I once had a distant relative, whose exact relationship to me is unclear. His name was Nate Malaprop-Spooner. The best I can figure, Nate was the great uncle of my third-cousin-twice-removed’s brother-in-law’s stepmother’s half sister’s godmother’s stunt double. Nate is remembered around the clan for his genius at butchering the English language in brilliantly creative ways. If there were a Guiness world record category for breaking the most rules of English grammar simultaneously, Nate would definitely be in unchallenged first place.
As a result, the guy sure was funny to listen to. He would pull to the “shudder” of the road to “yell right away” to an “avalanche” on its way to the “horse spittle” with its “Styrene” wailing. He’d go hunting for “eight-boink putts” with his “liver-action rifle.” He liked to “vocation” in “Sasquatch-a-one Candida” or take a “carob bean cruise” to “the Bananas” or “Jamocha” or the “Wittish Breast Indies”. He didn’t always travel to other countries, though. He made a point of being in “Nylons, Lusitania” every “Marly Craw”. He especially liked to frequent the “Rolaid tables” in “Lost Vagueness” because he was looking for a way to become “effluent” without having to perform “menial labor” like a “blue colored worker” for the rest of his life. He had owned a fascinating “monogomy” of pets which included a “bit pull,” an “Irish shutter,” a “laboratory retriever,” an “African gay parrot,” an “inguinal lizard,” a “hamper”, a “slime-ease cat,” and a “Petland shony.
Of course when anyone tried to correct his terminology, he would claim that it was just a “hairball” scheme to “blame the finger” at him and make him a “staffing lock”. When we showed him the proper definition in a dictionary, he asked what we were “incinerating”, protesting that he had never used the term we “reclused” him of. It was just a “pigment” of our imaginations, and we were “barking up a dead horse”. If we recorded him and played his voice back as proof, he considered it a “mute” point because we weren’t exactly “club scouts,” “as white as the dribbled snow” ourselves!
He went through a “phrase” in which he determined to change his “sedimentary” lifestyle. At first he tried running, starting out with “juggling,” and transitioning to the “hindered mitre dash”. He even entered the Boston “mastadon,” but had to “throw in the trowel” dripping with “precipitation” before he had barely gotten started. “Prostate” with “extinction,” he claimed to have developed a “snitch” in his side, which he blamed on not having done his “starching extra sizes” before he started. Somebody suggested that he probably was dehydrated from the heat, but Nate dismissed the suggestion, insisting that “it wasn’t the heat, but the humility” that had “snapped his strength”.
As it became “oblivious” to him that he was making a “skeptical” out of himself, he decided to “shunt” such “carnival-vascular” activities and “consecrate” on something less “vinegerous” like the “vulnerable spurt” of “angeling”. Accordingly, he bought a fishing pole and located a “comfrey” spot under a “popular tree” by a “blabbing” brook where he could “commute” with nature. Later he related that if he had not “expectorated” it first hand, he would never have been able to “phantom” how “relapsing” it could be to listen to the “rumpling” water, the leaves “wrestling” in the wind and the “churds burping” to each other. Before he knew it, his head began to nod and he faded into “a Bolivian”. At that point he “tippled” over and “honked his bed” a “blushing crow” on a “gronite outcrapping,” resulting in a serious “percussion”.
That “dramatic” brain injury marked the end of his fishing career for all “intensive purposes”. Undaunted, he decided to become a professional singer. He started with “Curry Okie” bars and gradually began getting “gags” singing “acalpulco” in night clubs. Actually he did pretty well at that, because everybody thought he was a comedy act. Some of his most popular songs were “A Soy Named Boo,” “Widge over Bubbled Trotters,” “Even Cowgirls Bet the Glues,” “Paint the Sty with Scars,” “Keeled with a Cyst,” “Rake me Home, Country Toads” and “Man Sty, You’re Banned”. One day he saw an ad soliciting folks to audition for what he thought was the “Oprah” show. When he returned from the audition he seemed sullen and traumatized. Nobody ever heard him sing again. Under duress, he reluctantly revealed that the folks at the “Yew Nork Noeopolitan Oprah” had been very “insulating” and tried to get him to try on a “hamlet” with horns on it. It had been the most “humidifying” experience of his life.
