What does the world cost? Oh well, then we'll just take a small coke.

Monday, August 20, 2007

The Day I used no Adjectives

I got up this morning and, in the middle of my shower, shave and shine routine, was hit with an idea. I’m not sure where I was hit, but the idea went something like this: Why not go a whole day without any adjectives? Describing words are, afterall, not absolutely vital to everyday existence. I often went a whole conversation or two without ever having to utter a modifying word and I was sure I would be able to go a whole day without one. Guys are supposed to say a lot less than girls anyway, so if I found a way to let others do the talking, my experiment might be pain free.

I went down to breakfast just as my mother was putting out some pancakes. They looked delicious (although I didn’t say that out loud!).

“Did you sleep ok?” Bummer, my mother was trying to make conversation. My plan to listen through breakfast was thwarted already.

“I slept…” Oooh. Tricky. “My bed was…” Humph! That doesn't work. “Yes, I did.” Inward grin.

“Great. Well, we’re going to visit some friends tonight so be sure you come home straight after work, ok?”

“Yes, ma’am; I’ll come home after work.” I didn’t mean for my reply to sound sarcastic, but in my effort to use complete sentences, it might have come across as a little tart.

“Immediately?” Was my mother trying to derail me? It was only 7:50 and I’d already encountered my first adjective-only question.

I just smiled my biggest, most boyish grin and nodded.

“Got home pretty late last night, didn’t you son?” My father had just entered the room and was putting me on the spot. There is nothing worse than having a semantic limitation while justifying a late night to your parents.

“Well, yes. I got home at 11:30. I was in town with a friend; we went to a Bible Study, remember?”

“Oh that’s right. That girl from school; was the study good?”

I tensed, trying to think quickly but reasoning more slowly because of the effort. Then it hit me.
“We were in Revelation reading about…about the…” I was going to say “end times,” but “end” could be considered an adjective, although not necessarily in that use. My father was looking at me expectantly, so I shoveled some pancake into my mouth and mumbled incomprehensibly behind the food. My father seemed satisfied and turned to talk with my mother about something.

I finished breakfast quickly and headed to class where my economics teacher was ruthlessly attacking the institution of a federal currency and the Federal Reserve System in general. More than once I wanted to ask a question pointing out his inconsistencies and asking if his ideology would work well once applied to the real world, but I could never phrase my question without an adjective. For the first time all semester, I stayed silent through the entire class period. I left somewhat depressed and ate lunch alone.

At work, I was called into my boss’ office. As a refresher, my boss is a J. Jonah Jameson wannabe who stopped smoking cigars in the office when OSHA confiscated his supply of Cubans.

He sat me down inches from his face and began speaking gruffly. “We had three bite sized morsels go through our cereal inspection system yesterday on your watch. Young man if this happens again, we will have to consider demoting you from the Wheaties belt. Is that understood?" His breath smelled like a mix of coffee, tobacco and gingivitis.

“Sir, no flakes got through on my watch. I looked. Nothing happened.” I wanted to say that no bad flakes had gotten through, that I had looked carefully and that nothing untoward had happened, but without adjectives I was left with a very simple sounding response.

Maybe it is better that I used simple, absolute words that weren’t amended by adjectives my boss may have found intimidating, because he looked assuaged.

“Well, ok then. Call Randy in on your way out.”

I drove home in the late afternoon with Carrie Underwood playing on my car stereo. I sang along, except, of course, where she used adjectives.
I dug my key into the side/ of his…drive/ carved my name into his…seat./I took a... slugger to…lights, slashed a hole in...tires
There is nothing quite as tiring as editing a song while listening to it on the radio.

When I arrived at home, my mother was ready to leave for our friend’s house. She asked me if I liked her blouse, which I assume was new.

“Well, it’s a blouse,” I answered, giving her a big hug and cringing at the same time. I pulled away and showed her a thumbs up with my best tough guy look. “Gotta change,” I said, practically running to my room.

At our friend’s house, several younger children were playing Apples to Apples and wanted me to join. I declined, knowing I would never be able to read a green apple card, and went to chat politics with a group more in step with my age, if not my vocabulary de jour.

“I think this whole thing about Obama raising money through YouTube is ridiculous. The feds regulate every other kind of donation; you’d think they have a limit on the online gifts.” My friend was woefully misunderstanding the situation, and my pain must have been apparent because he asked my opinion. Before I could flinch, the entire group was looking my way.

“Barrack Obama is running for President.” I squinted, looked slightly upward and nodded. It worked, after three seconds of this mimed thinking (which passed like a Mother-in-Law’s visit for me), everyone lost interest and resumed their own conversations.

I left for some water.

That night, I called a friend and we chatted for just under an hour. While I am aware that real men do not chat on the phone for extended periods of time, I was comfortable enough in my masculinity to leave our conversation unperturbed. I am proud to say I went through the entire conversation using "yes" and "no" answers and was able to hang up unscathed, with my friend only slightly suspicious.

My takeaway from the experience is that semantic errata are better articulated in determinate vocabulary environments. Then again, that last sentence may be a solid argument for sentences with few and simple words.


Hank the Janitor said...

Wow, that is quite impressive. I don't know that I could make it a whole day without adjectives. Mostly because I'd probably forget what an adjective is about half-way thought the day and then use them without knowing.

Ednella said...

Technically, you could have answered with adverbs. Id est, "I slept well." Well is an adverb, because it describes 'slept', the verb.

spadoodles said...

i should try that..... ;-)

Chops said...

This was hilarious, especially the Carrie Underwood song?.