Ticking Tine Balm


It’s the stuffing inside your mattress. Each individual spine of your fork. And I use it on my lips to keep them supple.

The words of being a female. The work of being a female. It’s only apparent when I start talking to my male friends.  Way back before Jane Austen’s favorite time, we learned about the intricacies of being a woman.  The ability to play a harpsichord, for example, or to cross-stitch or ride side-saddle were considered priorities of a young girl’s education. The ability to entertain and be gracious were the successful criteria of our upbringing and guaranteed us (well, let’s say us…but really I mean ‘them’) marrying qualities.

Though the times have changed, the intricacies remain.

There’s a name for everything.  Sometimes, there is more than one name for a thing.  And sometimes a different word is simply a more-extreme or less-extreme or nuance of a thing.  Like a tree of life for words. Words begat words begat even more descriptors.

Similar to a science that wants to name every genus, species and eventual mutation and in which new discoveries are made regularly, I theorize that this field was pioneered by woman.  Ask almost any man, presumably the creator and master of the English language, and he’ll have no idea what a tine is. or a tassel. or a peter pan collar, a mule or wedge or stiletto (well…maybe a stiletto).  Tell him to buy a matelasse and you may end up with god knows what. Why?  Because there are countless ways to identify such a specific thing.  A niche of a thing.

It’s not just fashion that has exploded into multiple, specific words.

In the case of the matelasse, chicken cordon bleu, tapas, crudités, pommes frites and more, we’ve decided to incorporate other languages as better representatives of the nuances we want to project.  We don’t want cut-up raw vegetables on our plates! how boring!  How classless!  She prefers to eat crudités.  That sounds tasty!  (For awhile, I never ordered it because I didn’t know what it was…when I found out, I didn’t order it because it’s STILL BORING!)tines

Words have exploded outward like a descriptive bomb.  Being able to hone in on the exact word you need may seem like a positive thing – unless no one else knows the word you’re using.  And the matelasse is inevitably reduced to a quilt.  The tine is brought back down to earth as a fork.  And my balm is just good old petroleum jelly, ala Vaseline.

Today, duvet needed an explanation, so I undressed it to be a comforter cover.  My friend asked, “why does a comforter need a cover? Why can’t a comforter just be a comforter?” Purnell, that’s a good question.

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