The Word is Good

The people who pay the most attention to words are possibly a) writers and, b) toddlers. Wordsmiths all, because these folks are on the cusp of emergent language—creating it and receiving it. People in these groups have a greater tendency toward experimenting with words.

I fit into one of these categories and I’ll just say it. I really like words. The precise word. The unexpected word. The delicate word. The flamboyant word. The curse word. The zippy word. The vintage word. The droll word.

I like them all.

I have a running list on my phone of words that strike my fancy. Words that I don’t want to forget because oh my stars, they are delightful. Most of them are botched words. Like the way my friend Mandi’s little boy used to pronounce Home Depot as Home Bo Bo. I like it so much better than the original. And the way my friend Kristen’s kids call Chuck-a-Rama, Chuck Your Grandma. It just works, you know?

Children are uninhibited with the crazy word mashups and approximations. They are operating purely from what they hear in passing, so can you blame them for thinking that gloves are pronounced glubs, and Chuckee Cheese Is Chunky Cheese, like I did until I was seven?

My son Charlie nonsensically called apples zeh-bupps for the longest time, and another son, Henry, knew fruit snacks as woog snacks for years. My friend Liza’s toddler daughter thought that the classic Disney movie was called Snow Wipe, and Charlie still thinks Madagascar is pronounced Master Ass Car.

My husband and I had a Honda Accord that we sold to his parents when we outgrew it a few years back. It was and still is a reliable car, even though one of the back doors doesn’t open and a mysterious smoky/musty smell clings to the interior. Once, my sister-in-law Mia was babysitting some neighbor children overnight and loaded them into the old Honda to drive them to school the next morning. The kids, who had apparently never ridden in anything but spanking new SUV’s, moaned over the nonfunctional door, the cramped backseat, and the mystery odor. “This car smells like Pirates of the Caribbean,” they whined. Who thinks to compare old car smell to a Disneyland ride? Children do. 

Incidentally, Mia called the car Pirates of the Caribbean after that.

Charlie calls duct tape “goose tape,” because a goose is bigger and better than a duck, you see. Henry as a preschooler referred to our dermatologist as Dr. Eyebrow for no apparent reason. My nephew spotted a goose at the cabin and called it Mrs. Piano Face, because it had a black and white face, striped like a keyboard.

And yet, childhood isn’t the sole bastion of botched, fabulous wording. My dad once called the Sistine Chapel the Pristine Chapel during a game of Trivial Pursuit, which we will never let him forget. He also said one time as we passed a billboard for Arby’s on our way to Yellowstone, “Now, Arby’s….that’s not Burger King, is it?” Nope. Arby’s is not Burger King.

Basically everyone in certain areas of Utah and Idaho refers to a creek as a crick.

And we have an old family friend, a farmer, who always changes the word inevitable to invetible. So now we all say it that way too.

It’s wrong, but at least it’s streamlined.

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