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In which the English major rants about the Master letters

In which the English major rants about the Master letters published on No Comments on In which the English major rants about the Master letters

“Hey, so I finally finished my book!”

“Congrats! What’s it about?”

“Emily Dickinson’s letters.”

“Like the relationship between her letters and her poems? Or the letters she wrote to her sister-in-law? Or the letters she wrote to people asking weird questions like ‘Do you think my Verses are alive?’”

“Well, yeah, no. Actually about the Master letters.”

“Aw, neat – one of the great literary mysteries! So…any new background – theories – discoveries – secret insights?”

“Actually, that’s not really what the book is about.”

“How can you write a book about three incredibly intense and fragmentary literary texts and not go into any of that?”

“Okay, well, actually, I didn’t really write the book so much as I transcribed it.”

“Are you telling me that you transcribed the Master letters and tried to turn that text alone into a book under your very own name without including any sort of critical apparatus?”

“There is so some critical apparatus! I put in facsimiles as well as transcriptions that show the stages each letter went through.”

“So…then…what you’re saying is that I have to get your book to actually read the letters, but then, if I want any clue at all about their context or significance or, you know, anything else, I have to hit the library again? Dude – seriously – you can’t say you’ve written a book about something if all you did is reproduce the text. That’s like me claiming that I wrote a whole book about Shakespeare when all I did was transcribe a bad quarto. Cheater.”

The time has come to figure out what the hell Emily Dickinson was doing.

The time has come to figure out what the hell Emily Dickinson was doing. published on No Comments on The time has come to figure out what the hell Emily Dickinson was doing.

Because I can’t get it all from staring at her collected poems and trying to write my own [crappily] in the same form, I really need to look at her letters because they are extraordinary – just as intense, condensed, experimental, elliptical, and fascinating as her poems.

Okay then…so I need a general bio for context, after which I’m planning to focus on two of her most ambiguous, interesting, and charged correspondences. The first are to her sister-in-law, Susan Huntington Dickinson. The first are interesting because there’s an open question about what sort of relationship the two had. They were both writers, and Susan knew more than anyone about Dickinson’s poetry, having received 250+ poems over their 30+-year correspondence. For Dickinson, the relationship was at once intimate, cherished, world-opening, and contentious.

The second are three fragmentary texts known as the Master letters – i.e., after the addressee. They are very…charged. What the hell are those things – diary entries, poetry, draft letters, fair copies of sent letters, literary experiments? And the addressee – a real person, different real people, an imaginary person, different imaginary people, a personification, a deity, an abstraction, and/or several of the above? Here’s an overview of the Master letters, which, of course, assumes that they are all about SEX!!!! D: D: D:

I’m going to go with my favorite answer to questions like, “Are you x, y, or z?”:

“Yes.”

Pro tip: Depending on how sarcastic and/or generally devious the people in your head are, do not use this formulation when asking them questions because you’ll only get one answer instead of the three you expected. And, even if that single answer is the most accurate, it’s neither explicit, nor elaborate, nor ultimately satisfying.

“Right then. So is there any way at all of you answering my questions in a more useful fashion?”

“My answers are plenty useful. It’s just your perspective that’s unhelpful.”

“You’re unhelpful.”

“I’m very helpful. It ain’t my fault if you’re not ready to consider the truth of what I say.”

“So, in other words, you’re quoting the Gospel according to Mick: ‘Thou canst not always get what thou wantest, but, if thou tryest sometimes, thou just might find, thou gettest what thou needest?’“

“Well, the archaic conjugation kinda kills the meter, but the sentiment’s correct.”

I finally really read The Bells by Edgar Allan Poe.

I finally really read The Bells by Edgar Allan Poe. published on No Comments on I finally really read The Bells by Edgar Allan Poe.

Here. Typical Poe. Everything starts out seemingly normal, yet still uncomfortably…cockeyed, and then it quickly progresses into an exquisitely torturous phantasmagoria in which the elements that you would least suspect to betray you do just that, turning the world into a pathetic fallacy of misery.

I think of the I felt a Funeral, in my Brain poem by Emily Dickinson, which is also about sound overwhelming sense. I also think of her poem He fumbles at your Soul, though that could be more of a description of Poe’s authorial technique.

If Emily Dickinson had a motto, it would be Death, God, and Bees — Lots and Lots of — Bees.

