Saturday, January 12, 2008

Lick the Cheeto ***updated***

Whiteout Meetings are held one Sunday afternoon per month. Two or three people submit stories via email, and the group offers everything from line comments to more global evaluations such as, "Mitt, you are a genius," or "Jolie, I am humbled to be in your presence," or "Nina, this doesn't suck as much as the story about fruit flies breeding with giraffes -or the one where your character set fire to the mall so he could see exactly which products were flame retardant and it turned out to be an elaborate metaphor for homophobia that was completely not funny, but we suppose we'll let you live. Oh, and no more haiku submissions. Thank you."

No official business takes place until everyone arrives (or until we decide that we no longer expect Alana to show up). We fill the time until then talking about movies, reviewing each other's wardrobe selections, commenting on each other's hair, and perhaps discussing what we have read lately. Someone always brings snacks. Someone else always brings drinks. Jolie's husband often bakes us a cake.

Then Alana arrives, and after she has been fed and had a few drinks, we review stories. Some jackass (named Nina) will demonstrate a way of re-punctuating a whole paragraph such that it means something completely different from what the writer intended, and then someone else will remind her that it's impolite and pointless to screw with someone else's punctuation just because you can, and then we all say what a genius the writer is and move on to the next story.

This is all great fun.

Moistly torso corduroy spunk, one day Luca had one of my stories in her hand and she looked anxious and displeased.

"Nina," said Luca, "I demand that the word 'torso' be removed from this story." Just to say the word made her flinch.

"Why?" said I.

"Isn't it obvious?" said Luca. I looked around the room. Jolie and Alana clearly knew what Luca was talking about. Mitt and Jerry did not, or would not, register a facial expression imbued with... never mind.

"No, I don't get it. Why no torsos?"

Jolie shrieked, and Luca shrank to the floor. Mitt looked up from his beer and said, "Did you just pluralize 'torso'?"

I was stunned. "Yeah, I did. So what?"

Alana then plucked a Cheeto from the snack bowl and said, while licking the Cheeto, "Saying torso is about as gross (lick lick) as what I am doing right now." Then she held the Cheeto denuded of cheesy powder out for all to see. Then she said "Pluralizing torso is about as gross as doing this"- and then she tossed the Cheeto back into the bowl.

Jerry dove into the bowl and retrieved the spitty Cheeto.

Jerry said, "How you feel right now? It's how other people feel about the word 'torso' - not me, mind you, but other people, clearly.

"Ok," I said. "I give up. Somebody splain it to me."

Jerry said, "Jolie, tell it like it is. I'll draw her a picture."

Jolie, straightened her skirt and crossed her cowgirl boots at the ankles. Then she began.

"When you use the word torso, you are specifying by default the absence of a head, arms, and legs. In other words you are mentioning a slab of organ filled flesh that is automatically dead and has no agency or intentions - "

"Well, damn, I hope not - " I interrupted. Luca tossed a hunk of brie at me.

" - and even worse is the word itself. The word implies the violence. The first syllable, tor sounds rather like the past tense of the verb 'to tear,' doesn't it? Yes! It does! So the word not only specifies a slab of organ-filled pointless deadness - but it also suggests the manner in which the slab was denuded of its constituent parts. Consider, also, whether this non-being, this rectangle of "thud" is male or female. Consider that at least on one side of it, there is a legless butt. And don't even get me started about entrails. Do not do it."

By this time, Jerry had finished his illustration. He handed it to me.


I stared at it for a suitable interval before saying, "That's terrifying." Then I passed the drawing around.

I considered - and then said, "Let's shift our focus to the word "leg." Does saying "leg" automatically imply the absence of the rest of the person? "

Alana crunched down a few cheetos. "Nope," she said.

"Comparison not applicable," said Luca.

"Torso might be my most unfavorite word in the entire English language," said Mitt.

I opened a beer and sat back to think. No. It couldn't be.

"Are you all just completely fucking with me? You can't all unanimously agree that the word - "

"DON"T SAY IT AGAIN!" shrieked Jolie.

