Good morning, blog fans. It’s a cool, rainy Thursday here in Germany, and I’ve been up for two hours already. Bill woke me up when he came back into the bedroom after his shower. I had to get up a few times last night and needed cough syrup to fall asleep in the first place. I’m mostly over my cold from last week, but still have an annoying cough. It takes me forever to get over coughs, thanks to asthma and acid reflux. So, even though I’m now feeling mostly normal, when I lie down to go to sleep, I still cough a lot. Thank God for NyQuil.
While I was eating breakfast with Bill, I looked at the weekly newspaper put out by my hometown of Gloucester, Virginia. I like to look at the obituaries to see if anyone I know has passed and read about things going on in the community where I came of age. Sometimes, I also read the opinion pieces and letters to the editor, but those often end up disturbing me.
Gloucester is a VERY red county, even though it was somewhat recently in the news due to a transgender student at the high school wanting the right to change bathroom preferences. That case went to the Supreme Court, which was quite a shock to me… not so much because of the case itself, but because it involved my high school.
I remember reading some of the letters to the editor when that was going on, and I was pretty horrified by what I read. Many people were full of hatred for Gavin Grimm, the transgender student who eventually won his fight after graduation. In August 2021, the school board was ordered to pay $1.3 million to resolve Grimm’s case. This sounds like a lot of money, but it was used for five years worth of attorney’s fees and court costs. It seems like it would have been smarter and much less expensive to just let Gavin use the boys room. But hey, that’s Gloucester, and people there are pretty set in their ways. A lot of people who live there are the type of people to put the below sticker on their cars…
The point is, I don’t have the highest of expectations for people in the county where I spent most of my youth. Most of them are “salt of the earth” type people who call a spade a spade, and are slow to change their views on things. Don’t get me wrong. There are some genuinely fabulous people living in Gloucester, and I still have many friends there. But there are also some ignorant folks living there, as I guess there would be anywhere. And some are happy to stay ignorant as they stubbornly cling to their small world views.
So this morning, I was reading the obituaries and I noticed a photo of a woman in a wedding dress listed as among the dead. I didn’t recognize her name, but she looked young enough that I might have known her at some time. I took a look at her obituary to see if she might be someone from my past. It turned out she wasn’t, but her obituary was memorable anyway, because of this…
She was born in Rhode Island and was a native of Virginia Beach.
Uh, if she was born in Rhode Island, she can’t be a “native” of anywhere but Rhode Island. It doesn’t matter how long a person lives somewhere. If they weren’t born there, they aren’t a “native”. There are several definitions of the word “native”, but they all basically refer to someone or something being born in a specific place.
From Merriam-Webster: Middle English natif, from Middle French, from Latin nativus, from natus, past participle of nasci to be born.
In Merriam-Webster, there is a lesser known meaning that “native” can possibly be used to denote that a person has always lived in a certain place, which would distinguish them from being a visitor. But it seems to me that in the above case, the word wouldn’t be correct, as the person in the obituary did eventually leave Virginia Beach for the “quieter” living available in Gloucester County. This was actually written in the obituary– that they preferred the simpler lifestyle in Gloucester.
It was an obituary, so that means that it was probably written by one of the deceased’s loved ones, rather than a journalist. And I think, just as people misuse the word “prone” when they actually mean “supine”, this was just someone who thought they knew the definition of “native” and didn’t bother to look it up as they wrote the obituary. I also know this issue is not a big deal to most people. Most of us understand what the writer meant, which means they accomplished what they set out to do when they wrote the sentence. However, technically, what they wrote is incorrect, and as someone who finds words and language interesting, I decided the mistake would make for a good and potentially educational blog topic today.
I like to study different mechanics of the English language to see how it all fits together. If you know what prefixes, suffixes, and roots mean, you can often figure out what a word means– or doesn’t mean– without having to consult a dictionary. And it can also be very helpful in other languages, as you try to understand what the announcer on a Google Ad is saying while you wait for your YouTube video to begin. If you know the word “nate” or “natal” denotes birth, you know that a person who grew up in Virginia Beach, but was born in Rhode Island, can’t actually be a native of Virginia Beach.
I was born in Hampton, Virginia. That’s where my mom now lives, and where my father died in 2014. I am a NATIVE of Hampton, because I was born there. But, to date, I have spent only about six months of my life living in Hampton, and that was just after my birth in 1972. I have no memories whatsoever of living in the place where I was born, although I’ve visited there MANY times.
In 1973, we moved to Dayton, Ohio, which I also don’t remember, because I was a baby at the time. My earliest memories are of England, from where many of my ancestors hailed. I have a whole lot of Scottish and English DNA– like over 97 percent, according to two of the best known DNA sites– but I am certainly not a “native” of the United Kingdom. I am a native of Virginia, and to date, I’ve lived the most years of my life in Gloucester, where I’m also not a native. Germany is starting to catch up with Gloucester, but I’ll never be a German native, even if I live here until I’ve reached a ripe old age.
I don’t think there are as many true natives of Gloucester as compared to nearby larger cities like Williamsburg, Richmond, Hampton, and Newport News. Gloucester’s hospital doesn’t offer maternity services, and hasn’t for as long as I can remember. Because a lot of Americans would rather give birth in a medical setting, a lot of pregnant people in Gloucester give birth somewhere else. However, at least two famous people in history were Gloucester natives– Pocahontas was one, and Dr. Walter Reed was another.
Anyway, I thought I’d get that off my chest. My condolences to the family and friends of the deceased woman who prompted today’s rantings. It sounds like she was a very lovely woman who will be missed by many people. It also sounds like they are a good fit for living in Gloucester County, which does have its positives, in spite of some people wanting to keep living in the past.