NTMP #46: Forget it, Gary. It's Vanillatown.
No thanks for the mems
New-to-me Phrases, December 25, 2022
The Phrases, With Context
This week I found so many phrases I couldn’t add them all. I call that a good week. In this edition, we have a farewell to a beloved big cat, rando fluids, beaten eggs, and big tide energy.
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Let’s get to it:
1. Ghost cats
I thought it would be fun to open with a real bummer of a story about the euthanization of L.A.’s celebrity mountain lion, P-22. Not really, but ghost cat is a great phrase, and the article is a great read.
Ghost cat is a nickname for cougars, mountain lions, panthers, and pumas (all of which, I learned while researching this phrase, are the same animal).
2. Beef Boss
This is the name of a Fortnite skin that’s like Mayor McCheese but for gamers.
3. Core mems
Here’s what I wrote in the Google doc where I keep these phrases: “What fresh freaking bullshit hell is this?”
Sara Petersen shared this phrase in her excellent newsletter,, which analyzes ‘momfluencer’ culture.
In a recurring segment called WEEKLY WTF, Petersen shares a video posted to Facebook where a mom paints her front door green for the holidays, with the caption “Hopefully I’m making some core mems for my kids.”
“Core mems” is short for “core memories,” which—hang on, I need a sec:
I’m not trying to drag a random mom, and nor is Petersen. It’s more about the cultural expectations around moms commodifing their lives online and creating performative ::euuughhh:: core ::blurp:: mems. ::gag::
If decorating for the holidays brings you joy, go forth and decorate! I myself love swathing as many things as possible in fairy lights, festooning mantles in greenery, and indulging my love for whimsical reindeer and bunnies.
But the commodification of “holiday cheer” by several sectors of the mamasphere feels like a different thing. Painting (and, I guess, repainting) one’s front door to coordinate with particular holidays doesn’t necessarily seem critical to creating lasting memories for one’s family, nor should the creation of core mems be the sole provenance of The Mom.
My hag friend Kathleen came up with this phrase to describe my local UPS Store. Here’s the backstory: While mailing holiday packages this week, a gentleman of the Boomer persuasion was . . . sort of hanging out in my local UPS store. Let’s call him Gary because I feel like that’s a quintessential name for that generation. (This links to one of my favorite data visualization tools - enter a name and watch the graph go bananas!)
I assumed Gary was waiting for staff to finish something up for him, until he loudly asked the people waiting in line if any of us liked to bake. Everyone said no except one idiot (me).
In response, he reached into his quilted flannel shirt and proudly held up a dark brown bottle labeled ‘VANNILA’. He offered it to me, saying, “Well you’re in luck, because I make my own vanilla extract and I’m giving it away for the holidays.”
I said wasn’t in the habit of taking bottles of mystery liquid from strangers. Gary uttered The Boomers’ Lament that “times sure have changed,” to which I said I couldn’t imagine a time when women readily accepted bottles of unknown origin from randos. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ #imfunatparties
Besides, I still have a barrel of vanilla we got from Costco to get through.
5. Egg Gang
I wasn’t aware of this because I don’t follow much celeb social news, but I guess a photo of an egg received the most likes on Instagram, with the stated goal of overtaking a pic of Kylie Jenner’s birth announcement. (I am so glad to barely know who Kylie Jenner is, you have no idea.)
Egg Gang is the name used by IG account world_record_egg and I’m into it.
This week, the egg pic lost to a pic of soccer great Lionel Messi holding the World Cup trophy, which made for a truly epic headline:
Lionel Messi beats an egg on Instagram
6. Tully McLelly
The feminine version of “Tony” doesn’t compute for many people, so for much of my life I’ve been called by the wrong name—Tina, Tori, Teri, etc. This week at the Starbucks drive-thru, I heard a new one.
When I said “Pick-up order for Toni,” they repeated back, “Pick-up order for Tully?”
I told my hag friend group I’m changing my name, and because “Tully McLellan” was hard to pronounce, I shortened it to Tully McLelly. Please address me thusly henceforth.
7. Walmart Brendan Fraser
My daughter (who does not read this newsletter) joined my husband and me for Cheesy Holiday Movie Bingo last night. This is how she described an actor in one of the movies who looked a lot like Brendan Fraser.
Speaking of the actual Brendan Fraser, if you haven’t yet, read Roxane Gay’s op-ed on the baldly cruel fatphobia portrayed in his latest film The Whale, give it a read—NYT gifted link for non-subscribers. She throws no shade on Fraser, who is awesome, but she takes the film’s creators to task for their apparent lack of empathy for fat people. It’ll still win myriad awards because that’s the world we inhabit but I’m glad she wrote this response.
8. King tides
My friend Mel mentioned this phenomenon was happening in San Diego, where she lives. Being an uncultured rube from the Midwest, I’d never heard of it, but king tides are the highest tides of the year. Even though I know there’s science behind it, knowing when tides will be high or low feels like magic to me and I think it’s really cool.
That’s it for this week! If you celebrate, Merry Christmas and if you don’t, happy Sunday. Remember to stay curious and remain furious, and don’t forget to
Last but not least, look for the first-annual New-to-me Phrase of the Year poll next week!