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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Firefarter Frank

I find that quite often the words that come out of my mouth are quite different from what I actually intended to say. For example, “Argentina” comes out as, “Art-and-Gina.” Or, if I mean to say that I got stuck in traffic, I might say, “I got stunk in traffic.” I often wonder if I’ve used too much bug spray with Deet over the years, or if there’s such thing as verbal dyslexia. Could it be super-early onset Alzheimer’s? A brain tumor? A side effect of my hearing problem? Regardless of the cause, it is embarrassing. Due to the nature of my job, I frequently speak to groups of people such as children, parents, customers, and so on.

One quite memorable verbal fumble occurred when I was reading a story to a group of children during “Firefighter Week” at summer camp. The story was called, “Firefighter Frank.” And so I began,

Firefarter Frank…”

I got no further due to the mass breakout of hysteria. You must admit that it conjures up an amusing image, even if you are over the age of 3. After about ten minutes of mayhem, asthma attacks, and peeing-of-pants, things calmed down. I explained my error, and I started again, carefully enunciating every syllable.

Fi-re-FIGH-TER Frank was on duty…”

More hysteria breaks out, and I am momentarily puzzled, but then a little girl shouts out, “DOODY!!!” slaps her hand to her forehead, and falls backward laughing. Thanks to me, their minds were already in the gutter, and that, compounded with the fact that they were unable to read, led to their interpretation of Firefighter Frank sitting on a pile of, well, doody. That one was not my fault, but nevertheless, everything was chaotic for another five minutes or so.

After things calmed down, we had a quick lesson on homonyms. I was able to make it through the rest of the book after that, but there were several more perilously close calls with the word “firefighter,” and all of the childrens little eyes darted up to my face in anticipation every time I nearly misspoke. To this day, I still have trouble with that one. I am often tempted to go back to the pre-P.C. label of “fireman.” It would make things a lot easier. I think that female firefighters would be less offended if I referred to the occupation as “fireman” as opposed to “firefarter,” but you never know.

So, if I happen to be speaking in tongues during a future conversation with you, just bear in mind that this little issue occurs with me from time to time, and take your best guest at what I actually mean to spay.

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