Archive | words RSS feed for this section

Best. Sentence. Ever. (Lately.)

14 Apr

david duchovny image

Sometimes a sentence can change your life.  Whether from someone you admire, or a Texan, hearing the right words at the right time can make a difference.  Like the first time your mom said “Don’t stick that fork in the outlet” or “Don’t stick that fork in the toaster” or “What’s with you kids and forks?”

And then there are fragments.  Fragments are bits of a sentence that, when deftly used, can enhance a paragraph or improve a joke.  For example, the sentence “David Duchovny is a beloved television, stage, and screen actor, as well as a screenwriter and director” from the jacket of his book titled “Holy Cow” (published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2015) would work better if followed by fragments like: “For real.”  or “No joke… “beloved.””

The problem with fragments is that they can also ruin things.  Things that were just fine until someone added a few bonus words, usually three.  It seems as though it takes as little as three words to ruin things.  (Like hearing “I love you” but having it said by Ted Cruz, Bill Cosby or beloved sex addict David Duchovny.)

For example, has this ever happened to you?

A friend invites you to a show and as you pull into the Middle School parking lot and see on the marquee “Community Theater Presents” you know that this production of “Glengarry Glenn Ross” will run about 45 minutes less than the original because all the swear words were eliminated or changed to safer words like “dummy,” or “stupid dummy” or “Asian-American, Italian-American or Jewish-American stupid dummy.  Chocolate milk is for closers.”

Some lesser known three-word negatives include: “just his Birkenstocks” (from when a friend told me about a steamy one night stand and then ruined it by answering truthfully when I asked what he was wearing).  “Back in Texas” is a winner because if things are so great in Texas, why am I hearing this story here in upstate NY? and, finally, “are you listening?” works because if you have to ask me, you already know the answer.  (PS: according to an unofficial survey (me), “are you listening?” is the question that is most often asked following sentences that begin with “Back in Texas.”  And, no.  I’m probably not.)

Not all three-word groupings are bad, though.  “Are you hungry?” and “I could eat” work just fine and need no improvement as do “You look fine,” “Let’s just go,” and “We’re already late” which, incidentally, were all spoken on my wedding night as were “the Yankees win!” and “Good night, Spouse.”

Less IS More

11 Feb


By now we have all caught on to Kraft’s, Kellogg’s and Nestle’s little secret: that in order to keep prices level (but profits up), the sizes of our groceries have gotten smaller.  Everything has gotten smaller.  (Except Americans.  And American-style houses.  What’s with the insistence on an open-plan kitchen/living room?  I am extra embarrassed when, on House Hunters International, Texans especially, complain about the lack of closet space, garage space and outdoor space.  With no man-cave and a bathroom ratio greater than 1:1, it’s as if they really want to live in, say, Texas.)

A 5 pound bag of sugar now weighs 4 pounds, a twelve ounce bag of toll house chips is now a 10.5 ounce bag (which means goodbye toll house cookies, hello Food King brand cookies) and what was once a 12 ounce Knudsen spritzer now checks in at 10.5 ounces or, in my house, no ounces because I stopped buying spritzers and, instead, bought large bottles of juice and seltzer.  (And wine.  With all the money I’m saving by not buying Knudsen spritzers, I’m buying large bottles of really good wine.)

The only things that haven’t shrunk are the dozen eggs and the pound of butter.  (And the Americans.)

Of course it’s just a matter of time until the marketing department/farmers at Monsanto convince us that eggs were never sold by the dozen anyway- the hens lay them one at a time so that we can buy (and pay more for them) individually.  (Carton sold separately.)

Do you know how many recipes I can make from memory because they start with a dozen eggs, a pound of flour and a pound of butter that can no longer be my go-to desserts because the packaging size changed?  Answer: more than one.

But I’m not here to complain.  (I can do that anywhere.)

By now I’m sure you’ve noticed that FA&S has succumbed to demand and gone public, that the FA&S you’ve come to know and love is now found at: without all that pesky “” nomenclature getting in the way.

Which means we can pass the savings on to you.

Less typing on your part means more time to read the posts you love.  (Or watch cute kitten videos.  I get it; it’s not personal.  Some of those kittens are really adorable.)

