“I’ll take ‘Poultry Pronouncements’ for $500, Alex.”

Since we are on the topic of words and phrases (you are reading a blog – it’s always about words and phrases) and since they both have a tendency to come up in daily life, they need more attention and nurturing than they generally get. Your vocabulary, like your car, needs regular care and maintenance to function properly and last a long time.

Words and phrases are odd creatures; we tend to overuse certain favorites, regularly mangle and misuse others, and simply fail to increase the workable volume of useful and more colorful words and phrases available, which makes us dull and not listenable to others.

We need to be vigilant to keep our vocabularic skills fresh and interesting by adding, discarding and modifying on a regular basis. Plus, vocabulary building and repair has also been proven to keep minds more nimble and pliable.

For example, this is where, in our household, when you are in vehement agreement with what was just said, you might respond, “I hear ya’ cluckin’, Big Chicken!”

That’s a good, gets to the heart-of-the-matter phrase to start vocab restoration with. Try it. Use it liberally in daily conversation with a hearty dash of enthusiasm – you’ll be surprised at how quickly this versatile little catch-phrase catches on:

“I hear ya’ cluckin’, Big Chicken!”

It’s also a complimentary and validating phrase, as you are actively, positively acknowledging the opinion of the person you are agreeing with.

“I hear ya’ cluckin’, Big Chicken!”

Moving on to more vocabulary repair and rehab…

I longer go apoplectic when I hear people say ‘frozen tundra’ – must be a sign of maturity on my part. While that repetitively redundant phrase still irks me, I’ve moved on to more pertinent matters.

To wit…

Hey, America – the drink is ‘espresso’ NOT ‘expresso.’ Made well, espresso is a potently fine coffee drink. Expresso is…a Brazilian train that makes only one stop? I don’t know. Expecially when people who work in the coffee shop say ‘expresso’ I want to….espress to them my disappointment in their ignorance of the artistry and verbiage of their own craft.

“Buuuuuut, that’s just me!” – Spongebob Squarepants

And then there is pom-pon.

This one has bugged me for years, probably because I had a severe crush on a pom-pon girl in high school, and I took umbrage at people disparaging her craft and the tools of her trade with one misspoken word.

Pom-pon.

That’s  right, its pom-pon, kids…not ‘pom pom’ – though some misguided dictionary editors now apparently recognize the second ‘pom’ as a legitimate and approved option. Sigh. Language is a living, breathing thing, I know, but sometimes…well, you just gotta draw a line someplace.

This one I had relegated into the frozen tundra/jumbo shrimp I’m-over-it category until…

Spell check refused to acknowledge ‘pom-pon’ in something I was typing and tried to change it to ‘pom-pom.’ Troglodyte linguists. Now they’re going to get a letter from me asking for an explanation of their language ignorance.

But before you think I’m going to go on some sort of bizarre tirade here, it’s less about any roiling righteous indignation, more about what kind of response I actually may get from the Microsoft dweebs to use as blog fodder somewhere down the road. See, there is always a method to the madness here at Chaotic Zen.

Grammatical game-on, kids.

This next one really makes me scratch my head.

Living in the Midwest most of my life, I am quite familiar with canned foods. I frequently eat them, every store carries them, and they label their aisles as such: ‘Canned Food.’ Moving to New Orleans three-plus years ago, I noticed a discernible signage difference; here it is ‘Can Food.’

I noticed the wording at a number of different stores, representing different supermarket chains, and some independents as well. ‘Can Food’ is simply what it is here (with one notable, schizophrenic exception, to the right). To make sure I wasn’t just imagining this palpable turn of phrase, upon returning to Minnesota numerous times and visiting multiple stores I can confirm my initial observation: the stores there all say ‘Canned Foods.’ (Same holds true for grocery stores in Missouri and Iowa, so yeah – it’s a Midwestern thing.)

I finally got to address this issue with a grocery professional when I took a part-time job at a nice New Orleans grocery store. I asked my friend Tami why the canned food aisles here were labeled ‘Can Food.’ Her response?

“Well, I guess we call it can food because it’s food that comes in a can.”

Point taken. I told her about my northern grocery language, and she allowed that as a child, she would help her mom and grandma put up vegetables and preserves every year in the process we all refer to as ‘canning’ and that, yeah, she could see how some people might call it ‘canned food.’

“But it is still food in a can, so ‘Can Food’ makes sense to me.” she added, only somewhat smugly

Then again, when you can food at home, you are actually putting it into jars, but making that change in vernacular would probably be much too jarring for most.  Pardon the pun.

Tami then asked me about the ‘box dinner’ aisle and how that was labeled up north. I had to admit, that was one I couldn’t recall even having seen before, and would have to check next time I was in Minnesota. But now that I have been made aware of it, I realize almost every store in New Orleans has a ‘box dinner’ aisle.

Of course, we are also a nation that has been noted to park on driveways and drive on parkways, so canned food or can food or boxed dinners or box dinners or…?

Remember during the height of the space age, when astronauts were shown on grainy t.v. feeds from space eating food from a pouch, and that was supposed to be our food future here on earth? Most of us still don’t have cupboards full of that stuff, but any decent camping supply store has a huge array of freeze-dried and dehydrated products, which then begs the obvious question:

‘Pouch Food’ or ‘Pouched Food’?

“I hear ya cluckin’, Big Chicken!”

Made up!

People keep using the word ‘kersnorffle’ (most common spelling I’ve seen) on Facebook and blog posts I keep receiving. It is an interesting term, and I am sure someday soon it will be officially be a word, and added to the dictionary with great fanfare by Webster’s or whomever when they roll out the fresh dictionaries and new ‘official’ words every year.

‘Kersnorffle’ seems to usually be used to denote sarcasm or derision of something – or, in Sunday funnies vernacular, ‘Harrumph’ with a really sharp edge.

What is interesting to me is that the vast majority of uses of ‘kersnorffle’ I have seen on Facebook are from my friends at the extreme far ends of the political spectrum – logical, I suppose, as those far righties and lefties are the folks most likely to take umbrage at something and publicly vent their unbridled sarcasm with a made-up word. Probably some psychological offshoot of their shared paranoias.

But ‘kersnorffle’ is a hard word to read and not laugh at. I know people are trying to be dismissive, but it’s too dumb looking to qualify as derogatory. ’Kersnorffle’ is the killer platypus of phrases: it just looks too weird to be taken seriously.

So just maybe this is the common ground we have been searching for in this age of derisive politics and bad-mouthing rhetoric; to paraphrase Rodney King, “Can’t we all just kersnorfle together?”

Years ago my mother gave me a nice red, cable knit sweater for Christmas. I unwrapped it, took it out of the box, held it up in front of me, read the label to something I hadn’t seen before and haven’t since:

‘100% Virgin Acrylic.’        

Make up your own punch line.

Okay, one last time before we take the training wheels off and let you use it on your own:

“I hear ya cluckin’, Big Chicken!”

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