I grew up in a "word" family. My mother, Judy, was the queen of quintessential locution, i.e. big words. My Dad teased her a lot about her many words, but it developed a love for all things literary in my brother and I. I credit her for steering the parenting boat through the waves of eloquence, or at least the appreciation of it.
Me: So, Mom, you seem to have such an appreciation for words. You use such colorful imagery just in normal speech, what do you think of when you think of words??
Mom: Words are tools for creativity. Words are tools for unlocking images. It's our common base for understanding between people, between cultures, between friends.
Me: You grew up with all the regular words plus a few made up words. Can you tell us about your favorite "family words"?
Mom: Some families will combine a foreign language base/ sound to some words. My father loved German, so he used a lot of German-sounding words like: "schmutzig". I'm not even sure if it's a real word, but it meant you had some old food on your face or dirt on your hands. "Looks like you've got some schmutzig there on your chin.." There were also words like "gunky and gradoo" which meant the same thing.
Me: Do you have any funny stories about words you've used recently?
Mom: Sure. When I look at my fabric, (Mom is an avid quilter and loves bright colors) the fabrics are just titillating.
The intensity of the color and the textures are just encouraging me to touch them. In fact, they are delicious. I think I would use delicious to describe my titillating fabrics.. So, I was talking to the little ladies at quilting about this, and they said to me,
"You aren't going to use that tit word again, are you?!!"
Me: (laughing) Mom, you always give people a run for their money.. So, I remember growing up you always used big words in front of us. Is there a reason why?
Mom: I didn't want vanilla children. Spumoni, neapolitian, rocky road children.. interesting, stimulating, but not vanilla. I like being around interesting people, and I seek them out.
I'm drawn to people who use interesting words and humor. They weave words into the conversation, sprinkling with humor. It takes a certain amount of intelligence to do this.
If you constantly use "thingamajig" or "whadducall it", you are not striving to be more interesting or intelligent. So, we were always challenging you both to strive higher than that.
Me: Do you remember when Dad starting teasing you about "dipping into the word bank in the sky"? When did that all start?
Mom: It was 1978, I was invited to the Bay Area writing project for teachers. I was teaching first grade at the time and not exactly being challenged to write or think at a very high level. We were challenged to write, edit, and share in groups and then go out and teach this project to other groups. It was very challenging for me personally, and I started becoming more aware of words and using them. I also started journaling to get through hard times in my life. My best friend, Lennie died, and I worked through that by writing.
Me: I noticed that you used a very interesting form of speech today while we were talking. You said, "Look at the expression on the lima bean"-referring to Emily who was wearing a light green outfit. What do you call that, and how can our readers think more poetically?
Mom: It's personification. I use it all of the time. I don't write a lot of expository writing, but if people look at my writing, they can usually extract a poem from the figurative language I've used. If you want to develop figurative language, read the Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane. I also like alliteration. Like: Jumping Joanna..
Me: Do you have any words you don't like?
Mom: Well yes, but I can say them.
Me: (laughing) Oh, I wasn't talking about profanity. Nobody likes those. How about words that have negative connotations for you like : mucus does for me.
Mom: How about, "give it to myself?" or " you can come and see myself?" What ever happened to normal speech? People think they are so hip when they say those things!
Me: yeah, those pesky reflexive pronoun abusers...
Jo: I can think of a word I don't like!
Me: Oh sure, make fun of me on my blog.
Than: Hey, what's going on? (coming in from the other room)
Me: We're talking about words we don't like.
Than: I have one. It would be: blitz..or did Jo already say that?
Well well well.. out of the mouth of babes and teenagers.
Thanks to all of my interviewees, especially Mom.
This is what makes my home sing (this week, at least) Thanks Mom. For more, visit: Moms the Word.