ComPost Live with Alexandra Petri

Oct 23, 2018

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Happy Tuesday, all! How are your halloweeks? Are you surrounded by festive gourds? And to those who missed me in the paper — have no fear! I will be back this week! 

I spend it watching a squirrel eat avacados ( Who knew it'd be so relaxing? Especically, since it is squirrel awareness month.

That squirrel will never afford a house! First its recklessness with its nut savings, now this! 

When everyone else is doing the same thing, I tend to run the other way, then change my mind long after they're over it and try to catch up. Which is why I'm just now starting to watch Downton Abbey, and I mostly find it delightful. It's sometimes an enjoyable period piece and sometimes a cheesy soap opera, and I can't help but be drawn in. Are there other things that used to be A Thing that people have now moved on from and are still worth investing some time and energy in?

I can’t vouch for this personally, but a good friend suggests “Cheers.”

I recently read a book that is over 100 years old that contained several archaic expressions. This got me thinking about some expressions common in our grandparents day that seem to have gone by the wayside, such as “courting”, “sparking”, “pitching woo”. (or was that wool?). Now we have “booking up” and “doing the nasty”. Progress?

I know it’s a typo, but now I am envisioning two people hitting it off at a party, grabbing two copies of, say, “Absalom, Absalom,” and ascending the stairs with them to narrate the contents breathlessly to one another.

And to be fair to this era, I don’t think “doing the nasty” is... current slang? 

He came back with some bitcoins.

I would give you market advice but it is changing too rapidly!

Recommendation: Maggie Gyllenhaal narrates AK and it is wonderful

Oooh! Though my current book listening temptation is Claire Danes reading Emily Wilson’s Odyssey. 

Why do so many of its talking heads scatter through their conversations -- seemingly every other sentence -- such hackneyed crutches as: "Look", "Listen", or "Having said that!"? Journalists and attorneys -- educated people for the most part -- acting hip?

Listen, if saying “listen” at the start of sentences were enough to make somebody hip, I’d be hip. Having said that, I think I’m a little confused by your premise. Look, I know these are crutch words, but... hip? Hip is where you lose me. 

It's woo. And pitching woo now could be used to mean hyping treatments like crystals and iridology.

That could even be pitching woo-woo! I’m into any phrase that repeats a word like that, ever since discovering moonmoons were a thing. Moonmoons!

Even more annoying is when someone says "So" at the start of a statement.

Oh, yeah, I resemble this. 

What is the best way to hide from your coworkers for the day (or week, month). I work in a cubicle.

I suggest bringing a large Snuggie to work. At first, just use it to keep your feet warm. Then, slowly, envelop larger portions of your body in it until only your head and hands are visible. Then during the night bring a mannequin in and work remotely from then onward.

Some shows have so many “guest commentators” on— and they may not even be in the same studio— so it looks like a rerun of Hollywood Squares, and they’re just trying to get in a word edgewise.

As long as these Hollywood squares panels are already happening someone should shoot for the Guinness record and invite a 5*5 panel of 25 talking heads. I would learn no less from such a panel than usual, and the TV would be very confused.

Is "like." And I say it all the time. I cringe at myself constantly.

I still like it as an explanation that someone was talking, because otherwise you wind up saying “she says to me, she says,” and a decent, “so I’m like, pardon me? and the doctor was like, er.” can work wonders aloud even if it’s not ideal on paper. I think. I hope. I now am beginning to doubt. 

I thought were saying "sew", imploring everyone to darn their socks, a practice mostly discontinued about 50 years ago.

No, that’s why people say, “Darn!”

Go to YouTube and find Elaine May and Mike Nichols classic bit, Bach to Bach. “Oh, here it comes...Ilike this part.”

1918 Flu Pandemic. Or at least there is a program at the National Academy of Medicine about this (well, about whether we are ready for the next one) on November 26th (free and open to the public). I think my email account is more interesting than I am. I am not a doctor. I do not work in public health. I am going to go get my flu shot this afternoon, but I doubt they organized this program for next month to memorialize that.

That sounds fun! Insofar as learning about a horrid pandemic can be fun! And good on you for getting the flu shot!

and was assaulted with gingerbread and candy canes. It is starting to look a lot like Christmas out there. I resigned myself to losing the distinction between Thanksgiving and Christmas. After all they both revolve around family togetherness and large meals and dubiously accurate history. One requires a lot of gift giving and has religious meaning to many, but some of the trappings at least overlap. Halloween is entirely different. Unknown children demanding bribes to protect your property from damage is NOT similar to the next two holidays. I want some very minimal separation here. Don't bring out the reindeer until November 1st, please.

Yes, news of the season’s impending Hallmark Holiday offerings has already started to leak into the commercials between episodes of Murder, She Wrote, and intrigued as I *am* by “A Godwink Christmas,” I do wish they’d hold off until after Halloween. 

