Thursday, October 14, 2004

Word Whores
Now and then I'll coin a phrase while talking with a friend, and something about the phrase will catch our fancy, and it'll become a staple in our conversations. If it's a particularly useful expression, it'll seep into conversations I have with other people, and once I've explained it's exact meaning to them, they may pick it up and begin to use it. Thus is a small private lexicon born…

The most successful example of my private vocabulary is the phrase, "Not my dog." About a million years ago, (not really, it only seems like that ) Miss K and I and our then-partners were watching a movie together – "The Pink Panther Strikes Again". There's a scene in which Inspector Clouseau (Peter Sellers) walks up to a hotel desk. There is a clerk sitting behind the high desk, reading a paper, and there's a dog tied up to the front of the desk. Inspector Clouseau looks at the dog and asks the man, "Does your dog bite?"
The man answers, "No, Monsieur."
Clouseau bends down to pet the dog and it growls and bites him. "I thought that you said your dog does not bite!" Clouseau exclaims in great indignation.
The man leans forward over the desk and peers down at the dog there, and then says to Clouseau, "Oui, Monsieur - but that is not my dog."
Miss K and I thought that scene extremely funny, and somehow also, profound. And soon thereafter, the phrase "that's not my dog" entered our conversation. When Miss K and I began saying that, we meant: "If you blunder into a negative situation because of your own badly-made decisions, don't come crying to me to take responsibility for it."
The discussions we use the phrase most often are about jealousy: "Oh, she's upset that I'm dating her ex-lover? Hey, that's not my dog."
Codependent behavior: "Look, if her boyfriend wants to play video games all day instead of looking for a job, that's not her dog, she should be focused on her own career."
And unreasonable expectations: "Your client was mad because he couldn't get a same-day appointment with you? Definitely not your dog."
A number of my other friends have picked up on this phrase over the years, and even my mother, who is a therapist, liked it and now uses it with her clients, a fact I find very entertaining.

A recent addition to the private lexicon: "a princess moment". This one came into being in a conversation between Roman and I. When you have a princess moment, you're sort of having a moment of jealousy or envy, but it's been so heavily leavened with a sense how really, really silly you're being that you have to laugh at yourself even as you think, "No, no, don't you understand? I want that! It's all about meeeeeeee! Me me me me meeeee!" This phrase is especially applicable when a) the person you're being jealous/envious of has in no way taken anything away from you in obtaining their good fortune, and b) you're already so loaded with good things that, Christ, you probably couldn't even handle any more. Complete disregard of both those facts is essential to the princess moment, as is the total awareness that your emotional response is rooted in the unrestrained Id of a two-year-old. It's an example of having two contradictory emotional responses at one time. You just have to laugh about it.