Dispatches from Comma Mama



Consider this an intervention. I don’t want to hear another word about English as the national language. Just stop. Your native citizenry doesn’t have a firm grasp on the distinction between its and it’s, there and their, and the realization there is no such word as “alot.” The people who speak your precious language routinely have their way with it like a two year old with a caterpillar. Auto-correct, you protest? DENIAL, I say.

I’m not even going to get all up in your stuff about using the possessive in front of gerunds or not splitting infinitives. We’re talking basics. Drastic action is in order. For a complete detox, we need a clean sweep:

1. Stop using all apostrophes.

It will solve a lot (see how I did that space thing?) problems. It will solve the it/it’s thing and the near-stroke I have every year when I receive Christmas cards from the “Miller’s.” This causes me to ponder, an object possessed by which Miller is signing the card? Is Father Miller’s colon polyp sending me glad tidings? Cheeky bastard.

It may cause some extra keystrokes to write “could not” and “the book belonging to Helen,” but abstinence is the only effective policy. Which brings me to my next point.

2. Ban effect and affect from your vocabulary immediately. It is (see how I did that?) clearly too much. A simple substitution of the word “impact” will work. It is a noun and a verb all in one and can handily be used to describe recalcitrant molars, too. You can’t get that kind of mileage from effect/affect.

3. Look up the word, “literally.” Now consider it as dead to you. Replace with “actually”. If you actually wet your pants from laughing so hard, say so. On second thought, keep it to yourself.

4. No more quotation marks for you- no direct quotes and absolutely no air quotes. You are on probation from abuse.

5. A lot is 2 words. If you cannot handle 2 words, then use gobs, scads, or oodles (best accompanied a jaunty accent).

6. The word “definitely” is hereby suspended. There is no “a” in definitely, and you only seem to use it when you really mean something is quite questionable. I best not wait around if you say you will “definitely” call.

7. Replace there and their with “yon” and “belonging to them,” as in “Yo, fetch me yon goose belonging to them, Homes.”

There is certainly more, but that is a good start. Tough love.

Do This in Remembrance of Me

ImageI’m feeling extra cantankerous today. Nate and I were walking to school, and I glanced down to check my phone, making sure we were on track to make the corner by 7:45. I happened to see the date: 9/11, and I got mad.

Eleven years ago I was pregnant with my oldest son. I was overcome with many emotions in those days following the attacks, but an overwhelming sense of hope rose out of the anger, sadness, and helplessness. I was proud as I witnessed ordinary people do extraordinary things–the healthcare workers from Texas that obtained special coolers, loaded up their cars with blood and skin tissue for grafts, and headed north only to find few survivors to help. I resolved to tell my son about those stories of resilience and kindness.

I didn’t know anyone personally who lost their life that day, but I suspect one thing is true–they would have been honored and proud at the way Americans of all stripes came together. Scratch that, the way most of the world came together in solidarity. And then I got angry thinking about what a mess we have made of it since then. I suspect those lost would be equally disgusted at the way we vilify the other side. Pick your team, and the “others” must be morons, racists, socialists, un-American.

People who boarded those planes with box-cutters that day pronounced us “other,” justified their actions in doing so, and struck us a blow that we still seem to be struggling to find our way past. Some would argue that we have become more divided in the years since 9/11, and I would say that we’ve always been divided. Difference is fundamental to our fabric, and respectful dissent is what makes us stronger. What I think is newly ladled on is suspicion, fear, paranoia, loss of control, and mistrust.

It’s not how I want to be. I don’t want that to be the legacy I leave my sons, who were born into a post-9/11 world. I want them to know when the world was watching, we showed our best selves. And that when the world wasn’t watching, we still did.

Let’s do better.

Only 1 BM Around Here

I remember the days when my life revolved around weighty, cosmic questions. The success or failure of an entire day could be assessed by one critical measure…Did he poop in the potty? Judgment was handed down in the pre-school pick-up line. Either you were sent away in humiliation or sweet glory.

A substitute teacher was manning carline when I pulled up and asked for the verdict. She pursed her lips and sneered, “We don’t poop; we have BMs. And no, he didn’t.”

I rounded on the Montessori hag with the full fury of 32 years behind me, the seatbelt straining against my raw, pulsing indignation, “IN OUR HOUSE WE POOP, AND EVERYONE WHO HAS EVER HAD THE INITIALS ‘BM’ POOPS. THAT’S HOW WE ROLL, BIATCH!”

I do admit, I stepped into it myself (no pun intended). I started out as BM and then married right back into it. I recognized it for the plague it was and spent much of 5th grade trying to woo Travis Thompson, so I could secure BLT. I guess the closest I ever came to escaping BM would have been to BS. Little improvement there.

Divorce seems like a hassle, so here’s my PSA. Do not abbreviate waste elimination with BM. It’s unnecessary. Our language is replete with scatological vocabulary for every occasion. You could discuss with your doctor, your mother, your dog, and your 4 year old all in the same day and never use the same words twice. Make a game out of it, even. Impress your friends with the clever phrases you can turn. And then be sure to post it on Facebook.