By Chad Koenen


Every once in a while I forget that I am suppose to be an adult, and telling fart jokes is no longer comical. I’m assuming most people think telling jokes about bodily functions was never funny—no matter the age or situation.

Of course I disagree and still think that there is a certain skill to telling an adroit joke to make people laugh. That search for telling a funny joke led my oldest daughter to challenge me to a unique quest in writing a future column.

How this incipient column all started resembled that of a conversation that would more similarly be found in the junior high hallways of school, than an adult learning about his child’s day at school.

For several days earlier this school year the word abode was being thrown around our household as often as the word good by our seventh grader (pretty much the answer to every question a parent receives from their children). 

After days of hearing the word abode being spoken at least once or twice an hour, and never really hearing that word used before, I caustically replied “I think you mean commode. Like where you go to the bathroom, not abode. You know, I’m going to go sit on the commode.” I didn’t just say this once or twice, but even took my hands of the steering wheel of the vehicle in a gesticulate manner to give several examples of how she clearly meant the word commode and not abode. 

When I finally closed my mouth I was immediately reprimanded by my daughter about the irony that I am in journalism, yet I do not even comprehend the English language at the level of a seventh grader. She began to tell me about her word of the day words she receives in school and how each week they not only need to learn how to spell some 20-25 words, but the meaning of each word and how to utilize it as well. 

Honestly, giving difficult words that even us adults don’t know the meaning of is a great way to enhance the vocabulary of teenagers today. Our current world of text messages, emojis and misspelling words has been an aggravating thing for me in recent years. After all, many of these more elaborate spelling words allows our youth to have a nuance in their vocabulary, instead of just using the same mundane words over and over again. 

Having spelling words and words of the day is obviously not a new thing. We had spelling words of varying levels back when I was in school in the 80s and 90s, and I doubt it was new back then. But for the life of me, I don’t remember ever having to learn the meaning, or how to properly use the words we were asked to spell. 

All we needed to do with find a rudimentary trick to spelling words like beautiful, know the differences between their, there and they’re, and take a spelling test each week under the vigilant eyes of an elementary teacher, who I swear always thought we were cheating.

In fairness I do remember one infamous test in 1991 in which a friend of mine was busted for writing his spelling words on his arms. My friend, of course, didn’t take into account that he would need to lift up his long sleeve shirt to see how to spell each word. His test was wrested away by the teacher, and we were warned that there would be an enhanced check of our limbs moving forward, to ensure we weren’t going to cajole another classmate into trying to cheat again. Once your class gets a bad rap it’s tough to ever break that perception.

On our ride home from practice earlier this year, I found myself talking tough and enhancing my ability to utilize words in the English language. Before I knew it, Kendall had found a way to dupe me into not only learning her words for the week, but to work the words into a column—all 20-25 of them. 

Not only did I take the bait, but I one upped my daughter who thought she got the best of me—I told her you pick any two lists you want and I’ll work them into a column for our avid readers (thankfully she must not have heard this part of the conversation). 

For the past two months, Kendall’s words of the day review has been sitting in my computer bag and on my desk as I tried to fabricate a realistic excuse as to why I misspoke and cannot write a column with 20 random words (for the record the list I was given has 25 words on it). For a while, I had an ominous fear that I lost the list of words in bringing them from home to work each day. Much to my chagrin, every once-in-a-while, I would be reminded of my lackluster effort of being put into writing a simple column that I so arrogantly said would be a piece of cake. 

Without a good pretext given and the snow flying outside on Monday afternoon, I figured no time would be better than the present to attempt to incorporate 25 random words into a 1,114 word column. As I looked at the empty computer screen in front of me, I kept walking upstairs from our basement in hopes that I could find a way to weasel out of writing this ridiculous column. I kept jostling into Kendall upstairs and was bristled in fear when talking to her that I would fail in epic fashion.

Truth be told, I loathe losing a bet or contest of any kind, and I am a bit tremulous at the thought of losing a non-binding bet with my kid. After all, my big mouth got me into this situation and the idea that I needed to repudiate the bet was too much for me to overcome (editor’s note: there is absolutely no way I am using all of these words correctly). 

In the end, I just figured inadvertently bit off more than I could chew in my bet with Kendall. However, wouldn’t you know, I have just one word left to find a way to work into this column. 

With a final stroke of this keyboard, I can bring this terrible column to a cessation, and let us all go on with our lives. 

In case you were wondering the words I needed to work into this column were: pretext, fabricate, adroit, gesticulate, vigilant, avid, cajole, rudimentary, enhance, nuance, loathe, reprimand, lackluster, caustic, wrest, infamous, jostle, dupe, incipient, inadvertent, ominous, tremulous, repudiate cessation and bristle.