In Other Words / Summer is a verb
Until a short time ago, I never knew that “summer” was a verb. I always thought “summer” was a common noun that conjured up halcyon days of peaceful bliss. I learned differently when I sat with friends at a trendy Manhattan restaurant and overheard a conversation between two women at the next table discussing their vacation plans.
“Neil and I are summering in Nantucket,” one told the other. “It’s THE place to va-cay.”
I was so stunned by this abuse of the latest in vogue grammatical protocol that I could hardly consume my chilled cucumber soup with a “smidge” of dill. Yes, that’s what the server said: “a ‘smidge’ of dill will accompany the soup.”
I was willing to overlook the “smidge” but “summering in Nantucket” was more than I could handle. I must have grimaced, because my two lunch companions asked me why I seemed distracted
“I didn’t know that ‘summer’ was a verb,” I confessed.
“Of course it is,” one said.
“When did that happen?” I asked.
“When people started ‘summering,’” the other told me.
Realizing not to mess with these New York aficionados, who had succumbed to the latest vocab-a-babble. I kept quiet and continued eavesdropping.
“Yes, Neil and I snagged a bungalow for August and September.”
“Snagged?” “Bungalow?” ‘Va-cay?”” What happened to “rent,” “house,” and “vacation?”
“ ‘Renting a house,’ is no longer an acceptable term,” my friend said. “It’s become passé.” And, no one says ‘vacation’ It’s so last decade.”
Most of my “normal” friends and I communicate differently. We call a word a word, refusing to subject ourselves to the au courant lingo of the moment. For example: “want to grab a bite?” someone will ask. “Sure,” I say, name the time and place.” No fuss. No muss. It is just lunch after all. But now, people “do lunch” and they “do it” in the grand style at some pretentious restaurant where the servers use words like “excellent,” “no problem,” and “smidge.” The Maître d’ is now referred to as the “gatekeeper” who will announce with great bravado: “we’re fully committed” when you can’t procure a table.
As I sat there straining to hear all about Neil and their Nantucket va-cay, I grew increasingly discouraged. I had lost my ability to communicate properly, and promptly learned that I, a discourse dinosaur, was doing it all wrong.
Even hypochondriacs have gotten into the act. A cold is no longer a cold. That went out with the ‘50s. A sneeze is now a sinus infection. A productive cough means bronchitis, and the two symptoms together add up to the flu.
The other day, a friend called to discuss her latest state-of-the-art disease du jour. Her week isn’t complete without a few rare, though stylish, symptoms to make life interesting.
She phones regularly to tell me she’s experiencing strange sensations in parts of her anatomy that classify as TMI (too much information).
“It’s probably just a cold,” I console, brushing her off, and trying to change the subject.
But she wasn’t buying. “You’re not minimizing my ailments, are you?” she asked, because my doctor said that it could be something important. In fact, I’m having a CT scan, MRI and a full workup by the biggest and the best.”
And, she added. “Did you know that depression is the new black?”
I was embarrassed to admit, I didn’t.
“You obviously need to get with the program,” she said.
“You obviously need a va-cay and a smidge of psychotherapy,” I told her.
Westporter Judith Marks-White shares her humorous views monthly in the Westport News. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or at judithmarks-white.com.