Modern slang? Not me, ducky.

Nifty slang, like a fine mustache, never goes out of style.All week, I’ve been trying to remember to write and say “audiobook” instead of “books on tape.”  I think “books on tape” makes me sound like someone who cannot keep up with technology.  In writing I was 100%, but when I went to the library’s drive through window, and was asked if my holds were books or dvds, I automatically said, “Books on tape.”

Why did I bother?  I routinely use outdated words, phrases, sayings, some of which were long past their heyday even in my own youth.

Words like heyday.  Does anyone still say that other than me?

Here is a short list, some of the words, phrases, and sayings which are a regular part of my spoken vocabulary:

Words, like fashion, fall in and out of style.

  • spiffy
  • lollygagging
  • pernickety
  • discombobulated
  • flabbergasted
  • high-falutin’
  • trousers
  • knick-knacks
  • flibberty-gibbit
  • dunderhead
  • Don’t sass me.
  • You scared the bejeebers out of me.
  • gentleman
  • lady
  • slugabed
  • fuddy-duddy
  • luddite
  • For crying out loud!
  • pokey (as in moving slowly)
  • shoddy
  • frou-frou
  • hanky panky
  • thingamajig
  • Oops!
  • You’re a crotchedy old man.
  • cantankerous

So why should I worry about “books on tape” making me sound odd?  It may have been the most normal thing I said all day.

Now, please, tell me what you say that is hopelessly untrendy or old fashioned.


Not proud, but pleased, to be an American.

One day, when my younger son was about seven or eight, he told me, “I’m proud of being tall.”

I told him that he couldn’t be proud of being tall because he hadn’t done anything to earn it.  I told him that he could be happy that God made him tall, but not proud.  He could proud of being kind, or working hard, or being a good friend, but he couldn’t be proud of something that was a gift to him.  That would be like saying, “I’m proud of getting a bike for Christmas.”

He replied that he was very happy he was tall, and would try not to feel proud about it.

I’m sure it was a struggle, as he was already taller than his older brother, but I think he understood what I meant.

Not proud, but pleased to be AmericanWhen my husband and I were dating, I told him that I wasn’t particularly patriotic.  He was taken slightly aback, and asked how I could not be proud to be an American.

I told him I like being American.  I feel incredibly blessed to have been born here.  Compared to most of the world, I have it good, and I know it, but I didn’t do anything to deserve it.  How can I be proud of something that was given to me?

Now, if I had emigrated here, if I’d had to endure hardships to get here and pass a test to achieve citizenship, I’d be proud and rightly so.

Or if I’d served in the military, if I’d fought for the freedoms I enjoy, I think I’d have good reason to be proud.

But that’s not me, so I’m pleased and I’m grateful, but I’m not proud.  I’m also certain the citizens of other nations are just as affectionate for their homeland as I am for mine.

Because I do like this place.  I think we have all sorts of problems, as all people do, but we have all sorts of good, too.

We have wonderful sanitation.  Have you ever been anywhere with so many free public toilets?  Or the abundance of clean tap water?  I like that about us.

I'm pleased, not proud, to be an American.I love our freedom of religion and speech and how cheap our groceries are.  Peaches for 49 cents a pound?  Incredible.  Choose your own beliefs and talk about them as much as you like?  Fantastic!

I love how generous Americans are.  We can be in debt, but we’ll still give money away to those in need.

I like how optimistic we are, always looking for the next big thing, always convinced things are about to get better.  It might be naive, but the alternative seems like a gloomier way to live.

I like how ridiculously large our idea of personal space is.  I like our big beds and how we do our best to leave empty seats between strangers at the cinema so we don’t have to share armrests.  Perhaps this makes us weird to the rest of the world, but I like it.  It’s comfortable; it’s home.

Maybe I’m more patriotic than I once realized, or maybe it has grown in me with the years.  Or maybe I just realize now that patriotism and pride are two different things.  Patriotism is a feeling of affection and gratitude, not pride.

Is patriotism pride?Tomorrow night, as I watch the fireworks, I’ll be thinking about how blessed I am to live in a country where I am free to be myself, to complain loudly about the things I don’t like, and quietly take for granted the things I do.

No, I won’t.  I’ll be oohing and aahing and wishing I knew how to capture fireworks on film.  But I’m thinking about them now, and I’m happy to call this nation home.