For example:

Some things that fly there be —
Birds — Hours — the Bumblebee —
Of these no Elegy.

Some things that stay there be —
Grief — Hills — Eternity —
Nor this behooveth me.

There are that resting, rise.
Can I expound the skies?
How still the Riddle lies!

How does she do that? How???

The adjectival form is Delgadesco — thank you very much.

The adjectival form is Delgadesco — thank you very much. published on No Comments on The adjectival form is Delgadesco — thank you very much.

The adjectival form is Delgadesco – thank you very much. [Thank you @natalunasans for this tidbit – I was using Delgadovian, and it wasn’t working at all.] Now you have the perfect descriptor for [arguably] the most magnificent set of eyebrows ever to grace the screen.

This post brought to you by Amateur Etymologists for Roger Delgado.
Continue reading The adjectival form is Delgadesco — thank you very much.

Fictional firms and other entertainments

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I amuse myself sometimes by making up fictional companies, usually of three surnames, the names of which throw entertaining connotations.

For example, in LHF, Anneka worked as an admin/copyeditor for a marketing firm called Popinjay, Curry, & Fawn. Curry and Fawn are, of course, legitimate surnames, but Popinjay is an obsolete term for a conceited airhead. Thus the company name suggests a ridiculous level of groveling and sucking up.

I thought up another one recently: Steele, Irons, & Paine. This is either an engineering firm doing sinister things in their basement or an aggressive, mercenary team of lawyers.

Gray and other color names

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I recently encountered a person with the first name Gray. English language mostly reserves color-based names for feminine first names [Rose, Violet, Pearl, and other floral or jewel names] or surnames [Black, Brown, Gold, Gray, Green, etc.], so I wondered the story behind their name. The answer was that their birth name was some “hippie” moniker that did not represent them, so they made a new name of their parents’ surnames. In this case, Gray was a surname transposed to first-name status.

This immediately made me think of a character who started off with a very unusual name like Rainbow Sunflower and then, as soon as legally possible, traded it out for Grey in an attempt to reduce noticeability. However, since the name Grey is unusual, just in a different way, the character would still gain attention for their name.

The four -sexes, or, The curious absence of Nussex

The four -sexes, or, The curious absence of Nussex published on No Comments on The four -sexes, or, The curious absence of Nussex

I grew up in Essex Center, Vermont, and, on my frequent travels through the state, cracked up at the highway sign announcing an exit to Middlesex. Being a etymology nerd, I thus had ample time to contemplate the two -sex towns in my state. Where did their names come from?

 

The most immediate antecedent to both Essex and Middlesex is England. Like so many New England names in the region, the towns of Vermont recapitulate place names of Old England. Essex is a county in southern Old England. Middlesex is another.

 

But what do such town names mean? Again the map of England holds a clue. Besides Essex and Middlesex, England also has areas by the names of Sussex [East and West]. Additionally, Wessex was historically a kingdom in southern England. Furthermore, while there is no contemporary place name of Wessex, Thomas Hardy’s fictional Wessex has had such an influence on the region that it may be used today to describe the region in the southwest of the country. In conclusion, Essex, Wessex, Middlesex, and Sussex all cluster in the same southern region of England.

 

At one point, I stared at all the -sexes I knew and realized that they followed a pattern. They each denote a relative direction. Obviously Middlesex is “the middle -sex.” Essex is “the east -sex.” Thus Wessex is “the west -sex” and Sussex “the south -sex.” The prefixes of the –sexes function as geographical markers.

 

Having solved a long-standing [at least in my own head] mystery about the sources of the -sexes, I then moved onto the next logical step: the meaning of -sex itself. The Oxford English Dictionary, quoted in the article on Wessex, says that -sex derives from the Old English Seaxe, meaning “Saxons.” The -sexes then point out the geographical distribution of various Saxon settlements: Essex for the Saxons to the east, Wessex for the Saxons to the west, Sussex for the Saxons to the south, Middlesex for the Saxons in the…uh…middle.

This information only led to a further question. Extant -sexes represent three cardinal directions [east, west, south] and one relative one [middle]. But what about the missing cardinal direction? Shouldn’t there be a “north sex?” Presumably it would be called something like Nussex or Norsex, by extension from Sussex, but it doesn’t exist.

