Beyond PR

Nov 26, 2012

Grammar Hammer: The Effects of Tryptophan & How They Affect Your Thanksgiving Holiday

The devastating effects of too much turkey, and too many trimmings.

Were you out shopping on Black Friday, trying to score the ultimate Black Friday deal?  Fighting the crowds of [insert preferred big-box store here] for the football field-sized TV for $17?  Or were you like me, recovering from the effects of the Thanksgiving Dinner you gobbled down on Thursday?

If you’re like me, and justifying to your family that the reason your caboose is fused to the sofa is because of all the tryptophan in the turkey, you are in good company.  But, is the sleep-inducing effect of tryptophan really to blame for your sluggishness? You are most likely being affected by the combination of the turkey and all those delicious carb-heavy goodies that come with it – the cornbread dressing (an absolute MUST in my house – homemade, of course), the mashed potatoes, the rice, the rolls, and the green bean casserole.

Turkey contains no more tryptophan than any other type of poultry. It’s when you add the high-carb side dishes that the body’s serotonin producers kick into overdrive.  The effect (effect, with an “e” – effect means something brought about by a cause or agent; a result) is the overwhelming urge to conk out while your family discusses the issues du jour. Tryptophan needs those infamous mashed potatoes your aunt makes to affect serotonin levels (affect, with an “a” – affect means to have an influence on or cause a change in).

So, remember, use “effect” when you are trying to describe a result – “The effect of the 2,000 calories I consumed in one meal resulted in me sleeping through the entire movie.”

Use “affect” to describe a facial expression – “At Thanksgiving dinner, I announced to my family that I was going to join the circus.  My parents reacted to my decision with little affect.”

Also use “affect” as a verb – “The amount of wine served will affect how quickly I decide to sing the Adam Sandler Thanksgiving Song at the top of my lungs.”

I wish all of my fellow grammarians a very happy holiday season. May your plates and bellies be full, and may there always be a great place to take a tryptophan-induced nap.

(Photo courtesy of my friends, Bill and Leslie Hart-Davidson – this is their dog, Spencer, a retired greyhound they rescued from a track in Florida.)

(Have a grammar rule you’d like me to explore? Drop me a line at

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