Euphemistically speaking

We will have to speak in euphemisms today, because we don’t want to set off those Internet censors, the ones that nervous parents set so their innocent children don’t tumble into dens of iniquity by choice or accident, although my den has been pretty iquitous lately. Uh oh. <<CAUTION!!! PERFECTLY USELESS ETYMOLOGY LESSON AHEAD!!!>> I haven’t even ended the first paragraph, which is supposed to be short (so you’re dragged into this blog) and already I’m into etymology. Bad sign.

So I’ll start a new paragraph and then make things jump guineain the middle of the sentence.

“Iniquity” as a word has really fallen off in usage lately, maybe because no one knows what “iquity” is. Iniquity has been around since the 1300s, so those dens have been iniquitous for a while, not mine as I said, which remains iquitous, which means, etymologically speaking,  just or equal. Iniquity means a violation of right or duty, a wicked act, or a sin, none of which has anything to do with euphemisms so let’s end this mess. <<END USELESS ETYMOLOGY LESSON>>

Hmm. I wonder if “euphonium” is related to “euphemism.” Give me a minute to look that up. <<insert pleasant music>>Nope. Different roots.<<end pleasant music>>Phew. No more etymology. OK. Back to business.

Oh, to heck with euphemisms.

Semi-euphemistically speaking, I sprained my br-east. I think that will get past the censors. I didn’t realize such a thing was possible, so I looked it up on the Internet, and there it was, nicely hidden under the discrete heading of Spraining Your Pectoral Muscle, which is, euphemistically speaking, of course what men would call it, because their pectoral muscles don’t support the same amount of, um, ah, avoirdupois, that most women’s pectoral muscles do.

This doesn’t feel like a pectoral muscle sprain, let me tell you. This is definitely rippling outwards towards—towards—points unknown, if you know what I mean: the avoirdupois I mentioned earlier, of which we shall not speak. The tip of the br-east, as opposed to the br-west, which I did not sprain.

I managed to do this in one of those post-stroke full-M.S. moves for which I have become notorious (and yes, I mean notorious, and here I am resisting as much as I can another etymology/usage lesson on the difference between notorious and famous…my fingernails are scraping across the keyboard…promise me you will look up their definitions if you don’t know the difference…)

For those of you who are not as copiously endowed in avoirdupois—and from here on I shall dispose of the pretentious italicization of that word, since it is acceptable to not do so (and I have saved you from a lesson in word usage there)—let me offer a method of experimentation:

First, procure for yourself a somewhat large and hungry guinea pig. I shall name mine Gina; your name may vary. Now imagine that you strap Gina to your left chest area. This is the left chest area as you observe from the neck downwards, which would be, compass-wise, br-east, nautically speaking, but to us, head-speaking, it is left chest. Anyway, imagine that you have strapped Gina there.

Now accidentally jerk yourself approximately 120 degrees to the left, exclaiming to yourself, “Oh, no!” except you actually utter some words you swore to your mother when you were 12 that you would never utter again. And now provoke Gina the somewhat large and hungry guinea pig to whirl around and take a rather vicious chomp out of your unpretentiously-italicized avoirdupois, which, deficient though it may be, in the course of jerking sadly jerked within chomping distance.

You, of course, howl in pain loudly enough to bring your mother, no matter where she is and no matter how scandalized she may be by your scandalous language and no matter how flustered she may be by your shocking choice of décolletage, to your side. She, being the perfect mother, without question, unties the terrified cavy and sends it scampering. And now you are left to explain your sprained br-east.

And Gina, the guilty gluttonous guinea pig, is gone.

Tumble into my den of iquity with my mom, why don’t you?


So much for the mall

It’s not what you’re thinking. This has nothing to do with holiday shopping and whether or not I’m going to shop at the mall or not. I gave up on that years ago. I did all of my holiday shopping downtown at the local stores or at craft fairs or via mail order.

What I’m talking about is my desperate need for a new pair of jeans. El Desperado. You got that right, pardner.

And the only place to buy Lee Jeans around here if you don’t know your size is at the mall. The dreaded Capital Mall. (It’s also the only place to buy Levi’s, by the way. I do not like this city.)

I don’t know my size because I have (ahem) gotten a bit wider without getting any taller.

So I strategically waited until I thought all the holiday shoppers had headed home, and then I veered off into the darkness towards Ye Olde Shopping Centre and that purveyor of everything necessary, J.C. Penney, to buy me a pair of good old Midwestern denim.

Once I located what I suspected might be the correct size size-wise width-wise, having added in an inch or so width-wise in the width area myself, I headed off to the dressing room. For some reason, it was in the lingerie department. This meant it was kind of gussied up. The mirrors had draperies on them that were held back by rings, and there was a padded stool as well. I was made to feel like a lady, even though I was trying on men’s jeans.