I hope you feel the same way, wherever you live.

Word of the Day: Sorry.

An apology is a powerful thing.  I wish it weren’t true, but my ability, or maybe it is my willingness, to forgive the smallest and the biggest things often depend on that little phrase.

I’m sorry.

After twenty three years of marriage, you would think that either my husband would have learned this or I would have gotten over it, but, no.  I keep wanting apologies, and he keeps giving me excuses.

An excuse is not an apology.An excuse is not an apology.

They are pretty much the exact opposite.

Whereas an apology diffuses the hurt I feel, excuses incite it.

An apology says I care about your feelings; an excuse says I only care about my own.

As I said, often, it is the most trivial things.

Yesterday evening, I came home at 5:30 to make dinner and discovered my husband and daughter had just finished eating.  We haven’t eaten before 6:30 all week, so I was surprised.

Since what they had eaten included some of the ingredients for the dinner I’d planned, I was also annoyed.  I asked why they’d eaten without us.  (My son had been with me.)

Now, this was stupid.  Upon reflection, I actually knew why my husband ate dinner so early.  He’d skipped lunch and was hungry.

He just couldn’t say that, though.  Nor could he say, “I’m sorry.”

No, he had to give me variety of excuses, like

  • I didn’t know how long you would be.  (Text me to ask?)
  • For all I knew you might be eating out.  (He knows I never do this.)
  • I thought I was doing you a favor.

I went from mildly annoyed to feeling truly hurt because his excuses all put the blame on me – which is what excuses usually do.

The pathetic thing is, in that way, they work.  I go from thinking, “That was rude,” to, “What is wrong with me that I keep expecting him to apologize when the past two decades have proven that he won’t?  How stupid am I?”

A triviality which could have ended with an apology and a kiss thus sends me into a little whirlpool of self accusation and doubt, because, really, how inane can I be?  Why do I keep wanting apologies?  It really isn’t that big of deal.  I should be able to forgive without signs of remorse or regret, shouldn’t I?

I think I should, and I beat myself up over this character flaw for a good part of the evening.

And I think that is ridiculous of me, too, so I chastise myself for that as well.


I owe myself an apology.  I’m way too hard on me.

I’m sorry.

(I also apologize for the song, which I do not like.  There really aren’t a lot of songs with the words “I’m sorry” in them.)

What’s that word for big and beautiful?

One day my baby stood in front of a mirror, frowned, and said, “I am a fat little boy.”

“You’re not fat!  You’re chubby!”  I responded, instantly projecting my own body image issues on my adorable three year old.

Through narrowed eyes, he looked at me, daring me to disagree, “That just means I’m the cute kind of fat.”

I scooped him up, gave him a dozen kisses on that sweet spot of his neck that always made him laugh and said, “Emphasis on the cute.”

I told him that he was the perfect size, exactly the size God made him to be, and he was healthy and handsome and, most important, loved.  He outgrew the chubbiness, but not the cuteness.

Nearly twenty years later, chubby is still our family word for “the cute kind of fat.”

I wish society had a word for that concept, too, the idea that a person, or a feature, could be larger than average and attractive at the same time.  Neither skinny nor its opposite fat convey beauty, but thin does.  We have no companion for thin, no word that denotes a larger vision of health and beauty.

Over the past couple days, I’ve seen this Dove campaign about beauty posted dozens of times.  If you haven’t seen it, take a look.

The emphasis here isn’t on weight, but listen to the words the women use to describe themselves.  “My mom told me I had a big jaw.”  “A fat, rounder face.”  “A pretty big forehead.”

Unless we’re talking about breasts, big is always a negative.  We don’t want big chins, noses, foreheads, arms, or feet.  Okay, big eyes – we want big eyes, like a Disney princess.  Big eyes, big breasts, everything else small, that’s our ideal.  That sounds like pornographic anime doesn’t it?

Ew.  I wish I hadn’t thought of that.


Words matter.  Casual remarks can sting for years, and they don’t have to be directed at us.  A childhood spent hearing negative remarks about fat people doesn’t generally result in someone who feels beautiful if she puts on a few extra pounds.

The words used to describe us become the way we define ourselves.

I didn’t grow up with words like chubby, or assurances that I was the perfect size.  I was called sturdy.  Amazonian.  Big.

Big.  Mostly, I was big.  Was I?