A national bacon brand is promoting a contest where someone will win 50 years worth of bacon, delivered through a combination of coupons and bacon-limited gift cards at the rate of one pound of bacon/week. I'm probably too old to collect all of the reward, so am considering entering under the name of one of my teenage sons. Is this unethical and/or irresponsible?

Chat, weigh in? All I can contribute is one of those op-Ed’s about how If 1.6 Billion Won’t Make You Happy, Then Certainly 50 Years Worth Of Bacon Will Not, but I am not sure that premise is true. I think a bacon legacy is important to leave to anyone and you should enter freely, but maybe someone else has more scruples. 

“So I go, pardon me? And the doctor goes, er.”

Another viable option is to walk briskly through the building, carrying a notebook or clipboard or tablet (adapt for your work environment). Everyone will assume you are going to or from a meeting, and no one will question you.

I hear good things about this approach! Or a headset. Or both!

Get one of those single cup, desktop coffee warmers, and have steaming mug sitting on your desk the entire time you are gone. Also conspicuously leave your heavy coat (winter), raincoat (when needed) where it can be seen. Make it appear that you have just run to the bathroom, across the floor, hall, compound, whatever, and will surely return momentarily. NB, be sure the mug doesn’t evaporate all your beverage of choice.

This is devious! I’m impressed!

A few years ago, I was getting my legs waxed. The cosmetologist was a young Russian women. During our chit-chat, she said, "In Russia, we used to say those Americans are so crazy. They take a shower every day and they throw out their socks when they have holes in them." I am not making this up.

I generally find that if someone is applying hot wax to any area of your body it is best to accept the premise of everything they say, so I would have found myself accepting that statement without question, but — I definitely think we are doing half of it right. 

What about "I mean"? People (including reporters/commentators) use it ALL the time. Not just people in the US -- I hear it on BBC, also. Once I realized how often it is used, it started to drive me crazy.

Is it possible to sound authoritative at work if I speak like Captain Picard from Star Trek: TNG? Like saying to my boss at a meeting: Make it so, number 1. Or: I will NOT be assimilated!

The trick is not accidentally crossing over from Picard to Kirk. 

The late Florence King called this "echolalia" in her exposition of Southern mannerisms. "When Ah hud they were lettin the freshman gals stay out all night Saddy I coud see the handwritin on the wall. I said to mahself I can just see the handwritin on the wall, if they let the freshman gals stay out Saddy..." it goes on for an entire paragraph.

Tig Notaro also has a bit about this! “So she meows to me, she meows...”

I agree that we're getting a little bit ahead of ourselves with various holidays (pretty sure we will get Valentine's Day stuff before Thanksgiving at this rate), but I confess...I do eagerly await eggnog season. In fact, I take eggnog over pumpkin spice, as good as the latter may be. Shocking, I'm sure.

*drops lorgnette with an expression of stricken horror* my smelling salts!

As Linus would say, “Good grief!” I suppose Bill O’Reilly and Dogface Trump will claim this as a proof that they are winning the so-called War Against Xmas!

I used to write about Christmas Creep every year at, like... Thanksgiving but now IT IS A WEEK BEFORE HALLOWEEN AND THE ONSLAUGHT HAS ALREADY COMMENCED. I believe the war on Christmas is over, Christmas was victorious, and we should start entrenching around Labor Day. 

We need to remind kids that Santa is watching, so they should put away the eggs.

Do kids still egg? I feel as though everyone is so committed to the treat side of the equation I don’t know what the status of the tricks is. 

Solution: Place aluminum foil over the top of the mug, to keep the moisture in.

But the aluminum foil might be a dead giveaway...

Make sure that if you use one of those remote screen apps that cause stuff on your computer screen to look like you're working, that you turn off the "Sent from my iPhone" tag.

Highly recommend checking out Linguistics Twitter and Tumblr! Entertaining and reassuring info on why all those annoying language quirks are actually serving specific purposes. I have unclutched/unclenched/unsubscribed from my former language snobbery ! Thank you Gretchen McCullogh and Lingthusiasm!

Ooh, I’m intrigued! Thanks for the recommendation!

Sad to say, many stores (such as drug stores) devote significant shelf space to seasonal items. Product rotates off these shelves constantly, and as Hallowe'en draws near stores are starting the transition to the next holiday. This practice seems relatively new. Used to be stores would keep the shelves stocked with the proximate holiday items, and then sell the leftovers at reduced rates. I have purchased and consumed many 90% off Valentine's truffle eggs. This is why, in mid-August, the drug store seasonal shelves are filled with sad, dusty personal fans and fluorescent pool noodles haphazardly arranged.

”sad, dusty personal fans and fluorescent pool noodles haphazardly arranged” is such a terrific, evocative phrase! +25 arbitrary chat points!

I can take it or leave it. I guess you could say I'm an eggnogstic. I'm here all week....


that takes me back. Kids did egg the occasional car when I was a teen (so many years ago now -sorta). I haven't seen any such activity for years, is this a sign of societal progress, or decline?

