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Wednesday, 12 September 2007

The Day I Learned to Use the Dictionary

By Matty of Running on Empty

When I was in third grade, we were very poor so we wore a lot of hand-me-down clothes. One day when my mother went to get my report card in school, another mother, Mrs. Durocher, gave her a bag of clothes that no longer fit her daughter, Johanne.

Polka_dot_dress Well, when I saw the clothes I jumped up and down with joy! Beautiful dresses with tie-backs. I was so thrilled. The next day I couldn't wait to get to school. I put on one of the dresses. I'll never forget it! It was white with black polka dots, with a flared skirt and tie-backs.

How proud I was to walk in the schoolyard! And there, not far from me, was Johanne with a group of girls. Upon seeing me, she loudly said, “Oh, there's Matty and look, she's wearing one of my old dresses!” The other girls started to snicker. I was so embarrassed and ashamed.

With the schoolyard full of kids, I yelled at her, "Johanne, you're a hoor, h-o-o-r. Hoor!” And with that, I ran into the school and hid myself in the bathroom stall, crying my eyes out.

A few minutes later, Mrs. Wendt, my teacher, came in and said, “Matty, wash your face and come to class, and you will stay when the bell rings.” Oh boy, I knew I was in trouble. The day dragged on and when the bell rang, I stayed seated.

Dictionary_2 Mrs. Wendt brought me the big dictionary she always kept on her desk and asked me to find the word, 'hoor'. I knew she would make me write out the definition a hundred times. So, I took the book and went through the H’s and try as I might, I couldn't find the word. Mrs. Wendt just sat silently. I looked and I looked and finally I told her I couldn't find it.

She came up to me and flipped the book to the W’s, and with her finger she pointed out the word, and asked me to read the definition.

“Whore: A prostitute, an unchaste woman.”

“Now, Matty,” she said, “I want you to promise me that you'll never use a word that you don't know the meaning of.” Solemnly I promised. “Now erase the blackboard,” she said, “in case your mother is wondering why I kept you in.” I erased the blackboard and Mrs. Wendt said, “Bye, Matty. I'll see you tomorrow.”

More than forty years have gone by, but I'll never forget that lesson. And no, I have never worn polka dot clothes and my grandchild has never worn second hand clothes. But I do want to say, thank you Mrs. Wendt for teaching me to use the dictionary.

And you, Johanne Durocher, you're still a h-o-o-r!

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 02:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


I've always held that philosophy, Matty! And I imparted it my kids, too.

What a nasty little brat Johanne was! I hope the teacher called her mother and told her what she did! Doing something like that would have earned me a lickin'.


I loved your story and very much dislike Johanne Durocher.
When I was Pregnant for the first time, we had very little money and a neighbor asked me if I would like to borrow a few maternity dresses. I gladly accepted.
One evening I strolled to the ball field where the game was being played wearing one of the dresses. I thought I looked really nice.
When I got to the spot where the MOST people were congregated I heard a squeaky little girl voice call out for all to hear,
"Mrs. Leitz, you look very nice in Mrs. Murray's dress."

A story after my heart Matty. I often wore a cousin's hand me downs and to this day, I prefer to purchase clothes from thrift stores rather than department stores. I like the idea of knowing that the clothes I wear had a story before they came to me.


I think it's also important to use words that we DO know the meaning of. You used this one well.

My family and friends still pass clothes on. We feel it's an honor to give to others who would otherwise not have the opportunity to wear nice things. I have friends who will call and say, what are you passing on this month? The shame is for those not taught kindness and giving.

On the other hand do I love the fact that 40 years later she can have the last word with the self centered brat...way to go....

Dorothy from grammology

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