english again

My daughter-in-law saw me with a dictionary and was shocked . ” What are you doing ?” she asked , almost as if she had spotted me decapitating the cat . It seemed obvious to me what I was doing . No cards were up my sleeve ; everything was right there out on the table . What was I doing ? I might have been spell-checking in the pre-internet manner , or looking up a meaning of a word . Nothing wrong with looking up a word now and again .July 4      4

She has a little bit of an excuse . I should give you a little bit of the backstory . She is Polish ; lives in Poland . She earned a degree in English with a focus , specifically , on American  English . I’m the first American she met , though . In her term , I’m a  Native Speaker , and , as it turns out , that’s a huge responsibility . Being the one and only Native Speaker encountered , I had to represent America , the American lingo . I should have paid better attention when we were diagramming sentences in grammar school  way back when , I guess.July 4   parade

I’ve tried to tell her several times that she must have missed the day in class when the professor must have mentioned that  Americans don’t really care  much about slip ups in grammar or awkward bouts of poor usage , not to mention curious accents and slippery pronunciation .  Hell, everyone has an accent in These United States and , generally , we like that . Makes life more interesting .  Daughter-in-law  wasn’t hearing any of that , however .  She intended to learn the lingo right , come hell or high water .

I did run into another woman over in Poland a few years ago whose son attended Oxford . We were talking about language , the English and the American styles of the language . I tried my little joke about that day in class when the professor must have said that Americans don’t really care much about perfect grammar . My point was that we are a tolerant bunch , effective communication is the key , and that precise points of grammar are not prerequisites to American membership .

Well , this woman , whose son was attending Oxford , whose boyfriend was sitting across the table , went off on America , on Americans , on the whole bunch of us , for being sloppy and slovenly with the language . ” That’s what’s wrong with your country ! ” she said . She got fired up in a rude kind of a way . Heck , I’d never met her before in my life .  I began to feel that I had to stand up for my country and my countrymen , maybe throw a few good American curses out at her and toss a drink in her face . Tell her she’s all wet . Go on , fighting fire with fire , and say that it’s her attitude  what’s wrong with Europe , anyhow . Go toe-to-toe with her and protect the good name of the USA . Of southern California , at least . . But , you know , it wasn’t worth risking another world war over verbal assaults on the American lingo although she had used those attacks on the  language as a springboard to condemn the whole country . Bunch of lazy bums , we are , I guess , according to her .  Never make anything of ourselves . As my English buddy Willie might have said , facetiously : ” It’s sad , really . ” And so I  left it at that .The Midway Punch, Sheboygan Press, 9 June 1942

My friend Bill uses the word   ” gargantuous “. Gargantuous is not a word. He could say garantuan or something ; but instead he says gargantuous . Bill is an educated guy . He grew up in southern California . He’s  traveled the world . I’ve even mentioned to Ada over the years Bill’s use of gargantuous . 

It came out last week at Thursday’s  pool  game . I don’t know why . Bill used the gargantuous term again and I called him on it . I’ve been listening to gargantuous  for years without comment . But , enough is enough . Now I struck .

” There’s no word  gargantuous ,” I said . Maybe it was the Guinness speaking.

” I know , ” Bill said . ” My vocabulary is so great that I have to find new words and play with the language ,”   he said .

” Like James Joyce , ” I said .

” Exactly ! ,” he said , ” Thank you for noticing ,” he said . ” Not too many people understand  , ” he said . Then he took another shot and sunk the eight ball in the corner pocket and we were done .IMG_0703


Filed under humor

12 responses to “english again

  1. My best friend changes words around, misuses words and makes up words. I might have to tell him about “gargantuous,” he might like it.

      • Language is fluid, but there are types of fluid. There is writing and speaking like dirty or brackish water, some like swill or piss, others like that of yourself, tonic and with kick to it, which goes down clean and smooth.

      • Dump out that brackish standing water or you’ll have mosquitos . Thanks for the interest .

      • One could by stealth position bowls of brackish water, hidden, in the realm of an enemy, to get those Mosquitos multiplying. Too much trouble though for guys like us. Above board and honest. I’d rather use language like the ocean wind, so that enemies trying to get a gob on me instead spray their spittle all over themselves. I read that beer drinkers attract Mosquitos. I know this first hand. I try to stay off the stuff because the alcoholic gene is in me. But I love beer – Guinness – yum! I’m quite clean presently, but a while ago when I was drinking beer nightly, some delicious local micro-brew, I awoke one morning and had mosquito bites all over the back of my arms and down my neck. There must have been some happily drunk Mosquitos!

      • Hi Dan: I see you haven’t posted my comment. If you don’t want to, that’s okay. You can delete it, along with this one, and we can start over. I must have hit a nerve, but I don’t need to know what it’s about. I’m a good dude and mean no harm. I meant to be witty with my comment, and to get word-play going, because you’re good at it and it’s fun. I like your writing and personality. Sincerely, John

      • I was in the mountains without internet. I know– it sounds hard-to-believe , j . But , there is life without internet . In wild corners of the earth . I think some of us have experienced that in past years , too . You know — no internet . Hard to believe , eh ? But , well , it is what it is .

      • Glad to read all is well, Dan. Having cometh down the mountain, has your hair reversed from hoary white, and, with crazy mystic eyes, do you now bear tablets inscribed with a list of new Commandments for contemporary Man?

      • I think that’s been done .

      • Sorry . I thought I had posted this earlier. I guess I’m losing it . Or , I don’t check this site often enough .

  2. I love to make up my own words. Just the other day, I was “conversating” with one of my friends about that.

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