Johnny America


Mis­takes Were Made: Beam


Illustration of a shitty Stonehenge.

“Mis­takes Were Made” is a new se­mi-reg­u­lar bit in which in­tre­pid trea­sure-hunter Mark Brown re­lays words mis­un­der­stood and mis-used, in the hopes of spar­ing the Read­er from sim­i­lar confusions.

My moth­er is an struc­tur­al en­gi­neer by train­ing. Talk of wide-flange beam de­sign and struc­tur­al gus­set plates wasn’t un­com­mon around the din­ner ta­ble, so I had a kindergartener’s con­cep­tion of the pieces and parts of her vo­ca­tion, of our built world. I wouldn’t have un­der­stood the word “metaphor” at the time, but I in­tu­it­ed some­thing like it, and thought her use of the word “beam” to de­scribe the long brown dook­ies we all ex­trude in the pri­va­cy of the bath­room an art­ful way to avoid say­ing “shit.” I pic­tured brown “beams” span­ning brown columns set in a cir­cle to com­prise a tiny, smelly Stone­henge. On­ly in my thir­ties would I re­al­ize my every-po­lite moth­er was say­ing “B.M.” as a dis­creet short­hand for bow­el move­ment. I should’ve known an en­gi­neer wouldn’t un­der­stand metaphor.

Filed under Mistakes Were Made on July 9th, 2021

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