The worst word in the whole wide world

Just started reading Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris and his first story is about seeing a speech therapist. I’m literally only two pages in, but I’m experiencing major elementary school flashbacks.  Hopefully I can compare my own experience with the rest of this chapter and no longer feel alone in a world of perfectly-pronounced words.

I say a lot of words differently, mostly thanks to some genetic tongue mutation my family must possess. Milk is “melk”, pecan is “pee-cawn” instead of “pee-can”, and that sweet sticky goo is “carmel”, not “caramel”. This is why I don’t speak in public.

When I was little, I had trouble with my R’s. Not always, but there were a couple words I just couldn’t say.  R is the reason I denied my Spanish heritage by taking French instead (you don’t say half the letters in French words, so I knew I’d be safer there). I sound like lion cub with severe tooth decay and a mouth full of marshmallows when I try to roll my R’s.

I’d get embarrassed when reading out loud in class, so my 2nd grade teacher recommended I see the speech therapist: surely she would be able to fix my mouth.

The teacher was nice enough – at the end of each session I got a dum-dum and we worked on my issues by playing word games. What I hated was that damn tape recorder.
I had to listen to myself say those hated words over and over and over. I had to bring it home and practice. It was torture.

The worst word of all, the one that still makes me shudder to this day was absolutely unavoidable in my every day elementary school life.


I spent two years trying to say this word before the system failed me. I “graduated” from speech class and tried to pass myself off as smart in my enrichment classes by continually avoiding referring to any and all coloring utensils.

I was able to avoid the word throughout middle school, but I started my first job as a kids’ party hostess in high school.  I worked at a paint-your-own pottery studio and every party started out with coloring and crafts as the guests arrived.  When it was time to clean-up the supplies before starting the pottery, I did a peppy little “welcome to the party” speech.  This speech always concluded with me saying “everyone grab a bunch of crayons and I’ll collect them in the crayon bucket!”  I would usually try to say this part fairly quickly to avoid detection from the parents or ridicule from the kids. God forbid I lose complete control over the party or get tipped less because I still couldn’t match the vocabulary of a two year old.

The worst part about the word crayon is there are absolutely no synonyms you can use to replace it.  “Colors” sounds like baby-talk and “wax coloring apparatus” just gets you strange looks.

I still can’t say it. I continually get made fun of by friends and family and the sight of Crayola products still makes me a little queasy.



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