Have Yourself a Merry Little Snake-Oil

by Paula Johanson

I drew my brother-in-law Leonard's name for the Silly Christmas Gifts Party my in-laws are hosting this weekend. I never know what to say to Leonard. He's a lawyer who likes hockey, he already has an iron bar for passing the bar, and he has all the hockey stuff he wants, including season tickets. What to give him? So I wrapped a chocolate box in a home-made snake-oil pamphlet saying:
New AMAZING Substance! Mm-Hmm!
Four out of five speech therapists surveyed agree: "A must- have for everyone who uses speech at work, at home and at play!"
During your busy days, or in the comfort of your home, do you find yourself talking or writing? Many people do. But it's hard to admit it when you have the heartbreak of finding yourself ...at a loss for words.
"It was awful, I guess," says one victim of aglossia after his experience. "Like, I just stood there, eh? And she goes, 'So?' And like, I said nothing, eh?"
Who among us hasn't known aglossia, the loss of speech, to happen? We'd all like to be witty, charming, and Johnny-on-the- spot with marvellously appropriate comments at every turn in the conversations so essential to a word-filled world. But at one time or another we've all been put on the spot like this during a crucial conversation, groped for words and come up speechless.
".... !! ... " agrees another victim, nodding and gesturing aimlesslyas her eyes take on the glassy stare of a deer on the road, caught in your high-beams at night.
Or worse yet, if you force words out at moments like that, you may find yourself saying something truly dreadful. You will have to eat your own words and even so, may never recover from the public disgrace. Some poor souls are reduced to the horrors of hoof-in-mouth disease, to which none of us are immune.
BUT -- never fear. There is a new product on the market now, to relieve your stress and anxiety at those dreadful moments when you have nothing to say. Mm-Hmm has no moving parts, no active ingredients and a completely spurious effect upon anyone caught at a loss for words. And it's available without prescriptions. You might ask, how can something so simple work for me?
Mm-Hmm is easy to use. The next time you are talking with someone and find yourself not knowing what to say next, simply apply Mm-Hmm to your tongue and hold it there. The tasty experience will relieve your distress. And naturally, no one could be expected to speak around so large a confection.
This marvellous remedy is made of durable ingredients, providing a natural solution to your immediate problem; a single Mm-Hmm should last long enough for people around you to fill the silence with comments of their own. You will not need to do more than listen attentively. By the time you have consumed the Mm-Hmm you will either know what you wish to say, or the conversation will be at an end. Perhaps the immediate vicinity will be struck by a large, flaming meteor. At any rate you will be off the hook. Mm-Hmm has a second use, for extreme situations only. When someone else is talking, you may offer them one. There are no guaranteed results, but you can take your chances.
Enjoy freedom from word-related stress today!

Gee, I hope he likes chocolates. But I don't know how to ask him. I never know what to say

Originally published by Under the Ozone Hole Number Eleven – June, 1995

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