Bad Colloquialisms of the English Language


A: Referring to a container as a “thing”.
EXAMPLE: I got a thing of cereal. There’s a thing of wine in the fridge. We need to buy a new thing of toothpaste etc

Would it kill you to say box, bottle or tube? How much effort would that take?

B: Vocal “Chords”.
There is no such thing as a vocal “chord”. I know you draw the connection between “chord” as a musical term, and your vocal “cord” as the instrument that produces the music, but your vocal CORDS are exactly that. Cords. Like your spinal cord, or your umbilical cord, or an extension cord.

I have seen well written articles in music publications and respectable news sources where that mistake has escaped the editor.

You do not have vocal “chords”. You have vocal CORDS!

C: “You guys”
Except in the most casual of settings, “you guys” is a totally inappropriate form of address. It is overly casual, and isn’t gender correct.
Among the many ways Sean Spicer rubs me the wrong way, his constant use of “You Guys” makes me want to throw him across the room. You don’t say that to members of the media and press, most of whom have credentials that could buy and sell you.

D: “Binge Watch”
Bingeing is a very unhealthy thing to do, and is a compulsion that indicates serious health problems, both psychological and physical.

It is inappropriate to use it to mean “watch a lot of Netflix”.

Not only is it inaccurate, it makes light of a very serious problem; it downplays the seriousness of the health problems that cause it.

E: “Politically Correct”.
The only people who use the term these days are those who want to sneer at the notion that we don’t get to wantonly insult, disenfranchise or marginalize groups of people.

The actual concept, although verbally cumbersome was well founded: the language you use to describe something says a lot.

Sometimes the terms coined were a bit much, but the intent was noble. You should avoid using language that could be insulting to groups. You might need to change your vocabulary every now and then. What’s wrong with that.

It is time to retire the term “politically correct” because people are abusing it.

However the concept should not only continue, but thrive.


My Mother’s Roses

Today, I am going to tell you the story of mother’s roses.

Not the kind that grew on a bush. Not the kind that had thorns or came in a bouquet.

No, these roses were made of chocolate. They came in a box and were made by Cadbury’s.

They’re hard to find here in the US. You might be able to find them in specialty sweet shops, usually marked up and overpriced.

This is why, when she came back from Belfast from visiting family, she always came with a box of Cadbury’s Roses that she purchased at the Duty Free Store, either at Belfast International Airport or at Heathrow.

They come in a somewhat oblong box; tapered at the bottom. There are different varieties of milk and dark chocolates each shaped like a rose and with a unique filling or flavor.

And my mother would always come back with a box of them. Prior to my sixth birthday, those roses were for her. After that, they were for me. And I am going to tell you why.

The thing you have to understand about our household is that it was not heavy on the sweets or other unhealthy food. My mother is very health conscious, and was very conscientious about keeping high sugar foods, such as chocolate to a very minimal moderation, even for herself.

To that end, when she came into possession with any of these items, be it a Whitman’s sampler, or a box of Cadbury’s Roses, she was not the type to sit down and gorge herself on the whole box. Not in nutritional philosophy and not in general philosophy.

No, that box was to be shared with the family, where it would last a week, at least. After dinner, she would produce the box. Each one of us, including my dad were invited to select a chocolate. Then the box would be returned to it’s place until the next night where the ritual was repeated until al the chocolate was gone.

When I was five or six, my mother went to Belfast, and, as pro forma, returned with her box of Cadbury’s Roses. And as per family ritual, the roses were doled out one at a time. After dinner, she would produce the oddly shaped box, we would each choose a chocolate rose, and she’d return the box to the top of the high dresser in my parent’s bedroom. The highlight of the evening was getting to savor that rose after dinner.

One day, however, my mother discovered that somebody had been at her Cadbury’s Roses.

She flew out of the master bedroom light lightning, brandishing the box.

“Who has been at my roses???” she demanded!

My sister was immediately ruled out as a suspect. My mother knew my sister wouldn’t dare.

My brother was only about two, there was no way he could reach the top of the high dresser.

Which left one and only one possible suspect.

And who do you suppose that was?

“Robert! Have you been at my roses?”

“No!” I answered

“You are telling fibs!” she wagged her left index finger at me!

“No, I’m not!” I insisted

“Yes you are!” she exploded, enraged that her son would tell such an obvious lie.

And then she deployed the ultimate salvo.

“No more roses for you, Robert!”