"Ok," said I. "Let's go around the room and all say our least favorite word. Let's all agree to ban the number one most hated word in the English language from our reviewed work for the remainder of the life of this group. All ready?"

People needed a few moments to think, so we argued for a few minutes over whether Jennifer Aniston has bigger boobs than Sarah Jessica Parker. I did not mention that to even THINK of a boob unattached to its owner was violent and malicious because I had clearly already lost that argument.

Finally, all agreed to reveal their own personal word-ban.

Mitt: Spunk

Jerry: Entrail(s)

Jolie: Moist

Alana: Sinew

Luca: Torso (obviously)

Nina: Corduroy.

That's right: my banned forever from Whiteout Writers' Group word is "Corduroy."

Anyone care to guess why I banned corduroy? If not, comment regarding whether "Cheeto" is a proper noun, meriting a capital letter. (I am conflicted about this). (About Cheeto). (Not about corduroy).


LAS said...

Cheetos is a brand actually - the trademark, so yes, I believe capitalizing is appropriate. The generic being cheese puff - and Cheetos should worry about "Cheetos" being used to mean cheese puff. Like Kleenex or Xerox, or Swiffer, or any number of other things. I am going to go swiffer.

P said...

I know! I know! Corduroy - from "corde du roi" and loosely translated as "cloth of the king" - is CLEARLY elitist and is therefore TOTALLY UNACCEPTABLE.

It's also ugly. And it reminds me of LIC hipsters in their stupid vintage Levi cords. BAH.

e! said...


"Her hair was braided in neat rows much like the peaks and valleys of a pair of comfortable, but little used, corduroy pants."

Yeah, i can see why it would be off-putting.

Finn said...

There is never any reason to use the word corduroy in anything. There is also no good argument for wearing it. Unless you like to sound like your thighs are zipping and unzipping every time you walk.

Molly said...

Torso is a good word.

I had a piece of butcher paper on my wall in my classroom and the kids were supposed to write words and phrases that loved / hated. I titled it "Eating the Honey of Words" (Bly) and they covered it. I think I should do it again this year, though I no longer teacher creative writing. Just to celebrate.

Moist was their number one least favorite.

Panties comes up a lot.

I had naughty words on there, which made me cringe when I was observed, but it was still too good to not keep... I think I have a photo of it on my flick account somewhere... Orgasm was on there. And gonads. Good things too though, not quite so charged.

Of course, they're teenagers. What can I say.

Molly said...

PS: Also like corduroy, but I can never spell it.

I wear it a lot. I don't have any jeans. That might make me weird. Weirder. Whatever.

Jennifer said...

torso torso torso!! lol I think torso is a funny word, but after hearing about your friend's reaction to it... I think it is actually hilarious! we are having some company in a little while, I'm going to ask them all what they think of the word torso... I might get back to you if their replies are anything worth while! :)
why do you not like the word corduroy?? just wondering... past bf with the name roy?? :) Fill me in... inquiring minds want to know.

jen said...

*sobbing in a corner because you have a very large circle of cool friends, SMART ones, even!, and live in NYC while I waste away here in Iowa among the cornfields and cows*

Repunctuate THAT sister. ;-)

I think I might have a little iCrush on you.

Kate P said...

There was a character in the "Pepper Ann" cartoon who threw out the comment that he didn't like the word "moist." Of course, he also said that field trips made him "dry." He was a weird kid.

I don't know if Matt Groening still does this, but I remember when I was in college his comic would have a yearly list of words he wanted banned--your group's discussion reminded me of that. Perfect time of year to do it! And I'm less conflicted about whether "Cheeto" is proper or common and more so about how to pluralize it. I've also seen it hyphenated, but that might be b/c some people didn't want to get sued.

Spirited Strider said...

I vote that Cheeto is a proper noun, since it's a brand name. As for corduroy, hmmm....Does it have to do with the sound that two legs wearing corduroy make when rubbing together while walking?..or maybe you're afraid of bears, and particularly that children's character, Corduroy?

Well, it seems you are not at a loss for words, but I want you to know that you've also just been tagged.

To participate, go to my blog at and look under the entry entitled
Just Got Tagged: My Band's CD Cover

The Horny Bitch said...

