When Cucumber Vines Tangle with the Concubines: Malapropisms

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“My German-American parents were similarly afflicted with what the Germans call Zungensalat or ‘tongue salad.’ Mother was forever yelling at me to shut the scream door, and Father worried I wasn’t getting enough Arabic exercise.”—Skip Eisiminger

Mrs. Malaprop: “She’s as headstrong as an allegory on the banks of the Nile.”

Mrs. Malaprop: “She’s as headstrong as an allegory on the banks of the Nile.”

Skip the B.S.

By Skip Eisiminger

“Simply put, a malapropism is impropaganda.”—The Wordspinner

Sterling (Skip) EisimingerCLEMSON South Carolina—(Weekly Hubris)—6/29/2015—The first time I telephoned Sue, she, suspecting an interior motive, said, “I’m not interesting.” But, of course, she was. And so was her mother, a person of gender, who told me once that New York needs a way to purge the effluent from their den of inequity. And when I asked Sue’s father what he did for a living, he said he mounted bugs in the NYU etymology lab.

My German-American parents were similarly afflicted with what the Germans call Zungensalat or “tongue salad.” Mother was forever yelling at me to shut the scream door, and Father worried I wasn’t getting enough Arabic exercise. For the most part, our mixed greens left us congenially dysfunctional. But when the Katz family, our Jewish neighbors, overheard mother say, “It’s time to Judenize the Katze,” they accused us of being “rabbit racists.” As Mother said, “With neighbors like these, who needs anemones?” Eventually, we were forced to leave the Lower East Side, naked as jaywalkers and, like Walt Whitman, take a fairy to Brooklyn.

It was here that I met Sue, my altar ego with the photogenic memory, and began my schooling. I did my best to read between the academic tea leaves, but I was never the clown prince. Sue, who felt life has too much realism, loved my antics, but in a mostly Italian neighborhood, my family felt like social piranhas. Eventually, the bias spread to my high school where, in the tenth grade, I was suspended when my teacher poised the following: “Who were our floundering fathers?” Well, that’s what I thought she said, and that’s why I answered, “Milton Pearl and Minnie Berle.”

The teacher charged me with caricature assassination, and the principle agreed in principal, so I was sent to nomad’s land. A few weeks later, the principle relaxed and said I might be readmitted after a conference with a parent or a cardigan. Sporting a new sweater, my father tried to explain how you can’t get blood from a termite, which may or may not have helped my case.

After returning to school, I sang the “Bronze Lullaby” in chorus, toned my abominable muscles in PE, built a model of the Sixteenth Chapel for art, and wrote an essay on Tolstoyevsky’s War and Punishment for English. I even convinced my journalism teacher that “grocery store” is redumnant. From a tough school off Flattush Avenue, I graduated magnum cum laude.

That summer, I proposed to Sue under the crapapple tree in her backyard. I also proposed that we splurge our savings until I could open a business. I knew it would be feast or salmon for a while, especially since we had no savings to pool, but I didn’t want her working as a cocktail mattress, which was her dream.

One day, a dyked-out clerk asked if I wanted paper or plastic, and I said, “I don’t care—I’m bisacksual.” Once and a while you get lucky in strife, and this was my turn: the store manager overheard what I’d said and offered me a job. He was planning to open a small restaurant in a corner of his grocery, “Custard’s Last Stand,” and he thought I’d be a good wit.

Given that the Ivory League wasn’t calling, I accepted.  When we opened, the menu featured everything from Baked Nebraska to sweat-and-sour pork. On the breakfast menu, we offered tea and strumpets and, for the kids, we gave away pink insulation on a cardboard stick. A year later, thinking business was booming, I asked the boss to garnish my celery, but he fired me for my nerve. I don’t want to cast any asparagus, but urbanite that he was, he didn’t know Black and Gus from a Black Angus.

It was just as well, for I had ground my last beast and fried my last thighs. When I came home, Sue was curled up in the feeble position, saying she was closed for altercations until further notice. It seems the conundrums I’d been using had been recalled by the Sturgeon General. At any rate, we soon had to call a middle wife to cut the umbrella cord. Sue said she wanted a pre-natal agreement, but I said that train had sailed.

After the baby was born, Sue looked pale and emancipated. Based on antidotal information, we decided it was post-nasal depression. A Pabst beer confirmed our diagnosis, and two aspergillums in a glass of water helped her feel better.

Then, like a massage from God, instead of the disillusion of our marriage I’d feared, the baby cured my channel vision, and I went fourth. I knew better than to put all my eggs in one basketball, so I took two jobs which required little speech: by day, I ran a valley-parking service; by night, I ran a mangled-care facility. Pretending to be moot was exhausting, but I eventually became a business typhoon.

Sue and I weren’t ready for hostage care just yet. At last, in the proper frame of mime, we had learned how to hide our half-hazard errors.

Note: Wikipedia’s lost, or last, word on malapropism: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malapropism.

About Sterling Eisiminger

Dr. Sterling (“Skip”) Eisiminger was born in Washington DC in 1941. The son of an Army officer, he traveled widely but often reluctantly with his family in the United States and Europe. After finishing a master’s degree at Auburn and taking a job at Clemson University in 1968, he promised himself that he would put down some deep roots. These roots now reach back through fifty years of Carolina clay. In 1974, Eisiminger received a Ph.D. from the University of South Carolina, where poet James Dickey “guided” his creative dissertation. His publications include Non-Prescription Medicine (poems), The Pleasures of Language: From Acropox to Word Clay (essays), Omi and the Christmas Candles (a children’s book), and Wordspinner (word games). He is married to the former Ingrid (“Omi”) Barmwater, a native of Germany, and is the proud father of a son, Shane, a daughter, Anja, and grandfather to four grandchildren, Edgar, Sterling, Spencer, and Lena.
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2 Responses to When Cucumber Vines Tangle with the Concubines: Malapropisms

  1. Will says:

    Wonderful, Skip!

  2. Skip says:

    Thanks, Will–I hope it makes Ted all better!

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