Monday, November 07, 2005

At least I know how to matriculate.

My sister-in-law homeschools her children. Last time we visited, she had a list of homophones (e.g. see/sea) hung on the wall. Lessons in reading, I guess? Since then my mother-in-law has been keeping a running list of homophones that she thinks of. We were at her house last night and the most recent on the list was freeze/frieze.

I'm totally amazed by her ability to do this. I don't think she sits down with a dictionary and looks up words. I am certain she does not use the internet. They just come to her. Do you know what an adze is? She does. And it's a homophone, of course (adze, ads, adds). Her complete list must include over 40 of them. And not the simple ones like dear/deer or know/no. But words that I never use and would not be able to define without faking. Like dain/deign and others I can't think of.

The part that kills me is that my mother-in-law is a restaurant manager. A respectful profession for sure (she's worked at the same family owned restaurant for 25-ish years), and she is great at what she does. But once she told me that she doesn't have any skills, or in other words, she was never trained to do anything useful as a job. In school in Ireland she learned things like Latin and history, a got a very good education in things of the sort. Then she came to the United States when she was 18 and never went to college.

She is probably the smartest lady I know. You wouldn't believe the number of times we've gotten out the dictionary while visiting to look something up. Or sometimes she gets out the French/English dictionary. She just knows so many words! Like antimacassar (a small cloth placed over the backs or arms of chairs, or the head or cushions of a sofa, to prevent soiling of the permanent fabric). Now I know what it is and I use the word frequently (but not the actual thing). And we once looked up peloton because I didn't believe Gerald when he told me what it was, before my Lance infatuation began. I did, however, stump them both with matriculate. I did it a bunch of times, so I should know.

So I guess I'm just more of a science/math kind of a gal. I'll leave the homophones to her and just be happy that I have the best mother-in-law one could hope for.

There is one other reason I like her a bunch. If you ask at noon if it's too early for a glass of wine, she'll dutifully reply with a hearty chuckle, "It's six o'clock in Ireland!"


Anne said...

Antimacassar - so named because of Macassar Oil, apparently some old kind of hair pommade the getns wore, and if they leaned their heads back on chairs, left greasy indents: "A kind of oil formerly used in dressing the hair, so called because originally obtained from Macassar, a district of the island of Celebes. Also, an imitation of the same, of perfumed castor oil and olive oil."

I kid you not.

We used to play a game called "Dictionary" at family gatherings. A homemade game, with the old American Heritage, lots of scraps of paper, and pencils. The scoring was complicated, but the results were often hilarious. I still have a bunch of definition slips in the drawer of my coffee table from our last game, three years ago. It involves choosing a word, and everyone making up their own definitions, then trying to guess the right one.

Random Examples:

zanana - acrobatic routine involving flips and lunges

zanana - a pod shaped instrument in the ocarina family

tabor - the hinge used to open a piano

tabor - a Phillipine man-servant

galimatias - generous to a fault

galimatias - supercalifragilisticsudogalimatias

I bet your m.i.l. would be good at it

Anne said...

Not there's a thought - the word id was "swzha" ...

word id dictionary:

swzha - a filmy scarf used to cover the knees of dubious virgins

Mandy said...

See, that's the difference. In my family we played games like "cards" and "football" and "twenty questions."

H-SPO said...

you forgot guess the movie.

Mandy said...

h-spo making her blog comment comeback. good to hear from you, sista.

here's a classic: G

H-SPO said...


Mandy said...

First try. Awesome. It could have so easily been the other classic: Ghostbusters. You done good.

Another classic?

good luck

H-SPO said...

dance till dawn.


we are two of only three people in the world who have seen that movie more times than we have appendages.

remember that time we looked it up at blockbuster and THEY HAD IT? really don't wish that we played word games as kids. look at how much smarter we are after obsessively watching made for tv movies. and how ethical and moral we are after only ever watching "edited for television" versions of goonies.