 

Though the absence of Nussex has pissed me off for years, I have finally figured out why it doesn’t exist. There is no Nussex because it is the default -sex. In other words, it was the Saxon settlement used as the original reference point for the names of the rest of the -sexes. In the same way that the state of Virginia has no geographical adjective, but the later and geographically relative state of West Virginia does, so the -sex used as the point of comparison for all others would remain uninflected. Only those –sexes developing chronologically after and in relation to the original -sex needed geographical adjectives after all.

 

There — now you know everything I know about the four -sexes.

Diversity, deviance, perversion, transgression, and the negative connotations of difference

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I love words of Latin origin for turning and going and progressing, which brings me to the cluster of diversity, deviance, perversion, and transgression. Interestingly, all of these have negative connotations, except for diversity, which has somehow escaped the specter of badness.

Let’s start with deviance. It’s from de-, Latin for “away from,” and via, Latin for “way” or “path.” Thus deviance means “going off the beaten path.” In its primary, popular definition, it means “disgusting, immoral criminality and/or sexual behavior.” Example: The deviance of pedophilia represents significant sexual dysfunction. In conclusion, deviance is gross.

Perversion is pretty close to deviance. From Latin pervertere, “to overthrow or overturn,” and thus from per-, “away from,” and Latin vertere, “to turn,” it means “turning the wrong way.” Perversion has never had positive connotations; it’s always about making changes for the worse. More recently, it has also developed connotations of deviant [har] sexuality, thanks to the sexologists of the end of the 1800s who used pervert to mean “someone who has sex in other than a prescribed heteronormative manner.” In conclusion, it’s another word of bad progression.

We now come to transgression. This is from Latin trans-, “through, across, or beyond,” and gressus, “going.” The sense is of “crossing a line” or “going beyond a [legal] limit.” Transgression thus connotes egregious behavior. More than that, it connotes sin, as it tends to be associated with the Christian characters Adam and Eve eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil after God told them not to. Oh look — another term of disgusting degeneracy!

These few examples suggest that English words of Latin origin in which people lose their way tend to be loaded with negative judgment. So what’s up with diversity? Coming from Latin de-, “away from,” and vertere, “to turn,” why isn’t it like perversion and deviance? The source material for diversity is very similar to that of perversion and deviance, but somehow diversity has now ended up as a neutral English noun meaning “great variety.” Furthermore, diversity may even signify a positive celebration of the many differences, particularly among a group of people.

The deviation of diversity from the perverted connotations of its cousins becomes more puzzling when one learns that it used to have a negative definition, which is now obsolete. Diversity meant “contrariness or perverse adherence to something wrong” in English from the late 1400s and through the 1500s, but was out of use by the 1600s.

 

I wish that I had some definitive answer to the question of diversity’s goodness. I don’t, but it’s still fascinating to ponder.

“Say things” and “plaything” don’t rhyme!!!!!!!!!!!!

“Say things” and “plaything” don’t rhyme!!!!!!!!!!!! published on No Comments on “Say things” and “plaything” don’t rhyme!!!!!!!!!!!!

There’s a verse in the German Labyrinth that goes:

Wenn ich in deine Seele tauche
Und dich für meine Lust gebrauche
Dann word ich deine Sinne blenden
Das Spiel kannst nur du selbst beenden

Oomph! changed the lyrics for the English version to:

When I possess your soul, I’ll say things
And use you as my personal plaything
The time will come — I’ll dull your senses
If you don’t stop, this game is endless

That is one of the most flaccid translations ever. What the hell, Oomph!? How can you translate that verse with a screamingly obvious lack of, well, oomph?

Here’s a more literal translation, courtesy of yours truly:

When I plunge into your soul
And use you for my lust
Then I will blind your senses
Only you can end this game

And my less literal translation, still a work in progress:

I’ll go deep inside your core
And I’ll use you as I please
I will blind you and benight you
Only you can end this game

See where Oomph!’s stinks? This is a verse that needs short, sharp, declarative words — concussive stuff, assaultive language, precision. But instead Oomph! goes for the multisyllables [“possess,” “personal plaything”], which, while plosive, attenuate the brief force of the German.

Also…seriously, Oomph!? You’re gonna go all generic in a verse that needs specificity? The original indicates a targeted inward strike, followed by exploitation for lust, and then a complete sensory overpowering. The speaker says exactly what’s going to happen, while, in the English, we have just a vague “possession,” during which the speaker will “say things,” followed by “dull[ing] senses.” In the original, we have complete physical and mental ruination precipitated by rape, after which comes sensory implosion. In the English, it sounds like the speaker is casually planning to set up shop inside the listener’s skull and talk about, you know, some stuff, while fucking around a little bit, which might cause blurred vision.

