I’m supposed to be good with words. I’m supposed to have an above-average vocabulary, or least one as good as my grade-school aged kids. I mean, the minimum expectation for a writer is to be able to communicate with a nine-year-old without having to resort to profanity.
My 11-year-old had a friend spend the night last night. This morning, the three of them were hug-torturing the cat, by which I mean they were hugging and petting the cat and said cat had that homicidal look in his eyes that conveyed his extreme displeasure, even though he was not actively attempting escape. It was meant, I think, to be a demonstration of how my 9-year-old has “cat-whispered” the animal into submission.
The cat has always allowed the nine-year-old to carry him around upside down and squeeze him until his eyes bulge out of his head, but historically, if anyone else pets him more than two strokes on the head, he bites them. My son is convinced that he has trained the cat not to bite people anymore, and actually, either because the cat is approaching feline middle age or because the nine-year-old has actually taught him manners, he hasn’t been as bitey lately.
The friend mentioned that our cat did, in fact, bite him last year. I opened my mouth to say, “Well, the cat’s a d*ck,” but realized that my language choice was probably inappropriate, particularly in discussions with other people’s children entrusted to my oversight.
I thought very hard for another word that accurately described my cat’s disposition, and came up with “*sshole,” and “d**che bag,” but luckily I was thinking with my mouth closed (something I sometimes forget to do) and therefore their little ears were spared my vulgarity. I really couldn’t think of an inoffensive word to describe my cat’s disposition, so I said, “well, he’s like that sometimes,” and walked away.
I’ve gotten linguistically lazy. I swear, I used to be better at communication. I tried to search for alternatives on thesaurus.com. Dick returned words for private investigators. Douche gave me choices relating to cleanliness. *sshole was the only word that had useful synonyms, though the first eleven choices were not even slightly more appropriate. Finally, at the end of the list, I found something helpful.
“The cat is a jerk!” I yelled, but the room was empty, since in the amount of time it took me to find an appropriate word the children had wandered off and starting watching a movie.
The cat is also a meanie, schmuck, or nincompoop, if anyone is wondering.
Copyright © 2022 Lara Lillibridge
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