The Thing About Words

September 5, 2008

Yesterday I bought a spare phone charger. At the register, I held out my debit card uncertainly at the card-swiping gizmo. The man behind the register saw my confusion and said, “Strip down. Facing me.”

I paused, then repeated his words back to him. The woman at the next register burst out laughing.

I mean, if I were entering the Army, okay. But to purchase a phone charger? That seemed austere. Strip down, facing me.

Words. Honestly, they’re pretty malleable.

I have a friend who grew up hearing “Silent Night” and thinking that “Round John Virgin” was a character in the story.

When I was little, I had a friend who used to wet her bed every night. My mom told me she had “a bladder problem.” I had no idea what a “bladder” was. I thought she said my friend had “a splatter problem.” And that made perfect sense to me.

When my son Nick was little, he had a problem pronouncing the words “airplane” and “airport.” He said, “ahhplane” and “ahhport.” This went on for a few years.

Then one day, we drove to the Charlottesville Ahhport to pick up my dad, who was coming for a visit. We collected the maestro, and as we began driving home, Nick said something about how exciting it was to “come get Grandpa at the ahhport.” Then he turned to my dad and explained in perfect English, “I can’t say airport.”

“No?” said my dad. “What do you say?”

“I say, ahhport,” Nick replied.


  1. Melanie Kissell


    Maybe I’m neurotic. I’m not sure. I’ll let you be the judge.

    The thing about words …

    There are certain words that drive me nuts and keep me awake at night. For example, is it …
    ‘A-pplicable or A-‘pplicable? “Caribbean” is another one that drives me crazy.

    Do you suppose it’s just a double consonants syndrome??


  2. jdmann

    Melanie — I think it is probably linked to having twin daughters. ;-|

  3. Russ


    This one may not be 100% A’pplicable (emphasis for Melanie), but it is along similar lines:

    Years ago, I worked in a company where the CEO announced an impromptu meeting. After we gathered, he gave an uninspiring talk and called for a person to “step up to the plate,” to “take the bull by the horns,” to volunteer for a new position in which the pressure would be extreme. He then went on to say that there would NO additional compensation. Instead, this person would be known as a “champion.”

    At this point, a co-worker leaned over to me and whispered, “Champion? It sounds more like a ‘chump peon.'” I thought I was going to lose it (and my job too!).


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