LINKS
2010-04-14 / Loose Ends

Whatcha-ma-call-it?

Susan Nienow

“It’s the thing-a-ma-jig over on the chest… the trunk…over there,” I said, my voice rising to a slight screech at the end. I had my hands full of a large plant that I had just dumped out of its home for the last year, and I needed the garden knife (as opposed to a butcher knife, fillet knife, switchblade or other such sharp, dangerous instruments) to cut through the overgrown root ball that was balanced against my knee and the table. The table was scooting away from me, and well, you get the picture. I didn’t have time to come up with the right name for the knife.

The plant fell on my foot, root ball down, depositing black potting soil inside my shoe and sock. And my other half was looking at me like I had been babbling, and asked me why I didn’t just ask for the knife or for help holding the plant. Meanwhile, I wondered why he didn’t know what the thing-a-ma-jig was and hand it to me. Crisis averted with silence.

The names of people are the toughest. I can tell you what someone was wearing, what she said, where we were and even the names of her kids that I have never met. But if I try to talk about her later, her name is gone. She will never know it’s missing.

I have never been quick tongued. I wake up in the middle of the night with the perfect response to a comment that left me silent with my mouth open the day before. The problem is speeding up the process so it actually works, but I am getting slower each year as important words such as “knife” escape me when I need them in a hurry.

I need a mental thesaurus that can quickly translate *#! into something more people-friendly when I trip over a crack in the sidewalk and feel the need to express pain and irritation with myself over wearing sandals in the first place. I could also use it when I am trying to relate a news story I just read and can’t remember the name of the country involved.

This must be why the game 20 Questions came about. Is the country large? Small? On the continent of South America? Africa? Is it someone you know now? A neighbor? A friend? Tall? Brown hair?

My other half once mentioned that it might be easier for me if I waited until I knew the words before I started to speak. While I am sure his intentions were pure, he has not brought it up again – probably because he can’t think of the right words. Often he just translates in his head. If I say blue flower, and there are only seedpods present, he knows I mean the one with blue berries.

Last night my granddaughter was here. She talks like the 2-year-old she is and held my other half’s attention all through dinner. He understood everything. Why can’t he understand me?

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