a story about agonis(t) muscles

the other day i told my brother not to get into a fight with me over grammar.

oh, but he did.

what stymied me more than my brother’s inherent stubbornness (which IS NOT, in fact, a trait his sister shares AT ALL) was the fact that my father agreed with him. after all, this is the same father that raised me on a love of literature.

then again, his opinion on hemingway is questionable at best, so maybe i wasn’t raised that well after all.

this morning i was up when my parents got up to get ready for work and as i was sitting at the kitchen table reading blog posts, my dad came into the room to take his asthma medicine. what he has to do to make sure he inhales it properly is bend his knees all the way into a squat and then shoot up to his full height as he inhales. it’s funny to watch.

so i told my dad watching him take his medicine never fails to make me laugh. and then he said, “i used my agonis muscles.”

i loved anatomy and physiology when i took it in high school but i tend to check all ability to think out the door the minute whenever people start referencing anatomy terms. (this is what happens when you’re related to and friends with people who were or are studying to be physical therapists and nurses, and in my defense, approximately 99.7% of the time, i have zero idea what they’re talking about.) so my response was, “i don’t know what that means.”

“helper,” my dad said. “it’s a helper muscle.”

again, all ability to think: checked. out. &+also, it’s five in the morning. so my response to that was, “why didn’t you just say that?”

dad practically spat out the words in mock horror. “why would i use a five-cent word when i can use a twenty-five cent word?”

i took a wild leap of faith into the chasmic wilderness that is english etymology and assumed agonis is a greek word, so i responded, “the greeks are only worth twenty-five cents to you?”

my dad was indignant at such an accusation (and, actually, didn’t even get where i was coming from with that). somehow that turned into a challenge to look agonis up. so i did. i typed that word, just as you see it, into the google search engine.

& i got this.

so i said, “um, you’re wrong. agonis is a tree.”

at this point my dad was about to spit nails instead of words. “it is not!”

“yeah, it’s a peppermint willow myrtle.”

he told me to keep looking. “it’s not under a tree.”

no, dad. it’s not under a tree. IT IS A TREE.

so i kept looking through search results, but google was giving me two straight pages of trees and 5am is not the time to ask me to perform any mental activity, much less a scavenger hunt, cyber-style. so i decided to check the Web Site That Has Never Failed Me, Ever.

enter dictionary.com.

i typed in agonis.

& i got this.

& no, dictionary.com, i did not mean agonize

at this point i was beginning to believe medical terminology was completely made-up by a race of fairy-like neptunians and bestowed to some ethereal human other some number of hundreds of years ago, to pull out when the time was ripe for confusing those of us who got our degrees in english and not medical gibberish.

my dad asked if i’d found anything.

“it says there are no results found.”

then i decided to be more deliberate in my search, so i went back to google and typed in “agonis muscles.”

& i got this.

let me deliver to you the most important lesson you will receive in the whole of your life:


& why, exactly, is this the most important lesson you will receive in the whole of your life?


then i looked up the etymology of the word agonist just to be sure it was greek.

and it was.

all i have left to say is this:
1. agonist is a greek word and my dad apparently only considers their great contributions to our ever flummoxing language worth twenty-five whole dang cents.
2. i got a whole stinking degree in english and my family apparently just doesn’t trust that it means a thing. or that it means any degree of intellectual matter, since apparently in my family, we are above using words that are only worth a measly nickel.

&+also, do we see how greatly out of control a conversation and situation can spiral when we DON’T JUST SAY HELPER?

&+doublealso, i’ll give my dad some credit. agonis flexuosa does sound like a muscle.

&+triplealso, then i found this:

so maybe i’ll have to rescind that one credit i bestowed just one &+also ago, because my father was WRONG.

& on that note, how have y’all been?


  1. says

    I’m well.. and brighter, thanks to your delightful father and his story! :) I had no idea agonis was a word (and my computer keeps autocorrecting it!) – theres my something new for today!

  2. says

    I could only read your blog posts to learn new words like agonis and agonist, but I could also only read for your entertaining stories. Lucky me, I don’t have to choose – I get them both!

    And the Greeks have to be worth at least a couple bucks.

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