I was talking about how I used to watch soap operas occasionally so that I could discuss them with some of the ladies when I worked at The Boston Store, and I mentioned to a coworker that people watching the same shows is a social lubricant of sorts. She thought I was being a bit forward, and she questioned the terminology I used, so here it goes:
According to my Mass Communications professor back in college, a social lubricant was anything that could break down barriers between people and allow them to talk to one another. He used the television show Friends as his example: he could show up anywhere and mention something he saw in the show, and people would respond because they too saw the episode. This definition made sense to me, so I've used the term here and there (not as a high school teacher, necessarily, since kids would all laugh at the wording).
Fast forward more years than I'll admit, and when I used social lubricant with another teacher, she didn't know what I meant, and thought I was being clever, which I often am. I then looked it up, and the only definitions I could find focused on beer being a social lubricant. I guess it kind of fulfills the definition of allowing people to talk by reducing inhibitions, but it's not the same as how my professor used it.
So what is gropple? Like social lubricant, it's a word I learned in college from a professor. This one appears on Urban Dictionary as a light hail-like snow. I'm not sure if that's how DeFelice described it, but I remember him saying it wasn't really hail or snow or sleet or freezing rain. I guess in my mind, those descriptions covered all of the possible occurrences. However, when I see precipitation outside, I like to call it gropple once in a while, which acts as a social lubricant because other people want to know why I'd call it that.
All of this thinking about my college professors and their lingo got me wondering about whether they create words themselves. The current king of these words is "problematic." If you discuss anything important with someone who has attended college in the past ten years, that person will inevitably mention that some aspect of their assessment of the problem is problematic. For example, "The pedagogy of the canon is problematic." Come to think of it, pedagogy is another one of those words. Who really uses these? "Your coolant line was leaking and we found that problematic, so we used our pedagogy to determine its source." Right.
Then there are the professors who want to correct the nation on pronunciation of a word, like Celtic (pronounced Keltic). They might correct the rest of us morons on the pronunciation of country names or author names or character names. I remember when Chris at work was practice teaching, and his observer went into a five minute diatribe about why the proper pronunciation of Oedipus. Apparently, we pronounce it Ed-ipis in America, while it appears the Brits say O-dipis. But a former teacher with a PhD had used the British pronunciation and Chris picked up on that, so he was conflicted. Is it Maya Angelou like I say it (loo), or like most of my colleagues say it: Angelo? We must also ask what any of this has to do with the price of rice in China.
If you're interested in besting your friends and neighbors at pronouncing important names, places, and things, try this book: The Pronunciation of 10,000 Proper Names, Giving Famous Geographical and Biographical Names, Names of Books, Works of Art, Characters in Fiction, Foreign Titles, Etc.
If you're looking to talk to someone without the use of beer, try this book: Conversation Lubricants - Easy Ways to Start and Keep a Great Conversation Flowing