ComPost Live with Alexandra Petri

Oct 09, 2012

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I'm tempted to have the Halloween Costume chat this week! Thoughts?

Also, what say you to this list of 40 Things You Should Die Before You Say? Someone noted that I forgot "Oh puh-leeze."

The top page of the Compost, or any blog, holds five stories. The only option for older articles is "Full Archives." Why can't there also be an option for another five stories, or at least a direct link to "This Month's Archives"? I can't be the only reader who wants to click more quickly to the sixth or seventh oldest blog post.

This bugs me too, especially in my more productive weeks! I do a pretty decent job of posting them to my Facebook fanpage (that half-sentence and all its implications disgusts me...) but that's still not a perfectly complete archive. I wish I had some clever shortcut to offer! At any rate, I concur! 

test question

test answer

I'd add "expresso" and "but that's just me." The former akes my skin crawl. The latter always seems to follow some condescending holier-than-thou statement.

So, fun fact, many of these came from typing in "I hate when people say" and seeing what Google suggested. "Expresso" definitely made that cut. Others I didn't include were "K" and "swag." 

"Speaking as [insert racial/gender/ethnic group]..." Speaking as a woman, statements that begin this way never end well.

Oh, I think that's true. 

I'm trying to think of a counterexample, but the most common usage of that formulation seems to be to introduce a statement like, "Speaking as a woman, I wouldn't find it insulting if you covered New York City in unflattering billboard images of my daughter."

Whoever sent in "test question" reminded me of a joke from college. A teacher of one of those large lecture classes assigns a take home test due exactly at 5 pm. A student arrives with his test answers late and the teacher refused to accept his paper. The student acts insulted and asks "do you know who i am?" The teacher is not impressed and responds "no, and I don't care." The student then says "good", and shoves his paper into the middle of the pile of tests.


If someone were going to dress up as Mitt Romney which Mitt Romney should they dress up as - the severely conservative one or the guy that showed up to debate (and humiliate, with help from Obama) the President?

A friend suggested Clint and Invisible Obama as a couples costume, where you just go by yourself but carry around a chair and talk to it. I might dibs this. 

No offense, but literally, we need to talk. Let me share this with you You look tired. Of course, I could care less.

Speaking as a woman, oh puhleeze.

All my stories are cool. Don't embarrass me!

That also made the Things Googling People Want You To Stop With list.

In my experience, "literally" is more often used these days simply for emphasis, as a synonym for "incredibly," and I find that grating. When did "gay" begin to be used to mean crappy? I hadn't heard it used that way before "Super Bowl is Gay," and I had this image of the game turning into a big campy production with Nathan Lane and Christopher Lowell as the coaches. And in our house, we've been teaching our kids that if you feel that you have to preface something with "No offense," you're better off not saying it at all.

1) I think you're right. Although as a crusader against the emphatic misuse of literally, I occasionally nod ruefully at this XKCD.

2) I don't know, but it needs to stop.

3) Now that's some child-rearing I can get behind! 

Whenever I say "speaking as a woman", this does not always end in disaster. Of course, being male, it often results in laughter.

Yes, speaking as a man, I think it's safe if you don't fall into the demographic described. 

Can we please, please add "iconic" to the list. It's overused, and everytime I see it, I see golden halos and saints painted on wood. That makes for a bizarre juxtaposition, especially when it's used to describe a peacoat or something... "but maybe that's just me" (sorry, earlier poster - couldn't resist)

That's a great one! I went to a lecture on icons recently, but they all turned out to be grainy images of the wrong Madonna. 

Can I also wear the costume on St. Patrick's Day?

If you don't mind drunk strangers trying to imbibe you, then, sure!

The neat thing about the internet is that everybody is weird, and also that the majority of the world's population are actually trolls.

Not to mention this chat's population!

We need to change the definition of "that is so gay". We should begin using it to mean something positive. As in :I am voting for the gayer of the two candidates", "Star Wars is the gayest movie ever", and "I love my religion, it is so gay".

I think I've seen stand-up sets based around that bit, but it still makes me chortle! The same set suggested that where you want to say "lame" but denigrate a whole group, you substitute "racist." ("Man, this dance class is so racist.")

Do you get annoyed when your biology professor signs emails as Dr. X or is it just me? Is it pretentious to claim the Dr. title when you're not an M.D.? Or do I just dislike my professor so I'm picking things to roll my eyes at? Thanks.

