I took a picture of this Brookline sign about 10 years ago.  I thought it was wicked funny at the time.  Now I like to remember how much optimism I actually had at the time I took the picture. I found it again courtesy of Google Maps.  

The Trans Grammar Police

I was at a social event that was trans-friendly, so some people put their preferred pronoun on their name tags.  One person’s preferred pronoun was “ze” (instead of “he” or “she”) and I thought it said “26” in zir handwriting. I wondered who ze was trying to kid.

I don’t know how the young goat came to be called “kid,” but I do know how young people came to be called kids.  The word child, when pronounced with a hard C, no H, and an elided L, becomes “kid.”

I wonder how well “ze” and “zir” are catching on!  I think it will be easier to make a grammatical shift and accept “they” and “their” as singular, instead of inventing whole new words.  Are the trans grammar police gonna take umbrage?

What’s the etymology of “umbrage”?  Does it have something to do with shade?  I was surprised when I found out that “asombrado”in Spanish means “surprised,” not “in the shade.”


Given my affinity for pancakes, waffles, cookies, and crackers, it’s suprising that I never knew the “mazones” blessing for grain products that are not bread.  The person who taught it to me recently said, “Mazon means ‘meal,’ like a grain product, and it also means food in general.”  It’s the same in English: we have our three meals, and meal also means ground-up grain.  I said the blessing with particular satisfaction that we do not eat “meal” at our meals. I do not like polenta or grits or even cream of wheat.

You’d say “mazones” in the old-fashioned Yiddish pronunciation and “mazonot” in the modern Hebrew pronunciation. For someone my age, I’m not sure which pronunciation would be more of an affectation.

It’s Not Perfunctory

A few weeks ago, a divorced friend described her marital intimacy as perfunctory.  I wondered later how sex in a committed partnership could be perfunctory.  It’s like describing prayer as perfunctory.  Sometimes I go for years just saying the words (and, when I was more observant of the Sabbath and dietary laws, adhering to those) without actually feeling God’s presence.  But eventually–if I keep doing these things–the spark returns.  It’s when I give up the practice that I give up the chance to get the spark back.

A logical question is why I am less observant now (if, as I assert, committed practice is the best way to get the spark back), but I’ll answer that some other time.

Now for the wordplay:  Perfunctory sex=a lick and a promise?


When I was a kid I figured that George Washington’s family got its name from living, at some point, near a town where the laundry was done.  (This, as opposed to a town where humans washed themselves instead of clothes, which would have had a nice name like Bath.)  It’s funny to name a town after someone whose surname has “ton” or “town” in it.  It should be called Washingtonton.

Beaver Meadow

In the summer, we drove up to Ipswich through Beverly.  My friend A. laughed at the sign that said “entering Beverly.”  I pointed out that Beverly means “Beaver Meadow,” so our carful of queer gals laughed even harder.

In Ipswich, there is the Myopia Hunt Club, which makes me think someone will get shot by accident.  I don’t know the parts of “myopia.”  The parts of “presbyopia” are presby [elderly] and opia [vision].  Presbyterians need a new name.

Conservative Jews need a new name too.  How about flexitrads?

A worse name for a town is Litchfield, in Connecticut. “Litch” or “lych”=corpse.

Sign-if-I-can’t other

Someone who has power of attorney is a sign-if-I-can’t other. That’s not what “significant” signifies, but it’s what the spelling implies.

We signed power of attorney paperwork in NYC way back when.  Now my significant other’s significance has changed and I have extra time on my hands.  So, this blog.