We were out going to yard sales one morning and we stopped at one that was particularly large, there were several people there. The couple having the sale were being entertained by, apparently their neighbor. You could tell from the context of their conversation she lived close by.
At one point the neighbor started telling a little anecdote about a mutual friend of theirs and she used the word, “discombobulate.” I thought nothing of it, but saw some confused looks from other people rummaging around at the sale. They were sort of giving each other questioning looks. I kind of smiled to myself and walked off.
Once in the car, my husband asked, mangling the word a bit, “What does discombobulate mean?”
I laughed, explaining I was remembering everyone’s confused look and then answered, “Confused, disoriented.”
“Well why doesn’t she just say that?” he complained as he started up the car.
Good point, I thought to myself. It reminded me of the time my friend Glenda introduced me to someone. She said he had a Master’s Degree in Engineering. While talking to him, I used the word “orate.” There came a look of confusion on his face and then she asked me to define the word for him since I had used it, not she.
“What was that all about?” I asked her later.
“I could see he didn’t understand the meaning of the word.”
I rolled my eyes. “Then he has a Master’s Degree in bullshit. That is a simple word!”
Glenda patiently explained to me that sometimes I “talk over” others because of my vocabulary. Since then I’ve tried to remember that when speaking to people so they understand me better.
Not long after, Glenda started talking to some man she had met through a personal ad. He was a manager at one of the Domino’s Pizza stores in Myrtle Beach. His mother was a teacher at the high school and his father was an English professor at Coastal Carolina.
He tells my friend he never pursued a college education because he was a bit of a rebel, never conforming to the rules as his parents had encouraged him to follow. However, he fashioned himself an intellectual because of his parents and their college degrees.
When he first asked Glenda about herself she tried to be as honest as she could without coming right out and saying it. She was trying to diplomaticaly tell him that she was morbidly obese.
She called me on the phone one night and asked, “What does it mean to berate someone?”
“Uhm, to chastise. You know what that means, right?” I clarified.
“Yeah, I do,” she answered. “What does it mean to belittle then?”
“Almost the same thing but more in an insulting way,” I answered. “Why? What’s going on?”
“I’m talking to that guy from the personal ad and he keeps calling me ‘full figured.’ I keep telling him, ‘No, I’m bigger than full figured.’ He’s getting mad at me saying I’m belittling and berating him.”
I hung up and went out to the nursing home where we both worked. She was still talking to him on the phone when I got there.
“What’s he saying?” I asked when I realized he was still giving her a hard time.
“What does voluptuous and svelte mean,” she whispered to me, cupping the phone.
“Voluptuous is full figured sexy like. Svelte is more of a slender sexy word,” I answered.
Glenda put him on speakerphone. “No, I’m not,” she said to him. “I keep telling you, I am overweight. I am fat. I am not full figured. I am not voluptuous or svelte!”
“That’s what I’m saying,” he laughed at her. “You’re just not smart enough to know the definition of what the words mean.”
“No, asshole,” I spoke up. I was really put out that he was making my friend feel like an idiot and laughing in her face, so to speak. I repeated back the definition of the words and then added, “You’re trying to convince Glenda you’re an anarchist and that's why you didn't go to college. I think that’s bullshit. I think you’re just too damn stupid to have gone to college like your parents want you to do.”
He hung up. He hasn’t called her back since. Gee, I hope I didn’t ruin a blossoming relationship.