So now, every night after dinner, my mother would take a rose. My father would take a rose. My sister would take a rose. And even my brother would take a rose.

Was I allowed to take a rose?


“Robert had his roses when he took them without permission!” My mother announced: I being the cautionary tale and the example for my brother, and I guess my sister.

My brother seemed to enjoy my punishment as much as he was enjoying the rose.

Because the roses were divided among four people instead of five, they lasted longer, and extended the number of evenings I went without a rose.

However, a few days later somebody had been at the roses again.

My mother was furious.

“Have you not learned your lesson?” she fumed.

“But I didn’t!” I insisted

“Stop telling fibs!”

Of all the things. To take her roses a second time and deny it a second time! A head was going to roll like a bowling ball, and guess whose head that was going to be?

Until later in the day.

Until she walked into the bedroom and what did she see?

She saw my brother (aged two) with his hand in the box of roses. He had scaled the dresser drawers, and was balancing by his toes on the edge of a drawer, going to town on my mother’s chocolate roses. Just like he had been doing at least those past two times.

Why, the thieving little bastard!

The only problem is that the roses were all gone. Except one.

My mother felt horrible.

My mother felt so bad she gave me the very last one of her Cadbury’s Roses on the spot.

And ever after that, every time she went to Belfast, she brought me back my very own box of Cadbury’s Roses. Now of course, in the tradition of our family, the roses were to be doled out, one by one to every member of the family after dinner. But it was me who was doing the doling. And me who would keep the roses in their place. And me who fixed my brother with the fish eye when it was his turn to select a rose.

My mother did this for years; every time she went to Belfast, I would get a box of Cadbury’s Roses. It became kind of a long standing joke until about ten years ago I said, “You know, Mom, you don’t have to get me roses every time you go to Belfast. You are forgiven. I am absolving you. You are off the hook!”

When Mary and I were married in 2012, we honeymooned in London. After that, we visited family in Northern Ireland. We flew home out of Belfast International, and had very long layover at London Heathrow before our flight back to New York.

The International Terminal at Heathrow has an amazing duty free store. It practically rivals a department store in size. So during our long layover, we went to the duty free store and bought two boxes of Cadbury’s Roses: one for my mother and one for Mary’s mother. We also bought a bottle of Bushmill’s Single Malt whiskey for us.

Shortly after our visit, my parents visited us, and I presented my mother with the roses. She graciously accepted the roses, but also saw the Bushmill’s bottle and observed, “I get the roses and you get the whiskey?”

Sorry, mom.

Order has been restored in the world. My mother gets the roses now again.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. When I come upstate to visit you, I will have Roses for you. Not the kind that grow on a bush. The kind that come in a box.

And I promise the next time I go to Belfast, I’ll bring you back both Cadbury’s Roses AND Bushmills!

A Minnow is a Fish

ROB: Mary caught a fish with her bare hands once.


ROB: Lake Michigan

COLLEAGUE: How big was it?

ROB (holds thumb and finger about an inch apart): About that big.

COLLEAGUE: That’s not a fish! That’s a minnow!

ROB: Still a fish!

COLLEAGUE: Yeah, but the way you were talking, it sounded like Mary wrestled a three foot pike out of the water!

ROB: Better than I could do. And again, still a fish!

COLLEAGUE: What did she do with the minnow?

ROB: Threw it back. What did you think she did with it?

COLLEAGUE: She threw it back? Why?

ROB: I think there was a catch & release rule or something.

Mr. Underwear

Today, I am going to tell you about a character known simply as “Mr. Underwear”

First, I’ll have to give you a little background.

For the first half of 1986, my dad was granted sabbatical from his job as a professor at a community college, and he opted to spent it in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

So three days before Christmas in 1985 when I was ten years old, my family and I pulled up stakes, left our house, car and our cat in the care of long-term house sitters, flew out of Newark Airport to arrive in Belfast on Christmas Eve via London/Heathrow.

We stayed in the house of my widowed maternal grandmother: all five of us plus her, to total six.

By North Belfast standards, the house was on the large end of average. It was not, by any stretch of imagination, “large”, not by Belfast standards, and absolutely not by US standards. It was simply a little larger than the average. It was a typical “terrace house” that you often see in both UK and Irish industrial cities. They were build as a unit perhaps half a block long, and then subdivided into row houses. Each house had a facade and entrance. Most, my grandmother’s house included, were built at the turn of the 19th/20th century.

