“I was like crap; sorry I know that’s not an appropriate word but . . .”
All of us judge words as appropriate or not based on our version of life. For example I’m pretty sure there are not many teenagers who use the word awesome anymore. But then I would never use the word sick.
One of my early blogs had fun considering word choice:
Taking this a step further, imagine a world where every word you said gave away exactly who you were: where you were from, your sex, your age, what type of family you grew up in, and what your socio-economic standing was.
As in one of my favorite old movies, “My Fair Lady”, I came to understand language in a new way when I lived in England for a while. There were words I would learn from one person that, when said in the company of others would raise eyebrows. It was difficult for them to explain what was wrong with the word, only that it sounded rough. One such word was naff. The Urban dictionary defines the word as:
British slang, today meaning uncool, tacky, unfashionable, worthless... or as a softer expletive, in places where one might use "fuck" as in "naff off", "naff all", "naffing about".
Without the Urban Dictionary to help me 11 years ago, I had to decide for myself how appropriate the word was for my own, personal usage and also in what company I could employ it.
It is probably telling that the women who I overheard seemed to be discussing church related activities. In this context, I can understand the apology. I can also see where language slips out unintentionally. When as a writer I am sloppy with words, the reader can feel a dissonance between the character I am describing and the one who speaks on the pages. Used purposefully in writing, however, we can give glimpses into our character’s nature and the conflicts they face in their circles of friends and acquaintances.
Glimpses like a mom who deals with her kids’ crap all day and then can’t speak about it with the lovely church ladies in her quilting circle. This is a mom most of us could relate to I think.
“Aaiiieeeeee, ah ha ha ha ha!”
At which point I jumped about a foot in the air and spun around looking for, well even though I know they don’t exist, presumably a witch. I assure you, if it had occurred in the evening I would have been prepared for it. Our neighborhood houses are covered in Halloween decorations. But getting screeched at is not something you expect first thing in the morning; not unless it is by your 8 year old.
I finished the rest of my walk more carefully; letting my heartbeat slow down again as I really took in the decorations on each house I passed. This led to an interesting conclusion: our neighborhood is changing, growing like the very children who reside inside these houses.
Five years ago, when my daughter was just getting old enough to understand that Halloween meant candy (and also scary costumes), the decorations on the houses around us tended, mostly, to be fun and cute. There were pumpkins
of course, as well as brightly colored fall leaves, silly scarecrows, big candy-corn and hay bales. The scariest item you might have found would have been an inflatable ghost or one of those witches that look like they have crashed
into a tree.
Now, with the kids getting older, these same houses are dressed to scare even adults. Large spider webs with hairy black spiders crawl over front doors. Ugly zombies with gashes on their face and missing hands spring up from lawns and flower beds. Seemingly simple graveyards have gory hands and feet scattered about and what appears to be real dirt covering gravesites. The neighborhood has transitioned from cute to terrifying in what felt like the blink of an eye.
This makes me wonder what it will look like twenty years from now, when the children have all grown up and moved away. Will we return to the pretty fall leaf garlands, or will the presence of blood and gore still permeate? If the senior center is anything to go by I may have to skip the holiday all together. Visiting there this last weekend we saw the most gruesome display yet… baby zombies with awful expressions on their faces scattered around a fake graveyard.
Between that and the screaming witches, I expect I’ll be having nightmares all the way 'till Christmas.
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