Just as I had strategically waited until the shoppers had headed home, I thought I had strategically dressed for trying on jeans. But I had forgotten about static cling. There is nothing worse than static cling in a dressing room. The pants I had on, made of some unnatural fiber that starts with “poly‑” and ends with “‑iber” (this is why I so desperately needed jeans to begin with) clung for dear life to my legs, realizing their time was nigh.

But first I had to get my balance. I don’t do well in small spaces. Especially ones where an entire wall is a mirror. Fortunately there were grab bars on another wall. They were intended to be bars on which you could hang potential purchases, but on which I chose to hang my wayward hands. Wayward hands thus steadied, I coaxed the polyhedral polyfiber Pollyanna pollypants off my legs somehow while the dinky little room became dinkier and dinkier and the brown carpet came closer and closer to my nose and the padded stool became tippier and tippier. <<CAUTION!! PERFECTLY USELESS ETYMOLOGY LESSON AHEAD!!>> For some reason, “dinkier” is an accepted word, but to many dictionaries, “tippier” is not. As for the etymological reason this is so, I can’t tell you. I lied about the lesson. <<END USELESS ETYMOLOGY LESSON>>

Polypants off, it was time to wrangle the denim pants on. Did you know that Lee owns Wrangler? Howdy doody, they do! Well, the parent company does. It also owns North Face and JanSport and Vans and a ton of other stuff. Very down-homey. If you go to the Lee website and sign up, you get 30 days o’ free shippin’ and returnin’. Just like the good ole’ days.

So anyway, the jeans fit, and all I had to do now was yank them off and tug the unwilling polynomial things back on my spastic legs in the ever-shrinking dinkiest tippiest dressing room in the lingerie department. Then I could find a register, pay for them and get out of there.

Yeah. Right. That lasted for 15 steps, just far enough for me to wend my way through the carpeted displays in the lingerie department and hit the nicely polished main walkway through J.C. Penney.

Splat. And I mean splat. As in on my face, nose first, suddenly surrounded by five sales clerks and two shoppers splat.


The only thing I remember about falling is that I managed to push one of those pesky center-aisle tables out of my path as I fell, so at least I didn’t crack my head on it.

That’s the fun part with M.S. and balance problems. You just never know! Everything is fine, hunky-dunky as Uncle Felix would say, and then you’re eating the sidewalk.

They fussed over me and gave me something to wipe away the blood from a nasty scrape on my arm, and then a bandage for it (no biggie), and made me fill out paperwork for “loss prevention” (very nice woman in a very grim office designed for shoplifters), and mostly it was all ridiculous.


But this is what happens when I go from a dinky room that makes me tippy to a crowded situation such as a lingerie department and then step onto a different surface and don’t pay enough attention to my footing.

Splat. Wait—what happened to those jeans I meant to buy?

I must have flung them somewhere as I fell, probably into the unyielding arms of a lingerie mannequin. I knew I didn’t belong in that department. I’m calling LL Bean.

You are posting comments too quickly. Slow down.

Hah! We know that’s not true. But that’s the error message I got when I tried to post a comment on another blog that had drawn my attention. It was the blog maintained by
Bates College,

Hathorn Hall, Bates College

Hathorn Hall, Bates College. One of the oldest buildings on campus

my very own alma mater, which had just done something nice for a professor who happens to be of the if-you-know-what-I-mean variety.

Which has nothing to do with me posting comments too quickly. All I was asking for was that they try to make their talks available online. Which has nothing to do with me not posting forever. Or so it seems.

Which has something to do with me posting this.

I’m more or less running out of topics for a stolen brain. My brain has mostly been stolen, and I have mostly gotten used to it being stolen, and I am very much absorbed in writing about other topics. For example, I am deeply involved in writing a novel, and in the middle of writing a memoir about a situation I went through some years ago. And I am in the midst of an explosion of poetry, too. None of this, unfortunately, lends itself to whostolemybrain.

So I am thinking of closing this blog, and starting a new one, to which I will invite all of you, you poor things. You can stay or you can go.

I might post comments too quickly. You might have to tell me to slow down.


So this will be short, because I am doing five things at once, and I am mostly preoccupied with two of them, neither of them being the NCAA tournament, which is all my 15-year-old son cares about at the moment, which, given the variety of activities out there today, I suppose I am quite happy about.

MS. MS. MS. MS. These two letters have Continue reading

Exercise? Who Needs Exercise?

I always thought it was a scam. And now I have proof. Sort of.

The New York Times devoted its entire Science section to electronic gadgetry last Tuesday, and looked at all of those gizmos some of us are tempted to fondle at the local Apple store, Best Buy, or even a well-stocked Rite Aid.

