It really is interesting sometimes to notice how different people react differently to certain words. There are two words that I always like to have handy when I am asked about my feelings towards something or someone, because they have that ambiguous aspect to them, allowing them to sound like a compliment, even though I may not really have such a positive feeling about the subject.
These two words are “interesting” and “special”. On the surface, they sound positive, and are most frequently used in a positive manner. The next time someone offers you a glass of homemade wine and asks you what you think, I offer you the answer “interesting!” as a reply that allows you to sound like a fan even if you are not.
On that note, I also know many “special” people, but that doesn’t mean that I want to spend lots of time with all of them, just as I may pass on a second glass of your wine.
But the words that I am highlighting today are adjectives that have been ascribed to me and to my father. Let’s start with my Dad, who bought a farm as a pre-retirement project, before moving out there full time.
Over the years, he managed to use many of the skills and habits that he had honed as a businessman, and applied them to areas of his farm. After a few years of working his apple orchard, neighbours started seeking his advice and input on ways to run their operations, even though they had a couple of generations head start.
When he took up beef breeding, he became known as the go-to guy in his area for those who were looking at upgrading their herds. He really became quite accomplished in a field where he did not have much education, but he learned quickly.
So what got him the most upset? It was when people would refer to him as a “Gentleman Farmer”. Now “gentleman” is usually not perceived as an insult, but to him, it was as if people were insinuating that he was not as good as the other farmers, and on that score I will concede that he might have a point. “What would you think of someone who was a ‘gentleman lawyer’ or a ‘gentleman doctor?’” he would say. Good point, Dad.
This past weekend I was taking the last of my five coaching courses, and in a pre-class conversation with one of the instructors, he casually mentioned something about me that I took as a compliment, when he said “We all know folksy Steve, how about today you try…” What he suggested is not important here, but I liked the fact that he referred to me as “folksy”, as it made me think of “friendly, neighbourly, social, and unpretentious”.
When I mentioned “Folksy Steve” to my wife, however, you should have seen the look she gave me. “Folksy? That’s not very nice. Does he think you are some kind of farmer?”
To my wife, there was a clear negative connotation that came to her mind. When I decided to look it up, I found that there is such a definition as well, that is, “sometimes used derogatorily to describe affected simplicity”. OK, dear, there is a negative take on it, but I am pretty sure that was not what he meant.
That actually brings up the interesting link here, and kudos if you picked up on it. In the expression “Gentleman Farmer”, my Dad took offense to the word “gentleman”, but for my wife, the word she likes to use as an insult is “farmer”.
I love them both, but maybe that’s just because I’m folksy.