New world order is hard to handle

Prof C Explains
4 min readApr 21, 2009

by J Scott Christianson, Columbia Daily Tribune Columnist

Do you ever feel like the entire world has changed its rules of operation and someone just forgot to inform you? Last week I went to the drive-through of a local fast-food restaurant for a large regular coffee on my way to run errands. “I want a large regular coffee,” I said to the ordering kiosk outside my car window, confident I had clearly communicated my desires.

“We don’t have large; we have medium,” replied the friendly voice on the loudspeaker.

“You’re out of large?” I asked, thinking the problem must be a lack of appropriately sized cups.

“No, medium is the large. We have small and medium,” the loudspeaker voice announced, in a much sharper tone.

“How can you have a medium without a large? Medium means in the middle,” I said.

“We have small and medium” said the loudspeaker, now in a tone that clearly indicated that the only way I was going to get any coffee was to concede that medium was the new large.

So there I am, drinking my 28-ounce “medium” coffee and trying desperately to remember Ms. Ellis’ third-grade lessons on English comparatives and superlatives from some 30 years ago: small, medium, large; short, medium, tall; good, better, best; bad, worse, worst; little, less, least.

It all made some sense back then. What would Ms. Ellis have done if I had told her I was dropping large all together and I would just use medium when I meant large? I’m not sure, but that is definitely the type of smart-alecky comment that could cancel one’s recess ASAP. I should know: At least half of my third-grade recesses were canceled by Ms. Ellis.

This sort of thing happens to me more nowadays. Perhaps these rule changes are just a side effect of living in the new twitterrific world of constant instant messages. Having three options for sizes probably required too much typing for such small distinctions. So someone — I suspect celebrity and top-twitterer Ashton Kutcher — decided to lop off large from the lexicon to streamline texting for everyone.

This just makes me paranoid. What else has changed? Is better the new best? Farther the new farthest? When I receive a nice gift, should I say, “Aw you’re the better”? Just how else have Kutcher and his friends “punked” the world?



Prof C Explains

J Scott Christianson: UM Teaching Prof, Technologist & Entrepreneur. Connect with me here: