Tag Archives: language

Great Moments in ESL History

clematisWhat’s “ESL” you ask?  That’s “English as a Second Language.”

My baby daddy, G, has lived in the U.S. for so long and his English is so perfect that I sometimes forget that Portuguese is his first language.  This morning was NOT one of those moments.

We were standing on the deck, surveying our kingdom….otherwise known as talking about yard projects that need to be done this spring.

“I’m going to plant those two roses by the fence today.”  He pointed in their direction with his coffee cup.

“Oh, good.  I like climbers on the fence,” I answered.

He pointed to a large pot in the corner of the pool fence.  “Looks like the chlamydia is coming back.”


“That’s ‘clematis,’ sweetie.  It’s a perennial.”

He filed that word away in his language banks then said, “Well…so is chlamydia!”

This is why I love him.

Giving Up on Being a Good Mother

I’ve quit trying to be a good mother and I hope you’ll join me in this resolution.  If you’re intrigued by that concept, click on over to my column today at Work It, Mom!  It’s called Stop Trying to Be a Good Mother.”  About 10 of you faithful readers are quoted in it!

A sample:

Next time you find yourself asking, “Am I a good mother?” strike the “good” and replace it with…(read the rest)


What Is This Word?

Child with a Dove, Pablo Picasso, 1901

Child with a Dove, Pablo Picasso, 1901

I try to do at least one New York Times Sunday crossword puzzle per week.  After Richard died, his mother left a half-complete collection of NYT puzzles at our house.  I asked her if she wanted me to mail it to her and she said, “No.  I did so many in the hospital these last few months that I don’t think I ever want to do one again.”  So I picked up her book and finished it.  Then I bought another one and another one.  There are 200 in each collection–now that I have kids, one book can last me over three years!  But anywho…one of the clues this week for a three-letter verb reminded me of a sweet story from when Vivi was little and G and I were still in the throes of parenting an infant.

I make fun of G’s Brasilian accent now and again, but the man has an exceptional command of the English language.  Shoot, he even helps me with those crossword puzzles–usually for things like isotopes, names of stars, or atomic numbers.  Still, every so often, he bumps into a word he’s just never needed to know until that moment.

Like the time we took Vivi to the pediatrician when she was about six months old.  Vivi had a lot of ear infections, so we were talking to the doctor about whether they might impair her hearing and speech development.  The doctor said, “Does she make normal baby sounds?  Is she cooing?”  I assured him that she was and the doctor told me it was nothing to worry about.  He told us that we could get Vivi dressed again and left the room.  G put his hand on my arm and leaned in close.  “What is this word ‘coo?'”

It’s a delicate whisper of a word–coo.  Not something he would have run across in a chemistry lab, or a research paper, or a citizenship exam, or a patent application.  Not a word you hear at the grocery store, the gas station, the tax office, the cafeteria, the television.  It’s such a precise word.  You might know it if you have been close to birds or babies, but not otherwise.

I explained, “Oh, you know the sound doves make.  No?  It’s those little happy sounds she makes, like she’s trying to talk to us, like a cat purring.”  He smiled and cupped her tiny head in his calloused hand.  He leaned close to her and said, “Do you coo, gatinho do papai?”  I watched him as he tucked that word into his mind, on the English side, across from “arrulho.”  A sweet word that only came his way because he’s a Daddy.  

Is there a special word you associate with a moment in your life?  What’s a word you remember learning?

Saturday Snort–Dictionary Version

Heh heh heh…If you love your dictionary so much, why don’t you Merriam?

cut dictionaries

Multimedia artist Jane Prophet is challenging the notion that creativity and science can’t intermingle. Her work represents a fascination with both technology and symbolic form, particularly in a project called “Cut Dictionaries.” See more on her Web site, JaneProphet.com.

Do you remember “sniglets?”  Words that should be in the dictionary but aren’t?  Here are a few for your Saturday Snort:

  • Snoralator n. An easier word to pronounce and remember than CPAP, a breathing devide that prevents snoring and sleep apnea.
  • Hydrocondiment n. The watery discharge that accumulates in the mustard or ketchup bottle that comes out first and makes your bread all wet.
  • Confuseless adj. Feeling confused and useless due to pain medication or insomnia.
  • Napture n. A refreshing, fantastic nap.
  • Cinemuck n. The combination of popcorn, candy, and soda pop on movie theater floors that makes them sticky.
  • Parkrastinate n. The inability to decide which parking space to choose in a near empty parking lot.
  • Poufulation n. When a cat gets scared and puff out their tails.
  • Dogdew (dawg-doo) n. The moisture on a dog’s nose.