I Don’t Think We’ve Met Before


It was a situation that called for small-talk. I was standing, chatting up two friends.

Someone approached the perimeter of our conversational group. I did a little demi-pivot that opened up the circle, an unspoken friendly gesture.

Hi! I’m {          }.  Kind and casual demeanor.

I smiled back. Hi! I’m Carol Bakker.

Oh, you’re Carol Bakker!

I grinned, nodded, and tossed off a mini-shrug of my shoulders. Yep, that’s me!

I don’t think we’ve met before.

I leaned in and laughed a conspiratorial snicker. Yes, we have. A few years ago you performed a colonoscopy on me!



There’s small town living for you, folks. We all had a hearty laugh!




Another Bathroom on the Right Moment


Last night I was singing—sort of humming with words—Shocking Blue’s Venus.

I’m your Venus, I’m your fire, your joy, desire.

A demi-smile appeared on my man’s face. He said, Babe, it’s

I’m your Venus, I’m your fire, and your desire.

Nah, I responded. An encapsulated moment of eye contact. Full grin on the man. You wanna bet? So I Binged (Bing—as a verb—doesn’t compare with Google’s oomph, does it?) it. And the definitive lyrics are:

I’m your Venus, I’m your fire, at your desire.

We were both wrong, but I’m sticking with joy.

These moments of lyric confusion and clarification are so delicious I hope they continue to the end of my days. Just last year I realized America’s song was about Ventura Highway. I thought it was a command: Venture a highway. Go forth, young man! Funny thing, I lived an hour from Ventura, CA, when I was singing it wrong.

Before that I learned there’s a bad moon on the rise.
There’s a bathroom on the right is so much more helpful.

My friend thought Tom Petty’s solid declaration: And I won’t back down was the somewhat tepid And I walked back down.

Life is laughter.

What lyrics have you misheard?


There is a new trend. It is rapidly rising within airport bathrooms. I blush to tell you that many do not flush the toilet.

It is anecdotal evidence, but on Monday—across the country—four out of four toilets needed a cleansing flush before use. Ever the cultural analyst, I’ve been swishing this trend around my head. Why no flush?

1. No time.  Not one second to lose! Onward! She wants the front of the line at the baggage carousel, the prime seat at the gate…to hurry up and wait.

2. Conscientious objector. Some folks oppose the draft. Others oppose the drift of water down the pipes. It is the public expression of this conviction to which I object.

3. Dayists. They believe you should only flush on Thursdays.

4. Phobias. There is a fear of flushing. A fear of centrifugal force. The fear of drought. Fear of sudden loud noises. Fear of tight places. There is a lion in the pipes.

5. Temporary blindness. None is so blind who will not see. Have you ever heard of acute-onset macular degeneration? There is no looking back.

6. Mild dementia. An entire generation of boomers find the sequence of sit-stand-flush-leave confusing. These are the gentle souls who gaze at the mirror wondering why they came to this spot, with a strong suspicion  there is something they forgot. Yes, snowflake, there is.

7. Technical assumptions. Not every potty is a smart potty. Not every smart potty is that smart.

8. Pigishness. Not to put down swine, but some folk are that way.

There is no easy way to arrest this stagnation. If love covers a multitude of sins, then courtesy flushes when others don’t.



Yesterday, I made a page for this blog at Facebook.

I wondered, again, why I chose such a difficult name for my blog. Magistra is Latin for (female) teacher; Mater means mother. I was telegraphing my bent toward classical home education. I was deep in my Latin Stage, in which I interrupted you whenever you used a word whose Latin root I had recently learned.

You: “My kids don’t pay attention when—“

Me: “Attention literally means to stretch toward.”

You: (questioning stare) (pause)

You:  “…well, I need to monitor their—“

Me: “Monitor literally means to warn.”

You: “…um, so I’ll just put in a video…”

Me:  “I see.”

If I were to start a blog today, Nana Babe would be a better moniker.  My grandsons call me Nana, my husband calls me Babe

I could shorten it to N.B. which is also short for Nota Bene which, ahem, is (I blush to say) Latin for pay attention.

[…and if you want to follow the blog through Facebook you can find me there at Magistra Mater…]

A History of Illicit Laughter

Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.
~ Victor Borge

I woke up giggling this morning.  We had decided to sleep in and my laughter broke covenant.  Oh great, muttered my husband. Josh, where are you?  Curt’s words launched me on a new round of mirth. 

Josh, who is like a son to me, and I have a history of horse laughs.  When he was Jr. high age, something would set us off and all our pent up laughter would come bursting out in loud guffaws: gasping, tear-squeezing, body-wracking sobs of laughter.  Slowly we decelerated and calmed down until one glance set off more horse laughs.  By the time we settled down we couldn’t even remember what was so funny.

