What Language Are You Speaking?


Sometimes I’m yanked back to my Western Pennsylvania roots without warning. This occurred yesterday when I saw a Facebook post of a friend from my hometown and high school.

This friend must be one of the nicest men on God’s earth. I don’t believe he has a mean bone in his body. His posts center on his family, friends, nature, and history. But apparently some awful memories from high school caused him to post another guy’s profile picture with the label “jagoff” across it.

I knew the other guy since he was just a year older than we are and lived in the same town. But I had no idea he was a high school bully because he came from a nice family; his mom was a beautiful, gentle spirit.

Oh, and by the way, just what IS a jagoff? I was unfamiliar with the term and had to look up the definition before penning this post. It seems that many people consider it a “clean” version of a similar-sounding vulgar word, much like how some folks substitute friggin’ for the F-word.

But it appears the true origin is from the Scots-Irish verb jag, meaning to irritate another. The word appears to have originated in Western Pennsylvania (in particular Pittsburgh) but some websites note that Chicago claims the term as its own.

The Oxford English Dictionary added jagoff as a word in 2016, defining it as an “irritating or contemptible person.”

Barbara Johnstone, American Professor of rhetoric and linguistics at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, authored a book titled “Speaking Pittsburghese: The Story of a Dialect.” Johnstone became fascinated by the seemingly constant focus that Pittsburghers have on their own dialect.

She asserts that the early settlers in Pittsburgh were from Northern Ireland or Scotland and that had a profound effect on the development of the local language. For instance, the PA word yinz (rhymes with wins) is a perfect example. It means you in the plural version, as in, “Are yinz about tired of social distancing?”

English first-person pronouns are very clear as to meaning I / me / my / we / us / our. But second-person pronouns in English are less clear: you / your / yours Because YOU can mean one person or many. The Scots-Irish form for the second-person pronoun meaning multiple people was you ones or yous ones. That ended up being shortened to younz or yinz.

Johnstone maintains that most Pennsylvanians who use this term consider it a single word, not a contraction. Compare it to the Southern version of y’all, a contraction meaning “you all” or all of you people.

When I was 19, I moved temporarily to Santa Barbara for eighteen months. I remember being teased incessantly for my accent by my California co-workers. When I left PA for good in my early 20s, I was determined to leave my Pittsburgh accent and peculiar PA words behind. Who knew by 2020 it would be fashionable and a topic of endless fixation?!

And as for why my friend termed his former nemesis a jagoff, he noted that the guy had slammed his head into a bus window on a ride home from football practice.

Can yinz agree that this was indeed a contemptible act?


Chicago’s claim to the term

Hilarious YouTube video about jagoff supposedly from Johnstown, PA (9 miles from my hometown!) Look to the left at the opening shot for a Johnstown sign.

Eastern Standard, Daylight Saving, or Beagle

beagle time

My post from October 17 told the story of Your True Nature, the company that has cornered the market on products that share advice from nature. I found their story appealing because I personally believe that great wisdom is found in ordinary people, places, events, and well…dogs.

Consider Grace, my recently adopted beagle. She has three nuggets of wisdom to share with you today.

The first one is this: Consider living in beagle time. Stop being so obsessed with the concept of never having enough time. Please knock off the whining about “too much work and too little time” or weekends being too short. And by the way, no one else cares about how Daylight Saving Time affects you.

In beagle time there is no rushing around to get from place to place. There is only moseying around while sniffing the air, the leaves, the grass. If you go twenty paces and suddenly realize you missed a spot, why you just go back before moving forward. In beagle time we’re not embarrassed when the same runners have passed us three times on the circular path around the park. Beagle time can be quite calming.

Secondly, be courageous! Don’t be fearful about taking on something bigger than you think you can handle. While many dogs enjoy fetching and gnawing on sticks, Grace hunts for whole branches she can drag around. Or she finds the kind of logs that work well in fireplaces. This actually ties directly into beagle time since when you’re dragging around something three times your size, your ability to move quickly is diminished.

The third bone of wisdom is culled from something that just happened. No matter how far away you go, never lose sight of home.

