by Harmony Button
This essay is the first in our new feature “This Word Is” where writers meditate on a single word and its meaning through sound and memory, anecdote and etymology.
One Sunday morning, my brother and I woke up early and, while our parents were still asleep, we changed all the clocks in the house an hour forward.
“Oh well,” we said, when the adults came downstairs. “I guess we’ve missed church today. There should be scrambled eggs and Smurfs instead.”
By the time they figured it out, we really had missed the service.
This move became known as “pulling a church” or “churching it.” My wary, clever mother learned to ask if I was “churching one over” on her.
I tried, but unfortunately, it never worked again — not for the dentist, not for the doctor’s, and definitely not for church.
By Harmony Button
Begin with a definition: we know where to go.
We become thoughtfully troubled that despite being called “The Dictionary,” there is not only one, but in fact, many, many different dictionaries. Like a child discovers that the authority of one parent does not always completely coincide with the authority of the other, so we find that The Dictionary offers a deceiving sense of unity.
We compare our parents. Merriam’s spine is cracked and tired, and her pages drag. We find the uncles online — Oxford & Cambridge — but they aren’t as popular as good ol’ daddy D-dot-com.
I introduce a source the students soon name “Ed” because the O is silent, like in Oedipus!
No, says another, his name is Owen. Maybe there’s another Owen in his class, so he just goes by Owie D.
I am secretly delighted. I make a note to self: in my free time, I should create a fake profile on some social media network under the name of Owie D, and only post smart and snarky etymological comments.
In my free time, I should drink less coffee, take more trail runs, sleep at least eight hours every night. In my free time, I should read books and write poems and make my own veggie soup bouillon. This is the myth of adulthood: there’s such a thing as time you get for free. There is always a price, always a something you are not doing, instead.