Oct 21 2014

Careful there…

Brittany Maynard is a 29 year old woman with terminal brain cancer who has moved to Oregon in order to receive a doctor’s prescription for life-ending drugs. I choose to respect her decision. This is not a post about her, but about her verbiage.

My concern is the use of the term “dignity”

Screen shot 2014-10-21 at 1.01.19 PM

There’s an implication here that irks me. You do not lack dignity if you live out your days being cared for by others. That someone else helps you bathe and dress and God-forbid change your diapers…this has nothing to do with:

Screen shot 2014-10-21 at 1.14.39 PM


We all want to go out on our own terms, but life sucks sometimes and there’s no dishonor in vulnerability.

Love and peace to Brittnay Maynard and all who suffer.



UPDATE: A lovely reader, Marcy, sent me an email with a different interpretation, which I think is valid and good to remember:

My interpretation is that it’s trying to show contrast between the state-sanctioned pills and the likely traumatic ways that terminal people attempt to end their lives early when they are not given a more peaceful option.

I honestly hadn’t thought of that, and was simply reacting to the idea I often hear from people equating a loss of dignity with long term care. I’m also glad to see another side.

Mar 12 2014

An alternative to banning BOSSY

Beyonce, Sheryl Sandberg, and the Girl Scouts have joined together to ban the word “bossy” because of the theory that it keeps women from becoming leaders.

I was born bossy, I’ve lived bossy and I’m hear to tell you “bossy girls get shit done.” I’m paraphrasing self-described BossyPants Tina Fey, who once said in response to Hilary Clinton being called a bitch:


I think this campaign has its heart in the right place. But banning words doesn’t generally work. I wish instead that we would simply encourage it. I’m incredibly lucky that I never felt put down or diminished because of my natural leadership skills. I liked being in charge and I was good at it.

Instead of banning bossy, why not help your little bossypants be the best she can be?

Teach her the rules to being bossy:

*Try to make things fair for everyone involved (Aaron shouldn’t have had to be the groom in every single wedding I planned under our pear tree)

*Take responsibility, not just authority; it’s your job to make sure everyone is having fun, not just you (If Naomi didn’t want to be the typhoid sufferer who gets thrown off the boat, aka the guest bed, I shouldn’t have made her)

*Look for opportunities to collaborate; let someone else be in charge now and then, you might enjoy the ride (I literally can’t think of an example from childhood where I did this and I fear I may have refused to let some other kid in my neighborhood stretch their own bossy wings…)

Anytime a kid’s natural qualities get squashed by the adults in their life, it breaks my heart. If you decide to ban bossy, that’s up to you. But most importantly, if you have a daughter with leadership inclination, I hope you celebrate it, because you’ve got yourself a future woman who gets stuff done!

– Jen

Mar 10 2014

The tale of my Twitter

I just used Tweetails.com to find out my Twitter feed stats (@tbtljen)

After inputting all of my tweets, the website gave me this rating:

Very clever indeed, and probably smug about it too. (I guess even algorithms are judgey)

Here are the words I use most often:

Screen shot 2014-03-10 at 8.56.59 AM

Immediate thoughts:

*It looks like my husband barely beat out Mr. Bates, but Harry is the man I mention most (which is probably a combination of Prince Harry and Harry Potter)

*Also, how much was I tweeting about those Chilean miners? Clearly more than I remember!

*Obviously I need to spend the day learning new adjectives that aren’t Adorable or Awesome.

I think this is actually a pretty good tool and it feels pretty representative of who I am and how excited I get about the things I love.

– Jen

Feb 27 2014

May I offer a euphemism?

Recently I watched a lot of football (perhaps you heard).  I started noticing that whenever a player would go down to the ground and roll onto his side, the sportscasters would suggest that possibly “he got the wind knocked out of him.”

It was pretty clear in most of these cases that what he had was a penis injury. Since that’s nothing to be ashamed of, I couldn’t understand the hesitation to call it what it is. (I’ve since heard from quite a few guys that they don’t like to hear anything close to that phrase as it causes “phantom pain and/or discomfort”)

Thanks to Matthew, who alerted me to this euphemism from the film Extract:


At least “mid body injury” is in the correct vicinity…progress!