Today we had to be out of town several hours so I hired a wonderful service (My Pet’s Friend) to come to our home to pick up Grace and take her for a walk down our country road. In our meet-and-greet initial meeting, I had warned Missy (the dog walker) about beagle time and advised that when her timed walk reached the midpoint, she would likely have to pick up Grace and literally turn her around. Otherwise, that twenty-minute walk could turn into two hours.

When we arrived home, I read Missy’s note about her visit. She advised that she had attempted to walk Grace down our road, but ended up instead making several loops around our property. You see, Grace wouldn’t go very far from home. In Missy’s words, “Grace didn’t want to lose sight of her house.”

Since we don’t know Grace’s back story of why she was surrendered to the SPCA, I would only be guessing at what was going through her little beagle brain.

But maybe it was that there really is no place like home.


Advice From An Unlikely Source

advice from nature

My guess is that at some time in your life you have read something written by a company called Your True Nature. I gave one of their bookmarks to my son-in-law a few years ago, and my best friend sent me one of their cards that currently is displayed on my bulletin board. But I had no idea the items were from the same company until today.

Your True Nature believes that all of nature gives the best advice to humans. The company creates clever wording to create sage adages that might be provided by various aspects of nature to help us through life. Here’s a partial list (they have over 100) of one snippet from fourteen of them.

Advice from…

Trail – Find inspiration at every turn.

Owl – Be observant.

Pumpkin – Be well rounded.

Lilac – Be scent-sational.

Osprey – Dive in.

Huckleberry – It’s ok to be a little wild.

Mermaid – Don’t get your seaweed in a bunch!

Coffee bean – Break out of the daily grind.

Elephant – Look after your herd.

The forest – Breathe deeply.

The night sky – Expand your horizons.

Lizard – Appreciate stillness.

A sled dog – Mush on!

And my personal favorite from Sasquatch: Live a legendary life!

The founder of the company was originally named Scott Alyn but in 1992 he legally changed his name to Ilan Shamir which means protector of the trees. He had nearly always had a deep love of nature. It was truly bonded when, at the age of 11, he received a magnolia tree from a favorite aunt and uncle. He planted it and cared for it for as long as his family lived at that house.

His nature connection was nourished by spending eight formative summers at camp, both as a camper and later a leader. Ilan was a guide and photographer in the Swiss Alps for some time, and he also spent a month alone in Iceland. His career decisions have always been slanted to “do what you love” and not “do what will earn you the most money.”

Ilan shares the story of how Your True Nature came about. In 1992 in the midst of some difficult times, he leaned against an old cottonwood tree and wondered about what advice the tree might give. Thoughts came to him: Stand tall. Go out on a limb. He wrote down the thoughts into a poem. From that he created a bookmark and then a postcard Advice from a tree. The first store that sold his work reordered within a week.

And the business branched out, just like that tree. In addition to the bookmarks and postcards, the company sells magnets, books, T-shirts, journals, wooden signs, and other related products.

The company appears to be quite mindful of the earth and its resources. They are active in planting trees (over a hundred thousand) and intentionally leave a small footprint by making sure their company is environmentally friendly and has sustainable practices such as printing only on recycled paper.

You know, I just might need to buy that Sasquatch t-shirt.


Your True Nature’s site

The Soft Skill of Writing Thanks

My sister Barbara told me today that it’s up to her and me to save the lost art of writing thank-you notes. Although our other sister Beverly and my best friend Betsy are just as diligent at sending hand-written thank-you notes. And I know there are well-mannered others out there, but let me ask you something: When is the last time you received an honest-to-goodness real thank-you card in the mail?

Often in today’s electronic communications, we don’t even see the word thanks but rather just TY. What, our fingers are so tired we can type just two characters instead of six?

Last year a business friend attended his younger cousin’s wedding. The cousin couldn’t afford a videographer for the event so my friend (who is very good at filming videos) recorded the event as well as many highlights of the reception. He then spent much time editing to produce a lovely memory of the special day. My friend mailed it with a card saying he hoped his cousin and her new husband enjoyed the special gift.

He never heard one word back.

When I managed a department and interviewed applicants for an open position, those who sent me a follow-up sincere note of thanks citing some portion of our conversation earned two bonus points. Those who emailed me a run-of-the-mill “thanks” got half a point. And those who sent nothing? Well, how much stock could I put into their resume claim of “excellent written and verbal communication skills”?