I was tall.  Very tall compared to my mother’s family, men and boys included.  I was also taller than my older brother for most of our childhood, which delighted neither of us.

I wanted to be small.  Petite girls were cute in a way I knew I never could be.  I was big; big and cute don’t go together.

Big is the ugly stepsister cutting off her own toes to cram her foot into a tiny glass slipper.  Petite dances all night with the prince and lives happily ever after.

I’m an adult now.  I want to think I’m past all that.  I carefully choose words for my daughter, knowing they’ll replay in her head for years to come.

When she tells me she hates being short, I point out how much easier it is for her to find clothes and shoes that fit, how much closer she is to the average woman’s height, how perfectly proportioned, how beautiful and healthy she is, exactly the size God created her to be.

I tell her that every woman I know wishes she were different in some way, even the most beautiful women in the world.  I tell her I always wished I wasn’t so tall (I’m careful to say tall, not big).

My husband walks by and grins, “But then I wouldn’t have noticed you.”

My prince.

Words.  They matter.  Choose them wisely.

Rape by any other name

Rape by any other name

The Feast of the Gods
by Bellini and Titian

My son and I went to the National Gallery of Art the other day. He’s taking a course on the Renaissance that includes studying its art, and, in his words, “You like art museums more than anyone I know,” so we went together.

We happened upon a tour in progress, so tagged along. The guide was very knowledgeable. We learned quite a bit from him.  I have no idea who he was, but the ladies in the group were talking about buying his book.

When we reached the painting above, The Feast of the Gods, I was struck by his phrasing.

The scene depicted is from Ovid.

The central portion of the narrative is at the far right. Priapus, god of fertility, is lifting the skirt of the sleeping nymph Lotis. In the words of our tour guide, and I would guess Ovid, the “seduction” was interrupted by the braying of the donkey, who woke Lotis in time for her to rebuff Priapus. He then demanded that the donkey be sacrificed to him, and that all future sacrifices be donkeys.

That’s the story. I doubt many people today know it, so why should I care?

I care because there are still people who confuse the idea of seduction with rape. There are people who don’t distinguish between an act of violence and romantic persuasion. There are people who don’t understand the entire concept of consent.

Every time we use a word like seduction instead of rape, when we fail to say, “Ovid called it seduction, but Priapus was attempting to rape this sleeping nymph,” we excuse it, don’t we?

Ugly acts don’t deserve pretty phrases.

Where is the word between friend and acquaintance?

Last night I was at a friend’s birthday party.  I knew most of the guests there, but only one other guest was someone I’d call a friend.  The rest ranged from stranger to fill-in-the-blank.  It’s this missing word in the English language.  Maybe that word used to be acquaintance, like we all sing about every New Year’s Eve, but today, that doesn’t sound right.  It sounds auld.  You wouldn’t introduce someone saying, “This is my acquaintance Nancy,” would you?  Neither would I.  So we say friend, even if we don’t feel like Nancy is our friend.  She is just someone we know.  We probably like her, and will happily talk to her at a party about what her kids are up to, how her recent vacation was, or whether she got that new job, but we wouldn’t phone her to ask about any of those things.  We wouldn’t even text her.

Sometimes it’s easier.  We have roommates, schoolmates, teammates, but, at least here in the USA, we don’t call people plain old mates.  I wouldn’t introduce Nancy to you as, “This is my mate Nancy.”  Those terms all need a frame of reference, and often, there isn’t a handy term available.  (If we can’t have a word that falls someplace between friend and acquaintance, could churchmate come into common usage?  I have a lot of churchmates.)

If I’m talking to my sister, or my husband, I have used the awkward phrase “friendly acquaintance.”  They know I don’t really have hordes of friends, and this saves them the bother of wondering which of my five friends I am not naming.  If you’re wondering how this sounds in conversation, it goes like this:  “A friendly acquaintance told me last week that a hawk was circling over her yard, stalking her chihuahua.”  As I said, awkward phrasing, but if I said friend, they’d ask which of my friends got a chihuahua.  If I said Nancy told me…” they’d ask who Nancy was, wondering if I had made a new friend.  Then we would be talking about my lack of a social life instead of the abundance of predatory birds in the area and the danger to small, but loved, animals.

So, we, or at least I, need a new word.  Any ideas?  Nominations?