I admit it; I’m a Size Queen and I make no apologies! I like the way the big ones feel in my mouth. The way my tongue has to move to accommodate each massive one; the way I have to over-compensate every time my throat stretches open, and the way my lips feel as they succumb to conforming to their immense sizes. I admit it; my knees go week for a man with a big vocabulary.
It was my grandfather that first introduced me to the powerful pleasures found in the semantics of etymology. Observing my younger self-creating makeshift tools to finish an assigned task, he commented with great pride. “You’re a resourceful little Pisher.” Seeing my confused look he offered a cocky expression and thrust his long arm out pointing the way. “Look it up!” came the command. I did as I was told feeling secret tingling for reasons I wasn’t yet able to comprehend. Despite having been ordered to do the very same thing countless of times in the past, it never had the same effect. For some reason this time, I felt salacious for reasons I naively wasn’t able to understand. Finding the definition encouraged these passionate sensations within me. I made a powerful new discovery; the eroticism of words, and I knew my life would never be the same. The word Resourceful sent an electrical, erotic charge through me. Even though I was only barely starting puberty, I understood the licentious meaning to the pen being mightier than anyone’s sword, and a new fetish was born.
More than 30 years later I was having lunch with a good friend of mine. I often tease him about his verbal choices especially after his using “Boom Boom” as a sexual synonym. It was at that moment that I pointed out the obvious fact that he was the single parent of a pre-teen; they spoke within the same limited context. It was at lunch that I made an innuendo about the carnal comparisons between a “Shofar and a Shillelagh”. My family is Jewish not Irish but I knew the two words and assumed they were common enough that most people would know them as well. So I was a little bewildered by the same baffled look from my friend, as I must have given my grandfather all those years ago.
My friend is a reasonably intelligent man. Even my ego won’t allow me to believe those words were that challenging to the average person. My immediate reaction was to justify: I chose a more literary path of reading, and became the author of the Agent Buck 98 series. My friend chose a different path to promenade down altogether; he became a single parent. While I was reading Capote with a book club – he was reading Dr. Seuss with a child. Being a single parent for the majority of the child’s life left him with little free time to read for enjoyment. A classic case of The Path One Didn’t Take – neither better nor worse. More like individually chosen pathways with severely different scenery. When I went to mock him once again, he made an interesting challenge: “I bet that out of 10 people asked, no more than 2 of them knows what a shillelagh is”. I accepted the challenge by turning and asking the woman behind us. Coincidentally, she attended Notre Dame and knew the word’s definition. Score one for me.
I decided to be as fair as possible with my challenge. I’d ask people of different races, ages and genders found in a myriad of locations via running errands and going back to my office. A block away I stopped and politely asked a man if he knew what a “shillelagh” was. He did not. To his credit English was not his original language. Guessing from the broken English spoken, he hadn’t gotten to the point of fully comprehending the language either. Ok. One-to-One. I politely interrupted what looked like a pair of thirty-somethings conversing, and neither of them knew the definition of shillelagh. Nor did the next young lady I asked. At four-to-one I was getting discouraged.
With renewed vigor I decided to walk past the Community College. Like Anne Frank, I continue to have faith in mankind, but my mind often lends itself to a connivance way of thinking. Stacking a deck may be frowned upon but winning feels the same. Karma does like to strike the arrogant. I was hit hard when I approached a handsome, late twenties/early thirties man coming out of the school. The young man thought for a moment and with a completely honest and eager expression answered, “A shillelagh, isn’t that a Hawaiian musical instrument?” What I find more disturbing is that before the survey was complete, I heard a similar answer two more times. When the census was concluded, I was forced to concede my idealistic visions for humanity with a score of three-to-eleven.
It was a sad day for Literati everywhere. Especially those that happen to be Irish.
Having shattered illusions I went back to my office and proposed the scenario on Facebook. Thankfully, I am connected to a lot of ‘author’ friends, friends that appreciate the works of those authors, and (many – although not all) friends that like to create a scared space and emerge themselves between the sheets with a good, written tome of escapism. There, through cyber communication (and bad spelling on my part) all of humanity was redeemed when out of the 32 responses posted, only 3 didn’t know what the word meant.
Just because you have the equipment doesn’t mean you have the skills to use it. I have read many authors that stuff their proverbial trousers with a large display of language. They present a big show of bravado with their size, whipping it out at completely inappropriate times, flaunting it about for every reader to see. It doesn’t make them better writers by any stretch of the imagination. I guess the old adage is true: it ain’t the size of the vocabulary; it is the usage in the sentence.
I have two novels (and ten short stories through various anthologies) that I have written and have been published, so far. I am currently starting the process of writing my third book. My work is not aimed at being Pulitzer nominated, and I try to write concisely without arrogance or pomposity with my choice of words. I find that if I try to write too ‘flowery’, or use words above my station that my meaning gets lost and my work comes across as haughtier than intended. I try not to let my communication desires get bigger than what I know I can handle. Start slow, warm them up and then slowly slide in the big gun.
My fetish of being a Size Queen may not fall under the usual definition of the common vernacular. But then again, whether delusional or justified, I’ve always considered myself as not being a common man. And a fetish in any case is strictly for the individual opposed to trying to satisfy the masses. Marilyn Monroe said the brain was the biggest sex organ in the body. If it’s good enough for her, it’s good enough for me. I’ll say it with great pride. If you challenge my mind, my body falls willingly into place. If you got a big vocabulary and know how to use it well, give it to me good and make Daddy’s eyes roll back.