Hmm?

I’ve noticed that one of the most popular toys gifted to toddlers is the toy telephone. These are usually red, have a face, wheels, a dial with numbers, and make a cute little ringing sound as toddlers drag them around. Toddlers play with them incessantly, talking to imaginary people and dialling imaginary numbers.

So you see, we’re trained to speak on the telephone from the moment our impressionable minds can get our sweaty fists to clutch the receiver.

And of course (as is the norm with this blog) that’s where the problem starts.

If you start training a child to do something from the tender age of three, they’ll grow up to love it, or they’ll begin to despise it. From here itself, children are automatically drawn towards one of the two basic telephonic groups: the Mumblers or the Yappers. I will define these two groups using a simple example: Ask a Mumbler how his/ her day was, and they’ll reply, ‘Hmm.’ Ask a yapper the same question, and they’ll proceed to tell you every unwarranted detail about their life: starting from the moment their mother went into labour and ending with their predictions of what they plan on becoming in their next life.

It’s easy to recognize future Mumblers and Yappers. The toddlers who beg every visitor to pretend speak with them on the toy telephone will become yappers. The toddlers who use the toy telephone receiver to throw at/ hit other toddlers will become Mumblers (and possibly psychopaths, but that’s beside the point).

It’s very hard to have a conversation with a Mumbler. Any question you ask will be answered by an indecipherable ‘Hmm’. That could mean anything from: ‘It’s so much fun talking to you’ to ‘I’d rather be give myself Chinese burns than have this conversation’. The closest a Mumbler will come to actually talking is monosyllables: ‘Yes’, ‘No’ and ‘Oh’. Having spoken to many Mumblers so far, I’ve learnt to understand what they mean by their tone.
I’ve compiled a list of the Mumbler’s characteristic ‘hmm’s’ and their meanings:

Hmm? (low pitched): Really? That’s surprising…
Hmm? (high pitched): Yes, what do you want now?
Hmm (short, with a simultaneous release of air from the nostrils): That’s funny.
Hmmmmm (with a variation in pitch): Yes, that’s exactly what I was thinking.
Hmmm (sighing simultaneously): I’m sick of talking to you; go fry yourself.

Mumblers do have entertainment value though. For a laugh, get two Mumblers to speak to each other on a telephone while on speakerphone. The conversation will go like this:
‘Hmm?’ ‘Hmmm…’ ‘Hmmm?’ ‘Hmm!’ ‘Hmmm (sigh)’.

On the other hand, speaking to Yappers can be deadly. If you’re not careful they might keep you so busy with their conversation that you’ll forget to eat, sleep and bathe. You’ll starve to death while your Yapper friend tells you about a new recipe they discovered on the internet. That would be too ironic for anyone to deliver a dignified eulogy.

Many of my mother’s friends are Yappers. Ordinarily, my mother is not a Yapper, but Yappers have a way of entrapping you in a web of words they so skilfully weave. Normally, I would leave her to her own devices, but sometimes I need her to do some important things, such as making me a sandwich. In such a case I can’t just tap her shoulder and ask her; that’s not enough to get her out of the web. I have to do an African voodoo dance and prance about hollering war cries until she notices that starvation is driving her child mad and gets up to make me my sandwich. The problem is that a Yapper is physically incapable of putting down the receiver. It’s glued to their palm permanently. For a Mumbler like me, talking to a Yapper is unbelievably difficult. Non-Mumblers can make some excuse to get off the telephone, but Mumblers cannot. The maximum they can do is emit an especially irritated, ‘Hmmmm!’ This does nothing to deter a Yapper. On the contrary they take this ‘Hmmmm’ to mean that you agree with what they are saying, and consequently are further encouraged to keep speaking. One way for a Mumbler to save himself/ herself is to just slam the phone down. The Yapper will then call back, but don’t pick up. The Yapper will call some other unsuspecting soul. The good thing about Yappers is that they can’t stay off the phone long enough to wonder why your call was disconnected. They simply move on.

If I had to choose one telephonic group I would choose the Mumblers, mainly because I am a Mumbler myself. Having said that, I will admit that Yappers have their advantages. What advantages? That’s simple. If there’s somebody you don’t like, just lock them in a room with a telephone with speed dial straight to a Yapper.

It’s the perfect crime.

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Of course I’m right – I watch the Discovery Channel.

I hate arguing.

This is not a sign of weakness, let me assure you. I can argue if I need to. It’s just that I’m really bad at it. Most of my arguments end with me saying, “Yes, but…” and then trying desperately to think of something vaguely intelligent-sounding such as, “this discussion involves an intersection of multiple disciplines, so judging the merits and demerits of this argument is beyond our predetermined capabilities,” to which the other person triumphantly responds, “So basically, you agree that tomatoes are vegetables?” and I nod wordlessly.

