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Monday, November 4, 2013


I think all of us have words or phrases that might trip us up. Either we can't pronounce them, or they make absolutely no sense to us. I've mentioned in the past that one of Trent's is the phrase "six of one, half a dozen of the other." This is quite an old saying that signifies that both things being discussed are the same. When Trent first heard me use this phrase, he responded by saying that six and half a dozen were the exact same thing. I said that this was the entire point of the saying. It still makes no sense to him, so I have replaced it by saying, "six of one and WD-40 of the other." For some reason, that works for him, and that's good enough for me.

One of my demons is the bottled condiment known as Worcestershire sauce. It adds flavor to a large variety of foods. I use it when I make my version of Chex mix. It adds a savoriness that goes well with the butter, garlic, and other ingredients I use to make a snack mix that everyone seems to really delight in eating. When I look at the word, it seems that it should be pronounced as it looks: were-chest-er-sher (or shire), but it is supposed to be wuss-ter-sher. I just don't care that much for either option. So I call it wooster-schooster-shoosta-sher sauce. Hey, might as well have fun with it, right? By the way, another word that I don't much care for the usual pronunciation of is herb. Most folks around here use the French pronunciation of urb, which to me sounds kind of like a belch. So I tend to prefer the English version, with the h pronounced. We all have different tastes, apparently, some of us more different than others.

We still tease my friend Marie about a series of books whose name she couldn't wrap her brain around. We were shopping together and she told me that she wanted to find one of the kids a set of these really cool books that were being made into movies. They were set in a fantastic land and written about some kids in England who found themselves in this wonderful and amazing place. Suddenly she remembered it. It was something about a place called Narina! I had to chuckle and tell her that she was looking for The Chronicles of Narnia. And after Trent heard about it, Narnia was forever more renamed Narina. It's a small way of telling Marie how much we love her.

All of this makes me think of my boss, J. She had all kinds of moments with words and phrases. One of the best was when we were discussing our training calendar. This was a month-long training class for telephone customer service representatives working with bank customers. We liked to give the trainees a couple of opportunities during the training period to sit one on on with established employees. At first, they would simply listen to an old pro at work. Later, as they learned more about the products and servicing, they would take calls with an experienced person right there to help them. At one point, someone decided that it would be a brilliant idea to have them listen to calls on their first or second day of training. At that point, however, they didn't even know how to use the computer system, much less have the vaguest idea of how accounts worked, so it was really a waste of time. I objected to this scheduling, but what did I know?

One day, J mentioned that she really didn't think it was all that smart to have the new-hires listening to phone calls so early in their training. I told her that I had been against it from the first time I had heard the suggestion. She hadn't seemed to realize the brilliance of my opinion until she came to feel that way herself. When she tried to express her feelings by using the old expression about not knowing one's arse from a hole in the ground, it came out rather garbled. She said, "We're sending them out on the floor to listen to calls when they don't even know their arse from their hole!" I laughed so hard I almost choked to death, as did my fellow trainer. Luckily for us, she laughed at it too. From that day forward, I took advantage of any chance to say that someone must not know their arse from their hole. And got away with it!

Sometimes, though, these mispronunciations happen at times when it is really inappropriate to laugh. One example was when my Aunt Jackie was complaining bitterly about a restaurant she had planned to try for lunch. She was furious and disgusted because the place was so darn thilthy that even a pig wouldn't dream of eating there. Gram and I held it together, because it was one of those words that Jackie simply couldn't pronounce. But when she went home, we laughed ourselves to tears. She must have said thilthy fifteen times, and with such rage that we just listened politely and let her get it off her chest. And it was never spoken of again.

Another experience of sadness and mispronunciation had to do with my boss J. I knew her parents were getting on in years, and that she wanted them to move from from the cold climate of northern Minnesota to some place with milder weather, like Colorado or Arizona. Before I left work one evening, I asked her how her parents were doing, and if she had made any headway with getting them to move closer to her.  She told me about how her mother wasn't quite as quick as she used to be, but she was going to have to take over the driving from her father. This worried J, but she knew it was necessary. Her father was having some vision problems. He had gone to a doctor and had been diagnosed with what J called "immaculate degeneration." (This reminded me immediately of my Aunt Jackie telling Gram over the phone that her husband was going to have a sleep test because the doctors thought he might have sleep apathy. I let Gram know that either it was really sleep apnea, or the doctors suspected that Joe didn't care whether he slept or not. Gram was relieved because she thought sleep apathy sounded like a pretty weird thing to have.) I was kind enough to tell J that I had heard about macular degeneration, and that it was definitely going to badly impair her father's vision. I wished her luck because it would certainly be better for her folks to move closer to their daughter, and less worry for her. 

Having said all of this, I suppose I had better have a look around the kitchen and make a grocery list for my shopping tomorrow. I happen to know that I only have maybe six or half a dozen eggs. And I might need to buy some herbs and Worcestershire sauce in case I want to make some snack mix. I don't want to be completely unprepared like some numb-skull who doesn't know their arse from their hole.