Dr. X is the worst! It's Professor X or nothing.

I was thinking of the "Fat Mitt" as my costume.

You mean greasy-face Mitt

I guess Big Bird with a "Will Work for Food" sign is just too obvious.

Yeah, preliminary reports say that's the obvious one this year. And it takes a lot of effort!

Whenever someone says "speaking as a woman" or "speaking as a man," I immediately expect that person's voice to go up or down an octave like some bad voice-actor from an old Flintstones cartoon.

Hah, now that you mention that, I'm getting a definite Snagglepuss vibe. "Speaking as a man, EVEN." 

At the end of the day should have been on the list. But, I guess the list is what it is. A couple of other annoyances in everyday parlance: PIN number, which is something that can come in handy at the ATM machine....

Oh, PIN number and ATM machine! Both good calls calls. 

I never hear people say this. Is it an East Coast thing?

Is it? I think I've heard it out midwest, at least...

I'm 41, and we used to say that when I was a teenager. Of course, when I was a kid we'd use "homo" as an insult. But then, that was New York City in the 70s. It's amazing how things change.

Here's one perspective.

You can thank the "South Park" guys for that one. Seriously, that's how long it's been around, and it pisses me off no end (NOT 'to no end').

And here's another.

The hot Halloween costume of 2012. And it even harks back to the religious origins of the holiday.


I don't mind when a Ph.D., D.Ed., DD, DDS, DVM, etc. signs his/her name as Dr. [name], or [name], [doctoral degree]. What I DO object to, however, is the redundancy of Dr. [name], [doctoral degree]. One or the other, but not both, please.

If there is one thing, at the end of the day, that we can't stand, it is all this repetitive redundancy and wasteful excess verbiage.

Persons Artisan


You don't want to open that wormy can. In the EU there is a baloney declaration which outlines a three cycle framework to determine qualifications.

I like the phrase "wormy can." 

Y'know, like, if there were like, no like, word like, "like" then like, the whole like, current generation of like, high school kids would like, all be like, mimes....?

"Like" came under a lot of fire from a blog at NPR when they tried to eliminate a single word from the English language. I understand the objection to it as a stopgap, but sometimes I have no idea how to convey that someone said something, verbally, without it. "So I said," and "Then he said, in response" starts sounding like I'm narrating a book.

excessively redundant verbosity.

Right. Absolutely. 

Bottomline/bottom line should both be on the list, even when the accountants are speaking.

Which reminds me that there's a whole separate list to be made of words that people think are one word or hyphenated or something but are not.

I've been collecting them. Can I trade them in for a Slurpee? I'd really like a Slurpee.

You can turn them in for a donut!

My idea of a wise financial investment this year was to buy a packet of Krispy Kreme coupons for $5, entitling me to 20 donuts. I'll get my money back if I eat more than 5 donuts by January. If I eat 20 by January, I'll have entirely justified this purchase. It's weird to have donut consumption as a goal to prove you're financially responsible.

Those were supposed to be two seperate entries! I hate this thing not allow spaces. Anyhow, "Persons." Honestly, what's wrong with "people?" Also, "artisan." Really folks, not everything is artisan!

And "artisanal," which is a layer worse!

I'm 47 (yikes!) and I'll stand with that 41-year-old youngster: I was in middle school when I heard people using "gay" (and other homosexual-themed insults) to refer to anything bad. That said, I am fairly sure that most of us didn't know what a homosexual was. I suppose we thought there couldn't be anything more pathetic, weak, and useless than "gay." (Remember, this was also an era when we used "bad" to mean "good." "Man, that 'Star Wars' movie is baaaad.")

It's interesting to try to think back to the meaning of insults. I have the feeling that if you had to wait until you understood what an insult referred to before you used it, we'd be stuck exclusively with "ugly," "loud" and "has sticky marker-covered hands and always smells like paste" for a lot longer. 

I have some friends who are quite geeky and they are throwing a Halloween party. Me ~ not so much. Any thoughts on girl geek costumes? I thought of things like the lead in Twilight or Professor McGonagal but I don't know how they act so I can't get "into the role." Any suggestions that are mostly visual?

