Poets Have Been Mysteriously Silent On The Subject Of Cheese.* Ditto Zamboni Machines.

May 21, 2010

A challenge was given. A gauntlet flung. I’ve been charged with writing a poem about the Zamboni machine. I am not a dare-ing woman, but I made the mistake of saying that poetry could be written about just about anything and thus, this.

The person who issued the challenge said that some words are just inherently funny and that Zamboni is one of them. I agree, although Zamboni isn’t in my top ten. George Carlin once said that kumquats, garbanzos, succotash, and guacamole were foods that, because of their names, were too funny to eat. Garbanzo is on my short list, although I prefer it paired with its natural mate: beans. Garbanzo beans. Go ahead, try it. It’s fun to say. Admit it.

Lumbago (lower back pain) is on my list. My grandma suffered from lumbago and complained about it regularly. It sounds like fun or like a small Eastern European country, but it isn’t either. I like slivovitz and Congoleum® and plethora. Plump is another favorite. It sounds like what it describes. But enough. You can come up with your own faves and I have another point to make.

I’m wandering a bit from the notion of a poem about Zamboni machines, but that’s going to take more thought. Ham boney, macaroni, cologne-y, rigatoni, baloney, groany and moany. Too many possibilities. There is a further point to be made, though, and it’s about conversation.

I’m teaching a course for future high school and middle school teachers called language and literacy and I’ve been doing some eavesdropping on conversations. I hesitate to call it eavesdropping since it’s just listening to what people are saying loudly to one another as though they are performing a play to which the rest of us are a captive audience. If you would like your conversations to be private, lowering your voice is a possible way to accomplish this.

Teaching students how to discuss issues and converse with one another is part of developing their language skills, and since I’ve noticed that conversations can quickly devolve into gossip fests, it’s useful to provide a topic. I don’t think that teachers will be able to completely do away with gossip, but I do think that they can point out that there are other ways to talk with your friends.

Many of the braindances I devise target helping students develop discussion skills without talking trash about someone or something, although I am not opposed to the occasional gripefest since I do love ranting myself. However, complaining about the anonymous people who toss unwanted clothing on the floor at Ross and TJ Maxx is healthy and harmless. Ditto highway litterers. I’ve yet to hear a rational explanation for tossing your Wendy’s or Arby’s or Taco Bell trash by the wayside. Please stay home if you’re too lazy to walk your trash to a receptacle. There you can wallow in mountains of it for all I care.

A simple question like “What words are inherently funny?” can get people talking and also disagreeing amiably. It can also teach them a new word, inherently, or “existing as an essential element of something.” I asked some friends this question last night and they replied with smidgeon, hyperbole, spigot, Fresca, ennui, and moist (a word described not as funny but as one that makes you uncomfortable for some reason).

What’s on your list of funniest words? And, if you dare, write your own poem about a Zamboni.

There are three things in life that people like to stare at: a flowing stream, a crackling fire, and a Zamboni clearing the ice. • Charlie Brown (Charles Schultz)

* Thanks to Gilbert Keith Chesterton for the cheesy quotation.



  1. Spackle, boing (not a real word, but funny anyway), cantaloupe, joust, hiccup

    Break out the paisley-
    the Naugahyde is gone.
    Fill the vases with daisies
    and poppies, buy a fringed lamp.
    Retrieve your skates from the back
    of the closet, lace them up and wait
    for the Zamboni to clear the ice.

  2. I am delighted–swept off my mental and metaphorical feet by your poem. It makes me want to break out the Ewok ice skates, dust off my sequined and spangled twirly skirt, tie a yellow ribbon ’round my head and head for the rink. Many thanks (I like splat too, another created comic-book word). W-OZ

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