Archive for the ‘Words’ Category

Sleepy Alphabet Tricks

Tuesday, July 14th, 2015

Sometimes when I’m lying in bed at night and wish I were sleeping, I challenge myself to generate alphabetical lists. When I choose the right sort of list, I find the task occupying enough to distract me from unpleasant thoughts (EARTHQUAKE EARTHQUAKE EARTHQUAKE) and calming enough (usually) to invite sleep. The first few lists I made were names: 10 “female” names for each letter, A – Z, and then ten “male” names. At some point I switched to books and movies; I’m currently working on plays. (Stuck on J. Please do not help.)

Two recent lists that I enjoyed making immensely: movies with one-word titles and movies whose titles begin with progressive verbs. Remember, I made this late at (or in the middle of the) night, with no access to IMDB. I’m reconstructing both lists here, from memory and imperfectly.

One-Word Movie Titles

  1. Amelie
  2. Babe
  3. Chicago
  4. Dune
  5. Election
  6. Fargo
  7. Gremlins
  8. Happiness
  9. Inception
  10. Junebug
  11. Koyaanisqatsi
  12. Lilies
  13. Memento
  14. Nell
  15. Oliver
  16. Parenthood
  17. Queens
  18. Ray
  19. Sideways
  20. Thumbsucker
  21. Up
  22. V (oops, TV miniseries only)
  23. Wild
  24. X-Men
  25. Yesterday (guessing that there’d be a movie with this title; there are several)
  26. Zoolander

Progressive-Verb-Initiated Movie Titles

  1. Awakenings (well . . . that’s a gerund, so . . . maybe doesn’t count?)
  2. Breaking Away
  3. Capturing the Friedmans
  4. Driving Miss Daisy
  5. Eating Raoul
  6. Forgetting Sarah Marshall
  7. Going the Distance
  8. Hanging Up
  9. Inventing the Abbots
  10. Jumpin’ Jack Flash
  11. Kicking and Screaming
  12. Leaving Las Vegas
  13. Making the Grade
  14. N . . . NO N? There’s NO N?
  15. O . . . also no O?
  16. Playing for Keeps
  17. Quitting Time (guess)
  18. Remembering the Titans
  19. Saving Silverman
  20. Trading Places
  21. U . . . I think I feel asleep here.
  22. V . . . and now that I’m awake, the Internet isn’t helping.
  23. Walking and Talking
  24. X . . . ha ha ha ha ha.
  25. Y . . . nada.
  26. Z . . . kaput.

Okay, so perhaps this latter list wasn’t as successful as I’d imagined. Maybe it was the two-word title list I loved? So you have that to look forward to, if I ever get around to reconstructing it. Meanwhile, I’m sure I’m not the first person to notice that almost all of the lesser-used letters are at the end of the alphabet. How did that happen, I wonder? And why are the vowels so evenly distributed?


With All Due Respect

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

John had a skin thing recently, involving multiple trips to the doctor. John rarely goes to the doctor, but when he does, I always learn something. Like, how to respectfully disagree. Or how to . . . seem like you’re respectfully disagreeing? Here:

J: You know that word “notwithstanding,” and how you taught me that it actually kind of means the opposite?

M: Yup. It means “withstanding.”

J: Yeah. So I was thinking about how the phrase “with all due respect” is kind of like that.

M: As in?

J: As in, when the dermatologist told me it was eczema, I said, “With all due respect, I’m going to continue treating it as a fungus.”

M: And you didn’t mean it?

J: No. I mean, in that moment, I didn’t respect him.

M: Because he was wrong.

J: Yeah, basically.

M: With all due respect.

J: With all due respect.

M: Which is, like, none.

J: No respect is due!

M: Because you, Herr Doctor, are wrong!

J: Pretty much!

M: God. That is genius.

J: [Smiles.]

M: I’m loving you so hard right now.


Friday, August 20th, 2010

Remember chetzi-PJ?

Welp, the other day, John was doing something, and he said he didn’t want to do it “chetzi-tush.”

M: What?

J: Chetzi-tush. Half-assed.

M: Oh my God. That’s genius.

J: Thank you.

M: Except it should be chetzi-tushi, pronounced chetzi-tooshi.

J: Okay.

M: You really have to get the “oo” in there. Spend some quality time with the “oo.”

J: Chetzi-toooshi.

M: Very good.

J: Thanks!

Later it occurred to me that if we want to do something whole-assed, we should say “meah achuz tushi,” which means “100% tush.”