You’ll have to read the section for yourself if you want to know how the desktop treadmill works, and how the various sleep thingamabobs handle things. As you can imagine,the newsroom staff had a pretty good time with the entire project.

The idea of trying to write while on a treadmill made me want to <<CAUTION!! DISGUSTING WRITING AHEAD!!>> lurf all over the place, and by that I mean vomit. I think that’s because I have such a poor sense of balance that the thought of trying to look at a computer monitor or a piece of paper while at the same time moving my feet rhythmically is not at all pleasant and I might lurf now just thinking about it. Let’s not think about it. <<END POSSIBLE LURFING AND DISGUSTING WRITING>>

What I thought was a scam, and what I now have proof of, sort of, and who needs exercise anyway, and I TOLD YOU SO! HAH! is found in an article in this Science section on page 2 called “Do Brain Workouts Work? Science Isn’t Sure.”

See? Hah!

I snarl Hah! because many people have very kindly and lovingly (and I mean this kindly) (and lovingly) suggested that I try one of the many online brain workout sites to try to get back some brainpower that I have lost since the stroke I had in August 2011. And I took their suggestions seriously and I tried them, and I don’t think I got any brainpower back. But I’m not sure either.

“Almost all the marketing claims made by all the companies go beyond the data,” said Dr. Murali Doraiswamy of Duke University, a neurocognitive disorders researcher quoted in the article.

Furthermore, the article noted that research has been conducted entirely on healthy individuals. One analysis of 23 studies concluded that if you practice game playing, you will get better at game playing—but only at that game, not at anything else. So much for Sudoku.

Marbled murrelet

Marbled murrelet

A study out of the University of Washington (known universally as “you-dub”)  shows that “older” “healthy” Americans can retain cognitive improvements for at least 10 years, if those improvements are attained via reasoning (listening to a lecture, for instance) or speed of processing (press the right button). The same study found that such improvements didn’t last if they were attained via sheer memorization.

And the sad news overall is that no matter how the cognitive improvement was made, the improvement didn’t carry over to any other area. So just because I listened to a talk on the marbled murrelet (Brachyramphus marmoratus), that doesn’t mean I’m now an expert on the Atlantic puffin (Fratercula arctica).

Atlantic puffin

Atlantic puffin

They are both very cute, as you can see. And they could both use your help. The puffins are doing better than the murrelets these days, because they’ve gotten more attention.

This is one of the few times you will hear me cheerlead for anything on the Wrong Coast, which murrelets are, so if you have a spare check or a bank card crying in your wallet, now’s your chance.

Anyway, back to brain workouts. One little side note to this overall depressing article says that a recent study found that focusing on those falling objects in Tetris could calm your food cravings. No further information was provided. Such as: how far away was the ice cream?

There are more and more of these online brain train sites every week, it seems, and more and more of them want my money. That’s when I know I’m smart enough that I don’t need their games, and I move on.

Nevertheless, all of the hopeful entrepreneurs are gathering in San Francisco in May for a NeuroGaming Conference and Expo, no matter how unclear the research, to see how many dollars they can squeeze out of a gullible public.

Hey, we’ve been pushing buttons and squeezing triggers for years, just to make fake frogs cross fake streets and fake plumbers jump over fake mushrooms and fake candy flatten other fake candy.

“I’m not convinced there is a huge difference between buying a $300 subscription to a gaming company versus you yourself doing challenging things on your own, like attending a lecture or learning an instrument,” said Dr. Doraiswamy of Duke in the article.

Let me say it again: Hah! Really, what it comes down to is this: I don’t like those brain game sites. They are all sort of rosy and cute and invigorating. They go out of their way to not offend. They aren’t trying to teach me anything. They want me to stare at a little scene of a tree and a field and wait for a bird to appear and then click on the bird before it disappears. Depending on how fast I click on the bird, and how much faster I get at clicking on the bird each time it appears supposedly tells me how much “better” my brain is getting. Really?

Does this remind anyone of developmentally disabled kids stuffing envelopes for eight hours a day?

If this is cognitive improvement science at its best, I’ll keep going to talks on marbled murrelets. Shall I save you a seat?

On the Road Again

This has been a banner year for us with high school graduations: four trips down the aisle. Two nieces, one nephew, and one family friend. Not that we got to see them all, no, only one viewed in person by us, and that was the nephew’s, which was fitting, since we were present at his birth, and we plan to be present at as many of his life-changing events as he will let us.

There was the pomp and circumstance, the band tunes, the marching in, the speechifying, the mortar flinging, all the requisite hoopla you can imagine.

Uh oh.

