It pays to increase your word power

I swooned yesterday. Have you ever tried swooning? If not, I'd highly recommend it as an attention-getter. Just be careful about your surroundings at the time.

Webster defines swooning as fainting or losing consciousness. I did neither. Wise Webster also goes on to say that to swoon is to enter a state of hysterical rapture or ecstasy. The state of hysteria I got; the ecstasy part I missed out on entirely.

You'd have got a bit of hysterical rapture, too, if someone had placed a supposedly dead mouse in a cup in front of you while you were working at the computer. When I say "supposedly'" I mean that it pretended to be dead, then suddenly leaped to life in my face, thus causing me to enter a state of hysterical rapture.

Hysteria, quotes the learned Mr. Webster, means an uncontrollable outburst of emotion or fear, often characterized by irrationality, laughter and weeping. He's right on the mark as far as having an uncontrollable outburst of emotion or fear; I had both. My nervous system took immediate control of my body, causing it to jump upwards at a dis-tance an Olympic athlete would envy.

Before I knew what was happening, my behavior was characterized by irrationality, laughter and weeping. No, wait. That wasn't me. I was totally rational in my response to the mouse that had pulled a Lazarus on me. It was my spouse and children who had the uncontrollable laughter response.

After my initial leap into the air, accompanied by my uncontrollable outburst of the emotion fear, I continued to caper around the room. I shook my hands wildly and emitted sounds I hadn't heard from myself since I was in the throes of childbirth. Meanwhile, my four children, two nephews and husband were all doubled up laughing, or guffawing wildly while pointing at me, lest someone in the room miss my dance of fear.

Was anyone watching the mouse? Of course not. My son caught it as it was about to make a break for free-dom by leaping off the computer desk onto the floor, and right into the wait-ing teeth of our dog. Dumb mouse.

Later, I had the weeping response, but only after I was safely ensconced in my bathroom where no one could see brave, brave mommy having a nervous breakdown over the mouse attack.

They'd found the mouse outside in the back yard, being batted about by our dog Cassie. The thing wasn't dead - it was just playing dead in the hopes that the huge, fanged monster would lose interest and leave it alone. It almost worked, until my fanged son found the unfortunate animal.

Twelve-year-old boys have no fear of rodents, or any other creature that causes the swooning response in mothers. They also lack the gene for common sense, but I'm hoping that's a latent thing to come in later, like that deep-voice thing. My son plucked up the mouse and, for reasons known only to him, dropped it into a paper cup. Naturally, having accomplished the capture, he hurried into the house, trailing siblings and cousins, to plop it in front of me while I was sitting in my naturally stupefied state at the computer.

Peering at the cup suspiciously, I asked him what it was.

"It's a dead mouse, mom!"

I've seen dead animals and insects before. In fact, the walls inside my home bear the grisly remains of mosquitoes that have been swatted into oblivion by my overly zealous children. They're cheaper than bug-zappers, and somewhat more efficient, despite the fact that they must be reminded to remove the dead carcasses from the walls once they've sent them on to buggy heaven.

I'm not afraid to look death in the eye. I just don't expect it to look back at me and then jump for my nose.

Since the mouse was definitely alive, it was determined that we should set it free down the street at the park. I was all for getting it out of my house before it caused me to succumb to another uncontrollable outburst of emotion that would result in my smacking the thing into a oblivion, or causing me to erupt in hysterical rapture. In other words, swoon.

I just think that the word swoon isn't used enough anymore. Pick up a comatose mouse and get ready to swoon. It's more fun than you might think, at least for your audience.

Freelance columnist Pamela Troeppl lives in the Seattle area. Her column is published on the first and third Wednesdays of the month. She can be reached at

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