ComPost Live with Alexandra Petri: The First of December (December 3)

Dec 03, 2019

Humor columnist Alexandra Petri will be online every Tuesday at 11 a.m. Eastern for ComPost live, where she'll offer a lighter take on the news of the day. Submit your comments on her columns and any other questions you might have.

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Happy Tuesday, all! I hope you enjoyed the turkey or whatever bird you observe! I hope I am in the right chat! (Also, did you see the poster in Tom Sietsema’s chat who had caught their spouse in an affair?)

This has the potential to be confusing. Which is good!

I am realizing this now. Well, once we alight on a topic, we can revise the title! Or not!

The other night, the missus and I were watching another of those dopey Christmas movies, MST3K-style, when I threw this out: "Life is a Cameron Bure, old chum." What do you think?

I like it, but you must know that I have watched three Christmas  movies in the past five days and may not be all there. Where we spent Thanksgiving had Lifetime instead of Hallmark, but Lifetime does a very good impression of the Hallmark classic that is almost insulting in its desire to give the viewer so exactly what it thinks the viewer wants. 

Just as we’re losing nature itself, we’re losing idioms related to nature – don’t count your chickens, change horses in mid-stream, an apple a day, make hay while the sun shines, every dog has his day, birds of a feather, star light star bright, etc. Why do you think no one say these any more?

I have been hoping idioms related to technology would take their places, but alas they have not, except for that one person on Twitter who thought “calm before the storm” was a Fortnite reference. 

2 stories in today’s Post: We’re living in Jay-Z’s America With podcasts, specials and a Netflix show, it’s Dolly Parton’s world and we’re all just living in it

It sounds like we are living in Dolly Parton and Jay-Z’s shared America. That, or they will have to settle this with some sort of performance battle!

In response to a Facebook friend's post about Japanese Toilet Candy (example, I mentioned that the year those jelly-bean pooping animals came out (example:, I got one for my dad for Christmas and he got one for me. We wondered whether there is a name for it when two people buy each other the same holiday gift. If not, can you and your readership help create one?

This is definitely an O. Henry variant! It’s not quite a regift. Chat, help!

Or whatever you had for your main meal last Thursday?

It was moist and flavorful! 

I'm no one? I, and my circle, say these all the time.

I am the person who says “now we are cooking with gas!” but I can try to incorporate more livestock-based metaphors too. Until the cows come home! 


Yes! The hilarious Eva Victor did a parody of it that I think really captures everything that is so monstrous about the ad itself! Put it this way: exercise bikes may make lovely gifts if the recipient has indicated that this is their pleasure, but surprise exercise bikes? No. 

Will you be tuning into his chat to see if there's any followup? I know I will!

I am hoping the news will make its way to me via the grapevine— please tune in and report back!

As a historian, I find this perfectly reasonable. Like, you know, the October Revolution that took place in November. October Whatever (O.S.).

Yeah, but as long as we have Joe "No Malarkey" Biden, you can bet that those idioms won't disappear without a fight.

As long as the No Malarkey bus rolls, the idioms shall stride the land.

Do you say this, or do you say "Now we're cooking with gas!"? I must say that "we are" takes away a lot of the zing (to the extent that phrase has zing). Also, my mother prefers cooking on an electric stove to a gas one, but she seems to think that's the minority view, and is confused by that.

I didn’t know it had zing! I will try it your way next time!

how much work time I spent trolling through Sietsema's reviews, looking for incriminating photos? I never found an adulterous-looking pair. I need to spend more work time ferreting this out.

My friends found what they think is the one, but I don’t have a link on me. 

In this case, I'd suggest "the jelly bean poop doesn't fall far from the animal dispenser"

There it is! That’s it! 

Don't forget the Hundred Years War, which lasted 116 years.

Two of my aunts bought each other Jean Nate one Christmas. They laughed, but imagine if one had splurged for the combo pack, and the other had only bought the small cologne????

That would have caused a big stink!

Ah, those Brits, with their 112-pound hundredweight et al.

I learned from The Adventure of English (a very interesting BBC series on the English language) that King Harold, he of arrow-through-the-eye fame, was the last English-speaking English King for 300 years, until Henry IV. So he's famous for two reasons. At least.

The last before the French-speaking kings! 

my sons each gave the other the same book one year, but i blame that on Barnes and Noble Chrirtmas displays.

What's the word for when a story is so good you want it to be true, though it would mean something bad happened?

Too Bad to Check?

have a worry translator? For example (one of MANY), "[name of cousin] doesn't save any money and she just thinks that when [mom of cousin/sister of mom] dies she is just going to be able stay in the house and she can't afford to stay in it, even then]." Translation, "You, my daughter, stopped giving me detailed updates about your financial situation years ago and I am terrified you won't have enough money and your father and I are going to use up all of ours so there won't be an inheritance and we stuffed all that education into your brain, so where is the rich husband?" Please note that I paid for my second and third degrees all by myself. I paid off the substantial loans for the second one in less than three years. I did the third one with no loans at all. And, while hardly wealthy, I have a well remunerated government job that means I am earning a pension as well as all the savings I do. And while I don't give her details about my net worth, I do talk casually about having to change my elections on my retirement automatic withdrawals because the maximums have increased, so she should be able to deduce that I'm not blowing it all on drugs and jewelry, right?

