Words As Fingerprints

While I was enjoying coffee at my desk this morning (read: surfing the internet instead of doing anything meaningful with my time), I came across this interesting article about “fingerprint words” – those words and phrases we use with such a high frequency that they become a part of who we are, and often rub off on those around us. It made me stop and think about what my own fingerprint words are, and wonder if other people notice them as much as I will take notice of theirs.

Thanks to Slate, I plan to dust for fingerprints every time I have a conversation from now on.

“Actually.” This one is probably my most-used fingerprint word. My husband, Whovian, is guilty of this one, too, and it might actually be the result of the Vulcan Mind-Meld thing we’ve got going on since we’ve been married for so long. Apparently we share one brain betwixt us and I can’t tell if it was he who started the habit, or if it was me, but I’ve caught us (on more than one occasion) saying that word at the exact same time, with the exact same inflection. But we’re mature grownups, so we don’t jinx each other when it happens. Usually.

“No worries.” I use this all the time in place of common human responses like “That’s okay,” or “No problem.” or “Don’t worry about it.” It should be noted that I am not Australian. The farthest south I’ve ever traveled is North Carolina. Where in the hell I picked that one up, I have no idea. Crocodile Dundee, maybe?

“Facetious.” This is a really fun word. I learned it when I was 21; my supervisor at work actually used that word to describe me once, I can’t remember why, and I had to ask him what it meant because I didn’t know. I never forgot it and I seek opportunities to use it whenever possible – which is pretty damned often because my entire family is a facetious gaggle of comedians.

To look at the word, it appears to be pronounced fase-et-chus and quite possibly faw-say-eooo if you happen to speak with a French accent, but it’s actually pronounced fa-see-shus, which is nothing at all like how it’s written. If you’re able to read the word aloud on sight it’s  like you get to be a part of some secret society of Highly Intelligent Linguists.

“Birthiversary.” I used to wish people a jovial “Happy Anniversary Of Your Birth!” whenever they had a (you guessed it) birthday and eventually I shortened the phrase to “happy birthiversary”.

“Digress.” I digress all the time. I think it’s because I have a (probably very annoying) tendency to use really long run-on sentences and at the same time I’m talking or writing, I’m having thoughts that are taking me a hundred miles in the opposite direction of where I was trying to go with the point I wanted to make in the first place and so I get sidetracked easily, but I digress.

“Ain’t.” Oh, this one drives Whovian crazy. Every now and again, I revert back to my Southside roots and it just sort of slips out. I get a Scornful Glare Of Disapproval from him every time it does, too. Even worse? Putting “ain’t” and “got” next to each other in a sentence, as I am also wont to do. Sometimes I think my subconscious does it on purpose just to fuck with him.

At any rate, I write much more gooder than I speakify. (I hope.)

With my newly found discovery of the existence of fingerprint words and phrases, I’ve begun listening very intently to my family in order to discover their fingerprints.

My daughter, Doom, for instance:

“Hashtag.”  This one makes my insides shudder almost as much as the time a bicycle pedal gouged out a huge chunk of flesh from my left shin when I was 15. I still have the scars, and no feeling in that portion of my leg. As you can imagine, that was a no good, very bad day.

Her regular sentence use includes, but is not limited to: “Ohh-Emm-Gee, hashtag awesome!” “Hashtag homework-sucks!” “Hashtag starving!” “Hashtag why-is-my-mom-lunging-at-meeeee-OHHEMMGEEEEEEEE!”

Slap slap slap! Slap!

I don’t really hit her. That’s just what I imagine inside my head every time I hear her utter the word “hashtag.” With the inflection she uses, it always comes out “HASHtaaaaaaag!” Trust me, you’d want to slap her, too.

“Idiot.” Everything is an idiot to her. The dog is an idiot. The countertop she hit her hand on is an idiot. The hand that hit the countertop is an idiot. We started to call her Napoleon Dynamite because of her love for that word. And then we made her watch the movie just so she could see the male version of herself in action on the big screen.

Of course, she thinks we’re idiots.

I’ve noted that Destruction starts 80% of her lengthy monologues with “Here’s the thing.” (The other 20% usually involve some sort of growly sound that indicates a seething displeasure with her sister or me, or both of us.)

“Here’s the thing, Mommy: my teacher told me that we only have to read twenty minutes a day, but you’re making me read a whole chapter every day instead and this is like a really long chapter that’s going to take me an hour so here’s the thing: you’re making me do something that isn’t what my teacher told me to do and that means I’ll be doing it wrong and I’ll get in trouble for not doing it right and that’s not my fault it’s yours!”

“AARRRRRRGHHHHHHH!!!! Here’s the thing: I told my sister that I would be her slave for the whole weekend if she cleaned our room all by herself today and now you’re making me go help her and that’s not fair because now she says I still have to be her slave anyway because we already made the deal and here’s the thing: you’re the one who changed everything and I should not have to clean my room now because she was fine with it the way it was – we already made a deal!”

The kid’s going to be a lawyer someday, I can feel it in my bones. A Broadway singing lawyer-doctor-veterinarian.

Whovian says “Yeah-yeah” all the time. It’s a response in the affirmative whether he’s being given new information or information he’s already aware of. “Yeah-yeah,” (I know what you mean) and “Yeah-yeah,” (get on with it already.) It’s not like he says it yeah-yeaaaah, either, it’s just two quick, evenly-inflected  “yeah” sounds.

(Ever notice how when you write or read a word over and over, it feels like it has started to lose all meaning and you find yourself questioning its existence? I’m in that place right now with “yeah.”)

“Every ting is eye-reee.” This is his Jamaican accent saying “Everything is all right.” It’s really, really good. I’m terrible at it… whenever I attempt Jamaican, I end up sounding like I belong in a commercial for Irish Spring or Lucky Charms. How does that even happen?

I’ve noticed that even our dogs have fingerprint words.

Maggie Moo, our 65-pound pit bull lap dog yodels “ROOO—ROOOOOOoooooo!” all the fucking time. When she wants outside. When she wants you to play. When you’re having a conversation with someone and you’re just not giving her enough of your undivided attention, she ROOO—ROOOOOOooooooooooooos at you until she gets it.

And Kiss, our old lady chocolate lab grumbles “Rurblegrrbelrurble” whenever she has something to say to you. Actually, that’s the only thing she ever says… Rurblegrrbelrurblegrrbelrurblegrrbel.

I need to buy Kiss a thesaurus.


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