Instant childhood way to make me feel lousy.
Say “You don’t even know what that means, do you?”
Especially just after I’ve made some big discovery about the general patterns certain words happen in.
Such as the catchphrases used when junior high boys had the exact same political argument in the geography room before class every single damn morning while I was at my locker. At a volume approaching screaming at each other, each one of them trying to talk over the rest. I don’t remember it all by now but there was a time I could have rattled it off by heart. One time I made the mistake of repeating some of it in front of one of the guys involved, and got that line, in as withering and “I’m better than you” a voice as possible.
This happened often. Really often. I was always really excited when I made the connection between which words were said where. And then as often as not someone could deflate the whole thing in those nine words.
In addition to making me feel inferior, it always freaked me out a bit. Because one of my biggest rules, though I didn’t know why, was to never let anyone see the things I was doing to fake better comprehension and vocabulary than I had. So when someone showed they knew I didn’t get it, it freaked me out.
Still does. When I’m discovered to be using words without knowing their meaning (which I do all the time, because my receptive vocabulary on a good day is way lower than expressive), it feels like what being naked in public feels like to most people.
And not just once. If it happens, you can bet it’ll replay in my head, catching me off guard at random moments. Then the only way to get rid of it is, weirdly enough, the same motor and vocal tics I have the rest of the time. But especially the strongly emotional words like “I love you” repeated forcefully three times. Without actually meaning it, those are just the kind of things that come out.
And having it repeat over and over just drives me further and further to learn how to look like I always understand words (and I mean words, not just spoken words). Which never actually works but I keep trying.
Obviously there’s nothing shameful about not understanding words, but tell that to my brain.