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ComPost Live with Alexandra Petri

Apr 01, 2014

Join us next Tuesday to laugh, cry, and dish about the moments that amused you, shocked you, or caused you to yell things that frightened the other people on the subway.

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Connect on Twitter: @PostLive | @petridishes

Good Day, all!

Happy April!

Can you really call yourself a grammar nazi when a few weeks ago you messed up the meaning of "passive voice" so horrendously badly that even Geoff Pullum from Language Log made fun of you? I mean, really, girl, I love your columns but you seriously screwed the pooch on that piece of English grammar there.

I know, I know, I know! Defelection of responsibility and passive constructions are different things, and I knew that then, and I know that now, but I don't know how to prove that I know other than by spending the rest of my days lugging this shame around from place to place the way Jean Valjean toted Petit Gervais's coin. I really wish I'd chosen another word so that it was clear I was talking about how passive the statements were in the context of Giving Someone Else Agency For Your Actions, not a grammatical context. That was what all the structural choices I was trying to point at were doing, but instead of clarifying that I muddled it.

I still think "kiss instead of a handshake" is gonna win.

That or restroom conversation. I was pretty convinced by last week's chat.

Still grieving the loss of tweens.

Is there a moment in the first date dinner when one party has decided they want nothing more to do with their companion? At dinner I see awkward silences at other tables, followed by message checking under the table. Is it game over at that point?

I don't know! I often want to check my phone even when I am in the throes of a completely delightful conversation with scintillating people or family members, but I think on a first date it's probably considered a bad sign, especially if you surreptitiously sneak it into your sleeve as you head 'stroomwards.

The yogurt in your fridge is off.

It is not alone in that.

I suggest you hover.

"I suggest you hover" seems like a phrase that was destined for greater things. Line in a song, maybe?

She penned "The Story of Bonnie and Clyde”, which immortalized the pair. So, if you decide to go an a multi-state killing spree, don't neglect the verse.

I'm not averse to verse

I like to form a form

I like a form that's terse

I'm not averse to verse.

I won't refrain from a refrain

And I attract a tract

I'd like to train a train

Of thought and show it how to act.

I like a metered meter

Where you align a line.

I'd gladly spell a spell

And then refine it 'til it's fine.

The trouble is the Internet always judges you by your dumbest opinion on any subject, and it is impossible to convince it otherwise.



Any clothing that hasn't been heavily treated with Scotchgard, I would assume.

is too much?


unless some of it has gotten onto your person

in which case


is too much.

So, when are you getting your Kim Jung On haircut?

When it is mandated by actual law and not just Internet rumor law, and not before!

Most embarrassing bathroom moment - I had had some gastro-intestinal problems over Thanksgiving. Nothing was moving. Finally got over it in the rest room of a mall on the Friday after (a gentle, not overly crowded Vermont mall). I was all alone, but gave a curtesy flush anyway. Just as I was about sure that I was ready to face the world again, a mom and little girl entered the rest room. The little girl declared quite loudly, "This place smells like poop." Her mother agreed that it was very stinky and pretty much egged her on with her complaints. I just stayed where I was, too embarrassed to leave. I was very tempted to yell out, "It is a bathroom. Is there someplace else you can name that would be a better place to smell like poop? Like next to the Santa photo booth?" But I didn't. I'm pretty sure my face is beet red just typing this.

Oh man! I would commiserate with an equally embarrassing story, but I am the only nonymous person in the chat, so -- I'll just put it in the book, I guess.

In 1982, more than two decades before Facebook was born and even before Mark Zuckerberg was conceived, Mankoff drew the following cartoon: You are going to be an ant.


Well, any day now.

No H April! Appy April! With no H there's no Hell. Ban Hell.

Is this a popular movement? Popular in the sense of well-liked, not in the sense of by-the-people, so Geoff won't yell at me again.

April is the second rainiest month of the year (after July). April starts on the same day of the week as July in all years, and January in leap years. April ends on the same day of the week as December every year. October of the previous year starts on the same day of the week as April of the current year as a common year and May of the previous year starts on the same day of the week as April of the current year as a leap year. April is just like July. We should have fireworks! Wake the clouds up and get wet.

