajesh said...

Still Greek to me. Explain, please.

1:16 pm  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

Rajesh- L, equals sign, x. L is ten.

Swanson, actress and here 'G is for Gloria' does double duty, leading to Swanson, and giving the initial, and thus the final letter needed to complete the solution. Leaves no more to be said is the definition, hence swan-song.


2:24 pm  
Blogger Priya said...

Na na, not mixing up. My friendliness tends to border on the over familiar, at times, or so my wiser better half points out:P. (You think it may have something to do with the colour of the grass?;))

2:33 pm  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

Priya- Oh, yes. Definitely a touch of jade. :D

3:38 pm  

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