When Words Collide

The essence of a good cultural collision is usually found in language, the malaprop’s a good example. Growing up in Morrisville in the shadow of Stowe’s social ascendancy in the 50s, I heard a number of them.

Forensic entomologists – or is that etymologists? – believe that the malaprop originated among people with strong social aspirations, limited vocabulary and a desire to flaunt their verbal prowess. In my own case, I think it has more to do with hearing loss, but more about that later.

A dear, now departed, friend whom I had not seen for several winters was regaling me with the news that, as she aged, her voice had lowered and she was now a tenor in her church choir. Not knowing how to respond to this exciting news, I asked after her mother. That would be a non-sequitur.

“Oh,” she answered,” Din’t cha hear, last fall she took a corollary and died.”

I tried to redeem myself, asking after her father only to learn that he had succumbed to “prostrate” cancer several years earlier.

“I’m sorry,” I answered, choosing not to inquire further about her choir advancement.

“Yeah,” she answered, I haven’t been able to get it out of my cistern. Sometimes, I feel like I’m between a hard rock and a place.”

“Wow,” I thought, “a triple header.”

A New York social worker friend who moved to Morrisville was helping an elderly and impecunious gentleman from Wolcott with the recent death of his 94-year-old mother and the disposition of her remains. After explaining the various options and related expenses, the dismayed fellow decided on cremation. Cost was an issue and so he suggested, “I could just drive Ma over myself, don’t cha know, if you could just tell me where the creamery is.”

At 67, I’m mastering the hearing-impaired non-sequitur, while my wife’s Volvo is losing its memory. The driver’s seat can’t remember whose driving and invariably advances itself to her preferred position, juicing me in the steering wheel. I was driving us to the grocery store in this compressed position when Kate mentioned the need for a legume for dinner.  I answered, “Good idea” and moved my seat back.

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