Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Don't Goat Me!

Lily, Lucy & Lacey

I have always been intrigued and amused by the way that every family accumulates its own legendary phraseology over the years. My friend Jill (whose daughter Lacey took the above photo) and I often compare notes on this topic, and we seem to have an endless supply of humorous mis-understood or mis-pronounced or mis-remembered words and phrases, such as "Kitten Caboodle" and "Plutonic Love."

If you're a fan of The Office, you'll know that Michael is famous for this kind of Malaprop. I am continually jotting down irresistible examples from his repertoire and plan to write a blog post about them one day soon, e.g., "Home is where the hardest" and "She cut off her nose to spider face.

Believe it or not, two of the mixed up phrases in my own family revolve around goats. Yes, GOATS! We owe them both to my older son Ben, from back when he was about five years old or so. The first occurred when he heard me say, "Don't goad me." Well he'd never heard the word goad, so he just translated it into a word that he did know: "Don't GOAT me." To this day, we still say that and probably always will.

The second example came into our vernacular when he heard me say, "That really gets my goat." I guess he'd heard me say plenty of times: "That really gets on my nerves." So he just used the syntax that sounded normal to his ear: "That really gets ON my goat."

It almost sounds better that way, doesn't it? Ha! But true! Have you ever noticed how often it seems that the mis-spoken word or phrase actually makes more sense than the original? A case in point is my little friend who liked to sing the song from Grease: not "Hopelessly" but "SUPPOSED TO BE devoted to you."

I think that just about captures it perfectly!

P.S. In the above photo Lucy the Goat is standing by, waiting for a fresh snack after Jill pulls weeds. To me it looks like the Garden of Eden or some kind of mystic vision!

Beautiful photograph, Lacey! Thanks!


  1. I'm sure our family has some of these mis-spoken phrases, but, of course,I can't remember any of them now. If I do remember any I'll let you know. It's very similar to baby brother Aaron and his lugs for gloves. We still call them lugs around here.

  2. Just yesterday in my creative writing class, I saw that 4th grader Zooey had a character called the Pry Minister. That's what she thought the term was. Especially delightful since he's a bad guy.

    And then there's the misunderstood song lyric by one of Flannery's friends when they were little:
    Meet the Flinstone. They're a Montessori family!

    xx Ann

  3. Ann, Those examples are priceless -- Pry Minister & Montessori family! Thinking of the Flintstones song reminds me of my friend who used to sing "Row, Row, Row, Your Boat . . . life is butterbeans." Butterbeans! Haha!

    Peg, yup, it's "lugs" for us too, always has been, always will be!

  4. "round young virgin" silent night.