What is weird about those episodes is that they happened around our table. Suppression was never an option. No one else understood us but they got a good entertainment package from our shtick. 

The most wicked laughter is the illicit kind.  Laughter that is wildly inappropriate is the funniest. And it’s even wilder if the source of amusement is mutually understood by less than three people. 

Let me assert a long-neglected truth
that nothing binds two people together
 like a history of illicit laughter.

My friend Ilene and I bobbled our way through my dad’s sermon at Bible camp when we were nine. When he spoke about a conjunction saying thank God for that but, we heard thank God for that butt. I still remember my pathetic attempts to disguise the laughter into sneezing, coughing, tears of repentance, anything but laughter. 

My  most humiliating episode took place with my sister-in-law at our niece’s wedding.  Our nephew thrust a camera into her hand moments before the ceremony began with a request to take pictures.  The camera had a mystifying delay on the trigger and as attendants processed, Karyl Lynn missed each beautiful bridesmaid, ending up with photos of an empty aisle.  Horrified at muffing every single shot, she planned to get the entire wedding party while they stood at the front. 

She clicked. 

“Let us pray,” intoned the preacher. A twinkle of silence sat suspended in the air.

Then the bewitched camera began a loud rewinding. Aghast, my sister-in-law shoved the camera under her thigh. That only seemed to amplify the clicking and clacking. 

And off we went.  Two middle-aged woman shaking, shivering, shambling with laughter. 

After the prayer, my brother, her husband, stood up for Scripture reading.  He put on his pastor’s voice and began the reading when he noticed our ridiculous posture: hands over our mouths, over our eyes, vibrating, pulsing, out-of-control.  It was all he could do not to check his fly.  We came close to landing this massive laughter, when he sat back down and muttered What is going on?, effectively relaunching that airship. 

I am truly ashamed to admit that we laughed through the entire ceremony.  Amidst the throes I knew I needed to rein it in, find composure.  But we played off each other; every time we grabbed three quick sighs and a slow cleansing breath, the other would release a tiny snicker which was jet engine fuel.     

After the ceremony the bride and groom acted as ushers greeting friends as they left their pews.  The bride looked at me quizzically and asked, Aunt Carol were you laughing or crying?  I’ll explain it one day, I promised.

How to Justify a Private Library


I could not resist posting an excerpt from this witty essay by Umberto Eco from How to Travel with a Salmon & Other Essays. (I separated some of the larger paragraphs for easier reading. The color and bold parts are also my doing. Just helping Umberto out.)  I can’t think why this one resonated with me.

…people who possess a fairly sizable library (large enough in my case that someone entering the house can’t help but notice it; actually, it takes up the whole place).

The visitor enters and says, “What a lot of books! Have you read them all?”

At first I thought that the question characterized only people who had scant familiarity with books, people accustomed to seeing a couple of shelves with five paperback mysteries and a children’s encyclopedia, bought in installments.  But experience has taught me that the same words can be uttered also by people above suspicion.

It could be said that they are still people who consider a bookshelf as a mere storage place for already-read books and do not think of the library as a working tool.  But there is more to it than that. I believe that, confronted  by a vast array of books, anyone will be seized by the anguish of learning, and will inevitably lapse into asking the question that expresses his torment and his remorse.

[Now] I have fallen back on the riposte: “No, these are the ones I have to read by the end of the month. I keep the others in my office,” a reply that on the one hand suggests a sublime ergonomic strategy, and on the other leads the visitor to hasten the moment of his departure.    ~ 1990

There’s A Bathroom On the Right


Lyric Confusion.

Have you ever been singing your heart out and had someone squint, frown and stare at you?  What did you just sing?  That is a way of life with me. Sometimes I even embarrass myself, hot faced, when I catch myself in lyric confusion.

One afternoon early in our relationship, my boyfriend and I were driving, listening to the radio. Paul Harvey came on.  Curt had never heard Paul Harvey, a staple of my home life.  Far from home, excited to hear someone familiar, I gushed. 

He has this signature sign off, I explained. He ends each broadcast by saying The Deck!

Curt looked confused and asked *why* he said The Deck!  

I didn’t know, but I’d been listening to Paul Harvey for decades and that’s what he said every time. It’s just his thing.

Curt listened carefully and never heard him say The Deck!  But he was twitterpated, so he kept silent.

A few weeks later Paul Harvey came on and Curt thought it was time to tell it to me straight.  Babe, he said, He isn’t saying The Deck!  He’s saying Good Day!  That was the first of many corrections.

Here are a few more zingers followed by the true lyrics.

Precious and few are the moments Sweet Sue can share.

Precious and few are the moments we two care share.

