Excitedly my 5 year old runs down the stairs from her room asks, “Mom what does carsick mean?”
“Well it means that when you are inside a car, you feel like you want to throw up and must get out.”
“Oh! And so can you be plane sick as well, like on our flight from Dubai to Winnipeg when I wanted to throw up?”
“Yes, that’s exactly it, but only in a car. And we do not say plane sick we say airsick.”
“Ummm….so do you get boat sick or water sick?”
“No, you get sea sick, not water sick.”
“Mama, this is way too confusing. You are carsick, but not plane sick, and you can be airsick but not water sick, how can I learn this language?”
“Don’t worry you are doing great, you know three new words now.”
“But tell me the reason why, why can’t I say land sick, or plane sick or ship sick, why, mommy why?”
So I go to my most trusted source for such dilemmas, no not my mom, but Google. I Google, and Google and here is my answer: NOTHING! Google has no answer for this conundrum. I was still searching, even posted a status on Facebook to see if I could get answers, but no one could come up with anything. A few hours later, my daughter comes running in and asks, “Mama I am homesick, can we go to the park?”
“Sweetheart, homesick means you want to go home, you miss home. When you are away from home that is when you are homesick.”
“Mama, you just told me that carsick meant I feel sick in the car and want to get out, sea sick meant I was on the sea floating and I wanted to get out, so why does homesick mean I am not at home and want to go home.”
“That is just how it is, it makes language interesting.”
So now I face the task of trying to find out why carsick and seasick mean the same but homesick means something that is completely the opposite, where do I start? I gave up on Google and started to think of a logical answer. Of course, fifteen plus years of being addicted to Google, doesn’t help. I didn’t know where to begin. Without the internet I feel naked. I unplugged myself and dragged myself over to a physical library; maybe a real person could help me.
I went in search of the Holy Grail of English language, an explanation that would alleviate my daughter’s confusion. I looked in the archives, linguistics galore but once again I came out empty handed. I did learn that carsickness is caused by motion, but airsickness is caused by drop in air pressure, so maybe that was the reason for the change. But that doesn’t explain sea sick!
My last and only desperate hope was my brother, an English literature professor in New Zealand. His reply was. “Sis, just tell her you are the mom and that is why the words mean what they do, you are the mom and you say so.”
“So mom did you find out the answer to my homesick question?”
I bite my lips; I promised I would be a better parent and would always logically and with utmost calm answer all my kid’s questions. I say, “Because I am the mom, and I say that is the way it is.”
It was that simple, all my fretting and Goggling for what, all I had to do was say, “I am the mom.” Yes that’s right I am the mom.
(By the way, if anyone knows the answer to my dilemma, please write me back, I am dying of curiosity.)