Sunday, January 2, 2011

Wackus Dackus





The local wackus dackus is much less officious. Above we have a homemade dam made from cement and cinder in all forms and reinforced with rusty cans, pails, bedsprings, and chains.

After awhile, groups begin to speak a shared language. Shared experiences are typically the root of new language.

Outstanding examples are often given to illustrate this concept. Inuit languages have dozens (more? less?) words for snow. Makes sense - in a culture where snow is a significant part of life, and also, in many cases, alters what one will wear and do that day, more so than a culture with millions of miles of road, snowblowers, municipal taxes to cover plowing, and SUVs.

Most of my collaborative contributions to language are nonsense words. Bah dah beep! and wackus dackus are two examples. They express my experiences and my surroundings which I share only with my spouse. They make sense to no one else. I'll try to define these phrases:

Bah dah beep! Noun. Nonsense. Phrase. In conversation, communicates a misunderstanding or the speaker's lack of clear meaning. What are you talking about? [2006-2007; Phonetic interpretation of a grey catbird's exuberant chatter.]

Wackus dackus Adj. 1. A mess or jumble. The contents of the filing cabinet are wackus dackus. 2. Junk. This homemade dam is full of wackus dackus. [c. 2003]

Wackus dackus, I think, deserves at least a few sentences. In a former life, the author and her now spouse traveled to an unnamed Midwestern city to conduct research on an unlikely topic on behalf of a public institution. That institution arranged several nights of accommodations at a private club for the region's elite businessmen.

Yes, businessmen - women had been allowed admission only in the recent past, and as guests previously had to enter via a door other than the front door. This reminds me of Mississippi John Hurt's Build Me a Pallet on Your Floor lyrics:

Please don't let my good girl catch you here.
She might shoot you.
Might cut and stab you too.
No telling what she might do.

For obvious reasons, the comparison is a bit awkward.

Back to wackus dackus: The unnamed private club's acronym morphed into "wackus dackus." This illuminates one way language is created: the need for secrecy and communication when the enemy is close. And, another force in the creation of language: the need to create distance.

It's gauche to criticize your host openly, especially when they could probably ruin your descendants' chances of attending college or running for public office. It's inviting temporary homelessness to walk through the lobby of the private club with a cassette deck blaring "Danzig's Twist of Cain" or worse yet with no necktie (Jared) and scuffed shoes (me).

I also never utter the private club's name again to aid in forgetting the humiliation of being locked out of our room because the office thought we had overstayed our invitation. Judging by the desk clerk's attitude, he certainly could tell I was actually an employee of an chain bookstore who lived in a one bedroom in one of New York City's outer boroughs, and shopped at Western Beef (Barf) grocery stores regularly. No, I was not a member of the private club, but a faker wearing a thrift store blazer and was saving up for a pair of new shoes. As a lower court official for the private club, he solemnly distributed cigars to the members and justice to any offenders. So, wackus dackus is the way we remember this brief time.

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