Sunday, July 17, 2011

"May I offer you a beverage?"

Beverage and vehicle, two rather benign words in my everyday vocabulary, get met with a good-natured ribbing by my husband every time I use them. "Why can't you just say 'drink' or 'car'?" Well, those are different words, dear, and they don't quite cover the same territory.

He, on the other hand, is quite enamored with the stuffy word codicil, and uses it often to poke fun at rules, guidelines, or restrictive or binding documents. So today I reached for an old friend, my well-worn copy of Forrest Carter's 1976 classic, The Education of Little Tree, and found a measure of comfort in this colorful exchange between Little Tree and his beloved Granpa:

"I was learning five words a week out of the dictionary, and Granma would explain the meanings, then had me put the words in sentences. Sometimes Granpa would totally knock out words, saying I didn't have to use that word no more, which speeded me up considerable in the dictionary. Like the time I had got down to the word "abhor." Granpa had got way ahead of me on the trail, and I had been practicing a sentence with that word so I hollered to Granpa, "I abhor briers, yeller jackets and such."
Granpa stopped. "What did ye say?" he asked. "I said I abhor briers, yeller jackets and such." Granpa looked down at me so steady-hard that I commenced to feel uneasy about the whole thing. "What in hell," Granpa said, "Has whores got to do with briers and yeller jackets?" I told him I didn't have no way in the world of knowing, which I didn't, but the word was "abhor" and it meant that you couldn't hardly stand something. Granpa said, "Well why don't ye just say ye can't stand it instead of using 'abwhore'?" I said I couldn't figure that out myself but it was in the dictionary. Granpa got pretty worked up about it. He said the meddlesome son of a bitch that invented the dictionary ought to be taken out and shot.

Remind me the next time we meet to check the codicils regarding vehicles while you enjoy a beverage.

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