They’re so good with other parts of the song too. For example, Klopf klopf, lass mich rein / Lass mich dein Geheimnis sein is literally Knock knock, let me in / Let me be your secret. But the English goes, Knock knock, let me in / Let me be your secret sin, which captures not only the rhyme, but also the shame and humiliation for which the speaker is aiming. Too bad they couldn’t sustain it.

“Achtung and lots of spit”

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I read an essay in Smithsonian years back in which the author described childhood war games. When the author and friends were being Nazis, they used their imaginative interpretation of German. In a memorable turn of phrase, the author describes this fictional German as being made up primary of Achtung and lots of spit. Whenever I think of this, I snicker.

Given my recent NDH Ohrwurmer, the phrase Achtung and lots of spit comes to mind again. It’s actually a fair approximation of the percussive enunciations that at least Rammstein likes to use [“Rrrrrrrrrrein rrrrrrrrrrraus…”]. Oomph! does it too, but with less growling and more banging.

NDH: making German sound like a self-parody since whenever the genre developed. ^_^

Today’s business jargon

Today’s business jargon published on No Comments on Today’s business jargon

 

“Why don’t you and she touch bases and find where the connection points are so we can have a discussion around how to leverage the synergy?”

 

Well, okay, I just heard the phrase leverage the synergy, but people are always touching base, finding connection points, and having discussions around things in my workplace, so it’s eminently plausible that this sentence has come out of someone’s mouth.

 

I just can’t use touch base. It sounds like a grade Z euphemism for something objectionable. Don’t touch my base! Keep your hands to yourself!

 

 

50 shades of unintentional connotations

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The following conversation occurred at work the other day:

 

MD executive [jokingly, to HR executive, holding up document]: This is like that book 50 Shades of Grey!

Me [to MD executive’s assistant]: Did he just say what I think he said?! To an HR person?!

MD executive’s assistant: Yeahhhhh…he doesn’t know what that book’s about.

Me [later, after some thought]: Did he mean that it was confusing and hard to understand, like it wasn’t black and white, but shades of grey?

MD executive’s assistant: Yup, and, while that’s technically correct…

Me: Jeez, I really hope that document wasn’t like grade Z erotica.

I expect there was some subtlety lost in translation too, as the MD executive’s primary language is not English.

And here, my dear readers, we have a great illustration of the difference between connotation and denotation. If I say in an exasperated voice, “Ugh, this stinkin’ document is 50 shades of grey!” it is eminently plausible that I’m annoyed at its endless sfumato murkiness, and I could certainly use the words to denote that — that is, to indicate it definitionally. However, such a remark now currently carries associations with certain pieces of grade Z erotica, so, even if I mean something frustratingly ambiguous, no one will interpret my remark that way.

Speaking of grey, apparently une éminence grise does NOT mean an old, respected, redoubtable person, but a power behind the throne. I always thought it referred to an old eminent person, with the grey alluding to the person’s grey hair, but apparently it refers to Francois Leclerc du Tremblay, the advisor of Cardinal Richelieu. Leclerc was technically not due the title of Eminence, as he wasn’t a cardinal, but people called him the Grey Eminence in respect to his power. The grise denotes not the color grey, but Leclerc’s beige friar robes. I guess beige was called grise back then. Makes me wonder what the French for beige was.

Concatenation of prepositional phrases

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I had the joy of writing the following phrase today: UVM Health Network Regional Transport Leadership Structure Analysis. It’s actually pretty cool the way in which English can just drop prepositions and go from An Analysis of the Structure of the Leadership of the Transport System for the Region Overseen by the Medical Center Affiliated with the University of Vermont [26 words] to UVM Health Network Regional Transport Leadership Structure Analysis [10, counting University of Vermont as three]. Sure, it doesn’t dance trippingly off the tongue, but it’s succinct and informative.

“Did you miss me? / Come and kiss me”: Christina Rossetti’s Goblin Market is totally queer!

“Did you miss me? / Come and kiss me”: Christina Rossetti’s Goblin Market is totally queer! published on No Comments on “Did you miss me? / Come and kiss me”: Christina Rossetti’s Goblin Market is totally queer!

