Sometimes I wonder where I’ve been all my life when I stumble upon a new word. I hate when I realize that I’m late in understanding something that so many other people already know and use to their advantage. My favorite late discovery is the word, “clag.”

Unfortunately, I didn’t discover clag until I was 42 years old, when I was changing the ink cartridge in my printer. My ink came in new packaging, and along with it came the gift of a new word. On a tiny 1 1/2″ by 1 1/2″ square of paper – which, thankfully, I didn’t overlook – it read : Installation Instructions Please push the cartridge slowly into the printer with the cartridge sticking closely to the surface shown on arrow A. If there is any clag in the pushing please adjust the cartridge position slightly till it is completely installed.

I assumed that there was some error in translation that resulted in a typo. I enjoyed guessing what word the author of the instructions actually intended to use: drag? . . . clog? . . . resistance? I felt sorry for the person who wrote the note because they seemed unqualified to be producing instructions. I wondered why overseas companies don’t seem to bother to make sure that employees hired to translate instructions into English are actually proficient in English. I Googled “clag” to see the funny comments people might have posted online about the weird ink instructions. Instead of a thread of jokes about it, up popped numerous sites explaining the definition of “clag.” At first, I couldn’t believe it was a real word.

The word seems to have multiple meanings and I would have absolutely loved to have had this word in my repertoire as a kid. I could have asked the lunch ladies for more of claggy hotdish. I could have referred to my teacher as a big clag. I could have told the doctor that my lungs were claggish during my multiple visits to see him as a child . . . oh, how I could have used that word.

I guess I’m not proficient in English. While initially feeling very embarrassed that I was previously unfamiliar with the word and was mocking the person who wrote the instructions, I felt much better when I was typing about my experience and I realized that my spellcheck didn’t know the word either, because it kept underlining it in red. After finding that I was not the only person clueless about clag (because the person who programmed my spellcheck was, too) I felt happy the rest of the day. Stumbling upon clag helped me realize that there is still so much for me to learn in this life that I will never be done learning. That realization made me look forward to the possibility of learning something with each new day. On the days that I didn’t stumble upon something new, I started making a point of learning something new – until it became a daily habit. My experience with clag was also a wonderful reminder to never assume anything until after I’ve done my research.

I wish every American would quit making assumptions, do some research over the next 52 days before the presidential election, and vote intelligently so that the United States doesn’t get clagged with someone who shouldn’t be running our country.

In 1982, I assumed that my hairdresser knew how to perm my kind of hair. She laughed when she took the perm rods out because she had never seen hair “take a perm that well.” I cried. And I was clagged with this perm for the next four years.


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© 2016 by Julie Ryan. All rights reserved
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