Show the image!

em said...

Torso is kind of a gross word actually. But, sometimes that might be what you're going for. All words have their place.

Also, I vote to capitalize Cheeto.

utenzi said...

I'm not terribly shocked to hear that you're conflicted, Nina. I was a little surprised to see all the comments about Cheetos. BTW, Cheese Doodles from Wise are much better tasting.

nightfly said...

Well, how on earth do these genius writers describe anything not happening to a person's extremities? None of their characters have ever had a tummyache, or needed to "tone their core" with pilates, or what have you?

At this point I'd write a story revolving entirely around a person in a mannequin factory, who is the Quality Control Officer for the torsos - making sure that the arms and such can be properly attached, that they're proportioned without being overly accurate (so snotty teens don't undress them in Hot Topic), and so on. Then the company introduces a new mannequin - nothing but torso. Why waste money on a head and arms when you're just sticking a tank-top on it?

Take THAT, Whiteouters!

Avitable said...

These meetings sound like a lot of fun. I'm not being sarcastic, either. I love semantics and dismantling concepts and so forth. What a great story, too!

Nina said...

LAS, you are right about the Cheeto capitalization issue. I think I am conflicted about it because it seems a lowly air injected something or other covered in low-grade cheddar powder should not be worthy of a capital C. Also, Cheetos are just not that good to eat. I resent having to give them such distinction because I have almost nothing good to say about them. Swiffer, at least, has some merit.

P, oh how I wish I had thought of that reason before you did. Mostly I banned it because I do not look good in corduroy and also, I just... there's something kind of unfulfilled in the middle syllable, sort of like a wave that never crashes, or a window that won't quite shut. Plus my fruit fly recently found a mate named Cordelia, and guess what they named their baby? Just guess?

e!, I see we understand each other at last. Corduroy.... ew..

Finn, Another solid argument against corduroy - both the wearing of it and the writing of the word. I have one pair of ill-fitting corduroy pants and gosh I need to get rid of those.

Molly, I think we're all basically teenagers when it comes to words and their un-favoriteness. I also despise "panties" - I mean the word, not the clothing item. I rather like owning and wearing them... just the word - good lord, ew. If you can look good in corduroy, you are a force of nature. I cannot look good in it. It just doesn't happen.

Jennifer, I don't like the word corduroy because the middle syllable sounds and more important - feels all wrong to me. See comment to P, above. Let me know if your people have any useful input on the word torso. Also... input..? that's kind of gross, too.

Jen, you are in Iowa for a reason, and when that reason ends, you too can move to New York City and find out how great it is. It will be right about then that you find out how ungreat it is, too.

I cannot re-punctuate that paragraph and make it sound like you are happy. But I iCrush you back.

Kate P, you bring up an excellent point. The plural form of Cheeto almost has to be Cheetoes? or is it Cheetos? I say the latter. Never saw that comic, but I'll look it up.

SpiritedStrider, I was wondering if anyone would bring up that cute little bear in the overalls.

I consider myself tagged and will attend to same within the day. Thank you.

H-B, image posted. Isn't it terrifying?

Em, we use the banned words all the time, just to cause distress to the ban-originator. And Cheeto it is.

Utenzi, really? Because I don't like Cheetos much. I will remember to do a taste test at next meeting. I have to say I am surprised that you bother with salty snacks, being a sugar person.

Nightfly, I have to say, Mitt will LOVE this story idea. I will pass it along to him. Seriously, they just do this sort of thing to amuse themselves and cause me distress. At yesterday's meeting, Jolie tried to tell me that the word "shab" can't be used as a verb. What?? Surely you would know what I meant if I said "I like those corduroys, but you totally shabbed them with that ketchup stain." Right???

Avitable, you would be amazed at how much time we can waste talking about things that are of no importance whatsoever - and have a lot of fun doing it.

Effortlessly Average said...

You guys should pace yourselves or you're going to peak too early. heh.

Personally, I'd have changed it to "trunk" and eaten the Cheeto. Then perhaps wiped my moist hands on my corduroys. heh