A Recalcitrant Wife and Mother Tells All

Tag: old people

Do you or does someone you love suffer from Mispronunciationitis?

Okay, fine. I just made that word up.

But basically, I’m referring to someone who has trouble correctly pronouncing certain words.

For me, this person is my mother.

And you wonder why I gave up the hooch.

It’s been an issue her entire life, but I notice it getting worse as she ages.

When my brother and I were kids, she would try to get in on our “Ew, that’s gross!” banter, by interjecting “Yes, that’s grossling.” And when we would shudder at her lack of coolness, it would just spur her on. Kind of like when I say “totes adorbs” (for ‘totally adorable’) around my 12-year-old son, just to watch him flinch.

She also used to take us clothes shopping for special occasions at a Pittsburgh store called Kenny Kardon, which she pronounced “Kinney CarDAWng” (rhymes with croissant). And she wasn’t trying to be funny like when we refer to Target as Tarjay. She truly thought it was pronounced all Frenchy-like. She does that. I have no idea how the store was really pronounced (it’s closed now), but knowing Pittsburghers like I do, my guess is a French accent isn’t correct.

We were visiting with my mom recently and decided to make a big spaghetti dinner. She only bought one box of spaghetti for 7 of us, but had a back up box of “pen-NAY” (penne) in the pantry. Pen-NAY? The hell? (Bless her tongue-tied heart.)

But the real clincher for me occurred when we were at a Japanese restaurant the other night. She had a hankering for some of those steamed soybeans in the shell, or edamame as they are universally known. The waiters and waitresses always pronounce this dish “EH-duh-mom-MAY,” but that has never stopped my mom from ordering “Eat a Mommy.”

And she’ll ask everyone else at the table if they would like some “Eat a Mommy” when it arrives, because she’s thoughtful and generous like that.

“Jim?” she’ll ask my husband, her favorite son-in-law, “Eat a Mommy?”

Under his breath {heh heh heh} “Yes please, Jan. That would be great! I love Eat a Mommy.”

Then Bucket Head has to get in on it. “Eat a Mommy?! No, EAT ME! Hey guys, EAT ME! WHO WANTS TO EAT ME?”

People at neighboring tables are rubber necking to see who is shouting “eat me.” I smile and wave. “He’s five,” I politely excuse on his behalf. I find myself doing this a lot lately.

But back to my mom, no matter how many times I try to correct her and teach her not to say “Eat a Mommy,” her mouth simply cannot perform this action. You should hear how she butchers “sashimi.” And for the love of God, never discuss Chincoteague Island, Virginia, within her earshot.

This prompted me to ask my Facebook friends if they have anyone in their life who is a chronic mispronouncer, and boy-oh-boy did they respond! Here are some of my favorite replies:

Barbara Jeanne: I have an older friend who is always going shopping at “Walmarks” not sure where the marks are on the wall… but thats where he goes…

Lerner: My step mother always call it Tommy Hif-flinger. And chipotle is chi-pol-Tay. Drives me nuts.

Megan: My grandma used to watch “That Ofra” every day on tv. Sigh.

Rubber Chicken Madness: My grandmother used to say “oblituary”

Abbie: Ohhhh….no one over fifty can say prostate…they say prostRate.

Jane: My mom never says Whoopi Goldberg’s name right. She always makes the Whoop part sound like someone’s having a party.

Ninja Mom: My mother, an educated, worldly woman, says, “FRA-hee-TAHS.” Woman, they are FRAH-GEE-TAHS. Stop embarrassing me at Taco Bell.

Oh thank God I’m not the only one.

(And yes, Ninja Mom is always that funny.)

So tell me, who in your life has Mispronunciationitis and what do they say that cracks you up (and/or makes you want to jam a chopstick into your eye)?


What “Are you ready for Christmas?” might really mean.

The first time I heard it this year was on December 8th: “Are you ready for Christmas?”

I effing hate that question.

It makes me bristle every time with anxiety about all the items not yet checked off my mile-long To Do List.

So when a friend cheerfully asked me this a few nights ago at the nursing home where we took our scout troop caroling, I turned to her and snapped, “Ugh! Why do people ask that?”


The look on her face!

She was visibly deflated by my sharp, growling reply.

“Gosh, I don’t know. Just making conversation, I guess,” she answered.

