WORD OF THE DAY
Jake walked into the break room and poured himself a cup of coffee, then sat at the table and shuffled through the newspaper until he found the sports. Then Amanda walked in. Jake groaned to himself and wondered if he could slip out unnoticed, but since he was the only other person in the room he figured that might be tough. No matter. He knew he had to make a run for it before it was too late.
“Hey Jake, how’s it going?” asked Amanda. Damn, too late, Jake thought to himself.
“Not too bad, how about you?” he answered as casually as possible.
“Pretty good. Are you going to the sales meeting this afternoon?” she asked. Jake cringed at the tedium of the small talk. Now he knew he was stuck. He had to escape the conversation before she got to the calendar. As he stood up he answered.
“Um, yeah, see ya there!” With that he thought he was home free. He strode confidently toward the door, hoping he could make it before:
“Hey, Jake, it’s time for ‘Word of the Day’,” said Amanda cheerfully. Double damn. So close and yet so far. Jake pondered his choices:
1. Suffer through the Word of the Day humiliation where Amanda reads the word of the day and Jake doesn’t know what it means and Amanda makes him feel like a small, stupid man.
2. Protest the ridiculousness of her daily ritual with heated indignation.
He reasoned that if he just left, she’d follow him until he caved and went through the humiliating ritual anyway, this time in front of coworkers. He’d seen her do it before. Every other person in the office had been her target at one point or another. If he protested then the whole scenario could last longer, get louder, draw a crowd, and then he’d just have to go through it anyway. So he sighed to himself and, not for the first time, cursed Amanda as a linguistic bully.
“Okay, Amanda, let’s get this over with. What’s the Word of the Day?”
“Today’s word is ‘ineffable’,” she proclaimed.
“What kind of word is that?”
“It’s an adjective. You know, a descriptive word?” she said.
“I know what an adjective is, Amanda. I’m not that dumb,” said Jake. “I meant, is it a real word? Don’t get me wrong, I can appreciate the value of it, I just think it’s kinda rude.”
Amanda seemed confused.
“I’m not following you. How is the word ‘ineffable’ rude?” asked Amanda.
Now it was Jake’s turn to be confused.
“Well, isn’t everybody effable? I mean, some people are less effable than others, I’ll give you that, but for the most part I think pretty much everyone’s effable, give or take a few exceptions,” he said.
“Are you serious?!” she asked.
“Now I’m not following you. You said the word of the day is ineffable. I get it. I’ll even use it in a sentence: Becky is so effing ugly she’s ineffable,” said Jake, pleased that he had finally beat Amanda at her own game.
Amanda just rolled her eyes in disgust.
“Wait, that’s not what it means?” he asked. He couldn’t believe it. He’d been so sure.
“No, not even close. It means: Incapable of being expressed in words; indescribable; as, the ineffable joys of heaven,” she said.
Jake just stared at her.
“That’s just stupid. Who’d ever use that? My definition is much better,” he said.
“But it’s wrong!”
“Who says? I reject your definition and substitute my own!” Jake said. He was tired of playing her game. He marched over to the coffee machine and refilled his cup, then headed for the door.
“It’s not my definition,” she said. “It’s Merriem-Webster’s.”
Jake turned and faced Amanda defiantly.
“Well, he’s dead, isn’t he? He’ll never know if I don’t use his word properly. Besides, with a name like Merriem Webster, I’d be willing to bet he was ineffable, too.”
Amanda looked stunned. Jake couldn’t believe it. He’d never seen her speechless before. He’d won!
“I give up. You’re insane,” she said indignantly.
Amanda huffed and pushed her way by him as she left the room. Jake was delighted he’d finally beat her, and couldn’t just let it drop.
“Nope, not insane, just impudent!” he said as he followed her toward the maze of cubicles. Drunk with linguistic power, he couldn’t control himself. He didn’t really know what impudent meant, but he knew he’d at least heard the word before.
“That’s an adjective, too!” he said. “It means. . .”
Amanda stopped, turned around to face him, and he watched as a sly little smile spread across her face. He suddenly had a bad feeling.
“Yes, I know. It means you can’t perform,” she said triumphantly as she turned and disappeared into the sea of chuckling coworkers who parted to let her pass. Jake knew he’d been burned. His linguistic impotence had allowed her to use her damned “Word of the Day” to emasculate him yet again.