With as much (if not more) sarcasm as before, fewer posts means you WIN.  Here’s how:

You spend less time reading FA&S and more time doing the things you do instead of reading FA&S.  Things that make you happier than reading FA&S (now available in .com format), whatever those things are.  If those things even exist.

Fewer posts means that you spend more time living your life and less time reading about mine.  (I’m not loving that.)

Reading words and phrases and such was hampering your ability to laugh anyway. Why put up with the inconvenience any longer?

Plus, if you really need more fresh air or sarcasm, visit us at: where you will find additional FA&S columns and more!  (For those of you in the Otsego, Schoharie and Delaware county area these columns are printed on actual paper.  Bad for trees, but so worth it.)  Just look for the purple box and grab a few- they’re free.

There’s only so much of me to go around said the Saran Wrap to the casserole.  (I just made that up.)

(Side note: Saran Wrap was accidentally discovered in a lab in 1933.  Saran is also currently used for high-quality doll hair because of its ability to hold a curl and shine.  Saran Wrap was originally sold in 100 sq. ft rolls and is now available in smaller rolls for the same price.)

Just another piece of useful information that you can find on the new FA& (or Wikipedia).

Until next time, or in the March O-TOWN paper whichever comes first, we thank you for reading.

PS: there is no “we.”

(Also: guest bloggers wanted.)

PPS: this post is so long, it counts as two.  See you in April.

(Also: guest bloggers wanted.  I mean it.)

This is my letter to the world

28 Jan

blog image colbert

Here it is almost February and I still haven’t written the letters that needed to go out in 2013.  And it’s not that the letters are unimportant, it’s that the intended recipients are famous, really famous.  Like more famous than “I-have-a-column-in-a-free-monthly-newspaper-now” famous. (Click here for link- page 5).

Am I intimidated?  No.  Scared?  Hardly.  I’m most concerned that given my newfound fame (click here for link- page 5), I may run into some of the recipients at an award dinner and they might want to discuss the letters when really, the letters are merely constructive criticism.  (Because I know how well I handle unsolicited criticism- I’m still mad at Spouse from Christmas 2008 when he “just asked” if I knew that raw cookie dough contains the same amount of calories as cooked.)

So who gets a letter and why?

To Stephen Colbert: nation, unable to purge images of Mr. Colbert in a jumpsuit from my mind, I am concerned that his only form of exercise is running from the main desk to the interview table.  (Also, he is the bravest man on television because he will, literally, put anything into his mouth.  As an individual who abhors prop comedy (and ventriloquism) I deem Stephen Colbert the exception and, as such, deserving of my first letter of the new year.)

Alec Baldwin: you are Spouse’s celebrity man crush.  And not just because your newest wife is a yoga instructor but, c’mon, a yoga instructor?  When you go and marry someone like that you give guys like Spouse hope.  Then I have to go and do something wonderful like microwave a food or clean a thing just to bring him back to reality.  From Glengarry to 30 Rock to SNL, Spouse thinks you possess understated wit and a well-honed sense of timing.  I, however, have my doubts.  I once saw you on The Barefoot Contessa and felt that you were the person I would least like to sit with at an outdoor charity function.  Because outdoor charity functions are boring and so were you.  When one thinks of Alec Baldwin, one thinks of “The Bloviator” and his very sloppy divorce from Kim Basinger and I think I like that guy better.

To Kim Basinger: you messed up.  How can anyone who buys a town on a whim (Braselton, GA circa 1989) expect to keep a man responsible for delivering lines like: “it’s easy to get down in the dumps when you can’t take one” happy?  (Wow, maybe Mr. Baldwin is my celebrity man crush too.)

David Sedaris: why am I not you?  Your work was translated into Estonian for crying out loud.  Estonian.  Until recently, I thought that Estonia was in Queens.  Life is unfair.  And if you were to read any of the previous letters I’ve sent, you’d know that.

Jack White: you make the best noise on the planet.  And that’s coming from mother of The Boy.  Noisy Boy.  (Also, exceptional work on the National Anthem with Stephen Colbert.  He owes you.)

Drew Carey: if you don’t like your job, quit.  It’s what I’ve always done.  (But please continue to have your pets spayed or neutered.)

To Neil Young, Tom Waits and Van Morrison: for continuing to make music that is always interesting, sometimes weird.  And kudos to one of you for helping to fight big oil.

