A childish object from my adulthood, this little item is reminiscent of my family’s tendency to wordplay, extensive and repetitious wordplay. At some point, a series began relating to cows. You know the ones: the udderly ridiculous, the moo-re the merrier, the gulli-bull (stolen from Bugs Bunny, that one). I don’t remember how it started, just that it became a long-running joke, resulting in associated moo-mentoes (see? it’s addictive once you start…).
If I remember correctly, this cow-er pot arrived nearly 20 years ago, one of many home decorations from my mom. A blend of the cow theme with my recent forays into gardening, it should right have ended up with some greenery in it. But I enjoyed its happy little face and jaunty bow tie and bell, so it became a part of the collection of cups and pots on my desk – a collection of vessels that then collect other collections. It’s a bit short for pens (in keeping with the theme, it kept tipping) so it has variously over time been the repository for coins and paper clips (short-lived, as they fell out the drain hole), and more recently of memory sticks and rechargeable batteries.
Working on this piece, I noticed that several of my objects reside on or near my desk: Gumby, Denali mug, highlighter, jumping dog, plus a few others I’ve yet to write about. It’s cluttered and more-than-a-bit messy, but there is a comfort to the closeness of these treasured objects.
The cow-er pot has also led me to a new word: janusism. I was searching for the word to describe this familial wordplay – the modification of the spelling or pronunciation of a word to make it funny. We had always described them as puns (as in, “very punny, mom”), but it turns out that itself was a janusism.
Wordplay of all kinds has always been a part of the family language. Like most family language and legend, the origins are often murky, holding meaning only for those in the know. One of the nice things about our family’s play like this was that it was collaborative, each joke building on another and enjoyed (often with groans and rolled eyes) by everyone. It never involved teasing or picking on anyone, and is childish enough that young and old can contribute.
Sometimes, even others contribute without knowing it. Just this week, a friend contributed another joke, wittily if unwittingly, to the cow-lection: Why do cows have hooves? Because they lac-tose.
See? Once you start…