So then…my Saddle Oxfords swing to and fro beneath my blue plaid skirt and white blouse, as I try mightily to pay attention to the teacher at SVA – that’s St. Vincent’s Academy, the all-girls Catholic high school.
We joke that SVA stands for “Saints, Virgins & Angels.” (cough cough)
Anyway, I strain to comprehend Mr. A, our physics teacher – because honestly, all science is a mystery to me. He might as well be speaking Japanese and drawing hieroglyphics on the chalkboard for as well as I’m understanding this subject matter.
Typically, I fare pretty well academically, but in this class, I’m skating by, strictly on the basis of memorization.
So when Mr. A begins discussing resistance of electric circuits — I get super excited that I actually know the answer when he asks the class, “What does “Z” stands for?”
Without even raising my hand, I shout, “IMPOTENCE! IMPOTENCE!”
Mr. A’s shocked face.
Giggles and guffaws from the whole class.
Apparently the correct answer is impedance (pronounced “im-peed-ins”)
IMPOTENCE is something else all together.
And back in the days that I went to high school, IMPOTENCE is not exactly a word you heard commonly bandied about in an all-girls school, especially in front of our only male teacher.
Mr. A turns bright red.
He opens his mouth to speak, but dissolves into silent laughter.
He turns away and starts again – no words came out. Just more laughter.
He tries to write something on the chalkboard, but he laughs so hard, his hand shakes.
He tries yet another time to speak, but cannot contain his mirth.
Blessedly, the bell rings for lunch and we girls scuttle out of the classroom.
(Much later, Mr. A tells me that he went to the Teacher’s Lounge to eat his lunch and kept bursting into silent fits of laughter, while the other teachers looked at him oddly.)
I have no idea if Mr. A knows someone who suffers from that particular bedroom issue – or whether he just thinks IMPOTENCE is a hysterically incorrect answer for impedance, but I’m glad to provide him with such a hearty chuckle!
Of course, nowadays, formerly forbidden language is tossed around in daily discussion: “What’s with all the bathtubs in those erectile dysfunction commercials? Which reminds me, when you’re at the store for chips and salsa, pick up condoms. Great, thanks, pass the salt please.”
But back in my high school days, especially at a Catholic all-girls school, one simply did not talk about such things!
In fact, at our Junior Talent Show, my classmate and I served as co-MCs, so we’d take turns telling jokes as we introduced the acts.
On the first night, my co-MC asked the audience, “How can you recognize Ronald McDonald at a nudist colony?” Answer: “By his sesame seed buns!” Huge laugh.
But the school notified her that her MC services wouldn’t be needed on the second night!
Seriously! Booted from the show for a buns joke!
Four years later, my little sister Della served as MC for the SVA Junior Talent Show. In her enthusiasm, she stumbled on her words and announced to the whole auditorium of students, siblings, parents, teachers, and nuns:
“At intermission, please join us in the lobby for cocks and cookies.”
She meant Cokes.
I never saw the nuns run so fast. To the lobby.
Ha, OK, kidding. The nuns did not run to the lobby – and they were not amused by my sister’s faux pas. But even they had to admit it was merely a mistake – and not a deliberate offer of penises. (peni?)
So between my sister’s cocks and my impotence, we’re obviously fabulous role models!
— Darcy Perdu
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(What words are commonplace now that you’d never have dreamed of uttering in the classroom when you were a kid? Ever embarrass yourself with a funny mispronunciation or wrong word?)