Mary Beth Writes


For those who are new here - This year I am writing about topics, in alphabetical order, that were suggested to me by readers. Sometimes this is hard! 


My cousin-in-law Dave has some powerfully thorough avocations (for fun and profit he earned a PhD in biochemistry; you will notice this in his list). This year, among other pursuits, he has been collecting words which have appeared in our culture since 1945, which was the year he also appeared in our culture.

Every month or so he has sent me an ever-expanding list of modern vocabulary words. At the end of this blogpost, I am going to include a PDF you can click in to read all the words. It’s surprisingly long and often feels like a trip back through your life.

He’s also occasionally mentions that “This will take your to IRTNOG.”  

I thought he was using some modern text abbreviation so I looked it up but it’s not a text thing. (So far, Len and I invented ‘I rarely toss noodles over grapes’ and ‘I rise to nice old grandmas’ and ‘Icebergs return to Newfoundland/Omit gravy.)

I was wrong about IRTNOG and some of you already know why. IRTNOG is a satirical short story written in the 1930’s by E.B. White.

This is White’s complete and very short story: Read here. 

Synopsis: Americans are trying to read everything published. As more and more literature and instruction manuals and newspapers and whatever are published ever faster, people are frantically reading as they try to keep up. Then Readers’ Digest shows up and that relieves the pressure until soon 70 other digests show up. Someone invents thumb-sized compendiums. This works until it is also too much. Finally, one guy invents a formula to distill everything published each day into six letters. Now people can just read the daily ersatz word. They feel relief. It wasn’t that they read so much because they wanted to garner understanding, they just didn’t want to miss what other folks knew.

The first day’s word was IRTNOG.

1.) I respect people who mispronounce complicated words and phrases because it often indicates someone is reading to learn. Hats off to everyone who stumbles over ‘multicultural representation’ or ‘Where’s the Defibrillator?’ or ‘methane emissions’ or ‘nouveau Beaujolais’. Or ‘that borders on heretical Christology’.

2.) A friend pointed out that in the past few years weirdly ordinary words have become “weaponized.” Woke. Christian. Gender. Patriot. Feminist. Vaccine. 

Using words to bully others is not new. Doing it upfront and out loud is, at least for most of us who have not lived in totalitarian states, threatening.

3.) Vocabulary is games. Wordle. Crossword puzzles. Connections. Password. Curiously, word games seem to protect us from dementia - until we drive ourselves crazy trying to do them. the other day I nearly cried at Wordle. 

4.) I have an ongoing list of favorite words and my list includes whisk, frosty, periwinkle, davenport, loblolly, and jazz. Do you have words that make you smile?

5.) Okay, your turn. What should IRTNOG stand for?

PDF icon v_is_for_dss_vocabulary_list.pdf

I realize therapist notice oranges grow

I really think nothing of gnomes



Mary Beth's picture

from a Pal: Irtnog: 'I really think nothing of gnomes' Also like the pdf…I think fomo would fit…ties in with Irtnog, but it’s an acronym (fear of missing out) that has morphed into a word

I realize therapist notice oranges grow . I’m laughing. This isn’t my forte! You have a list of favorite words! Why am I not surprised. I like this. I like this so much , I might start a list. Davenport is one word that does make me smile.

breeze sister grace book
Mary Beth's picture

Ooh, I like breeze, too!

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Three Things


Three Things except it’s really more than that.

1. Earlier this year I read these two books by Palestinian writers and I recommend both. If you’ve read good books by Palestinian writers, maybe tell us about them in the comments?

The Confluence


(I’ve written about this trip before but it’s been a long time.)

In 2000 we did a wilderness canoe/kayak trip on Utah’s Green River. We did this with our three kids plus friends and their two sons. Our youngest was nine, the oldest was 16, and our combined three boys were slapdash goofballs.

Three Things / Story, Eclipse, Brando

1. I scheduled my Substack story to go out at 8AM this morning. I just looked to see why it didn’t show up and it says it is going to be sent at 8:49 tonight. I’m going to leave it like that. Maybe 9PM on a weekend night is a good time to send short fiction. Let me know if you have an opinion.

2. I read this quote by Marlon Brando who said this early in his career. “I’m not afraid of anything and I don’t love money.”

Even though this is probably not exactly true of me and you, I do love the bravado.

Peace Like a River / Book Report

4/3/2024 She Writes

I just finished reading Peace Like a River by Leif Enger and I am going to talk about it for a little bit before I forget how profoundly interesting and evocative this book was and is, at least to me.

I get emails from Boswell Bookstore (2559 N Downer Ave in Milwaukee). They host artist events pretty often and Monday evening, April 15th Len and I will be there for the Author Evening with Leif Enger. You can look up more of the details if you are interested. (Tickets are free but you need to reserve them.)

My Grandkids & 'Wandering Stars'


The past month has been jam-packed. The week in Mineral Point. Len’s two-day seminar in Chicago. Last week we had various grandkids here for three overnighters and yesterday our family came to Easter dinner here in our house which was clean after a week with grandkid overnighters so you know that was a piece of cake. Len smoked two hams (yes, hard to keep them lit) and I made the largest amounts of from-scratch scalloped potatoes plus macaroni and cheese that I have ever made. As in, I grated four pounds of cheese Saturday afternoon. “On Wisconsin.”

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