To Keith Richards goes a lifetime achievement award for achieving the achievement of still living at this time.

Dave Barry: for consistently writing funny material.  (Except for Lunatics co-written with Alan Zweibel.  That one just screams contractual obligation.)

Alex Trebek: you are the most socially awkward person on television.  You reprimand contestants for not knowing minutia that you read off the teleprompter, your impressions are dreadful and no one cares that your french pronunciation is précis.

The College of Saint Rose: there’s a typo on the home page of your MFA in Creative Writing page.

John Fogerty: for being the face (and voice) of vocal polyps for the last five decades.

To websites that make us scroll down to click on our home state: do you know that it takes several spins of the mouse just to get to the “N’s?”  And then there are 3 “New” states before you get to New York.  Why can’t you just let us type it?  (Unless, of course, you are The College of Saint Rose.)

Finally, to Emily Dickinson: a 19th century American poet.  For continuing to perpetuate the myth that English degrees are worthless by studying hard and writing boatloads of work but neither getting a job nor moving out of her parent’s house.

You make me look awesome.

Happy Anniversary, Fresh Air and Sarcasm!

12 Jul


Well, it’s been two years or as my publicist would say: “FA&S enters third year of earth-moving, world-changing, mind-altering goodness!”

Side note: my publicist leans toward hyperbole.

Side side note: until recently, The Boy pronounced it “hyper-bowl.”  Like a trophy match for the most caffeinated kid.

Additional side note: I have no publicist.

Still, more than 115 published bits of sarcasm and, despite our efforts, we have yet to be sued by: David Sedaris, Dave Barry, Oprah Winfrey, David Lee Roth, Wolf Blitzer, my mother, Hellman’s Mayonnaise, Rand McNally, Alex Trebek, Lance Armstrong, Donald Trump, Judd Apatow, David Lynch, Karl Marx, Adam Sandler, Tom Arnold, The Drifters, Bono, Dire Straits,, Dane Cook, my mother, Taylor Swift, New Zealand, Nabisco, Bailey’s Irish Cream, a Kardashian, James Sacket, Cliff Bars, Eminem, Janeane Garafalo, yoga, Entenmann’s, Cyndi Lauper, Vitamix, The Girl Scouts of America, Santa or my mother.

That’s an impressive list which, to me, says two things: either everybody loves FA&S or everybody really likes FA&S and the love will eventually follow.  In the cases of Tom Arnold and David Lee Roth, however, I think that if they had the money, a lawsuit would only help revive their- oh, how I am loath to use this word here- careers.

Notice that I am eager to use the expression “I am loath” because, really, how often does one get the opportunity to actually be loath?  Answer: infrequently.  (Additional answers include: extraordinarily, only just, sporadically, seldom and, for our Spanish readers, rara vez because, really, how often does one get to use those words either?)

And words, after all, are the reason we are here.

I don’t mean that words are the reason that we, as a species, are here.  (Yea, right.  Millions of years ago caveman says to cavewoman: “go fix me a dirty martini” and BAM! three more of those later, a species is created.  PS: the martini was dirty due to early cave hygiene practices.)

What I mean is that we (okay, you) have read thus far because of something in the words (it’s either sarcasm dust or bits of organic compost imported from Oprah’s new hobby farm) and I thank you for your loyalty.  Sincerely.

But not too sincerely.  That would be wrong.

DO NOT Judge A Book By Its Cover (go by weight instead)

4 Apr

blog image stephen king

Boy, my recent library selections have been disappointing.

Having finished Stephen King’s “11/22/63,” I found myself asking: “Why would anyone invite Mr. (or Mrs.) King over for dinner up there in Bangor (Derry), Maine or wherever the heck it is that they live?”

First of all: while there aren’t that many people in Maine to begin with, do you really want to have the Kings over?

Between the two of them, they have written more words than all the residents of Bangor, Maine combined, including the collective speeches of all nine City Councilors.  (I love Wikipedia.)  I imagine that the Kings (with all their verbiage and sentences and things) could monopolize an entire evening utilizing witty banter alone and then who, exactly, would be listening to me?

