In living color…of leprechauns and peacocks

I stumbled on a phase in Wikipedia the other day– peacock terms which are essentially fluff words padded into entries there which “merely show off the subject of the article without imparting real information. ‘Peacock terms’ are named because of the mating sequence of the male peacock which shows all of its coloured feathers whilst trying to court with a female. This is because of the analogy about showing everything, but not telling anything.”

I remember being unleashed in college with a Roget’s Thesaurus in hand, trying to pump up the volume of my theme papers with more fanciful verbiage. Sometime I did actually unearth some ideas that splintered off my original concepts by the process of association that words bring, with their lovely nuances of meaning revealing slightly different hues like an iridescent June bug in natural light. I probably learned a few, and also acquired a few word in my vocabulary that I’m still trying to pin down the meaning of. The years preceding college found me with my fellow honors English students in Mr. Paul and Mrs. whatshername-with-the-cats-eyes-glasses’ classes during 10th and 11th grades bolting down lists of 100 new vocabulary words each week.

If you stay alert, you can observe some pretty funny things. In South Florida, which I’ve called home for around three decades, I am still amused when a kindly Hispanic lady like the cleaning lady in our office building, old enough to be my mother, replies in return to my greeting, “you too, Mamma.” This is a peculiarity of the Cuban community, where Mamma, or Poppi, is an affectionate phrase and kids in their “tweens” use the term of endearment for each other with role-playing earnestness when they start going steady. I also had a silent chuckle just a minute ago, as I did some online bill paying, and then entered “water and sewer” in my Gmail address book. Upon saving the contact, Gmail then enthusiastically noted: “No messages from Water & Sewer. Send Water & Sewer a message!”  I think I’ll pass on an email dialog with Water & Sewer; I’ve already got an old  friend who routinely routes the occasional questionable bathroom humor email!

Published in: on October 15, 2007 at 6:05 pm  Leave a Comment  

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