My mother was an intelligent, well read women with a good vocabulary, but for some unknown reason, she had trouble saying words with the double “T” consonant in the middle of them. In my mother’s world, a bottle was a bot’l and the word little was pronounced lit’l. Herds of cows were called cat’l and the largest city in Washington was Seat’l. My sister Maureen and I found this very amusing, and we would intentionally ask her questions like:
“What do you call the metal teapot on the stove?”
“You mean the ket'l?” she’d answer.
We would then roll on the ground in laughter, and try to think up more questions to ask.
Occasionally we’d try and make up sentences with all of my mother’s most famous mispronounced words:
“Hey Ma!” we’d say. “Put the cat’l in the ket’l with a lit’l but’r or we’ll have a bat’l.”
“Don’t be fresh,” she’d say.
Some words that didn’t have a double “T” consonant were also a challenge. The word “turtle” comes to mind. She referred to all high-necked sweaters as turt’l necks and to this day I cannot look at one without thinking of my mother.
I came up with the idea for this post over this past weekend. I was at my brother Brian’s house, attending a high school graduation party for his daughter. After pouring myself a cup of coffee, I discovered there was no Splenda (the artificial sweetener) in the house. I knew that my wife (who is always prepared) carries extra packets of the sugar substitute in her pocketbook.
“Do you have any Splenda?” I asked my wife.
“Splender!” My ex-sister in law, Monique screamed.
Monique was married to my oldest brother Emmett. She has been part of our family for forever, and we’re all very fond of her. Since their divorce in the mid 80’s, Monique has remarried, become a grandmother and opened her own housekeeping business. She is a very sweet and intelligent woman and is always a load of fun to be around. This is why we still invite her to our family functions.
“Did you know, that if you have sugar ants on your kitchen counter you can kill them with Splender?” Monique said.
“You mean Splenda,” I said.
“That’s what I said,” she answered. “All you have to do is open a little packet of Slender and leave it on the counter. The ants take a few granules back to their nests and it kills the whole colony.”
“No,” I said. “It’s not Splender and it’s not Slender, it’s called Splenda.” I now spelled it, S-P-L-E-N-D-A. “Come on, you can say it,”
“No Splend-AH,” I said, now trying to emphasize the AH sound.
“Slend-AH” She said.
“No! No! No! I was starting to feel like Professor Henry Higgins to her Eliza Doolittle.
My mind wandered back to a day several years ago, when Monique said she was tired. So tired in fact, that she needed "tootpicks" to keep her eyes open.”
“Tootpicks? I asked.
“Yeh,” you know? She said, the little sticks they put in olives.”
Being young, I felt odd correcting her, but I wasn’t going to let it go now. I was a man on a mission. I cupped my fingers around her mouth, and helped her form the word.
“SPLENDA,” I said.
“PLENDISH” she said.
“PLENDA” she said.
“OH FORGET IT,” she said… “USE SWEET'N LOW!”