“Well, no. I’m not ready for Christmas. In fact, I have so much to do that I feel like my head is going to explode. My cards haven’t arrived yet. I haven’t wrapped or mailed a single gift. My husband keeps asking when I’m going to start baking and every time he asks I want to stab him in the eye.” I ranted.

“Oh. That’s totally not what I meant,” she sighed. Her shoulders were suddenly slumped.

I did that to her.

Desperately, “It’s not? What did you mean?”

“Well, it’s just that I love Christmas. Preparing to celebrate the birth of Jesus is my favorite time of year! I just get really excited! And so I was wondering if you are as excited about it as I am.”

“So, you’re not trying to make me feel inadequate or guilty or more overwhelmed?”

“Oh my gosh, NO. Why would anyone do that?”

“For sport?”

“Girl, you need to get your Christmas spirit on. Forget the To Do List. Think about God’s incredible gift to us: his Son.”


I was missing it. That’s so like me, to focus all my energy on the wrong thing.

We gathered up our girls and entered the nursing home. Most of the residents were already in the social hall, eagerly awaiting our arrival.

This was going to be a tough night.

And not just because old people scare me.

Our scout leader handed all the girls song packets and instructed each of them to share with one of the elderly residents. We spread out around the social hall.

A few minutes later, the room was filled with song.

It was going really well until I looked to my left and noticed this:

The meaning of Christmas by The Bearded Iris

This sweet woman was gently patting her new friend on the back and then hugging her with her one arm. It was truly precious to behold.

I felt a lump slowly rising in my throat, making it really hard to sing. I didn’t want to cry. I wanted to be strong for the girls.

But I couldn’t help it. I was holding back a river. My lip was starting to quiver and my voice was cracking.

Thinking fast, I moved to another part of the room, pretending to go help one of the girls.

Bad move.

That is where I met Ginny Mae:

Ginny Mae had already made friends with one of our scouts, a beautiful 11 year old girl named Anna.

Ginny Mae was holding Anna’s hand and telling her “Thank you for coming here tonight. This is the best Christmas ever. I love you,” over and over. She was radiating love and light.

I could see that Anna was about to cry. And just like that, my tears spilled over. I turned away and rummaged through my purse for tissues.

Anna’s mom sensed that something was wrong and quickly crossed the room to check on her daughter. When she saw that we were both crying, she started to cry too. We were a pretty pathetic little bunch. One of the nurses came over and asked if we were all okay. All of this was happening during a rousing rendition of Up on the Housetop. 

That’s when this lady turned around and signaled me over.

I tenderly leaned down to hear what she wanted to tell me, emotionally bracing myself for another heartbreak.

That’s when she quickly grabbed my arm with her bony hand like a scene from a Stephen King novel and hissed “Would you tell that lady [Ginny Mae] to shut up?! I can’t hear the God damn music!” 

Alrighty then! Even in the nursing home, I thought to myself, haters gonna hate.

Then it dawned on me, like the proverbial lightbulb turning on over my head, I don’t want to be like her. I want to be like Ginny Mae. 

Creeeeeeaaaak. I could feel my Grinchy little heart actually growing two sizes.

A few minutes later, one of our scout leaders asked for a handful of us to go with her to sing to Isabelle, a resident who could no longer get out of bed. My daughter Mini-Me volunteered. She grabbed my hand and said, “Come with me Mom.” How could I say no?

There were photos all over the walls of Isabelle’s room. One immediately drew me in…it was a beautiful, buxom young woman, probably taken in the 1940s or 50s. It was definitely Isabelle, but the change over time in Isabelle’s appearance was startling.

She couldn’t talk to us, only smile. She was so tiny and fragile, her hair white and sparse.

We sang Jingle Bells and We Wish You a Merry Christmas. She smiled.

But as we sang Silent Night, a single tear rolled down her cheek onto her pillow.

I was a goner.

Looking around, I could see that everyone else in the room was silently crying now too. Even the nurse. It took my breath away.

Silent night, holy night.
All is calm, all is bright.
Round yon Virgin, Mother and Child.
Holy infant so tender and mild,
Sleep in heavenly peace,
Sleep in heavenly peace.

It was a transformative evening, no question about it. Thanks be to God.

And now, even though I still have a To Do List a mile long, I’m totally ready for Christmas. Go ahead, ask me.

joyously and with childlike anticipation,


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