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  • Sonya Leigh Anderson



At first I wasn’t a fan, but it’s starting to grow on me. This pet name, long used by Anderson boys, and immediately shared with Spanish-speaking brothers. It may in fact be the first new English word learned in the context of family. And repeated often.

What does it mean? I ask. Big brothers shrug their shoulders. Different things.

I take note. Nils is a dingus when he pushes Jimmy into the pool. Dad is dingus when he misses a serve in Spike Ball. Luke is dingus when he loses to Felipe in chess. And it’s not quite clear who is the dingus when Dad drives Jimmy back to school to get the math papers already at home in the backpack. The other day the word was used in the kitchen while I made dinner. I suspected for a moment the endearing term was being used on me. But no. They were quick to reassure. “Mom never Dingus.” Good.

But there’s more to it than that.

Earlier this week – it was the first day of school – Luke surprised us with a visit. He took the train from the U and called me for a ride. The boys didn’t know. They were just getting home from basketball, and Luke walked into the kitchen. Words are not enough to paint this picture. Jimmy saw his big brother walk through the door and leaped into his arms. “DINGUS!! I love you, Dingus!”

Tears, then and now. Who knew such an annoying word could hold such meaning?

It’s all about context. So many things are. Perspective. I find myself weighing words and actions of teenaged boys and asking often. What’s the context that shapes the meaning? And more often than not I understand. Offense is deferred. I can live with annoyance when I understand the heart.

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