It all started a couple of years ago when my friend Robin told me about a girl who went to overnight camp in Wisconsin with her son Scott and fell in love with him. She said he didn’t feel quite the same way. It was tough for Scott who is a nice guy and didn’t want to tell this girl to leave him alone. But, eventually he did.
Robin remarked that this girl was from “Hefty Stock”. I said, “Is that in Wisconsin?” She laughed for what seemed to be an hour and then said, “No, she’s from “HEFTY STOCK,” as if I was hard of hearing and if she said it louder I would understand what she meant. I still didn’t get it. “What’s so funny?” “Leslie,” Robin said, “she’s heavy. You know hefty?” Oh. Then I got it.
This happens between Robin and me constantly. It happens with other people, as well, but this seems to be one of the things that make our friendship so special.
Scott, who is good friends with our son Lucas, was at our house a few weeks ago for dinner. My husband Richard was grilling skirt steaks and Scott said, “My Dad and I did some t-bones last week.” Knowing Scott works out a lot I inquired, “Is that some type of exercise?” Scott laughed for what seemed to be an hour and said, “No, we grilled t-bone steaks. Can I have some Kleenex? My eyes are watering from laughing.”That nailed it. I felt like a complete idiot.
One Saturday when Scott was at our house he said his “meat” started at 2:00 that afternoon. Since Scott likes to cook (and is quite good at it), I thought maybe he meant he had put some meat in the oven and it was going to begin cooking at 2:00 on auto-pilot, or whatever that setting on ovens is that lets you set a start and stop cooking time. No, he was talking about his swim “meet”. Sometimes I don’t get myself.
While on the phone with Robin last week, she told me her daughter Rachel and another girl were having some old beef. “Well, that’s just gross,” I said to Robin “Who would want to eat old beef?” Again, about an hour’s worth of laughter over the phone from Robin’s side of the conversation. “No,” she said while wiping tears from her eyes from laughing so hard, “they had a fight and they’re trying to work it out and be friends again.”Um, ok. I guess I am a little literal?
But wait, there’s more! Recently Robin told me that Rachel’s friend Sammi was coming over while Rachel’s other friend Kim was already at their house. She said, “Kim doesn’t know Sammi from Squat.” “Where’s Squat,” I asked? I thought it was in Southwestern Illinois and that I had recently heard on the news that there had been some bad tornadoes there. “No,” Robin said. “SHE DOESN’T KNOW SAMMI,” she said loudly and slowly. I was beginning to feel like she thought my hearing was going a lot faster than she first thought. Before I had a chance to reply she said quickly, “I mean they’ve never met. And, as far as I know, there is no such place as Squat.”
“I know.” I said jokingly. “I heard it got blown away by tornadoes.” Robin did not find this funny. In fact, I could hear her slap her hand to her forehead in exasperation.
This also happened when my Mom told me she “went to Clap” after a ballet performance she recently saw with my Dad. I began to wonder where “Clap” was but figured it out before I opened my mouth to ask her. You’d think I’d get the hang of my disassociation with location more quickly since I seem to have this problem a lot.
As I think about it, I realize I have always had trouble with words which is unfortunate because I was an English Creative Writing Major who loves to write. But even though I may get mixed up from time to time, I am awed by the power words possess. I get excited by a story that’s so well-written I feel as if it’s a part of me. I love clever and creative advertising that makes me say, “Wow. I wish I had written that.”
My problems with words began in earnest in college. I used the term “intensive purposes” in a paper instead of “intents and purposes.” I swore I’d never tell anyone that story because it is downright embarrassing, but maybe by putting it out there I’ll spend less time in therapy.
After college, Richard and I got married. I made the mistake of telling him something about our “Flormica” countertops. “What did you just call the countertops,” he asked, with a sly grin on his face? I said the word over and over in my head until I was sure it was correct and said “Flormica.”
“It’s Formica,” he said, slapping his hand to his forehead and laughing. He thought the word “Flormica” was so funny he’s been using it ever since that fateful day 22 years ago.
My kids have had their share of language slip-ups, too. I’m sure most kids do, but I am pretty sure my kids inherited it directly from me. I think these are particularly funny:
“This tube shall pass.”
“Play it by year.”
“I want a norange.”My son Lucas liked oranges a lot so we used to ask him if he wanted “an orange.” That makes total sense to me, but then again, I thought Hefty Stock was a town in Wisconsin!
But one of my favorites is when my daughter Veronica heard someone say they had an “eye twitch”. She thought they were talking about an “iTwitch”, some new kid of iPod.
Kids do say the darndest things, and maybe I should just think of myself as a child at heart. I remember picking up preschool carpool years and years ago and one of the kids didn’t want to get into my car. “What’s the matter, honey” I asked? And the little girl looked up at me with tears in her eyes and said, “I can’t go in your carpool. I can’t swim!”
I guess that now that I am a grown up, I just have to remember that when someone says something I have to really process what they are saying so I don’t misinterpret their words. And for all intensive purposes, I will never eat old beef or a norange on a “Flormica” countertop while visiting Hefty Stock or Squat. And one little word of advice? Never go in a carpool until 20 minutes after you eat.