Most had a small front yard, often simply a decorative garden, and a walled back yard with an entrance to an alley in the back: called an entryway. Because they were walled on four sides, the back yards were usually dark, grey, devoid of any plant life. It was where you kept your coal if you used it, hung your laundry (most houses there didn’t have dryers in 1986) and took your garbage out the back door into the entryway. The kitchen usually not only opened into this little yard, but also the windows of the kitchen looked out into the yard; not that there was usually too much of a view; usually just the masonry walls of the yard and whatever you put out there. Moreover, the entryways themselves were somewhat dark, and Belfast weather was often cloudy, especially in the winter.

So the five of us squeezed into my grandmother’s terrace house on the Shore Road in Belfast. Upstairs, it had three bedrooms. My brother, sister and I slept in the large front master bedroom: My brother and I on a bunk bed, my sister on a twin bed across the room. My parents slept in the smallish middle bedroom. My poor grandmother had given up her nice master bedroom, complete with large window that overlooked the Shore Road and a view of Seaview Hill for my brother, sister and I. She took the rear bedroom: a small dark room, smaller than the average prison cell, with one window that overlooked the dark, masonry alleyway behind the row of terrace houses. The room was also freezing cold and drafty. In retrospect, by rights I always guiltily feel we should have figured out a way to keep my grandmother in her nice, bright master bedroom, but that’s a whole other thing.

So anyway, upstairs: you had the three bedrooms and a bathroom. Downstairs, you had the front parlor, the living room and the kitchen. The only rooms that got any serious light were the parlor and the master bedroom.

Here’s where we lived: We were in the center house with the peaked roof. You can mouse around to get a look at the neighborhood. You can even mouse your way into the alley behind the houses and imagine how dark it would get in a cloudy day in winter!…/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1s3R5-BxPK1Q1r4n…

So we got there, and after a somewhat jetlagged Christmas, where we reunited with different relatives from my mother’s side of the family, I began to explore my new surroundings. I was somewhat limited in where I could go, not only because it was an unfamiliar city and I was ten, but also because in 1986, Belfast was a somewhat volatile place; some areas were downright unsafe. I wasn’t thrilled about the restrictions, in that I had always been what you would call today a “free range kid”.

At home, If I was not in school, and the weather was remotely acceptable, I was expected to be outside, or doing something independently, as long as I was home for meal times, before dark, and not doing anything dangerous or illegal, at least not that my parents would find out about.

I was not happy to be cooped up in my grandmother’s smallish, dark, cold drafty house with all six of us in close proximity. I did not like being limited to a few blocks around the house and only with an escort. I knew the restrictions would lessen as I got acclimated, but I was getting stir-crazy and bored. It also didn’t help that by about 3:45 PM it was totally dark, as is typical in Belfast in December/January.

One of the traditions I was introduced to was “Sunday Dinner”. People in Ireland, both the north and the south are very social, and family usually stayed close by. Sunday dinner, the extended family would get together for dinner. It usually involved ham and potatoes and other items, but that is not a hard and fast rule. Usually it was very early in the evening, sometimes even late afternoon. Remember, in winter, it got dark early.

The Sunday after Christmas was my first Sunday Dinner at my grandmother’s house. In addition to my grandmother and us, also joining us were my aunt and uncle who had not yet had children (married just a couple of years), and my other aunt and uncle who had four children: all girls. Two of them were identical twins, only three years old (Emma and Sarah). One was my age: my cousin Kirstin (Kirstie) and one was a couple of years older: my cousin Claire. That’s a total of……(one, two three…..) FOURTEEN people shoehorned in my grandmother’s terrace house. Not much elbow room.

By the time Sunday Dinner was concluded, it was already pitch black outside. At some point, I ventured upstairs. At the top of the stairs, on the landing was a window. The window offered a view into the back yard of the house next door. It also offered a view right into the kitchen window.

The lights were on in the kitchen, and I reflexively looked into the window. Standing at the counter was a very fat man, wearing nothing but a pair of brightly patterned boxer shorts. I nosily watched him for awhile, just to see what he was doing. Not only was I bored, but I hadn’t yet met any of my neighbors. He was at the counter, busily making himself a large sandwich out of the leftovers of HIS Sunday dinner. It looked like he also had ham.