If you ask me, I think that my inability to argue with others stems from the fact that there are three kinds of people in this world:
A. The very, very smart people.
B. People who are like me.
C. The people who are still stuck in the primate stage of human evolution. I’ll refer to them as the nitwits.

The thing is that the people in category B rarely argue with me because, like me, they too hate arguing. So it’s always the people from category A or category C that end up arguing with me. And that’s where the problem begins.

The category A people are simply too smart for me. Any vaguely intelligent statement that I make will undoubtedly by countered by an even vaguer intelligent statement. I’ll say, “Yes, but this discussion involves an intersection of multiple disciplines, so judging the merits and demerits of this argument is beyond our predetermined capabilities,” to which they’ll reply (pardon the partial transcript), “…perfidiousness…acumen…sesquipedalian tendencies…my perspicaciousness…therefore I am right.” And I’ll nod vigorously, so as not to seem stupid.

Category C is a completely different ball game. The nitwits have special ability to bring to his/ her knees anyone who is foolhardy enough to pick an argument with them. Nitwits bring you down to their level and then beat you with experience. There are some things to remember when you decide to start an argument with a nitwit:

1. The two of you may not be arguing about the same thing.
You may think that you’re both arguing about the identity classification of tomatoes, but the nitwit might instead be arguing about the whether the earth is flat or round. In both cases, the nitwit will have the same argument, “I’m telling you, I’m right because I saw it on the Discovery channel.” If you want to make sure that the nitwit is arguing about the same thing as you are, you should ask, “What are we arguing about?” If the nitwit gets all defensive and says, “What kind of a question is that? Don’t you know what we’re arguing about?” walk away slowly, because in all likelihood the nitwit has no clue what the argument is about.

2. You will never, I repeat, never, be able to counter the argument of a nitwit.
The reason nitwits are so successful in winning arguments is that they give you no opportunities for a counter argument. One of the nitwit’s favourite arguments is the inexplicably ridiculous statement, “I’m right because I said so, that’s why!” Apart from the infuriating repetition of the causal sentence fragment, this response is bound to annoy anyone relatively sane. When did saying something make it right? If utterance meant acceptance, you’re right as well. Try explaining that to a nitwit. In all probability, you’ll end up slitting your wrists with your fingernails. Another tactic nitwits like to use to prevent counter arguments is the technique of avoidance. You’re trying to put forward your argument, but the nitwit will either interrupt you, or simply will not listen. “So what I’m trying to say is-” “You’re wrong, you’re wrong, you’re wrong!” “At least listen -” “La la la la I can’t hear you!” “There’s no point arguing with you!” “So you give up?”
Nitwits also have their trump card. When all else fails, they resort to the age-old argument, “I know I’m right, because my mother told me!” Perhaps this defence isn’t really used by adults, but it’s among the most popular with children. When a child says, with big puppy dog eyes that seem to say, “Do you mean to say that my dear mother, whom I consider the most intelligent person in the world, is wrong?” you can’t possibly say, “You bet she’s wrong! Your entire life is a lie!” You’re forced to tone it down a little, “If your mother said it, she might be right, but…” and before you can finish the devil child is jumping up and down, pointing at you and laughing, “I’m right, I’m right! You agree with me, so I win!”

3. It’s been scientifically proven (by me) that too many arguments with nitwits can lower your IQ considerably.
The entertainment value of having an argument with a nitwit may give you a temporary high, but don’t overdose. The more you argue with a nitwit, the lower your IQ falls. The minute you begin to feel your intelligence slowly going into a coma, retreat gracefully. If you don’t you might find yourself morphing into a nitwit as well. You may start using the ‘nitwit defences’ in your arguments. Take me as an example. I’ve had a few too many arguments with nitwits, and look at what’s happened to me.

I will conclude by saying this: Don’t get into an argument with a nitwit. It’s hazardous to health. Believe me when I say this, because I’m right.

Well, at least that’s what my mother told me.

I didn’t choose the Grammar Nazi life – the Grammar Nazi life chose me.

The title of this post was originally meant to be ‘Lessuns in Grammer, Speling and Puncshuashun’. That didn’t work out because I was afraid that, had I clicked the ‘publish’ button, I would have to walk around with that disturbingly flawed title on my conscience for the rest of my life. I would probably get a big black X beside my name in my Life Book.  So I decided to stick with the clichéd but grammatically accurate ‘I didn’t choose the Grammar Nazi life – the Grammar Nazi life chose me.’

Please forgive my OCD.

