Old Hand: One having knowledge or ability gained through long experience.
That’s the definition in the Webster’s Third New International Dictionary we have in the Academic Success Center at Piedmont Community College in Yanceyville, North Carolina. And the Webster’s ought to know. It’s such an old hand, heavy and wise with words, that I can barely lift it.
But what I’ve noticed in the ASC that makes me want to shout some nasty words is that I have OLD HANDS.
I often put my hand up to the computer screen. I’m a writing tutor, so it’s all about words: “How about a stronger verb here?” “That’s plural. Better put an S on it.” “Love that short sentence. It really packs a punch.”
And sometimes, when I’m happily pointing out the strengths and weaknesses in writing (I love working with students), I am shocked by how old my hand looks. Yikes!
This aging stuff is tricky. I want to be agreeable. I want to not care.
But OLD HANDS?
Mr. Webster says an old hand is someone who has gained ability through long experience. I’ve spent a lifetime fiddling with words, and now I’m helping learners fiddle with them too.
The students I work with see their words, important words, clever words, sometimes heart-wrenching words, light up the screen. Not once have they complained about my old hands.
Photo: This is Jean Badgett, student extraordinaire, at work in the Academic Success Center.
The Dictionary: Yes, we do use online dictionaries here, but sometimes I like to run these old hands over a paper page full of words. And who knows more about life, words, and old hands than Webster’s Third?