It’s Wednesday’s Word, and you know what that means: write something – an essay, poem, or flash fiction – based on Wordsmith.org’s word of the day and post it by midnight. You can find past writings under Wednesday’s Word on the sidebar to the right.
This week, Wordsmith.org gives us words that hint at techniques writers should avoid, like pleonasm (excessively verbose writing) and apophasis (which, when I pronounced it, made me think “preposterous!” Even after reading the definition, I had no idea what it meant) and then today’s word:
sesquipedality. noun. The practice of using long words.
Well, that’s a mouthful and a tongue-twister and a double-dog-dare when it comes to working it into this writing exercise. But, give me a second cup of strong coffee, and I’m all over a dare.
Betsy loved to talk. When she heard about an intern position at Radio Station WMRK, she printed off the application materials and sat down, that afternoon, with a fine point pen. She printed in crisp, bold letters and filled each information box full. She Fed-Exed the application and was thrilled when they called her for an interview two days later.
She phoned her mother to tell her of the news, but instead of sharing in the excitement, her mother delivered a warning.
“Speak slowly. Be concise.”
“Oh, mother.” Betsy hung up the phone and mumbled to herself as she ironed her interview outfit.
Sure, Betsy knew her proclivity towards chatter had gotten her into trouble a time or two. And, yes, sometimes when she got nervous, words rose to the surface and rushed out of her mouth so fast that a single sentence ran together like one long word. But, that’s what made Betsy perfect for the job at the radio station. Radio was all about filling space with words.
And, that’s exactly what she told Mr. Parker, the station manager, when he asked her what she knew about radio.
“It’s about information and entertainment and turning silence into sounds,” she said.
“Well, yes and no.”
“I’m just perfect for the job. I love to talk and I always have something to say and there isn’t a time when I’m at a loss for words. I’d be a superstar behind the microphone. I’m an independent learner and I’m tech-savvy. I could run a show smooth as butter. No false starts, no dead air, if you know what I mean.” Betsy took a breath.
Mr. Parker nodded. “I see,” he said.
“When I say I’m an independent learner, I mean that I practically trained myself on the cash register at Piggly Wiggly because the manager said he didn’t have time to deal with me and if I could read I could figure it out. Which at the time I thought was rude. That was one reason I quit that job — because of the manager I mean, not because I couldn’t read.”
Mr. Parker settled into his chair.
“And, when I say I can fill space with words, I mean I’m a real lover of words, as you can see from my two-page cover letter. I have a lot to say and I say it well. Not to brag, but show me one place where the grammar is questionable or a vocabulary word misused.” She inhaled. “No sir, Mr. Parker, you wouldn’t have to worry one bit about dead air time.”
“I imagine not.” He scratched his head.
Mr. Parker sipped his coffee and let Betsy go on for another five minutes. Then, he explained that he would give her the job.
“You lack experience in this line of work, but you’re definitely entertaining. However, you’ll be working behind the scenes, not behind the microphone.”
Betsy was disappointed, but she took the job anyway.
The first day at the station was magical. The morning DJ, Jonathan Quinn, introduced Betsy and gave her two whole seconds to say hello. She squeezed in greetings to her mother and a big hello to her best friend Patti who worked at Murphy’s.
“I heart the Irish!” Betsy said and laughed just before Quinn cut her off.
“She’s a live one!” He said. “I don’t know what she puts in her coffee, but toss a little in mine!”
Betsy giggled all the way down the hall from the studio to her desk.
By Friday, though, Quinn’s demeanor changed. He completely ignored Betsy. In fact, no one said “boo” to her for her entire shift that day. Not talking put Betsy in a state of panic. By the time lunch rolled around, she was about to burst.
At the end of every shift, Quinn read through the Hollywood Beat. He spoke the first line of the news stream just as Betsy walked into the studio with a last minute update. Quinn held up his index finger. That was the third time he did that to Betsy that morning, as if she didn’t see the station light on. She glared at the back of Quinn’s head and stayed mute. That was, until he misspoke when he read the story about Regis Philbin’s latest blunder.
“Regis getting handsy with Nicki Ming.” Quinn said.
“That’s not right!” Betsy burst out.
Quinn turned around. He leaned sideways toward the microphone. “Looks like I’m getting a little feedback here, from the intern, folks.”
“Not feedback, Mr. Quinn, just a correction.” Betsy said. The words bubbled up and she couldn’t stop them from escaping. She stepped closer to his microphone.
“It’s Minaj, not Ming,” she said. “You’re a great DJ, Mr. Quinn, but perhaps you need glasses. I mean, I don’t know exactly how old you are, though I can see the gray emerging from your sideburns – which looks very distinguished you can be sure. But, at a certain age everything changes – my mother says anyways – so that a small A and a J together could look like a G. If I squint, I can see it, but if you’re squinting that might be a clue that glasses are in order.”
Quinn stammered through the next few seconds and put on a song. He turned off his mic.
“I’m the one who does the talking, Becky.”
“It’s Betsy,” she whispered.
“And, you’re the one who gets me the coffee.” He handed her his cup. “Black, straight up. And, hot.”
Betsy tip-toed out of the studio. She could have kicked herself, she thought, when she saw Mr. Parker walking towards her. He took her arm, and she assumed the worst.
“Betsy, while you might not have great timing, you certainly have great appeal. In that twenty second razz on Quinn, we received several phone calls and tweets cheering you on. Take Quinn his coffee, and then come back to my office.”
Mr. Parker offered her a temporary agreement. Betsy could hardly contain herself. But, he ended his terms with a strict boundary and a timer.
“While you learn the ropes, you’ll get five seconds at a break for banter.” He handed her the timer. “Say as much as you want on air, but end it on the ding.”
Betsy held the timer, like a treasured gift, to her chest. Five whole seconds on air, she thought. On the timer, five seconds measured almost an inch, maybe half but close enough.
And, Betsy could tell a whole story in the span of an inch.