– Jen


Dec 13 2013

How legendary can a razor really be?



I get that, through common usage, we change the meaning of words over time. But I’m pretty sure no one will be telling stories around campfires about this “lady shaver.”  Not in one year and not in 500 years.

Also, if anyone reading this knows the good folks over at Nabisco, “artisan” means skillfully made by hand:




As someone who has been known to describe a sandwich as “awesome”, I know all about incorrect word usage…but I don’t print it on stuff.

– Jen

Apr 30 2013

This U-Turn was entirely (or mostly) my fault

On a mini road trip this weekend, I saw this sign and yelled to Jason,

“Make a U-Turn right now! That place is selling Frozen Custard Butter Burgers!”

For some reason I thought that sounded like the craziest meal and I had to try one. Which of you could resist a Frozen Custard Butter Burger? Once I got inside I immediately realized my mistake. They have two specialties of the house, not one. I left Charlie Brown-style, with my head hanging down.

But in my defense…the reader board is also a little confusing. I know we all like to make fun of grammar mistakes on signs, but at least most of those are still communicating something, if incorrectly…what the hell is a “turtle dive”?

– Jen


Jan 31 2013

Twitter as a weapon: It’s complicated

Yesterday, actress and singer Kristin Chenowith tweeted to over 700,000 followers:

Last week, actress Rashida Jones tweeted to over 300,000 followers:

We’ve all had a horrible flight. Some of us fume silently, some complain, some write a letter or, usually, we just bitch to all of our friends about it. That’s normal. But it’s not cool to a) think you shouldn’t be inconvenienced by an airline or disrespected by an attendant simply because you’re famous or b) to use your inflated platform to bash a company without giving context.

I have no idea what all went on with these flights. I don’t know if the flight attendant was a horrible person or if she just lost her sh*t after being abused herself; I don’t know if the flight delay was due to weather or plane repairs or just incompetence. But celebrities can take to Twitter to bash anyone or any company they see fit and actually do damage.

Questions for Fair Play:

*Does the vitriol of the complaint fit the offfense

*Are you using your power or fame to destroy someone’s reputation

*Are you expecting better treatment because of your fame and power

*When you publicly shame a person or company, do you make sure it’s a venue where all can be heard

Most of the people I follow use Twitter to make jokes. I love it and think that’s fair game. These tweets (and many others just like them complaining about hotel rooms, airlines, store employees etc., that pop up everyday) aren’t jokes, they are specific complaints about specific people or incidents that would be better served in a different forum…a forum where every voice carries the same weight.

That’s not to say Twitter can’t be a powerful weapon and when used responsibly and with fairness, you can raise money and awareness for good causes, (something, by the way, that Ms. Chenowith does almost every day with her feed) or in the case of Shannen Doherty, call 911 when one of the people you are interacting with on Twitter becomes suicidal. She tweeted back and forth with the person until police were able to get to her house and bring assistance.

With great Twitter followers, comes great responsibility.

– Jen



Jan 10 2013

“Letters to the Editor” have lost their way

It used to be so simple, so elegant:

Dear Editor,

I completely disagree with you.



Dear Editor,

I loved the article.



Dear Editor,

You incorrectly named Newark as New Jersey’s capitol.



Lately I’ve noticed 4 trends that don’t serve the format and just drive me crazy:

1) Listing your credentials before you make your point

As the Past President of Beeswax Candlemakers of America, I can tell you that flameless candles will ruin our country… 

Hey, you have an opinion, you’re entitled to it, just give it. Bragging doesn’t gain you sympathy (although, if you’re gonna brag, “Past Presidentships” are where to start.)

2) Missing the point

Jerry Seinfeld’s joke about Pop-Tarts is an affront to all the good men and women who worked in that laboratory making sure that the icing and filling melted at the same consistency in the toaster.

The article is about trying to be relevant in comedy 20 years after your prime. The Pop-Tart joke was an aside about how he’s been trying to write that joke for years and still can’t get it right. You missed the point entirely.

