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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Y is for Yellowstone


Back in February I asked you to give me topics to write about that would correspond to the alphabet. Sometimes several of you sent ideas for one letter and sometimes I wrote about all of them (I’s and S’s) Here we are at letter Y for which your suggestions are Yummy Food and Yawns. The word yawn absolutely makes me yawn; no way I could write about that - I would yawn for hours. I worked on Yummy Food but could only find a scolding voice about Americans eating too much sugar. Bah. True but not interesting.

So, I gave Y a go again. Y is for?

"I was Scott Simon's teller."


First of all - Thank you to those of you who came to the Wisconsin Writers Association zoom gala last night. I HAD received an email a week ago which said I would be reading my whole story. Cutting it in half while I was reading was awkward! It was still a happy event for me and the other writers. Thanks for being there! 

X is for Xeriscape


Xeriscape is pronounced ‘zeer-eh-scape’ and it means landscaping with little to no irrigated water. Readers in the west already know about this. Those of us who don’t live in arid or desert places need to wake up to the incredible resource that water is - then begin to accommodate ourselves to “water all around and beneath us all the time” is no longer our reality. Nor is it our right. We’ve got to get smarter and do better.

W is for Wonder


To whomever suggested Wonder - Thank You!  ‘Wonder’ has been bobbing in my mind like a frog in a pond.

However, I have FOUR suggestions from you guys for X - but I do not want to write four X essays. These are the suggestions:

1.) X signature substitution

2.) xylophone on a string pulled by a toddler

3.) xenophobia

4.) Xmas. 

If you have an opinion respond with the one you would like me to attempt. I will choose whichever X gets the most comments.

There will be no gerrymandering in this election.



Grownups Noticing Their Lives


Most of you know about my former weird and lovely job of coordinating an employability skills program for Huber-qualified inmates in the Racine County Jail (that’s a mouthful). Early on I realized that most of the people I would work with were people with 1.) huge addiction problems, and 2.) underlying and over-the-top and to-the-side just lying around mental health issues.

My 1st Place Story is Here!


Click right here.  September 2023.pdf (

The September issue of Creative Wisconsin Magazine is now published online and you can read my story plus lots of other good writing.

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