I was going to write an extensive essay, with line by line analysis, about how Christina Rossetti’s Goblin Market can be read as a warning to queer women not to mess around with hetero sex, as represented by the goblins. Then I decided to cut right to the chase and just present this particularly torrid passage below. Continue reading “Did you miss me? / Come and kiss me”: Christina Rossetti’s Goblin Market is totally queer!

“That liquefaction of her clothes”

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Robert Herrick writes six lines Upon Julia’s Clothes:

 

Whenas in silks my Julia goes

Then, then (methinks) how sweetly flows

That liquefaction of her clothes.

 

Next, when I cast mine eyes and see

That brave vibration each way free,

O how that glittering taketh me!

 

 

 

I’ve pondered this poem for decades, mostly because the “liquefaction of her clothes” is just about the bestest description of some long, heavy, sweeping, sussurant, layered garment. Last night, however, I realized that the poem can also be easily read as a description of a man watching a woman masturbating, turning herself on, and having an orgasm.

 

I derive the turn-on from a crashingly literal interpretation of both the sweet flow and the “liquefaction of her clothes” — i.e., her lubricating her clothes from the intensity of her desire. The “brave vibration each way free” connotes an expansive release, reminiscent of the way that some people flail and fling all their limbs out when they hit orgasm. The “glittering” could easily be flashes of perspiration glinting as the woman exerts herself, or the shine from her wide-open eyes, or even the speaker’s dazzled perceptions.

 

The assumption of masturbation requires a little more explication. The poem sets the scene as one between two people, Julia and the poet. If we’re going with the orgasmic interpretation, let’s assume that Julia is somehow getting turned on. However, we have no indication that the speaker is interacting with Julia in any way that contributes to her desire [although she could arguably get off on being watched, I suppose]. Thus, for this reading, process of elimination suggests that Julia is taking matters into her own hands.

 

 

Unfortunate drug name of the day: Dysport

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I don’t know what the pharmaceutical marketing teams are thinking when they come up with drug names like Dysport, which is an injectible drug used to treat spasticity in arms, hands, and fingers. It’s also used to temporarily remove frown lines. [Botulism toxin is everywhere these days! I really wish botulism-based drugs were covered by more insurance companies as antispasmodics.]

 

Dysport, like its cousin Botox, is yet another example of a great drug with a wretched name. Honestly, who thought it was a good idea to give Dysport a first syllable, dys-, that connotes something problematic or difficult, as in dysfunction [poor function], dystopia [bad imaginary future], and dysphoria [unhappy feelings]? This makes Dysport sound like either a bad port or a bad sport. Maybe they were going for homonymy with the rather outmoded verb disport [to frolic], but, since the negative connotations of the dys- prefix seem to have utterly escaped them, I really doubt that anyone on the naming committee knew about disport.

As a bonus, here is a slightly less unfortunate drug name: Gleevic. Gleevic is an extra super expensive drug used against various types of cancer, particularly chronic myeloginous leukemia. It’s an improvement over Dysport in that it has more positive connotations [hell, it starts with glee!]. However, it’s not a complete success, as it still sounds like the noise that a frog makes when you step on it.

Words schmords!

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Using schm- to substitute for the first letter of the second word in a reduplication automatically makes the resultant phrase dismissive and contemptuous, neatly encapsulating, for example, my feelings about the lingering cold weather: Winter schminter!

Apparently this comes from Yiddish, where the word + sch- + [word minus first letter] concatenation performs exactly the same function.

Prescriptivists schmecriptivists!

Some more virtue names

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I’ve long known about the Puritan virtue names that appear occasionally among New Englanders until about the mid-1800s; I mean hell — when one has a Submit as one’s greatx8 grandmother, one does have an incentive to learn where a name like that comes from. While some virtue names like Charity, Chastity, Faith, and Hope are used even today, others have died out.

Puritan virtue names that have died out include Submit and Thankful, but also two that I recently learned about: Silence and Desire. I’m sure the Desire is something like “desire for God’s love” or “desire to be saved.” The first seems more about not expressing and the second about expression, though. I find it especially interesting that, in the context where I learned these names, Silence and Desire were sisters.

Such names have always gotten me thinking, particularly Submit. Verb names, much less imperatives, are pretty rare [although, around these parts, we are familiar with Remember Baker, Green Mountain Boy and cousin of Ethan Allen]. Was having a command as a name considered odd back then? Did Submit and Remember go by nicknames or by the one-word sentences that served as their first names? What did Submit think of having that name?