Obviously I have less experience with your mom than you do, but I find that sometimes moms are bad at deducing! You could always just state directly that you are in good financial health, have amassed savings, and are being responsible. But I suspect that even then your mom would keep emitting the same frequency of worry. Or it could always be that she’s worried about the cousin! 

In our house, when the 2 dogs go out and do what needs to be done, we say they have "administered the poop de grace"

Oh, I love that. I wish I had a lawn/lawnmower so I could say I was going out to administer a coupe de grass.

would be a better title for my previous question

Did you know that the "buck" in "pass the buck" and "the buck stops here" refers to the buck horn handled knife that was passed around the card table to indicate who the dealer was. I didn't until just the other day.

I didn’t! I guess if I had to state what was in my mind, I would have said that I pictured either a full deer or a dollar bill. 

I missed Tom's chat last week, so my first thought was that all the chats are converging: someone sent Tom a question meant for Hax, but it will also have a political component for the Fixistas to answer, and a poop component for Weingarten, etc. I can't explain the vegan calamari, though.

That's pretty good when it's you and a parent, but it doesn't work for the Jean Nate incident, or two Christmases ago when two friends exchanged "potty putters."

I have to ask...

I'm checking Snopes now, because this sounds like a folk etymology...i.e. made up.

As Steve Martin said, "Those French...they have a different word for EVERYTHING!"


I had to ask!

I took an English class on "The History of the English Language" in college. My term paper was on the word "turnpike" (I got an A).

Congratulations on your A! Can you give us the origin of turnpike, briefly?

Pretty sure it's the Trummer's preview:

It's screwing up the whole page formatting.

On it!

Shoot. I just broke the chat again, didn't I? Sorry!

Is it working now?

I imagine James Madison and whoever was in charge of Britain at the time waking up on Jan. 1, 1813, and thinking, "So, is the war over now, or what?"

That’s like the joke that after World War I ended everyone must have felt a continuous sense of dread while they waited for the sequel. 

I opened an incognito browser window to look up "potty putter" because I don't want to be hammered by ads for it. I researched New Balance sneakers 6 weeks ago (and later bought a pair) and I'm still be hounded by New Balance ads on every web site. And speaking of term papers, I once wrote a term paper on ceiling tiles. It was a Construction Management class. It was actually very interesting.

Ceiling tiles? I think to get a familiarity with those I’d have to look up an awful lot.

The man looks like a colleague of idea who the woman is. This is damage no extravagant diamond-studded gift can repair. One can only hope the cheater hasn't promised to take his wife to the same restaurant...someday.

Well we definitely pale in dramatic comparison to the Sietsema chat — Chatter Maybe Recognizes Colleague In Picture That Might Or Might Not Be A Smoking Gnu? But, you know, that’s fine. 

Since you mentioned it, here is one of my pets, Peeve: Everyone always talks about "getting rid of silos." Farmers put separate things in separate silos for good reasons: to keep them dry, and to keep them "pure" so that you can fill a whole wagon or barrel with that item for shipping. Silos are good things, if your goal is storage! If your goal is mixing things together, as in cooking, then yes, take the stuff out of storage and cook it in the kitchen.

Wait, I’ve never heard this idiom except in the context perhaps of nuclear disarmament! 

I caught a blooper in a novel that was otherwise quite good: someone in 1920s Australia referring to "World War One" as if she knew there's be a sequel.

Joe Camel's replacement.

Hey, we said we were going all-in on animal idioms...

between "way too late, go to bed already" last night and "stop checking your e-mail and take a shower, you'll be late to work" this morning. Most of them related to giving Tuesday, but still a substantial number promising extensions of cyber Monday deals. I'm not sure the people in charge of these places are aware of the phenomenon where too much information received at the same time can cause people to avoid making any decision at all because it is too much to process. I'm not much of an impulse shopper/donator/etc. but if I were, I'd be much more likely to do it when just one organization sends out an email talking about how they use the money to accomplish something good than I am when 20 of them are yelling at once.

The trouble is that the organizations don’t know how many other emails you’re getting! They’re hoping to be the Just One for someone. So we all get caught in the deluge. 

IIRC (it's been 30+ years), they used to imbed spears ("pikes") in roads to prevent armies etc. from approaching quickly (they'd have to go around or dig them out, or whatever). The word "turnpike" evolved to refer to any barrier in the road, for the purpose of collecting tolls. Eventually, "turnpike" was used to refer to the toll road itself, not to just the barrier.

Fascinating! And a good note to end on! Have a great Tuesday, all, and see you next week! In the interim, you can catch me on the blog or on twitter

You are very lucky never to have worked in a place that was obsessed with "tearing down silos" like the rest of us! Is this because newsrooms know that everyone has their own separate role, and that is fine? (PS: The chat is still stretched out across the page.)

Nooooooo! I guess I am just trying to put tearing down silos into practice? 

In This Chat
Alexandra Petri
Alexandra Petri is a Washington Post columnist offering a lighter take on the news and opinions of the day. She is the author of "A Field Guide to Awkward Silences." She joined The Post as an intern in 2010, after graduating from Harvard College.
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