Growing up in Appalachia was more than a little confusing for someone like me, who had a complete memory of a previous life on Mars. One of the most confusing things about living on Earth, especially in America, and especially in the Pennsylvania Appalachian Mountains, was the odd use of certain words. They call this type of language “slang” on Earth. On Mars, where every word had only one meaning, we called it “using the wrong word”.
One word in particular caused me the most confusion from age seven until age forty-seven, when I finally realized that there is simply no rhyme or reason to Earthling behavior and that the best thing to do was to simply “go with the flow” and enjoy life as much as possible. A pretty tall order when you don’t really know what people are saying or what the hell is really going on. Anyway, the most confusing word I heard back then was the word “dump”.
As a boy I was fascinated by the big, noisy tri-axle trucks that hauled coal all over most of the Allegheny Plateau. They were called “dump trucks”. OK. But then I was confused when I found out that they didn’t take the coal to “the dump”. No. That’s where people took their garbage. That was before recycling and refuse pickup became the law and the responsible thing to do. And way before the omnipresent Dempster Dumpmaster that people simply called “the dumpster”. But they weren’t to be confused with the place in the black-and-white war movies that I watched on TV every chance I got, the place where the army guys stored all their ammunition. That was “the ammo dump”. Hmmm.
When I was a teenager kids would often get sad and they called that being “down in the dumps”. But whenever I got that way the other kids told me not to “dump my problems” on them. Some of the saddest girls in high school were the “dumpy-looking girls”, girls who were not considered to be attractive, even though they were usually the friendliest and the smartest. They were the last resort as dates for boys whenever their girlfriends would “dump them”. Man, high school was just as confusing as life at home. For example, I didn’t really understand it when I was told to “dump my dirty clothes” into the laundry basket. But, it was nice to be able to just drop my dirty clothes in a pile on top of other dirty clothes and then skedaddle. That's back when most mothers stayed at home and liked being moms and doing mom things.
When I finally made it to adulthood I was still confused by the many uses of this particular word. Whenever one company would buy another company, they would often do “a computer dump” over the weekend to complete the merger. And you’d sometimes read in the paper where investors on Wall Street were going to “dump their stock” because it was worthless. But I knew they weren’t loading the stocks into “dump trucks” and taking them to “the local dump”. No. I’d finally gotten past those definitions of the word “dump” fairly unscathed. But, every now and then, I’d find myself living in an apartment or a town I didn’t really care for. My first apartment was nothing but “a dump”. But, then again, the town it was in was also “a dump”.
Hell, I could sit here all day and write more about this unusual American slang word but I ate a really big breakfast this morning and now I gotta go “take a dump”.