OK, I confess: I’ve gotten word-tied from time to time. Not as much in writing because as an editor I read my stuff over and over and tend to catch the mistakes before they transmit. Sadly, though, speaking doesn’t allow for pre-scrutiny. Something gets said: it’s out there. Add my tendency to talk faster when nervous, and a dash of public speaking anxiety (i.e., talking to more than a few people at a time). Then toss in the knowledge that I twist my words at the worst times. And there you have a recipe for colorful language people will notice and remember.
One time at a barbecue I find myself tending the grill. This is not a good idea and I’m sure I didn’t volunteer for the job because I would never trust myself to grill for a crowd. Anyway, I poke and flip the food like I know what I’m doing and after awhile someone calls over, “Is it done yet?” “Yep!” I call back, “I stuck a fork in it!” Except what comes out of my mouth isn’t exactly that. What I actually say when I transpose a couple of letters has nothing to do with grilling or food: it involves a stork (I’ll say no more). It echoes across the yard and generates loud laughter and nervous chuckles. As if I meant to say such a thing! It doesn’t even make sense! Yet who among them now, years later, wouldn’t remember that bon mot? I don’t want to know, but if I heard someone say something like that, I would definitely remember it.
And here’s a misty water-cooler memory: I am on a work committee (which I did volunteer for) to plan an employee work retreat. Our task is to arrange the agenda, venue, speakers, meals, and a small gift for participants. The committee members – Don, Bill, John, Ryan, and myself – disagree on which gift we should get. The guys want a frou-frou lacquered desk clock that, to me, is more form than function (cube clutter). I want something more practical and I’m particularly keen on one of those leatherette notepad holders – a padfolio – that holds a half-size pad of paper. Useful! The smaller version is called a “junior padfolio.” It is not called a “minipad,” but if you are me that is what’s it’s called over and over again at this meeting. “I vote for the minipad!” Yay! Ignorance is bliss and I lobby enthusiastically for this gift choice. It’s only when I get back to my desk that the lightbulb goes on and the blood drains from my face and I realize what I’d been suggesting; oh dear God. Imagine the winks and nudges taking place in that room.
Such eloquence from the geek who prides herself in catching amusing turns of phrase. But I hope there’s something to be said when we can laugh at our idiomatic, idiosyncratic selves. To err is human. To share: divine! Let’s hear about some of your own word gaffes…. J