LORI OSIECKI ILLUSTRATION
My mother-in-law Ms. Larda says her church bulletin is getting spicy. The St. Expedite Altar Society sisterhood is very upset.
Bernetta Longtooth wrote the church bulletin for 40 years, but she can’t do it no more. She got herself a tell-all book contract and got no time for the church activities these days—that’s a whole other story. Thing is, Ms. Bernetta knew her grammar and spelling and didn’t abbreviate nothing that shouldn’t have been abbreviated.
And now they got a little high schooler doing it forcommunity service points. She puts all the headlines in capital letters, and she abbreviates everything. For instance, instead of ST. EXPEDITE, she writes S.EX. So you read stuff like “S.EX CONFESSIONS SAT 6 PM” and “R U READY TO JOIN S.EX CHOIR?”
Of course there’s a period after the ‘S,’ but still. It’s what you call suggestive. The parishioners are snickering.
I got to explain.
This high schooler is a sweet little thing named Akari from Japan. English is her second language, and she is very good at it—if you call Yat-speak English, because that’s what she has learned around here. Poor baby. Her ambition is to be a translator for the U.N. I can just hear that. “The prime ministuh of Jawdon says…”
Also, she don’t pick up on English double meanings yet.
Ms. Larda tells me all about this on our way to a post-holidays Weight Watchers meeting. It’s going to be a long king cake season this year— all the way into March — by which point our stretch pants will explode if we don’t do something.
Well, we get to this meeting, and come to find out, it’s not Weight Watchers no more. It’s WW now.
Ms. Larda storms out. Enough is enough with the abbreviations. She has had it. Now, Ms. Larda was a spelling bee champion back in her day, and she’s still proud of that. She don’t understand for the life of her why people don’t just use words, instead of putting down initials and making you guess what they are trying to say.
I am pretty sure the answer to that is Twitter, but that would take too long to explain.
We drive past an IHOP and even that bothers her. “It should be International House of Pancakes,” she grumbles. “They call Burger King “B K” now,” I tell her.
I shouldn’t have said that. She makes me pull over at a Waffle House—“That’s Waffle House, not WH!” — and scarfs down all her WW points for the month. I guess she feels better.
That night, she calls me up, and says that, as president of the altar society sisterhood, she had a little talk with Akari. She explained how most people in the congregation are old and would rather read actual words than abbreviations. And if Akari HAS to abbreviate the word “Saint,” she should write ST., not just S. And she should always write out EXPEDITE, because S.EX sort of has a double meaning. Akari said sometimes it is hard to fit so many capital letters into so little space, but she would be careful from now on.
Ms. Larda also said it would be nice to have a little write-up about how proud she was of the ladies in the altar society sisterhood who took Christmas baskets to the needy, but Akari should be careful not to write the S.EX SISTERHOOD, because you could see that would be embarrassing. Akari said she got that.
And come Sunday morning, I get a text from Ms. Larda— a picture of the St. Expedite bulletin, with the headline: “LARDA GUNCH PROUD OF GENEROUS ASS”
To be fair, Ms. Larda didn’t say not to abbreviate Altar Society Sisterhood.
I am afraid to call her for a few days, but finally I do. “I’m okay,” she says. “I prayed; I said the rosary; and I put it into perspective. Stuff happens. But it’s just here in this parish. It’s not like it’s a national headline or nothing. I’m at peace with it.”
Thank God she don’t know it went viral on Twitter.