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You know that iPod Classic I bought for my husband?

Well, I didn’t buy it for him.

I bought it for me – to shut him up.

He’s a linguist, you see.  A word man.  I love that about him because we can yammer and joust with words all day long.  In fact, we’ve been known to race each other to the dictionary to find out who knows the correct meaning of a word, say, “defenestration.”  If I beat him, he will then say, “Wull, yeah, but I bet you don’t know the etymology.”

To which I reply, “Please enlighten me, oh Word Master.”

This is great fun most of the time, up until it isn’t.  Our house is small and there’s no place for me to hide when I write.  In peace.  If he’s at home, I have to rely on him to be quiet.  Not an easy feat since he’s an out-loud linguist:  “Honey, did you see the article in Newsweek about lexical gaps?”  “Do you remember what that word was we argued about yesterday?”

My response is often, “Sweetheart, what is it about keeping quiet that you don’t understand?”

“Oh. Sorry.”

The only place where I can hide behind a closed door is the bathroom.  Believe me, if it were large enough to accommodate a desk, I’d set up shop.

Since Steve loves music almost as much as he loves words, I got him the iPod because: a) He can listen to Bach as much as he wants and I don’t have to hear it; and b) If he were listening to music, I figured, he’d be quiet.

Well, you know what happens when people are so plugged into their iPods that they are unaware they exist in real space and time and, worse yet, in other people’s space and time? You’ve no doubt heard them on the train, you’ve heard them on the bus, you’ve heard them walking down the street, bouncing their heads and mumbling.  They’re apparently singing along to some kind of music, but you don’t know that for sure because you can’t hear it; you only hear the drone of the uninvited noise in your personal space.

The other day, I was in my loft writing while Steve was downstairs at his desk.  All of a sudden, I heard an indecipherable set of human sounds.   Normally, my honey has a lovely singing voice, but as I was about to discover, when he’s listening to his iPod you’d think he was the most tone-deaf man on the planet.

I crept downstairs and moved within his line of sight.  He pulled out his ear buds.  Turns out, he was listening to “Oh Happy Day,” the popular ‘80’s song by the Edwin Hawkins Singers.

Which is fine, but . . .

“You know that line in the song,” he says, “where she sings,

‘When Jesus washed . . .’?”

I nod.

He smiles and says, “Well, not many people would know this but there’s an “Open O” sound in the word ‘washed’ and she does something really cool with it – she turns it into a triphthong!”

See what I’m talking’ about?

That’s my guy.

— Rosie Sorenson

Rosie Sorenson is the award-winning author of They Had Me at Meow: Tails of Love from the Homeless Cats of Buster Hollow. Her work has appeared in the Los Angeles TimesChicago Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, San Jose Mercury News, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and others. In 2007, she won an honorable mention in the Erma Bombeck Writing Competition.

Reflections of Erma