Tag Archives: language

Postage from PETA

To Whom it May Concern:

My name is Sunflower Smith and I am the communications liaison for PETA-People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

I’m writing you today (on this 105-percent fair trade paper with an animal-free pencil I carved from repurposed oak that passed from natural causes) to express our collective opinion—no, our stance—that several common clichés be banned from the English language.

Why? Because of the cruelty towards animals that they reflect.

Language is a very powerful tool, and by suggesting that one “beats a dead horse” or that it’s “cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey,” people are reinforcing barbaric behavior.

We have a comprehensive list we would like to submit. For example, “The early bird gets the worm.” Yes, the bird gets fresh food, but what no one talks about is what happens to the early worm. Death! That’s what happens to the worm!

I’ll shoot you that list via email next week.

But today I would like to use cats as our most pressing concern. Not only are they often mentioned being “on a hot tin roof”—disturbing for both the fact that they are roaming outdoors and that they’re being forced to endure harsh conditions—but they are also said to have “nine lives,” which we all know just isn’t the case.

However, the repetition of that phrase has led people to place felines in the linguistic lagoon of doom through a reinforced order of cliché operations, working under the assumption that they will survive.

Example A: “No room to swing a cat.” Why can’t you say, “No room to swing a toddler?” They like swinging much more than cats. Or just say that there’s not that much room? Exactly. Laziness.

Example B: “Let the cat out of the bag.” Why is the cat placed in a bag? Are there air holes? Death!

Example C: “Cat got your tongue?” Although we admire the tenacity of the cat in fighting back, we disagree with the notion that cats are violent creatures that seek physical revenge. They most likely would just choose to ignore you.

Example D: “More than one way to skin a cat.” I don’t even know where to begin with this one. Instead I’m choosing to use the phrase, “There is more than one way to brush a cat,” as you can do it the traditional way or you can directly apply the lint roller and cut out the middleman. No death! No hair! Win-win!

Example E: “Curiosity killed the cat.” So being inquisitive is a negative thing that should carry a warning of death? Without curiosity, we wouldn’t have new ideas or covers for electrical sockets! We prefer the phrase, “Curiosity enlightened the cat.”

You know what killed it? Putting it in a bag or swinging it around! (See above.)

So as you can see, these are just a few of our feline examples. Next we will have to address things like, “Killing two birds with one stone.” First of all, when in history was there an overabundance of birds and a shortage of stones? Second, death!

This is obviously a very pressing matter that requires your attention as soon as possible. Together we can reprogram the collective public belief that cruelty towards animals is okay when used to try and express a vapid human sentiment.

In other words, we can “teach an old dog new tricks.”*

Thank you for your time,


*We approve of this phase because it reflects our belief that canines exhibit the intellectual power to learn additional skills at an advanced age. While humans might not be as smart, we hope to at least shape the young minds of the future.

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Bleep It Out

I’m told when I was little, one of the first phrases I uttered was “Goddamn dog.” This is due largely in part to the fact that my grandma used to throw it around on the regular when their geriatric poodle would jump on the back of the couch.

She still denies that she influenced an impressionable toddler to wander around the house mumbling profanities at a senile poodle, but from what I can recall, there was never an episode on Sesame Street in which Big Bird was bleeped out.

I share this little tidbit because I’m going to continue to talk about cursing. While I figure most of my readers are used to me, there might be one or two that are new and accidentally ended up here by searching “squirrels wearing Polish babushkas.”

In that case, this is your warning.


Although I don’t remember the dog incidents, I do remember the first time I ever stuck up my middle finger. I think I was around six or seven, and oddly enough, I was by myself and sitting on the toilet in our laundry room. (Why I remember this detail but spent 10 mins. looking for the keys I left in my back door last week is beyond me.)

I remember that I heard it was bad to do, but had no idea what it meant. The first time I did it it felt foreign and strange, like eating with a fork in your opposite hand. But I couldn’t figure out why one finger meant so much and soon got bored with the idea.

Fast forward about 10-15 years.


Again, I’m sorry if this offends you, but it’s one post. You’ll survive.

While I grew taller, both my boobs and my internal filter failed to mature and develop. A good student, athletic and innocent for the most part, the fact that I had the mouth of a drunken sailor was my dirty little secret until I actually opened up my mouth and let it fly.

I haven’t outgrown this shit yet.

This comes as a surprise to a lot of people, especially seeing as I keep this blog rather family-friendly (if your friends and family are dysfunctional, which most of mine are.)

I don’t ever curse for the shock value or to try and work up street cred I would inevitably lose the second someone witnessed me walking around with a forgotten Velcro roller in my hair.  Sometimes I’ll put it in a cuss word because it’s part of the situation, but otherwise I don’t think profanity really adds to my posts.

But in person, email or  texts with “appropriate” parties,  it’s a different (often R-rated) story.


I figure I don’t smoke. I very seldom drink. I try to limit my use of voodoo dolls to less than an hour a day. If choosing to express myself in a colorful way is the worst thing that I do, then dammit, so be it. Except I’m pretty sure it’s not the worst thing that I do.


What I mean is that choosing to express myself in a colorful way (in appropriate situations) doesn’t really hurt anyone else, and although I’ve accidentally let it slip within the confines of questionable company more than once, I’m generally very respectful of my use of salty language.

And to people who say profanity is just something people with low intelligence use as a crutch, I call bullshit. I feel I have a pretty good handle on how to use the English language and I know when to add in the filter, but sometimes nothing but a good ol’ “shit on a shingle” will do.

