What Did You Say?
Kids say the darndest things. And sometimes, they're astonishing.
11:00 PM, Jan 25, 2004 • By LARRY MILLER
BREAKFAST was a little hectic the other day. It was a school day, but we gave Mommy a break. The Divine Mrs. M., God bless her, was sleeping in, and Daddy was spinning all the plates--literally and figuratively. Normally my wife is up at first light, gliding effortlessly like Donna Reed, dressing, brushing, and feeding the little ones, and getting them out the door with the grace of a ballerina, or at least a "Let's Make A Deal" model pointing to a new set of Broyhill bedroom furniture.
No, wait, that's not it at all. Let's begin again. The Divine Mrs. M. was sleeping in, because she always sleeps in, because I do everything every day, because my beloved slumbers very deeply, like a lioness that's been hit by a dart and tagged, and she can, on a good day, be roused only with the aid of a deck gun from the Bismarck. (We don't have one, although I'm looking around on eBay.)
I make everything, get everyone ready, and bring her juice, coffee, and fruit. Then, while the children are brushing their teeth--which is to say, not brushing their teeth--I crowbar in a brief, unsatisfying, Gulag shower, slice myself like an orange in a 40-second shave, and kick/push them into the car so I can spill steaming coffee into my eyes on the way to school.
I avow these truths with no fear, and with perfect impunity, and for this reason: I've written enough of these columns that my wife has stopped reading them. Ha!
True, one of her friends might run across it and give her a breathless, arched-eyebrow phone call, but it is my experience that they save their most urgent chats for the previous night's episode of "The Apprentice." If I am wrong, and she does eyeball it, and greets me tonight with an iron skillet in the kisser, it has been an honor knowing you all, and I die happy. To paraphrase a classic, Dulce et decorum est pro homo mori.
On this particular morning, though, one of the boys said something that made me turn and stare in wonderment, and for the first time it wasn't because of a mispronounced female body part.
One of his bonus spelling words was Martin Luther King, Jr. (Nothing coy, here, that's what it was. Doctor King, rest in peace, was a great man, and his life and times and end deserve a holiday as much as anyone. Although I'll bet you a dollar the kids can't spell "Lincoln.") Anyhow, my kid spelled it correctly, and I congratulated him. And he said that sure was a long one, and I said, it sure was. And then he said, "Hey, Dad, yesterday Jake said a word at recess that was so long it was unbelievable. It was anti . . . wait, anti . . . I can't remember, anti . . ."
It was here I stopped wiping, set a dish in the sink, and my head turned slowly, mouth open. And I thought, "It can't be. It just can't be."
And I quietly said, "You don't mean . . . antidisestablishmentarianism?"
And he laughed and said, "That's it! Anti . . . what was it again?"
Laughing again. "Yeah. That's a big one, huh?"
"Yes, it is."
"You know it?"
"Oh, yes. I heard it, myself. On a playground at recess, too, a long, long time ago."
But as soon as I started drifting back, they were already on to something else, giggling and shouting, faces jammed in cereal bowls, eating like a couple of . . . well, like a couple of boys, I guess.
ANTIDISESTABLISHMENTARIANISM. Amazing. Some words come up brand new in the world and get around quickly, puzzling slang like "phat" or "grody," expressions, vulgarisms, euphemisms. They rise and fall as they will, and linguists and philosophers know far more about it than I.
But how in the world did antidisestablishmentarianism come down through the years and the playgrounds, still the longest word any kid ever heard?
I thought about it as I drove them to school. Astonishing. What does it even mean, I wonder? Oh, who cares. It's an "ism," probably a school of thought or a syndrome. It doesn't matter, anyway. What matters is how the tiniest things in life are so wonderful. Maybe I'll look it up when I get to work. Nah, maybe not.
After all, why bother? I'll just ask my grandchildren someday. Boy, my wife'll get a kick out of hearing this one. Call her from work.
Not right away, of course. Don't want to wake her.
Larry Miller is a contributing humorist to The Daily Standard and a writer, actor, and comedian living in Los Angeles.