Is this a made-up word? Yes. My brother created the term: Meredibly. Here’s the story behind the family’s mondegreen:
I was typing up an environment class assignment after school one day when my mother and brother came into the room. The assignment had been to ride my bike a few miles to Norton High School and back, taking note of my surroundings along the way. I took the assignment very seriously and did just that and felt like a million bucks! Plus, I wasn’t polluting the environment by driving my car to school. What I hadn’t considered was how tired I would be after going to track practice after school, weight lifting, then bicycling a few miles back home. At nightfall, no effort had been made to transpose my notes into a typed doc. So when my brother and my mother came into the room and sat down as I pined and complained about my sore arms. “It was so worth it but my legs are killing me. Help!”
My mom offered to type up my handwritten notes for me just like she had done for me when I was twelve and working on book reports. My brother said he would read off my notes while she typed. My benevolent scribe and her assistant went to work. We didn’t usually do things like that but it was a fun way to be together and share our days.
Now, I must say that I have been told that my handwriting is like a Greek scribe’s. My cursive is very loopy and can be hard to read. I also tend to love very embellished, poetic language. You better believe that I write all over notebook pages and throughout the margin areas too. Ink swims on pages I encounter. Between my verbose language and the ink smeared pages, my brother had his work cut out for him!
He started dictating and Mom started replying to everything he read – the buggers were critiquing my over-the-top, flowery language!
Mom has a pressure valve that she passed on to us – humor. In the middle of her own father’s funeral, she burst out laughing (real laughter, not the nervous kind!). Our former pastor presided over the service and sang his favorite song, the very song he sang as often as he could in front of the congregation. “Oh [he’s singing] that God-awful ‘Sweet Beulah Land’ song that we hate! How many times do we have to hear off-tune church people sing it?” We laughed until we cried and we blended in! My mother’s heart was broken but in her grief, she could simultaneously release the humor valve.
My athletic brother never had a fat day in his life. When he went off to college, he told me that he had NEVER read a book from cover to cover. Naturally, he was SO not into my ridiculous descriptions. I wrote French poetry in school; he read the simplest of French phrases with an archaic tone of uncertainty. I loved rhetoric, he loved sports. At that moment, he loved laughing at my work.
Stumbling through my messy notes with my mom simultaneously snorting with laughter, Miah asked, “Where were you?!” He hooted with laughter.
“I went up by Wheaton! It’s pretty and peaceful.” Flustered and gesticulating, I tried to explain. “There was smoke, fog stuff, all through the road like that book where the girl goes through the mist back in time.”
This accountability was hilarious but I still liked what I had. What was even funnier though was my brother’s monotone reading. He was ribbing me like only a beloved brother can do and my mom was laughing right along with him. I was just happy to have somebody else doing the work so I could lie down!
When bicycling over a steam grate that morning, I had run my hands through the warm steam while remembering a book I read about a girl who walked through the mist. That very mist carried her through to a time past. How could I not appreciate that? Fine enough. What got weird was when I describe a Lady Slipper I passed as nascent and pre-pubescent. My brother and mom had a field day with that one!
Then my brother happened upon a sentence that may no sense to him. It was something like, “… it was an incredibly spiritual experience to bicycle through the vibrant grounds of Wheaton College toward the Norton town commons…” Between the handwriting and over-the-top prose, my brother got even more deadpan and just sounded out whatever he thought he was reading. His thick-tongued pronunciation delivered, “It was a meredibly experience…” The thought of it still makes me laugh. Mom got a big belly laugh at this excellent comedic delivery.
“What is that word?” she asked.
“Meredibly?” he guessed, laughing. Truth be told, some of what they were doing was getting on my nerves. They were laughing at something I cared about, but when he invented the word Meredibly, I laughed a punch drunk, tired-as-all-get-out laugh. I’d been so focused on being like one of the great Romantic poets that I had not even been paying attention to decent communication or, apparently, my penmanship. Our laughter bubbled over, even after I tried to get us on track.
“It’s not gibberish. Where are you reading?” I had to go over and explain what the word was. “That says, ‘incredibly!'” They weren’t really having any of it and kept laughing. It’s like I just added some fuel to the fire. We got through the rest of the assignment but laughter kept bubbling up in random places.
What could’ve been a passing funny moment grew with time and excellent comedic timing. In situations where someone was speaking in circles or when people were confused and trying to figure out what to do or what direction to take to get somewhere, my mother or brother would respond, “Meredibly?” symbolizing the funny and precious family moment where my family had to make sense of nonsense.
Well, with a primarily inattentive ADD mind like mine, I still cause my fair share of confusion. Life is such a hodgepodge of experiences that the term meredibly still works. Whether dealing with misdirection or obscure rhetoric, meredibly still sums it all up.