After that, poor Nate just kind of drifted for a while. He related later that during those “hardscramble” days he became a professional “oboe”, eating “scripts” out of “dampers” and sleeping on “bark pinches”. Without proper “attrition” he soon began to “shiver” up until he was so “emancipated” you could have knocked him over with a “fender”. Although he looked like “a bone of bags” he “resembled” anyone who tried to “insist” him. He wasn’t about to accept “chastity”. He said the “tuning point” came when a “hopeless” shelter “indicted” him to take “a vintage” of their “faculty”.
While he had been homeless, Nate must have gotten involved in some shady activities, because he became paranoid of law enforcement officers. Whenever he saw them coming he would “make like a tree and split”. If they “stuck up a convolution” with him, he suspected that they were some sort of “underclever defective” or “secret urgent”. He would try to “bleed into the woodwork” or give them the “gold shudder” if possible without acting too “auspicious”. He always took “consolidation” in the fact that there was a “statue of limitations”. We never found out what crime he had committed. Nate “voweled” to take that “misery” to his grave with him and until the day he lay “deader than a hangnail” he never “indulged that inflammation” to anyone.
Although Nate always liked to portray himself as a colorful “caricature”, he never was completely “stratified” with his “loot in life”. I think he tried as many jobs as he had hairs on his head which was probably about fifty or sixty. For a few weeks he sold fire “distinguishers” door to door. He worked for a “constriction” company. He became a professional “tarbender”. He was a dog groomer for a while until he accidentally “animated” the left ear of a “spotted dilation”. The poor creature ran home “whelping” all the way, at which point the “furriest” owners “shooed the cert” off of Nate, effectively forcing his business into “bank rupture”.
Nate was even a nurse’s aide for a while. After reviewing his medical chart entries, however, the hospital staff asked him to leave. He tended to record things like: “The autopsy results were positive. Patient is here complaining about that.” “69-year-old male here for a pregnancy test.” “Pulses are fixed and dilated.” “Patient complained of an obnoxious order coming from a wound on her leg.”
Perhaps his longest lasting job was at a parochial school. There he taught the kids all sorts of wonderful things. “You can lead a horse to manure, but you can’t make him drink.” “The walls of medieval cathedrals were sported by flying buttocks.” “Under the Constitution the people enjoyed the right to keep bare arms.” “Socrates died from an overdose of wedlock.” “A citizen should respect all duly constipated authorities.” “Louis Pasteur discovered a cure for rabbis.” “King Harold mustarded his troops and conquered the Dames at the Bottle of Hastings.” “A proverb is a word used in place of a verb.” “Julius Ceasar’s throat was cut behind his back.” “Henry VIII found walking difficult because he had an abbess on his knee.” “The government of England was a limited mockery.” “The American colonists demanded no taxis without regimentation.” “The Convolution of the United States was adapted to secure domestic hostility.” “Abraham Lincoln became America’s greatest precedent.”
It was amusing to eat at a restaurant with the guy. He ordered things like “Pie Alamo” and “sore cream on the slide”. He demanded his “rake stare” and liked “oral and vigor” on his salad. He always ordered his pizzas with “acrimonies” and he liked his coffee “blank”. Hamburgers were “hum-boogers,” malted milks were “milted malks,” appetizers were “apple teasers,” and french fries were “fresh fires”. We never complained, though because Nate always insisted on “ticking up the pab” and “tripping” the waitress.
I’m ashamed to admit that we tended to tease Nate unmercifully. I fear that our insensitive cruelty hastened his premature death in 1981. You see, in 1975, he abruptly left the country, no doubt searching for a peaceful neighborhood where the residents would not “spiticize his creech”. A couple of years later he surfaced in “Papau Goo Ninny”. There he must have found a gentle accepting people willing to overlook his grammatical peccadillos, because he soon moved into a grass hut in the highlands and became fascinated with collecting historic carved wooden thrones formerly used by cannibal chieftans.
