Shout of Joy
Off the Wall, January 29,

Before Christmas sometime, I called a particular company to place an order for a gift for a friend. I remember talking to a middle-aged woman who was most gracious and very polite. After we concluded our transactions, I said my good-bye and she stated, “Good cheer…,”which caught me off guard. Never have I ever heard those two words used together, least at the end of a telephone conversation.

This salesperson didn’t realize to whom she was talking. Anyone making such a statement to the man with infinite imagination leaves the thought process wide open as to what could follow after making such a remark.

For example, “cheer” in itself is good, right? If there is question in one’s mind, look it up in the dictionary. I didn’t have any question, but still looked it up just to make sure I could have been oblivious to the fact that just possibly there was such a thing as “bad cheer.” Here is what the website spelled out: “a shout of encouragement, approval, congratulation; something that gives joy or gladness; gaiety.

Was there anything there that could be interpreted to the least bit negative? I didn’t see it.
Why not just answer the conversation, “Cheers?” That may have made just as much sense to me. Little did I realize she was opening a new can of worms, as the expression goes.

As many already know, I am never satisfied with settling with assumptions at face value, but like to dig deeper to see if there possibly could be more to the subject at hand to make a real story out of something simple. Little did I realize I had more on my plate than I ever realized.

From, I learned “Cheer was at first qualified with epithets, both of joy and gladness and of sorrow…” revealed that, “In medieval English the word cheer meant ‘face’, coming ultimately from Greek kara ‘head.’ People came to use it to refer to the expression on someone’s face, and hence to their mood or demeanor. This could be in either a positive or negative sense; you could talk, for example, about a person’s ‘sorrowful cheer’ or ‘heavy cheer.’ ‘What cheer?’ was once a common greeting meaning ‘how are you?’, and in the 19th century this eventually worn down to ‘wotcha.’ Over time developed the specific meaning of ‘a good mood’ and then ‘a shout of encouragement or joy.”

So, cheerfully stated, our gal was stating after our upbeat conversation that I should maintain my joyfulness during the Christmas season, a comment that one should relay any time of the year, I believe. A little encouragement goes a long way to helping many of us over the hurdles we are challenged with on a day to day basis.

But looking over the definitions of this main word, “cheer,” I found it could be used in so many ways, many more than I could ever imagine. In addition to a noun, some of its many synonyms as mirth, merriment, exhilarate, animate, to comfort, to restore hope, bring pleasure and enliven, bring vivacity and liveliness to others.

Just when I thought I had everything under control, two more words hit me which tore at my brain cells again, “cheer up.” “Up” in itself is a word that I will tackle later, for it is more complex than “cheer,” I believe.

Try to convince any of us who were flat on our backs with the bug this winter to “cheer up” after being housebound for a period of time would be quite a task, if you ask me. How does anyone even maintain cheerfulness to any degree amidst the hacking and coughing we who were decked experienced? The cheering up would be of mental uplift, knowing God had everything under control and there would come a time He would deliver me (us) from all this grief.

I could only guess the “up” referred to the three feet from the flat of the bed to the back of the headboard where our heads came to rest. So, naturally, I had to look “up” the word in the dictionary. See what I mean, I’ve already straying from away from my original intent. Defined, the first of 17 meanings states, “in or to a higher position.” So, I can only surmise I am to look to God, for better days are definitely ahead.

How does one “look up” a word when it’s written down? Hmmm...

- Paul J. Volkmann
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