I like getting a pedicure now and then, and I enjoy cooking. But I generally prefer to keep those things as separate activities. It's not that I'm not open to creative combinations or dabbling in different areas (take a look at my bio), but I generally don't want to be thinking about preparing tomato sauce when my cuticles are being pruned. That's why it was a little disturbing when an esthetician offered me the paper towel pictured above during my visit to a nail salon which shall remain nameless. And it was yet another lesson for me in the suggestive power of words.
It was a summer afternoon complete with warm, gentle breeze and lack of schedule demands, and I was finally enjoying my much anticipated toe-beautification. I was looking forward to being able to wear sandals again as I allowed myself to sink into the massage chair and drop my feet into the cool water, knowing that for the next hour all I would have to do was obey the simple commands of the esthetician when she asked me to switch feet. Of course, there was the issue of my being ticklish, which is always a bit of a problem when she pulls out that scratchy thing and rubs it against the bottom of my foot. But that usually just results in more fun.
Just as my relaxing moments were drawing to a close, however, when it was almost time to sit for what always seems an eternity under the magic ultra-violet toenail dryer, the woman who had been working on my nails handed me a paper towel with colorful words on it. I like color, and I like words, so I was immediately drawn to it and thought I would take it home as a little souvenir. That was until I noticed the word "mash" in big red letters. "Cut" in green. "Carve" it said in blue. Then there was "melt", "dice", "chop", "boil" and "grate". Suddenly my relaxing pedicure was cut short by mental images of kitchen machinery and equipment dangerously near my toes that stared up at me in the flimsy paper flip-flops provided by the salon. The moment was ruined.
On the way out, with the troubling paper towel folded and stashed in my bag as a reminder of the power of appropriate (or in this case inappropriate) words, I pondered whether I should say something to the salon proprietor. I was aware that English was not the first language for the owner and her employees, and I did not want to be insensitive. The place was always clean and efficient, and they worked hard to earn their money. Besides, I don't know if any other customer would notice or even care that there were such violent words printed on the paper towel handed to them post-manicure or pedicure. Also, the words are not entirely inaccurate. "Cut" does fit the occasion, right? Just maybe not "slice" or "carve". What's funny is that I really liked the paper towel for a kitchen. It was much more appealing to me than the cheesey ones I usually see with pastel flowers or random designs and phrases that seem to have no relation to cooking.
But there is a time and place for everything, most especially the proper word. And when I'm getting my nails done, I really don't want to be staring down at something that says "fry" or "chop". I also just have to ask, from a grammatical standpoint, with all those powerful verbs, how does the word "beet" fit in? Or was that a homonym issue? Was it supposed to say "beat?", I wonder?