Half a lifetime ago when I was living at Loon Lake, I got a lot of static from the president of my late wife’s bowling league, who said she was offended by the fact I called my dogs “pets.”
Her twin miniature poodles, Celeste and Precious, were “animal companions,” she informed me, as were all her cats and even the two goldfish she kept in a crystal vase on the dining room table.
When she told me I was making my spaniel feel bad by calling her a dog, I jokingly said, “That old bitch doesn’t care what I call her as long as it’s not late for supper.”
Although any dictionary will tell you a bitch is a female dog, my comment didn’t go over very well with the president.
One thing led to another, and pretty soon I also said some nasty things about her fish.
My wife, of course, was on my side, as at different times over the years she had referred to most of my bird dogs as “mutts, curs, vermin,” and quite a few other uncomplimentary polysyllabic words that began with “stupid” or “pie-eatin’ ” and then seemed to go on forever.
She weighed into the verbal brawl, and pretty soon, she wasn’t on the bowling team anymore because she used some of those multisyllable words on the league president, too.
That nonsense about “animal companions” really stuck in my craw.
Maybe it’s just me, but there seems to be a tendency these days to take a 5-cent word and try to make a dollar of it.
When I was a kid, some of my favorite people in the neighborhood were the garbage man, the policeman and the town drunk, Calvin the Hat.
I learned a lot from all of them, but now they’ve been replaced by sanitary engineers, law enforcement personnel and chronic alcohol abusers, none of whom have the personality, the amity or the flair I once appreciated.
Even outdoor writers aren’t immune to the tendency to euphemize.
Not long ago, I was reading a pretty decent story by a writer who had stalked a big brown trout on a small creek, made dozens of casts almost from his belly and finally caught that fish.
He put it in his creel and anticipated later putting it on the dinner menu, but he told his readers the fish was “reduced to possession.”
It reminded me of when my Aunt Ella died at the hospital in Chelan and the doctor wrote “EXPIRED” on her chart.
Made her sound like a library book. I wanted to ask him if he’d bring her back if I paid a fine.
Personally, I’ve always been sort of partial to “passed away,” which seems more final than “expired” but is not as blunt as “croaked” or “kicked the bucket.”
I know two things for certain – when I die, I want to be outside with my hunting or fishing hat on, and I don’t want them writing “reduced to possession” on my stone.