Suzanne Olsen's Humor Blog - I don't offend some of the people most of the time

How a Morning at Starbucks Defined the Dictionary*

My last blog was about people turning out like their parents and how you had to struggle all through life if you didn’t want to adopt their bad habits. I implied that I had risen above all my parents’ bad habits by being spunky.

However, I had something happen yesterday that caused me to look up the word spunky. Merriam-Webster online said it meant, “full of spunk.” I don’t know about you, but if I’m looking up a word, it’s usually because I don’t know what it means. Having the word’s meaning explained to me by the word itself is going to leave me scratching my head and other parts if no one is looking.

But this is what dictionaries do, and for good reason. A dictionary in the library that tried to contain a complete definition of all words and their derivatives (called “inflected forms” because they often carry communicable diseases) would have to be hauled around on a forklift. Even the ones that don’t have all the words in them are so big they can’t be picked up except by Sumo wrestlers, and have to reside on their own lazy Susan, a device that allows the curious to spin the book around really fast so the dictionary flies off and knocks out the kid sitting at the first table on the right. And, FYI, that device was NOT named after me because my name is SuzANNE, not Susan, even though many, many people here in the Northwest think I’m saying ‘Susan’ because they don’t understand my Southern accent and just nod politely and say “uh-huh” when I talk, lest I repeat myself.

When Merriam and Webster got together to come up with their dictionary, Webster knew what had to be done. He said to Merriam, “Look, there are a million ways you can use every word. Take the very simple word ‘winter.’ Other words you can make with it are winterize, wintered, wintering, wintercation – the list is endless. So here’s what let’s do. We’ll define ‘winter’ and then make everyone refer back to that word when they look up all these other words.”

“I don’t get it,” Merriam said.

“It’s simple,” Webster grinned, sipping a cup of coffee and taking a bite of the pumpkin bread, the house specialty at this Starbucks. “Chew fake do nerd…”

“I hate it when you talk with your mouth full,” Merriam said. “Finish chewing. I’ll wait.”

Webster took another huge bite of banana bread because he secretly loved tormenting Merriam. Merriam knew this, so he got up and said, “I’m going to the bathroom.”

Webster didn’t chew the whole time he was gone; just sat there like a chipmunk with both cheeks puffed out, filled to capacity with date-nut bread.

Merriam knew what Webster was up to, so he took extra time in the bathroom. This was easy because they had one of those cool soap dispensers that turn the pink gooey liquid in the clear glass pump into a nice round ball of puffy white foam that smelled like roses, daisies, and hollyhocks. He washed his hands several times, looking at himself in the mirror and smiling a rakish grin, knowing that the cinnamon roll was still in Webster’s mouth and he would start choking on it if enough time passed.

Back at the table, Webster felt a tickle in his throat but hoped that if he just relaxed and stayed calm he could weather it out, although he knew Merriam would wash his hands over and over because he was a clean freak. The tickle got more persistent, and sent a message to Webster’s brain that said, “Scratch me.” Webster ignored them both. The tickle decided to bump it up a notch, and sent a message to Webster’s brain that came through as a shout. Webster tensed up, ready for battle. The tickle was not backing down. It knew it would win over time, as long as Webster didn’t pour scalding black coffee all over it, in which case it generally retreated. But today it was digging in. Today it said, “Bring on the coffee.  Bring on the ice water. You can’t expect to hold food in your mouth and not swallow and get away with it, sucka. Not on my watch!”

Mirriam, squirting another fun ball of foam, heard a knock on the bathroom door. “Crap,” he said. He dried his hands slowly under the electric hand dryer, not rubbing them together so it took longer. He started the dryer again. The noise of the dryer drowned out the insistent pounding on the door, no doubt by someone full of Starbucks coffee and in desperate need to get in there.

Finally the dryer stopped and Merriam opened the door. A lady with her legs crossed nearly knocked him over as she rushed past. “Humph,” Merriam said to let her know how rude she was.

Webster, seeing Merriam approaching, pleaded with his throat, “Please just hold on for another couple of seconds.” The tickle was not having any part of it. It started agitating so that Webster felt like his larynx and windpipe were being assaulted by an octopus waving feathers.

Merriam, sliding into the booth, said to Webster, “I see by your cheeks that you are still eating.”

Webster tried to grin. At this very second the tickle brought out the big guns.


*As with all historical fiction, the people may be real, but the places and incidents are made up or else the story would be boring. Not that I’m making any of this up, but I want to cover myself just in case. If the law comes after me, don’t tell them I’m hiding under the dictionary.


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1 Comment

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