Sunday, January 30, 2011

¡Jubilación! How can I keep from singing?

On January 10, 2011, the spring term began at Central New Mexico Community College (CNM) here in Albuquerque--without me!  That afternoon, I sat in a movie theatre instead watching "True Grit" to celebrate my retirement.

On my last day of work, Dec. 17, 2010, I was inspired to crash a meeting of English instructors long enough to sing a few bars of "How Can I Keep from Singing?" out of sheer jubilation. (Here’s a version of it sung by Eva Cassidy.  -I didn't sound anything like that.) 

I used the word jubilation, above, on purpose:  the Spanish word for retirement is jubilación (pronounced HOO-bee-lah-see-OWN). And what a difference a word makes!

We’ve been reminded in the national news recently that words matter.  And it’s not just the strict meanings (the denotations) of words that matter but their connotations, which lard words with extra meanings. These accreted meanings cling to words like cigarette smoke clings to a person’s hair, clothes, and breath. 

Or as John Steinbeck put it more instructively, words “pick up flavors and odors, like butter in a refrigerator.” 

For example, the plain definition of the word retirement, according to is “withdrawal from one's position or occupation or from active working life.”  In the refrigerator of my mind, however, the word has taken on unpleasant flavors and odors--negative connotations--suggesting that "retirement" is a withdrawal not just from work but from productive life. 

So I prefer the word jubilación, which carries a sense of celebration and rejoicing.  How, then, can I keep from singing?


  1. I wholeheartedly agree with you - jubilación is the way to go!!
    ¡Felicidades en este nuevo etapa de tu vida y gracias por todo lo bueno que trajiste a nuestra escuela, alumnos y la comunidad entera!! Can't wait to see what you do next!

  2. Jubilation is sabbatical squared. Shabat is Hebrew for seven. The Sabbath is the seventh day of the week, when all, including slaves, are to rest and not work. Under Hebrew law, slave owners were to give their slaves a year off every seven years -- the sabbatical. And on the seventh sabbatical was jubilee: After 49 years of service, the slave was set free forever.

    So enjoy your jubilee.