That "irresistible impulse"


There's never room in the magazine for all the amusing Word Fugitives suggestions people send me. Well, hooray for the Internet, where I can post other responses that made my cut. The request to which readers responded in the December issue was this: 

Eileen Flug, of Westport, Conn., writes, "I'm looking for a word for the seemingly universal, irresistible impulse, when faced with a dishwasher that someone else has loaded, to rearrange the dishes."

After the jump, some respondents and responses I especially liked. If you sent me the same coinage as one of these people, apologies that you're not credited by name. I went with either the first person to make a given suggestion or the one I thought explained it best.

Natasha Cayer, of Paris: Eileen Flug has aptly described the universal Law of Dishplacement!

eric denton, of reno, nv: For Eileen Flug's ocd-based request, the proper term is: China Syndrome.  This also suggests the deep-seated, festering resentment felt by the syndrome's sufferer because of the prior dish arranger's incompetence and laziness.  These barely contained feelings constantly threaten to explode and contaminate the undoubtedly dodgy relationship between the one afflicted by the syndrome and the morally twisted, emotionally misshapen tormentor.  This may be the worst form of toxic relationship. In fact, this seemingly innocent request by Ms. Flug is a sign of her own tenuous attachment to rational behavior.  By her participation in this dangerous game of ever-escalating, co-dependent, retaliatory mind-torture, she evinces her own calculating, craven, passive-aggressive behavior.  She both displays and ask for our condemnation of her tormentor's actions all the while inviting further insults. Is a family publication the correct forum for such a sordid revelation?


Michael M. Mirbaba, of Paris: As a MD-PhD student at Harvard Medical School specializing in psychiatry and psychoanalysis, I would say Eileen Flug's impulsive condition would most suitably be called "reloaderosa nervosa."


Greg Powell, of Frederick, MD: I already submitted "redishtribute" as my word fugitive, but I'd like to amend it a little. I "reglassify" the top rack and "redishtribute" the bottom rack.


Jane C Cook: Despite the labor of my helpful guests, I knew once they left I would have a "rack attack"


Bruce Ashton: of Santa Monica, CA: When it comes to my wife or daughter loading the dishwasher, I have a real sense of dish-trust.  I cannot imagine the dish-habille that causes them to place the items in the machine so haphazardly.  It's what I call pan-demonium.  Seeing their handy-work, I get a feeling of dish-temper.


Doyt Conn, Jr., of Los Angeles: cupulsive


Matt Thornton, of Warner Robins, GA: My entry to answer Eileen Flug's call for a word describing the need to re-arrange dishes in a dishwasher someone else loaded is "dish jockeying."


Jeff Bryson, of San Diego: I was delighted to see that this was a common enough experience to merit a fugitive search.  I had thought that it was my own particular, and secret, obsession.  I cannot convince my wife that my methods for inserting large bowls is better than hers, and don't even get me started on how to put cutlery into the basket! My nomination for this impulse is: recondishioning.


Joseph Kaminski, of Stamford, Ct: In response to Eileen Flug's query I submit the following:  When faced with a dishwasher loaded by another, one becomes "dishoriented" and finds relief only by taking the "last re-sort."


Bill Finch, of Glendale, Az: After loading the dishwasher tonight and watching my girlfriend rearrange the load with such dexterity, I had to be impressed with her "prestidishitation."


Patrick Williams, of Brooklyn, NY: Often when I open the dishwasher to put away the clean dishes, I find that my wife has engaged in some shady redishtricting.


David Phillips, of Madison WI: ANTIDISHESTABLISHMENTUNITARIANISM - The almost religious fervor felt to rearrange dishes in anothers'dishwasher.


John Conwell, of Cherry Hill, NJ: My wife does this to me all the time.  In vain after our meals I have tried to support her, especially when she has served dinner to a large number of family members. I clear the table, scrape the dishes and stack them neatly in the dishwasher only to find later that she has surreptitiously dishassembled my work.   


Bernadine Kline, of Liberty, MO: I was reading the fugitives page aloud to my husband as we were driving to St. Louis, Mo for the weekend when I sheepishly admitted to the love of my life that I am guilty of that very thing. He was surprised that after nearly 40 years of marriage he was unaware that I had been doing so. (He thought his arrangemnt of the dishes in the dishwasher was perfect!) We had a good laugh and came up with a word you might think worthy of your column. Our word: Redishstribute.


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Visit Barbara Wallraff’s blog, at barbarawallraff, to see more commentary on language and to submit Word Fugitive queries and words that meet David K. Prince’s need. Readers whose queries are published and those who take top honors will receive an autographed copy of Wallraff’s most recent book, Word Fugitives. More

Barbara WallraffBarbara Wallraff, a contributing editor and columnist for The Atlantic, has worked for the magazine for 25 years. She is also a weekly syndicated newspaper columnist for King Features and the author of Word Fugitives (2006), Your Own Words (2004), and the national best-seller Word Court (2000). Her writing about language has appeared in The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, The Wilson Quarterly, The American Scholar, and The New York Times Magazine.

Wallraff has been an invited speaker at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, the National Writers Workshop, the Nieman Foundation, Columbia Journalism School, the British Institute Library of Florence, and national or international conventions of the American Copy Editors Society, the Council of Science Editors, the International Education of Students organization, and the Journalism Education Association. She has been interviewed about language on the Nightly News With Tom Brokaw and dozens of radio programs including Fresh Air, The Diane Rehm Show, and All Things Considered. National Public Radio's Morning Edition once commissioned her to copy edit the U.S. Constitution. She is a member of the American Heritage Dictionary Usage Panel. The Genus V edition of the game Trivial Pursuit contains a question about Wallraff and her Word Court column.

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