by Virginia Parker Staat © 2016
One’s vocabulary needs constant fertilizing or it will die. ~Evelyn Waugh
Kvetching. I’d say it’s my current word de jour, but it’s really my word de mois (month). I simply can’t let go of a stunning word in just a day. It’s become a game to me… to find a great word then use it for a while wherever possible. As a writer, I love having great words in my hip pocket. I believe it is important to explore words, to truly know them, and to know how and when to use them.
After our forty years of marriage, David even occasionally embraces my game of word de mois. Most recently David’s word has been conundrum. It’s been surprising how many conundrums we’ve had since he re-discovered that word. I’m hoping he moves on to something more uplifting soon. I don’t mean to sound superstitious, but perhaps my kvetching has been in response to all of his conundrums.
Words have such an affect on people… some of us more than others. Such was the case with my freshman English teacher. Considered zany by everyone, she marched into class our first day of high school, looking like a true schoolmarm with her silvery hair twisted tightly in a bun that sat directly on the top of her head like William Tell’s apple. She solemnly waved an enormous dictionary in the air and announced that it was the book she wanted to be buried with. She said of all the books ever printed, the dictionary was the one that she would never grow tired of reading during eternity. It was simply too much information for someone as young as myself.
In spite of this teacher, words grew in importance for me also. Over time, I developed my word de mois game. This relationship with words has not made it easy for me, particularly in the presence of friends and family. I just hope everyone doesn’t look at me as strangely as we youngsters did my English teacher and her dictionary those long years ago.
The worst violation of one of my words de mois occurred shortly after I won an award for best short story during the year I graduated from college. I had written Daddy’s Girl, a wrenching tale about a little girl abandoned in a motel room and how the incident forever changed the motel owner’s life. It was sordid stuff. But in it I had written one of my best lines ever… “all huzzahed on by the devil himself, taken form as daddy.” Huzzahed was my word de mois.
The university had a small press and published a collection of student best works each semester. As a reward for winning first place, they included my short story. A fresh-faced young girl was given the opportunity to be editor. And edit, she did. She took my beautiful word and changed it. That’s right. She took editorial license with one of the best lines I’ve ever written. I suppose it was because she figured nobody would look up huzzahed in the dictionary. She changed the line to this: “all cheered on by the devil himself, taken form as daddy.” Cheered. She used the word cheered. My beautiful huzzahed was transformed into a word that was pallid, paltry, and preposterous. That was over 25 years ago. I’m still kvetching over it.
So much for ramblings about my game of word de mois. It’s time for both David and me to move on to something more uplifting than conundrum and kvetching. I’ve just suggested posiripple and osculator. Now that ought to do it.