Submit, Silence, and Desire just beg for me to write a story about them — well, mostly Submit. It would be a modern-day story about a modern person named Submit and her struggles with family, ancestry, expectations of femininity, and irritatingly overdetermined nomenclature. I envision Submit as coming from a long line of women with Puritan virtue names and being particularly pissed that she didn’t get something like Faith or Hope…or, hell, even Chastity, because at least you can shorten that to Chaz. But noooooo, her mom had to name her ironically in some sort of feminist statement [????]. I get the sense that she rattles off her standard greeting — “My name is Submit Delacroix, sierra-uniform-bravo-Mike-India-tango, like the verb” — through gritted teeth every single time, and if someone says anything more than “Oh” or “Okay,” they receive the Death Glare. >:(

My favorite prefix is trans-.

My favorite prefix is trans-. published on No Comments on My favorite prefix is trans-.

I cannot tell where my interest in the prefix began. Perhaps in Transylvania, arguably translatable as “Through-the-Woods-Land,” which is the most fairy-talish and coolest and vampiric place name ever. Or maybe it started with transformation and the magical protean changes it connoted. In any event, the beauty of translucency and its glass-like clarity certainly made me love it further.

It certainly continued in translation, a literal bringing across of words and communication from one language to the other that I’ve always pictured as a ferry across a river. When I learned about transcendence, which I envision as an airplane rising in a perfect steady angle across the sky, closer and closer to cruising altitude, I liked it even more.

Despite my dislike for transgression, which I associate with stuffy, verbose academic analyses of behavior outside of the societal norms, my interest in trans- only increased, especially because it contributes to really cool words like transducer. As for transducer, I learned this word from The Rocky Horror Picture Show [line from Planet Schmanet Janet: “The transducer will seduce ya!”] and never bothered looking it up until now. My loss, as it’s an amazing word that means “an electronic device that converts energy from one form to another.” Microphones and speakers are transducers, as are thermometers and antennae, even LEDs and incandescent light bulbs — so, in other words, all the sorts of items from which people would build prop supercomputers for sci-fi movies. [“What the hell is that mess of blinking lights and screens and speakers and dials and gauges?” “Oh, that’s just the Transductomatron.”] Transducers: they’re everywhere! [Not to be confused with traducers, who I really hope are not everywhere!]

And, of course, I think it’s stupendous that the prefix became a word all by itself: trans.

I kind of want to go to a forested area of Transylvania just so I can write in Latin, Eo trans sylvaniam Transylvania!, which is, of course, I am going through the woods in Transylvania!, or possibly, I am transylvanianing in Transylvania!, although that sounds kinda transgressive.

Recaito = “reh cah EE toe” not “reh KAY toe”

Recaito = “reh cah EE toe” not “reh KAY toe” published on No Comments on Recaito = “reh cah EE toe” not “reh KAY toe”

Recaito, the star of Tarah’s chili recipe, is apparently four syllables, not three. It’s also pronounced “reh cah EE toe,” not “reh KAY toe.” No wonder the worker in Shaw’s gave me a really weird look when I asked for “reh KAY toe.” I’m going to blame my mispronunciation on a) the fact that I’ve never heard this word spoken aloud, b) the fact that I don’t know any Spanish, and c) the proliferation of names like Caitlyn [“cah EET lin”? :p].

Word of the day: vasistas

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I was looking up how to spell “Was ist das?” and found that a word derived therefrom, the French “vasistas,” refers to small windows in doors of houses in Germany, through which people look to see who’s calling. The word comes from the phrase with which German people answer the door: “Was ist das?” I love it — it’s the French equivalent of calling a peephole a hellothere.

Today’s word is “cockernonnie.”

Today’s word is “cockernonnie.” published on No Comments on Today’s word is “cockernonnie.”

While I was poking around on Wikipedia for information about Gibson Girl bouffants, I followed a link on that page to one on the chignon, which advised me to “see also: cockernonnie.” Of course, since I have never laid eyes on a cockernonnie before, I felt compelled to follow Wikipedia’s advice in hopes of finding out what one looked like. Wikipedia had the grace to inform me that a cockernonnie was a historical Scottish women’s chignon, also known as a “cock-up,” which is, as we all know, British slang for a complete mess. However, though a cockernonnie may also be referred to as a cock-up, cock-up qua mistake does not derive from cock-up qua hairstyle. And still, after all that, I have no idea what a cockernonnie looks like! Woe is me!

