Sunday, February 22nd, 2009 | Author:

I feel powerless when bereft of the exact set of words that strikes right at the heart of what I want to express.

I eat every day and can adeptly describe my food order.  I know how to describe my sandwich or burrito.

But there are many other common everyday things where I feel the powerless to describe in a direct way in which anyone could easily understand what I’m talking about.
Instead I must jump through hoops, do a little song an dance of  similes hoping that one will strike the right set of chords to make you understand exactly what I’m saying. These descriptions often rely on bizarre mixtures of celebrities, metaphors and made up words.

Adjectives just aren’t doing their job efficiently enough.

Here are some examples:

Describing a Haircut

At least every month I get asked this.

When you’re a kid, no one tries to ask you to describe specifically what you want in a haircut. They just go ahead and cut your hair. At some point they start asking you what you want and then suddenly you’re ushered into this world of specialized words to describe hair style.

Most people know the words for the hair styles they DON’T want. Most people don’t want an afro, comb-over, mullet, mohawk, or dreadlocks but don’t know the words to describe what they do want. I’m sure most men get frustrated and probably end up saying, “Just do whatever you think looks good.”

Celebrity haircuts seem to ease the pain of describing a haircut. Women of the early 90s could saunter in to a shop and order a “Rachel” (from the show Friends). Just be careful your haircutress knows who you’re talking about. You might be requesting a haircut like that of the lovely Andie MacDowell but end up leaving with a Ronald McDonald crimson jewfro.

So easily confused those two!  “You know.. that actor/spokesperson in those movies.. like that one movie with that funny angry jerk guy (Bill Murray/The Hamburglar) who drives around with a strange furry creature (Groundhog/Grimace).”

Describing A Face

“I met someone who is perfect for you.”
“Well.. what does she look like?”
“Um….”

I have yet to be victimized by some thug but I still feel pangs of anxiety over how I would ever describe that face to the police sketch artist.  “Ugly” or “Pretty” is not enough to create a sketch and metaphors don’t seem to work too well.

But racial stereotypes work really well to describe a face. “The face that launched a 1000 ships” does nothing to help you figure out what Helen of Troy looked like but if you were to say she’s got a real Mexicany face, I instantly got some picture.

Most people end up doing a receipe face of Frankenstein Celebrity to describe a face– he’s got Angelina Jolie’s lips, Steve Guttenberg’s nostrils, Julia Robert’s throbbing brain vein mixed with a hint of Andie MacDonald’s jewfro haircut.

..and of course, you can also use a Conan O’Brien style “If They Mated” way to describe a person’s face.

If these two mated.. could possibly used to describe this guy    (‘s nipples).

Describing A Sound

Sounds like a moose trying to mate with an ostrich getting his nipples pierced.
Sounds coming from a human are fairly easy to recreate with your own voice but sounds generated from anything else are almost impossible to get exactly right.

and again… Celebrity musicians seem to ease the pain of describing a sound. Just be careful your vocal coach knows who you’re talking about. You might be requesting  to sound  like that of the lovely Michael McDonald but end up leaving sounding like an insane Ronald McDonald.

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Body Things

Everyone knows exactly what boogers, earwax, & bellybutton lint are. There’s no song and dance required to describe them exactly. But what about all the other stuff that happens to our bodies? Don’t these deserve their own words as well?

The Jigglies: Pee Shivers

Only happens among men… It’s a shivering.. shuddering.. jiggle..feeling that you get when you’re about finished with your peeing. It seems to happen more often if you held your pee for awhile.

While shivering is just what happens to your body while it happens, it doesn’t capture the other feeling you get. It’s somewhere between a post sneeze or post yawn kind of brief euphoria. I think they should be called the “jigglies.”

Yoaning : That Stretching Tired Moan Groan Thing

Around 3:30 in the afternoon in any work place, you’re going to hear these sounds.

When you yawn, you are also compelled for some reason to also make a moaning sound at the same time. The yawn is usually combined with a body stretch. Some people are really obnoxious with it, creating this baboon call you can hear throughout the house and across the jungle. This would be yoaning.

Eye Boogers: The stuff in your eyes in the morning

Eye boogers is that gunk in your eyes after waking up. A friend told me his parents said that elves crawled on to his eyeballs at night and would chew on crackers. They’d leave the crumbs in your eyes the next morning.

Eye Floaters

It’s extremely hard to describe what you see in your eyes especially if you think other people don’t see them. Eye floaters are the weird stringy shapes that float around in your eyes. You try to look at them but they float away. I’m not sure if “floater” is the official term, but it looks like its worthy enough for a wikipedia page.

A lot of time is wasted trying to describe things. It can be interesting trying to mix and match the right set of adjectives and metaphors but I often wish there was just one word to cut right into it because often the mish mash song and dance of celebrity frankesteins and jigglies just doesn’t capture something easily.

I have great appreciation for those who find the exact set of words that really describes it.

“Kathy,I’m lost,I said, though I knew she was sleeping.
I’m empty and aching and I don’t know why..”

captures it perfectly, Paul.

Category: Language, Opinion
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