Around my house, "MSU" does not reference Mississippi State or any other university. MSU is shorthand for "making s*** up." (If the 11-year-old is involved, it's "making stuff up.") The phrase arose organically, when we realized that all of us had a tendency, on occasion (like every day of our lives), to speak authoritatively on a subject about which we aren't authorities.
Examples of this are legion. On vacation in Peru last summer, we were gazing at a snow-capped mountain range when I confidently said, "The tallest one is Mt. Huascaran. That's the highest mountain in Peru." I got away with that for about six seconds before my wife said, "You are totally MSU."
Which I was. I mean, it should have been and could have been Huascaran, given our location, but in reality, I had no way of knowing if what I said was true.
One thing this new phrase has done is keep us all on our toes. You can get away with MSU if you're a good bluffer, we've learned. But if your "S" is questioned, there is no escape from instant scrutiny, thanks to the miracle of Google.
The other day I made a salad that included chopped apples. My wife looked at the result of my labor, sighed, and said, "Honey, you're always supposed to peel apples when you use them in a salad."
"I don't think so," I said. "I think it's certainly an option, but it's not necessary."
My wife went on to give me a couple of semi-dubious reasons about why I was wrong, but she knew — and I knew — what was coming. I called MSU, went to the laptop, and pulled up several pictures of salads with apples, bright red skin and all.
This development in our household has made me realize just how casually most of us just, well, fling BS around. And it's really embarrassing when the resident fifth-grader calls you out. This has happened often enough that I had to come up with an amendment to the MSU doctrine: You are allowed to occasionally MSU if you are over 50.
But no one's buying it so far.
On that note, I wish you all happy holidays and the merriest of Christmases. And I'm totally not making that up.
The lady doth protest too much, methinks. — William Shakespeare
Is there such a thing as "bad activism"? I'm asking because I'm seeing a lot of criticism of the folks who are protesting the Memphis Zoo's encroachment onto the Greensward at Overton Park.
In the 14 years I've been the Flyer editor, I've gotten lots of hate mail. It mostly used to come in envelopes filled with pages of scrawled handwriting. I read them and put them in the wastebasket, chalking it up as a natural by-product of writing for a liberal paper in the conservative South. Lately, the angry folks have switched to email, and it comes in waves ...
Exactly seven years ago this week, I wrote a column decrying a proposal by city engineers to turn the Overton Park Greensward into an 18-foot-deep "detention basin" designed to stop flooding in Midtown. The engineers claimed we'd hardly notice the football-field-sized bowl. "Except," I wrote then, "when it rains hard, at which time, users of Overton Park would probably notice a large, 18-foot-deep lake in the Greensward. Or afterward, a large, muddy, trash-filled depression."