My cousin Kirstie had just emerged from the living room and I motioned her up the stairs:
“Hey Kirstie! Look at this!”
She came up the stairs, stood at the window and observed for a few seconds, before the pair of us exploded into a fit of laughter. In the meantime, Claire had also emerged from the living room, so we motioned her up the stairs, where she looked out the window, and we had another laugh. My sister was in the bathroom, so eventually, I banged on the door.
“Hey Elaine! Hurry up. I wanna show you something!”
Eventually she emerged from the bathroom, annoyed.
I led her to the window, and once she got a look, started guffawing as well.

So at this point all four of us are gathered around the window, laughing, cackling and watching this man make an enormous sandwich, one that would put Dagwood to shame. Wearing nothing but a pair of boxer shorts that would stop traffic. And completely oblivious to us.

Eventually my grandmother started walking up the stairs, and it took her a second to catch wind of what we were doing. She reached in and yanked the curtain closed.
“Stop it!” she snapped, “That’s not polite”

Which made us laugh harder.

“Not funny!”

The problem was it WAS funny. It was funny the rest of the evening, and kept us laughing.
“I wonder who he is?” My sister wondered
“I know his name!” I said
“What is it?” one of my cousins asked
“Mr. Underwear!” I crowed, dissolving into another fit of laughter along with my cousins.

The next day, as I was granted a little more freedom, I walked out the front door towards the gate. I glanced to over the railing into Mr. Underwear’s front yard, just to see what it looked like. It was a nice, neat little yard: a mosaic of flagstones, a border of well kept flowers, and a neatly painted front gate. I don’t know what I was expecting. Perhaps large pairs of underwear hanging on plant stakes or something.

That evening, I surreptitiously looked down into the kitchen window to see if Mr Underwear was, again, making the huge sandwich in his underwear. The kitchen windows were dark, although I did see the flicker of the TV emanating from the kitty corner living room window, but nothing else. I wondered if he watched TV in his crazy underwear. It was an amusing thought, but not as funny as laughing with my cousins around the window.

The next day, as I headed out to explore my neighborhood some more, Mr. Underwear’s door clicked open, and out came the man himself. He was well dressed, in an overcoat, with a tie and carrying a briefcase. He greeted me pleasantly in his Belfast accent, and turned left towards the bus stop to wait for the downtown bus. I wondered if he was wearing his crazy underwear, or if that was just a Sunday thing.

I didn’t go to church, but the next Sunday, I saw Mr Underwear emerge in his best suit to go to the Presbyterian Church directly across the street. Despite being very heavy, he took a lot of pride in his appearance, as well as his front yard. His tie was knotted perfectly and his suit fit him like a glove. Again, he greeted me pleasantly, and headed off to church.

I pictured the minister, glowering down from his pulpit: “THOU SHALT NOT WEAR CRAZY UNDERWEAR TO CHURCH!!!” I pictured our neighbor blushing and slinking down in his hard, unupholstered, Presbyterian pew. I pictured him singing solemn hymns, and the thought of that coupled with the crazy underwear cracked me up.

That evening, before Sunday Dinner, I reported to my cousins that Mr. Underwear went to the church across the road.
“I bet he wore his crazy underwear to church!” one of my cousins offered.
“That’s gotta be a sin!” I said, not knowing what the Scriptures might have said on the matter.
“Maybe he has special Church Underwear…” my sister speculated.

After dinner, we gathered at the window, to see if Mr. Underwear would appear. We were not disappointed. It was literally a replay of the Sunday before, complete with boxers and sandwich. We had a good laugh, but it wasn’t as funny as the first time. We also had the risk of our grandmother materializing out of the ether (something she was very good at, just like her eldest daughter: my mom) to chide us for being nosy and impolite. We had gotten much comedic mileage from the ridiculous scenarios we concocted around this man, but the joke was running its course and was now close to spent.

While I’m sure that, if we positioned ourselves at the window every Sunday evening we surely would get the same show, after two consecutive weeks, there was no more to the joke. Surely we would chuckle about it every now and then, but the fit of hysterical laughter it sent us into that first Sunday was a one time thing.

I didn’t learn his real name until well into my stay, and it was something very ordinary and forgettable. In this culture, even neighbors addressed each other as Mr. and Mrs. I would see him occasionally, most often in his suit with his briefcase with a newspaper tucked under his arm. He always greeted me pleasantly, he was always very well dressed and very respectable. My grandmother thought highly of him as well, and respectability was very important to her.

I believe he lived alone, but he had a sister who would visit him with two younger boys who attended the prep school for the Belfast Royal Academy; I would occasionally see them in their school uniforms.

And he never learned about the nosy little bastards next door.

