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Two wordsnerds and the real meaning of 'lummox' - Dunwoody Crier: Our Columnists

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Over the Picket Fence Two wordsnerds and the real meaning of 'lummox'

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Posted: Tuesday, June 26, 2012 10:41 am

Wordsnerd Was Here. I spent the weekend with my dad and it confirmed a few things for me.

I’ve always known the permanent split in my left thumbnail came right from Dad. We both have one. As soon as it gets more than about an eighth-inch long, there is a split right down the center that catches on things and means I never have more than nine nails looking good at a time.

I got my sense of humor from my dad. Many of the same things make us laugh, but the result of the humor is what’s a perfect match. We both tend to shake a lot when we laugh. It seems like we’re both eating or drinking when something tickles our funny bone so we’re left with a wheezy sort of laugh that sounds a lot like Deputy Dawg while all the while trying to keep our mouths closed to keep the food or drink in.

The whole scene is funny in itself (to us at least), thus exacerbating the wheezing and shaking until it’s out of control and sometimes annoying to others. But we get it, we share it and we think it’s funny.

Among other things though, Dad’s Parkinson’s disease has altered his depth perception and he can’t read much any more. I read him a few things from articles and such I was reading, and it struck me that I get my way of processing information from my dad too.

Whatever I was reading had an excerpt, “bla bla bla the team took cues from bla bla bla.” The bla bla bla part was long and complicated and I stopped to see his response. His first question was, “how do they spell ‘cues’ in that instance?” I told him and he nodded and responded with, “Right, that makes sense. ‘Q-u-e-u-e-s’ would be used only in the sense of a queue line or waiting line.”

Bingo. Aside from all the ins and outs his disease can take on his mind and concentration, what really hit home was that it was exactly the way my mind would work if someone were reading to me.

I get my love of words from my dad. We’re both wordsnerds. But many of you may be reading that as if you would call either Dad or me a ‘words nerd,’ which I suppose is your prerogative. But in fact, we’re actually ‘word snerds.’

Snerd is a word Dad has used as long as I can remember. If it has a meaning I don’t think any of us really know what it is. Rather, we all just know it as a playful but endearing name reserved for those we love most. I haven’t used it in a long time, but thinking back on early days with Dad and hearing him call my sisters and me ‘snerds’ makes me laugh (a lot like Deputy Dawg).

We actually had a conversation this weekend about some of our favorite words from growing up. ‘Recalcitrant,’ for example. My sister was that one night. It got her sent away from the dinner table with a piece of cheese on a paper plate and the chance to eat in the garage.

‘Himenese.’ That was another made-up name my dad had for me, best remembered for how mad I’d get when he’d use it.

And ‘lummox,’ of course. That was used as a verb in our house, though Dictionary.com had it as the word of the day a while back as a noun meaning a clumsy or stupid person. In our house, it meant lazing around on the sofa, vegging out, or perhaps even better as a verb meaning what I would do when I would hog all the room in the back of the station wagon when we went on family trips.

Lummoxing is still a favorite pastime and I think a lot more descriptive than being a couch potato. I was thrilled when I remembered that I’d taken a screen shot of the ‘lummox’ word of the day a few months back and pulled it off my phone to show my dad.

He laughed just like Deputy Dawg. Best yet, he had a big swallow of milk in his mouth when I showed him.


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