In January the site FrugalFun4Boys.com posted a list of “40 Old-fashioned Skills for Kids Today.” The list of “how-to” items included: find a book at the library, ask questions to get to know someone better, sew on a button, balance a checkbook, read a map, and yes…write a thank-you note. A link to the complete list is below.

A heartfelt thank-you note means so much. I encourage you to join the sisterhood/brotherhood/personhood of thank-you note writers and help recapture this art form.

Oh and thank you very much.


Forty “Old-Fashioned” Skills for today’s children

The Sisterhood of thank-you-note writers

A teacher’s perspective on hand-written thank-you notes

Writing is a soft skill that can help you professionally


The Hostess With the Mostess

Hostess of a dinner party

An episode of the old sitcom All in the Family had Edith very nervous about her role as hostess of a Tupperware party. She fretted about the embarrassing role she had played in a Christmas pageant as a third-grader. As a manger cow, her one line was to have been, “Moo moo, I hear people coming.” But while waiting to deliver her line, she looked out into the audience and saw her little brother picking his nose. Her spoken line turned into, “Moo moo, my little brother is picking his nose.”

I’ve linked that specific show below for you. Fast forward to the 20-minute mark if you want to see how Edith does as hostess of the Tupperware party. Let’s just say it’s not pretty.

Fine hosting is an art skill that leaves each guest feeling as if he or she is the most important person in the room. It’s not about having gourmet food or fine wine; the key is helping your guests feel welcomed and wanted.

I’ve known perfectly nice and intelligent people who make lousy hosts.

A few years back my husband and I attended an outdoor informal dinner that began at sunset of a gloriously warm fall day. But as the sun left us, it took its warmth with it. While I wasn’t actually cold, I was uncomfortably chilly, having given my wrap to another guest who had recently recovered from an illness.

After a while, the host excused himself from the table to go into their house. He came out with sweaters. But just for his wife and himself. It took every ounce of my good manners to restrain myself from saying, “Are you kidding?” Even if the couple didn’t want others wearing their sweaters or jackets, he could have offered blankets, throws, or even large towels for the guests to drape around their shoulders.

More recently we attended a party at a local restaurant. The host and his wife were retiring to Florida and had invited 30 or so friends from various aspects of their lives to gather together to say goodbye. When we arrived, our hosts were deep in conversation with one group. So no one welcomed us or provided any structure as to how the evening would progress. Guests were left to wander around asking each other the same question: “So how do you know Stan and Marcy?”

Appetizers arrived after forty minutes but with too few plates and no napkins. Since our hosts weren’t front and center, another guest spoke to the staff to remedy the situation.

As people began to leave, the hosts extracted themselves to give hugs and say goodbye. My less-than-ladylike comment to my husband when we got to the car was this: “That was one weird-ass party.”

At church the following day, I had to just smile when Father Ben preached on the topic of Jesus shaking up the status quo at a dinner party. WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?) indeed!


All in the Family Series 5, Episode 8

Father Ben’s Sermon Sept 1, 2019 “Who is At Your Dinner Table”

Nuptial Flinging and Hurling

nuptial hurling and flinging

Image by Krzysztof Niewolny on Pixabay

Remember the old custom of throwing uncooked rice at newlyweds at the close of the marriage ceremony? Some believe that the rice was a symbol of rain which represented (at least for farmers) good crops and good fortune. Other sites say the custom began in ancient Rome with Roman wedding guests tossing wheat at the couple.

I like Martha Stewart’s explanation: “In olden times, marriage meant expansion, from building a family to increasing one’s assets. Rice symbolized both fertility and prosperity, and tossing it at couples implied best wishes and good luck-for newborns, good harvests, and everything in between.”

However, in 1985, a Connecticut legislator proposed “An Act Prohibiting The Use Of Uncooked Rice At Nuptial Affairs.” I know, I know; that sounds like something I just made up. But no, it’s true. According to Snopes.com, the act stated that “no person shall throw, fling, cast or hurl any uncooked rice at any time during the celebration of any marriage.”

