I sometimes have a hard time making sense of words and acronyms. I am hopeless at word scrambles and, contrary to what people usually imagine, totally stink at Scrabble. (So much so that I’ve only played it a couple of times). I don’t know if it’s some kind of word processing disability. For a long time, I’ve just assumed it’s been an “English as a second language” thing. On some subconscious level I still approach unfamiliar letter combinations with the bafflement of the third grader I was when I had my mind blown by words like rough, dough and bough. I’ve made it into something of a game for myself, trying to see the humor is the weird thing I’m thinking until I can figure out what word is actually there.
The other day I had one such moment. Across the street from the bank, hand-painted in a nail salon window, I saw a sign that said, “Say 800 to Drugs.” What? Why 800? I tried to figure out if it was a phone number. “Say” was enough letters for an area code, but then it wouldn’t be an 800 number. “To drugs” were enough letters for a phone number Did they mean we should tell people about the 800 number? All this ran through my mind in an instant as I started my car.
Then it hit me.
What they’d written was, “Say Boo to Drugs.” The “B” had come out rounded, leading my brain to read it wrong. It was a weird, Halloweeny anti-drug message. I giggled at my lack of word decoding skills for several blocks. Oh, English-as-a-second-language, how you vex me.