As I was growing up in Clinton, a small southern town in South Carolina, I was introduced to the Abrams family who lived next door to us. There were five of them–the parents, a child, a grandmother and Unk. Unk was the brother of Helen, the mother. He had encephalitis. My mother explained to me that encephalitis was also called “Big Head” and that Unk was an invalid. When I asked what an invalid was, I was told that he was handicapped and kept at home, partially for safety and partially for embarrassment reasons. Other than the large head, Unk appeared very normal, and I carried on conversations with him just as I did other members of the family. Only later in life did I realize there were two parts of speech that this heteronym “invalid” could be used for–a noun and an adjective. The noun form was pronounced in-vuh-lid while the adjective was pronounced in-vah-lid. Both meant something that was without value. How sad that we even allowed such a word to be used to describe one who through no fault of his own was meant to be avoided because he made someone feel uncomfortable.


About bobosbest

I am an 80-year-old retired English teacher whose writing goals are fulfilled by publishing these blogs. I have a wonderful married partner, Dimitris Tsitsiras, who is from Greece. Life is good and still an adventure.
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