We have trouble with pronouns in our house. Oh, we are past the pronoun – verb agreement issues that plagued our early courtship. Once I explained to Joel that I couldn’t, in good conscience, allow him to continue to say, “He don’t,” and “we was,” he eagerly eradicated those problems. It’s only when he’s engaged in a particularly virulent argument that he regresses.
No, the pronoun issues we have now, relate to antecedents. For example, Joel will walk in after teaching in another town all day long and say, “I was talking to him today and he said he is going to that deal.”
Joel describes my blank look as “blink pause blink pause blink blink pause.”
Let’s talk about the use of “deal” as a pronoun. As a former English teacher, I can assure you that pronouns go beyond “he,” “she,” and “it.” “Deal” is Joel’s favorite. Let me give you some real-life examples:
*When running late for the school program that Joel has no desire to attend, but will hum along to in an embarrassingly loud vibrato once there: “What time is the deal?”
*When examining a mysterious, gooey object on the sofa cushion that very well could be a booger: “What is this deal?”
*When asking why my teenage daughter seems moody: “What’s her deal?”
*When trying to locate his keys: “Have you seen my deals?”
“Deal” is such a versatile word! Just about the only meanings we do not assign to it are its actual definitions. For example, we “hand out” cards rather than deal them. We make “pacts” rather than “deals” when bribing our children with candy to act like normal human beings.
What is the etymology of this word? Is it a shortened form of “deelybopper,” another one of Joel’s favorite all-purpose terms? Perhaps it’s a shortened form of “ordeal”? No matter what its origin, in our house, if you can figure out what the “deal” is, you’re well on your way to understanding what’s going on.
Joel says I deliberately misunderstand him. He gets frustrated when I have to ask a lot of questions to get to his meaning. I prefer to call it Socratic discussion. He says I interpret everything he says in a negative way and twist it to show myself in a positive light. See now, I take that as a compliment, because it proves that I view our communication as self-esteem building.
No matter how obscure Joel’s meaning is, we work together and eventually come to an understanding. For example, here’s a conversation we really did have the other day:
Joel: There was a beetle in the deal today.
Me (remembering that we had discussed roaches this morning): Oh no! Where?
Joel: In the deal. You didn’t go.
Me: Blink. Pause. Blink. Pause. Blink. Blink. Pause. Oh, you mean in the movie theater?
Joel: Yes. But it might have been one of those other ones, those stones.
Me: Weird. Was it dead then?
Joel: Mick Jagger?
Me: OOOOOOHHHHH! A BEATLE! In the movie? Paul McCartney?
Joel: Yes. Paul McCartney. In the movie. Today.
I almost think that maybe the harder we have to work to find meaning, the more valuable that discovery is in the end. I get such a sense of accomplishment when I have deciphered Joel’s code. The other day, Joel yelled from the laundry room, “Hey, honey! Can I wash this deal in hot?”
I yelled back, “What’s the “deal”?
He said, “A shirt.”
I said, “I don’t know. What’s it say?”
“May the Force be with you,” he responded.
Once I grasped the true deeper meaning of Joel’s question, which was actually, “Can you come back here to the laundry room and wash this shirt?” my search for connection with him was satisfied and I was able to move beyond the confusion.