Das Ist Verboten!

February 5, 1999

Despite my strong belief in the First Amendment (for reasons that should be obvious) I’ve finally decided to get on the wagon with several other people who also have a strong belief in the First Amendment but who at the same time see nothing wrong with declaring certain words "off limits". Words of the past have included share, fuzzy, nifty, and dude, and such useful phrases as "happy camper", "don’t have a cow, man", and any form of the suggestion that you take something and put it somewhere or do something with it. Luckily some other banned phrases, such as "gag me with a [insert object of choice here]" died a natural death, but individual words can be so insidious we can’t count on them to do this. So here’s my one "off limits" word for 1999 (although I think we’d all prefer that it be a permanent removal): TOTALLY. Not long ago this word was used exclusively by people between the ages of 11 and 19, and occasionally by older people who were either being sarcastic or trying to convince their kids that they were more hip than anyone with kids has a right to be. In a recent commercial, though, I heard a man who was old enough to be my father say something was "totally affordable". The invasion of this word has gone too far. First of all, someone that old should not use the word "totally" to describe anything and, second, someone who considers side-impact air bags to be a greater priority than stereo equipment, a string of flashing lights around the license plate, or other rad accessories, should know that using the word "totally" is going to sound, well, bogus. So let’s stop the madness. If you’re over the age of 19 and think you’re about to say "totally", try falling back on some words from simpler times like "very", or "completely", or "wholly". Words like "utterly" sound funny enough that you can use them to your advantage in a business meeting. Finally, if you are under the age of 19, maybe you too should think about trying other words. Face it: when you use "totally" to modify anything, you sound unmitigatedly lame.

Enjoy this week’s offerings.

ADULTS: Group of people Mom longs to communicate with after several hours of talking in small words about topics like "who touched who first"

AIRPLANE: What Mom impersonates to get a 1-yr.-old to eat strained beets.

ALIEN: What Mom would suspect had invaded her house if she spotted a child- sized creature cleaning up after itself.

APPLE: Nutritious lunch time dessert which children will trade for cupcakes.

BABY: 1. Dad, when he gets a cold. 2. Mom’s youngest child, even if he’s 42.

BATHROOM: a room used by the entire family, believed by all except Mom to be self-cleaning.

BECAUSE: Mom’s reason for having kids do things which can’t be explained logically.

BED AND BREAKFAST: Two things the kids will never make for themselves

CARPET: Expensive floor covering used to catch spills and clean mud off shoes

CAR POOL: Complicated system of transportation where Mom always winds up going the furthest with the biggest bunch of kids who have had the most sugar

CHINA: Legendary nation reportedly populated by children who love leftover vegetables

COOK: 1. Act of preparing food for consumption. 2. Mom’s other name

COUCH POTATO: What Mom finds under the sofa cushions after the kids eat dinner

DATE: Infrequent outings with Dad where Mom can enjoy worrying about the kids in a different setting

DRINKING GLASS: Any carton or bottle left open in the fridge

DUST: Insidious interloping particles of evil that turn a home into a battle zone

DUST RAGS: See "DAD’S UNDERWEAR." EAR: A place where kids store dirt

EAT: What kids do between meals, but not at them

EMPTY NEST: See "WISHFUL THINKING." ENERGY: Element of vitality kids always have an oversupply of until asked to do something

"EXCUSE ME": One of Mom’s favorite phrases, reportedly used in past times by children

EYE: The highly susceptible optic nerve which, according to Mom, can be "put out" by anything from a suction-arrow to a carelessly handled butter knife

FABLE: A story told by a teenager arriving home after curfew

FOOD: The response Mom usually gives in answer to the question "What’s for dinner tonight?" See "SARCASM" FROZEN: 1. A type of food. 2. How hell will be when Mom lets her daughter date an older guy with a motorcycle

GARBAGE: A collection of refuse items, the taking out of which Mom assigns to a different family member each week, then winds up doing herself

GENIUSES: Amazingly, all of Mom’s kids

GUM: Adhesive for the hair

HAMPER: A wicker container with a lid, usually surrounded by, but not containing, dirty clothing

HANDI-WIPES: Pants, shirtsleeves, drapes, etc

HANDS: Body appendages which must be scrubbed raw with volcanic soap and sterilized in boiling water immediately prior to consumption of the evening meal

HINDSIGHT: What Mom experiences from changing too many diapers

HOMEBREAD BREAD: An object of fiction like the Fountain of Youth and the Golden Fleece

ICE: Cubes of frozen water which would be found in small plastic tray if kids or husbands ever filled the darn things instead of putting them back in the freezer empty

INSIDE: That place that will suddenly look attractive to kids once Mom has spent a minimum of half an hour getting them ready to go outside

"I SAID SO": Reason enough, according to Mom

JACKPOT: When all the kids stay at friends’ homes for the night

JEANS: Which, according to kids, are appropriate for just about any occasion, including church and funerals

"JEEEEEEEEZ!" : Slang for "Gee Mom, isn’t there anything else you can do to embarrass me in front of my friends?" JOY RIDE: Going somewhere without the kids

JUNK: Dad’s stuff

KETCHUP: The sea of tomato-based goo kids use to drown the dish that Mom spent hours cooking and years perfecting to get the seasoning just right

KISS: Mom medicine

LAKE: Large body of water into which a kid will jump should his friends do so

LEMONADE STAND: Complicated business venture where Mom buys powdered mix, sugar, lemons, and paper cups, and sets up a table, chairs, pitchers and ice for kids who sit there for three to six minutes and net a profit of .15 cents

