Everyone has certain words they keep in the back of their mind, ready to haul out at a moment’s notice to fill gaps in a conversation.
Three of my favorites are “taco”, “cinderblock”, and “tap-dancing”. Once I even constructed a sentence using all three, about someone tap-dancing on a cinderblock while eating a taco.
Every time my wife sees any of those words written in one of my columns, she says, “Couldn’t think of anything to write about this week, eh?”
I think that’s unfair. “Taco”, “cinderblock”, and “tap-dancing” are all perfectly fine words, with honorable pedigrees.
Here’s why I fell in love with those words so much, and try to work them into sentences every chance I get.
As a little boy growing up in San Bernardino, California, I was a fussy eater.
When my family would go get drive-through Mexican food at Baker’s Tacos (a popular southern California fast-food establishment), I’d insist on getting a hamburger instead.
Well, one day in about fifth grade I decided to man up and try one of these “taco” things my dad would eat three or four of.
After my first one, I thought, “Where have you been all my life?!” and have enjoyed tacos ever since. To this day, that first Baker’s Taco is still the standard I compare all others to.
No, cinderblocks aren’t just for construction anymore.
“Cinderblock” instantly became one of my favorite words when I was in college, and rented a really bad movie (Fat Guy Goes Nutzoid, if you must know) from the video rental shop down the hill from my apartment.
When I walked in carrying the VHS tape, the clerk saw me, ducked behind the counter, and cried out in panic, “You’re going to beat me up for making you watch Fat Guy Goes Nutzoid, that cinderblock of a movie!”
The combination of the clerk’s reaction and hearing that movie described by that word — “cinderblock” as an adjective instead of a noun — struck me as immensely funny at the time, and has stayed with me ever since.
I’m not sure exactly where I was inspired to fall in love with the word “tap-dancing”.
Searching back through my memories, the earliest one I can think of associated with tap-dancing is an old Warner Brothers cartoon set in the old west — Bugs Bunny repeatedly distracted gunslinger Yosemite Sam by breaking into tap-dancing (in the middle of a dusty street, yet.)
Then, when Yosemite Sam couldn’t resist joining in the tap-dancing, Bugs blew him up or something. Now that’s classic American humor!
Page 2 of 2 - When my youngest kid started taking dance lessons last year and showed up at home with a pair of actual, real-life tap shoes, I was thrilled. I’d never seen any before, and was fascinated by the slabs of metal on the soles.
One final note: I discovered just now that “cinderblock”, “VHS”, and “Nutzoid” don’t get through a computer’s spell check program.
I’m not surprised the latter two were flagged, but how can “cinderblock” not be in the computer’s dictionary? Don’t the beta male computer nerds who compile spell check dictionaries know what a cinderblock is?