A Cabinet Full of Words


Do you know there are adults who have such a limited vocabulary they can’t properly communicate? Like folks from a foreign land, they may understand a complex sentence but they cannot form one.

An acquaintance said her granddaughter “got mad” at her when she asked a question. I was there and that’s not what I saw, so I protested.

“I don’t think she was mad. She looked puzzled, like she didn’t understand at first. Maybe she was a little uncomfortable with what you asked her.”

My friend agreed wholeheartedly but then went on talking about the granddaughter “getting mad.”

This same lady often tells me someone lied to her when she means they accidentally gave her misinformation. She says a person is “smart” when “well-educated” or “clever” might better convey her meaning.

I happen to enjoy word-slinging. When I hear new expressions from the BBC newscaster, I can’t wait to look them up and try to incorporate them into my repertoire of words.

My late father-in-law used the word “copacetic” to mean “doing well.” I think it sounds nice and I now use it every chance I get. I also enjoy the sound of the word “sibilance.”

To me, Old English phrase-words like “nevertheless,” “howbeit” and “wherewithal” are fun. I enjoy “plethora” and “ubiquitous” to the point of overuse.

I recently visited some people in Louisiana and heard a new expression. We used a smart phone to locate a Denny’s restaurant and were headed there for brunch.

“Oh, they’ve been closed for a minute,” our friend said. “There’s another one nearby, though.”

“What does that mean?” I asked.

“Well, I’m not sure. It’s a chain and I guess our city just wasn’t big enough for two of them.”

I chuckled. “Your expression—‘for a minute’—what do you mean when you say the restaurant has been closed for a minute? Is that a short while or a long time?”

“Oh.” She laughed with me. “It means a long time, Mizz Janet. Probably a year or two since Denny’s closed.”

So—having recently passed a one-year anniversary, I have been writing this blog for a minute!

I collect words like folks collect ceramic figurines or state spoons. I won’t be content until my cabinets are full of them!

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About janets123

Children's writer, newspaper columnist, essayist, poet, storyteller
This entry was posted in Short Takes on Life and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to A Cabinet Full of Words

  1. Yes, many of us get lackadaisical with our vocabulary. There are a numnber of words, as a writer, that become favorites too; an easy trap to fall into causing repetition. the woman you refer to sounds a bit caustic. A minute…it is hard for me to get my mind arouund mre than 60 seconds. Brings the word prima facie to my mind. Might be challenged.lol

  2. One other reason for this kind of response could be a hearing problem or auditory processing problem. I’ve spent my entire married life explaining to my DH that he should [not] be mad about what someone(s) said, that people were not being sarcastic or smart-aleck to my husband in various social settings when he misinterpreted the meaning behind what people said to him. We’d been married 12 years before I finally learned why this happened. I recognized communication problems with our 4-year old daughter at that time, and she was ultimately diagnosed with an LD called auditory processing disorder that’s–wait for it–hereditary. Yes, she inherited it from her father, and I now had a reason for all the times he either “missed the point” or seemed to be ignoring whatever I said or didn’t remember me telling him something I knew I had. He wasn’t being grumpy or not listening–he’s brain truly didn’t understand what was said at the time. Memory problems are another symptom of this LD, since what is spoken to them usually doesn’t make it to the memory saver of the brain, so later interactions often had no historical context when I tried to get him to understand “it’s happening again”.

    This is truly a good post, Janet. Thanks so much for posting it. We are bombarded with sounds and conversations and news blurbs so much, building our vocabulary is more critical than ever.

  3. Lisa Mendel says:

    Love this!

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