Stop the Yawn!
What started out as the hint of a tickle in the back of Jennie’s throat began to grow and spread until she couldn’t stop it anymore. No way. No how. She tried swallowing but that didn’t work — it only seemed to have the opposite effect. The breath blew up like a balloon inside her mouth, bigger and bigger and pushedpushedpushed against her teeth to get out. Then, with a loud whoosh that brought tears to her eyes and a popping sound to her ears, that big ole bag of wind finally did escape Jennie’s lips.
“What’s the matter?” her Language Arts teacher asked. “Catching flies again with that yawn of yours?”
“No, ma’am.” Jennie giggled. “I’m just tired, that’s all.”
“At least you didn’t say ‘bored,’” Ms. Maury said. “Promise me you’ll go to bed earlier tonight so you won’t fall asleep in class, okay?”
“Okay. I will. I promise.”
The teacher strode to the back of the room. “Hey Bradley. You too? Can’t keep your trap closed either?”
“Sorry. But Jennie’s yawn was contagious.”
“Good try, Bradley. But it’s never okay to blame someone else for our behavior. Maybe what you’re really trying to say is that this grammar lesson doesn’t hold your interest. Raise your hand if you agree.”
All the students’ hands shot up in the air at once. “Ah, well at least I’ve got your attention now. That’s good,” said Ms. Maury. “I have an exercise that I think will be more fun than the study of pronouns.”
“It’s a lesson on synonyms. English is a very precise language that contains synonyms, or two or more words that mean almost the same thing. The words don’t have exactly the same meaning but are pretty close. If the words meant the same thing, then we wouldn’t need more than one of them, now would we?” she explained. “Who can give me an example of a couple of synonyms?”
Jennie raised her hand. “How about ‘yawn’ and ‘gape?’” she asked.
“Very good. Anyone else?”
“How about that one you used for mouth earlier – trap?” said Bradley.
“Oh excellent. You really were listening then.”
“Let’s hear from someone else now. How about you, Henry?”
“When I yawn in church, my grandma leans over and whispers in my ear, ‘Shut your yap,’” Henry replied. “So I do.”
Several kids laughed.
“Ooh Henry. What a colorful expression.” Ms. Maury clapped her hands in delight. “Good.” She then paced between the rows of desks. “All right. Now who knows which reference book contains synonyms?”
“I do,” said Thomas. “A thesaurus. It’s easy to remember because the name sounds like a dinosaur.”
“That it does,” agreed Ms. Maury. “Good job.”
Next she grabbed the thick book from her desk. “Just for fun, why don’t we look up the word ‘mouth’ in the thesaurus?” She licked her index finger and flipped to the page containing the entry.
“It says here, ‘aperture, chops, jaws, kisser, lips, maw, muzzle, opening and orifice.’ Those are all words that can also mean mouth.”
Ms. Maury looked around the room. All eyes were on her. “Goodness!” she exclaimed. “The study of synonyms must be quite fascinating.”
“Miracle of miracles — everyone stopped yawning!”