My aunt wasn’t crazy. She was creative.
As a six-year-old, I didn’t know that some of the things she said and did were different.
She was born in Germany and lived in America for most of her life. Yet she didn’t speak English, only German. But some of the words she chose weren’t exactly German either.
For example, she called her neighbor’s dog, Zeppi, a dachel. That’s German slang for dachshund. And I knew that my aunt’s dog, Prince, wasn’t one of those. Prince was a somewhat German shepherd. One of his parents may have been a German shepherd, but a lot of him was neighborhood dog.
When I asked my aunt exactly what kind of dog Prince was, she told me he was a Kyutel. (Kai-YOU-tell.) Not knowing many breeds of dogs I accepted this as an absolute truth.
One day, when I was in the first grade, we were learning sentence structure. Our teacher stood at the black board and called on each of us to give her a sentence with a noun, verb, and object. Most of the kids gave sentences like Dick played ball, and Jane ate cake.
My turn came. Always the dog lover and never knowing how to keep things simple, I said, “The Kyutel ran to Uncle Max.”
The teacher stared. “Would you repeat that, please?”
“The Kyutel ran to Uncle Max.” More stares and few snickers.
“The what?” the teacher asked. Embarrassed, I figured that maybe building a sentence around a kyutel wasn’t the best idea.
I offered, “Zeppi is a dachel.” Lots more stares and several snickers.
“Let me get this right,” the teacher said. “Zeppi, is it? Zeppi is a what?”
“Never mind,” I said. “My sentence is: The dog walked down the road.”