A Mouthful of Tongues

My wife Jina speaks in tongues–a lot.  You might think she’s crazy.  But, at least according to the New York Times, she isn’t.  So at least that’s settled.  Sometimes I’m concerned that during one of her epic blubbering displays of verbal vomit during the wee hours of the night, one of our neighbors will come down, barge into the apartment, and brain her with the microwave oven to get her to shut up.  I’m not even sure if it would work.

The funny thing is I heard her coughing just a few minutes ago.  I think she caught my cold.  The reason I say it’s funny is not because I’m a sadistic bastard (although that may at times be true too; I’m no spring chicken, but more of a cold turkey), but because she was so cocksure that she wouldn’t catch it due to her divine health insurance plan (maybe she’s a closet Christian scientist), that she gave me a goodnight peck on the lips the other day.  Immediately afterwards, she proceeded to wipe her mouth off vigorously–cootie alert.  So much for faith, or shall I say “so little”?

Sorry I don’t have that New York Times article handy to articulate why speaking in tongues, also called “glossolalia,” is evidently not a sign of mental illness.  Jina and I have enough problems communicating at the best of times, which is partly my fault since I suffer from L. J. S., or Lazy Jerk Syndrome, and am prevented by this affliction from learning Korean.  I’m also tenaciously loquacious in the classroom if I’ve had too much coffee, or when meeting people for the first time, or with certain friends who are gracious enough to put up with my effervescent fountain of bullshit.

But she makes me look like Buster Keaton in contrast, and I simply don’t have the energy to converse with her much of the time, as she’s capable of droning on and on about the most tedious topics, many of which revolve around money, Jesus (no offense, Lord), or, now that we’re teaching together, work.  She doesn’t use a lot of “big” words in English, apart from “malingerer,” when she’s in an accusatory mood, having no sympathy for my crippling condition, or “heretic,” which she once used to describe a friend of mine who’s a Unitarian.  She also likes to sling the word “diligent,” a favorite among Koreans (many of whom are also for some reason fond of “gloomy”), maybe in her case because it means not only “hard-working” but “obedient”–

Whoops!  Turns out I’m wrong about that.  Random House Webster’s hardcover College Dictionary has it that “diligent” does not in fact contain any element of obedience, but rather perseverance and sustained attention.  My bad.  I rest my basket case.

Since she’s argumentative by nature and I’m an inveterate milquetoast, I sometimes let her win an argument even when I suspect or know she’s wrong.  As you can imagine, we often clash on the subject of religion, but I don’t bother trying to argue the benefits of Buddhism, as it would feel unBuddhistic.  I’m referring to more picayune matters; for example, the other day we were talking and I mentioned neurons.  Jina told me they’re not brain cells, as I’d thought, but nerve cells (actually, after a brief fact-check, it turns out we’re both right; sometimes it pays to give people the benefit of the doubt, even if they have blind spots the size of their whole lives).

I refused to acquiesce, however, when she said that “Gentile” means “Jewish person.”

“No, it doesn’t.  A Gentile is someone who’s not Jewish.”  The dictionary, of course, bore me out.  She has her Bible; I have mine.  She humbly accepted her defeat and made a mental note to get it right next time.

If I were a better teacher and husband, I would correct her when she misused certain words.  For example, when she says things like:

“Don’t be such a floccipilinihilificating son of a cuckoo!”

or:  “You saying is antidisestablishmentarianism soda cookie!”

(I meant to write more about speaking in tongues, but I’ll save that practice of indefatigable garrulity for another time.  Believe me, the novelty wore off a long time ago.  It’s hard enough to understand what people mean when you have a natural language barrier without their insistence on generating  cascades of gibberish as if they were not human but some weird species of voluble volcano.)


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