Sticks and Stones … (OS008)

I don’t know if you’ve heard the old children’s saying ‘Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me’. My Mum told me that it was common for kids to say this to each other. She is quite an aficionado on sayings (which I’m sure will be in a later log). Anyway, I’m here to state that it’s wrong in so many ways. Firstly, it sounds like an incitement to escalate the conflict by encouraging kids to start with the missiles. Secondly, hurtful words are definitely off the curriculum these days especially with social media. I’m still recovering from a teacher calling me ‘lanky’. Thirdly, it’s just not true and I’m going to tell you why ….

Over the past few weeks, I’ve come to realise that Pam (my housemate/lodger) has an exceptional vocabulary. Being significantly vocabulary challenged I felt quite in awe of her, in this respect. In fact, I’ve started to Google for some impressive words to drop into my talks with Pam, just to catch her out. I asked how she became such a wordsmith (one of the words I looked up yesterday) in the car on the way to the shops. By the way, what about the word ‘aficionado’ earlier? I think this was from a coffee advert though rather than Google. Anyway circumnavigating (hey!) that one for the moment, I asked,

“Do you read a lot Pam. You’re quite a wordsmith.”

“I guess so. Always have done since early years with Shirley Hughes … and before that I guess when I was read to as a baby. Now, I must read a book a week.”

“What, that’s amazing. I’m sure you could write a book and make a fortune.”

“I’d like to. They say there’s a book in everyone. What would your book be Oliver?”

“Me, oh no not me. Maybe a manual for doing something techy like adding RAM to a laptop. I don’t even know some of the words you use……What’s your favourite word?”

“Actually, I know a story about that. A couple of students, reading that Rudyard Kipling earned ten shillings a word for his book, sent him ten shillings asking him for one of his very best words. He replied “Thanks”.

“That’s good. I like that … I guess he’s a famous author and not the one who makes exceedingly good cakes?”

“I can’t believe you said that…”

I agreed. Sorry readers.

“My favourite word. That’s difficult. Maybe …. Onomatopoeia.”

“What? Is that even a word? What does it mean?”

Pam paused for a while and then suddenly shouted “B A N G.” flailing her arms wildly.

“What the …. “. In shock I momentarily lost control of the car which swerved violently towards the curb, startling a woman who dropped what she was holding sending it crashing to the pavement. Fortunately, I regained my composure and jerked the wheel to bounce the car out of the gutter.

“What did you do that for. Are you OK?” I said, as I wound down the window and shouted to the startled woman, ‘Sorry, I sneezed.” lying through my teeth. I could see in the rear view mirror the victim visibly shaken picking up what looked like a smashed garden gnome from the pavement.”

“Onomatopoeia, a word which sounds like the sound it represents. You know, ‘bang’, ‘crash’, ‘boom'” she explained.

“That should be banned. Why do you need a word for noises of accidents?”

“Not just accidents. There’s ‘Baa’ sounds lambs make and ‘burp’ like you do after a lager.”

“Wish you’d chosen a less dramatic example. Maybe ‘silence’ I whispered.”

“That’s not one. You’re just whispering a word. Silence sounds like this …… “

“OK” I replied conscious of the police car accelerating up behind me. How about “Nee Nah, you know, like the siren on the police car, pulling me over.”

“Nope. Not a word. I think I’d better explain.” said Pam.

I could see that Pam explained the whole thing as at one point the officer took on an unusual expression and dropped his pencil. I began to wonder what the charges could be anyway; Driving under the influence of a crazy woman. Fatally injuring a garden gnome. Anyway, whatever Pam said must have done the trick as he put away his pencil and I’m sure he smirked at one point.

“Don’t ask.” replied Pam as she climbed back into the car. I didn’t and drove off.

… Oliver Sudden  

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