Often in conversations I’m reminded that the English language is an interesting, changeable thing. I’m referring specifically to our ability to make words up and use them to a point where we forget that they’re not, well, words. Or atleast, words that aren’t known by Meriam-Webster (except bootylicious – apparently if you’re famous enough you can get words added to the English lexicon). Or we take a word everyone knows and use it to describe something that’s already identified with a different word. Confusing! Let me provide two examples from my personal repertoire of language foibles…
One. I work on a beach. Hold on – it’s not so glorious. I work in a trailer off of a trailer off of an old, brick and cinderblock main building that’s set behind a chain-link & barbed wire fence, behind a stand of vines, bushes and trees filled with groundhogs, raccoons and wild birds. Beyond all that crap is water. The Chesapeake Bay, to be exact, which has the visual consistency of chocolate milk made with toilet water. On the best days, it’s made with toilet water that’s got the blue toilet bowl cleaner color in it. But I digress…
We’re in danger of losing our beach to erosion, so the government has worked out a shoreline stabilization project which involves moving a ton of dirt around and placing VERY LARGE ROCKS on the edge of the new shoreline so the water doesn’t take any more of our precious sand out to make little lagoons in the Bay and Patuxent River. So every day I sit in my office chair, literally vibrating to the movements of several large monsters out back, working.
Yes, that’s right. I said monsters. Because that’s what I call construction equipment. My sister, Jaci, had a motorized toy monster truck that had claws that extended from the tires when it needed to climb over something. We used to play with it out in the sandbox, and later we associated this small, yellow “monster” with ALL big, yellow, clawed and toothed construction equipment. In fact, I never learned the names of the different construction machines because they were all simply “monsters,” like different breeds of canines are all “dogs.” Driving with Sarah S-E the other day, I just took it for granted that she’d be able to follow along with the conversation as I discussed how all the monsters look like dejected spare-parts dinosaurs, abandoned along the shore at night to wait for the next day’s work. Bless her heart, I *think* she followed along?
Two. When I was little – perhaps 6 or 7? – we were clearing the St. Mary’s City property and I was walking around barefoot when I got a holly leaf stuck in my foot. Ouch! I ran crying to Mom, and she asked me what was wrong?
“A holly skark bit me!” I cried.
She was never sure where I came up with that word – her best guess is that I likened the ‘bite’ of the angry little leaf to that of a shark, but the name stuck. Holly leaves have been “skarks” in my household ever since.
What about you? Has your family adapted alternate or made-up words into its vocabulary?
Addendum (other words I’ve coined):
1. Goy – a boy who acts and reacts to situations like a girl, but who is in fact, straight
2. Wacknoodle – a person whose certainty is the consistency of a wet noodle, and whose words and actions just don’t make sense