I am the living magazine (??? I wondered what that meant!) of the leader of the band.

I am the living legacy of the leader of the band.

My youngest was caught singing this hymn.

He breaks the can the pretzel’s in.

He breaks the power of canceled sin.

My favorite from Creedence Clearwater Revival:

Don’t go round tonight.
It’s bound to take your life
There’s a bathroom on the right.

Come on, now….it’s your turn to tell a tale!

Remembering Plum

P.G. Wodehouse, born October 15, 1881

What would life be without Wodehouse?  Such a funny, funny man.  I’ve said it before – I’m quite thankful for Jeeves and Wooster (two of his main characters), especially for all the literary allusions and quotes in their dialog. “Getting” the references is one of the joys of a reading life.

Here’s some fun interplay between P.G. Wodehouse and Dorothy Sayers which my son recently found:

“Pardon me, my lord, the possibility had already presented itself to my mind.”
“It had?”
“Yes, my lord.”
“Do you never overlook anything, Bunter?”
“I endeavor to give satisfaction, my lord.”
“Well, then, don’t talk like Jeeves.  It irritates me.”
                ~ Lord Peter Wimsey and Bunter in  Strong Poison by Dorothy L. Sayers

~     ~     ~

“Well, you perfect chump,” cried Nobby, “don’t you know that that dishes him?  Haven’t you ever read any detective stories?  Ask Lord Peter Wimsey what an alibi amounts to.”
                ~  Zenobia “Nobby” Hopwood in Jeeves in the Morning by P.G. Wodehouse

~     ~     ~

“What’s his name?”
“Where’s he from?”
“Hankie doesn’t know.  But Miss Meteyard’s seen him.  She says he’s like Bertie Wooster in horn-rims.”
                ~  Mr. Jones in Murder Must Advertise by Dorothy L. Sayers

Funny Mispronunciations

One of the occupational hazards of being a reader is using a word in speech that one has read silently and stumbling in the pronunciation of said word.  There’s nothing like saying a word with confidence but incompetence, watching the listener screw up their face either in confusion or laughter, hearing the illuminating correction and having a hearty laugh at yourself. 

One of the joys of listening to books read on Librivox is catching an ‘oops’ from the mouth of their lovely volunteer readers.  I laugh out loud when ‘the patience of Job’ is pronounced like a wage earner.  One of the joys of listening to professionally produced books on tape is catching one of my own mistakes.  “Oh, is that how you say it?”

My last name is commonly mispronounced.  Before “No Call”, I was tipped off to telemarketers by the botched pronunciation.  The grocery store clerks who look at the receipt and say “Thank you, Miz ________” make me laugh too.

And for those who care:  Magistra Mater is  Mah-GEE(hard G)-struh  MAH-tair  Think “TEA with MaGEEstra.”

Proper Nouns

Wodehouse  – it’s supposed to rhyme with wood
Cowper – sounds like Cooper
Goethe – my SIL’s mother quoted Goethe and pronounced it GO-eth. 

“Mother, that name is  GERT-a” she said with the proper form-your-mouth-like-an-o-and-say-e-technique, to which her mother replied, “You can call it GERT-a if you’d like; I’ll say  GO-eth.”

Isak Dinesen – for years, in my mind I said DINE-sen,

until I heard it correctly spoken DIN-es-sen

Camus – it is not CAY-mus, it’s caMOO
Dumas – another French name to trip you up: dooMAH
Keats and Yeats – wah, wah they don’t rhyme! KEETS and YATES

Edinburgh – it looks like it should end with a burg, right?  Not!  ED-in-BURR-a

My Oopses

primer – long i when it’s paint. But if it’s a book of elementary information

you say PRIMmer

Orion – there was confusion when I said ORion instead of ohRYAN
vegan – hard and soft g’s trip me up all the time. 

I thought this was VEJen instead of VEEgan

bade – the past tense of bid is pronounced BAD – forget the silent e
victual – doesn’t it look like VICK-shoe-ol?  Nah, it’s pronounced VITtle
jihad – not that long ago I said JIE-had.  Ouch! 

Everyone else knows it is jih-HAHD

Oopses from Others

xylophone – my son thought this was pronounced ex-CELL-a-PHONE
roughage – one former boss gave this a French twist, saying ROO-ahzj
chihuahua – a friend’s husband said chih-WHO-ah-WHO-ah
synecdoche – William Safire wrote about Jerry Brown (remember him?)

saying SIN-ec-DOACH in an interview. Safire pondered the etiquette of correcting a governor; the correct pronunciation is sih-NEK-duh-KEY

I’ve run out of time to ponder and remember my favorites. 

Help me out, would you?  Correct my corrections, if need be.

What words have you or yours mispronounced?