The English language is well-known for its idiosyncrasies: weird spellings, confusing pronunciations and oddball rules.
I learned plenty of that when I was doing medical transcribing for twenty-five years plus: words like homonymous hemianopsia and jejunojejujnosocopy. Hey, anyone who writes for a living or reads voraciously can attest to this.
I’ve always thought our daughter Katie has a sixth sense for finding typos in books (she’s also the best editor I’ve ever used for my columns — seriously.) So yeah, our entire family has fun with words and phrases.
As such, we have crazy sayings, private jokes and nicknames. We like to say Tar-jay for Target and J.C. Pen-A for J.C. Penney. My 4-year old nephew didn’t understand this concept recently. His grandmother (my sister, Nancy) had told him they would go to Target while she was visiting. She got up one morning and told Reid to get ready to go to Tar-Jay. He looked and her and said, “But, Grancy, can we go to Target first?”
When Kelly, our daughter, was sitting in the car recently waiting for her oldest daughter, Madison, 10, to come out of the school building, she asked Carly, 6, to read out loud. A few people were milling around outside, making noises and Carly seemed a little annoyed. She stopped once, but then tried again. Eventually, it was too much for her. She closed the book, frowning. Coinciding with this was the crowd getting louder and louder. Not understanding, Kelly asked her what was wrong. Carly didn’t hesitate, holding out her hands for special effects. “I can’t read with all this noise. These people are subtracting me!”
I can mess up words and sayings just as much as the next guy (see my final paragraph.) But as a foodie, I got really tickled tonight when I asked the waitress about the Asian cole slaw. She told me it was really good — that it’s made from jicama. (FYI, y’all, jicama is a root vegetable that originated in Spain. It’s sweet and juicy, similar to an apple.) Only, she pronounced the word just like it looks, ji-ca-ma. I had to tell her the “j” is silent and it’s pronounced “hicama.” She said, “Do what?” I swear I wasn’t being a word snob, but the next person might be and I wanted to spare her the embarrassment.
In fact, though I consider myself a wordsmith, I’m not much of an alphabet person. I asked Nancy today if there weren’t 27 letters in the alphabet. She looked at me like I was crazy. Then she asked me, slyly, what new letter had been added. Nancy, who taught 4th grade almost 30 years, corrected me. “Ann, are you serious? There are 26 letters!” She really IS smarter than a 5th grader (and she was always smarter than me). She even tutors 5th graders on a regular basis. Then she asked me if I knew how many vowels there are. I said, “Oh, I dunno. Six or eight?” Then she said, “There’s 5 and sometimes “W and Y.” I was taught in school, “A,E,I,O,U and sometimes Y.” So I asked her when in the heck the W got added. I mean, where have I been, not to know this?! So, she gave me an example: Yellow. The “w” is silent and considered a vowel. Well, lah-de-dah!
That’s okay. I later got my say. She was describing a place tonight and read right off the Web site for Persimmons Restaurant, “it’s a gorgeous re-spite located on the Neuse River.” I said, “Nancy, that would be respite — sounds like res-pit, the “e” is silent.” See what I mean about the English language? All those silent letters! If they’re going to be silent, why not just fughetaboutem? Argh!
And finally, I was telling Katie, our daughter, about this man who had turned his life around and was finally making good choices — living a good, clean life, after having been in trouble for so long.
“Yep,” I said, “I’m so happy for the family. You know, he’s basically done a 360.” Katie said, “Mama, that would be a 180.” What’s the difference, I asked. And yes, I realize that 360 is a circle, so it seemed fine to me. But then Katie, in her ever so quick wit and reason said, “Mom, doing a 360 would mean he was right back where he started.” So true.
Ann Ipock .“Life is Short, I Wish I Was Taller” firstname.lastname@example.org www.annipock.com
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