He would store his treasures in the attic of his grass hut. Unfortunately, Nate never bothered to reinforce his bamboo rafters, because in June of 1981, moments after a friend, Bobby Lever had finished helping him lug his most recent heavy mahogany throne upstairs, the whole thing collapsed, crushing Nate to death under several tons of accumulated thrones. Bobby was quite shaken up by his own narrow escape. He kept repeating, “People who live in grass houses shouldn’t stow thrones.” When asked how he felt about losing his friend under such tragic circumstances, Bobby tersely replied, “Better Nate than Lever.”
Al-a-ka-ket interj. What you promise to do to your neighbor’s dog if it comes onto your property and tears up your garbage one more time. <Alakaket with mah Bunny Boots, then Ah’ll shoot et!>
Am-bler n. A bull caribou that is taking his time coming within range while your muscles begin to spasm from holding your bow at full draw.
A-nuk-tu-vuk Pass n. A flirtatious overture from your Inupiat co-worker, Anna Ktuvuk
Arc-tic En-try n.
1. A small vestibule built onto the front of an Alaskan house intended to provide a buffer zone between the subzero temperatures outside, and the warmth within. Usually full of Bunny Boots, bottles of Heet, parkas, and 37 thousand pairs of frozen socks.
2. A hole cut in the ice to accommodate contestants in the Polar Bear Plunge.
At-tu adv. A consenting reply to the clerk at Sportsman’s Warehouse when he asks you if you need to buy a new scope for the rifle you just purchased. < Sure, I’ll take attu.>
Bar-row n. What you have to use to wheel your Matanuska Valley cabbage to the Alaska State Fair.
1. The annual season between the time the snow melts and the forest fires begin, when every square inch of ground outside is transformed into a bottomless quagmire, and every square inch of floor inside your house resembles a New Orleans basement after Katrina.
2. What your spouse does to you when you spend her Permanent Fund Dividend on a backpack and a new fly rod package.
Bush Pi-lot n. What you become when a grizzly bear charges you, and you fall off a cliff in your haste to escape, but you land in a bush on your way down only to have the bush come out by its roots.
Cant-well aux v. An expression used to explain to your wife why it is difficult for you to open a jar of pickles in the aftermath of a monster Northern Pike turning your hand into cole slaw while you were trying extract a treble hook it had swallowed.
1. A storage shed that looks like a miniature log cabin on stilts designed to break a trapper’s neck when he falls while ascending the ladder while balancing a caribou quarter on his shoulder.
2. Strips of green paper used for currency, of which there is a never enough to purchase the necessary equipment to properly enjoy the Alaskan wilderness.
1. A person who has recently moved to Alaska. Typically identified by such naive behavior as failing to wear clothing appropriate to the climate, inquiring about the location of the nearest shopping mall or golf course, licking hoarfrost from metal surfaces, or walking in the woods without a gun for bear protection.
2. The larval stage of a sourdough.
1. A mythical mountain that materializes out of the clouds above the Alaskan range only once every hundred years. According to folklore, it is the highest point on the North American Continent, and the tallest mountain in the world, base to peak.
2. The clever, vivid, computer-generated photographs of Mt. McKinley that appear in every travel brochure, atlas and gift shop. Many of these are only able to be distinguished as hoaxes by the cloudless blue backdrop of sky, and the fact that the entire mountain is actually visible.
Haines n. A high-falutin’ clothing accessory worn by tourons and cheechakos. Haines are abandoned for Long Johns upon graduating to sourdough status.
Ho-mer n. What Barry Bonds of the Alaska Goldpanners used to hit all the time.
Hy-da-burg v. What you do on the Labor Day cookout at Quartz Lake, when your wife asks you if that isn’t your sixth hamburger, and if you’ve forgotten the promise you made to start dieting.
Ice Fog n.
