The lightning or the lightning bug

Grandma Jenny

Grandma Jenny

I’m at the 2/3 mark in writing my 4th as yet unnamed Leah Nash Mystery. To keep the momentum going, instead of pausing to write a new post today, I’m offering a reader favorite from 2015. The focus is on my husband Gary’s unique approach to using his words. 

 I like words, some just for the way they sound, rolling off your tongue. I like others for the nuances and delicate layers of meaning they convey. And I love to hunt for just the right word to convey what I mean in writing and in speaking. 

So, it’s one of those little jokes of the universe that I fell in love with a man who not only doesn’t search for the right word, he blithely makes up his own in order to get his sentences out as quickly as he can. At least that is the only reason I can find for the unintentionally hilarious way he pulls words out of thin air.

Sometimes the word he chooses is a close approximation of the actual one he needs. For example, we attended a Kirtan practice — which is a kind of Hindu devotional singing with chant and response. It wasn’t exactly in Gary’s wheelhouse, but he went because our daughter invited us. The next day he said, “I don’t really think croutons are my thing.” Some might have thought he was saying he didn’t like toasted bread cubes. I knew immediately he meant Kirtan.

Just recently when I was struggling with the ending of the book I’m working on, he offered these encouraging words. “Don’t worry. I know a Tiffany will come, and it will all work out.” I waited all day, and Tiffany did not show up to help me. Neither did an epiphany.

Occasionally, the word he chooses is vaguely related to the one a regular person would choose, but it takes some puzzle solving skills to get it.  Awhile ago we were watching a horse race on television, and I asked him who owned the winner. He said he wasn’t sure, it might be a combine. I told him I was pretty sure a combine was a large piece of farm equipment and then proceeded to try to unravel his meaning. It took a few minutes, but I finally realized he meant syndicate — which is a group of individuals or organizations who combine for some purpose. Hence combine, and then it made sense — in a Gary kind of way.

One of my favorite Garyisms fell from his lips years ago, when a friend said he was going to Las Vegas and wanted to see some shows. “Oh, you should see Sigmund & Freud, they’re really good.” Yes, that’s right. He meant Siegfried and Roy.

He presented a tougher word challenge when he told me about a TV show featuring high-end automobiles, and how expensive and amazing they were. He was most impressed by the Grandma Jenny. I said, “Gary, stop it. There can’t be a sports car called a Grandma Jenny.” He insisted it was that, or something very close, and then it hit me. A Lamborghini. When I offered that as a possibility, he readily agreed and didn’t really see how what he’d said was that far off.

One of my editors from my newspaper days frequently shared this Mark Twain quote, “The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.”

But honestly, if he were always on top of the right word, it wouldn’t be nearly as fun to talk to him. And a conversation with Gary is always entertaining.

One thought on “The lightning or the lightning bug

  1. So funny! When they get too close to the word, it’s sometimes difficult for me to remember the actual word, which is fun in itself. Guess the word. I worked and worked on the word “Slot Howdy” for a long, long time when someone came up with that for Silhouette. These things are fun and make the world go round. Your posts also are fun and make life way more interesting. Keep them coming. And, waiting with excitement, for your next book.

    Like

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