Comprehension

According to dictionary.com, "comprehension" is a "noun; 1. the act or process of comprehending; 2. state of being comprehended; 3. perception or understanding; 4. capacity of the mind to perceive and understand; power to grasp ideas; ability to know, etc."

I could go on, but it wouldn't help your comprehension of what I'm trying to say.

My wife's been an English teacher for her entire career and, since one of my staff members had to correct me this week on my use of a pronoun in a letter, you can understand what a difficult job my wife has. I keep trying to comprehend the basics and, since she has spent her life teaching them, I called on her this week for a lesson in basic grammar.

"Iweheshethey" she explained while bowing her head, as she uttered the word with a Japanese flair. They are subject pronouns, because you use them as the subject of a sentence

She's very patient. The fact is, she got ninth-graders to love Shakespeare. While trying desperately to teach me the other day over lunch, she explained that she uses the mnemonic "Iweheshethey" to teach her students the basic rules. When she bows and says it as though it is a Japanese word, people remember.

Even me! But I have a feeling if I keep on like this you will stop reading my column. I wouldn't blame you.

So, back to comprehension. I can't comprehend how every single insurance company can be cheaper than every other single insurance company. They can't pull the wool over my eyes. The simple fact is, after listening to numerous commercials, every single company has convinced me they will save me money.

Something just doesn't add up. I did take a bunch of tax courses in law school, so I should comprehend it, unlike the basic rules of subjective and objective nouns.

If you switch from Allstate to Geico, from Geico to Allstate, from Geico to 21st Century, State Farm to Allstate, Allstate to State Farm or any other possible permutation of any insurance company to any other insurance company, they will save you money. That seems odd, but apparently that's the case.

I'm also having difficulty comprehending that Abraham Lincoln felt he had just failed miserably as he left the battlefield at Gettysburg.

One of my greatest inspirations was reading the Gettysburg Address, etched into the marble on the wall of the Lincoln Memorial in D.C. But Lincoln left the podium feeling as though he was an abject failure. Maybe when we give ourselves too little credit, we should look to him as an example of why we should not be quite so hard on ourselves.

I know that the American hockey team players were too hard on themselves. Originally they were absolutely ECSTATIC after their last-second goal, which tied the Olympic game and took them into overtime. They were so wonderful. They played so well. Our entire country was united in pride at their accomplishments, achieved against all odds and in defiance of all expectations. Even the team's travel agents booked them for a return flight prior to their last day of play, believing there was no chance in hell they would be playing for the gold in the final game.

What I can't comprehend, however, is not the fact that they lost, but how amazingly depressed they were when they lost by one goal. I can't remember a time recently when people so happy became so dismally depressed within minutes. I felt horrible watching them go from such a high to such a low. It seems analogous to Lincoln's leaving the podium at Gettysburg.

"Incomprehension," also is a noun; Bob Brenna not getting it, i.e. Bob Brenna not 1. comprehending; 2. being comprehended; 3. understanding; 4. even having the capacity of the mind to perceive and understand; power to grasp ideas; or ability to know subjective or objective nouns or pronouns; why Lincoln was horribly depressed after the Gettysburg address; why every insurance company is cheaper than every other insurance company, or what we can do to let our hockey team know they were the greatest.

Robert L. Brenna Jr. is a partner in the Rochester, N.Y., law firm of Brenna, Brenna & Boyce PLLC, which his father founded.

Published: Fri, Mar 5, 2010

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