Say What?

27 Jun

I read once that for every word a man says, a woman says three. Elements of my life bear this out. At our dinner table, for instance, I have frequently thought that if I did not start a conversation, no conversation would get started. I tried testing my theory. We ate in complete silence while I waited for someone other than me to speak. Unfortunately, I’ll never know if any of my family members can start a conversation. After an interminable seeming two minutes, I jumped into the verbal void with, “Wow. You all seem very quiet tonight.”

Quiet does not ordinarily describe my family. Usually we’re a chatty bunch and, in fact, we’ve even developed our own argot, “argot” being a word I just looked up that means we have a language that we’ve developed over time that is just ours and that might be incomprehensible to others. Isn’t the Internet wonderful?

A large part of our argot is derived from movies, old ones in particular. For instance, I have been known to anger my husband on occasion. He, being particularly conflict avoidant, will not say, “I am really angry with you.” Instead, he will brood; leaving me to figure out what it was I said or did that has turned him into The Incredible Sulk. Frequently, I’ll know exactly what it was I said or did. Not being the kind of person who can live in I’m-Not-Talking-To-You Land for any length of time, I’ll rather sheepishly say, “You do despise me, don’t you, Rick?” Referencing Casablanca, I acknowledge my own despicable behavior and his understandable reaction.

We’ve developed code for distressing situations of a different sort as well. Say something bad happens. It could be anything, from news of our son’s grades to needing new tires on the car. Rather than calling and saying, “Wow, I’ve got really bad news…our son is failing all of his classes except PE,” I’ll call and say, “Houston. We have a problem.”

My son has a few of his own sayings, most of them obscene. He is most known, however, for saying, “What do we have to eat?” I respond, “The same things we had two hours ago when you asked what we have to eat.” Second only to “What do we have to eat?” is “I’m bored” to which I always respond, “You could read a book.” He then says, “I’m already bored, Mom.” Obviously, my son does not have the same fondness for reading that I do. Why then does it bother him so every time I finish a book? In fact, he impersonates me by pretending to speed read a book then saying, “Ok, done!” and flinging the book aside. Now, because I am so mature, whenever I finish reading a book, I bring it to his room, set it on his nightstand and say, “Ok, done!”

When my son was little, he watched Thomas The Tank Engine, another source for our family lexicon. Thomas, as you may know, is a rather small but dependable little engine. In short, very useful. His co-trains (what DO you call the animated trains that work with you?) include some much larger and far more egocentric engines. Chief among these is Gordon, a self-described “very important engine.” Gordon chuffs around all puffed up with his own grandiosity. Though our son’s Thomas trappings are safely stored in the basement, we haven’t retired the language. Calling someone a “very important engine” is so much more genteel than calling them an insufferable egomaniac.

Sometimes, I am at a loss for words. Hard to imagine, I know. More and more though, I will be about to say something and completely forget the word that was going to come out of my mouth next. Generally, the word is a noun and I can picture the object attached to that noun, I just can’t get the word out of my mouth in a reasonable amount of time. To avoid looking like a blithering idiot and prevent others from finishing my sentence (they never do it right), I have taken to inventing words. So, for instance, I would like my son to hand me a mixing bowl, but I cannot remember the word for mixing bowl. I will, instead, say, “Hand me the . . . flarblaster.” What does it say about him that he knows what I am referring to? Sometimes, when this happens, I am relieved I don’t have a regular classroom to teach. I imagine the parent-teacher conferences. “Well, Mrs. Parent, I’m concerned that Timmy is not doing well with his . . . geflerbenmeisten.”

My daughter is becoming a source of amusing entries in our family lexicon. Not too long ago, she and I were watching some terrible little girl movie like “My Little Pony and The Crystal Princess” in which the Little Pony screws up yet again, doing exactly what she was not supposed to do. Despite her blatant disregard for the rules, the Little Pony is forgiven by the other ponies and allowed to become the Crystal Princess, thereby sending my daughter the message that it’s ok to ignore the rules and screw up as much as you like because all the other ponies will forgive you no matter what you do. But I digress. So, my daughter and I were watching “My Little Screw-up,” when I detected a particular odor. “Daughter,” I said, “did you toot?” She immediately said, “No, mama, that’s my natural smell.”

As amusing as my daughter is becoming, there is something I hope to never hear from her lips again. She has taken to playing hand-clapping games. I do not remember playing such games as a child, but then my fondest childhood memories are of sitting in the cool of the family room reading the encyclopedia while the other children frolicked in the summer sun.  The words to my daughter’s favorite hand-clapping game are: “Double, double this. Double, double that. Double this. Double that. Double, double this that.” They are more mind invading than that stupid “What’s my name” song by Rihanna. Just typing the words has put them on endless replay in my brain. But, let me ask you a question. Will you forgive me if they get stuck in your brain, too?

2 Responses to “Say What?”

  1. thegmstevens June 27, 2011 at 11:16 am #

    Another good one. I hope you’ll consider following me at


  1. Desperately Seeking Search Terms « Snide Reply - April 12, 2012

    […] as well as Thich Nhat Hahn and the Naperville Library. People find me looking for Journey lyrics, family sayings and bad dad jokes. Someone even turned to me wondering if “you have to wear thongs with yoga […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: