The Right Word for the Right Whatchamacallit

I have a tendency, when talking, to suddenly forget most of my vocabulary. This is particularly the case when talking to someone I don’t know well, which is an unfortunate side effect of never having outgrown shyness but being way, way too old to hide my face in my mother’s skirt. Mostly I cover this up by babbling, which is sort of my only defence because my mother lives several hundred kilometres away and generally wears pants these days.

There are a couple of things you can do when you suddenly realise you no longer know how, to paraphrase your kindergarten teacher, to use your words. You can pause and smile at the person you’re talking to (or at) in what you hope is a beguiling manner but will really just look goofy. Or you can do what I do, which is to plough on regardless and demarcate any misused or ironically used words with air quotes.

It’s probably best, really, to pause, to laughingly reflect that you’ve gone blank on the exact word, but whoops! it will come to you eventually. Because while you might look like an arsehole if you forget what you’re trying to say or are obviously having vocabulary issues, you will always look like an arsehole if you use air quotes.

5 Responses to “The Right Word for the Right Whatchamacallit”

  1. Stu Says:

    Hey! I have been known to use “air quotes”.

    But anyway, great line in the first paragraph. Funniest thing I have read all day.

  2. Chris Says:

    You “crack” me “up”

  3. lunarbrogue Says:

    I’m with you on the air quotes equals arsehole observation but, ashamed as I am to admit this, I am, “in fact”, a pathological (potentially “certifiable”) air quoter. It all started during my rebirth as a philosophy student, when it was explained to me during one fateful discussion that language is just a big dirty alphabet soup of metaphor and allusion. I gasped, and with index and middle fingers tentatively rising to form punctuation antennae, asked “you don’t mean “metaphor” do you?”

    My doctor thinks that while I should try and cut down on my air quoting (currently between 500 and 750 quotes per hour, more when in conversation with Mormons), she believes that, in “controlled” circumstances, my obsessive behaviour can be quite “charming”, even if it does leave some people with the impression that I’m an arsehole. I am not convinced.

  4. Aimee Says:

    Oh lunarbrogue, I “feel” your “pain”. I too am “certifiable”.

    I realised the true extent of my air quotage the other day with some horror that I was doing it while interviewing a famous author. A lot. And really, REALLY coming off as an arsehole. Oh awkward social interaction, thy name is Aimee!

  5. gypped Says:

    hey lady. I miss you, I really! miss you. let’s see each other soon. xxx