1. A thick winter fog made of suspended ice particles that leaves the trees coated with ice crystals and obscures visibility at every intersection in Fairbanks.
2. A description of one’s mental acuity after catching hypothermia from ice fishing too long without warming up.
Ju-neau adv. A question normally asked by a nosy person in an attempt to extract inconsequential information which you had no reason to commit to memory. The proper response is “Yes, but I’m bound by a non-disclosure agreement not to divulge that information.”
Ke-nai n. A necessary physical attribute in order to be able to spot Dall Sheep high upon a mountain.
Ko-yuk-uk interj. What Santa Claus’ laugh actually sounds like.
Mo-squi-to n. The Alaska State Bird. Squadrons of between 30,000 and half a million will typically conceal themselves in a square yard of sphagnum moss or low-lying vegetation. When an unsuspecting pedestrian happens by, they burst suddenly from their ambush and attempt to drain him of all body fluids before his body hits the ground. Useful for chasing away tourons, environmentalists, and real estate developers.
Muk-luk n. The gamble you take when you drive an ATV into a bog.
Mus-keg n. The smell of an omelette that has been left out of the refrigerator all week on a stack of books in a University of Alaska freshman dorm room.
1. Oriented Strand Board.
2. A popular siding for Alaskan homes. In fact, the only official siding approved by the Alaska State Builder’s Association.
1. A ceremonial feast among natives of the Pacific Northwest in which gifts are distributed, speeches and dances are made, and vast quantities of dead animal parts are consumed.
2. A fastener on a honey bucket, designed to keep the fragrance contained until time to transfer the contents to the outhouse.
Skag-way n. A driveway that has been torn up from excessive snow machine traffic. A skagway may be deeply grooved, or even rutted from the impression of the steering skags on the bottom of the skis.
1. Crystalline sunshine.
2. The substance most often used for groundcover by Alaskan landscaping contractors. <Just shovel some snow over that pile of rusty car parts, Pete. No one will see it till breakup.>
3. A prerequisite for many Alaskan sports such as mushing, skiing, snow machining, and hypothermia.
Sol-dot-na adv. A regretful reply in response to your neighbor’s inquiry regarding what ever became of your old mining claim. <Sold. Oughtn’ta.>
1. A delicious form of bread made from a fermented, stinking glob of goo that lurks in a crock on the back of the stove.
2. [from sour < A particularly obnoxious body odor, and dough < the texture of a potbelly] A seasoned Alaskan resident.
3. The mature adult form of the Cheechako.
Ter-mi-na-tion Dust n. The first snow of the year to whiten the tops of nearby mountain peaks. Usually spotted two days after the last of the previous winter’s snow had melted off of the same mountains.
Tok v. An activity that Senator Gary Wilkins must have participated in just prior to reading the Alaska State Constitution’s position on Borough formation.
Tour-on n. Similar to a cheechako only worse. A touron is a dangerous species of tourist incapable of comprehending the vastness and rugged, pristine wilderness of The Last Frontier. Tourons may perform such mindless acts as attempting to feed a grizzly bear, fishing in a gravel pit, complaining to the Park Service about allowing the mosquitoes to become so aggressive, or inquiring about the best time to see the Northern Lights on June 21st. A touron can be identified by the camera permanently attached to its hand, the Alaskan souvenir T-shirt it is wearing, and the motor home it has parked in the middle of the road on a hairpin curve while it wanders about picking fireweed or trying to cuddle a moose calf whose mother is approaching at full charge.
Valdez n. A great deal that you found at Value Village, consisting of an old ammo box full of metal parts shaped like a capital D which you can use to make T junctions in dog harnesses.
1. A spicy beverage prepared by leaving your Sarsaparilla soda sitting on the picnic table until a wasp crawls in it. For maximum flavor, it must be drunk before the wasp drowns.
2. The sound one emits shortly after ingesting a big gulp of Wasilla.
Whittier n. What a sourdough fancies himself to be in comparison to his roommate when they find themselves exchanging puns while locked deep in the throes of cabin fever.