I don't know how far this rolls on the geek spectrum, but given that the most common complaint about ladies costumes is that they are unduly sexy, last night some friends and I spent trying to come up with sexy versions of un-sexy costumes, and I present our list:

-sexy ficus

-sexy Death Star

-sexy Chewbacca (this exists, and I really hope it realizes it's a self-parody, just as I feel about David Hasselhoff)

-sexy telephone pole (just a telephone pole, but with hips and cleavage)

Don't forget "to be like" as a synonym for "said" -- as in, "I'm like..., and then he's like..."

That's the one I have difficulty shedding.

The Pentagram people use a "common access card" for everything. And even the people who PRODUCE THE CARDS call them "CAC cards." I'd get violent, but, um, most of them are armed.


Dare I ask who the Pentagram people are? 

Didn't you mean tautological excessively redundant verbosity?

All in all, that's literally exactly what I meant.

results in needless surplusage, which is one of the favorite phrases I encountered in law school

As opposed to that necessary surplusage!

This reminds me of my homeroom teacher who used to complain ceaselessly about "plenitude," which when you take it down to its roots means "full-of-full-of-ness."

Do you mean by January 1, or by January 31? That's some serious difference there, especially if you count the holiday sweets gorging.

Um, hang on, consulting the donut coupons -- 31. So I have until after the Inauguration!

I never thought of saying "you too." But whenever someone says "have a good one" I ALWAYS want to channel George Carlin and say "I have a good one. I need a LONGER one."


Probably not really that good for your bottom line.

I see what you did there!


Or "I DIED. I LITERALLY DIED." That's pretty bad.

No one says them anymore but I'll submit these gems my late Father used to say: Tight as Dick's hatband. (who was this Dick with the tight hat?) Don't make me get on my high horse. Hotter than the hinges of Hades. Come to think of it, I think those should re-enter the lexicon! Much better than Clown Question Bro or Don't Tase Me Bro

Yeah, I have no objections to these!

I also like "Shut my mouth and paint me red!" and "Stomp on frogs and shove a crowbar up my nose!" but I think those might be jokes that Jim Davis made up back before everyone realized Garfield was funnier without Garfield.

You are eating the healthy donuts, rights?

Yes, only the finest, healthiest, most artisanal donuts. 

My Dad insisted that if you use a word you should be able to define it and defend its use. So if you cussed in front of him, you had better be ready to define the word and explain why you used it in that context. We didn't cuss in front of him much.

I like that. Although there is a certain Anglo-Saxon glory to a lot of curse words that you could possibly dragoon in to support your cause. Some of them are just fun to spout. 

The ones who live in that giant Pentagram-shaped target in Arlington.

'Gon, baby, 'gon.

"Speaking as a white person OR a man, even I find that offensive" That's a counterexample that's often helpful because it defuses the idea of the squeaky wheel...

That's interesting! I think that counterexample almost proves the rule. If the only time that formulation is "often helpful"  is when it's doing the opposite of what it usually does... 

The proper saying is "queer as Dick's hatband," and it is archaic, so "queer" means merely odd, or invalid. It's British, and comes from Richard Cromwell not being up to his father Oliver's standard of tyranny or dictatorship. He gladly gave up his hatband/crown to the restored Charles II. Tight as a drum, tight as a tick, but not Dick's hatband.

What about "tight as a boiled owl?"

For goodness' sake, who takes words down to that level?

(sniffs, draws herself up to full height) My homeroom teacher was also our Latin teacher. 

Every time I see that I quickly read 'artisian' (as in well) and wonder 'why bury that cheese in the ground>?"

Ha! Although I usually see "artesian."

"Why bury that cheese in the ground?" seems like a good update of "Why hide your light under a bushel basket?"

There was the time I bragging about my increasing vocabulary and told my mom and older sister I was a White Anglo Saxon Prostitute

HA! +15!

I wrote the original request. I want to avoid the "sexy" types because I am actually a guy and most "sexy" costumes will show off what I don't have, or what I'm not supposed to have. I was thinking of getting a "Original" Star Trek dress, but I can't find boots in my size.

Ooh, that was always a problem for my theater troupe during college. We often had to order them online. 


You could try being a Dr. Who companion, or go as Marie Curie (19th century woman costume, plus glowstick, as in one of my favorite P J O'Rourke quips: "Although the Curies were very famous, they were rarely invited out socially. They were too thoughtful. Also, they glowed.") 

Other suggestions? 

If I call it the Pentagon, it doesn't anny the denizens. Also, when I see people wearing camoflage in the building, I bump into them and say "sorry. I didn't see you."

Ha! Hey, that's how camouflage works!

without banning IRONIC!?

