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Ever experience painful leg cramps? 

When I was pregnant with my daughter, I would wake up in the middle of the night, crying out with searing pain.  I hadn’t had these type of episodes since high school basketball, so I wanted to check in with my midwife.

Sitting in the examination room, I mentioned to her that I’d be experiencing painful Charley horses. 

“What?” my husband sputtered, almost laughing. “What is a Charley horse?”

“Leg cramp,” I informed him matter of factly. 

He openly laughed.  “Why don’t you just call them leg cramps?  Why Charley’s horse?”

The midwife and I looked at each other.  “I don’t know,” we each admitted.  “That’s just how you call them.”

“Charley horse…” he spoke the phrase to himself, smiling and shaking his head, and committing it to memory.

He had a similar reaction when the midwife and I began to discuss “Braxton Hicks” contractions, or more simply, false contractions.

“I don’t understand why everything has to have a first and last name in English” he told me.

It was only a few weeks later that we were sitting in our neighborhood civic league meeting and neighbors were discussing someone in the community who was stealing rain gutters.  But how do you transport stolen gutters?  A neighbor piped up, “I saw a man on Meldon Ave. rolling a Herbie Curbie down the street.”

Before he could utter a word, I leaned over and whispered, “Trash can” to which my husband nearly burst into laughter.

“Of course it is,” he said.

When you truly listen to English and try to imagine yourself as a second language learner, it is fascinating and oftentimes comical.  I can’t believe how many times Billy has pointed out to me words that sound similar that I never noticed or phrases who’s meanings are completely indescernable unless you “just know.” 

Do you have other examples?  Nouns with proper names for no reason?  Tricky words or expressions?

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