The Cup Game on the Subway

Little while ago, I was on the subway. It was late at night, and it was one of the trains with the sidelong bench seats that faced each other on either side of the car.

As I live the stop before the terminus at 207th Street, the further uptown you go, the more the train empties out, especially that late at night.

So, eventually, it’s just me and a handful of other people.

The train turns, and out from under a bench rolls a cup. It was one of those heavy duty plastic ones.

So eventually, as the train moves it starts rolling back and forth in an arcing motion. I am watching it, and depending on he motion of the train, sometimes the arc increases, sometimes it decreases. Sometimes it makes a complete circle.

There was this other guy on the opposite bench, and he is also just sitting there, watching the cup. So the two of us have been watching this cup, arcing and circling for a few minutes.


ROB: OK, here’s the game: Don’t move your feet. Whoever’s feet this cup touches first wins the game.

GUY: OK, you’re on:

ROB: Ready, set, go!

So for the rest of the ride, we’re sitting there, cheering the cup on as it approaches one of our feet, the train lurches at the critical moment and changes the game so the cup rolls close to the other one’s feet, yelling at the cup when it rolls in the wrong way.

I think it came very close to each one of our feet, but I had to get off before the game was concluded.

But it was absolutely fun spending the last few minutes of my ride playing an impromptu game with an absolute stranger.

He With the Droll Manner

ROB: You have a very droll manner about you.


ROB: Yes, droll. Oddly funny in a dry sort of way.

OTHER COLLEAGUE: What about me; Am I droll?

ROB: Yes, actually. You’re very droll.

THIRD COLLEAGUE: I’m droll too, right?

ROB: No… I wouldn’t say you were droll….. you’re more….

THIRD COLLEAGUE: Passive aggressive?

ROB: No, not passive aggressive. Just….

OTHER COLLEAGUE: Just an asshole?

ROB: No, not an asshole. You’re humor is a little more direct.

THIRD COLLEAGUE: You’re saying I’m a clown.

ROB: Nah, clowns creep me out.

THIRD COLLEAGUE: I don’t creep you out?

ROB: Not usually.


Easy There, Jizzy!


ROB: Wow, look how high we are. Great view.

TEMP WITH ACCENT: Yes, it makes me feel jizzy.

ROB: Makes you feel what?

TEMP: Jizzy. When you look at something and it makes you excited.

ROB: Um……..

TEMP: Makes it hard to walk straight if you get too jizzy.

ROB: OK…..

TEMP: Like spinning in circles……


ROB: I think “dizzy” is the word you want. Dizzy. With a “D”.

TEMP: With a “D”?

ROB: Yeah, you must never say “jizzy”. That means something else.

TEMP: What does it mean.

ROB: Um…. google it sometime.


TEMP: Hey, I googled “jizzy”! It means…

ROB: I know what it means. You don’t have to…..

TEMP: Jizzy is a singer. See?

(shows me the google result on his iPhone. Sure enough, there is a metal singer called Jizzy Pearl)

ROB: Who in their right mind would go by “Jizzy”?

TEMP: Maybe he looked down and it made him feel jizzy.

ROB: Dizzy. Dizzy. With a D.

How to Wear a Tuxedo (or How not to Look Goofy in your Prom Photo)

Because prom season is right around the corner, I am going to give a little primer on how to wear a tuxedo

Unfortunately, many of us when we look at our prom photos, we look somewhat dated and goofy because, tuxedo rental places will often go with current trends, rather than the traditional look that is the tuxedo. The style of the traditional tuxedo has not changed in over one hundred twenty years, and there is a reason for that.

To put it simply: A tuxedo was for all the men to have a uniform look so as not detract from the attire our dates and other women wore. It is a simple elegant look, with little room for interpretation. Flamboyancy in men’s formal wear equates to upstaging the woman you are with: an almost unforgivably gauche, base faux pas. In essence: A tuxedo is a uniform, not a costume.

If you are of prom age, there is no reason you cannot look sharp in a tuxedo. There is also no reason that twenty or thirty years down the line for your prom photo to make you cringe.

