Friday, 02 July 2021 11:24

COLUMN: 'Handibedextrous' and other words gone wrong

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I guess I am what some people call a good listener. There are so many nuances to speech and such that I cannot help to be at least an adequate listener. 

While I may lose interest in or lose track of the topic on which the speaker is speaking, I can more often or not pick up quirks and such of not only of how the words are spoken, but the words chosen as well. Words chosen are never random. 

When trying to convey an idea, the words are what provide the motion and momentum. Listen to a comedian and pay attention to not only the rhythm and the cadence, but the exact words chosen. Some words are just funnier than others. 

For instance, “flatulence comedy” sounds a heck of a lot more serious than “fart jokes.” I can only speak for myself when I say I deliberately choose my words to suit a particular audience. Most of us do. It's part of how we humans do things. Our deliberate way of choosing vocabulary to fit a particular situation might be related to our occupation or our station in life, but it may also just be us wanting to sound smarter than we actually are. 

I was watching an instructional video on YouTube not long ago to learn the parts of a pistol I had just gotten. The fact that the video was about a pistol is germane only to this in context and not representative of anything else. Choosing my words deliberately, this is not a Second Amendment debate, just an anecdote. 

The gentleman in the video was pointing out the features of the pistol and what each one does when he got to a lever on the pistol known as a decocker. This lever also acts, on this particular model, as a safety. It is operational on either side of the pistol, so that shooters of either left- or right-hand orientation can use it. 

The guy was doing just fine until he got to this part, which he claimed was “handibidextrous.” At that very moment my brain came to a screeching halt. You know, the kind of halt when a squirrel runs out in front of your car when you are driving your groceries home from the store and everything hurtles forward and you get hit in the back of the head with a cantaloupe? That kind of halt. 

Of all the words he could have chosen, he neglected to check ahead of time whether he had the right one. While the message was clear, the word was so hilariously wrong only because he kept using it. Of course, the comments on the video were not about the pistol, but his mangling of the word “ambidextrous.”

Years ago, my wife and I were in a restaurant and there was some guy at the table across from us loudly proclaiming how much money he had planned on spending there. This would have been a bit obnoxious in a fancy restaurant, but this was Pizza Hut, and I am pretty sure you could have bought the entire menu at that time for about $40. The icing on the cake was when he mangled the word “gratuity” and repeatedly called it “gratitude.” He went on and on and on calling out to the server that she was going to get big gratitude at the end of the meal. While I am sure he was grateful for the service and the food, his yelling about it was unintentionally funny.

I know this sounds like I am just making fun of people. I'm not really. I'm not immune to the occasional verbal hiccup. Most of them are not suitable for a family newspaper, but I will mention a time I was in a restaurant ordering an appetizer and I misplaced two consonants in “spinach and artichoke dip” not only once, but at least twice in front of a table of friends and a blushing waitress. If you absolutely need to know what exactly I said, take a few minutes and rearrange the ending consonants in “artichoke” and “dip.” I'll give you a few minutes to put it all together. See what I mean?

My father in law — you know, he's the one who's afraid of cheese — he has this quirky little thing he does when he's watching a movie or television show. When you ask him the title of the movie, he will tell you the star and not the movie. 

“Whatcha watching?”

“Michael Douglas.”

I have known the man for decades and still have never found out what movie he is watching at any given time. Once he called me and asked if I had a particular movie on DVD. I asked him what movie and he said “Roger Moore.” I took him 11 DVDs. They weren't hard to carry. I'm handibedextrous.

Joe Weaver, a native of Baltimore, is a husband, father, pawnbroker and gun collector. From his home in New Bern, he writes on the lighter side of family life.