In the wise words of Sue Sylvester, “Words are hard“.
I giggle at this notion now, observing my 1-year-old grunt and gurgle his vocabulary, when actual words fail him mostly labeling all things, emotions, and people “Da Da”. I, as most children, struggled to find accurate words growing up. Crime Cheese left me with a picture of felonious bagel spread escaping the law. Height Dog left me unsure of my ability to eat this porkbeefchicken treat anywhere other than at the highest peak of a ferris wheel. Spork and Skort still blow my mind, as I spent years thinking all spoons had jagged edges and all skirts had built in shorts. It’s all so confusing, no?
For as long as I can remember, I sat in my grandmother’s living room, determined to be a part of the “adult speak”. Despite my epic failures in forming sentences and properly comprehending words, I wanted to be one with the big girls. During one of my Great Aunt’s visits to Nashville, I perched per usual on a tiny stool in the living room. I was just sure that this would be my time to shine. I would have something brilliant and shockingly sophisticated to say. Maybe we could discuss the gender confusion created by Barbie’s lack of private parts?
A few minutes into the conversation, I stopped listening to the large words they were throwing around and could only envision myself sitting in the corner wearing a dunce cap. I NO FOLLOW THIS. I NO FOLLOW THIS IT ALL. Just a few moments later, amidst the chatter of politics and religion, my sweet Great Aunt went and wrecked my world. In one fell swoop she tossed out “penal” and “abreast“. Surely these are not real words, I thought. Surely there are no two words more confusing and misleading than “spork” and “skort“. I realized then that THIS.IS.WAR.
Growing up in a family of fancy-word-users and adjective-placement-correctors has taught me this: Some people will use outrageously large and hard-to-prounouce words simply to sound smart making you, by default, sound like a total idiot. It is an argument winner. It is a testament to their knowledgable and educated minds. It is a total pain in the arse parts.
After years of exposure to such expansive vocabulary, I had become wholly prepared for encounters with these Multiple Syllable Offenders in the world outside my grandmother’s cozy living room. They are everywhere and they are waiting to make you feel a little dumb and a lot confused.
In highschool I had an English teacher who could twist and destroy any simple message by overusing outlandish words. “Please turn your book to the second chapter” turned into “Elect to circulate one’s literary text to the second most of thirteen parts.” I was good at reading, writing, even speaking at this point; nevertheless, her insistence on appearing that much smarter than the rest of us was infuriating.
As I neared adulthood, I found an even more absurd crowd of verbal show-offs. Men in bars. As soon as I let slip that I was in college working towards an English degree or even that I read books, this peculiar brand of males flipped on the smart switch. Suddenly the sloppy water ring smudged across the wooden bar top from a sweating can of Pabst was contorted into a philosophical lesson on life, death, and other wordy subjects. Before one of those men could fully utter “Philosophically speaking…” I had escaped to the ladies room or pretended to pass out, face first on the bar. I am smart. You are smart. Can’t we all just use small words?
My entry into the professional world wasn’t much better. Much worse, actually, because of a definite lack of beer and ways to escape conversation. Years of grammar and literary training under my belt, the sense of confusion and stupidity had long since vanished. In its place was a deep seated hatred for these conversational assailants, jumping at the chance to one-up your very logical, very simply-stated sentence.
My first boss was a sassy, frizzy-permed lady who had a hankering for winning a conversation (even when the conversation was not-in any way- and argument or debate).
ME: “Hey ya’ll, is there another cartridge for the printer in the back room.”
Boss From Hell:”Ya’ll is not a word. What you meant to say is you all.”
Word Nazi and Killer of Joy In General: “By ok I assume you mean I understand.”
ME: “Yes. Is there another cartridge or …”
Biatch: “See, the southern use of ya’ll fascinates me. I’m from the North. We just never think to use that imaginary term.”
ME: “But you say Yous Guys, which is dumb.”
Perm Face:”Well, grammatically, yous guys could be broken down into…”
ME: “I quit.”
There were many before her and, I know, many more just like her. With all great battles (World War II, Presidential campaigns, Top Chef) it is best to be prepared. Strategy is key. Here is mine:
Surrender: “Yes. Totally. I concur.”
Distract: “Have you heard about the new strain of Camel Flu?”
Flee: Simply stand up and leave the room…quickly (Even a light jog and/or jumping over immediate obstacles such as sofas is acceptable.).
Do not feel trapped by these word-twisting, outsmart-ing whackos because, in the end, whatever you say can be said one hundred different ways, most of them better. But you say what you say the way in which you say it…. small words and all.
Desiderating the masses mighty peregrinations.
In SIMPLER words,
Wishing ya’ll a great weekend!