Three Words. Two Meanings. One Language.

Question: What do you get when you put a three word phrase that has two meanings in the English language together and couple it with a trip to the pet groomer?

Answer: This article

Request: Come along and let’s explore.

I recently heard Emily Guendelsberger speak on BookTV. Then I read her book On The Clock. In it she plays a lot off the phrase, “In the weeds.” Depending on what type of jobs you have worked in the American economy it has two totally different meanings and often one group is unaware of what it means to the other group.

I have used a variation of the phrase many times in both my conversations and writing as in, “Too deep into the weeds”. Meaning I’m getting to bogged down in an explanation bordering on superfluous and distracting from my point. More simply put I’m getting unnecessarily complicated.

Particularly in the restaurant business, but in most service sector jobs it means you are getting too far behind.

Same words in the same language yet two totally different meanings.

On Black Friday I took Truman (my dog) to the groomer. The ladies there work very hard. They are on their feet all day and somehow get all these dogs to behave. In order to maximize their income, keep the human customers (and I assume their bosses) happy they squeeze as many appointments into a day as possible. The bottom line is theirs is not an easy job and they are usually very busy.

I caught several in a rare moment when a few were available and decided to test out Emily’s theory (which after reading her book I totally believed). I asked them what the expression, “In the weeds” meant to them. Those who replied (and I assume not coincidentally knew me a bit) replied along the lines of very busy, perhaps behind. These are service sector people and they proved Emily’s theory 100%.

We have a huge political polarization problem in this country. I have no idea how these ladies vote and it is none of my business. However, at least in the respect of this phrase although we live in the same country and state while speaking the same language we may as well be from different planets.

I come from a working class background and through education, opportunity and some luck managed to propel myself into a more comfortable strata of it. Still I needed Emily’s book to know the other meaning to the phrase. Most of our political class comes from a much more privileged social-economic class than me. How are they supposed to understand what service workers deal with on a daily basis just to survive? Is it any wonder that we have polarization and what many view as an ineffective unresponsive government?

I’m certain the examples Guendelsberger chose in her book were among the most colorful she ran across in her research. That made for an interesting read. It made me feel grateful that for the most part I was fortunate to have jobs a rung or two “up the working class ladder”. The next time you get angry with a situation think twice before you take it out on the person serving you. It’s probably not their fault and they most likely agree with you but can’t say so if they want to keep a job they really need. (This call may be monitored…)

The only thing I took from my Communications class in college is that the perception of the receiver of the message is all that really counts. For the most part we all conduct business and politics in English in America but that doesn’t mean we are all speaking the same language.

This article was written well ahead of publishing in order to accommodate my year end hiatus and is the property of Its content may not be used without citing the source. It may not be reproduced without the permission of Larry Marciniak.