One day my granddaughter began reciting a nursery rhyme she had just learned: “Hunky-Dunky sat on a wall…”
“No, sweetheart, that is Humpty-Dumpty.”
Oh well, Why not. We knew what she meant. In fact, we had been waiting, and were prepared, for this quirky trait to show up.
When her mother – our daughter — was very young, she had her own words for certain things. A helicopter, for instance, was a “hopty-clopter.” Well, that sounds rather like the noise they make. When she wanted a Popsicle, she looked in the “freezerator.” How original! The rest of the family had no trouble understanding her, and, as a matter of fact, accepted these words as improvements on the originals!
I once worked with a fellow of Lebanese extraction. He was bright and clever, and had a collection of remarkable proverbs and sayings that I had never heard before. He would remark, for instance, “It’s too late to close the barn door, before your eggs are hatched.”
Or perhaps, “Birds of a feather are only skin deep.”
I used to marvel at these constructions and thought that perhaps they were bits of old Armenian wisdom. Upon my asking him whether or not he thought a particular project would be done on time, he might give me a knowing squint and remark: “Better late than spoiling the broth.” I got his meaning perfectly.
But back to the genetics that my Danish-born wife has passed down. I must begin by noting that she speaks perfect English, with impeccable grammar, so I smile benignly when her word confusions occur. She has ‘raked her brain’ for years. This has some nice logic, when you think about it. It’s much more descriptive of the process than “racking.” You are, after all, combing through your grey cells trying to recall something.
My wife looks up from her knitting one evening, and off-handedly, says, “I see that O.C. is in trouble again.” Think quickly! Is this a TV show? A new proposal by the county commissioners? I rake my brain, and finally, casually, “O.C. — more trouble?”
“Ever since he retired from football – one thing after another. I used to like him when he was running through airports in those Hertz commercials. But now…”
Ahhh. “Yes indeed. You are so right, Dearie. What’s the latest?”
I believe we must keep an open mind about these different pronouncements. Every language worth its salt is dynamic – ever changing. We should try to find the real meaning behind such constructions instead of discouraging them with ridicule. I grant that this can be difficult at times.
During a church service one Sunday, we hurriedly flipped through the prayer book to the Nicene Creed so we could catch up with the rest of the congregation that had already begun reciting it. As we walked to the fellowship hall for coffee afterwards, my wife said, “I wonder why they did away with the Apostle’s Creed? It was so much shorter and easier to recite than the Nissan Creed.”
“Hmm…that’s a Japanese automobile I believe.”
She recovers quickly, “Oh, yes. Of course — I meant the Niacin Creed.”
“Actually,” I replied — while suppressing what would have been a catastrophic snicker — “I think that is a B-complex vitamin…Oh, I but I know exactly what you mean!”
This and other stories by Chuck Thurston are from his book, “Senior Scribbles Unearthed.”