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Today's word on journalism

May 8, 2009

The Last WORD


The Fat Lady Sings, Off-Key, Drools

At about this time every year, like the swallows to Capistrano or the buzzards to Hinckley, Ohio, the WORD migrates to its summer musing grounds at the sanitarium —St. Mumbles Home for the Terminally Verbose.

The reason is clear, and never moreso than as this season —the WORD's 13th —peters out.

It's been a fraught year of high palaver and eye-popping transition, both good and not-so-much. An interminable presidential campaign saga finally did end, and in extraordinary and historic fashion. Meanwhile, the bottom and everything that's below the bottom fell out of the economy, with families, homes, entire industries and —of particular interest to WORDsters and the civic-minded —dozens of daily newspapers ("I don't so much mind that newspapers are dying--it's watching them commit suicide that pisses me off." --Molly Ivins). . . all evaporating. What replaces them, from the individual to the institutional to the societal? Are we looking at a future of in-depth Tweeting?

As any newsperson or firehorse knows, it's hard to turn your back on day-to-day catastrophe --we just have to look at the car wreck. But even the most deranged and driven need a rest. As philosopher Lilly Tomlin once observed, "No matter how cynical you become, it's never enough to keep up."

So this morning, as a near-frost hovered over northern Utah, the unmarked van pulled into the driveway and the gentle, soft-spoken men in the white coats rolled the WORD out of bed and into a straitjacket for the usual summer trip to St. Mumbles, where the blathering one will be assigned a hammock and fed soothing, healthy foods --like tapioca, dog biscuits and salmon --while recharging the essential muscles of cynicism, outrage, sarcasm, social engagement and high-mindedness, in preparation for the next edition.
Summer well, friends.

Speak up! Comment on the WORD at

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Feedback and suggestions--printable and otherwise--always welcome. "There are no false opinions."

Gifted State Department linguist has the world at his feet

By Lisa Christensen

April 1, 2009-Logan | Dean Meservy's passport is a rainbow. Stamped in a dizzying array of stamps from countries all around the world, the Providence native has certainly used it more than most people. And being fluent in about a dozen languages, nine of which he has mastered on a professional level, he never feels very lost in whatever country he happens to find himself in at the moment.

Meservy is a foreign service officer assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, employed by the Department of State. It isn't his first experience living in Europe, though, as he lived in Germany for three years and England for 12. In his post as a linguist in those areas, he had the opportunity to travel all over the continent. A linguist is someone skilled in foreign affairs and languages, primarily in translation, but that is as much of a description of Dean's job he can give, the rest being confidential.

His interest in foreign affairs started early.

"My father gave me his Army-issue German phrasebook from when he was in the occupation forces in Germany. I loved memorizing all the cool phrases, like 'Get help!' and 'Hands up or I will shoot!' and 'Are there soldiers in the area?' and 'I am injured in the foot/leg/stomach/head/arm/elbow!'"

When he was in the sixth grade, he learned the Russian alphabet so he could write secret notes. Unfortunately, he said, he was the only one who knew the Russian alphabet so he could only write notes to himself. Then he had to learn the alphabet again so he could understand what he had written.

The fourth son of Nile and Ellen Meservy, Dean was born on Sept. 7, 1958, in Wenatchee, Wash. His family moved from Wenatchee to Provo, Utah, in 1964 and shortly thereafter up to Providence, where they settled. He excelled in school and skipped a grade, graduating from Sky View High School in 1975 at the age of 16.

From there, he attended Utah State University, nearly completing a business administration degree before serving a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to Porto Allegre, Brazil. After returning home, he went back to college, completing his business administration major as well as a second major in political science with a minor in Russian. He graduated in May 1982 and married his wife, Shaura, that July. They moved out to Washington D.C. where he received his M.S. in Russian and East European studies from George Washington University in 1987.

That's when things get interesting.

"I didn't always think I'd go into government service. Up until I went on my mission my whole family was sure I was going to be a lawyer. It was only during my mission that I changed my mind. The business world attracted me," he said. "I had the marvelous foresight to graduate with a business degree in the middle of the worst recession since the Great Depression (and still the worst except for the one we're in now). No one was hiring. I knew I was doomed when I couldn't even get hired on as an insurance salesman."

