Once when I told someone I was a cop, she looked at me incredulously and without blinking an eye said, “Really? You don’t talk like a cop.”
I believe she meant it as a left-handed compliment, in that I didn’t use the language that was so prevalent at the time in on-screen portrayals of policemen. That is, I used words that cops just didn’t use on TV.
Now why should that be? I worked with all manner of guys in the job, since it was at a time before women were in police department uniform. So why shouldn’t I have sounded like a cop, since I spent eight hours out of every working day communicating with them?
It didn’t take long to come up with an answer. You see, I was the only male in a home with five females. So, although my on-duty hours were peppered with phraseology like, “Who made the pinch?” “Where’s your nightstick?” “Call for a wagon.” “Break it up, guys.” And the ever-popular, “Give me your license and registration,” my off-duty hours—spent primarily around my wife and four daughters—involved a decidedly different vocabulary.
So let me give you a quick quiz. Give me an informal definition of any of the following five words: Bobeche…Finial…Duvet…Flounce… Peau de soie (Po des swa).
Don’t look ahead, because the answers are at the bottom.
Now I don’t want anyone to think that these words were heard in my home as often as dishtowel, screwdriver, or calculator… but they were heard. Whereas I can never recall a time when I turned to my partner in a squad car and asked, “Are the flounces on your curtains gathered or pleated?” I have a feeling he’d be asking for a different partner tomorrow night.
Of course, if I asked my wife where we kept our finials, she simply say, “On top of our lamps; where else?”
I’m kind of proud of my vocabulary. It’s not on a par with that of someone like William F. Buckley, or Newt Gingrich, but I can hold my own with members of the law enforcement community—whether they use bobeches or finials.
However, I wouldn’t want to have run into a guy who had a Peau de soie duvet with flounces circumventing the edges. I think that would have been the day I asked for another partner.
Here are the answers:
Bobeche: a collar at the bottom of a candle to catch wax.
Finial: decorative knob that holds a lampshade on a lamp.
Duvet: stuffed quilt atop a bed.
Flounce: gathered or pleated material atop a curtain.
Peau de soie (Po des swa): reversible soft fabric.
Ain’t words wonderful!