Panda Raccoon

We have a saying in my current family configuration (in which I go to my brother’s house in between WordCamps to help raise his teenage daughters). That saying is Panda Raccoon. It recently started spreading (my fault) into the WordPress dev community, and Nikolay has tasked me with writing up the history of it, so that people will know what the heck we’re talking about when we tell them, “Panda Raccoon!”

Okay, so I have these nieces who are in 9th grade, twins named Jamie and Morgan. Jamie and Morgan both have active imaginations, but Jamie is also an avid reader, which sometimes leads to conversational threads that are based on fictional characters and/or situations that are wholly unrealistic and unrelated to the topic at hand. For example, we might be talking about going to the lake on Saturday, which might turn into speculation about the weather and who to invite to come with us. Then Jamie will open her mouth, and before you know it there is an owl in a mouse costume flying a helicopter to drop bottled water on impoverished villages in Africa and that’s why we should have root beer to drink instead of water with lunch today. By now, of course, no one remembers that we were trying to decide if we should invite people to come to the lake with us. One of these tangential flights of fancy involved a panda in a raccoon costume. It was that evening that we declared “Panda Raccoon” to be the exclamation we would use to alert Jamie (or anyone else) that the tangent had gone too far and it was time to come back to reality. This has worked out pretty well for us. And Jamie loves pandas.

Anyway, sometimes in the #wordpress-dev weekly IRC chat, someone will raise a topic that is not on the agenda, which takes us off track and slows us down. Sometimes people will raise suggestions that are wholly impractical. Sometimes people just start self-promoting, unrelated to the topic at hand. When these things happen, I now call “Panda Raccoon” on them. The words themselves, even without the backstory, make it clear that something is happening that has nothing to do with our agenda. It’s nicer than saying, “Hey, stop it. That’s a tangent.” It’s fun to say (or type). And we all love pandas.

So we think that instead of saying “bike shed” as verbal shorthand in the WordPress community to indicate people are quibbling over inconsequential details or making unrelated suggestions that are taking us off track, we should say, “Panda Raccoon.” Tell your friends.

5 thoughts on “Panda Raccoon

  1. fun story.
    our key phrase is “I like pie. Do you like pie?”

    Sometimes it doesn’t work and we just end up having some pie.

    It’d be a longer story than yours to explain, and I’m not as good as you are at typing a story.

    I’ll try Panda Raccoon sometime. ‘Bound to be less consequences. Though ended up with a piece of pie isn’t the worse way to be.

    I like pie.

  2. “Panda Raccoon”… How to work that into normal conversation randomly and frequently? Hmm… :-)

    Actually, have you ever wondered what would happen if you let the conversational tangents keep running? On a casual afternoon, I think it’d be fun. And if there’s “Panda Raccoon” to stop… kinda like a break for a loop, is there a corresponding continue for the loop? Like, maybe “Ferret Fox”? :-?

  3. We have a similar phrase in my family and that is, “polka dotted elephants, jumping out the window”, or some variation thereof. It happened the first time when I was trying to tell someone something, and apparently got a little long winded. Before i knew it, they were really listening to me at all. This was confirmed when I said, and then there came some polka dotted elephants, and we threw them out the window”, and it didn’t grab their attention. The more I used to phrase, the more attention it eventually got, and now I sometimes get the phrase thrown back at me when I stop listening as well.

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