This column is the result of a bet; kind of like stand-up improv for writers except that I’m sitting. The topic I was challenged with was Dust and Grammar.
Where does dust come from? That is one of the great mysteries of life. Just like the great mystery of how to end that sentence without a preposition without sounding pretentious. If I had written – “From whence doth dust cometh?” you would have read no further.
Anyway back to the matter at hand – dust… and from where it hails. Not hails as in frozen precipitation, but originates, as in comes from.
Dust seems to be everywhere, like the many rules of grammar and vocabulary. There doesn’t seem to be a starting point for either, but once they appeared, they attracted more of the same. That is how dust bunnies and dangling participles came to be.
Like nearly every household chore I do, once I have cleaned the dust off my mantle, there is more the next day – in the exact same spot. (“Exact same” is redundant and therefore is called a pleonasm.) However, unlike fingerprints on my sliding glass door and Cheese Nip crumbs on the kitchen floor, there is no real reason for the dust to be there. I know where the crumbs and fingerprints came from: The little ankle-biters who live in my house. But dust? Who knows?
Nobody came home with a wheel barrow full of dust and distributed it evenly on every horizontal surface in my house. So where did it come from? Or From whither doth it cometh?
Is dusting merely a 20th and 21st century chore? Did women actually dust their mantles when they had dirt floors and outhouses? When people had to make their own clothes and churn cream for an hour to make a pound of butter, was dust on the mantle considered slovenly? Or maybe they didn’t have dust back in those days. Though with dirt floors, how could you avoid it?
One nice thing about dirt floors is that if you spilled Kool-aid on it, the dirt floor would simply soak it up. No mopping! Self-cleaning floors, except that they are made of, um… dirt… which clearly is not clean. I know, I know, there was no Kool-aid when we had dirt floors. Focus!
I believe that dust bunnies are the direct result of… not having a maid. They collect in place you can’t get to… or places in which one cannot get… reach. They collect places in which you cannot reach. Grammar is a pain in the neck. So are dust bunnies. They conjure guilt in the most diligent of cleaners, because they are found under the bed, under the sofa, and under the refrigerator. Places that, with any luck, you only have to see once a year, when you’ve lost something valuable.
Nobody moves the bed, the sofa, or the refrigerator every time they clean, so dust bunnies set up colonies under there. They know they are safe until somebody loses an earring or it’s time to paint the living room. I would go so far as to say that dust bunnies are kleptomaniacs. How many times have you found missing items wallowing around with the dust bunnies?... I’m just sayin’.
“Sayin’” is slang and as such is allowed to be written that way, though not as a general grammatical rule. If we could write the same way we speak, writing wouldn’t be so difficult.
If I knew where the dust factory was, I could simply raise the rent, evict them when they didn’t pay, and raze it to make a parking lot. But it’s probably under the refrigerator. In which case, like the rules for grammar, dust bunnies will be around for a long, long, time.