The Do Not Say List

by Rhoda Janzen

“LoveBunny,” said the man I was dating, “those shorts are so short I can see your globes.”

If you are like me, you are experiencing a complex reaction right about now. Set aside your immediate objection (“Why on earth is a forty-five-year-old woman wearing Daisy Dukes?”) and go with your gut. This is revulsion, yes? It’s not just me, is it? Endearments are kin to pillow talk in that they advert to all kinds of private weirdnessLoveBunny, Snookums, Biscuit, and Punkin are all a matter of taste. Let us agree to let sleeping couples lie. But globes? I think we can all agree that globes offers grounds for an instant break-up.

In his defense, this man was not American. He spoke the Queen’s English. Once he pleasantly inquired if I wanted more blubes in my morning yogurt. Blueberries I can savor. Blubes I cannot. Naturally I was quick to begin a list of words that this otherwise fabulous man should never utter under any circumstances. Globes and blubes were my first two candidates. Never a wuss, he shot right back at me with wuss and ballsy. I nodded: tit for tat. “And tit,” he added darkly. “If I can’t say blubes, I don’t want to hear you say tit.”

“From now on my tits are sealed,” I said solemnly.

We all have our secret Do Not Say Lists. Most contain terms like those above, those that, for whatever reason, appall at some visceral, deeply personal level. When I hear blubes, for example, I shudder as if I’ve just stuck my finger into the moist sticky center of an anemone. But there are other sorts of words that beg to be included on any self-respecting DNS List. Post-prandial, for instance. This word means “after lunch,” as when your Ph.D. buddy Rell reposes on your deck, lights up, and murmurs that there is nothing quite like a post-prandial cigarette.

“Ew,” you say.

“I thought you said I could smoke out here.”

“Ew to the word post-prandial.”

“What’s wrong with post-prandial?”

“It’s pretentious and high-falutin’.”

Rell was lazily reclining in a deck chair, so his comeback was not very spirited. “I heard you use the word anagnoritic not two hours ago.”

“That’s different,” I said. “I was making an argumentative point about a scholarly topic. Plus there is no other word in the English language that means the same thing. Whereas you could have just as easily said that you like a cigarette after lunch.”

“Doesn’t everybody?” Rell said, blowing placid smoke rings over the lake.

I tried again. “Academics sound like poseurs when they use big words in regular conversation. They sound like an ass-kick waiting to happen.”

“Darlin’,” said Rell, “I’m not saying post-prandial for the bullies of junior high. I’m saying it for you, and I know you know what it means. Language is our mettle. The ability to deploy an erudite vocabulary comes with the territory. Besides, I didn’t invent big words. I merely learned them.”

“Just because we know them doesn’t mean we should use them.”

He waited a few minutes and then provocatively whispered, “I’m certainly enjoying this lacustrine view.”

“Lacustrine, my ass!” I shouted.

He countered gently, “I think you mean ‘Lacustrine, my globes.’”

I shrugged. You win some, you lose some. But don’t get me started on selfie.

Rhoda Janzen is a professor of English and creative writing at Hope College in Holland, Michigan. She is the author of a collection of poetry, Babel’s Stair (2006), as well as two memoirs, Mennonite in a Little Black Dress (2009) and Mennonite Meets Mr. Right (2012). This is her first contribution to Michiganders Post.
The featured image is by Seniju via Flickr.

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