Angela Huston

From out of nowhere my husband asked me, "What's Victoria's Secret?"

I wondered about his curiosity only briefly, than said it is a woman's lingerie store. I thought that was an adequate answer. He did not, so he pursued the subject until I realized (will I never learn??) I was again the unwitting target of his humor.

He persisted until I figured out he wanted to know if I knew what the secret is. After gracing him with my usual eye-rolling and groaning, I admitted I had no clue.

In what seemed like only minutes later, we were engaged in another conversation on a totally different subject -- well, one of us was. This time the enlightening topic of dry skin was up for discussion. Go figure. Anyway, I made the mistake of saying my skin felt like a potato chip in winter. He asked how a potato chip is different in winter than at any other time of the year.

I grimaced, made some unintelligible sounds, quickly retracted my description and let it be known I was dropping the subject. Period. This was not a conversation, it was a test of wits, and I was rapidly nearing the end of mine.

Exchanges such as these reminded me of a long-ago cheese commercial that left me feeling sorry for the young woman in the ad; she was engaged in an annoying verbal debate with her husband over the words finely and finally-- I wanted to smack him "upside the head!" Just as he enjoyed the teasing banter at the expense of his frustrated wife, so, too, does my husband delight in baiting me with his skewed word challenges.

Exchanges such as these are not uncommon between us. What is unusual about them is they are initiated by a man whose favorite expression in legitimate discussions is, "That isn't the point."

When an issue is valid, we stick to the point (after I figure out what it is), but when validity is not at stake, anything is fair game and seriousness is irrelevant. Incidentally, the validity of an issue is not always easily defined or agreed on.

I know we are not the only people who become involved in these twisted conversations because I often overhear similar exchanges between other couples. Unfortunately, I have also been the frequent target of this twisted word game by many unrelated individuals more times than I care to admit.

I recall a time in high school when a classmate asked if I was familiar with the old song, "I Wonder Who's Kissing Her Now." When I said yes, he quickly replied, "Oh, good, tell me what her now is." I never answered another of his questions without first weighing it very carefully from every angle.

Perhaps some of you remember when you were a youngster and discovered how changing the inflection in your voice changed the meanings of word combinations, like "Look ahead in the road," to "Look! A head in the road!" Of course, after repeating it a dozen times or more, it sounded pretty 10-year-oldish.

In truth, I will also be the first to admit that if this type of humor does not get pushed to the absurd, it can sometimes be rather fascinating to note the number of different ways words and phrases can be interpreted.

This familiar, so-called humorous rhetoric is really a common, non-serious, but apparently non-curable affliction that attacks most people at one time or another. It is like an outbreak of the giggles in church, erupting suddenly then escalating to a stage that defies control, at least for some people.

This peculiar word game also can take on a life of its own, and the funny part is I forget between incidents just how silly it can become, so much so that I still tend to fall prey to a fresh new word distortion --- the first time, anyway.

I hate to admit it, but I do occasionally find myself pondering some of the more absurd questions and conundrums long after I have dismissed them as ridiculous and the giggling, grimacing, and groaning have stopped.

What the heck is Victoria's secret anyway?