In the 6th grade, one of our assigned reading books was The Secret of NIMH. For those unfamiliar with the story, it’s about a recently widowed mouse (yes, I just said “widowed mouse”) who needs to move her home out of a tractor’s path, but can’t because her little mouse son has pneumonia. If you’d like to know more, you can watch the movie for free on hulu.
I remember this particular book mainly because of the word “pneumonia”. It was the first time I’d realized the word had a “p” in it and it threw me. I think it threw all of us. Everyday in school, we’d have to take these five question comprehension quizzes to prove we’d done the reading. When we were done, we’d switch quizzes with our neighbor, listen to the correct answers, and grade accordingly. I remember that all of us struggled with “pneumonia”. I had my friend Lisa’s quiz and on the question where the answer was supposed to be “pneumonia”, Lisa had simply written, “pnumes”. Now, I’m sure what I wrote was something like “pnewmoanya”. All I knew is that it started with a “p” and was kind of longish. Lisa probably knew this too but was like, “Whatever, this word is ridiculous, I’m just gonna go with ‘pnumes”. Boy am I glad she did. I have never heard or read the word pneumonia again without thinking of “pnumes” (pronounced in my head as pnooms).
Years later in college, I shared this story with my best friend, a person who I knew could appreciate all that “pnumes” represented. She ate it up and not once in the almost ten years that we’ve been friends have we ever called pneumonia anything but pnumes. I understand when people say that best friends develop a short-hand over time because we definitely have.
Me: My great aunt is not doing well.
Rach: Oh no, what’s going on?
Rach: Oh, that’s horrible.
Why go through all the trouble of \nu̇-ˈmō-nyə, nyu̇-\ when you can simply say “pnumes”? And to be clear, you DO pronounce the “p”, kind of like the “S” in Sbarro.
Pnumes had a resurgence this week when, on Sunday morning, I woke up feeling like a small, cold, ailing mouse. I had the flu the week prior and had been on the mend, feeling fine and then suddenly it was back and this time it was really bad. Our thermometer kept saying my temp was fine, my boyfriend kept saying, “You feel really warm”, and I kept saying, “I’m so cold”. After an arduous trip to the urgent care clinic, we found out that…
a) our thermometer was broken
b) I had a 103.7 temperature and pneumonia
I got a shot in the rear and a big dose of Tylenol and was sent home with a prescription because the doctor said I am a strong young woman, healthy enough to avoid a trip to the hospital. Once home, I started to feel like I wasn’t dying anymore and was able to think clearly enough to send my best friend a message. “Pnumes. I have it.” is all I could get out and really, it’s all I needed to say. When I went to update my Facebook status, I actually had to ask my boyfriend to remind me how to spell pneumonia. He probably knows how to spell it because rather than memorizing a classmate’s hilarious botched spelling of it in 6th grade, he memorized the actual word. Whatever. Where’s the fun in that?
(Oh, and after five days off work and lots of Vicks VapoRub I’m finally feeling like myself once again.)