Oh, that was just a scatter-brained omission on my part! We are definitely getting into "might need a follow-up list" territory. 

Is there any other kind?

Right, just as there is only one acceptable distance for encounters of the third kind.

Speaking of the worst email signatures, it really bothers me when people include MBA in their signatures. This is not the same stature as an M.D. and I really don't care if you are Sally Jones, MBA.

Now if you were Sally Jones, NBA, I might care. 

My Halloween costume is as Mitt Romney holding a baked Big Bird. Do you prefer dark meat or white meat?

I prefer dark

It is how normal ordinary regular people always talked until about a generation ago.

"Until about a generation ago" are critical words in that sentence.

No one is more annoying than one who says "Speaking as a parent . . ." or "Now that I'm a parent . . ." Yeah, we get it. You had a child (just like so many billions of people have) and now those of us who don't have one aren't able to understand any issue.

Amazing how that works!

One of my favorites is "Speaking as a former child," because that includes literally everyone. Literally. Except current children, who will be former children soon enough. 

I didn't spend 5 years in Evil Graduate School to be called "mister", thank you very much.

I hear that. (A phrase that narrowly didn't make the list!) Evil Graduate School sounds like an exciting program, though.

can we also do a "repeated typos that piss me off" version? First few candidates: Viola (instead of voila), where (instead of were), definately (instead of definitely), and this one, which probably isn't common, but is common to one of my coworkers and makes my nerdy skin crawl: Morone (instead of moron). (You loved your Latin teacher; I loved my Greek teacher.)

And Moroni for moron is both inaccurate and potentially offensive!

I like typing "viola" instead of "voila" on emails with attachments, but I realize what an obnoxious habit this is. I also always type "bridge" when I mean "bride," which originally wasn't a problem but is getting there as I hit that stage of your twenties where everyone around you is seizing men and hollering for bridesmaids and ministers to come running.

Your/You're is as close to a dealbreaker as it gets for me.

Some people advocate a 25 degree angle as the universal bevel for cutting tools, while others recommend a secondary bevel of 30 degrees be put on the edge during honing. Which do you prefer?

I have no idea! Does anyone else know?

Regardless (or irregardless) of whether they are artisans. Or partisans. I hope that referring to partisanship does not prove flammable (or inflammable).

Obviously it's not meant to be taken literally; it refers to any manufacturers of dairy products. 

"Hoi polloi," NOT "the hoi polloi," because "hoi" means "the" in Greek, so it's like saying "the the common people."

Oh, yes, concurred!

I'm all for anyone who has earned a doctorate (medical, philosophical, whatever!) using the title. What pisses me off is the guy I know who earned an honorary degree (speaking at a graduation) and insists we refer to him as "Dr. LastName." Pompous poser!

Oh, that is obnoxious! I think we can all get behind that!

Don't forget the misuse of an apostrophe before an "S" in plurals, often seen on signs in store windows and on menus.

And those weird scare quotation marks around words in signs that say things like "FREE" VEGETABLES!

Please banish "Between he and I" and their ilk.

And the personal pronoun comes last! 

That would be DR. EVIL (and his son Scott Evil) thank you.

And on that note, there is Big Bird-related news afoot, and we should probably start wrapping up! You are a consistent delight, everyone!

I want a "like" button.


Now, if only Krispy Kreme had bacon donuts....

Undreamed-of felicity!

one of my kids did fall in once and it still makes me laugh.


Well, it won't get better than that. 

Have a glorious week, keep reading the Compost, and feel free but unobligated to follow me on Twitter!

It's a bad idea to set ANY bevel angle while honing. The time to do that is BEFORE honing.

(For anyone on tenterhooks about this.)

In This Chat
Alexandra Petri
Alexandra Petri writes the ComPost, a lighter take on the news and issues of the day, and she contributes to the Post editorial page. Her work has appeared in venues such as The Huffington Post, The Week,,, Collegehumor, and The Harvard Crimson. She has appeared on Jeopardy!, Showbiz Tonight and Canadian radio, and she has performed at Boston's Comedy Studio and Comedy Connection. She would love to be on your TV show, radio show, Daily Show, HBO special, or to be an honored guest (or regular guest) at your Bar Mitzvah. She is the author of two books (unpublished, but contact her!), two screenplays, three plays, one musical, and one memoir (Ernest Hemingway's A Moveable Feast.)
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