So here goes:

A: Try to buy, if you can, rather than rent. Rental grade tuxedos are not as good quality as “owner grade”. Rental grade are designed to be repeatedly altered to fit different body types. Moreover, they often follow current trends which will result in a dated look years down the line.
At the end of the day, it is not that much more expensive to buy, and could even be less. Make sure you know your measurements and you can even get one on eBay, that was perhaps worn once. When you get it, take it to a reputable place that does alterations and adjustments so it fits your body like a glove. Do some research for a good quality tux. If you go on eBay, you’ll find a ton of high quality tuxes made by companies such as Armani, Hugo Boss, Ralph Lauren, for a very good price. Most of them have only been worn once or a few times. Some might even be new without tags. You’ll get a deal comparable to renting.
You may not be done growing after your prom, and if you are absolutely positive you will never wear that tux again, you can put it back on eBay (but don’t expect too much for it: remember tuxes are cheap on eBay, even good ones). You can hand it down to your younger brother for HIS prom. You can give it to a younger friend with similar measurements. Since a traditional tux is so timeless, theoretically you could give it to your son for HIS prom!

B: Your tux should be 100% wool. This sounds counterintuitive, especialy during the warmer months that proms are often held. However, tropical weight wool breathes.
Synthetic fabrics do not. A tux that is 100% tropical weight wool will always be cooler than one that is polyester.

C: Almost without exception, your tuxedo should be black. Sometimes a trend will come in where people will wear novelty colors, fruity colored lapels, or variations on the tuxedo colors. Not appropriate.
Remember: A tux is not a costume. Solid black is the only appropriate color for a tuxedo with one notable exception:
Between Memorial Day and Labor Day it is permissible to wear a white or cream tuxedo jacket if the event is outside.
A prom is close enough to Memorial Day that a white or cream jacket could slide by, if the prom is outside. However, you always run the risk of looking goofy. Your prom might be the first time you have ever worn a tux, and this is not a look you want to do without practice. In addition, a white or cream jacket is extremely limited for its future use. Do so at your peril.
I recommend sticking to solid black.

D: There are only four appropriate styles for a tuxedo jacket:
1: Single breasted notch lapel jacket
2: Single breasted peak lapel jacket
3: Single breasted shawl lapel jacket
4: Double breasted peak lapel jacket.

A tailcoat is not a tuxedo and is not proper attire for a prom.

Your safest and most versatile option of the four is a single breasted notch lapel tuxedo.

Ideally, your tux jacket should be unvented. However, the double vent is reluctantly acceptable. The single vent jacket is more akin to a blazer or sport jacket, and is inappropriately informal for a tuxedo.

Rental places might try to sell you weird cuts of tuxedo jackets, capes, crazy coats etc. You might see a celebrity stretching the limit of the tuxedo. Avoid the influence. Stick to the four types of tux jacket.

Remember: A tux is not a costume.

E: Your tuxedo pants should match the jacket perfectly (100% wool, black). Rental places might try to do mix & match with the pants. A tux is a matching set.

The tux pants can be pleated or flat front (flat front provides a cleaner line). They should have a 1 inch black satin stripe down the side of each leg. They should not be cuffed, but be tailored with a 3/4 break.

You never, ever wear a belt with tuxedo pants. Indeed, tuxedo pants should not even have belt loops. Suspenders are an option if they are attached with buttons, not clips. Suspenders should only be black or white.

F: The tuxedo shirt is always white. It will have a bib front (an inverted horseshoe shaped panel) with pleats or piques ( a little uniform texture). It is always 100% cotton, so make sure you get it ironed well, perhaps even starched. The collar is either a traditional lay down collar or a “wing tip” collar.
Instead of buttons, the front is closed with studs and the cuff are closed with cufflinks. This is called a French Cuff.

You can even get away with wearing a traditional white shirt as long as it has French cuffs, as long as it is white and 100% cotton.

G: You have a choice of either a waistcoat (vest) or a cummerbund. Both should be black and 100% silk. The vest can be white, however it is more traditionally black. I prefer the vest in that it gives more freedom of movement, and looks better should you chose to remove your jacket at some point. Make sure your vest is a formal vest. It can either be an open back or a closed back. I prefer the closed back, in that it is an actual vest and looks better if you decide to remove your jacket.
Rental places might try to sell you a vest/cummerbund that matches your tie. This is tacky, unless the entire ensemble is black.

H: While the “pre-tied” bow tie seems to be prevalent these days, you should go for a self-tie bowtie: that is one you tie yourself. It’s the one thing that is going to make you look really sharp, as opposed to a kid at a prom. It takes a little practice; there a number of youtube videos of how to do it online, as well as other online resources. But the result will look great.

While a black bowtie always looks great, there is a tradition to choose a tie that either matches or compliments your date’s attire. Both are acceptable as long as you avoid loud colors or novelty patterns.