LIE: An "exaggeration" Mom uses to transform her child’s papier-mache volcano science project into a Nobel Prize-winning experiment and a full-ride scholarship to Harvard

LOSERS: See "Kids’ Friends" MAKEUP: Lipstick, eyeliner, blush, etc., which ironically make Mom look better while making her young daughter look "like a tramp." MAYBE: No

MILK: A healthful beverage which kids will gladly drink once it’s turned into junk food by the addition of sugar and cocoa

"MOMMMMMMM!": The cry of a child on another floor who wants something

MUSH: 1. What a kid loves to do with a plateful of food. 2. Main element of Mom’s favorite movies

NAILS: A hard covering on the end of the finger, which Mom can never have a full set of due to pitching for batting practice, opening stubborn modeling clay lids and removing heat ducts to retrieve army men and/or doll clothing

PANIC: What a mother goes through when the darn wind-up swing stops

OCEAN: What the bathroom floor looks like after bath night for kids, assorted pets, two or three full-sized towels and several dozen toy boats, cars and animals

OPEN: The position of children’s mouths when they eat in front of company

OVERSTUFFED RECLINER: Mom’s nickname for Dad

PENITENTIARY: Where children who don’t eat their vegetables or clean their rooms eventually end up, according to Mom

PETS: Small, furry creatures which follow kids home so Mom will have someone else to clean up after

PIANO: A large, expensive musical instrument which, after thousands of dollars worth of lessons and constant harping by Mom, kids will refuse to play in front of company

PURSE: A handbag in which Mom carries the checkbook and keys she can never find because they’re buried under tissues, gum wrappers, a plastic container full of cereal, toys from a fast-food restaurant, a teddy bear, a football, wallpaper samples, a grocery list and several outdated coupons

QUIET: A State of household serenity which occurs before the birth of the first child and occurs again after the last child has left for college

RAINCOAT: Article of clothing Mom bought to keep a child dry and warm, rendered ineffective because it’s in the bottom of a locker stuffed in a book bag or because the child refuses to wear "the geeky thing." REFRIGERATOR: Combination art gallery and air-conditioner for the kitchen

ROOM MOTHER: A position of great honor and responsibility bestowed on a mom who inadvertently misses a PTA meeting. SCHOOL PLAY: Sadistic ritual in which adults derive pleasure from watching offspring stumble through coarse re-enactments of famous historic events

SCREAMING: Home P.A. system

SNOWSUITS: Warm, padded outer garments that, when completely zipped and snapped performs two important functions: Protecting children from the cold and reminding them that they have to go to the bathroom SOAP: A cleaning agent Mom puts on the sink on the off-chance one of her kids will accidentally grab it while reaching for the towel

SPIT: All-purpose cleaning fluid especially good on kids’ faces

SPOILED ROTTEN: What the kids become after as little as 15 minutes with Grandma

SWEATER: Magically charmed article of clothing that can ward away colds, fly and even pneumonia

SUNDAY BEST: Attractive, expensive children’s clothing made of a fabric which attracts melted chocolate and grape juice

TEACHER CONFERENCE: A meeting between Mom and that person who has yet to understand her child’s "special needs." TERRIBLE TWO’S: Having both kids at home all summer

"THAT WAY": How kids shouldn’t look at moms if they know what’s good for them. Also applies to how they talk

TOWELS: See "FLOOR COVERINGS" TRAMP: A woman with two kids and no stretch marks

TROUBLE: Area of non-specific space a child can always be sure to be in

UMPTEENTH: Highly conservative estimate of the number of times Mom must instruct her offspring to do something before it actually gets done

UNDERWEAR: An article of clothing, the cleanliness of which ensures the wearer will never have an accident

UTOPIA: See "BUBBLE BATH" VACATION: Where you take the family to get away from it all, only to find it there, too

VITAMINS: Tiny facsimiles of cave people Mom forces you to swallow each morning as part of her sinister plot to have you grow up to be "Just like Daddy." WALLS: Complete set of drawing paper for kids that comes with every room

WASHING MACHINE: Household appliance used to clean blue jeans, permanent ink markers, loose change, homework, tissues and wads of gum

"WHEN YOUR FATHER GETS HOME": Standard measurement of time between crime and punishment

XOXOXOXO: Mom salutation guaranteed to make the already embarrassing note in a kid’s lunch box even more mortifying

XYLOPHONE: Small toy musical instrument often given as gifts to children who show their appreciation by playing the stupid thing constantly, over and over, all day long! See also "DRUMS" YARD SALE: Heart-wrenching emotional process wherein Mom plans to sell kids’ outdated toys and clothing that she decides at the last minute are treasured mementos she can’t bear to part with

"YIPPEE!": What Mom would jump up and shout if the school year was changed to 12 months. See also "YAHOO!" ZILLION: Amount of times Mom must have gone to the supermarket already this week

ZUCCHINI: Vegetable which can be baked, boiled, fried or steamed before kids refuse to eat it.

A young shepard became quite renowned for his storytelling and decided to travel in the desert, sharing his wise gospel with all those he met. He walked barefoot everywhere, to the point his feet became quite thick and hard. He also was a spiritual person. Even when he was not on a hunger strike, he did not eat much and became quite trim and frail. Furthermore because his diet consisted entirely of grubs and dirt, he ended up with very bad breath. Therefore he came to be known as a: "Super calloused fragile mystic, plagued with haltosis."

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