Words Give Us Away

IDKquoteI collect words. Words and phrases and quotes. I have since I was young. In fact, at 14, my best friend and I made up a word, “pharparsnick,” as in, “stop pharparnsnicking around and get to work.”

When I moved down south, I immediately adopted “y’all” not because I was trying to trick people into believe my sweaty, summer-hating, uber-liberal, rude, Ivy league, self could be from Virginia, but because it is so much more descriptive. Up North, “you” is singular and plural unless you’re from a New York based mafia movie and can naturally pull off “yous guys.” The pronoun “you” is confusing until we cross the mason-dixon line. These days, when I need my kids to come in, I say, “y’all come inside now, ya hear?” And no one says “I didn’t know you were talking to me!” In fact, sometimes all the neighborhood kids come inside, too.

I love that there are 50 words for snow in the Inuit dialect in Canada, and the Sami people have a 1000+ words for reindeer. Words reflect our needs and desires. They honor and unmask us. I once had a friend who was forever trying to use words no one knew. It betrayed his need to feel smarter than everyone around him. How embarrassing! Of course, as a young girl, I quietly cursed as much as possible. I loved the feeling of breaking the rules as long as I never got caught (hence, the muttering). It took a long time to outgrow this flaw, but my vocabulary revealed me long before my rebellious teen years did.

Although we have to be careful how much we overthink someone’s turn of phrase. I adore the sayings “knee-high to a grasshopper” and “it’s the bee’s knees.” But my thing for insect idioms don’t keep me from screaming when real bugs appear in my home — even grasshoppers. When I was 12, my favorite phrase was “Do these eyes look like they care?” which is maybe less of a phrase and more of a harbinger of the teens years to come. My parents should’ve been better listeners.

But my favorite collection is my word document of quotes that I painstakingly created from a yellow legal pad I began with over two decades ago. As always, famous people have the best sayings on words and their true consequences.

“A thousand words will not leave so deep an impression as one deed.” -Henrik Isben

And on the importance of knowing the significance of a phrase.

“The value of the average conversation could be enormously improved by the constant use of four simple words: I do not know.”  -Andre Maurois

I have learned to choose my words wisely without letting my words mark me as someone desperate to be wise. Well… almost.

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Alex Iwashyna went from an undergraduate degree in political philosophy to a medical degree to a stay-at-home mom, poet and writer by the age of 30. Now she spends most of her writing time on LateEnough.com, a humor blog, except when it’s serious, about life, parenting, marriage, culture, religion and politics. She has a muse of a husband, two young kids, four cats, one dog, and a readership that gives her hope for humanity.