11. Words (Jan 2013)
Sometimes Kate could get a little peeved about words. She would tell herself that on the ‘grand scheme of things’ one little word’s pronunciation or another’s stretching of meaning was not really going to make a difference in the “grand scheme of things.” But then she would go back to her age-old argument: “When people use the same words for different meanings, language has ceased to function!”
Of course, Mister often teased her about it, mispronouncing or misusing words on purpose. How irksome. And then there were the times when they were both convinced on their own particular definition.
Just a few nights ago, in fact, Kate had returned home and after a hearty (and much needed) dinner, she collapsed on the couch with a grin, “I’m pretty beat after two long days of teaching and carousing around town!” she said.
Mister looked at her in mock surprise and skepticism, “Were you kissing people?”
“Kissing? Goodness, no! Whatever made you say that?”
“Well, you said carousing…”
“Oh,” she laughed, “carousing doesn’t mean kissing. When I think of carousing, I think of cats prowling around town, getting into mischief and having a jolly time.”
Mister’s eyebrows went up. “Cats?” he said scornfully.
Out came their red Webster’s New World Dictionary: Third College Edition. (Handy on a nearby bookcase for just such a desperate occasion.)
They browsed for “carouse” and found the definition.
“Carouse: to drink much alcohol, having a noisy merry time…”
Kate sighed. That was more of a draw than she had hoped. Usually, she had clearly won. She thought with satisfaction of their debate about the pronunciation of “poinsettia.” But she wasn’t going to let him get away that easily….and of course, Mister was looking at her with the same half mocking expression that she wore on her own face.
“See there,” he said, shutting the book. “Not a word about cats.”
“Cats were just what I think of, you goof! I wasn’t saying they were part of the definition. And just where was all that kissing that you were talking about?”
He refused to confront this headlong attack and just shrugged, “you’re over there talking about cats, and well….” he gestured vaguely at the book, as if he was starting to worry about his wife’s sanity.
Kate scrunched her nose, giggled and playfully pinched him. “You know that’s not what I meant. But you clearly had kissing in your definition.”
Neither of them pointed out that they had both left out the drinking of alcohol from their definitions, which had been the primary thrust in the dictionary.
Later that evening, Mister was sitting in bed looking at his hand. Methodically, he picked up one finger and tapped it on the table, then the next, then the next… Kate looked over his shoulder quizzically. Either he was concentrating on improving his finger coordination or he was a million miles away. “What are you doing?” she asked?
“Just tapping,” he said, nonchalantly.
Kate waited for more, but Mister said nothing else. After a moment, she burst into laughter. “Cuz?” she chortled, the humor of the situation intensified by the late hour. She recited their brief conversation, “‘Just tapping….why?....CUZ!’” she laughed and laughed. “What kind of word…what kind of answer is that?”Mister just grinned, not being able to account for his own power to make Kate laugh.