Friday, June 02, 2006

The Penultimate Command of English

Longtime readers know that my family famously mangles the English language. That’s not meant to be self-deprecating in any way. We know some stunningly big damn words. We can sling polysyllabics (see?) with the best of them.

We just don’t find it necessary to use them in the correct context.

I, for instance, famously used the word “penultimate” instead “paramount” many, many times until a woman I wanted to date stopped me in the middle of a crowded room and said, “You do realize that the word “penultimate” means “next to last”, don’t you? It doesn’t mean “ultimate” or “paramount”.”

“Wow,” I said. “So, if I described this as my paramount moment of embarrassment…”

“Exactly,” she said.

Ultimately, she and I did not go out.

My aphasia seems to be genetic. My son Gabriel spent a week pointing towards our roof and mentioning the “plants on the alchemy” before I realized that he was talking about the plants on our balcony.

Gabriel is also fond of announcing to everyone that he’s bored. Apparently, my younger son Julian felt that this would be an excellent arrow to add to his relatively new language quiver. Julian came downstairs this morning, put an apathetic look on his face and announced, “Dad, I’m boring.”

“You’re what?” I asked, even though I had heard him clearly.

“I’m boring.”

“You’re what?’

“I’m boring.”

“You’re what?”

There’s nothing boring about that kid. He’s the exact opposite of boring – whatever that word is.

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