Since we are on the topic of words and phrases (you are reading a blog) and since both words and phrases have a sneaky tendency to come up in daily life, they need more attention and nurturing than they generally recieve. Your vocabulary, like your car, needs regular care and maintenance to function properly and last a long time. Change those sparks-of-brilliance plugs, make sure your cliché-carburetor has the right gas/air mixture.
I am here, locution lug wrench in hand.
Words and phrases are odd creatures; people tend to overuse certain favorites, regularly mangle and misuse others simply because that is how they learned them, and most fail to increase the workable volume of useful and more colorful words and phrases available, which makes one dull and not listenable to others.
Like the adults in a Peanuts TV spectacular.
We need to be vigilant to keep our vocabularic skills fresh and interesting by adding, discarding and modifying on a regular basis; shedding tired clichés like translucent snakeskin. Plus, vocabulary building and repair has also been proven to keep minds more nimble and pliable, creating brain space and making it easier to absorb, store and utilize new linguistic concepts.
Dude. Its true.
Each of us has multiple vocabularies; the typical American possessing roughly six different, distinct lexicons. There are the sets of words and phrases that we use in our jobs, vocations, and places of worship to name a few; most are very distinct from each other and while there is always some basic overlap, they are also very demographic specific. To drive home this point, I usually ask my inner-city high school students if they speak the same way to their moms and dads as they do to their friends.
“Ohhhhhhhh, nooooooo, Mr. Lucker.”
Family dynamics often revolve around a specific, DNA-linked dialect; most families have at least a few phrases or words – some entirely fabricated – that any outsider would be totally oblivious to. Assimilating new members into the brood via most any means usually requires the newcomer to have to go all solo-Rosetta-stone on their new krewe.
My family has a distinct patois, featuring one phrase that stands head and wings above the rest.
In our household, when you are in vehement agreement with what was just said, you might respond, with considerable vigor, “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 used a complimentary and validating phrase, as you are actively, positively acknowledging the opinion of the person you are agreeing with – you just need to up the enthusiasm and inflection in your voice a bit – emphasis on the possessive ‘I’.
“Iiiii hear ya’ cluckin’, Big Chicken!”
Moving on to more vocabulary repair and rehab while Big Chicken stews in your mind a bit.
A native of Minnesota, 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.
The drink is ‘espresso’ NOT ‘expresso.’ 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. Which leads me to another familial-frequent turn-of-phrase:
“Buuuuuut, that’s just me!”
That one we stole outright from Spongebob Squarepants. If he sues for royalties, based on overall usage, we’re screwed.
And then there is the word pom-pon. Teaching high school, I get the chance to use this one (correctly) fairly frequently.
This one has bugged me for years, probably because I had a severe crush on a pom-pon girl when I was in high school, and I took umbrage at people disparaging her craft and the tools of her trade with one pathetically misspoken word.
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 and champion that ideal, but sometimes…well, you just gotta draw a line: pom-pom = dumb-dumb, dumdums.
I had to take a morpheme to dull that pain.
Someone in my family should now intone: “I hear ya cluckin’, Big Chicken!”
One other word quirk that comes in (less) handy. 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, then read the label – something I hadn’t seen before and haven’t since:
‘100% Virgin Acrylic.’
Make up your own punchline.
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!”