?Tis the season to be jolly and wreath oneself with holly, which means that office parties, family dysfunction?s and friendly gatherings abound. Which not only translates into hours on end of standing in the midst of festive folk, while balancing a glass in one hand, a plate of hors d?oeuvre?s in the other, while sucking in your gut, it also means it?s time once again for my helpful annual conversation stoppers and droppers column.

This year I have come up with a whole new list of quotes, quips and fascinating facts to get you through those awkward silences. Or in some cases, to create them. That can be kind of fun too.

If you want to clear a room, repeat after me: ?Did you know that Earth is the only planet that wasn?t named after a god? Or that the word ?queue? is the only word in the English language that is still pronounced the same way when the last four letters are removed? Not only is there a city called Rome on every continent, any month that begins on a Sunday will have a Friday the 13th. But more importantly did you know that beetles taste like apples, wasps like pine nuts and worms like fried bacon??

And no, I don?t know that last part for certain.

There is no such thing as small talk. Every word matters. As that clever queen of the quotes Unknown, once said: If you think that something small cannot make a difference try going to sleep with a mosquito in the room.

Should you find yourself under the mistletoe it might interest you to know – or to let those around you know – that kissing burns 12 calories per five-second episode and participating in just three passionate kisses a day can result in a loss of almost five pounds a year! Beats the Stairmaster, I can tell you that.

But there?s more. Kissing stabilizes cardiovascular activity, decreases high blood pressure, and lowers cholesterol. It also prevents the formation of the stress hormone glucocorticoids which causes high blood pressure, muscle weakening and insomnia. A whole new reason to always kiss your partner good night!

Kissing even does its part to vaccinate people from new germs. Saliva contains bacteria, 80% of which are common to all people with 20% unique to each person. By sharing saliva with a partner, you are stimulating your immune system to respond to the different bacteria you are being exposed to. The result is that your immune system creates certain antibodies to these new bacteria, which in effect vaccinates you against these germs. This process is called cross-immunotherapy. Of course it?s a good idea to know the history of the person you?re kissing before subjecting yourself to less than festive diseases. Oh! And kissing is also a sure cure for hiccups.

And – can you believe it – there?s still more! Kissing prevents cavities and plaque buildup by stimulating saliva production while preventing gingivitis through the calcium present in saliva. Not only is it good for your smile, it?s almost as good as botox. And cheaper. Kissing stimulates over 30 facial muscles which smoothes out skin and increases blood circulation to the face.

It?s enough to make a person hang a kissing ball in every room of the house.

If you prefer to stand in the corner, far from the mistletoe and mysteriously aloof from the partying crowd you can take smug comfort from the words of Abraham Lincoln who said, ?Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.? Santa should put that quote in my stocking, so I can keep it in my pocket.

As the night wears on there will always be those who make a beeline for the door, citing such tired proverbs as ?Well, the early bird gets the worm.? To which you can facetiously reply, ?I don?t like worms.?

Of course, you then stand the risk of having the person say, ?Why not? I thought you said earlier that they taste like fried bacon.?

Sometimes it?s a conversation minefield out there and the best you can hope for is January second to arrive as soon as possible. In the meantime, I wish you all a safe, happy and conversation sparked holiday!

Shannon McKinnon is a humour columnist from the Peace River country. Visit her online at