Do I seem to be in a daze? It's because I have a cold.

Do I seem to be in a daze? It's because I have a cold.

Most colds can be divided into two categories, like "Joy of Cooking" describes Thanksgiving dressing: wet and dry. Wet colds involve runny noses, explosive sneezes and burbly snoring by night. Dry colds mean painful, hacking coughs that scrape the throat raw and sear the lungs while leaving the nose more or less out of it.

My cold is a third kind. It began with a sore throat that suggested a hard rubber ball had been snugly inserted under my soft palate. (I picture this as a minor outpatient procedure.) When the ball went away, it took with it most of my speaking ability, leaving me with a voice audible only when I speak in the extreme lower registers, like James Earl Jones, only deeper. Talking in my regular voice produces nothing but a whisper, which grows to a squeak when I try to shout.

This was entertaining for a while, but after that the desire to communicate overrode the fun of sounding like a desperate cartoon animal.

The effort required to drop my voice into the sub-basement in order to make even random comments such as, "Look at that funny dog" or, "The car is on fire," no doubt is one reason why I've pretty much stopped talking.

It's not the only reason, though. Other colds are wet or dry, and this cold is fluffy, as in, "My head is full of gray stuff like soft packing peanuts that muffle everything else in there." If my brain was being shipped to Sweetwater, Wyo., for a vacation, it would be good to go, but for staying here and coming up with answers to simple questions, such as what's for dinner and how bad is it if we eat salad greens that would have been best if enjoyed by last Tuesday, it's struggling.

Of course, my brain often struggles over the tiny challenges of life in the 21st century. For instance, I just came across yet another news item about the bickering among electronic media over which of them broke the story about the shooting of Osama bin Ladin.

In a recent Salon story, someone named Felix Salmon of Reuters wrote, " É at 10:34 p.m., when Cooper still thought that Osama had been captured, Stelter had already retweeted Urbahn; had then tweeted that 'the whispers about bin Laden are getting louder in Washington circles;' and had then come out with a pretty definitive third tweet É"

Never mind who Cooper and Stelter and Urbahn are; never mind, even, the fact that the name "Felix Salmon" makes me think, irresistibly, of a cat.

Instead, look at "retweeted, tweeted, pretty definitive third tweet," which, I promise you, represent just a tiny percentage of all the Twitter, tweet, retweet, tweeting references throughout the story.

I for one was lost, and I do know what Twitter is. In fact, I have an account, although the last time I visited Twitter, it informed me that my most recent message was sent in April 2010. "We miss you!" it added. Right.

So this is something I think about as I walk through my day with a head full of the peanut packing fluff that is my cold: "Many people do not tweet, will never tweet and neither know nor care about Twitter as a social media tool. If this is what constitutes 'news' these days, some people will simply stop even trying to keep up."

This morning, then, I was glad when another question came bobbing through the fluff. It was this: What is the flavor that toothpaste calls "regular"?

Most toothpaste manufacturers offer a mint-flavored toothpaste and another toothpaste they call "regular." Lots of people like mint, so they buy mint-flavored toothpaste.

I'm not such a mint fan myself, not even in ice cream or Girl Scout cookies, so I buy "regular" toothpaste when I can.

But what is "regular?" And why is it called "regular" and not something more descriptive, like "pyrophosphate" or "Xylitol?" True, we don't yet associate whatever taste regular toothpaste is with the word "Xylitol," but we will. Look at how we learned to say "super size that" instead of "give me an insane amount of that." It's all about adapting.

Also, why is "regular" the same flavor across all toothpaste brands? Maybe toothpaste connoisseurs can distinguish between Crest and Pepsodent in blind taste tests, but to me, "regular" is a standard flavor, like milk. Did toothpaste makers intend to make regular toothpaste universal, a kind of toothpaste euro? Do all corporate chemists start with a baseline pile of regular toothpaste, to which they add speculative flavors — crème de menthe, mushroom soup, sidewalk chalk — until they find one they deem marketable?

Well, don't mind me. It's because I'm sick, of course. I have a cold, my head is full of peanut fluff and I'm in a daze. That's just the kind of cold it is.

To contact Margo Bartlett, email