During this morning’s surfing, I discovered the New Yorker’s 2014 best of anthology of their “Shouts and Murmurs” column. There are dozens of entries there and I have chosen to share one or two with you. The first one is dedicated to all those helpful friends and family members [You know who you are!], who over the years have offered Nice-And-Gentle suggestions on how I might correct a grammar / spelling mistake or were simply trying to improve my writing’s overall clarity. I always appreciate your feedback. As an aside, I’m offering a prize to the first such compulsively corrective person who can successfully diagram the following sentence.
Never mind and never fear. I am an, thankfully, expert of sentences. Read on and be disbelieving! There is much to have taught you, and little time, so very, very little and small time. —James Thomas, “How to Write a Sentence” (October 24, 2014)
I bought us a pair of electric toothbrushes earlier this year and I must say that at least for me, they have been a real boon for my dental hygiene. Trips to the hygienist now only rate a 5 on the pain scale, instead of their normal 9. The hygienist even commented on this improvement, before she reminded me that I still need to do more flossing. I subsequently got a water-pick. Technology is the final solution for Nazi hygienists. So it was with some dismay that the other day, I discovered a film of gunk that was starting to bond the base of my electric toothbrush to its charging stand. I then noticed that there was no analogous film on Anne’s electric toothbrush.
My mistake was remarking about this phenomenon to her. She then proceeded to vehemently point out to me that she had read the instructions and that I obviously hadn’t. If I had read the instructions, then I would know better than to just rinse the toothbrush and then return it to its stand. If I had read the instructions then I would know that after each brushing I should disconnect the brush head, rinse it and then dry the head and handle, before reassembling and returning the toothbrush to its stand.
Well, at least I put the cap back on the toothpaste tube.
I love my wife and I love my in-laws, even when they are being too retentive and I’m not talking about water here. Anne is a very easy-going person, my better half, but sometimes she gets into ‘teacher mode’. At those times it is best if I just shut up and go to work. I don’t know what I’m going to do when I retire. Hopefully, she’ll retire then too and this teacher mode will become a passing phase. I’m not so sure though. I think that it has now become ingrained into her psyche, a learned student-produced-response.
7. Student-produced-response math: You have one remaining pair of clean underwear, besides the pair you are currently wearing. You have an additional pair of underwear that doesn’t cover your entire butt and says “Thursday.” How many days can you go without doing laundry? —Cora Frazier, “New S.A.T. Practice Questions” (March 17, 2014)
Let me give you a hint: Today is Saturday.
Anne’s hint: On the first day you wear your underwear normally, on the second, you wear them backwards, on the third day you wear them inside-out and on the fourth day you wear them inside-out and backwards.
Be prepared to show all of your work.