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“She’s not going to change,” I say. “She’s incorrigible.”

“What does incorrigible mean?” Christina asks.

A mild panic overtakes me. I was just trying to spice up our dinner conversation with one of those five-dollar words, but Christina has called my bluff. I do not know what incorrigible means, and so I do what comes naturally. I bullshit.

“It’s an old-timey word,” I say. “It was in popular use in England at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution.”

I stumble through a brief history of industrialization. The gist is this: people used to work on farms, then factories became a thing, which disrupted the social fabric of the agrarian economy, which resulted in some people, who couldn’t, or wouldn’t, for whatever reason—brutal labor conditions, mental illness, poverty wages, etc.—get with the program. Those people were labeled incorrigible.

“Cool. What does incorrigible mean?”

Damn it. College bullshit didn’t do the trick. Time to break out the law school bullshit.

“I saw incorrigible a lot reading old English common law cases,” I say. “Back in the day, the legal system was crude AF in terms of how it classified criminals, and there were these people…”


“Yes, exactly! Incorrigibles!”

“But what were they exactly?”

“They were people who were very difficult to deal with.”

“How so?” Christina asks. “Difficult in what way?”

“Well, it was a different time…”

“Honey,” Christina says, “you have no idea what incorrigible means, do you?”

“No, not really. But I’m still comfortable using it in a sentence.”

“Go for it,” Christina says.

I clear my throat, take a sip of water, and let it rip.

“Alexa, what does incorrigible mean?”

“As an adjective,” Alexa says, “incorrigible is defined as not corrigible.”

“Looks like I’m not the only one bluffing here,” I say.

“Alexa,” Christina says, “what does corrigible mean?”

“Kerbel is a surname,” Alexa says.

Christina turns her head to face Alexa. In a loud, clear voice she asks, “Alexa, what does corrigible mean?”

“Courage is a noun,” Alexa says.


“Courage,” Alexa continues, “is defined as the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear; bravery.”

“Alexa, what does corrigible mean?” Christina asks again.

Once again, Alexa repeats the definition of courage.

“Alexa, please define the word corrigible,” Christina says.

Alexa repeats the definition of courage for a third time.

“I give up,” Christina says.

“You have to admit. It took a lot of courage for her to say that shit three times.”

But Christina isn’t laughing. She’s on a mission to discover what incorrigible means. So, she handles her business the old-fashioned way. She Googles it. On her iPhone.

“It means not able to be corrected, improved, or reformed,” Christina says.

“Exactly! Alexa is incorrigible!”

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