In a steamy kitchen, Mom busily prepares dinner for our family of seven. She simultaneously pulls quart jars of preserved peaches out of the canner while flipping potatoes on the stove. My younger brother walks in the kitchen and says, “Mom, I ran over a bird.”
“Ah, that’s too bad, it’ll be okay, I know it feels sad ,” said Mom.
“Dad will be mad.” said my brother.
Double take from Mom.
My brother answers her questioning look, “Not a feathered bird, a sprinkler bird.”
“Oh, I’ll tell Dad, he will fix it, don’t worry. Go finish mowing the lawn,” said Mom.
Living in southeastern Washington state, where grass and crops require irrigation to survive, we call the sprinklers, perched on irrigation pipes, birds. It worked for us, most of the time. My brother finished mowing the lawn. Dad glued a coupler between the broken pipes and the bird sprayed water again after an irrigation valve was opened.
We used the word bird, for irrigation, frequently. We got paid by the number of birds we moved. We moved birds every day. We unplugged birds. We took off birds with broken springs and replaced them with new birds. We carried extra birds around with us in the farm trucks.
Since moving to New York, the word bird has totally swapped over for me. It just happened. No effort on my part because we don’t have irrigation in Warwick. When I say bird, I’m definitely referring to feathered creatures. Blue birds, robins, blue jays, cardinals, swallows, finches.
Another word, however, took me about five years to swap out. Or unlearn. Or get. In a nutshell, the swap out took effort and understanding. I just could not figure out why New Yorkers looked at me funny when I’d talk about pop. My husband finally put it together and explained, “They say soda here.”
Not weird that pop is called soda here and pop in Washington but it’s weird trying to remember to say pop when visiting the Pacific northwest and soda here.
Sometimes, I lack the patience and etiquette to bother speaking with appropriate words altogether.
Last week, I’m at the pool shop collecting my weekly pool care supplies and remember to say, “Oh yes, one more thing I need help with. The edge of the hose thingy broke off the thingy I hook it too and I probably need a whole new thingy instead of just a piece of a thingy.”
The pool specialists and owners, Pool Ladies, as I call them, did a double take, but within minutes I had what I needed and was headed home to swim in water instead of use it to irrigate.