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My Personal Lexicon

Barbara McAfee Posted by Barbara McAfee.

Barbara McAfee is a musician, coach and consultant with over twelve years of experience in organizational change.


I wouldn’t be who I am without Dr.

I wouldn’t be who I am without Dr. Seuss.

When I was a little girl, I would walk into the hushed temple of my small town Carnegie Library and make a beeline straight to the Dr. Seuss shelf. I lived in hope that there would be a new Dr. Seuss book every single time I went to the library. There weren’t enough of them to satisfy my craving for the absurd, playful, language-loving stuff he made.

One of the many things I gleaned from his writing was the malleable nature of language. Words were toys. Words could be invented. Words could tickle the mind until the belly giggled.

Thanks to Theodor Geisel I’ve been inventing my own lexicon for much of my life. Here are a few of my favorites.

I call weak coffee “weasel pee.” This phrase came about during the Women’s Leadership Revival Tour I co-led with Margaret Wheatley. One of us spoke these words at the first taste of dreadful hotel coffee one morning. I can’t recall which of us said it, but the peals of laughter that followed its utterance echo in my memory.

A “mess o’ breakfast” is a concoction of lots of veggies with a small amount of egg and cheese. It’s a kind of reverse omelet. My favorite “mess’o’s” include chicken sausage, zucchini, kale, corn, mushrooms, potatoes, and onions.

I call my former spouse, John, my “wasband.” I didn’t coin this word myself. I originally heard it from my friend Teresa and I don’t know where she found it. It’s the perfect name for this now-friend whom I love to pieces. We are still searching for a parallel title for me. Before our divorce was finalized, he enjoyed calling me his “future former wife.” Nothing has emerged to replace that one.

John is responsible for another of my favorite words – “frimpy.” It’s used to describe a dress or skirt that is playful and short. Perhaps it is a kind of conjunction of the words “frilly” and “skimpy.”

I enjoy calling early morning “the butt-crack of dawn,” although I don’t recall where I first heard it.

My dear ones are often called “Yummyhead” (thanks, Catherine Wilson). Women friends are likely to be called “Girlie” as well. That one came from Grandma Mead, a family friend from my childhood. I always loved when she called me that with a twinkle in her brown eyes.

Beloved friend, Maren Showkeir, started our enduring friendship with these words, “I have the biggest nonsexual crush on you!” She recently told me that she didn’t make it up and can’t remember who did. Whatever its source, it’s become a favorite go-to phrase when I meet new people I adore.

I’m delighted that the next generation is making its presence known in my personal lexicon. My great-niece, Amaris, called one of her favorite foods “mushies” when she was small. Now and forever, I call mushrooms by that name. Her little brother, Lyric, named sparkling water “spicy water.” That’s just too perfect not to use.

Tell me, what words inhabit your personal lexicon?