<<CAUTION! ABSOLUTELY UNNECESSARY ETYMOLOGY LESSON AHEAD!>>Where does this word “hoopla come from anyway? Sounds vaguely Hawaiian in origin, but actually it is corrupted French, the real live etymologists think. “Houp-là!” you would say toyour child, “upsy-daisy,” or, “up you go.” Just a saying that accompanies a quick movement. The Brits turned it into a fairground game where you have to toss a hoop over something to win a prize; we Americans turned it into much ado about nothing, but in this case it was much ado about something. <<END ABSOLUTELY UNNECESSARY ETYMOLOGY LESSON>>

Although we loved every minute of that one graduation ceremony, especially the one minute where the principal of that high school actually mentioned our nephew by his actual name (WOW!!!) because of the great job he has done with GRuB in turning it into a national model, the two hours on exquisitely uncomfortably unpadded chairs completely ruined my partner’s back, so we had to skip the ceremony the following night in the same gymnasium (on the same chairs) for the family friend and the one the following weekend for one niece an hour away by car. The other niece lives on the other side of the country.

All right, all right, I hear you. Sorry, folks.

<caution. absolutely unnecessary etymology lesson ahead.>And I do mean unnecessary. The word “exquisite” is supposed to be pronounced with the accent on the first syllable. Really. Go back and watch some old M*A*S*H episodes if you don’t believe me, and listen to Charles. <<END ABSOLUTELY UNNECESSARY ETYMOLOGY LESSON>>

All etymology lessons out of the way, brace yourself for some timely newsworthy hoopla:

I have finished physical therapy due to rotator cuff surgery. Ta-da!

This means, in theory, that I have two functioning shoulders, free and clear to do things such as, oh, I don’t know, putting clothes in the dryer, typing, driving, stuff like that.

So I very gingerly went driving, just down to Target and back. No animals were harmed in the making of this blog entry. Except CF did turn her knuckles an ungodly shade of white when I made a rather sloppy left turn onto our road.

Therefore, she was not willing to let me drive one hour south to the niece’s graduation party. Party pooper. I drove two entire miles to Target and back, and only one tiny slip-up, and she won’t let me drive 120 miles at 65 mph! Sheesh. I mean, it’s not like we’d be driving my old wreck of a car. No, we’d be taking her nice, new car with all the groovy features on it, like a radio that works and everything.

I did notice something odd when I was driving those two miles, though. I had no idea where I was. It’s not a terribly complicated drive to Target. Down our street, turn right, go a little way, turn left, go a little way, turn right, and there you are. In its parking lot. Where you have to park.

(Did you see that cartoon in Sunday’s paper where the guy brings his own can of spray paint and just paints his own parking spot? Brilliant.)

And then you reverse your steps and go home.

But after being a passenger for over six months, my brain has scrambled the bits that held Olywa maps in place. They are gone. The maps from the town where I grew up are firmly in place. I can still count down the traffic lights on Bloomfield Ave. from the edge of town until you get to Central Ave. and you turn right to get to our house: Forest, Smull, Park. (I used to do this in the dark on the way back from my grandmother’s house.) Unless they’ve added one at Personnette St….

And the cow trail maps of Maine are emblazoned on my mind forever, especially the places where, for instance, the road to Durham from Freeport, called the Durham Road, crosses from Freeport into Durham, and becomes the Freeport Road, because there it’s the road from Durham to Freeport.

The Olympia map, however, was not to be found. I was a poor little lamb who has lost her way. Baa. Baa. Baa. Where’s my whiffenpoof? Oh, no, not another one! <<CAUTION! ABSOLUTELY UNNECESSARY ETYMOLOGY LESSON AHEAD!>> A whiffenpoof is not only the name of an absurd singing group of bawdy men from Yale University. It is also the name of an old-fashioned tracking gee-gaw, a big old log with a bunch of nails sticking out a few inches and a way to drag it behind you, so it rotates and leaves a trail of little holes from the nail heads. You leave the whiffenpoof in the woods and see if folks can follow the trail to find it. <<END ABSOLUTELY UNNECESSARY ETYMOLOGY LESSON>>

Once I made it home from Target, I rustled up my Garmin nüvi and charged it, ready for action. I can’t just plug it into my car battery, because my car is a 1997 Toyota RAV, and it has seen many better days. I remember the day that NF, still in diapers, experimented with a penny and shorted out the lighter, thus making it impossible to plug in any electronic device one might use via its handy port.

I was quite pleased with my Garmin nüvi solution to my map-free brain, right down to the crisp British accent of the unflappable woman telling me where to go. I mean, instructing my driving. I took my Garmin into the living room to show CF and she graciously listened to my enthusiastic explanation.

“You know,” she said, “you can get maps right on your phone. And they update as you travel. Just like that thing.”

“Oh,” I said, tossing the Garmin onto the stack beside me. Not much pomp. Not much circumstance.