Second, “11/22/63” is simply too long.  How can one be expected to sit at a dinner party with the author and not say something like “did you even pause to read it or did you just keep typing until your tendons wore out?” (A classier version of “do you get paid by the word, or what?”  because, after all, this is still a dinner party.  (In my mind.)  Ayup.)

Maybe the book felt sluggish because I read the large print version which made it even longer (and heavier).

Hey- before you judge- the large print version was already downstairs in the new fiction section and, while I’m willing to totally abandon bedtime for a good yarn, I’m not about to strain my eyes (or climb stairs) for a book that is too long (and too heavy.)

Would Stephen King strain his eyes to read “Fresh Air and Sarcasm?”  He doesn’t even have the decency to invite me to a dinner party.  (In my mind.)

Bonus: large print books allow you to utter sentences like: “Really, I knew by page 450, that this book wasn’t working but I thought maybe it would right itself in the remaining 500 or so pages.”

(Most geeks will quickly note that you are a person of great substance and stamina because you read nearly 1000 pages.  That, or they consider you a person “with lots of spare time who should consider gainful employment.”)

But enough about Spouse.

He sure can whine, though, the Spouse.  He just goes on and on.

As does Richard Russo’s memoir, “Elsewhere.”

Reading “Elsewhere” is the literary version of watching a Sundance Channel movie.  Sure, it’s free, but hours later you find yourself agitated and ashamed because while you were somehow able to find time to watch an aimless and dreary video, you can’t ever seem to get around to alphabetizing the spices or dusting things.  (Example: “Wendy and Lucy” starring Michelle Williams).

In “Elsewhere,” Richard Russo, local hero/escapee, discusses his non-traditional maternal relationship in an actual published book and, when finished, all I can think is: “you think that’s crazy?  You should see my Russian relatives drink chilled vodka until they sing songs of the motherland while chasing skunks with two by fours.  (Now they were some crazy women.)

Yet eternal optimism allows me to believe that a plot, something to care about, will always emerge.

Of course, if you’ve read this far, you know that is not always true.

Three NEW Little Words

27 Dec

blog image brad pitt

Thanks to loyal readers, like you, a tree has been planted in Ljubljana.

Not really.  A tree would be stupid.  A tree has nothing to do with this post.  Nor does Oprah Winfrey, vitamin D or breast implants other than I have discovered that if you put celebrity tags, food trends or questionably spelled countries in your posts, the number of visitors from Facebook jumps way up.  Here’s to you Brad Pitt, Dora the Explorer and Ljubljana.

Still, thanks to all our FA&S readers, there is a new three word expression that we can proudly claim as our own: three seasonal words that take plain old sentences and turn them into holiday dramas fit for a king.  Or a king of kings!  And more!  Oy, Ave Maria.  (And those aren’t even the three words.)

Remember November 14 when FA&S readers around the globe were improving their story-telling abilities by adding “with an ax!” to sentences in an effort to jazz up ordinary lives and turn them into something awesome?

Well, apparently, FA&S-inspired word peppering WORKS because there’s a new linguistic sprinkle in town just in time for the holidays- “and it’s Christmas.”  (Contractions count as one word.)

For example, yesterday Spouse angrily arrived home from the Food King still smarting because a guy with a very full cart ahead of him neglected to inform Spouse that his wife was following with cart #2 and the assumption that she could jump the line- and it’s Christmas.

Who jumps the line during the most wonderful time of the year?

Then there’s the cat who ate too fast and threw up all his dinner, some tinsel and a hairball- and it’s Christmas.

Poor Jesus.  Couldn’t even get a hotel room on his birthday- and it’s Christmas.

What is it about the season (which used to be a day, then became an Eve + a day, then an Eve+ a day + Boxing Day (UK) then 12 days of which we sing plus an Eve + a day + Boxing Day (UK) + a return/exchange line) that makes us believe that people should behave differently?

If people could behave better don’t you think they would?

Am I really not supposed to give the stink eye to the Subaru driver doing 20 in a 55 because it’s a random day in December that Christians and elves have co-opted?

Last time I checked, jerks (and slow pokes) were everywhere.  (But not elves.  Lawn gnomes?  Sadly, yes.)

I’m just saying…  (also three words but three silly words often used to inject one’s opinion into situations where said opinion is neither solicited nor appreciated.)

