4/21/2008 5:57 AM
Here is another gem from Lennox to keep with the “Daddy remembering is like fish talking” zinger that she announced at the park the other day. Speaking of Mason “pulling the girls legs,” or teasing, about something or another, Lennox observed, when he exclaimed “I’m joking,” in a deadpan tone with the slightest roll of the eyes: “a joke is when people laugh afterwards.” Miss Lennox is quite the witty little thing and really enjoys saying things that make people laugh.
Now Mason is a witty guy, his ability to frame things in new ways with his excellent 11-year-old vocabulary is legendary. It began when he was younger than Lennox when he tacked onto one of his parents’ bromide about “when life gives you lemons, you should make lemonade,” the coda “and sell it!” at dinner one night. He used to get so angry when Linda and I would crack up at something he said, some little witticism (which I cannot remember any of right now [see “fish talking”]) because he thought we were laughing at him.
Chandler, never much of a joker, is the best linguist in the house. She saves her parsing for two main categories of utterances: requests and commands. She can detect, with annoying and unerring accuracy the slightest hint of resentment, bossiness or command in the day-to-day talk of a house. “Put water in the pitcher before you put it back in the ‘fridge,” is a statement where the tone, syntax or intention can embed an insult potent enough to stop the morning in the tracks. “I would do that but you cannot just boss me around like I’m some sort of nitwit. I have my reasons for not refilling it, and the way that you ordered me will NEVER get me to do it. I’m so mature that we might as well have restarted the Hattfields and the McCoys up for a century of good Appalachian vendetta: hillbilly omerta in Woodside.
When we think to frame our utterances in the form of requests, “Chandler would you change (meaning clean) the guinea-pig cages today?” “Sure” she’ll reply. But in that request, framed in a way so as not to rankle Honey, Rocky and Buttercup’s “mommy,” is enough wiggle room for her to not do it until bedtime; her chores become late night filibusters against bedtime. All day long, as we politely remind her that the cages need attention we are parried, feinted and dodged with grammatical explications, “I said I would, and I will, just not right now.” Chandler’s quiver is filled with arrows that any semiotician would be proud to use. Her ability to “lawyer” will be wasted on the law because with the silicone slickness of her linguistic abilities and the cudgel of her willingness to take offense remains untouched by discipline in the old-fashioned 50s sense (most recently enacted in the 1970s on the Brady Bunch), which she reminds us came with primitive behaviors like corporal punishment.
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