Right? As in, “There’s no way I’m eating only one cupcake. I approach cupcake-eating with meah achuz tushi.”

I think it works.

Exit, Complaining

Wednesday, March 10th, 2010

I’m about to remove myself from los interwebs for a few days (Tahoe, LOOK OUT), so I thought I’d leave you with two niggling complaints. Now you can get all riled up about things you can’t control, just like me!

What’s bugging me lately:

1) Women whose email accounts are under their husband’s name. I do a bunch of social media work for one of my clients, and in that role I interact quite a bit with customers. I’ve been shocked by how common it is for (presumably) married women to use an email account with their husband’s name on it. I’m forever getting emails from some dude or other who turns out to be a woman with the same last name.

WOMEN. For the love of personhood. CLAIM YOUR NAME.

I have no issue with a shared account, btw. But if it is a shared account, why does it have the man’s name on it?

2) “Eliminate expectorating.” Easy target, but the YMCA has a notice up about how we’re all banding together to prevent the spread of H1N1, yadda yadda. And one of the items is “Eliminate expectorating (spitting) in the pool.”

You can tell somebody missed the E.B. White lesson about writing simply, although somewhere in his/her subconscious a little voice pleaded for at least a parenthetical definition of “expectorate.” Not enough to get the message across, apparently: On all the notices in the women’s locker room, someone has crossed out “Eliminate” and written “Not.” So now we have “Not Eliminate expectorating (spitting).”

Oy. Whatever happened to “Don’t spit”?


Monday, March 8th, 2010

So, we had the Academy Awards. Feh. Any hope of investment I might have had was quashed when Where the Wild Things Are, hands down the best non-obscure film of 2009, failed to get a single nomination. Not even for costumes.

Academy, I revile you.

On the other hand, any day that James Cameron does not win Best Director is a good day for me. And since it takes him 3-4 years to heave one of his teeming leviathans from the depths, I’m probably safe for another few Oscar ceremonies.

In other news, when I rousted myself from the four-hour reclinathon that is Watching the Oscars, I discovered a rather fetchingly dewy version of myself in the mirror. My hair had greased itself into a perfect sort of fashion-do, and my skin had a rosy glow.

M: Hey, Sweetie. I look kind of cute right now.

J: Um, you always look cute.

M: Okay, no. That is the opposite of true.

J: No, really.

M: No, really, YOU. I’m having a moment.

J: Hmm.

M: Look at me. I don’t get it, but I’m glowing.

J: You’re always glowing.

M: Oh my God! I’m having a glowment! That’s what this is!

J: [Chuckling.]

M: That is a very good word I just made up.

J: That is a very good word.

M: You know, word coinage is not the easiest job on the planet. I really scored with this one.

J: Yeah.

M: I could, like, market it. For a facial cream or something.

J: [Groan.]

M: Okay, yeah. Maybe we should just keep it to ourselves.

Transcription Fail

Friday, December 4th, 2009

Just came across the following in an interview I’m using for a marketing piece:

Q: Okay, so let’s paint a scenario where—

A: Penis scenario?

Q: Yeah, let’s penis scenario where you often meet with your Creative Director—

A: I met with Greg this morning.


Let me think kinda hard.

Okay, I don’t think anyone in this corporate interview said “penis scenario.”

Just a hunch.

The Obvious: A Brief Disquisition

Saturday, October 3rd, 2009

Before I posted about the Clinton tapes, I paused to wonder whether it was too obvious. And then I paused to consider the nature of, and perceived trouble with, obviousness.

I used to hate obviousness. In particular, I was outraged that entire academic careers could be built on a single, simple, obvious assertion. For example: that language collapses under scrutiny. (See Derrida, Jacques.) Of course, the real problem with literary theory, if I may humbly take down the entire endeavor in a single swipe, is that it complicates the obvious.

At least as I experienced it in college, literary theory seemed designed to take ideas that were common-sensical and render them impossible. Admittedly, Derrida had more than one idea, and I seem to remember liking Lacan, if only because, after having made it through even a sentence of his without surrendering to a) sleep or b) suicide, I felt like a genius.

Back to obviousness. I still tend to get rankled by it. The small, bitter person who lives inside of me often feels that people get too much credit for being clever when they say something that anyone else (specifically, me) could have come up with just as easily, and didn’t, only because it was so obvious.* But recently, I’ve begun to see that stating the obvious is a good thing to do. And here’s why:

1) One person’s obvious is another person’s revelatory.