This is so helpful that I'm going to forget it immediately unless I come up with some kind of mnemonic.

April and July

Start the same weekday

April and December

End in the same way.

October One of last year

Same as April's first day

Unless it is a leap year

In which case that falls to May.

nope, still no good.

Auden said that just because a thing rhymes doesn't mean it's necessarily true -- for the verse it doesn't have to be April, June, and November any more than it has to be August, June, and September -- and ever since then most of my mnemonics have been ruined.

Alternatively "April and July always show up together, but December and April always leave together!" And just leave May out of it.

May flowers bring June bugs.

No, PILGRIMS! Weren't you there for all those jokes in third grade?

You used tergiversate in your "AP Stylebook" post last week and now its 'popularity' gauge' on the Merriam site says 'increased significantly in lookups'. So your promotion and your millions of readers have boosted poor old tergiversate ??

That must be what it is! If I have that kind of effect, I'm going to whip out "squaloid" next.

At the moment it is trailing badly. I think you may have administered the Awkwardness Illustrated Cover Jinx.

Oh no! See, all that this could prove is that more women are taking the poll than men, but I didn't do the Weingarten thing where you ask everyone for his/her gender. Lord knows the poll has been struggling enough as it is.

But what if your hovercraft is full of eels?

I will not buy this record! It is scratched.

Autism Awareness Month (United States) Jazz Appreciation Month (United States) National Poetry Month (United States) National Poetry Writing Month Parkinson's Disease Awareness Month (International) Confederate History Month (southern United States)-April 26 National Arab American Heritage Month (United States) National Child Abuse Prevention Month (United States) Sexual Assault Awareness Month April Fools' Day – April 1 Time to think about going south? Did Col. Sanders have a business plan or what? Buckets of chicken and barrels of fun. That's when gas was cheap and chicken was cheaper.

I think we need more months.

We aren't sure about this year! I have a sax!

Why does it vary? Is there some kind of International Trombone Committee?

The gummint says "if you see something, say something." The internet says, "if you see something stupid, say something stupid."

Whatever happened to "If you see something, say nothing"?

You could have posted a "a friend just emailed me with this one" and told your story and we'd have been none the wiser. However, if you do that now, we'll know it is you.

Oh, nuts! You're right! Curses, foiled again, like a polynomial or a baked potato.

I've tried and tried to get my e-mail verified but the wapo won't send me the e-mail I need to reply to. You'll have to live without my idiotic comments. :(

Hmm, that can't be right! Do you have any other accounts you can try with?

I like the Internet of Impossible. Your mission, should you choose to accept it do nothing because nothing is impossible. I'm doing nothing all day.

Ah, sloth!

The Internet of Things alarms me, because what if your air conditioner decides it doesn't like you and decides to make your environment just that little shade uncomfortable that makes all the difference?

He was right. "A pint's a pound the world around" is false (it's only a pound in the U.S.). "Beer on whiskey very risky, whiskey on beer never fear" is so obviously false that it's laughable.

Red on yellow, snake's a happy fellow! Red on black, you're safe, Jack?

I don't actually remember how the real one goes, come to think of it.

Said in full-on Brooklyn accent: Spring has sprung The grass has riz. I wonder where the birdies is.


I like "animadvert." Please use that one.

I have no aversion to animadversion.

Though perhaps I ought to.

By thy favour, sweet welkin, I must sigh in thy face. Most rude melancholy, valour gives thee place.


This is great! Keep your favorite obscure words coming!

I would attempt to make a Lawrence Welkin joke but then someone would come and take away my Under-30 card, and it is all I have.

Alexandra, are you WaPo's vocabulary expert? I presume every media company has to have someone fill that role when reporters are looking for that perfect word to describe something ...unless that role is filled by different ones taking turns or drawing straws. At rival TIME magazine, that role is likely filled by Katy Steinmetz, who writes about vocabulary regularly. I can imagine you creating neopolisms (new political words, Steinmetz popularized that term) for your teammates. I hope you get royalties for new words, or at least free lunches and drinks.

This sounds like a great system!

