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You're using that action verb wrong

You're not jumping in the shower. You're not grabbing dinner.

Idiomatic expressions are part of our everyday lives.

I have been doing quite a lot of running, jumping, and grabbing lately. But before you assume that I've embarked on an aggressive new fitness routine, let me assure you: I haven't gone on a light jog in months, and a full-out sprint is but a distant middle-school memory.

No, instead I'm just talking about running, but not in the way one talks about maybe someday training for a marathon. More like: "Oh crap!" [looking at my iPhone, because who wears a watch in today's fast-paced digital environment?] "I'm late for that very important thing I have to do! Gotta run!" Or, glancing at the time on my computer screen, then gchatting my employer: "Running late! Jumping on the subway now!" (Of course, it will not be now, as in this very second, any more than I will actually jump onto the train, and thank goodness for that, as it would probably be disturbing to other passengers if I were to attempt it.)

I use words like these all the time. You probably do to. These super-active action verbs and idiomatic expressions are used to denote that whatever is happening will happen with speed and intensity, a greater sense of import and purpose. My words say, "There's no time to waste! I will not waste your time!" I'm not just showering, I tell my mom, I'm "hopping in the shower!" No fool, she'll reply, "Are you really going to hop?" while I scowl and head off to bathe. I suppose if you did hop or jump or throw or jettison yourself wildly into the shower, you'd probably slip. It could be dangerous! Maybe that's why they sell those nubbly mats that go on the bottom of bathtubs.

Even worse is the grabbing. "Hey, we should grab drinks or dinner soon," texts an acquaintance, and I think to myself, how very unappealing. I don't like to grab anything, certainly not something that might spill, or a plate that I might then drop onto the floor where it would shatter into a thousand pieces and someone would be tasked with running over to clean it up. I'd rather sit and luxuriously sip something in a comfortable, relaxing spot, and then slowly savor the food I might order. No grabbing involved. Grabbing, after all, is something we've been warned against since preschool. It's rude. And yet, when it comes to representing our industriousness and busy lives, we're all about meeting "to grab a quick bite." Personally, I'd prefer a slow bite, with plenty of time to chew. And then maybe more bites. Who wants only one?

Of course, they're nothing wrong with saying "hop" when you mean "step into the shower calmly in the very same mundane way you have showered most of your adult life." People — at least, most English-speaking people, for whom these expressions are common rather than utterly bizarre — will know what you mean, unless they're my mother, who will call you on it for her own amusement. But in a time in which mindfulness is constantly preached, and for good reason — we're so busy, we're running around all the time, we never have time to just be, and if we do, our minds are thrumming with thoughts and plans and whatever we have to do next — perhaps it's wise to consider the very verbs issuing from our mouths, how speedily we are trying to get through the moments of our days linguistically while, contrarily, also trying to exist in the moment. I doubt that any great meditators hop in the shower or "run late"; they just swish in billowy robes to wherever it is they need to go, feeling enveloped in peace and harmony. (Disclosure: I recently took a meditation class. I often ran late.)

Perhaps, to some extent, we are the cause of our own pain. Perhaps our subconscious verbal attempt to declare to the world that we really are keeping up, and not only are we keeping up, we're doing it all faster than before — so don't get angry, we're on the way! — is part of what's keeping us exhausted, overworked, and feeling constantly ever more frenetic.

Or maybe not. It could just be a kind of upward management. After all, if you tell your employer or your waiting date that you'll eventually "languidly stroll" to meet them "at some point in the distant future," they might get kind of mad. And "taking a shower" does pale in terms of the evocative imagery to jumping into one. Plus jumping makes you sound like you're burning a lot of calories, too.

Anyway, I gotta run. Let's talk about it some more when we grab drinks one of these days.

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