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January 16, 2014 10:17 am

Warning: Watch your mouth!

Written by Doug Blough

I’ve been dabbling in poetry again; try this one on for size:

“I once dated a hot gal named Cloris, with a homely Siamese twin named Deloris; they accused me for two-timing, and forgive my bad rhyming, but I forgot where I put my thesaurus.”

That my friends, is what’s known as “Jabberwocky,” which my thesaurus tells me means: “nonsense words; nonsensical poetry.” Like most calling themselves writers, I love word-play and coincidentally also love nonsense. Words are tons of fun, but if used or received wrong, can be damaging. Anyone who believes that “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but names can never hurt me” has never been called a “Pasty-Faced Troll.” (It’s not like I really wanted to take her to prom anyway)!

Speed-reading is good in theory, but often not in practice, when one misreads even to the slightest degree. I was taken aback after reading the DVR menu description of an upcoming episode of “Deadline Crime” — “A Michigan woman goes missing after a suspicious fall on her husband.”

I’m thinking, “Well, that sounds nonsensical. If anything, you’d think he’d have broken her fall, preventing tragedy.” I couldn’t wait to see how this fluke accident transpired, before re-reading “… woman goes missing; suspicion falls on her husband.”

Ohhh … suspicION fell on her husband? So it wasn’t a close call fall at all, but just one misread word and an overlooked semi-colon had confused the heck out of me.

But if strategically used, words can be tons of fun — even downright funny. Decades ago, my brother Jess and I played on a church league basketball team. Our tall coach and leading scorer was a really nice guy named Lynn Funkhouser. My sis-in-law Marti never laughed harder than when I complained one day, “That funkin’ Lynn Houser better start passing me the ball!”

I knew his correct funkin’ name, of course, but do you see what I did there? I flipped the order of just a few letters and made a real funny. Ingenious!

I’m pretty sure Jess won’t mind if I highlight one of his verbal gaffes that has become family-meal legend. In the late ’80s, Jess, his son Jay and I were roofing at the 7-D Guest Ranch and it was nearly dark as we finished. The ranch cook took pity, poked her head out and asked, “Could I fix you guys some sandwiches for the ride home?”

In his typical, fevered rush, Jess answered, “Ah, no thanks; well, maybe just some meat between two slices of bread.”

Jay and I looked in disbelief at each other before I reminded Jess, “That IS a sandwich, ya clown!” Ah, golden memories. Ah, the beauty of errant words that can keep embarrassing relatives for decades to come.  

I was a stupefied victim myself not long ago when my cute, 3-year-old, next-door townhouse neighbor Leslie giddily told me, “We’re moving to ‘Palowell.’”

I rubbed her head laughing and like Dan Quayle at a spelling bee, gently corrected her: “Aaah,  I think you mean Powell, Sweetie.” She gave me that same look the ranch cook gave Jess and repeated they might soon move to “Palowell.”

Later I was relating to her mother Shanice how sweet little Leslie had mispronounced Powell. Gently correcting me, she explained that her husband Eric grew up on the Pacific island of “Palau” and they may move back there to be closer to his mother.

Boy was MY face a nonsensical shade of red.

Most joking aside though, words can also be angrily misconstrued — sometimes even mere initials. My old best-buddy Frank Rozek, who moved away years ago, thought he was consoling his cousin about the death of her father, Frank’s Uncle. She never replied to Frank’s sympathetic e-mail about her daddy’s death, adding “LOL.”

It was sometime later when Frank learned he hadn’t been expressing “Lots of Love,” but that he was “Laughing out Loud.” His cousin surely thought him an emotional sadist; lol.

Some words when mistaken by the beholder can also be accidentally insulting. You might tell someone they’re “unbelievable,” in a good way, but if they hear “unbereavable,” they assume either you’re of Japanese origin or you think them incapable of grief. “Top of the mourning” signifies the opposite — that one has few equals when it comes to grieving.

Other examples of carelessly used, similar-sounding words that can get one in trouble are “concubine/combine” or “omnipotent/impotent.” Boasting turns to whining if one says “After my last date, I feel almost impotent.”

If not timely corrected, telling someone about your farmer Uncle who lost his hand when “he got it caught in his concubine” might lead to ugly rumors.

Well, I see I’m out of space, so bereave me when I tell you, we have reached our climax.

1 Comment

  • Comment Link January 24, 2014 2:30 pm posted by phoebe

    Good one! I laughed more than once!! Phoebe

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