How about, this holiday season, I’ll be a bit nicer to you and you’ll be a bit nicer to me and on or about January 1, we’ll both join a gym as we promise ourselves that this will be the year that we get in shape?

‘Tis the season.  (And contractions still count as one word.)

Words with such little gravitas, they anger me. (Also: a children’s folk tale.)

28 Sep

broth: so whiny and non-committal and whiny.  It’s the Joe Lieberman of soups.  It’s not even a soup, it’s an ingredient.  A true cook uses stock to make soup; in the dusty annals of your grandma’s house is where broth is served.  With ants on a log and nothing more.  By 4PM.  And the ants are extra dry.  Parched.

chill: what the broth means to remedy.  I don’t chase chills; I chase thrills.  And when I’m cold, I’m frigid, numb, wintry, perhaps.  When Joe Lieberman is cold, he dons a sweater vest because “most chills are felt primarily in the torsoooooo.”  (I hear him in my mind: that’s why I added the quotation marks.)

Joe Lieberman does not chill, my friend, Joe Lieberman feels chilly and poof! there goes your gravitas.

draft: precedes the chill which precipitates the broth (precedes and precipitates- dictionary game on!)  Which angers me because we just insulated the entire house.

The house that Jack built.

I Oxymoron and You Can Too!

23 Aug

Oxymorons happen all the time.  Example: Saturday morning at the town dump and your neighbor, while throwing away what looks like a perfectly good lamp says, “This lamp never worked right and I don’t understand.  I just bought it at WalMart.”  (BAM!  You now have your first oxymoron of the day and it’s not even 10AM!): A Quality Purchase from WalMart.

The way I see it, my job as a wordsmith is to record oxymorons so that our understanding of language improves over time and I enjoy a tiny inner trickle of bemusement that’s just for me.

The following list contains oxymorons that I have collected recently (along with horribly named hair salons like, “Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow” and “The ClipHer Ship” but that’s for another time.)

I hope you enjoy them as much as I do and, please, feel free to add your own.  Just not “Jumbo Shrimp.”  That one is as old as dirt.  (BAM! Cliche Alert!):

Fat-Free Ice Cream

Department of Environmental Protection

Fluorescent Lighting

Rap Singer

Party of One

Egg White Omelet

Late Fines at the Free Public Library

A Gripping Performance by Adam Sandler

A Film by Adam Sandler

Funnyman Adam Sandler

Ohio-style Pizza

State Worker

White Chocolate

Actor Tom Arnold

A Wait List at the Olive Garden

Mrs. Harvey Fierstein


Music by Sting.

Lyrics that brought me here

10 Jan

“The sun was like a light bulb being swallowed by a clown.”- Elvis Costello

While studying similes in school, this one struck me as excellent.

“I repeat myself when under stress.  I repeat myself when under stress.  I repeat myself when under stress.”- King Crimson

A wonderful sentence on its own.  Incorporated into a song, genius.

“Zoo be zabba zoo be zabba zoo be zabba zay.”- Tom Waits

Fun to sing, fun to type.  Your left pinky will never get a more difficult workout unless you are a novelist and one of your characters has fallen asleep.

“Fat babies have no pride.”- Lyle Lovett

While I always thought that I would be either a choreographer or a bird in my next life, a fat baby is worth considering.

“That’s life.  That’s what all the people say.  You’re riding high in April, shot down in May.”- Frank Sinatra

Chairman of the Board making pessimism bounce since 1966.

I went back to Ohio.  But my pretty countryside.  Had been paved down the middle.  By a government that had no pride.”- Chrissie Hynde (The Pretenders)

a.  an environmental anthem that is still fresh and relevant today or:

b.  Ohio is governed by fat babies.

“You don’t have to be a star to be in my show.”- Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis, Jr.

If someone you know has spoken these words, in a somewhat saucy manner with emphasis added, they’re gay.  If you don’t think you have any gay friends, use Marilyn and Billy as a barometer.  It also wouldn’t hurt to rethink friends who speak saucily.

“Sha la la, man.”- Lou Reed.

An expression of disconnect and dispassion that is spot on.  That it encompasses Mr. Reed’s entire vocal range is a bonus.

“I don’t feel tardy.”- David Lee Roth (Van Halen)

Released in 1984, “Hot for Teacher” remains my go to apology.