I worry that the instant I volunteer, it will turn out that I've been misusing "shambolic" my entire life, but I'm always happy to slap my brain cells together and see what comes out.

Weidngarten's chat skews heavily female and heavily liberal. Do you think your chat is similar?

My chat consists entirely of one older male who resides just outside Philadelphia, assuming a variety of guises. Not sure about his politics.

No, I'm not sure, actually.

The International Trombone Association is the largest association of trombonists with 4000 members from 67 countries. Formed in 1972, ITA is a registered non-profit organization and our mission is to promote the trombone and all trombone-related activities across the world. I had no idea.

This is WONDERFUL news!

The Whistling Convention is overseas this year, so I have to take my international noisemaking conglomerates where I can get them.

I changed from my yahoo account to a gmail account, to see if yahoo was perhaps being weird. I contacted support which 'sent me an email' but I got nuttin'. I think Christie is behind it because of what I wrote about him annexing Philadelphia.

Have you tried typing the dot at different places in your gmail account? You can register again with the same address if you just move the dot around, and maybe you'll get the 'email' again.

The more you sweat in peace the less you bleed in war. Old Marine adage. Rip out the AC!

See, this is just one more reason I am not a Marine. But mad respect.

"Red on yellow, snake's a happy fellow! Red on black, you're safe, Jack?" Who cares? I decided a long time ago that there was no use for that mnemonic, if I see a snake I'm booking not going to recall a rhyme.

"She died doing what she loved: yelling rhymes at a snake."

I thought those were those striped ice creams.

I thought they were new political sayings coined in Naples!

They drummed me out after I let my dues payment slide.....

*waaa* *waaaa*

Oh no, I'm being drummed out as well.

New month? Reapril. Pick a stone, diamond is taken.

This needs to turn into a Rhea Perlman/Reaprilman joke, but I don't know how to go about it.

When I was a middle-school boy, I once tripped and fell in a bookstore and I heard a female voice say "are you okay, honey?" and I said "yes" without looking up, figuring it was some lady working at the store. But when I looked up I saw a teen girl with a look of utter disgust on her face and she said "I wasn't talking to YOU, [my name], I was talking to MY BOYFRIEND." ...Weird thing is, even though she apparently knew who I was, I still have no idea who she was.

Whoa, you got singled out and everything! Ouch!

I mean, er, your friend who just emailed you this funny story got singled out.

According to modern jewelers, who decided that minerals like turquoise and bloodstone didn't cost enough. The older lists are much more interesting.

I especially love the older anniversary gift lists that by, say, Anniversary 50 are recommending you liberally shower the Honored Couple in whatever gold you have because surely they know the secret to counteracting plague.

No, no, they are new localities formed by amalgamation or incorporation or separation. Howard County, Maryland, became a neopolism in 1851.

Belated congrats, Howard County!

It was depressing that the plague kept coming back year after year after year ... If you survived, it was great for career advancement, better than leaning in.


My latest akward moment was in a blog after I was done slagging a poor journalist for a nitwit brained column, and the journalist simultaneously posted how complimentary everyone was.

Oh dear. That is indeed a moment. See, this is why you never post to thank everyone for being so complimentary. It seems to beg the opposite. 

I think of you more as a Grammar Francs-tireur.


I'd take it.

Are you writing symbolically?



I should have asked if you were writing cymbalically. I was snared by my spelling ignorance.

Shame-free zone here!

Cost is in the cutting not the rock. Proof's in the eating not the pudding.

Don't eat the rock, though.

a) check your spam folder b) there has to be a phone number someplace where you could talk to a person to have them send you the e-mail in real time

Yes, do that! And good luck!

My dad doesn't have a Brooklyn accent, but his version was "I wonder where the grassers is" Evidently "grassers" were couples who sat out on the lawn and made out at U Mass in the 50s.


And now we know!

And they do have a Trombone Week Committee. The week is April 6-13.

TIL a great deal about trombones.

Stay slap happy and don't worry it will all turn out fine.

And with that good advice, I am off! Have a great Tuesday! Pull the correct number of pranks! Feel free to join me on Twitter and keep reading the Compost!

You can eat rocks. Recovery can get messy though.


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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