2) “Stating the obvious” is sometimes another name for naming something that was previously unnamed. And naming is very useful. Once something has a name, we can wrangle with it. Which brings me to . . .

3) It’s a good idea to get the obvious out on the table. Because it’s a place to start. And it’s really good to have a place to start.

In other news, I’m not as small and bitter as I used to be. Just so you know.

* Never mind that jockeying for “credit” based on cleverness is both dumb and a recipe for unhappiness.

On What Doesn’t Need To Be Said

Monday, August 31st, 2009

Yesterday, John and I were at a BBQ hosted by his Ultimate Frisbee game, and the intriguing topic of foreign phrase books came up. It began when Dan*, who is Korean-American, and his partner Jill*, who is European-American, were discussing the possibility that Jill might learn to speak Korean.

*Names have been changed, because I cannot remember these people’s names. Oof!

Dan: We started with the alphabet, because of course it’s different.

Jill: Yeah, and I said to him, ‘Rather than have me learn an entirely new alphabet, why don’t you just teach me to say, “I’m good enough for your son.”‘


Then someone (Kaoki?) mentioned that his friend has a foreign phrase book with highly unusual content, including the phrase, “You’re just using me for sex.” And he said, “You know, if you’re using a foreign phrase book to learn how to say that, isn’t it already obvious?”


John: That would be an excellent phrase book: All of the things you don’t need to say, because it’s already obvious that they’re true.

Me: Yeah, totally. Except — what’s in that book?

John: [Blinks.]

Me: [Blinks.]

Honestly, what is in that book? Comments about the weather? Things you’ve already said a million times? It’s pretty site-specific, I think — and by “site” I mean time, place, and people involved.

While John and I were contemplating this linguistic meme, Paul mentioned that he knows of a “phrase book” which is actually just a picture book. If you need a bus, you open to the picture of a bus.

John: I want that book with hand gestures. Like, what if you need milk? [Bows his head and points his fingers to make horns.]

Paul: What is that, a cow?

Me: I would never have known what that was.

Matthew: It’s the devil! Take me to your devil!

Irony–or Arrogance? When You Know More Than the Movie

Saturday, August 8th, 2009

Last night, we saw 500 Days of Summer. And as we left the theater and began to quibble over the movie’s point, I craved a term: What do you call it when you know more than the movie does? It has to be a kind of irony. Or is it just arrogance?

John had a clear-eyed theory for why the Tom/Summer relationship doesn’t work: i.e., failure to communicate. Tom doesn’t advocate for himself; he takes Summer’s skittishness as a given; he lets her dictate the rules, when he could have been clear about his own feelings, and needs, from the start. (This, John argues, would have made Summer much more likely to open to Tom, and to overcome her child-of-divorce trauma.)

But I don’t think that the movie sees it that way. I think the movie believes, simply, that Tom loves Summer, and Summer doesn’t love Tom. For whatever reason. For the “reason” that sometimes you fall in love with someone, and sometimes you don’t. The movie’s tagline certainly suggests as much: “Boy meets girl. Boy falls in love. Girl doesn’t.” Only a few short months after Summer dumps Tom, she marries someone else. Not dates. Not falls in love. Marries. And that is no endorsement for communication and growing into openness. It’s an endorsement of the fantasy of “the one.”

Of course, both John and I reject that fantasy and believe instead in the model of building relationship—growing together slowly through sharing, opening, and communication. So we walked home feeling that we knew more about the movie than it did.

Irony? Or arrogance? Perhaps both.


Thursday, August 6th, 2009

At our wedding (on Saturday!), I told the following story.

In our kitchen, we have a pantry. I generally like to keep that pantry in order, and John is kind enough to do his share. But once, a couple of years ago, I had neatened the pantry to a state of loveliness, only to find it disrupted a few days later. Because nobody else lives with us, I asked John about it.

“Hey, Sweetie,” I said. “Do you know what happened here?’

With a puzzled look, he opened the pantry door to examine the mess.

“Oh,” he said, suddenly seeming to know, “that’s just entropy, Sweetie. The universe has a natural tendency toward disorder.”

Hilarity. Doubled-over laughing, tears streaming, howling laughter. When I could breathe again I said, “Yeah, your universe.”

Anyway. At the wedding, after hearing this story, our friend Jim came up to John with a small piece of paper. On it was written a single word: entropantry.