The 3 Most Powerful Letters In The English Language

wordsshieldWords can be powerful weapons, but one little suffix can beat them all.  Three letters provide a mighty shield for the user to hide behind.

I’m talking about “ish.”

“ish” means neither yes nor no.  It admits while admitting nothing.  It agrees while reserving the right to disagree.  It appears to condemn while allowing a backdoor escape hatch that leads straight to wholehearted approval.  This versatility is why it is a favorite screwdriver in a politician’s tool-belt.

“I did not have sex with that woman.  It was sex-ish.”

“I know there are weapons of mass destruction there.  I have proof-ish.”

“Obamacare will be better-ish for 98.9%-ish of Americans.”

“We MUST make the border secure-ish immediately-ish! “

Add this bad boy to just about any utterance and you’ve got the holy grail of political speechifying:  deniability.

“ish” is the backbone of Euphemish.

Euphemish noun \’yü-fə-mish\
      a: A language, or dialect, featuring the substitution of an agreeable or inoffensive expression for one that may offend or suggest something unpleasant.
      Synonyms: Sugarcoat, spin, mislead, lie
      Origin: from the Greek, euphēmos auspicious, sounding good.

As the world’s leading authority on Euphemish, I have done several academic treatises (otherwise known as blog posts) on the topic.  You can read more about it here, here, and here.

With “ish”, you can CYA (cover your assets) when you:

  • think something is POSSIBLY true
  • are pretty sure it’s not even REMOTELY true
  • do not want to be called out when it is revealed to epitomize the TOTAL ABSENCE OF true
  • are sure IT IS true and are even more sure that most people DON’T WANT IT TO BE true

Unleash the power of “ish” in your life.  Because in the immortal words of a very famous politician who I just made up:

They can’t nail you, if they can’t nail you down.

Charles Durning shows the art and science of doing a little sidestep in “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.”

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I Know Why The Caged Chicken Clucks







Actually, I don’t know why the caged chicken clucks.  But Brad Pitt does.

Pitt lashed out at retail giant Costco last week, saying they are laying an egg with their treatment of the chickens that supply their stores with our favorite breakfast food.  He alleges that Costco buys eggs laid by chickens who spend all of their short lives crammed into little cages.

The Hunky McHunkster threatened to stop shopping at Costco if they don’t take immediate steps to address this issue. When reminded by a flunky that their household doesn’t actually shop at Costco, as each of his 23 mansions is stocked via goodie baskets home delivered by Dean & DeLuca, Brad responded, “that’s not the point.”

Pitt joined fellow humanitarians – oops, no, I meant poultritarians – Ryan Gosling and Bill Maher in calling for action now. Fans weren’t surprised to hear that Gosling is concerned about this issue since geese and chickens are so near one another on the food chain.

Industry insiders say this may be just the tip of the Chicken-gate iceberg.   A Costco boycott may be next.  As animal rights activists rightly point out, even those of us who are meat-eaters have a moral obligation to ensure animals are not tortured.

In other news this week, a film surfaced which shows a Planned Parenthood director discussing the aftermarket parts side of the abortion industry while enjoying a large Caesar salad and a glass of Pinot Noir.   She explained that docs must be very careful when performing the procedure.  It’s OK to crush the rest of the merchandise, but in the competitive business of unborn baby parts, end users want the choice bits kept intact.

Some critics have said that, regardless of where you stand on the abortion issue, such a callous, matter-of-fact commentary ought to be disturbing to any person possessing even the merest shred of feeling.  Other critics have remarked that a chilled Chardonnay or a nice Sauvignon Blanc would have been a better choice with that salad.

In a you-tell-me-if-it’s-related story, parents shared an ultrasound video showing their unborn baby clapping.  They freely admit the video was edited because they thought it would be cute to make it look like the baby was clapping along to their singing.  The fact remains that the blob of fetal tissue that they refer to as “their baby” was clapping.  In utero.  At only 14 weeks gestation.

While interest in Chicken-gate is high and is almost certain to escalate among elites in Hollywood and the media, their response to these non-poultry-related news items was a collective shoulder-shrug accompanied by a bored, “meh.”

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Merely A Slip Of The Tongue


I’m working as an ace reporter over at The Nudge Wink Report today. Head on over and get all the news that’s fit to print…or not.

Originally posted on The Nudge Wink Report:


An apparently famous person, Ariana Grande, set off a minor firestorm last week when her tongue came in contact with a tray of donuts. Said donuts were on the counter of a donut shop at the time. Her tongue had a busy day indeed as it followed this up by leading the rest of her mouth in saying a rather filthy curse word, then “I hate Americans. I hate America.” Her tongue finished up its Tacky Tour by tangling with her boyfriend’s.

