Meeting report

15 May 2017

John Hicks

The problem for this writer is how to condense an informative and fun-filled evening into a reasonably concise report. Maybe I won’t try too hard.

S @A David Preston set up the room beautifully, as always, only to have to rearrange it for Ryan Chappell whose talk required visual aids. If David was seething inside, he remained outwardly calm and only vented his feelings on Toastmistress Adrienne Malis whom he introduced as "a very good speaker who has great enunciation for an American.”

Adrienne ignored this vicious slur and won our sympathy with her vivid description of the pain and stress her family has undergone for the last 116 days as, with each newsflash, they see what craziness has transpired in their country of birth. The only silver lining was that it had inspired her choice for the word of the day, “sophistry” (and so much more elegant than the “fake’ this and “hoax” that which assail our ears every time we turn on the news).

Ryan Chappell’s illustrated talk was a revelation for all those who wanted to know more about BIM (Building Information Modelling) and he presented it in such an interesting way that before long we all did. Ryan presented us with exploded views of buildings and then delved deeper into LOD (Level of Development) aspects of office chairs. More goes into planning buildings and issuing permits than most of us could have imagined. Fascinating stuff.

By contrast, dentist Michael Shand, with “Polishing the Ivory” gave us the Why, How, and When of brushing our teeth. This was delivered in Michael’s wonderfully animated style, with superb vocal variety and effective use of various yard brushes to ram home the message: don’t polish your teeth! Use a small, soft tooth brush; focus on each individual tooth; use slow, small movements; brush before rather than after meals (because the acid environment after eating softens the enamel); don’t rinse after brushing etc. His talk stimulated a lot of debate and we took advantage of a free dental consultation. In addition, we also received a tube of fluoridated toothpaste. Thank you, Michael.

TTM Emma Garlick was in her element, throwing out weird words for us to define. Ali Scott discovered that “sternutator” has nothing to do with the complicated communication system - devised by NASA for astronauts - that she tried to foist on us. A sternutator is, in fact, an agent that causes sneezing. Likewise, Carolyn Skerret’s “concilliabule” was not the slow-moving creature she dredged from the back of her mind. I forget what it actually was, because I have no intention of using it, but I did appreciate Stephen East’s interjection that the slow-moving creature was probably good at digging holes for itself, or words to that effect. However, he failed, albeit magnificently, at his own hurdle – “abligurition”, which turned out not to be a mediaeval cure for excessive blinking. Helen Peate’s “cachination” to her chagrin, had more to do with cacophony than calcification. That’s the penalty for being a chemistry teacher. In Buck Buchanan’s hands a “fipple” became all things to all men and we were taken on an oratorical journey from Julius Caesar’s invasion of Britain, to the Scot’s versus English measure of “a wee dram”. Wonderful storylines, shame that a fipple is the mouthpiece of a wind instrument which is blown endwise! I have reflected greatly on the word I foundered upon: “dompteuse”. I concede that it is not the opposite of “obtuse”. I looked it up, you see.

As a privilege of writing this report I am going to deviate into a pet hate of mine. A dompteuse is a woman who trains wild animals. A dompteur, by contrast, is a man who trains wild animals. Both words have a French derivation so can be compared with another couple of words with French endings: masseur/masseuse. Masseur does not rhyme with “manure”, but with “slur”. Likewise, masseuse does not rhyme with Dr Zeuss, but with “slurs”. The Oxford Dictionary supports me in this. Time and time again I hear this mispronunciation, not, I hasten to add, because I frequent massage parlours!

Everyone was having such fun with Emma’s words, so I was pleased that table topics, like Michael’s speech, ran over its allocated time by common consent (and with the encouragement of TM Adrienne). In my opinion the agenda should only be used as a rough guide as to what to expect. As Toastmasters we should eagerly expect the unexpected!