A Different Dictionary

English is a wonderful language.  It works like a river, flowing along, constantly changing and always finding its own level.  Words appear and disappear.  Definitions change.  Meanings mutate.  And, yet, we all kinda understand each other.  To that end, here are a few definitions that might not appear in any dictionary, but I’m sure you’ll recognize them, all the same.

Tomorrow – A place where all human activity and productivity is stored.

Calories – Nasty little creatures who live in your closet and eat the sizes off your clothes.

Avoidance Behaviour – The somewhat boring stuff we do when we have more important boring stuff to do.

Internet – An essential tool of avoidance behaviour.

Pockets – Those things that fashion designers have been denying women for centuries.

Leftovers – Food that lives in the refrigerator for a while – before you throw it out.

Selfies – Photographs of people who have no friends.

Full-length Mirror – A rather useful item when you have clothes on that turns remarkably evil when you’re naked.

Shower – A place to hold imaginary arguments and sing songs that were popular when you were a teenager.

Bae – A stupid, made-up, millennial word that doesn’t mean anything.

Wikipedia – The arbitrator of all arguments.

Exercise – Sometimes pronounced “extra fries,” depending on your self-esteem that day.

Man Bun – A one-size-fits-all way to look ridiculous.

Junk Food – Stuff that everybody eats but nobody admits it.

4 In The Morning – An elusive place where the truth lives.

Twitter – An alternative reality where miserable people go to be angry.

Family – People who know too much about you to be your friends.

Lottery Tickets – A tax on people who can’t do math.

YouTube – Moving pictures that eat time.

And my favourite:

Vegans – People who announce the menu when nobody’s even thinking about food.

Big Word Day — 2021

What this planet needs is Big Word Day.  One day a month (I suggest the first Monday) when we’re allowed to use those big godawful words that make us all sound like pompous asses.  Then, at midnight, everybody has to go back to talking (and writing) like regular people.  Big Word Day would not only clear the air of pretentious language, it would shorten business meetings, reduce government bullshit and keep corporations from drowning us in doublespeak policies, warranties, guarantees and disclaimers.  (What’s the difference between a warranty and a guarantee, anyway?)  I know big words are tempting and I’m as guilty as the next person, so I understand why we like to sound as if we just stepped off Oxford Common — but it’s getting out of hand.  We don’t buy things anymore; we purchase them.  We don’t help; we facilitate.  We don’t think; we conceptualize. And — horror upon horrors — we don’t talk; we verbalize.

The big problem with big words is people don’t think that way.  We think in broad abstractions that get translated into words when we speak (or write) so we can communicate meaning.  For example, when I write “John saw a girl” unless you’re a Himalayan holy man who’s lived alone in a cave for 50 years, you see the girl, too.  Your girl and John’s girl might not look the same, but the meaning is clear.  This is because my words are a direct translation of my thoughts.  However, when I write, “John observed a girl” things get a little muddled.  Suddenly, because of nuance and connotation, John isn’t passive anymore.  The girl is still the object of the sentence but John is definitely more involved.  He’s deliberately doing something.  Hey!  Wait a minute!  Who is this guy?  What is he, some kind of stalker?  You see, the meaning has changed.  This might be a bit of an exaggeration (after all, I haven’t clarified whether John had binoculars or not) but my point is it’s more difficult to translate words into meaning when they’re carrying extra baggage.  And big words all carry tons of baggage.

Don’t get me wrong; big words are important.  English is a precise language with surgical accuracy, so I don’t want to get rid of big words altogether.  I just think, these days, they’ve slipped the leash and I want to corner them and get them under control again.  Big Word Day would do that.  It would force us to quit utilizing big words all the time and only use them when they’re necessary.  Plus, and this is the good bit, jerks with an intellectual chip on their shoulders would have to shut the hell up most of the time — and that alone would be worth it.

I Have A Lover

I love language, and because English is the lover I grew up with, I love her best.  She’s subtle and sensible in slingback Louboutins and knee-torn Levis.  She can dance all night, gliding like a princess or grinding the stage burlesque or rustling between the trees like a black wind witch.  Because she is a witch — with conjures that — in magic — change her words to whatever she wants, whenever she wants them.  Yet she prefers straight talk — prepositions and modifiers that let you know exactly where and what and when — even if it isn’t now.

And my lover is a thief, stealing without remorse.  A freebooting pirate who, with cutlass in hand, takes the words she needs — and more — just because she can, gloried by the theft.

She’s an inventor.  Eagerly seduced, she will abandon herself to satisfy whatever necessity desires.

She is a mechanical engineer who fits strange words together with invisible nano-weld precision, producing new tools that exactly fit their employment.

But she’s also a glutton who dines at her sisters’ banquets, selecting the most delicate morsels to claim as her own, licking the tips of her fingers and never tiring of the feast.

Yet my lover remains lean and strong, hunting with the predators, hair flying, howling with the chase, sure-footed and agile.  

And she can be angry, too.  Her voice as fierce as cracked open thunder, her eyes black with homicide.

But she is always a flirt, tempting, enticing, inviting the wanton need to touch and hold and caress the words she speaks.

And she is always beautiful: sometimes drowsy as the sleeping mists of fog on the dawn forest floor; sometimes sad as a puppy’s tears, sometimes quiet as a spider’s abandoned threads and sometimes gauze angel white in the shimmering starlight.

But mostly, my lover loves me.  She laughs and sings and listens.  She speaks only truth (and the occasional lie.)  She stays with me even when I’m foul with blank page fury.  And when I have no words for her – when I’m on the edge of the wilderness, lost and alone, it is she who comes and finds me, and she takes my hand and whispers, “Let’s go home.”