What at first glance appeared to be an unbelievable lapse in good manners made by someone who thinks she is above the rules that govern the rest of society, was actually a protest statement. Adriana was motivated solely by concern for America’s children. When she said “I hate America” what she really meant was “I hate (that so many children have had their health negatively impacted by…

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How I-94 Construction Traffic Is Like The Greek Debt Crisis



It’s human nature to look out for #1, but those who make this their life’s mantra are full of #2.

Last weekend I drove from my now-home in Illinois to my childhood home in Michigan for a quintessential 4th of July celebration. We enjoyed family, fireworks, barbecue, flags and patriotic songs.  On the way back I experienced another American summer tradition: highway construction.

My wheels had barely kissed the pavement on I-94 in Southwest Michigan when traffic slowed to a stop.  A sign warned that the left lane would be closing at an as-yet-unknown point ahead.   This advance warning is supposed to give travelers who are in that lane ample time to move to the next in a gradual fashion – organically, if you will.   That way there is little or no disruption to the flow of traffic.

Instead, that first sign acts as a signal for dip-wad drivers to move INTO the left lane. Then they can go as far as possible before merging into the right lane at the last millisecond. This means the rest of us idiots, who stayed in the right lane or moved over early, get to enjoy 5 miles of alternately surging forward and slamming on the brakes as we are forced to accommodate the a**holes nosing in at the front of the line.

I experienced this thrill-ride 5 or 6 times during the several hours I was trapped in construction zone hell.

I whiled away much of that time listening to a program on BBC radio about the Greek debt crisis.  That crisis looms ever more ominously since the Greek people said overwhelmingly this week that they aren’t all that keen on austerity, and don’t want any more of it, thank you very much.

There are multiple layers of nuance in the Greek situation, of course, but as I understand it the basics are this:  the government provides generous social welfare benefits for its citizens, mainly in retirement.  Many people do not like paying taxes – no surprise.  In Greece, however, skipping out on your taxes and getting away with it is part of the culture.  Greeks retire earlier than those in many western countries and people in hazardous occupations, like hairdressers and trombone players, get to hang up their combs and spit-valves as early as age 50.  Promising generous retirement terms is a sure-fire way for politicians to get elected when the voting majority is on the receiving end of benefits.  As with most entitlement programs, citizens now feel, well, entitled to these benefits.  The problem is that Greece can’t pay for them.  Many pension funds are invested in sinking Greek debt so retirees are seeing their incomes shrink as well.

Even if someone pays into the retirement system for their entire working lives, those contributions cannot possibly cover what might be another 40 years of living without working.   The job of supporting the retired falls to younger citizens and immigrants.  There aren’t enough of those workers, nor are there enough good jobs for them to carry the burden.

America has just such a Ponzi scheme, called Social Security, but our retiree-to-worker ratio is better, our retirement terms aren’t quite as generous, and we have a relatively healthy economy so we’re in better shape – so far.  The Greek economy is on life support.

The Greek government has been borrowing to provide the promised benefits and the time has come to pay the piper, which are European banks and the International Monetary Fund.  Greece doesn’t have the money.

When you look at the question on a personal level, most people would agree that someone who borrows money should pay it back. If you loaned me $100 you would expect me to make good on my promise to pay you back, wouldn’t you? Even if it wasn’t easy for me, and I had to eat Ramen noodles for a year to do so?  Because it is YOUR money, not mine.

The ethics seem to be a little murkier when it is a group who owes the money.  An individual might understand and agree with the theory, but when it hurts them personally the response is: no way.   Let someone else in the group pay that piper. This response becomes easier to justify when the creditors have been neatly and conveniently demonized as rich, fat-cat bankers. Never mind that the money that was lent to Greece doesn’t come from the pockets of some Monopoly guy in a silk top hat.  It comes from all of the little you’s-and-me’s who paid their taxes and/or deposited their money in those banks who made the loans.  They…we…are the poor suckers who follow the rules and end up stuck in the right lane of life.

I really feel for the Greek people.  I do.  How horrible to see your income shrinking, to have the banks closed so you can’t withdraw your own money.   I’m at the age where I would be looking longingly toward retirement if I lived in Athens.  To think of that brass ring being pulled back just as you were reaching for it, or to have to go back to work when you’ve been living the life of leisure for years would be tough.   Incredibly tough.  But what is the alternative? Who else should pay for the benefits that Greece promised its people and can’t afford to provide?