While the only correct tie to be worn with a tuxedo is the bow tie, there is a very prevalent trend of wearing a standard straight tie with a tuxedo, even among more traditional sets. It is reluctantly acceptable, as long as the knot is a well executed full Windsor.

I: Your shoes should be plain black lace up dress shoes with very understated soles. 100% leather. Either cap-toe balmorals or plain toe balmorals. Top siders are out of the question, as are loafers. They should be well polished. You can also choose patent leather shoes (aka skirt-lookers), but they have no use outside formal wear, and run dangerously close to looking like a costume.

J: Minimal Jewelry. If you must wear a watch, it should be plain and understated. The reasoning is that for such an event you should not be worrying about the time. To wit: leave your Apple Watch home. You might think a big, heavy Rolex will look cool, but not with a tux!

K: Don’t wear white socks.

L: Avoid novelty items such as top hats, canes, monocles or anything else that turns your tux into a costume. Click this link to see some cringeworthy things to be avoided .

M: Don’t be cute and wear jeans, Chuck Taylors, Timberlands, or any other off the wall fashion statement. I mean you can, if you want; it’s your prom, but you’ll probably look at your prom photo ten years later and think,”What was I thinking?”

Just remember what the purpose of a tux is: to make your date look good. Remember it is a uniform, not a costume. If you wear a tux correctly, you can’t go wrong. You’ll see guys at the prom inappropriately dressed, or wearing a tux incorrectly. That’s their problem. Twenty years up the road, you won’t cringe at your prom photo, but they might at theirs!

Here is another link that backs up what I just said. There are a couple of minor variances, but the gist is the same, just in case you don’t take my word for it!

Surgery: Gentlemen Must Wear a Tie!


Dreamed I was about to undergo surgery, but I was in my regular street clothes, and the anesthesiologist was about to put me under.

But he handed me a couple of pills and told me to take them.

I said, “Wait, arent you going to give me an IV or a mask?”

The anesthesiologist said,”No, they don’t work as well as the pills. It’ll be a little while before the pills start to kick in, so just take a walk. When you start feeling sleepy, come back here and lie down on the table. You’ll pass out and we’ll get to work.”

So I went out for a walk. I didn’t want to stray too far from the hospital, just in case I started feeling sleepy. I didn’t want to pass out in the street, so I walked around a few hours. But I didn’t feel sleepy.

So finally I went back into the hospital, found the anesthesiologist and said,”Doc, I don’t think these pills are working. I am not sleepy at all!”

The anesthesiologist says,”I can give you two more, but I’ll have to take your drivers license. Can’t have you passing out at the wheel!”

So I walked around a few more hours, but didn’t feel sleepy at all. Went back to the hospital and I told the anesthesiologist this. He told me to come back the next day in business attire.

At this point, I was really pissed because I just wanted to get this over with, and it seemed like I was jumping through a lot of hoops that went nowhere, but the next day I came back. I opted for a more casual look.

And when I got there, there were a whole bunch of people in business attire who said I was underdressed. I explained I was just here to have surgery, but they told me that to see the doctor I needed a tie.

Finally I just got fed up, went home and waited for whatever ailed me in the first place to kill me.

The Last Animal I Ever Rode was not a Horse

Today, I am going to tell you the story about the last animal I ever rode.

First off, you have to know I have never, in my life ridden a horse. There is no particular reason: I am certain if presented with an opportunity to ride a horse, I would ride a horse, but it is not on my active bucket list.

I am not a horsey person. I divide animals into two categories: Capable Of Killing You and Not Capable of Killing you, and horses fit squarely into the first category. I know there are people who are all about horses. They read horsey publications. They know all about the breed of horses and famous horses and horsey behavior. They have horse decor in the their homes like horseshoes and things that look like saddles. They read “Black Beauty” and watched “Wild Hearts Can’t be Broken” as a child. Some will show up at the Hampton Classic wearing riding boots, a riding coat, riding pants, a hat and even carrying a little riding crop, without any intention of riding a horse that day. I guess it is some kind of solidarity. My friend from school actually had a barn with three or so horses. His dad raised horses. I tried to give them a wide berth. It’s not that I dislike horses; it’s just that those hooves could give you a powerful kick, and those square teeth could give you one helluva pinch. No, I did not want to hand-feed that horse a carrot. Where there are horses, there are also flies. And sometimes bees. Which I am allergic to. Truth be known, I am wary of any animal larger than a cat.

