When I was a kid, everyone wore thongs in the summer: to the beach, to school, even to church sometimes. Mind you, thongs then looked like the picture to the left.
Over time words change in meaning. “We had a gay time on our cruise” had a different meaning in 1950 than it does today. Thong is one of those words. Today, thong means something completely different (no, I’m not putting in a picture) and people under a certain age have never heard the previous meaning. My husband still hasn’t adapted to the new use of thong, and often uses it to refer to flip-flops. This prompts looks of astonishment on the faces of my kids’ friends when he roams around the house looking for his footwear and calling out, “Has anyone seen my thongs?” Hilarious.
I was an exchange student in Mexico when I was a teenager. One day the Spanish-speaking girls in my class pointed to a picture of an inflatable raft and asked me what the word for it was in English. “Rubberboat,” I said. They burst into laughter. “What?” they said. “Rubberboat,” I repeated. They fell apart all over again. “Say it again,” they said. “Say it again.” Every time I said “rubberboat,” they could not contain their laughter.
Think about it. Say it out loud to yourself. You can see how it would sound ridiculous to someone unfamiliar with our language. Rubberboat. It’s funny.
I love this word. It’s so visual and carries such clear meaning. When someone uses this word, you can visualize the recoil reaction to shocking news. The gob of shocking news hurls through the air and, smack, hits the person. Recoil. Love that.
My daughter offered this one, and I agree. Lollipop is just fun to say. The “lolli” loiters on the tongue in a rolling ell kind of way, and then you pop the last syllable. You could say lollipop, but why would you when you could say lolliPOP.
I read somewhere that comedians use words with a “k” sound, because they are funnier than other words. The word pickle makes me laugh, and maybe the “k” has something to do with it. The pop of the “p” followed by the “k” just sounds funny. Also, when someone is “in a pickle” it usually means a person has put themselves in an awkward situation because of a poor choice. Usually we (a) have made the same mistake ourselves, or (b) we imagine we would make the same mistake under similar circumstances, so we empathize. “Oh, that person is in a pickle,” we say, shaking our heads. We chuckle.
I wonder who the first person was to use the word “ruffle.” What prompted the word, and did he/she immediately realize it was the perfect word? It so aptly suits what it describes. Again, it’s visual. You see the flounciness of whatever it describes. It’s auditory, too. When feathers ruffle, you hear the disturbance.
This word sticks with me, too, because of Margaret Laurence. In her great book, The Stone Angel, she describes a character named Arlene as being “all ruffles.” Arlene is not a common name, so when I come across a character with it, I take it rather personally. Arlene, all ruffles? I’ll tell you, my feathers ruffled over that.