Apparently, Rep. Mae Schmidle believed the rumor that birds which ate the discarded rice died horrible deaths because their bird digestive systems just couldn’t handle raw rice. She stated that the rice sat there in their bellies and caused birds’ stomachs to expand and, well, bye-bye birdie.

I’m here to put your mind at rest; it’s just not true. Both the Audubon Society and the Ornithological Association say this is one of those myths that got traction and just won’t go away. Birds like rice! The ducks and geese that migrate to the north depend on rice fields so they can fatten up before their trek.

Steven C. Sibley of the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology wrote to Ann Landers when she passed along the false warning about rice making birds explode. His message included this: “Rice is no threat to birds. It must be boiled before it will expand. Furthermore, all the food that birds swallow is ground up by powerful muscles and grit in their gizzards. Many birds love rice, as any frustrated rice farmer will tell you.”

My guess is that the rumor was first started by the National Association of Folks Who Clean Up After Wedding Ceremonies. And, as usually happens with the law of unintended consequences, I’ll bet that they’re not any happier with rice’s replacements: rose petals, confetti, pompoms, or (gasp!) glitter. And blowing bubbles can result in some slippery surfaces.

As long as the flinging and hurling portion of the ceremony is outside, can we just agree to throw rice or birdseed and let the birds enjoy the meal?


One site offers alternatives to rice

An in-depth article on the subject

Auto-Signature Revisited

auto signature

Image by Andrew Martin on Pixabay

If you’ve ever had a business email account, it’s likely that you’ve used an auto-signature. People set up an auto-signature so that every time they type an email, the system inserts the text they have established as their “signature” at the end of each email. Typically, you would want your full name, your title, the company name, the best phone number to reach you,  your company’s website URL, and your email address.

The last company I worked for was extremely strict about the auto-signature for its employees. We were instructed in EXACTLY what to say, what font to use, and the font size for each line. The auto-signature had to be in the specific order that the corporate office dictated. We were not permitted to add any inspirational sayings or photos.

It was truly a one-size-fits-all signature. Corporate gave a deadline for when the new look needed to be in place. Those who did not comply were called to the principal’s office (HR).

I remember that among the last holdouts was one of the highest-grossing salespeople at the division. His auto-signature consisted of his name and the other usual stuff, but after his actual title, he added a list of nearly a dozen of his (questionable) achievements.

I really wish that I had kept one of his emails so that I could share it with you. But the list consisted of titles something like this:

1999 Shuffleboard Champion on the Top Sales Cruise

2004 Coach of little league team

2007 Winner of Sales Contest, prize was trip to Paris

2008 Member of winning doubles team in city ping-pong playoff

And so on…

He fought long and hard to keep his unique auto-signature, but in the end, he had to comply. He eventually left the company, and now I’m sitting here wondering if he ever got over being upset.

The topic of auto-signature is fresh on my mind because a few days ago I added one to my text messages. Since I don’t text professionally, 99% of my texts go to family and also to friends that I love as though they are family. So my new signature on my texts is XO and a blue heart emoji. Kiss and Hug and I love you.

In case you’re unaware, the text signature doesn’t populate until you send the text. So it’s not like you start to compose a text and there waiting for you is your signature. Nope.

When I was applying for a car loan at the local community credit union yesterday, one of the questions that took me by surprise was: Can you provide the name and phone number of a personal reference?

My first thought was, Wow, how quaint and how sweet. I haven’t heard that question for a while. And my second thought was, Just whom should I name? My priest is on sabbatical, so I provided contact information for Randolph, the assistant priest. Just to be polite, I texted him as a heads-up in case they contacted him.

I hit send too quickly just as I realized that auto-correct had changed a word. Ready to send a correcting text, I saw that XO blue heart emoji was there at the bottom of my message. So I typed an I’m really embarrassed text, explaining about the 99% family reasoning.

Randolph’s response was classic for him—“Happy to be a reference, Happy to be included.”

I was all set to remove my new text signature so that this didn’t happen again. Like when I respond to a text from a landscaper who texted that he’s running late for our appointment. Or people for whom I dog sit very occasionally. Or an old boss who prefers texting to email.

Then I thought, but what if everyone who gets my XO blue heart emoji feels the same reaction as Randolph did: “Happy to be included in the group of people you love.”

And the world needs more kisses, hugs, and I love you messages. So for now, it’s staying put. If someone ends up thinking I’m a kook, who cares?


Good advice for creating an email auto-signature

Kermit Was Right; It Isn’t Easy Being Green

It isn't easy being green

Our mini Shrek collection

In keeping with the concept of giving an experience instead of a material gift, my husband and I attended our local community theater’s presentation of Shrek the Musical last night.

You might find it odd that a ticket to the show was an early Father’s Day present for my husband. But, well, I’m just going to come out and say it: My husband loves Shrek. He has seen all the Shrek movies numerous times. And just like anyone who is crazy about a movie, he knows most of the lines. And inserts them into a conversation when he feels it’s appropriate.

“That’ll do, donkey.”

As we walked from our car to the theater, my husband asked, “Are you SURE this isn’t just for kids?” Because there were a lot of children in the line. And this particular production was performed by Fauquier Community Theater’s Youth Theater. Shrek himself begins college in the fall, while Fiona and Donkey are still in high school.

Is small-town community theater perfect? No, and that is part of the charm. For example, as one Shrek solo was timed to start, the music failed to play. Shrek waited maybe two seconds and then sang it acapella. The audience vigorously applauded our approval as he belted out the final note.

The girl sitting to my left was around twelve. She appeared mesmerized by the entire production. Sitting on the edge of her seat, face uplifted toward the stage, eyes wide, a huge smile plastered across her face—her obvious joy filled my soul.

Today I watched a couple of clips from the 2009 Broadway version of Shrek the Musical. It seemed a little fake to me. Yes, I know it’s the story of a green ogre, a talking donkey who falls in love with a dragon, and (!SPOILER ALERT!) a princess who turns into an ogre at night. So of course it’s not real.

But the pour-out-your-heart enthusiasm of those young actors last night let me shelve my rational beliefs for a couple of hours. I’m hoping that I looked just as bedazzled as the young girl next to me.

And after all, who wouldn’t enjoy having a talking donkey for a best friend?


“That’ll do, donkey” clip

“Do you know the muffin man?” clip

You Don’t Lose Weight By Eating Donuts

Eating Donuts

Image courtesy of Barbara A. Lane on Pixabay.com

If we’re personal friends on Facebook, you probably saw this post of mine from June 7:

This is not an event I had on my calendar. Indeed, the only reason we ended up at Duck Donuts in Bristow, VA that morning was simply by chance. Honest.

I haven’t always been a huge fan of donuts; really, for most of my life, I could take them or leave them.

The saying goes the older we get, the wiser we become. So if you are on the younger side, dear reader, let me impart some knowledge to you.

Wisdom Point #1: Losing weight becomes more difficult the older you are and (on the same thinking trajectory) gaining weight becomes much easier. Sadly, I decided I actually like donuts around the time the “harder to lose/easier to gain” stage kicked in.

Wisdom Point #2: We are what we eat. And that’s why eating donuts makes us round and fluffy. The hole in the donut’s middle represents the hole in our heads if we refuse to believe that donut eating poses a major threat to staying at a healthy weight.

I don’t believe there is one single positive aspect of a donut. At least with pumpkin pie or apple crisp we’re getting the benefit of some fruit. And we have to cross our fingers that the blueberry muffin on its way to our table is absolutely loaded with nutritious little balls of purple plumpness so that we don’t feel as guilty.

But donuts? Nope, sorry. The site Fooducate.com lists these ingredients for a Dunkin Donuts glazed specimen: DONUT: Enriched Unbleached Wheat Flour (Wheat Flour, Malted Barley Flour, Niacin, Iron as Ferrous Sulfate, Thiamin Mononitrate, Enzyme, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Palm Oil, Water, Dextrose, Soybean Oil, Whey (a milk derivative), Skim Milk, Yeast. And then less than 2% of fifteen other items.   Whoops…almost forgot the glaze ingredients: Sugar, Water, Maltodextrin, Contains 2% or less of: Mono and Diglycerides, Agar, Cellulose Gum, Citric Acid, Potassium Sorbate (Preservative), Artificial Flavor.

ALL of this is why I think the next book written on healthy eating to control weight should be titled, “You Don’t Lose Weight by Eating Donuts.”

So imagine my surprise when I found two sites that mention both donuts and weight loss.

There is actually a diet called “the donut diet.”  The founders are not specifically pushing donuts. The idea behind this “diet” is that for two weeks you pick one food item you love and that would never be on a normal diet’s “allowable” list. Along with whatever else they want you to eat, you’re allowed one serving of this item per day and you have to agree not to feel guilty about eating it. This is supposed to “reset” your relationship with food.

Umm…no comment.

Then there’s a guy who swears he ate 500 Krispy Kreme donuts in two months and lost 20 pounds. It seems his wife worked at Krispy Kreme for a short period and employees got to take home a dozen donuts at the end of each day. The man ate all twelve each day.

He says he lost weight because when you eat a dozen donuts, you’re not hungry for another 24 hours. This concept sounds seriously dangerous so please do NOT try this!

As long as I’ve made you smile or laugh, I have no regrets about writing a blog post on donuts. Although I am sorry if you have a sudden longing for one.

In the profound words of Homer Simpson, “Mmm…donuts!”


The Donut Diet

Story of the man who ate 500 Krispy Kreme donuts and lost 20 pounds in two months


This Is Your Brain On Wakelock


Image courtesy of Ivan Obolensky on Pexels.com

Remember my recent post on Hustle? I sang the praises of a young woman employee at my local Panera Bread. She took the concept of energetic effectiveness to a new level.

I’ll tell you someone who doesn’t have hustle: the guy “working” at the Verizon store.

Last week my Android phone suddenly developed a serious issue; the battery was draining as though I had pulled a plug to let the juice out. And the phone was heating up when I wasn’t actively using it. That was a dangerous duo of bad behaviors.

This phone’s battery has to be replaced professionally; in other words, don’t try this at home. I headed to the Verizon store.

I explained the phone’s issues as I removed the phone from my purse. The guy’s expression turned incredulous as he said, “Wow, that’s a REALLY old phone. I think you need a new phone.”

For the record, my Android is approximately 2 ½ years old. I realize there are folks who buy the latest and greatest new version of their phone as soon as it’s released. And that’s fine. I’m just not one of them.

But still, it’s not as though I pulled out an aging flip phone. (Please don’t take offense if you have one. No judgment, but you know who you are.)

So I responded, “Yes, I know it’s old but I think it just needs a new battery.”

The guy did not touch my phone one single time. He acted as though it was infected. “Well, we don’t replace batteries here but I can refer you to someone else. But I really think you should get a new phone. There’s no guarantee a new battery will fix this.”

While he had zero hustle for serving the customer, he hustled sales-wise.

No thanks.

I went home and fretted. I didn’t want the expense of a new phone or the learning curve involved with one.

So I researched online and ended up finding a site that led me to an app that I actually already had installed on my phone. You’ll never guess what it’s called so I’ll just tell you. My Verizon.

That’s right. The very company where I sought help has an app that checks the health of your cellphone and alerts you to issues. He could have pulled it up and fixed my phone.

Because that’s what I did. The health check displayed a red exclamation point regarding the battery. Duh.

Clicking on that took me to unfamiliar language. “Yesterday, Microsoft Outlook was on wakelock for 3 hours and 47 minutes. Two days ago, Microsoft Outlook was on wakelock for 2 hours and 58 minutes.”

I didn’t know what a wakelock was but it didn’t sound like anything good.

This isn’t a technical post so below I’ve included a link to an Intel article if you want to be better informed on the subject.

I’ll explain wakelock with this simple analogy:

You know how you can be really stressed and overly tired so that all you want to do is go to bed and sleep? You crawl under the covers and close your eyes and you may even appear to be asleep. But your central processing unit, your brain, will Not. Shut. Down.

That’s what wakelock is to a phone.

Even though I had not even been on Outlook, deep in the background it was running full throttle. My phone’s CPU was definitely not asleep even though it appeared to be.

I hit the button to uninstall the Outlook app. Like magic, my battery kept its charge and the phone remained cool to the touch.

Why yes, I did feel like a technical genius.

And no, I do not need a new phone.


Intel article on wakelocks for Android