3) Overstating your emotions

I am appalled that an organization of your quality would incorrectly cite the panthers as John Steinbeck’s high school mascot. As the Head of the English Literature Department at St. Regis University, I can assure you, it was the Hootin’ Owl.

Genocide is appalling, an error is not.

4) Irrelevant information

I am an audiologist and while I was waiting for my flight at the Phoenix Airport, I was surprised to see nudity in your fine magazine.

I am still trying to figure out what the first sentence has to do with the second.

I once worked on a show that received the following letter:

Your show is pure piffle.

Now that’s what I’m looking for.

– Jen

Dec 3 2012

When your Thesaurus becomes your enemy

I just read The Secret of Ella and Micha and it’s terrible. Terrible as in the worst book I read all year.  One look at the cover and you’ll ask, “what are you, 14?”

Here’s what happened: Over the summer I read Gone Girl, which was a hugely popular and very well-written book (we can debate the ending at a different time.) Amazon has some sort of algorithm which decided that since I purchased a book about a wife who disappears, perhaps I would like a book about a girl-next-door who disappears. I received a little pop-up telling me “Hey you liked Gone Girl, you’ll like The Secret of Ella and Micha for 99 cents. I took the bait, but man, did I pay.

The grammar is horrible. But that’s becoming more and more common with all these self-published books, and while it takes you out of the story for a second when every single apostrophe is used incorrectly, I can live with it. (My grammar isn’t great either, but that’s why I would use an editor!)

The plot is terrible. The big secret mentioned in the title and then alluded to on every page? They’re in love.

But the real problem is crazy word usage. I have to think the author, Jessica Sorenson, wanted to punch up her sentences a little so she just plugged words into a thesaurus without checking to make sure they meant the right thing.

“I carry her gaze forcefully”

“She conceals her hand over my mouth”

“The sofas are shoved to the side so the band can flare on their instruments”

“He chuckles lowly”

“We expected the police to show up and arrest her for car thievery”

“Her gaze lifts, giving a fleeting glance at my lips before resolving on my eyes”

“I decide to make a sporadic stop and try to get her out of my head”

“He descends his voice to a soft purr”

and my favorite…

“I flinch at my body’s fiery reaction his voice emits”

I double-checked to make sure the author wasn’t a kid or non-English speaker, but it seems she’s just unbelievably lucky that somehow her awful book got linked up with a critically acclaimed book…because I’m not the only chump. On Sunday I saw that it’s #14 on the NYTimes eBook Bestsellers list!

In the words of Captain Von Trapp, “She must have done something good.”

– Jen





Jul 18 2012

The most important argument over FUN’s “We Are Young” you’ll ever read

When it comes to the top Song of the Summer candidate We Are Young by FUN, most of the conversation has centered around the lyric “Asking ’bout a scar, and I know I gave it to you months ago,” which made some people concerned that the song was making light of domestic violence. Personally, I decided the scar in question is an emotional scar, which is bad, but not as bad, and it helps me enjoy the song without feeling like I need to give money to a woman’s shelter every time I sing along.

But I’ve discovered the best argument of all time regarding this song in the comment section over at tbtl.net

Two english teachers are debating the lyric “My seat’s been taken by some sunglasses”

You and I just thought metaphor, right? (I assume no one thought it was just a pair of sunglasses sitting on a barstool.) Well it gets a  whole lot deeper, my friends.

Dave says the sunglasses are actually metonymy, when you refer to something using an object associated with that thing. (Like referring to royalty as “the crown”)

Gary says the sunglasses are synecdoche, when you refer to something using an aspect of that thing. (If a poet were to say, “we’ll take our dreams to the waves” the waves, although only a small part of the ocean, stand for ocean.)

Thankfully, I don’t have to take sides because I’m pretty sure they are both right. Wearing sunglasses at night in a bar is deeply associated with douchebag behavior (and I’m pretty sure FUN is saying that a douchebag is sitting on his barstool.) So it’s metonymy. The douchebag  in question is wearing sunglasses, so sunglasses are a small part of the whole – synecdoche.

Voila! Everyone’s a winner of this particular brand of Words with Friends.

– Jen