Now, I have ridden other animals. I have ridden a camel (he was on a leash and led around a compound at the Bronx zoo) I think I was about five.

I rode a pony (doesn’t count as a horse) when I was a little kid, too. He was hooked up to this little round contraption with about six other ponies and made a few circuits.

I have ridden a giant tortoise at an animal preserve in Berkeley, CA when I was a really little kid.

And yes, I rode an elephant at the (ten years defunct) Catskill Game Farm when I was a little kid. They put you on a platform on the elephant’s back and you ride with about five or six other people. I threw up on the elephant.

And then, another elephant, when I was about nine. My family and I were out for pizza. The pizza place was at the end of a strip mall (locally called “Jamesway Plaza”, after the anchor store), where they often set up suspicious looking carnivals in the parking lot, with sketchy characters operating rickety rides at inappropriately inflated prices. When we were kids and asked to go on the rides, the answer was always a non-negotiable no. In retrospect: Rightfully so. What kind of parent would put their kid’s life in danger and pay money to do it?
In fact, back when Six Flags Great Escape in Lake George was called “Storytown”, my dad used to call these outfits “Rip Off Town”, and then sing:
🎶 Rip-off town, Rip-off town, the fun’s not really at Rip-off town….! 🎶” to the tune of the Storytown commercial.

But anyway, while we were having pizza, I looked out the window of the pizza place and saw an elephant in the parking lot. No carnival set up or anything else. Just an elephant.

I said,”Hey, an elephant!”

My mother thought I was pulling her chain, but outside, some entity or another had set up this makeshift arena in the parking lot and was offering elephant rides. There was this big, ten foot elephant, clomping around the arena (which really was just highway cones and ropes), with a big flat platform on its back where there were about six people sitting. And nothing else. No carnival, not even an animal truck or trailer.

Just this one-man show with an elephant being led around the parking lot of Jamesway Plaza in this ad-hoc enclosure.

So after pizza, we were able to convince my parents to let us ride the elephant. So with three other people, my brother, sister and I got on the flat platform on the elephant’s back and rode the elephant around about four circuits of the roped area. It was surprisingly underwhelming.

And you know what? I started feeling guilty. Here you have this huge, intelligent creature, ten feet high, being led around the parking lot of a shitty strip mall so people could ride his back, five or six at a time. Being taken from one town to another like a freak show, by a seemingly unregulated one-man outfit. In Upstate New York, which is about as close to an elephant’s natural habitat as the moon. In retrospect, I wonder how that was legal, or if it WAS even legal. The elephant was gone the next day, onto the next town. I wonder how they got him there.

I’ve always had a soft spot for elephants even if they are very easily in the “Capable of Killing You” category. I know that any large animal with four legs that can be trained is often used as a beast of burden somewhere in the world (you can’t train a zebra). But you know: I am not a fan of elephant’s even being in zoos or circuses. They’re not here for our amusement.

Human beings are a notoriously ungrateful and self entitled species, and an intelligent animal such as an elephant should not be used as an object for our amusement. They should be allowed to live autonomous lives in their natural habitat, free from the threat of large game hunters and poachers. Elephants, to me, are hands-off animals.

Truth be known, I am not a big fan of zoos and not a fan at all of circuses. I thought it was long overdue when Barnum and Bailey decided to close up shop. I don’t like animal exploitation, and clowns freak me out.

I am conflicted about zoos. I tolerate some of them as a necessary evil: to protect an endangered species, and to provide education about them for the rest of us. And I am only slightly comfortable with the ones that have made a significant effort to replicate the animal’s natural habitat.

That elephant I rode more than thirty two years ago was the last animal I rode. I don’t know if elephant rides are even a thing now for kids, in this litigious world. I seriously doubt you could just set up shop in a parking lot with an elephant and start selling rides without the some kind of agency swooping in and putting the kabosh on it. And imagine the protestors.

Now if given the opportunity to ride a horse, I probably would. But it would have to be the slowest, least imaginative, most compliant horse in the herd. A horse that would just let me ride him without putting up a fuss. I wouldn’t want one of those Hampton Classic horses that can jump hurdles. A horse that can jump hurdles is a horse that can buck me off and stomp me with his hoof. There is no denying a horse is capable of killing you, but I wouldn’t want to ride a horse that knows that.

But if there is a horse that fits that low bar, yeah, I might ride him. If given the time and opportunity.