June 28, 2002
Meet my chums

When I was around nine, I read just about all of the Hardy Boys books, and I'm not sure it's possible to find more frequent or sincere use of the word "chum" (okay, Nancy Drew and the Bobsey Twins and every other Stratemeyer syndicate series). "Chum" wasn't a word I'd use, but it was a nice, friendly word to have around. Then in seventh grade everyone in my class was issued a Permabound copy of "Jonathan Livingston Seagull", packed with editorial notes, most of them definitions. And that's when "chum" stopped being a pal, and became a noxious concoction of fish parts.

I'm not sure that's what the editors intended, but a new definition of the word "chum" is by far the most vivid thing I took away from the book. Yeah, sure, the power of the individual, following your heart, soaring above the masses, the avian Ayn Rand. Gotcha. But nearly twenty years later my revisionist memory insists that the transcendent flight of JLS was really motivated by the very appropriate desire to avoid chum.

And as disappointed as I am to have a such a sweet and silly word so irrevocably altered, there is some consolation to be found in the existence of The Chum-King.