It’s no surprise that people who love to write, (whether they are high level journalists, published authors, or–like me–a freelance wanna-be) are fascinated by words. It is a great delight for me to learn of the creative ways the human brain formulates verbal expression. I love to share with native speakers of languages other than my own, and learn the colloquial expressions we use for the human experiences and emotions we share in common. A good pun, sentences that convey an idea with depth, and a tongue-in-cheek use of words to soften a message are all a delight to me.
Anyone who has spent time with a child through the language learning years has seen verbal creativity first hand. When our children were young, their sandwich bread had to be trimmed of crust because they didn’t like the “bark.” When our son was just learning to identify letters, his dad pointed to a large store sign that looked like this
R I C H ‘ S
and asked him what the letters were. “R,” he said with great confidence, but paused, clearly confused by the next one. Then the creativity kicked in: “Line, C, H, curve, S,” he announced proudly.
One of my most difficult experiences is those moments when I cannot recall a word or a name. It frustrates me greatly, but there seems to be a similar creative process in my aging brain by which I can retrieve or somehow modify and find a different word in order to express myself. When my mother was in her late 80’s, she was watching the birds at the feeder in her yard–something that she had always loved to do. Squirrels are notorious for robbing these feeders and trying to outsmart them is like protecting a bank from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
My mother started to say something to me, then hesitated, the look on her face making it obvious she was searching for the right name for that animal that was stealing food from her beloved birds. “Look,” she finally said, “the bandit is at the feeder.”
I can only speak for myself, but am guessing that most people who enjoy creating word pictures or verbal symphonies, and write because they love to communicate through the written word experience frustration over improper word use and statements that clearly indicate the speaker has no real idea what the word means.
Yesterday there was an advertisement for a personal injury law firm on television, which loudly announced: “Accidents often happen without any warning!” Isn’t that pretty much the definition of an accident? Are warnings given if the accident was planned?
I have collected some snippets of conversation to share with my fellow word fanatics. Some are creative, some demonstrate a bit of stupidity, but all of them are real conversations that I either overheard or in which I was a less than enthusiastic participant. Hopefully, they will provide some humor to brighten your day.
Son: Dad, could you possibly lend me some money? Dad: Sorry, son, but the well is dry. Son: (two days later when father drives up in a new car): Dad, I thought you said the well was dry. Dad: Well, actually, the well isn't dry, but your bucket definitely has a hole in it.
Customer at Pick-Your-Own Strawberry Farm: $2.00 a quart!! Are you kidding? The farm down the street is selling them for $1.50!! Farmer: Why didn't you pick them there? Customer: He's closed because he sold out. Farmer: When I'm sold out, I'll sell them to you for $1.00!
Grandma: Your friend is not very bright. Grandson: How can you say that, Grandma? You only just met him today. Grandma: A stranger sits for a while and sees for a mile!
Car Nut: It costs $30 to get into this show? That's a lot of money. Beleaguered Ticket Seller: Yes, but there are at least 70 cars, and you can stay as long as you want. Car Nut: Can I just go in for a few minutes and see if there are any cars I really want to see? If there are, then I'll buy a ticket.
Judge Judy: So, you were driving the car? Defendant: No, I wasn't driving, I was backing out of the parking space.
A confession about being a word snob: I am one. My snobbery is usually quiet and unobtrusive. I don’t say much out loud, but someone with really long fingernails is clawing at my internal chalkboard when confronted with the incessant use of “like” and “actually.” Human language is so rich and evocative and it saddens me to witness the popularity of making a statement in 140 characters, tweeting inane or hurtful comments as a substitute for true dialogue, or language reduced to “one-size-fits-all” statements such as “have a good one.” I’m thankful to be part of a community of people for whom the written word is still something worth pondering over and delighting in, and crafting a well-written story is a delight.
©Martha Hurwitz, 8/15/17