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Bad Words

I think it’s safe to say most writers are fascinated with words. What they mean, how they sound, where they came from, the way they fit together. Clumps of letters that determine everything from my lunch choices to my right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Those are some powerful words.

So is the special on banana cream pie, and I guarantee it will aid in my pursuit of happiness.

Some words, though, get a bad rap, and through no real fault of their own. It’s not as if they are inherently evil. These aren’t the real ugly customers, like bankrupt or avalanche or tumor, words that are just plain impossible to put a good spin on. Nope. I’m talking about perfectly innocent words that never seem to get involved in a happy conversation.

Example: thyroid.

We’ve all got one, chugging away there under our chin, churning out hormones and making us hum along more or less in tune. Handy little buggers. But imagine you’re sitting in the local café, sort of listening to the conversation at the next table because it’s hard not to and really, you learn a lot of good stuff that way, and somebody mentions ‘thyroid’. I’ll bet you that chicken fried steak with the side of cottage cheese you’ll assume something is wrong, because who talks about their thyroid otherwise?

Another example: fan belt.

Again, something you’ve most likely got under your hood, but if your daughter calls from a few hundred miles away and mentions the words ‘fan belt’, you are immediately going to start calculating the cost of the tow truck in your head. And possibly a new engine, if your daughter is like my father’s daughter and tends to forget to keep an eye on the those pesky dashboard lights.

Of course, this holds true for most auto parts. Unless you’re a gear head who regularly engages in discussions about headers and gaskets, any time the words “exhaust manifold” or “fly wheel” pass your lips they are followed by a quavering moan and a debate over whether the repair shop would be more likely to accept your first or last born as payment. (Helpful hint: it is possible to negotiate a lower rate simply by promising to bring neither child with you to the repair shop ever again. Or maybe that’s just me.)

Some words can go either way depending on the situation, but very few of my best days have included the phrase “tech support”. (Multiply odds of a bad day by 856 if the tech support guy says, “Uh-oh”.) And ninety nine point nine percent of people between the ages of four and a hundred and four indicated that the sentence “We need to talk” can inspire negative reactions ranging from “Uh-oh” to the next flight out of the country depending on the level of guilt of the party in question and whether the person speaking is their significant other or a member of law enforcement.

(Studies show people fleeing to Mexico are 8x more likely to be evading an irate significant other than arrest.)

Right at this moment, though, in the middle of what is referred to as spring in the rest of the country but we know by its proper name of Late Winter, one word is hands down most likely to create panic. No, not blizzard, or Arctic Clipper, or flood, though those are all strong contenders out here in ranch country, when we’ve got baby calves popping out all over the place.

Nope. There is only one champion. Ladies and gentleman, I give you…”audit”.


4 Responses

  1. Yeah those words do inspire fear- esp when the kid calls from 3000 miles away and starts out the convo with “I’m at the dealership”. ugh. AAA and credit card.

    Or when hubby is doing bills and hollers “Hey, hon…” I head for the bathroom.

  2. I can barely type this as these words have me shaking in my boots [ok..my houseshoes but you know what I mean]

    I’m going to have to give this more thought…words that make me nervous! 🙂

  3. Um, yeah audit is definitely one.

    A teacher calling isn’t a bad word, but it always has me worried.

    And the worst phrase…”Can I borrow some money? I’ll pay you back on payday. I swear.” Not good to hear.

  4. Evelyn: When my husband says, “Hey, hon..” it’s usually followed by “YOu know how you said you should get more exercise?” And then there ‘s a barn to clean.

    Cyndi: If we’re talking nervous, then “submission” will do it every time. And I’m not talking the fun kind with fur handcuffs.

    Liz: My husband would be the one who cringes at “Can you float me a loan?” I finally decided to save him the trouble and just transfer the money out of his ranch account as needed.

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