So while I’ll continue to watch my language here on the blog, just know that if you ever hang out with me or send me an email that opens up the door for an inappropriate comment, I’ll take that shit and run with it. 

I’ll blame my grandma—or perhaps on that damn dog.

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Use Your Words

Today’s post is brought to you by whoever decided that the “Milford” street sign in my neighborhood had suddenly graduated into something else a little sexier.


Let’s pretend MILF stands for: Masking Identifiable Letters Fashionably

It also got me thinking about how our language has become full of a bunch of words and abbreviations that almost seem like a second language in and of themselves, one that often mandates a (humorous and educational) trip to Urban Dictionary.

Because I’m an editor, I do read and write most things in AP style and have a few pet peeves when it comes to grammar and language. But the whole modern text/Twitter speak thing leaves me RME, which I recently learned is “rolling my eyes” and not just some dyslexic adaptation for “REM sleep” or a rock group. 

I know “RT” means “retweet,” but had no clue “MT” meant “modified tweet” and not “mountain time.” And although I am fully aware of the meaning assigned to “WTF,” I prefer it to mean “Where’s the food?”

Plus, I’m pretty sure people just start making up their own acronyms simply to confuse people, which makes me want to KTCOOT (kick the crap out of them.)

Now I understand that this bastardization of the language is going to happen with texts and Tweets and I’m not so old that I’ll complain about that. But just for the record, “was” is just as many letters as “wuz,” so there’s absolutely no excuse for that one.

Anyway, I am going to complain about the fact that some people have taken to using acronyms in verbal communication—as in, when talking face-to-face (IRL, for those of you confused by the verbiage.)

I’m not talking about the old school ASAP or FYI—those actually have a concrete meaning in the conversation—but rather things like LOL, ROFLMAO and OMG. In my opinion (IMO), they are just about the most ridiculous things adults can use in a conversation.

If you reply to what I said with “ROFLMAO,” I can clearly see that you are not actually rolling on the floor laughing your ass off and “BRB” is just as many syllables as “be right back.”

This epidemic has also spread into abbreviating other words that shouldn’t be abbreviated—“adorbs,” “obvs” and “addy” come to mind—as if it’s physically too much work to add on the extra syllables to say “adorable,” “obviously” and “address.”

Then there are those people who actually say ‘”hashtag,” as in “I ran into my ex— ‘Hashtag’ awkward!” This makes me immediately want to “unfollow” them so I don’t sink into the depths of language bastardization that leaves them sounding like Valley Girls…or a Target cashier. 

At any rate, I miss the days when people actually laughed out loud or completed whole sentences. Then again, if these things hadn’t crept up into our modern vernacular, a street sign with cleverly placed masking tape wouldn’t have inspired a ranting blog post.

And that, my friends, would have been totes ridic.


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Vive la France!

There’s just a certain, je ne sais quoi about the melodic sing-song nature of the  French language.


Let me rephrase that.

There’s just a certain, je ne sais quoi about the melodic sing-song nature of the  French language when spoken by someone who can actually speak the French language.

When you’re in high school and studying French as a graduation requirement, the cadence of dialogue resembles a choppy staccato more than a flowing  ballad. The words don’t exactly ebb and flow in intensity with each inflection, rolling off the tongue like butter from the croissant that students are struggling to remember the gender of as they reenact an awkward café scene in front of their overly enthusiastic French teacher.

For my high school teacher, to teach our class was to teach us about a life she was meant to be living 3,000 miles away.

Madame was convinced she was born in France and not in Michigan, and to prove that she immersed herself in the culture of a country she had visited just twice.  This love extended to not just her professional life, but also to a mullet, unshaved legs and children who could speak better French than half of Paris. 

As high schoolers, our first goal was to learn the curse words, how to ask for the bathroom and how to proposition complete strangers to sleep with us. Our second goal was to convince Madame to throw French “rendezvous” with snacks and “French” movies.


Considering her children had the complete collections of both Babar and Madeline and that she took our desire for food as a desire to experience the culture hands-on, we had an alarming number of that more resembled a two-year-old’s birthday party.

The conversation was only marginally more advanced.

We were forced to endure workbook after workbook of conjugation and verbs, describe our mood and the weather with alarming frequency and take an unnatural interest in the lives of manically happy strangers talking on videos and tapes about how where they were going in their blue car on various days of the week.

While I got to the point in my studies where I could read and understand a great deal of French, my spoken attempts remained choppy at best.

Madame, who eventually refused to speak English after two years, would speak to us as if in song. The ebb and flow in intensity with each inflection lulled me into a false sense of security that the same thing would happen when I opened my mouth and attempted to reply.

Yet when I set out to join her in a duet of dialogue, the words seemed to stick in my throat. More cacophonic than melodic, I struggled in vain to tell her that I was going to the bibliotheque on my bike on Tuesday and that I was happy about the weather.

“Viola! Can I can write it down instead?

How about another Babar party?

I’ll bring the crepes.”

At any rate, I recently ran into Madame at the store. Twelve years later she was still rocking the mullet and still refused to speak English, but we did have a brief and friendly conversation.

I believe I either told her I was fine or that I was a car.

She appeared pleased and either told me it was great to see me again or that I was still —how do you say it in English?—a pathetic monolingual loser with no rhetorical rhythm. 

Either way, je m’appelle Abby.

Ou sont les toilettes?

Click the link to watch it on YouTube.


This post was in response to this week’s RemembeRED prompt:

Write about a time that rhythm, or a lack thereof, played a role in your life. And don’t use the word “rhythm.”