I’m very ashamed to admit that I am a Grammar Nazi. I’d like to blame it on my genes, but I can’t. Alarmingly, my mother has no qualms about using ‘who’ in place of ‘whom’. It shocks me that my mother, my mother, would let her grammar fall into such a state of disarray. It’s having an impact on me as well. I’ve fallen into the bad habit of using semi-colons when colons will suffice. I have to do something about this before I end up being entirely gangsta. Just imagine – I may start scribbling ‘Mushroomsup rox!’ in library books.

I digress.

I’m not proud of being a grammar Nazi. It’s a disease. When somebody says “What is the time in your watch?” my immediate response is “by your watch.” I like to think that I’ve taught the inquirer something new, but in fact, all they’ve learnt is that they should never ask me for the time. It’s quite sad, actually. The inquirer has left to ask someone else for the time, while I’m sitting there all alone, telling myself, “It is half past three by my watch.” The same thing happens when someone says, “[Insert Name] and me will grab a bite on the way out.” I can barely stop myself from shaking them by the shoulders and weeping, “It’s [Insert name] and I, for heaven’s sakes! [Insert name] and I!

The average Grammar Nazi has no friends. When someone says, “I’m headed for the movie theatre, would you like to come?” the grammar Nazi is busy wondering whether it is ‘headed for’ or ‘headed to’. It’s a lonely life in Grammar-ny (If that didn’t make you think of Germany, I apologize – making terrible puns is another characteristic of a Grammar Nazi).

Every time I write a post for this blog, I spend most of my time rushing to check grammar forums to see if I have used a certain word correctly and in the right grammatical context. If I can’t find the answer on grammar forums, I’m forced to resort to asking my mother. I get on her nerves. Sometimes I get on my own nerves.

Spoken grammar is nothing when it comes to comparing it with written grammar – social networking is enough to propel a Grammar Nazi to suicide. I know I’m being a prick when I comment ‘*You’re, not your’ on injudiciously titled photographs, but I just can’t help it. I feel compelled to educate the world, no matter how unwilling my pupils are. The Grammar Nazi’s job is the most underappreciated job in the world.

One of my pet peeves is people using more than one exclamation mark or question mark at the end of a sentence. Why would they do that? Do they want to convey a level of surprise or inquisitiveness that one single exclamation/ question mark cannot handle? Is there a set of rules I haven’t heard about? Perhaps one exclamation mark indicates mild surprise, two indicate shock and horror, three indicate eye-popping disbelief, and so on. Still, I haven’t heard of these rules, and this trend shall continue to annoy me until someone draws my attention to such a set of rules. As a rule, all Grammar Nazis love rules.

I like the fact that Microsoft Word and most word processors have an ability to check spelling and grammar. I do have a bit of an ego when it comes to spelling and grammar check, though. I’m glad when Word corrects others, but I’m not so happy when it corrects me.  I hate those little red and green lines under the words and the ominous command ‘Fragment – consider revising.’ I’ll have you know, Microsoft Word, that I’m extremely partial to sentence fragments. They’re my favourite kind of grammatical error. If there’s one grammatical mistake I’ll tolerate, it’s a sentence fragment. Also, don’t try to correct my spelling errors. Seriously; you don’t want to mess with me.

I’ll conclude with some advice: Never ask a Grammar Nazi to proof read anything you’ve written. You WILL regret it. By the time the Grammar Nazi’s done, you’ll be weeping in despair. The Grammar Nazi will then comfort you by saying, “There, they’re, their.”

It’s the award season!

And the awards go to [drumroll, please]…Mushroom Sup, for Funny for Nothing!
[Audience starts clapping]
Mushroom Sup: Wow, oh wow…I feel humbled. This is absolutely amazing. I can’t believe it! I never thought that I would win this….
[Removes list from pocket and unrolls it]
Mushroom Sup: I would like to start by thanking my…
[Music starts playing]
Mushroom Sup: What? But I haven’t even begun to thank….
[Music gets louder]
Mushroom Sup: Wait! Stop the music! I have to…
[Security arrives and drags Mushroom Sup off the stage]
Mushroom Sup: This is a conspiracy! Curse you, Meryl! _____________________________

Okay, since (an envious) Meryl Streep has obviously paid the Oscars to stop my ‘Thank you speech’ mid-way, I’m going to have to be content with delivering it here.
And since this is my own blog, nobody can stop me.
In your face, Meryl.

So, I would like to begin by thanking My Nutty Dubai for so kindly nominating me for the Versatile Blogger Award, the Most Creative Blogger Award, the Reader Appreciation Award and the Semper Fidelis. I have no idea what ‘Semper Fidelis’ means, but I’ll accept it without protest because it’ll sound cool if I use it in an argument (“You’re wrong!” “I can’t be wrong because I’ve won a Semper Fidelis award and you haven’t! Ha!”).

