“Quizentential”? I bet you’re wondering if that’s a typo? You’re probably thinking that it’s not even a word.
You’re right. “Quizentential” is not an actual word. What it is, though, is one of my most mortifying moments. Let me explain.
In 1995 I moved to New Hampshire for a job as the director of operations for an up and coming software and services company. My wife, who was still in Pennsylvania with our kids, came up on my second weekend there to look at houses for us to buy and we spent most of the weekend driving around southern New Hampshire looking at houses for sale.
This was back in the dark ages before there were GPS devices and Google Maps on iPhones to direct you from point A to point B. So we had to rely on folding paper maps and the local folk for directions.
On our second day of house hunting, we stopped by for coffees this quaint little place in some quaint little town. After we finished our coffee, I went up to the proprietor of the coffee shop to ask for directions to the next house we were going to see. I unfolded the map and gave him the address and asked him the best way to get there.
He looked me straight in the eyes and said, “Ayuh, you can’t get theah from heah.” After we left the coffee shop my wife and I were cracking up over what to us was seemed like the quintessential New England response to our question.
Anyway, I had regularly scheduled meetings with my team leaders every Monday morning at 8:30. On the Monday morning after our house hunting weekend, one of my team leaders asked me, in front of all eight of those assembled for my meeting, how our house hunting weekend went.
I said that we’d seen a bunch of houses, but we’d probably have to keep looking. And that was when I said, “We had the funniest and most quizentential New England experience.”
As soon as I heard the words come out of my mouth I knew I had mispronounced “quintessential.” Everyone in the conference room silently stared at me.
I was truly mortified. I figured I could either pretend I hadn’t mispronounced quintessential and continue as if nothing had happened, or I could, knowing that everyone had heard me say “quizentential, admit my mistake and move on.
I decided on the latter. But if there was a hole I could have just fallen into, I would have chosen to do that.