I’m Not A Cunning Linguist

By now you’re probably all familiar with my tendency to misread words.  But if you’re relatively new to my blog, you may not have read about the fact that I also tend to misspeak – often with embarrassing results.

A while ago I was getting ready to buy groceries in preparation for houseguests, and I called to ask what type of milk I should buy.  When informed that 1% was the concentration of choice, I blurted out, “Oh, that’s new.  Phill and Michael were always the homo guys.”

For the record, they’re both confirmed heterosexuals.  And I think I’ll say ‘whole homogenized milk’ instead of ‘homo’ from now on.

Some time later, I was enthusing to my friends about the Calgary International Blues Festival.  I go just about every year to soak up the sunshine, beer, and blues music.  It’s a long day outdoors and if one remains properly hydrated (or beer-drated, as the case may be), nature calls frequently.

If you attend by yourself, you have to decide whether to temporarily abandon your stuff while you sneak off to pee, or else haul everything with you into the cramped and increasingly icky porta-potties.  In music-festival euphoria, most people choose to trust their neighbours.

Last year, a photographer sat near me.  When he asked, I cheerfully agreed to watch over his camera gear while he did what needed to be done.  After a long day and multiple trips, he charmingly bought me a CD in thanks for my onerous duties.

Expounding to my audience at the pub later, I summed up the preceding paragraphs as follows:  “He asked me to watch his equipment while he peed”.

After a couple of beats of silence followed by uproarious laughter, one of my smartass friends asked, “Did you hold it for him, too?  No wonder he bought you a CD.”

I’m not the only one in the family with linguistic (or lingual) issues.  A couple of days ago, my sister and I were talking about her upcoming budget presentation at the Christian radio station where she works.  And this came out of her mouth:  “…that may vary depending on what the fucktuations…”

We both burst out laughing.

And I told her, “If you try to discuss income fluctuations in your meeting, you’re either going to say ‘what the fucktuations’ or you’re going to start giggling uncontrollably.  Either way you’re doomed.”

My sister also coined one of my favourite non-words:  ‘depissitate’.  She was describing miserable rainy weather that was starting to clear, and her tongue got tangled between ‘precipitate’ and ‘dissipate’.  And the phrase ‘It’s starting to depissitate’ was born:  The perfect way to describe a sleety rain shower.

It’s nice to know that she and I share the same language difficulties.  Or, as she once accidentally said when describing a different trait that runs in the family (I can’t even remember what the trait was now)…  “It’s a genital thing.”

To this day, the word ‘congenital’ makes me snicker. And I never use it.  ‘Cause I know if I do, it’ll come out as ‘genital’.

I’m just not a cunning linguist.

* * *

Many thanks to my good-natured sister and the radio station where she works for giving me permission to publish this.  As she said herself, ‘what the fucktuations’ was just too good not to share.

32 thoughts on “I’m Not A Cunning Linguist

  1. Pingback: Talking Turkey | Diane Henders

  2. Great post, Diane. I have a lot of respect for people who act on stage, or who appear on live radio or television. Well, not a lot. But I have to admit, it does take courage to risk those verbal wanderings when there’s no way to take them back.


    • Thanks, Charles! I often think of stage performers when I’m writing and editing – they have a special kind of mad courage (or maybe it’s simply madness) to stand up there and take one shot at getting it right. It takes me about 25 times to get it right even when I’m sitting in front of my computer in silence and solitude. All I can say is “better them than me”.


  3. When your post first went out I got it in my e-mail and of course laughed myself silly with what you wrote. I too have had cases of adult dyslexia with placement of words, usually when I’m trying to at least “sound” literate. Not until today, when reading it again, did I catch on to the actual title of your post. I’m still laughing, and I figure it’s good for another weeks worth of chuckles. Lordy, I did need the laughs too. Thank you again for your wit and humor. “cunning linguist”, indeed! LOLOL


  4. This post made laugh early in the morning! 😀 I think I have a similar problem..I say the wrong word…or sometimes I mispronounce a word ..the ‘best” part is when you mispronounce a word and those around you try to correct you, BUT they mispronounce it too! Hahaha..it’s like the ‘gift that keeps on giving”!


  5. LOL! One slip of the tongue I had was when we were, as a family activity, playing a game of Clue. I proclaimed, with great authority, that “Miss Scarlett did it in the library with Professor Plum*!” Hubs responded, “And which weapon, precisely, was involved?”

    *It is possible I said Colonel Mustard.I don’t remember that part as well as I do the ensuing embarrassment. It was one of the men, in any case.


  6. That was fun! I have a similar problem, and add to that the fact that my sister sounds like me, then I can have even more attributed to me when we are in the same room! Glad to know you are a student of language and linguistics, an ever changing and interesting subject.


  7. “He asked me to watch his equipment while he peed”.—Only you, Diane, only you. 😉 As for “It’s a genital thing.”? I’m convinced it’s only a matter of time before that flies out of my mouth now. Super. When it does, I’ll know who to thank…

    Your titles alone draw an AWOL blogger away from her hiatus. Always fun to read your posts!!


  8. I suspect this a common genetic quirk with writers – that’s why we prefer to write out our words, rather than risk verbal contortions.


    • That’s an excellent point. I’m an obsessive editor – I don’t even post a blog comment without revising it umpteen times. And I can’t count the number of times I’ve blurted out something idiotic in public and wished for a delete key.


      • Yup – I know what you mean. I’m pretty sure the language center of my brain is connected to my fingertips, not my mouth. Half the time I have no idea what I’m saying :- (


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