Taste-Testing Words

You've maybe heard people say that if you hear a new word and find an opportunity to use it correctly five times in a day, it becomes a permanent part of your vocabulary. Have you heard that? No? Well, I have. Never really took it to heart, though. Jodi and the kids say I use too many big words already, so no use confusing things further with words none of us know ...

But it's always fun to watch the kids taste-test new words or phrases. When Bren and Gabe started liking pirates, I pulled out blunderbuss. You could see Bren roll the word on his tongue like Tootsie Pop before popping it out to re-examine it in the light.

Something similar happened this morning on the way to church. Last night the wind started to roar fiercely through the trees, and as we scrambled from house to minivan this morning, we were pelted by stinging white flakes from the gray clouds above. I ducked into the driver's seat, slammed the door, and shook droplets from my hair like a dog. Master of the obvious, I said, "It's startin' to spit snow, kids!"

They had noticed, of course, and seemed to ignore me, discussing the probability of a snowball fight after church. (The snow was not sticking.) But when Jodi got in, Trevor piped up from the back: "Mom! It's spitting snow!"

It came out a bit broken, like he'd spit it himself. No matter. Between our home and church, he worked it liked bubble gum, chewing, softening, turning it over, stretching it membrane thin over his tongue 'til they were one and the same, then blowing it out ... pop! for everyone to hear: spitting snow, spitting snow ...

Strangely enough, Father Gregory made no reference to snow or spitting in his homily, and as we visited with friends in the gathering space after Mass, I didn't think much about the words or the weather. Finally, when we were among the last families left at the church, we leaned into the doors and pushed out through wind. The gray skies in their bluster roared again, and the pelting resumed.

"Wow!" said Trevvy. "Now it's really spitting snow!"

Right phrase, right context, and natural as can be. The new phrase fit him like a glove.

"Sure is, Trevor," I said. "It sure is."

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