Don’t Quote Me


by Lillian Csernica on March 14, 2014

I’ve always been a very talkative person.  Chatty, loquacious, highly verbal.  Motormouth, logorrhea, won’t shut up.  Call it what you will, I’ve had a longstanding relationship with words.  Like all long term relationships, there have been the good times and the bad.  For example, when I was preschool age, I had trouble pronouncing the letter L.  Given that my first name has three Ls in it, this was a problem.  My mother likes to demonstrate this little difficulty I had by telling the story of my favorite TV show at the time:

Mom: “It was so funny!  Every time ‘Lassie’ would come on, Lili would start saying, ”Assie doggie!  ‘Assie doggie!”

Thanks, Mom.

The next really entertaining example I can recall happened when I was in grade school.  My father and I had gone to the bowling alley and started off with lunch in the diner.  Thanks to hanging out with Daddy, I’d developed a fondness for a particular sandwich and ordered it all the time.  One would think all that practice would have saved me.  Oh no.  When the server came to take our order, I asked for a “French diff beep.”

I don’t remember any incidents from my middle school years, but that’s probably due to my dedicated efforts to obliterate any trace of those three hellish years from my memory.

By now I may have you wondering if I needed speech therapy or if this tongue-tied streak was destined to last me a lifetime.  I spent three years in high school on the Speech and Debate Team, which was a combination of trauma and therapy.  I took Spanish and never mastered the art of rolling my Rs properly, but at least I could carry on a conversation.  A number of my college-bound classmates were perfect on paper, but when the time came for them to actually speak Spanish, their accents were hideous.  I often wish I’d taken French, and I remain relieved that I did not attempt to learn German.  It’s a great language, very precise, but it’s also very demanding.  Just ask anybody who has lived through a “Die, Der, Das” exam.

Now that I am a mother and a “woman of a certain age,” I know that what gets my verbal wires crossed is stress.  I’m moving too fast, trying to do too much at once, trying to speak faster than my jaw, tongue, and lips can keep up.  That would explain jumbling letters and committing that hilarious act known as a Malapropism.  Wiki defines it as “the use of an incorrect word in place of a word with a similar sound, resulting in a nonsensical, often humorous utterance.”  Mrs. Malaprop is a character in The Rivals by Richard Brinsley Sheridan best known for committing such verbal reversals.  In high school I once played Mrs. Malaprop.  One of my favorite lines involved Mrs. Malaprop bragging about her niece, attempting to say “ingenuousness and artfulness.”  Instead, she describes the niece as possessing “ingenuity and artifice.”

Penelope Keith as Mrs. Malaprop in The Rivals, Chichester Festival Theater

Today, however, I committed an act of pure verbal goofiness.  I must tip my hat to Leanne Shirtliffe, author of Don’t Lick The Minivan.  If not for her wit and wisdom, I would not have caught myself in the act of saying what I said.

You see, John had been eating an apple.  He tends to take large bites.  As he got closer to the core, he did the typical buzz saw maneuver, then threw the core away.  In the light from the kitchen window I could see the gleam of juice on his chin.  I knew he had it on his hands too.  Before I could tell him to go wash up, he bent over and picked up our extremely fluffy black cat, Coco.  That’s when I said it.

“Don’t get the cat sticky!”

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Filed under autism, cats, Family, Fiction, history, Humor, Self-image, Special needs, Writing

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