If I didn’t know that the English language has been around a bit longer than me, I might be convinced that we were born twins. It has cocooned and cuddled and confused and comforted and confounded me since before I went to school. We have played together since I began to read, before I was five.
I’m a bit of a dab hand with my commas and colons, and I know the difference between subjective and subjunctive. Neither punctuation nor construction will help with comprehension though, if you don’t use the right words. My love has always been with the words. It is their small, strong bodies that we hook together to form phrases, clauses, sentences, paragraphs, and entire essays and books.
I am the contradiction to the expectation that ‘girls are good at language, boys are good at math’. Words have been my constant companions my entire life. They have bedeviled, bedazzled, befuddled, bewildered, bemused and bewitched me for years. Especially doing three crossword puzzles a day, there is not a week, and often not a day that goes by, that I don’t learn another word, or a usage to one I thought I knew so well.
Chunter – to continuously complain, especially in a low voice
A good English/Scottish word, which I don’t recall ever hearing in my English/Scottish hometown.
Crossword puzzle builders often get a little loose or ‘creative’ with definitions. “Prurient” means, having lascivious or lustful thoughts or desires. Prurient interest is not “Sex”. Sex is the subject of much prurient interest. Sex is often the object also.
Sometimes they seem to have no real knowledge of the words they use, especially with obsolete technology. ‘Potato cutter’ does not equal ‘ricer’, which pushes cooked potatoes out through small holes. The online dictionary gives sample sentences to illustrate context and meaning.
Arrange on remaining fourth of mound yolks chopped or forced through a potato ricer.
But that doesn’t mean that it can’t put out a ricer now and again, when it’s feeling froggy.
Fluffiest mashed potatoes may require that they be put through a potato ricer.
The first sentence’s meaning seems straightforward. I don’t know what medications you’d have to be on to write the second. Do you know what that means, from that context?? I don’t! And sentence three simply shows how similar but different things are misidentified.
If you didn’t use a masher, the potatoes are not ‘mashed.’ If you used a ricer, they are riced potatoes. I use a mixer, and my potatoes are ‘whipped.’ They all look and taste alike, but they got there down different roads. A multi-colored arc or ring, seen through snow or rain while facing the sun is a sundog, not a rainbow, which is only seen while facing away from the sun. I know, I’m the only one who cares. 🙄
I haven’t read any of the Hunger Games books, or seen the movies but, based on trailers and promotional photos, I’m pretty sure that Katniss Everdeen is not a “crossbow-wielding” heroine, as the Wachowski brother who is now a sister, seems to think. (S)he probably also believes that David killed Goliath with a slingshot, built from an inner-tube off his chariot.
My subconscious often goes on little trips by itself, leaving the rest of my mind behind, a fact most regular readers are probably aware of. When it returns, like a cat proudly presenting a dead mouse, many times it will drop a word for me to examine.
When I wake up in the morning, (actually, usually after noon) or when I’m in the kitchen, using the mixer to produce those whipped potatoes, I suddenly am aware of a word, usually English, but sometimes French, Spanish or German. Most, I am familiar with the definition of. Some need a little catching up, and some just send me straight to the dictionary program. Now where did I run into that one??! What’s the meaning of the name Hatcher? Nothing to do with birds, they were gatekeepers.
I worked with a young woman in a shoe plant, who had delusions of ability in newspaper publishing. When she heard of my affliction, she wanted me to share some of the more abstruse words, so that she could expand her vocabulary. Each working day for over six months, I handed her a notepad sheet with three recent visitors – words like;
larrup – a Dutch import meaning ‘to thrash’
jocund – cheerful, merry, gay, blithe, glad
hoyden – a tomboy
Eleuthera – a Greek word meaning freedom, and the name of a Caribbean island
indolent – avoiding exertion, slothful, lazy
lagniappe – a small extra gift, like a complimentary restaurant salad
louche – dubious, shady, disreputable
mordant – biting, sharply caustic or sarcastic, as wit or a speaker
Each year, I publish a post in which I give a good larruping to the indolent writers, too lazy to learn one homophone from another. “Moving to the back of the room, he found a laundry shoot.” Is that like a skeet shoot? Or a grouse shoot?? Laundry shoot??! It would explain the holes in my underwear.
I can barely change a light bulb, or a faucet washer. The most useful thing I ever made from wood was campfire kindling, but words are my constant companions and tools. They have inspired, infused, inflamed and informed me. They weigh nothing. They take up no storage room, and I can give them to others to use, and yet always keep them for myself.