You know this feeling. You’re walking along the sidewalk, or maybe down aisle 5B at the grocery store, and you make eye contact with someone walking towards you. You realize that unless one of you moves out of the way, you will most certainly bump into each other.
However, just as you step to one side to avoid the collision, the other person steps to the same side. You both apologize and then simultaneously take a step to the other side, which again puts you both in each other’s face. After shuffling to and fro another half dozen times (and repeatedly telling each other how sorry you are), you finally pass by each other.
You’ve been there many times. You know the frustration and embarrassment that go along with the predicament. Is there a word or phrase to describe this back and forth shuffle dance that takes place constantly as you try to go about your business in life? If not, there ought to be. How about the “‘scuse-me tango?” Or maybe the “skip-to-my-lou square dance?”
There’s more. You’ve been lined up at the gas bar, patiently waiting for one of the pumps to become available. At long last, the car in front of you drives away and you nestle your vehicle into place. You open your door, get out and slip your debit card into the slot on the pump. When prompted, you punch in your PIN and await the mechanical click which will allow you to retrieve your card from the machine. Instead, a message flashes across the screen informing you that you have entered the wrong number. You once again punch in the numbers, being extra careful to make certain you are pressing the correct buttons. Again you get an error message. You mutter foul words under your breath as you give it one more try. You can’t help but notice more cars behind you in the lineup with their drivers glaring at you impatiently. Just as you hit the last number of your PIN, you realize that you’ve mistakenly been using your credit card number instead of your debit. To make matters worse, now that you have failed three consecutive times, your pump now suspects you of fraud and won’t return your card. You can almost feel the gas hose wrapping itself around your leg in an attempt to make a citizen’s arrest. You are now in gasoline purgatory. Let’s call this one “PINitentiary.”
Ready for another one? All week you’ve been receiving these annoying phone calls informing you that you can get a better deal on your internet/mobile bundle or that your credit card has been compromised or that your nephew has been arrested for smuggling drugs into North Korea and that your $20,000 CAD is the only thing standing between him and a life sentence in solitary confinement. Some of these uninvited phone solicitations are robocalls with their pre-recorded, mechanical, disembodied voice messages, while others have actual human beings on the other end of the line (although they sound like they are all locked elbow to elbow in a claustrophobic little room somewhere continents away in southeastern Ubo Ubo).
At any rate, the calls always come at the most inconvenient times: very early in the morning, extremely late at night, or during dinner hour. This time, however, when the phone rings, things are going to be different. You are not going to be polite, or just hang up. This time, you are going to expose your “inner demon.” You pick up your phone and launch into a blue streak of language even you weren’t aware you had in you. You cuss up one side and down the other side of the poor schmo who dares to call and you don’t stop until you feel completely exorcized from all those repressed emotions you have held inside you all this time. It’s not until you are completely done with your verbal assault that the voice on the other ends identifies itself as your child’s Grade 3 teacher wanting to know what dessert you would like to contribute to the school Christmas bake sale. Why not coin this major outburst with the name “misplaced phone rage?”
Here’s one that everyone is familiar with. You get that unmistakeable feeling that you are about to sneeze. You brace yourself for the inevitable explosion while deciding which sleeved elbow you are ready to sacrifice to the resulting airway tsunami. However, just in the nick of time, you manage to stifle the sneeze. You slowly lower your arm and feel yourself begin to relax. If there are others in the room with you, there is a sense of calm and relief that begins to settle upon this near disaster. It is right at this point that the sneeze erupts, eliciting world-wide Richter-scale calibrations and subsequent earthquake warnings. A good word to describe this scenario is an “achooation.” A hyperachooation is the same situation except you do it with a mouthful of food.
There are so many more. Try finding the opening to a plastic bag at the grocery store when you have only one hand available. How about ziplock bags that close so tightly that it’s impossible to open them without tearing the plastic? Then there’s that tongue-tied feeling you get when you are about to leave a phone message on somebody’s answering service when suddenly a real person answers.
Computer technology has really increased the potential for new words to describe common events. Everyone must know that feeling that occurs a split second after you’ve clicked the “send” button when you realize you’ve just sent a very personal message to over 300 people.
Nobody asked me, but it just might be the right time to expand our language in order to add a few words and expressions to cover familiar experiences that may have been overlooked back when Oxford and Webster created their dictionaries. In fact, why not create a word that means creating a word when that word is missing? Let’s call it an “oughta-be-a-word-for-ition.”