Sunday, December 27, 2009

A Life in New Words

The year's almost come to an end so I'm reminiscing. Today's theme: words.

Over the past twenty years I've learned a lot of words. A lot of big old words, a lot of stupid new ones, even more foreign words. Here are some words I ought to have known but did not.

Midnight: In the second grade, Amanda Ward said she was up till midnight, which I assumed meant the middle of a typical second graders night. You know, like 8pm. I said, "what time did you go to bed?" and she kept repeating "midnight!" and looked at me like I was a F.O.B. (emphasis on "like").

Adoption: I watched a lot of "Punk Brewster" when I was in the fifth grade. In one particular episode Punky has been made fun of for being adopted, and Henry consoles her after school when she cries about it. He says, "adoption means I love you." Later that week in class, Miss Moss asked us all to talk about our families, and I said to the whole class, "I'm adopted."

From fifth grade till college, I knew everything. Then, freshman year at UCSC, I learned many words that I resent for taking up precious space in my brain now. Nag-champa, djembe rental, audit... However, one word whose use I can't shake is:

Dish-drainer: I thought a "dish-drainer" was the strainer in the drain that collects crap about to get washed down. One night I told my flatmates it was full of crud and people should really throw away the contents when they did dishes. All of them looked at the dish drainer and then at each other. It was no doubt empty.

Moving on.

D.I.Y.: Now, I know everyone learns "the new words" at some point, so learning Do-It-Yourself is not miraculous in and of itself but I learned it from a French man.

Twin Towers: I didn't know what the twin towers were till 9/11/2001, when at noon, I ambled out of bed and went to campus 150 blocks north of Wall St., having no idea why it was deserted. Andy, from Athens GA told me why everyone was in line at the pay phones or driving north. I didn't understand what he was talking about until I saw the footage.

Widget: It was 2003 and Silicon Valley was finally a bust. How appropriate that I would learn this word after the bubble.

Paying it forward:
Two days ago on a British Airways flight, I asked for "club soda" during the first beverage service. The stewardess (a twenty-something Brit) stared at me like I was a television screen and a Sex and the City marathon was running. She was incapacitated and fixed a dead smile on me like she understood but didn't hear. I repeated "club soda," then tried "seltzer water?" then "soda water?"
She finally turned around and whispered to another stewardess, "what's club soda?"

Sparkling water.

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