Word Games Continued

In the last post (The Telephone Game), I pondered whether Nate thinks of words as vehicles for communication. Nate’s relationship with language is a tricky one, one of obsession and amusement, joy and frustration. Sometimes it’s tough for me to figure out; often I don’t get it. Most of the time I can figure things out.

Words are toys and Nate plays with them in all sorts of ways. There’s the backwards trick: our friend Martha was immediately dubbed “Martha Ahtram,” which, I admit, flows quite nicely. There’s the play on words: “Mission of Complex” is itself Nate’s childish take on “mission accomplished” and has come to define our life with him – a lengthy journey, filled to the brim with complications and achievements. One of my old favorites was when he read a magazine tease, “in future issues” and morphed it into “in fuchsia issues.” He’s very colorful.

Nate stretches out words, elongating their pronunciation as they were made of Silly Putty. He also has the ability to sing, in tune, his own variations into a pop tune. Once, when “Hello, Goodbye” came on the radio, Nate sang “hello” as “hi-lo,” a pronunciation whose origins remain unknown. During the “stop, go” section, Nate sang “shtop” a la The Count. He always makes jokes about The Count’s accent, which was made even funnier a few days ago when a TV host (it was either Bill Maher, Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert) referred to The Count as an “autistic vampire.” Nate liked that.

Here’s a recent sample, via text message. I sent Karen a question: “Do we have super glue?” Without my knowledge, Nate responded thusly: “What about bat glue? Or maybe spider glue? Or iron glue? Or X-glue?”

Do you get it? I didn’t; Karen did, right away. The “super” in super glue made Nate think of Superman, ergo Batman, Spiderman and Ironman (and, making it plural, X-Men). In Nate there is an innate (see what I did there) ability to deconstruct and recreate language in the moment. Stupidly, I thought it was a random assortment of words. I should know by now that there’s no such thing when it comes to Nate Katz.

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About Jeff Katz

Jeff Katz is Mayor of Cooperstown, the “Birthplace of Baseball” and home to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. His latest book, Split Season:1981 - Fernandomania, the Bronx Zoo, and the Strike that Saved Baseball, (Thomas Dunne Books, 2015), received national attention, with coverage appearing in The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Sporting News and NPR’s Only a Game, among others. Katz appeared on ESPN’s Olbermann and The Sporting Life with Jeremy Schaap and MLB Network’s MLB Now, with Brian Kenny. Split Season: 1981 was a finalist for the 2016 Casey Award for Best Baseball Book of the Year.
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