Anyway, I urge you to read My Nutty Dubai’s blog. She writes beautifully, and she’s got some awesome photographs.

The second person I would like to thank is Gabbi at Veggie Girl Life. She’s nominated me for ze Liebster Avard. Leibster is a German word which means, apparently, ‘dearest, sweetest, kindest, nicest, beloved, lovely, kind, pleasant, valued, cute, endearing, welcome, and sweetheart’. Gabbi is liebster. Go read her blog. It’s amazing.

Okay, so let’s get down to business. I don’t think there are any set rules for the Versatile Blogger Award, the Most Creative Blogger Award, the Reader Appreciation Award and the Semper Fidelis, so I’ll just nominate eleven bloggers for these awards (I’m nominating the same bloggers for the Leibster Award too, so congratulations to the nominees! You now have five new awards!)

Here are my nominees for the awards:

1. Confessions of a Technophile

2. One Tired Guy’s Thoughts

3. The mmmmm family

4. Jennswondering

5. Not pretending (to be sane)

6. One post

7. Happy misadventures

8. Me in stitches

9. Soulsez

10. It’s a Mis-Fit

11. runningawayfrom49

For the Liebster award, I have to list eleven random facts about myself, answer the eleven questions Gabbi has asked her nominees, and list eleven questions for my nominees to answer.

Eleven random facts about me:

1. When I laugh, I laugh silently, so it seems as if I can’t breathe and I’m gasping for air. People ask if I’m alright. I laugh even harder. It’s a vicious cycle. Also, I laugh at the most inappropriate times. Everything becomes funnier when you’re not allowed to laugh.

2. My favourite quote is “Only two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity, but I’m not so sure about the universe.” – Albert Einstein.

3. I have a terrible habit of chewing everything within reach. My hair, my pen, my toenails. The last one is a joke. Sorry if that scared you.
I’m not weird. Honestly.

4. Nobody ever laughs at my jokes. Well, maybe my mother does. Sometimes. Occasionally.

5. I’ve been told I nod too much. I blame all those years of watching Noddy.
I just realized that I was nodding to myself as I typed that out.
I’m doing it again.
Urgh!

6. Once again, I have a history essay due, and I’m writing this post instead. It seems I’m falling into a pattern.
P.S. This one’s about Stalin. I know a little more about him than I knew about Nikita Khrushchev, though. I know for a fact that Stalin wasn’t a woman.

7. I eat tic-tacs when I’m bored. Orange is the best [sic].

8. I don’t know what ‘sic’ means, but I like the fact that it’s a word with an attitude, so I use it whenever I can.

9. My favourite French phrase is ‘Je n’ai sais quoi’. It’s…I don’t know what. Literally. (If you don’t get it, Google it.)

10. I have a terrible spatial ability, and I can’t judge distances. I often walk into walls.

11. I have a terrible memory, but I can memorize text very well. I think there’s some sort of psychological explanation for this, but I don’t remember what it is.

Now I’ll answer Gabbi’s questions:

1. What is your life philosophy? Be normal, and the crowd will accept you. Be deranged, and they will make you their leader.

2. What is the first thing you do when you get up in the morning? I stumble around blindly looking for a newspaper. Or rather, a tabloid.

3. Who is your favorite artist? I’m not big on art, but because of the Bean movie, I really like Whistler’s Mother. So I guess Whistler would be my favourite artist.

4. Other than you, who do you love the most? My spammers.

5. If you could change one thing in the world, what would that be? I would make dark chocolate grow on trees.

6. What keeps you motivated? On WordPress? Again, my spammers.

7. What is your favorite book or work of art? My Family and Other Animals, by Gerald Durrell.

8. Why do you write? Because there’s nothing I like doing better.

9. What is your favorite food? Chocolate and spaghetti. But not together.

10. What dreams do you have/are you working on? I want to learn how to whistle. Not exactly a dream, but an aspiration.

11. What is your favorite place to be? At my computer, writing this blog.

And these are my questions to my nominees (Don’t worry; you’re not obliged to answer them):

1. If you had to think of another name for your blog, what would it be?

2. What’s your favourite quote/ saying?

3. What’s the worst joke you’ve made/ heard?

4. What’s your favourite television show?

5. Describe yourself in one word.

6. Do you have an object that you consider to be your lucky charm?

7. Which type of chocolate is best: white, milk or dark?

8. What’s the best non-fiction book you’ve read?

9. What’s your favourite word?

10. Are you philosophical person?

11. What’s the capital of Greenland?