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In A Manner Of Speaking

words & photography by Natalie Masli



“I wrote a song about dental floss but did anyone's teeth get cleaner?” 

― Frank Zappa


With the New Year upon us, it's time for us to hustle up a few of those pocketed 'for New Year’s resolutions' - avoiding reusing the ones that were made last year (those that we were unable to adhere to) and the ones that are as drearily generic as “becoming a better person”. Of course, that is not to say that we would not all love to be better people, make the world a better place - and all things rainbows and unicorns - but things like that do not happen overnight. Where do we start with these deceptively unattainable goals anyway?

When we are faced with seemingly Sisyphean tasks like sticking to resolutions, it is best to start small. Say, as small as one’s mouth - something of much importance yet often overlooked. At the risk of sounding like one’s ever-scolding grandma, it must be said that good manners and common courtesy are dying races in modern day society. And these two endangered values come hand in hand with personal hygiene. That is, no respectable individual would turn up to work, a job interview, a date, or a meeting with the parents (and heaven forbid, the parent-in-laws) with morning breath! Perish any ideas of engaging in intelligible conversation with the intelligentsia if one has not at least brushed one’s teeth.

The first step to being a respectable person is to respect ourselves and our health. Foul breath can be just as offensive as any obscenity that we may fire from our mouths. While being able to swear like a sailor may be “respectable” in some circles, polluting the air with one’s noxious fumes is never acceptable, in any form of society. And if one’s aim is to be a worldlier, cultured person this coming year, one must first exterminate the cultures of malodorous microorganisms growing in one’s mouth.

As eating chilli, washing our mouths with soap and swear jars were effective, if a bit out-dated, deterrents for foul language in our childhood, so are tooth-brushing, flossing and gargling effective deterrents for offensive breaths. Although our parents may have raised us to be upstanding and hygienic citizens, it is understandable that sometimes we can get lazy with the good habits and fall in with the bad, especially when we are increasingly pressed for time as we get older and busier. However, one should keep in mind that nothing screams classless like bad breath, other than a Marxist utopia of people with halitosis.

So we may feel exasperated by our dentists for never ceasing to remind us of our tedious obligations to thoroughly brush our teeth twice a day, and going on and on about flossing and gargling as sure fire ways to kill all the evil germs inhabiting the dark crevices of our mouths. Nevertheless, one should definitely practice what the pedant preaches because no one wants to be smelled before one can even say anything intelligible, and all that carefully crafted eloquence may all be for nought.


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