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“Please do not adjust your set.”

It wasn’t until I got to this word that I realized that you rarely see the words “We are having technical difficulties. Please do not adjust your set.” on your television screen these days.

When I was a kid, we used to see that a lot. I’m not saying that the message was broadcast a few times an hour, but often enough that people joked about it.

Technology constantly gets better and better. That’s the way of the world. Now, technical difficulties rarely force you to stop watching the empty-headed buffoonery shown incessantly on television. You have to make that choice on your own.

Don’t get me wrong. Choice is good. Remember that the next time you are mindlessly watching some useless, utter nonsense on television. You have a choice. That’s why televisions have channel changers and, more importantly, off-buttons.

The most common usage of the word adjust is to change something to achieve a purpose. The adjustments that the “please do not adjust your set” message was referring to were things like your television set’s contrast, color and vertical hold.

Young folk don’t know what I mean by vertical hold. When I was a kid, and even a young adult, the picture on a television set would sometimes scroll up or down the screen in a, usually slow, loop.

Today, that would be considered to be a special effect. Back then, it was an unwanted problem with the television set. To get the picture to remain steady on the screen you had to adjust the vertical hold. Young folks don’t know how easy they have it today.

It was nice of the television stations to let us know that the problem was on their end, rather than something that needed adjusting on our sets because, back then, we didn’t have remote controls. Instead, if we wanted to change the channels or adjust one of the other knobs on our sets we had to get up off our fat asses and walk all the way over to the television set to do that. Did I mention that young folks don’t know how easy they have it these days?

Today, not only do we not have to make any of the technical adjustments that we used to have to make, but we don’t even have to leave our couch unless we foolishly leave the remote control, beer or bag of chips out of reach.

Upon rereading this entry as I edited it (yes, I know that you can’t tell from the results, but I do edit these entries), I realized that I made it sound as if you could adjust only physical objects. This is, of course, not true. You might also have to adjust your behavior to accommodate changing circumstances. In this sense, adjust and adapt are perfect synonyms.

I could probably say more about this sort of adjustment, but I just looked ahead and saw that adjustment has its own dictionary entry (coming up next). I’m going to hold back so I have something say there. With any luck, I’ll think of something at least part way clever by the time I get there. Probably not. You be the judge.

The word adjust also has a meaning specific to the insurance industry. In that case, adjust means to assess the value of your loss when you file a claim. If the insurance company is stingy and quarrelsome, you might have an urge to adjust the claims adjuster’s face. For the record, I’m opposed to violence, but there are times that try that conviction.

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