This sounds much like the situation we have with our public sector employees in the soon-to-be-Greek state of Illinois.

I don’t know the best answer for Greece.  I don’t see any way around the hard truth that they will have to bear a heavy burden as a result of bad luck and worse choices.  At the same time, it seems clear that if decisions on how to handle this crisis are up to the majority vote, they will not choose to make things tougher on themselves.

Which brings me back to the scene of my cogitations about all this – stuck in construction traffic on I-94.   Anyone with half a brain knows that merging early and gradually is the best solution for all travelers as a group. If everyone gives up a couple minutes of travel time, all will get where they’re going more smoothly.  Waiting until the last possible second, however, is better for that individual, jerk-wad driver.  He chooses that path because he will get to his destination 10 minutes earlier, so to hell with the rest of the herd.

The bottom line for both the Greek debt crisis and highway construction traffic is the reason why Communism sounds good in theory but never works in practice. “People,” as individuals, tend to be generous, especially if they know the recipient, or can see them, face to face.  “People” in general, however, especially when they can be anonymous, tend to look out for #1 above all else.



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Music Is A Time Machine

Next stop, Funky Town. Woot, woot!

Next stop, Funky Town.
Woot, woot!

I have discovered the secret to time travel.

I was in a store the other day when the radio played Build Me Up Buttercup by The Foundations.  I wasn’t the only person who started singing along.  I could hear some guy a couple of aisles over, faintly but clearly, “da-dum, da-dum, da-dum, da-dum, WHY do you build me up…”

Build Me Up Buttercup is not a musically important song; in fact it’s pretty lame. That doesn’t matter.  When I hear that song I am 9 years old again, up in my bedroom listening to the top-40 on my sister’s transistor radio and singing along at the top of my lungs.

Music is a time machine.

Certain songs have the power to instantly transport us back to specific places in our past.  Whether the music is any good is immaterial – our memories are what matter. Take the song Mairzy Doats. You’d have to go a long way to find a sillier song. But when I hear it, I find myself back in Jeanne Cain’s living room the summer we were 10. Her parents had that record and we replayed the tricky parts over and over again, determined to figure out what the heck they were saying. I still know all the words.

I think the most powerful songs are those we learn during puberty.  Something about all the growth and hormonal upheaval going on causes the music of that time to become hardwired into our DNA.   It is a time for discovery, and finding “your” music is a big part of the process.

When I hear What’s Going On by Marvin Gaye, I have to sing along.  Passionately.  My middle-aged, white, establishment self may be scrubbing pots at the kitchen sink, but in my heart I am a 12-year-old militant, looking for something to protest.  Right on, brother!

When I am old and senile, drooling in my chair at Shady Acres and unable to remember my own name, I will still know all the words to Stairway to Heaven.  When it plays, I will be in 7th grade again, playing spin the bottle in Keith O’Brien’s basement and experiencing my first kiss.

On my deathbed, moments away from meeting My Maker, if someone plays In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida by Iron Butterfly (the first album I owned,) I will be back in the gym at a high school dance. I will rise up…then stand around and shuffle my feet awkwardly. Although it was great to listen to, you could never really dance to that sort of music.

My favorite song, Roundabout by Yes, transports me to college. I do believe that song would bring me back, even if I had already passed over to The Other Side. Yea, verily, it would tear the veil of death! But that probably wouldn’t work if I was already embalmed. And it would be a limited time thing that would only last the length of the song.  Then it’s right back to dead.

Music is a time machine and it doesn’t cost a thing to hop aboard. Your ticket is a pocketful of great memories.

What songs punch your ticket to ride?

*Special thanks to my good buddy, blogging goddess and PhotoShop pro Miss Darla from She’s A Maineiac.  She used her mad skillz to take the disco-Peg picture she ran in her 6/13 Blogger of the Month post (why can’t EVERY month be Peg-o-Leg month?  Just sayin’…) and drop it into this time machine picture.


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The Dark Side of Freshly Pressed: Handling the Highs and Lows


You may not know that I’ve had the honor of being Freshly Pressed a couple of times. You probably didn’t notice the pop-up box containing a list of Freshly Pressed posts that appears every 3 seconds on my blog, the fact that I use “Freshly Pressed” as a tag on 97% of my posts, and I bet you totally missed the 8-foot tall, flashing, neon sign that says “HEY, SUCKAS, I’VE BEEN FRESHLY PRESSED!!!” that lights up when you first arrive here.

