Descriptive vs. TMI: One Man’s Analysis

I have not felt well today, and neither has my family. We’ve all fallen prey to a rather nasty little virus that seems to have no discernible symptoms other than a rampant nausea and what sounds and feels like a sackful of rabid honey badgers wrestling in your stomach.

In fact, I posted that very sentiment on Facebook today:

Obviously, I made a mistake from the outset by not mentioning that the badgers in question were honey badgers. My bad.

But what fascinated me was the response it generated. One of my co-workers asked how I was feeling, and then said this: “I love reading the way you describe things. It’s always interesting without being TMI.”

Contrast that with a friend of mine who saw me later and said, “Raging bag of angry badgers, huh? Does that mean poop or vomit?”

And thus I began to wonder where the fine line between description and TMI lies.

Being Southern, I’m inclined to descriptive little phrases that communicate clearly not only my answer, but the feeling behind my answer. An example would be my father’s favorite phrase for an affirmative response. If my dad feels emphatically about something, rather than saying a simple “yes”, he’ll respond:

“Does a cat got a climbin’ gear?”

Which is a delicious and descriptive phrase. If you wish to get a tad more forceful (and vulgar) you could substitute in “Does a duck fart underwater?” or the immortal “Does a fat baby poot?” Why so many Southern euphemisms seem to involve the gastrointestinal system is beyond me, but these little phrases certainly convey the appropriate imagery for making the point.

So it is that I have come to use phrases like this in almost all situations where comparison or contrast are involved, or, as in today’s Facebook post, in cases where a simple answer doesn’t accurately deliver the whole message.

You can imagine how it would feel to have a sackful of these rumbling around in your belly...

Now, part of my using these descriptions is to elicit a humorous response. Let’s face it – nothing feels so good as writing or saying something that another person finds humorous. The ability to turn a phrase just right and get that giggle, guffaw or the highly valued snort is quite pleasing. Plus, it makes the misery of the moment a little lighter to bear; misery may love company, but only if the company can laugh at its jokes.

Occasionally I go too far with my metaphors (or similes) and draw the opposite reaction: instead of a laugh I get the face – the one people make as if you just committed a bodily indiscretion on their new rug. This is the opposite of pleasing, and it is the single biggest sign that you have crossed over from being descriptive into being disgusting. It’s TMI – too much information. And it’s not funny.


Sometimes, TMI can become exaggeration and then you achieve the rare double-whammy: you go from funny to disgusting back to funny again. It takes some real doing; usually you have to think of a funny retort to the initial reaction of disgust, then continue to build on the humor with one comment after another. It’s as if you’ve been dropped into a hole, and the only way out is to dig it deeper, piling the dirt up inside the hole until you finally have a large enough mound to scale, thus escaping safely from said hole.

It’s kinda hard to do.

I have no idea where else to go with this, as I’ve made my point thirteen times over and haven’t typed anything genuinely funny or informative. And the stomach honey badgers are really scraping their claws against my innards. It’s time for me to call it a night.

Hopefully my intestinal friends will call it a night soon too.