“She kicked him in the groan area.”

So, is this a typo, a pun, or a misconception? The tone of the rest of the essay suggested that this statement was written with complete seriousness–that’s how it ended up in my “book of horrors.”

I knew what the writer meant, of course. Had she never seen the word “groin” spelled out? Had she never heard it pronounced accurately? Was she using an expression the people around her had already used (that is, did everyone in her family or circle of friends think that “groan area” was the correct term)?

Judging from the kind of ink I used and the entry’s relatively early place in my book, I believe the student was writing before the days of computerized spell-checking, so I can’t attribute this statement to robotic word-substitution.

And what she wrote is, arguably, perfect. The picture is vivid and immediate and unambiguous. But how can that be pointed out to her? “You’ve made an error, but it’s a terrific error. Don’t do it again, but thank you for doing it this time”? “Let me explain why this is a mistake, and then let me explain why I liked it anyway”? How did I address it at the time? In all likelihood, I simply wrote “WW” (wrong word) above “groan” and offered “groin” as the correction. She never asked me about it.

Several years earlier I had read an entry in the journal of a student who tended goal for the university’s soccer team. After a collision with another player (in which he had been hit in that same area), he wrote, “I was there on the ground, mourning and gourning.” Not a groan area for him, evidently. When “moan” became “mourn,” I guess “groan” inevitably became “gourn.” Since this was a journal, I wouldn’t have made any corrections on the word choice–probably just a marginal “poor you!” to show I had read the entry. But why did “moan” become “mourn” in the first place?

Families eat bisghetti, wash with pope, and adopt strange nicknames to enshrine childish linguistic efforts. I have to admit that I have embraced “groan area” and “mourning and gourning” in my own lexicon. Who could resist?

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About RAB

Teacher of English writing and literature (college-level); academic-freedom activist; editor and copy editor; theater director, costumer, actress, playwright. View all posts by RAB

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