Sunday, October 3, 2010

Vocabulary Lessons

We like words in my family. Some of us like to talk, some like to read, and some have a new pernicious obsession for the iPhone app Words with Friends.

This morning we had the usual teenage joking and grunting, with a remarkable lack of comprehensible words strung together. I tried to think who they reminded me of, when suddenly I thought of Beavis and Butt-head. I have never watched more than 30 seconds of the cartoon because I find it inexplicably stupid. But suddenly I had an epiphany of recognition. The creator of the cartoon was merely capturing and recreating certain kinds of teenage behavior. For example, this little clip of the characters watching old videos is similar to the conversation my two older boys were having while flipping pancakes eight feet in the air (the dog was disappointed none of them fell).

Now that I live with people who occasionally resemble these characters, I find this funny. (If you told me ten years ago that I would find anything associated with Beavis and Butt-head funny I would have claimed you were demented.) The only reason I do in fact find this funny is that, THANK GOD, I only see glimpses of this behavior. It is rare.

No longer temporarily inarticulate, my middle son interrupted his homework session later in the day to say, "Mom, what is that tantalizing aroma wafting up here?" It was homemade chocolate chip cookies, with a trace of bacon smell from breakfast still in the oven. I swear I think he became stoned on this aroma. Later, he proudly mentioned that he used three of last year's vocabulary words in one sentence.

My youngest son has always been a big talker. When he was a toddler, I would have to say to him, "Mommy is out of listening energy," as an appropriate way to tell him to shut up. Now, at age ten, that phrase doesn't work. I am much better at selectively tuning his chatter out, or, on desperate occasions, just telling him to shut up. He is endlessly entertaining to those who don't have to hear him all the time, so we try to give him lots of opportunities to talk OTHER PEOPLE'S ears off.

I sometimes prefer my words in written form, but my usual book or three a month is being interrupted by a certain DING on my iPhone telling me my dad has just made a move on Words with Friends. He recently got an iPhone himself and has gone from dipping a little toe into the water of the digital age, reading his email twice a year, to playing fiercely competitive online Scrabble games day and night. It is just weird. Or so I thought until he hounded me to "get the app," a truly strange phrase to come from my father. I got the app, and now I find that playing two games at once, against my dad and my friend Jenn, might not be enough for me. However, if I'm ever to get anything done in life I should probably limit it to two games at once. But I really need to find someone I can beat, so I might have to take on a few more competitors, preferably ones with a vocabulary similar to Beavis and Butt-head.

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