I bet there’s a snapchat filter that can make a house LOOK egged.

My co-worker and I were pondering how our office would react if I replaced my current eyeglasses with Lorgnettes. That would make it more difficult to type/maneuver my mouse, so maybe just in meetings?

I fully support your quest for meeting lorgnettes! You should get a little case for them too! Or just get a stick for your current glasses when meeting time comes around.

Just keep the foil on even when you-re at your desk, so that "foil on" is the "you" look.

do you have a favorite brand? I prefer Brachs and have a bowl of them on my counter.

Brachs is correct! Though I will eat any candy corn that is not glazed or nailed down. 

I have one of those. The temple broke off one side of my +1 readers so I just hold it up to my face when I need it. Very effective.

I saw the year's first 'War on Christmas' rant on my Facebook feed last week. I'll have to admit, I was a bit surprised. I thought that with the current administration, saying 'Merry Christmas' was not only no longer forbidden, it was now actually mandatory.

The Americans.

Same friend who recommends Cheers says this is the greatest show of our era!

I thought of Easter Eggs not egging cars. Holidays are just too compressed.

Modern science has never conducted a rigorous, double blind study on the effect of sudden wealth on values. I would volunteer to be such a subject; they could run a full battery of psychological tests on me, then provide me with a tidy sum, and then one year later retest me to ascertain if I any happier. Seems to me with all these Mega Millions lotteries, that’s something warranting thorough investigation.

Do you hear that, Mega Millions Deciders? This chatter volunteers as tribute!

"Northern Exposure." "The Rockford Files."

They're in the trees outside my house! And the little b-stards are eating the fruit right on the branches, so when the 'cados fall to the ground, they already have big bites taken out (and probably rabies juice too). I love squirrels, but I'm getting robbed here. The feral cats chased off the fruit rats, but apparently the squirrels are too tough to evict. #Floridaproblems

Wait, go back, “fruit rats”? Wow, Florida! 

As soon as they started making Halloween peeps, I knew it was all over. Next thing I saw was a display of candy canes that were cherry-flavored and striped in orange and yellow. How do we expect children to learn the seasons under these circumstances?

And we certainly aren’t making it easier for them with the weather! We should at least protect the seasonal aisle.

If you always keep aluminum foil on your mug, then you won't get the "merrily steaming" look, which is essential to the look.

In my neighborhood, we (well, some of the kids, never -me-) did all of the egging and TPing on "mischief night," the night before Halloween, so as to free up more time for treat gathering on the big night. If a house refused to "treat" it was just bypassed, and put on the rotation for egging/TPing the next year.

This is fascinating! Dare I ask what year this was?

I don't see how this could be made double-blind, though, unless someone has come up with a way to make people think they have millions when they don't.

See I went so far without any Donald Trump jokes, and then someone comes along and serves me this setup on a platter...

I thought they were tree rats. They keep eating all the berries off all the native berry-bearing trees I planted to attract cedar waxwings.

*starts attentively taking notes*

*peering over my shoulder reveals that the notes just say AVOID FLORIDA in enormous letters*

"Evening Shade", "Night Court"

If this is the same employee who, on summer Friday afternoons, leaves the lights on in his office, door open, with an open bag of chips and an open can of soda on his desk (Do you want ants? 'Cause that's how you get ants!), and whose car the security camera shows leaving the parking lot at 12:30 and not returning: we're on to you.

They’re onto you!

I think this demonstrates a significant amount of organization and self control and ability to deal with delayed gratification. These kids would have aced the "wait five minutes and you can get two marshmallows" test when they were little. Making me question the premise of the "wait five minutes and you can get two marshmallows" test. I'm not sure that that experimenters admitted that they were predicting success in *any* future endeavor including property crimes.

Depressingly, or not, depending on how invested you were in the Marshmallow Test as a concept, I think it turned out that the real predictor of success was the participants’ zip codes. 

I'm just happy that the three snakes I've seen prowling around my house are keeping them at bay. Or eating them. Whatever.

*underlines and circles “AVOID”*

"Law & Order" (the original series, with Sam Waterston and Epatha Merkerson).

I wouldn’t call Law & Order overlooked, but I am a fan!

on the sidewalk near a metro station last week. It was sort of upsetting, but I had seen two live ones in the previous weeks, so not as upsetting as it could have been. If had been thinking carefully, I would have picked it up for my nephew who is nine and probably likes dead bugs.

Well, now you have a plan for next time! 

A lot of my co-workers used to have a two o'clock meeting every Friday in "the other building"; however, they all seemed to end up in the bar downstairs.

To make it look like you've just recently left your seat, put a little plutonium in your mug.

I don’t think I’ll be able to top that, so I’d better skedaddle! Stay safe and have a fun Halloweekend, all! And I’ll see you back on the column ( and on Twitter (@petridishes)!

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Alexandra Petri
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