You know I don’t like to brag – tooting your own horn is so tacky – but I am being forced to lay aside my natural modesty and reticence about this accomplishment because WordPress is covering the topic today on The Daily Post. Cheri Lucas Rowland’s article is a fascinating look at the Freshly Pressed process from the standpoint of both editors (yes, real people choose the posts) and bloggers. Yours-Truly is one of the bloggers who was interviewed for the article. Please go check it out.

Incidentally, I learned that, while they don’t really keep track of such stats, I do NOT hold the title for most Freshly Pressed posts. That honor apparently goes to some dude who has been FPd something like 16 times just because he takes pictures that are so beautiful they make people weep.


Originally posted on The Daily Post:

A roundtable of bloggers and editors:

Paula Reed NancarrowPaula Reed Nancarrow
Peg Schulte, Peg-o-Leg’s Ramblings
Stephanie Summar, Listful Thinking
Krista Stevens, editor
Michelle Weber, editor
Cheri Lucas Rowlands, editor

The editorial team behind The Daily Post works on other projects such as Longreads and Freshly Pressed. On Freshly Pressed, which you’ll find in your Reader, we share top picks, community recommendations, and our favorite reads. Freshly Pressed has evolved over the years: it began as a developer’s Hack Day project to showcase user-made content on the homepage, and has become a favorite space to discover standout posts and new bloggers.

The So You Want To Be Freshly Pressed support page explains what we look for, although these are merely guidelines — there’s no magic formula to be featured. We, too, are people who love to read. We look for posts that are thought-provoking, inspiring, unexpected, unique, relevant, and resonant. We’re…

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Tupperware Party Hearty Without Me


Sprinting to Life’s End-zone with the Defensive Tackles of Home Shopping in hot pursuit.

I have a confession to make. I don’t want you to think less of me, but what kind of relationship can we have if it is built on a foundation of lies? The time has come to tell the truth.

I have never been to a Pampered Chef party.

I haven’t sniggered at naughty lingerie or sex toys from the comfort of a friend’s living room.   I haven’t bought Shaklee vitamins, purses, candles, jewelry, soup mixes, makeup, laundry soap, home interior or scrap-booking supplies across someone’s kitchen table. I have lived in American society my whole life, not on a deserted island, and have managed to avoid the arm-twisting-sales-pitch-masquerading-as-hospitality that is known as the home selling party.

Except once.

I waitressed at Big Boy the summer between my freshman and sophomore years in college and was flattered when the head waitress invited me to a party at her place.   I’d been to lots of college parties – drunken affairs where the main goal was to avoid getting soaked by spilled beer – but this was different.  It was a grownup party.   She was vague on details, just that she was having some friends over for the evening.

Her place was a single as opposed to a double-wide, so the 10 of us were crammed into the tiny living room.   I hadn’t noticed all the stacked cardboard boxes until a lady so perky she must have been hopped-up on crack starting telling us all about the contents.  By then it was too late; there was no escape.


May we serve you a heapin’ helpin’ of burpin’ goodness?

I had been lured to a Tupperware party.

This was the most boring 45 minutes of my life (besides a time-share sales pitch I once endured in Branson.)   Worse than Microeconomics.   I was 18, I lived in a dorm, and I was flat-broke.  What did I need with a deviled egg container, even if it did come complete with a convenient carrying handle and the signature burping cover?   An item that cost more than an Intermediate Accounting textbook?   I drank her iced tea, ate her cookies and left as soon as humanly possible without buying a single thing.   That memory makes me squirm with shame.   In my defense, I was so green I had not yet learned the Unwritten Yet Unbreakable Code of Home Selling Parties:

You must buy something.

I’ve managed to avoid such affairs ever since.   I’m a running back in the football game of life, zigging and zagging, breaking tackles right and left as I sprint down the field toward the goal.

It’s not that I don’t want to deal with friends; I make it a point to support local businesses and charities.   I’ve bought plenty of stuff when people I know are selling.   My bristles go up, however, when someone who has never before invited me to her home suddenly can’t live without me.   Is it coincidence that the only time she’s ever wanted me over is for an event where I HAVE to whip out my checkbook or risk looking like a total, cheapo schlub?  If we’re such good buddies, why doesn’t she invite me to her house when she doesn’t have a 12-Piece Pantry Hostess Gift hanging in the balance?

Of course none of this applies to YOU, dear readers.   If you’re thinking of inviting me to your next home sales party, you know there’s nothing I’d like more than to come. Unfortunately, I just checked my calendar and it turns out I’m already busy that day.


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