“It takes a whole lot of medicine for me to pretend that I’m somebody else.”- Randy Newman

By medicine I mean a Barbara D’Alba and it doesn’t even take a lot, it just has to be good.

“Maybe Marlon Brando will be there by the fire.  We’ll sit and talk of Hollywood
and the good things there for hire.  And the Astrodome and the first tepee.
Marlon Brando, Pocahontas and me.”- Neil Young

Mortifying.  Our treatment of Native Americans is shameful.

“If anybody asks you where you’re coming from.  Say love.”- The Avett Brothers

A good practice, disarms critics.  (And the harmonies are lovely.)

“You are my sunshine, my only sunshine.”- Jimmy Davis

If you’ve ever been a postpartum mother you know that this song, while useful for putting babies to sleep, can also make you cry your eyes out.

“There’s one thing I know, though I’m younger than you.  Even Jesus would never forgive what you do.”-Bob Dylan

War is Hell.  Warmongers belong there.

“This land is your land.  This land is my land.”- Woody Guthrie

Share.  Act responsibly.  And for Christ’s sake, stop cutting the grass at 7AM on Saturday mornings- some of us were up all night.

“Imagine there’s no Heaven.  It’s easy if you try.  No hell below us.  Above us only sky.  Imagine all the people living for today.  Imagine there’s no countries.  It isn’t hard to do.  Nothing to kill or die for.  And no religion too.  Imagine all the people living life in peace.  You may say that I’m a dreamer.  But I’m not the only one.  I hope someday you’ll join us.  And the world will be as one.  Imagine no possessions.  I wonder if you can.  No need for greed or hunger.  A brotherhood of man.  Imagine all the people sharing all the world.  You may say that I’m a dreamer.  But I’m not the only one.  I hope someday you’ll join us and the world will live as one.”- John Lennon

Words I enjoy

23 Oct

dollop: who doesn’t love the dollop?  Wonderfully precise and fun.  Limited in use, but in a wonderfully precise and fun way.

thrift: as a clothing store but, more so, a way life.  Blessed with a stomach that enables me to eat any food regardless of expiration date, I often will.  Like the song says, “you say potato” and my husband says, “you didn’t eat that did you?  That wasn’t a potato, that was a rotten apple.”  Thrifty living made me do it.

tardy: by simply saying “I’m sorry; I’m tardy” you look like a responsible grownup but really, there’s a tiny David Lee Roth in your head and he’s got it bad.

beverage: so vast, it’s the opposite of dollop.  Best of all, when you offer someone a “beverage,” they almost always request water and I have a faucet so the only obstacle between my guest and hydration is a clean glass.

roil: as the kid who got carsick on every Thanksgiving trip to Pennsylvania, I have a special place in my heart (and stomach) for this word.  Plus, with a big enough breath, you can draw out the vowels for as long as you want and end up with a very dramatic onomatopoeia.

even: it adds a childlike sense of wonder to Chicken ala King, even.

perhaps: the ultimate in diplomacy.  As Daniella, while fitting me for a bridesmaid dress asked, “it looks nice; perhaps you want to get something?”  Now, Daniella spoke only Spanish so I just assumed that she was complementing me.  It wasn’t until later, when I tried on the dress for my spouse, and he noted that “perhaps you want to research what Daniella said,” that I realized that “ceñidor que rodea la cintura” means “control top.”  Very diplomatic, that Daniella.

uvula: my son automatically assumed that the uvula has to do with lady parts and for that reason alone, I adore the dangler.

cabinetto:  when you are responsible for a little kid, his entire vocabulary is up to you.  You can teach him that a dog is a “great googly moogly” or that balloons are “pork butts.”  It’s very amusing watching your two-year old have a tantrum at the outdoor concert because he wants the purple pork butt and mommy forgot to bring money.  Cabinetto was our made up word.  It kept the cookies fresh and let me believe that I was raising a bilingual kid.

outen: to shut off.  It’s a Pennsylvania Dutch word I was raised with- “outen the radio and go to bed.”  The quote is from a sister I was raised with.

this’n, that’n, them’s and git: again, Pennsylvania Dutch.  As in: “tell this’n here to go git that’n there so’s we can eat them’s fried tomatoes.

YES: because no means no and yes means everything.

%d bloggers like this: