PATRICK MCVAY

WRITER

My Musings

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Talking Mustard

How long has it been since we last talked mustard?

Too long, that’s for sure. It’s like mustard isn’t even part of my life anymore, the way I never bring it up in any serious discussion on the future of human beings.

But trust me on this: it’s a huge part of my life. Rarely does a day go by when I don’t think about mustard. Or consider when I might next use mustard. Or have little droplets of mustard floating around deep down inside my subconscious mind, such that I don’t even realize I’m thinking about mustard until months pass and the media start to get all over me: Hasn’t Mentioned Mustard Yet This Year! and so forth.

Sorry, but I have mentioned it. Maybe the media just aren’t receptive to hearing it. I’ve said things like, “How come we have so damned much mustard, honey?” And the response, invariably, has been “Costco.”

My parents used to have too much mustard in their house as well, but that’s because they entertained. Needless to say, if they were entertaining, they were serving mustard. Roasted mustard, creamed mustard, baked mustard. Not to mention that some people requested it as a condiment (!).

Bear in mind that I’ve actually been consuming my fair share of mustard during this so-called “period of silence.” What, I’m going to go to a Red Sox game and not eat the free mustard they have? It’s just sitting out there in gallon-sized tubs with attachments that squirt out as much of the golden goo as you’d like! How foolish it would be not to take advantage of that.

Heading to the ballpark tonight with mustard on my mind.

 

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Card Reading Etiquette

When an unknown voice at the other end of the line asks for your credit card number for some sort of purchase you’re about to make, do you ramble it off in one long stream-of-consciousness flow of numbers, or do you pause between each four-digit array?

Or are you one of those people who needs to get feedback from the disembodied voice, a grunt or “OK” after each set of four numbers is conveyed to indicate that s/he has recorded the digits without which you’d be unable to buy that set of awesome pocket squares you were dying for? “And the expiration?”

“0-4-2-0.”

“And those three numbers on the back of the card?”

“9-1-1.”

I find that most people taking my order expect my verbal commas and like to chirp “uh-huh” after 4th and 8th digits are read, and add “OK” after the 12th digit. I hope the nation’s psychologists are investigating why this pattern exists.

Also, did I tell you I’m moving?

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Bonehead

You may be a young reader unaware of the living, evolutionary quality of the English language, but I’m not so young any longer, and I remember when a person who removed the bones from a chicken would be said to be “boning” the animal. Back then, when I was just a kid in the late 1800s (or so), I used to think: How odd, that removing bones is called boning. Shouldn’t it be called unboning, or deboning?

Then, the other day, I had to prepare my newest favorite dish called sarde in saor (sweet and sour sardines – but you knew that!) and was directed by Jamie Oliver in how to “debone” the sardines. Dear old dad, a debonafide glossophile (Iook it up), is turning in his grave at the thought of deboning replacing boning in common parlance.

Interestingly, m-w.com (Merriam Webster online), which defines the transitive verbs “bone” and “debone” nearly identically (“to remove the bones from”), calls a person who debones meat as a “deboner” but makes no mention of a person who bones meat as a “boner.”

This also makes me wonder if ever, in the history of English literature, a character has been referred to as a “debonair deboner.” Will ask the people at Google to scan their databases for that pairing of words.

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Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Neighbor's 'Hood

I’ve looked at a lot of real estate ads over the last couple of years, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that some neighborhoods are highly coveted. You may think you live in an unnoticed little neck of the woods, but it turns out that everyone is salivating over your school’s MCAS results. Whether it’s Revolutionary Ridge in Concord, or Prospect Hill in Lexington, or the Bates neighborhood in Wellesley, you might as well face it that people have an unhealthy and maybe even sinful longing for your leafy streets.

I was commanded as a child not to covet things like wives and asses and other “possessions” of my neighbors. Despite the fact that I was surrounded by wives – I mean you can’t imagine how many wives there were in my neighborhood when I was a kid! – I managed not to be covetous of them. (As it was a suburban enclave, there were no asses to be found, though there was a fair bit of random asininity). However, I don’t recall any directives about not coveting the school district in which one's neighbor resides.

Real estate agents must believe that a neighborhood cannot be classified as something its inhabitants “possess,” as they keep trumpeting which streets and school districts and neighborhoods are coveted in an effort to get you to covet these places as well, the implication being that if God didn’t want you to desire living on a certain street, he’d have etched that information into stone tablets.

Rest assured that I have little desire to possess that 3-bed, 2-bath split-level home on half an acre that’s for sale in your exclusive gated neighborhood. On the other hand, I can’t help but covet that Belgian ale you’re about to uncork.

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