Luckily, the government was interested in Russian, which he had studied for fun besides as part of his minor, without the thought of it helping him in the job market.

"I figured I could have fun with language and foreign affairs until I got a real job," he said. "I guess I still don't have a real job."

Dean's new job with the Department of State assigned him, along with his wife and three children (the youngest of whom at the time was only days old), to Germany to begin his job as a linguist. From there, the family returned stateside, living in Maryland until he accepted a post in England in 1995. They lived there for 11 years. By this time, the oldest three of his now four children were grown and two of them were attending universities in the United States. Robert, the eldest, was a student in physics at Utah State University and Sharah, the third child, was studying theater at Brigham Young University: Hawaii. Larissa, the second child and oldest daughter, had attended Brigham Young University: Idaho, but had returned to England to get married.

Because LDS temples are non-public venues, members of the church are not allowed to be married inside the temple. Instead, they must be married legally and sealed within the temple within 24 hours. Dean was the bishop of their ward at the time of Larissa's marriage.

"Dean married our daughter," Shaura said. "As her bishop he performed the 'legal' ceremony in the York England chapel before we traveled to the Preston England temple for the sealing."

With all the traveling the family has done, it is easy to think they feel very lost and homesick as they find themselves far away from extended family. However, although this is in part the case, people elsewhere have made for an acceptable substitute. The Meservys are very active in the LDS Church, no matter what country they are in. Dean has served in many leadership positions besides as bishop and is now branch president for their congregation. Members of their faith worldwide immediately feel like family to the Meservys.

"We have been exceedingly blessed to have church members who have become our replacement family. They help us through hard times and celebrate holidays with us as we fight homesickness together," Shaura said.

Melece, the youngest in the family, said she agrees. People often ask her what it is like to move around so much, but she says she never quite knows what to tell them because she's never felt like she has moved a lot.

"Living overseas allowed me to see the world which is a new culture within itself I am only beginning to comprehend that now," she said. "Living with my dad, I got to have a very culturally-filled childhood. The stories he'd tell us of America seemed very distant and unreal compared to the life in Europe that I was living."

Dean has always taken every opportunity to make the most of his international experience. Shaura said he has a "phenomenal recall" for random facts and trivia about any subject or place. His sister-in-law, Charlette Meservy, calls him the "tour guide from Hell" because of this ability, Shaura said. The children were not spared from this education, either.

"We traveled so much and visited so many places during our stay in England that the children started to beg 'stay home, please, during our next school break,'" Shaura said. "'No more castles or museums!'"

She said when they returned to Maryland, she never wanted to go to another tourist sight or museum for the rest of her life, or even pack a suitcase again. One year later, they arrived in Moscow, where they are now, to live for two years. Their travels aren't done, either Dean has already applied for his next job assignment, which will also be foreign.

Melece said she has only recently begun to realize that her father and her life aren't quite like everyone else's. Hearing about him learning to read at age 3 or being in college at 17 didn't seem odd until she found herself at that age, unable to make that milestone herself.

"I always knew he was smart enough to help me with my homework and speak other languages, but other than that, he was just my dad," Melece said. "Your father doesn't start getting intimidating until you start becoming an adult yourself, and then you realize that his skills at your age far surpass yours."

Shaura said Dean's aptitude for languages helps not only on foreign assignments but on vacation, as well.

"Being married to a genius has its moments ... He relaxes from a hard day working in Russian by reading a grammer book of Italian," she said. "Before we visit another country he always studies a phrase book and arrives with basic survival language."

They recently visited Egypt, she said, where he "thrilled taxi drivers with his ability to converse in their language." He is humble about his abilities, however, brushing off any claims of genius.

"He really takes his talent for granted," Shaura said. "When I call him a genius, he just gives me the 'Nah, not me.'"

SH
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Copyright 1997-2009 Utah State University Department of Journalism & Communication, Logan UT 84322, (435) 797-3292
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