A joker cracks me up

“Apparently” has been heard around our house a lot lately.

It started with us mimicking a news highlight of a boy being interviewed. “Apparently” seemed to be the child’s favorite word. He said it over and over. It was adorable and hilarious. We said it loudly and in a joking matter to start with. “APPARENTLY…” But like language often does, it wasn’t long until I noticed us peppering it into everyday conversation, e.g. “Apparently they’re playing old movies at the drive-in.”

Almost 20 years ago while working at a grocery store, I picked up the term “joker.” We had an older guy from Michigan start there, and it seemed everyone was a “joker” to him. He’d say “I told that joker to get buggies.”

I started off saying “joker” to mock him. “Anybody know where Yankee Joker is?” It didn’t take long, however, for it sneak its way into my everyday lexicon. All these years later, “joker” is still my go-to fill-in term. “That joker cut me off!”

The same thing happened when my cousin spent a lot of time at our house working with my wife on her wedding. Everything “cracked” her up. Prior to hearing that constantly, I’d always said something was “hilarious.” Now everything “cracks me up.”

Language belongs to us as individuals but seeps out into the collective. What makes one thing pass by our ears and another stay in our minds to be repeated?

In songwriting, the attempt to come up with something that sticks is called “coining a phrase.” It’s a gamble between sounding crazy and hitting the nail on the head in a new way.

The call for divine intervention, “Jesus take the wheel,” became a part of everyday American language after Carrie Underwood’s song. I hear it multiple times a week.

It’s my wife’s go-to term of frustration. Trash not taken out? “Jesus take the wheel!” Clothes thrown in the floor? “Jesus take the wheel!”

Apparently she thinks it will take a miracle to get me and D helping more around the house.

The most subtle thing I notice people repeat is their individual affirmative statement. Some say “Yeah.” Some say “Uh huh.”

A friend of mine always says “That’s it.” If you’re making dinner plans with him and say, “We should go to Backwoods Friday night,” he’ll reply “That’s it!”

It somehow makes you feel like you got a question right. “Backwoods is correct. That gives you 300 points and control of the board.”

I’ve found myself saying that one a lot lately. Who knows why? How does my brain suddenly decide to stop saying “Sure” and start saying “That’s it”?

What phrase will I adopt next? Maybe I’ll know when I hear it.

For now, I’m apparently going to let Jesus take the wheel until I find the next joker that cracks me up.

Stults is a performing songwriter from Russellville.