Friday, June 18, 2010

The price of sloth

I had the house to myself for a few days several months ago. Turns out Mr. Dalton fancies himself an amateur athlete and participated in one of those community let's-pretend-to-be-athletic-and-motivate-each-other-to-use-these-gym-membership-coupons-in-January-and-quit-by-February events. I heard all about it. Multiple times. I was bored of him telling the same story over and over on the phone, until I heard a new part.

He was describing some cramps, which was weird, because usually it's his wife describing cramps. “Should have trained harder. Now I'm paying the price of my sloth,” he said.

What? He has a sloth? I'm not the only non-human animal around here? He must keep it outside, since I've never seen it.

Then I caught on to yet another species-centric inaccurate facet of 21st century American English. I happen to have known a sloth once, and to associate him with slacker behavior is wrong and offensive. Just like it would be if I told DWD he's a lazy cracker. Wait, that doesn't fit the analogy at all...

So if DWD hadn't been acting slothful, he wouldn't have been in pain. Let me describe my sloth friend. He doesn't get from A to B as fast as those mid-west triathlon want-to-bes, and talking to him wasn't always an intellectual feast. But Sloth never stopped except to sleep. Just hung and watched and hung and ate and hung and helped sponge carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere with the cyanobacteria growing in his fur.

So maybe DWD's right. If he was exhibiting slothful behavior he wouldn't ever race around crazy trying to accomplish a list of goals that some guy on the television with extra shiny teeth and a nice suit said was important. He wouldn't have as much debt and wouldn't have to work as much and would have more time to climb trees. So he either wouldn't be trying to prove something to other humans in nasty spandex shorts, or he'd have more time to prepare and be cramp-less.

There's no way one turtle, as brilliant as she may be, is going to have an effect on cultural verbiage. But maybe I can nickname my friend so he's divorced from the tainted connotation. Here are some suggestions.

Pale-throated amenable
Brown-throated repose
Maned halcyon
Pygmy three-toed placid
Linnaeus's two-toed nonchalant

Tortoises at least get the “and the hare” story. Maybe some kid's book in the future will disseminate my genius and my friend's character to the masses with the title of The Amenable and the Rat Race.

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