Thursday, May 13, 2010

lessons in vocabulary (but you should probably skip this one)

WARNING: Um. Well. Just...I warned you.

But first I'll start with the background. Last night, after kids were in bed and laundry folded, I met up with three friends for some snacks and chatter. One friend has been having a particularly tough time lately, so what better way to lend support than by eating? And we happened upon a place that was about to close the dining room (and just keep the bar open) for lack of patronage. A nice young man interrupted the girl who was in the midst of delivering the news to say he'd take care of us.

"What a nice guy," I said, after he had walked up.
"Yeah. He's REALLY nice," the hostess said in a tone that indicated were their positions switched, she would not be nearly as considerate.

We ordered food that wasn't low-fat/calorie/sodium and nobody regretted it. The server chatted occasionally, but almost awkwardly, a few times walking off with me looking at my friends with a furrowed brow and a "Whu?" on the tip of tongue.

No matter. We continued talking about books and kids and work and James McAvoy (naturally). I finished my nachos as I has said I would (the server: "It's a pretty big plate." me: "I'm confident in my ability."), but left the shredded lettuce, some salsa and sour cream and a littering of jalapenos in the middle. I had, after all, just eaten my weight in cheese.

The server returned, and he waved at the plate. "You're not going to finish? That's a lot of shmegma."
"Um, what?" I asked, because something fired in the back of my mind.
"Shmegma - you know, the word for lots of...stuff."
"Uhhhh...I don't think that word means what you think it means."

My friends wanted to know what I thought it meant and I wasn't about to disclose my suspicion with him anywhere near us. He was busy cleaning stuff up and walked off, confident in his usage. Cue friends laughing harder and asking more questions. I think it's the closest I've ever come to being speechless.

Growing up, my dad often used a wide variety of words. He has a vast vocabulary and, over time, I think we picked up on that. The word "wog" is commonplace in my parents' home (it's the term for food on your face - perhaps so commonplace because my dad can't eat a meal without leaving some behind - love you dad!). I love words, and for many/most words, I have a like/dislike association with them. Words in my like column: vacillate; spongy; shipping lanes (ok, not one word, but I still love it); crunchy; petulant; ostracize; phlebotomy. Words in my dislike column: tenderness; think tank; touch base; fleshy; clammy; kindie (for kindergarten); panties. Then there's another category of words that are just disgusting. Disgusting to say, disgusting by definition, disgusting. The only word I will use as an example is, again, panties. But it crosses from "dislike" to "gross" when people drop the "t" sound. That's just the way it is.

So anyway, my brain was very clearly firing that this word the server was using was in the third category. And I have intentionally spelled it incorrectly (but it reflects the way he was pronouncing it). Today I verified that I was correct, but that isn't the lesson (because let's face it, that's a DAILY lesson). Today's lesson is this: don't use words you are unfamiliar with. Or that you heard someone else use and thought it sounded cool. Didn't I just talk about how Donovan misuses words? Well that's ok because he's FIVE. Because there's always the chance that you will use a word that will horrify the people around you and make them lose their appetite (if they had one after eating a week's worth of fat) and swear to never return.

Let me spare you a inquiry to Prof. Google and preface this by saying I'm editing the definition for delicate eyes, retaining my incorrect spelling because then maybe it won't get picked up on searches:

Both females and males produce s[h]megma. In females, it collects around
the [reproductive organ]; in males, s[h]megma is produced and can collect under the
[reproductive organ].

Never ever let someone use the word shmegma in any form with you.

You're welcome. Stop screaming. You were WARNED.


Tennille said...

Ha! I learned what that word meant after Harry was born.

wanda said...


Lisa said...

"You keep using that word. I don't think it means what you think it means."

Sooooooooo SO many people use words that they have no business using. This has to be the funniest one I've ever heard.

PaloAltoCougar said...

Be aware the definition for wog that you mentioned (food residue hanging on the edge of one's mouth, cheek or chin) is a secondary one and of fairly recent origin. Its primary meaning is an ethnic slur in British English and is akin to the "N" word in referring to Pakistanis or Indians; don't mention it in Indo-Pak restaurants. And I remember reading the definition of smegma in my youth, including the helpful, "it smells as bad as it sounds."


Laurie said...

HA HA HA HA HA. You've offically killed me with disgust and laughter at the same time!

SunD said...

There are few jobs that can use the word in a professional manner, and I just happen to be in one (or the only one) that can - and I am not a waitress. I have to admit, that it makes me smile whenever I do use it. "oh, that would be a little smegma - nothing to worry about."

Sarah Burgoyne said...

Holy cow! I am laughing so hard right now! Rarely do I make Will read blog entries but this is a good one :)

dawnanne said...

sarah! honestly, you are so funny!!! there is ALWAYS something to write about, no?

rachel said...

this is laura's friend rachel. and i am compelled to comment, due to my vast-for-a-mormon knowledge of yiddish slang terms. that poor shmuck was thinking "schmutz," which does in fact mean "stuff" but had probably watched a lot of bad british comedy as a youth, in which the word smegma is used in a similar manner (meaning "stuff"). kind of the same way some not very nice people use "s***" to mean "stuff."

so, there. more info than you ever needed! ps, i like your blog.

Nataluscious said...

Hi my tenderness,

I was busy over here in my think tank of work, and realized that its time we touch base. I'm nervous to ask - so nervous to ask, in fact, that my hands are a bit clammy (well, all except that fleshy piece between my thumb and forefinger).

Anyhow, I digress. When the kids are out of kindie for the year I'm hoping we can figure out something. Let's not stress about it, I don't want you to get your pannies in a bunch.

Moistly yours,

NancyO said...

I've always hated "panties", too.

Angie said...

I don't think you called him out as directly as you should have. He SHOULD NOT be using that term in a restaurant PERIOD! Do you think he went home and looked it up? It also is making me extremely curious where he even heard it in the first place!

Annie said...

1. You are so stinkin' hilarious.
2. I also hate the word panties.
3. I have been guilty of using words I don't know. The most funny time was when I was teaching middle schoolers and "Nelly" came up. Not wanting to act like I didn't know who this person was, I made some remark about "her". I got called out right then.
4. Everyone please tell me if I say a word that I don't know the meaning to.