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Words

Are there certain phrases or words you use or know, and can remember exactly where you first learned them?

I have a few. Usually when I hear them being used, I can figure their meaning, but don’t know it exactly. And that makes for some awkward attempts at using them.

Sleight of hand: I’m still not entirely clear on the exact meaning. I get the idea. I first heard it in college when I was working as an assistant to a professor. He had to sit in a conference room with his grad students and apparently, didn’t want to. He came to me and said, “this may be sleight of hand, but about 10 minutes after the hour, I’d like you to open the door and motion for me, as though I have a phone call or some important business.” It was one of the most stressful tasks he’d ever given me. I thought “sleight of hand” was “slight of hand” and there is nothing slight about me. And is there a particular way you should manuever the hand when you are sleighting it? I practiced for the entire time before I was expected to perform. I decided to forgo the whole hand thing and focus on making my face convincing. I mustered up my best “I have something very urgent to tell you” face. After all, I had the important task of getting Mr. Professor out of doing his actual job of professering. Not one person, including the professor, looked at me when I opened the door. He just jumped up and bolted, muttering about something very important he had to do. Apparently Educational Psych dissertations are so enthralling, even a hot redhead at the door won’t make you look up.

Arbitrarily: I first heard it long ago from my friend Traci. Back when I still said things like “dude” and “sweet” and “shut UP” more than anything else. She always says cool words like that with ease and complete knowledge of meaning and probably even root origins and Greek translation. I thought I knew what it meant. But every time I’d use it, I’d scan the listener’s face to see if there was a flash of “oh-ho! One of those! A girl who uses big words with wild abandoned and not an ounce of comprehension!” Most recently I used it while talking to my SIL and I thought I saw a glimmer of that. I typed it in a word document and I don’t know if my Microsoft thesaurus was on crack, or if I just seriously misspelled a word, because it said the meaning was “forerunner” and other similar words to that. My heart sank. All those times I used the word, I had no clue. I mentioned it to my husband who looked at me with serious, loving concern, and said, “What did you think it meant?” I told him, I thought it meant, random, without much thought to selection. He said that’s what it means, and suggested I had accidentally typed in “harbinger”. What cracks me up is, not only could he assure me I had the correct meaning in the first place, he could immediately think of a word that shared similar letters to “arbitrary” and meant “forerunner”. Long story short, I have no idea what happened between me intending to type arbitrary, and translation to thesaurus; however, I feel confident in using arbitrary and arbitrarily---as arbitrarily as I want.

Dubious: I was in college. A coworker had set me up and we were going on a double date to a football game. Her idea of “taking care of getting tickets” was to sneak me and my date into the game without paying. Once we were in, she was scheming to get us closer to the field. I am 5’11 with red hair. In general, I feel conspicuous. Involve me in illicit activities and it’s magnified 100x’s. I just wanted to sit down and try to blend. But she kept scheming and trying to get us to join her. The guy I was with finally said, “Let’s just sit down here since we are already here on dubious pretense.” I found it charming that sneaking into a football game was “dubious pretense”. And I was grateful to not do anymore sneaking.

Throes: I know the phrase “in the throes of” but I never really knew the word. I used it in my blog a few months ago. But I wrote “throws”. It could have been a mindless typo, but it was in fact, an ignorant mistake. My husband, who had just months before commented on my family’s ability to correct and receive correction with each other, without it being offensive, got on my blog and publicly corrected me in my comments section. After all, I take it so well when my parents or siblings do it in private conversation! I was so annoyed. And then it made me really laugh. He was 3 feet away from me when he typed his friendly advice. Make no mistake---it was deleted. I have zero tolerance for unwarranted comments.

And then there are words I wish I could pull off, but just can’t. I’m sure I’ll sound like one of those people who say, “pacific” for “specific” or confuses idioms, “at the drop of a dime”.

Veritable. It seems like it should mean “almost” or “cheap imitation”. But it doesn’t.

And, quintessential. What a lovely, almost useless word. It’s a word I’d use a lot if I could pull it off, but I can’t. I do admire those who can.

Opposable thumbs. I can’t use the phrase because I can’t fight the urge to say “pose-able” like Barbie dolls. It’s just not right.

I'm using my opposable thumbs to type a veritable smorgasbord of quintissential comments...

can't believe i misspelled quintessential...

I am still working on taking "don't" out of my vocabulary I am just gonna sit back on this one and let others comment.:)

I can tell you that most of the swear words I know, I learned from my parents and grandparents.

I learned "butt munch" from watching Beavis & Butthead, and it's one I like to use on occasion, usually while I'm conversing with Brian.

"A force to be reckoned with" is a phrase I learned from being in high school history class with Brian Bangerter (yes, THAT Brian Bangerter) and I was like, "What??? Where on earth does he come up with stuff like this?" Since then I've thrown it around from time to time.

Interesting idea for a post. :) I like it.

My first language is french...

veritable translates into real
'c'est véritable' = 'it's real'

Me learning 4 new english expressions today is véritable.

thanks

p.s. I have all the good swear words in french should you need them.

You know what's a good thing (just one of many) about being a Mexican? I can get away with not knowing any of those words.

When we meet, just throw a bunch of obscure words and phrases, I'll nod in agreement, pretend I know what you are saying (and that it makes any sense), I'll then proclaim you my "Vocabulary Hero".
I’m the archetypal foreign: I don’t be knowing none of ‘em big words.

Geez, try to read while your listening to a good song that you just HAVE to sing along to. Take a guess what it was Aunt A? Bad Day :-) Well, in my most recent blog I wrote about my english teacher saying that if you don't swear it shows you have a good vocabulary. One of the many many big words she makes us write down the meaning, the only one I remember and use is obstreperous. It means loud noisy and difficult to control (how good it that! I didn't even look it up!) So I came up with obstreperous twit. And a few more on my blog.

I was just going to say something in a really adroit way. But it have effectively been lost in my mastermind. (ok maybe I looked up those, but gimme a break, I'm 13)

obstreperous is AWESOME! - Thanks, EarthBint

NCS - archetypal ?! You can no longer play the "no habla engles" card with us!

And finally, Rhythmless (how do you like how I respond to your commenters in your comments?), this was a dang funny post. I never knew your dubious sleight of hand side.

I love the word "circuitous" and I know how to use it, but EVERY sinlgle time I try to, my tongue gets tripped up. Like one time when I went to an sheeshee interview and was a tiny bit late, I tried to explain that the traffic was a mess so I had had to take a circuitous route through DC and it came out, "cir..si..cute..is..cir...tus" or something like that. Impressive, eh?

BTW Sleight of hand comes either from poker or magic - slipping cards in or out to have a winning hand and/or trick someone...

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