INKLINGS: Words to write by

  • Thursday, July 5, 2012

“Have you seen that red thingy” for my boat?” Jim asked while he strode through the family room pulling back pillows. “The what?’ I replied mystified. “You know that plastic deal I always use!” Of course I didn’t know, but gamely offered to help search. After all there were two good clues: it was red and plastic. He finally uncovered it in some obscure niche in his backyard workshop. As he waved it in front of me, I reflected that if he’d asked me for what looked like an apple colored turkey baster on steroids, I would have known what to look for. Apparently this particular “thingy” was used in much the same way – to extract and transfer liquids – albeit not broth. I really didn’t need to look it up: it’s one of those words that say what it means – even if you don’t know the full meaning! I did find “thinga-ma-bob” and “thinga-ma-jig in my dictionary, but I already knew they had the same translation – slang for a word you don’t know or forgot. Words fascinate me, especially now that we seem to be using less and less of them, substituting initials or other coding to express ourselves in the space of two characters rather than two inches, in what I like to think of as an oxymoron called “texting.” I know, I know, I’m from the last century and need remedial training to communicate in today’s world. Maybe. My dad used to tell us to clean up our “gimcracks,” and we knew even before we could read or write that he meant all the junk his four kids had scattered over the floor. When we lived in England and traveled in Ireland people were getting “gobsmacked” left and right. Think clasping your hand across your gob (Irish for mouth) upon hearing something astonishing. I was rereading The Lilac Bus by Maeve Binchy recently and was fascinated as she described how God’s creatures spent one summer night “thrumming” outside a bedroom window. I knew exactly what noise those insects made just from the way the word sounded. “Thrum” is in my dictionary, but says it means (1) a way of making a fringe in weaving (2) to strum a guitar (3) to tell a tale monotonously and/or (4) to drum your fingers. Another proof that the sound of some words can convey their meaning independently. In a TV rendition of another of my favorite books, Elsbeth McGillicuddy asks her friend Jane Marple: “Am I going “doololly?” after the police fail to believe she has witnessed a murder on a moving train just because they can’t find the body. Imagine! Miss Marple assures Elsbeth that she knows her friend is not fanciful and saw what she said she saw in 4:50 From Paddington. Miss Marple, of course, goes on to prove her friend correct. And nobody who reads that passage has any doubt what “doololly” means! I have somewhat over 500 words to express these thoughts. I just can’t see that it’s better to say that I am “ :-( ) at nightly YWHOL while W/E and other W@ are driving me CR8Z,” rather than “I am gobsmacked at nightly thrumming while gimcracks and other thingys are driving me doololly!” Go figure!  

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