There’s a running joke in my family about me. Well, there are a LOT of jokes about me. (Sidenote: Don’t ask my friends about me. The answers are equal parts humiliating and sigh-inducing.)
The running joke about me came to life when I was out to breakfast with my father and Twin Sister.
Dad: “What do you want for breakfast?”
Me: “I dunno. I’m not super hungry. Maybe just some fries, or a bagel. Or some jelly toast!”
Dad and Twin Sister exchange a look.
Dad: “…Jelly toast?”
Me: “Yeah. Like peanut butter toast but with jelly instead.”
Twin Sister: “You’re weird. I love you, but you’re crazy.”
Me: “What? Why can we call toasted bread and peanut butter “peanut butter toast,” but I can’t call toasted bread with jelly “jelly toast”?
My robot-brain didn’t understand why they thought I was being odd. I figured that we’d already established a set method for referring to peanut-butter-laden toast, then it should be a simple step to extend the terminology format to jelly. EQUAL RIGHTS FOR JELLY!
Nonetheless, I got funny looks and raised eyebrows. I got It’s jelly with toast or peanutbutter toast.
Well, you know what I say to that? YOU KNOW WHAT I WANT TO SAY?!
I spit out a word that technically conformed to the almighty English rules. Even so, it was unfamiliar. People generally react strangely to unfamiliar things. Even if those things make sense, there is still some form of resistance.
When we’re writing, no matter what it is we’re writing, we use the language we know. We tiptoe around words that are too fancy, too simplistic, too made-up, or too abstract.
My family tolerates my insanity pretty well, so now every time we go out to eat, they ask me slyly, “What are you going to get? …It’s jelly toast, right?”
It can be tough to keep a hold on creativity. We learn the rules, we follow them, we become nazis of grammar, and we broadcast our expertise in all things word-related. Let’s not forget the fun of invention.
Here’s to making up words and using language in fun and interesting ways. Here’s to dancing around the rules and being creative and imaginative far after we’ve learned to abide by the rules.
Let’s celebrate language. In fact, let’s make a toast. What’s your poison, orange juice? Sparkling cider? A bit of sham-pain?
I don’t know about you, but I’m thinking jelly toast.