Saturday, August 7, 2010

Scratching the yeuk

I am not generally a collector. For a while, I collected coffee mugs, but no matter how much I love a good cup of coffee, there are only so many mugs I can use. I still have a great surplus, but I have winnowed my collection and pretty much stopped adding to it. I would love to collect art, and do have a few pieces, but serious collecting is a bit out of my price range. By the looks of my study, I guess I collected books for quite a while. I still love to read books, but now that I have become very enamored with my Kindle, my reading habit is much more compactly contained.

I really only collect two things these days: pencils and words. I collect pencils from places that I have been—those round wooden pencils with good erasers and printing on the sides. I have pencils from places as disparate as the University of Connecticut (my undergraduate alma mater) and the British Museum in London. I have pencils from Florence, Italy and from the Chicago Art Institute. I always buy two. I sharpen one for immediate use and put the other away for a while. My intent is not to save them forever, though. Eventually, they all get put into general circulation and when I happen to pick one up, I fondly remember the particular place it came from. Occasionally people will buy pencils for me, and while I appreciate their thoughtfulness, it really isn’t the same thing. I am not really collecting objects; it is more about collecting the memories.

I also like to collect words. I subscribe to both the Google and Oxford English Dictionary “word of the day” applications. I get two new words every day, but because I have collected words for a while, it is pretty rare that I see one that is totally new. However, today’s word from Google really intrigued me, because I have never heard it in any form before. The word is yeuk (pronounced yook) and it can be used as either a noun or a verb. As a verb, it means to itch and as a noun it means an itchy sensation. So, for example, because I am very allergic to poison ivy, I could say that it gives me a serious yeuk. Or, I could say that my skin yeuks after encountering poison ivy. The adjective form, yeuky, is also interesting. I tend to get itchy, or yeuky, when I get bored.

I think yeuky is a good word to describe me. My mother used to call me “Idget,” as in “Don’t be such an idget.” I have never been sure where that term comes from—it could be a variant on idiot, but I don’t think my mom meant it that way. I think she used it as a variant on fidget. Anyone who knows me will agree that I am pretty fidgety, or yeuky. Back before telephones were wireless, my husband had to remove all breakable things from the vicinity of the phone because I would fiddle pretty much anything into pieces while talking. Now that phones are wireless, I wander around the house while talking and he just accepts that all of our pen caps will be lost or broken.

New ideas cause a sort of mental yeuk. A new project, a new problem to solve, a new question that needs answering all cause a yeuk that cannot be ignored. This blog is a good example. Now that I have the idea of doing this, I can’t leave it alone any more than I can ignore a bad case of poison ivy. I check, with embarrassing frequency, to see if I have any new followers or comments. I am very curious if anyone is reading this. I am getting a little obsessive about posting an entry every day. There are upsides and downsides to yeukiness. The upside is that I get energized by new things. The downside is that like itches, sometimes things are best left alone. The real trick is to know which yeuks to scratch and which ones to leave alone.

Today I am grateful for electronic communications. Even though I am convinced that they contribute to a certain cultural yeukiness, I am glad to be able to communicate readily with my husband and children even when I am on the west coast and they are back east.


  1. I like this one. Yeuk - huh? It is what happens to my scalp when I encounter particularly irrational attitudes in others.

  2. Betsy-- you always make me laugh. Thanks!

  3. Yeuk. New to me, as well. I'll try to use it tomorrow.Seven year yeuk doesn't quite work…
    Great essay!