ALH Anna Lee Huber

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In which I'm in the mood to embarrass myself...
December 7, 2011

Or, why you should never mix up the words pus and puss…

Somehow I injured my finger last night. I burnt it or bashed it or otherwise wounded it. It aches and is oozing pus from the side of my fingernail. I mentioned this on Twitter, embarrassingly misspelling "pus" as “puss,” which reminded me of an unfortunate incident from fifth grade.
 
I was a member of one of our school’s Odyssey of the Mind teams, a creative problem-solving competition. The category our team entered called for us to build specified targets and then design a way to fire tennis balls through these obstacles. One day during practice we realized that one of our targets had not been constructed to code, so we disassembled it and prepared to make the necessary alterations. One of the large pieces of heavy cardboard had been laid flat on the ground, but the thick staples that had held it to its wooden braces had not been removed. Someone failed to mention this to me before I knelt on the cardboard and drove a staple into my knee. It hurt, but as I was trying to be cool and brave in front of the other members of my team, I laughed it off. 
           
The next day I bragged about this injury to one of the sixth grade boys who had not been present. After telling him the story, I offered to show him my wound, making a rather unfortunate remark. “Hey, want to see my puss?”
 
I innocently substituted the word “puss” – a kitty cat, or slang for a woman’s lady parts – for “pus” – a secretion from an infection or injury. In my defense, I didn’t use the word often, and I caught the mistake as soon as the word was out of my mouth.  But the damage had already been done. The sixth grade boy told all of his classmates, and they never let me live it down. I spent the next few years fielding questions from these boys about my “cat.”



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