Yesterday I attended my last ever class at Augustana, and now I just have to find a way to get all my finals done next week — while also catching up on everything I missed when I was in the hospital the week before. The fact that I’m about to graduate is still sinking in, but I’ll say more about that when it’s done sinking.
But anyway, I made a very unpleasant discovery this morning. I was writing a paper and decided to use the solid word “obnoxious.” It’s a word I’ve embraced and used frequently throughout these part three years in the US, mostly because it’s so fun to say: Obb-noch-shuss, obnoxious.
However, as I’m reflecting upon my use of this word I suddenly see how obnoxious it is to use words you don’t know the full meaning of.
In improv class earlier this year I was asked how Americans seem compared to Norwegians, and I responded with “Americans are really obnoxious in comparison. Especially Midwesterners.”
Silence in the room.
You see, I thought obnoxious meant: Outgoing, lively, lighthearted, energetic and animated, and I honestly thought I delivered them a compliment so great that nobody knew how to respond — hence the silence.
The second part of that sentence was supposed to be “theatre people are even more obnoxious than normal,” so you can only imagine how relieved I am that I stopped when I did.
It made sense to me to say Americans — and especially theatre people — are much more outgoing than Norwegians, but today, while writing my paper I decided to actually look up this highly versatile English word.
AND I’M MORTIFIED! Oh my God!
The Merriam Webster dictionary got it all wrong!
Apparently it means “extremely unpleasant,” “disgusting,” “harmful,” “distasteful” and “nasty.”
And I can’t even begin to think about all the other times I’ve used this word to describe something or — even worse — SOMEONE I think of as fun or energetic.
My deepest apologies to the wonderful members of 33rd street improv. I’m surprised you let me be a part of the group at all after such an incident.
And after this realization I’m filled with a tremendous gratitude over the fact that our live show turned out so well, despite the prejudicial, ethnocentric and ignorant Norwegian person you had to deal with during the process.
33rd Street Improv. Photo: Jayna Fitzsimmons.