Sometimes a word just makes you smile. ‘Ouistiti’ is one of them.

The first time I heard it was when my kids were little. “Ouistiti!” said the little boy who was my son’s best friend in maternelle or preschool. They both burst out in fits of giggles.

I had no idea it was actually a thing. Later I learned that a ‘ouistiti’ is a cute little monkey (much like that little boy). What we call a marmoset. Seems the name in French is inspired by the high-pitched sounds they make in the wild.

What inspires me most about these little guys, aside from their unbearable cuteness, is that they apparently listen to each other. Instead of cutting each other off midstream, they wait several seconds after each sound before making their own. Like a true conversation.

One of my pet peeves is something I have dubbed ‘interruptitis’: people who cut you off before you can finish a sentence. This is one of the many ills of modern life, as everyone seems to be convinced that they have something to say that’s more important than the other guy. Perhaps that’s why I enjoy blogging. I get to complete a thought before anyone cuts in.

I grew up in a family where interruptitis dominated the dinner table. There were four of us kids competing for attention so things often got loud. My dad was the worst offender; he was (and remains) convinced that the best way to make yourself understood is to shout down your opponent, banging your fist on the table for emphasis. Our nightly conversations quickly turned into arguments, some more vehement than others. I think for my father it was a sport. But for my mother it was tough. She hated conflict as much as our father relished it.

I suppose I have him to thank for the fact that I’m not afraid to defend my point of view. I do believe in listening, however. I think it’s important in any conversation to keep things respectful, to truly try to hear and understand other points of view.

In a world where people regularly shout each other down on social media and bully others online, maybe we should all take the example of the marmoset. Wait for a second or two to let the other person’s thought settle before cutting in with our own.

When I lose patience and want to cut someone off, on the road or in words, I will try to think about something that automatically makes me smile. Like ouistiti.

In fact, this is what French people say when taking a photo instead of ‘cheese’.

Try it: wee-stee-tee!

Are you smiling yet?


  1. margaret21 · February 13, 2020

    I always thought that ‘ouistiti’ was just a jolly sound. Thanks for the back story. And yes, my bugbear is interrupters too. Like you, I shall just think of the patient ouistiti in future.

    • MELewis · February 13, 2020

      I hope the image works for you! I find that knowing the story behind the French words and names helps me remember them better (although there are many that escape me even after years…)

  2. midihideaways · February 13, 2020

    Your post definitely had me smiling at the end!! 🙂 like you, I hate interruptitis!!

    • MELewis · February 13, 2020

      Ah, I think maybe I’ve touched a nerve with that one. Interrupting (or even not listening as you think of what you’re going to say in reply) is a terrible habit — one that I am also guilty of from time to time. But a smile always helps!

  3. Ally Bean · February 13, 2020

    I am smiling, both at the image of the monkey and at your smart thoughts about being polite. When we were on vacation years ago I saw a pygmy marmoset at the London Zoo and it charmed me. Now to have a word to say about it? ‘Tis perfect.

    • MELewis · February 13, 2020

      Glad to have enhanced your vocabulary! I must confess I didn’t even know what a marmoset was until I did a bit of research. They are so sweet and innocent in the wild, but after a bit of googling I fear that horrible humans may keep them as pets.

      • Ally Bean · February 13, 2020

        Oh no! Not as pets. That’s wrong. People… *meh*

  4. Liz · February 13, 2020

    It is always interesting for me to hear my siblings talk about our past… because I am never sure if my childhood memories are accurate or not. Memory is never a guarantee of what actually happened!
    Yes… it was hard to get a “word in edgewise” at home. I think thats why I have difficulty with “slow talkers”. I feel stressed that I will never get to share my point of view in a conversation, just like the kitchen table of my youth!
    Also, in close relationships, feeling “heard” is especially important for me.
    Thanks for sharing… in future, I will try to be more careful not to cut people off! 😊

    • MELewis · February 13, 2020

      Ha, ha…I am never sure of my memory on the details but I trust my gut on the big picture. Definitely some memorable moments in our family history. Lots of material! And rest assured, I do not think you are especially guilty of interruptitis. Sometimes I think it’s worse on Stefan’s side! (But that may have something to do with his father being deaf, which doesn’t help!)

  5. Dale · February 13, 2020

    I love this! Ouistiti – there is a ‘oui’ in there, implying agreement. These little fellas are better communicators than so many humans. It is so true. When you find someone who actually listens to you speak, it is a wonderful thing…

    • MELewis · February 13, 2020

      Ah, Dale, thanks! I could not have said it better — that ‘oui’ is a big yes to opening our ears and hearts! ❤️

      • Dale · February 13, 2020

        OUI Madame!! 😉 Happy Valentine’s Day to you and yours (yeah, yeah, I know, it’s tomorrow…)

      • MELewis · February 13, 2020

        I knew that heart meant something special…hearts and flowers to you too!

      • Dale · February 13, 2020

        Thank you!

  6. George Lewis · February 13, 2020

    What about the opposite of interuptitis. The person who goes on and on with the long winded backstory before getting to the point or an interruption for clarification of a confusing word or statement?

    • MELewis · February 13, 2020

      Fair enough! I do know some people who do go on and on and need a bit of prompting to get to the point. You, dear Dad, are not one of them! 😁

  7. acflory · February 14, 2020

    Courtesy was a big thing in my family growing up, so I’ve never been able to make myself shout. I do stick up for my ideas though…quietly, calmly…obstinately! lol

    You’re right about listening. It’s almost a lost art, yet when you’re really paying attention, you can pick up a whole lot more than just words, or even ideas. By watching someone’s face and body language, you can often guess at the more subtle feelings they may be trying to hide behind the bluster.

    • MELewis · February 20, 2020

      That is so true, Meeks. I’ve noticed that you can pick up on subtext more lately when you listen, partly because of my challenged hearing. There are all kinds of visual cues, and also sounds in the voice. Somehow I’m not surprised you stand up for yourself without raising your voice. That’s the best way — the velvet hammer!

      • acflory · February 21, 2020

        -giggles- I’ve never heard that phrase before but I love it! Always did like a good tool. 😀

  8. Joanne Sisco · February 19, 2020

    This is a big-time pet peeve of mine. You nailed it with your comment about enjoying blogging because we can complete a thought without interruption. When did listening become such a rare thing?

    • MELewis · February 20, 2020

      Listening is definitely underrated, but what a joy to be in the company of someone who does listen actively to what we are saying. I don’t know when it became a lost art, but it is certainly a sign of our times, sadly. 😢

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