“Have a nice yesterday!”

“Have a nice yesterday!” said the lady at the drive-thru window as she handed me the turkey on pita I got my dog since I’ve gone keto and pita is a no-no.

I took the bag from her hand, paused for a beat to have the statement register as confusion, and drove away raising the bag slightly in recognition that she was a person who had not yet been replaced by a kiosk.

Why yesterday? I wondered. Time travel had been my latest topic of choice for scifi reflection, and I briefly entertained the idea that I was a creature swimming against entropy in an anti-time wavelength similar to the tacking of a sailboat moving against the wind. While it was a neat idea, I sounded out the phrase in my head and quickly understood she had not said, “Have a nice yesterday!” but with a misstep of enunciation in a stumbling midwestern drawl, she said, “Have a nice rest-o’-yer’day.”

Kansas.

Homonyms, homophones, and eye-rhyme slant-ophones are the curse of the schizophrenic and the scifi writer alike. They’re also some of the tools of neurolinguistic programmers and politicians for front-loading suggestions into the minds of an audience, like gesturing to the sky with one hand -the other hand on the chest- and saying with a rolled pronunciation, “Look at this guy. This guy is beautiful,” instead of, “Look at this sky. This sky is beautiful.” Political pundits regularly say of politicians they don’t like, “His tragedy was …” instead of, “His strategy was …” and thereby implant the subconscious idea of a dire mistake. Even the well-rehearsed, casual, rolled utterance of “the Prison-dent” puts in the audience’s minds that “the President” needs to be in prison. People use these tools all the time, and what’s more, they’re taught to use them by professional hypnotists and neurolinguistic programmers alike.

Taco Bell has an item on its menu called the “Value Bowl.” Sound it out. Is the “Value Bowl” actually “valuable” when pronounced lazily? Did you hear the one about the girl who worked in the stable? All the horse men knew her (all the horse manure). And when discussing the Asian restaurant you recently visited, was there entirely too much “shit talking” with the owner about the meal, or was there just too much “shiitake?”

People mishear things all the time, and most of the time it happens, they attribute the mistake to a fault they can’t really be blamed for; temperature differentials in the air and barometric pressure must have morphed the words. Sure, they’ll apologize and say they must have misheard you, but they rarely pay enough attention to language to blame you for your mispronounciation. But … what if you’re a slime creature from D.C. who swims lize a snake against the stream of ordered language, intentionally saying the wrong think to elicit the response you intended?

I unplugged from television a long time ago, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a statistically significant change lately -depending on the media outlet- in the pronunciation of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s last name. The name can be pronounced to resemble a thinker who either mulls deeply on ideas or the smelly farm animal known as the mule. It kind of depends on whatever light the advertising salespoople want to present him in.

There was a controversy recently over the word “spying” and whether or not “surveillance” is “spying.” Some think it is, some say it isn’t, but “spying” has at its center -when verbally uttered- an “eye.” It brings to mind images of an eye in a magnifeyeing glass, the game, “I spy with my little eye,” and dark trench coats wearing dark hats doing dark things. “Surveillance” does not conjur up the same images as “spying” does throughout popular culture as sneaky, mischeivous, or underhanded. And yet, there’s virtually no difference in the two definitions in the dictionary, with the exception that there seem to be more references to visually “watching” under the word “surveillance.” However, that word still doesn’t bring to the mind’s eye an entire lifetime of American cultural memories as being something snaky and sly. Ssrsly. “Surveillance” simply comes across as more official because it has fewer ideas, characters, and movies attached to it than “spying.” And those words help change minds.

Words are the nature of the writer’s medium. We work inside of them and roll them across the tongue sometimes if we feel alone. Words are the writer’s most lasting love. As writers and neurolinguistic programmers proceed to teach politicians and companies how to use their beloved words as wonders and weapons, it would benefit people to pay better attention to whether someone today says it’s a “great day” or a “grey day” or “grade A.”

Because you learned something today, today is a great day.

Have a nice yesterday.

--

--

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store