 

On a tangentially related subject, I think “cockernonnie” would make a great insult. Like “nincompoop,” it has vaguely scatological associations, a satisfying plosive at the end of the first syllable, and a wonderful roll off the tongue. The loose association with “cock > dick > dickhead” and the loose homonymy with “ninny” both make “cockernonnie” sound like a word that refers to someone who is rude, arrogant, and offensive in their inane, asinine behavior. Yup, “cockernonnie” is ripe for repurposing…

Heavenly Pant[r]y

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E-mail circulated on Friday on a departmental mailing list to which I subscribe:

 

I love our team!

In the spirit of serving our communities…my girls school is hosting a non-food drive for the Heavenly Panty in Essex Junction that serves a lot of our local communities. Some of these items are hard for food pantry’s to get – yet are still very much needed by our neighbors. If you are so inclined….feel free to drop items off with me and I will get them to the Heavenly Pantry.  [details]

E-mail circulated two minutes later, flagged with high importance:

HEAVENLY PANTRY PEOPLE NOT PANTY!!

(crawling into a hole now)

Localized temporal distortion??

Localized temporal distortion?? published on No Comments on Localized temporal distortion??

Me to my boss today [deadpan]: I have a very serious, pressing question: How did it get to be 11:45 already?

 

Her [deadpan]: We’re in a time warp. We went through the wormhole and came out the other end.

 

Me: Like in Wayne’s World. [makes appropriate sound effects]

Of course, since I often have meta-thoughts, especially about language, I got to wondering what exactly a time warp is, what it sounds like, and the history of its development as a pop cultural shorthand for a perception that time is moving more quickly or more slowly than usual. I have no definite answers, but I think the signature sound of the TARDIS on Doctor Who, as well as the show’s theme song [2003 version linked], not to mention the RHPS song Time Warp, will inflect the results. Stay tuned.

Roger’s unfortunate nickname and the history of the F word

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Dr. Paul Booth of Keele University was looking through Chester County [UK] Court plea rolls for 1310, where he discovered mention of “Roger Fuckebythenavele,” who was in the process of being outlawed. Because Roger was referred to in this way on three separate occasions, Booth opines that “Fuckebythenavele” is Roger’s nickname, as opposed to the clerk’s private joke. Booth further conjectures that the derisive epithet refers to someone who is particularly incompetent and clueless in sexual activities. Those etymologists who thought that “fuck” first appeared in English about 200 years later find Booth’s discovery very exciting.

 

Most of the news reports stop with Booth’s putative source of the name, thereby failing to take up some truly interesting questions. I, for one, am less interested in this example as a proof of the longer lifespan of “fuck” and more about its implications for Roger. For example, why is Roger recorded with a nickname surname? Surely he has an actual last name, so why is it not used? Is this nickname like a rap artist’s name, by which almost everyone knows Roger publicly, to the exclusion of his legal name? If that’s the case, though, wouldn’t he be referred to as “Roger [Legal Surname,] known as Roger Fuckebythenavele”?

 

In a broader context, what does Roger’s nickname tell us about the use of “fuck” in Chester County in the early 1300s? Just how insulting was it? What level of taboo did it carry? For example, would the modern equivalent of this be “Roger Navelscrew” [humorous, acceptable in print, broadcast media, and casual speech, but rude] or “Roger Fucknavel” [still humorous, but vulgar, unacceptable in most print, broadcast media, and general common speech]? Does the appearance of “Fuckebythenavele” in a legal document suggest that the word was more acceptable in everyday speech than it is now?

 

I’m also curious about nicknames in general during this period. Do other similar nicknames appear — i.e., Sue Shit-in-soup or Peter Piss-in-bed? How commonly are such epithets used? Can we determine if they are supposed to be taken as shocking insults, as amusing jokes, or something in between? Can we draw any conclusions about the social status of people likely to have such nicknames?

 

In other words, this snippet of information makes me want to know more about Roger!

26 letters of meeeeee!: variations of my name throughout the alphabet

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I recently challenged myself to find at least one variant of my name for each letter of the English alphabet. I’m missing 10 letters, but here’s what I have so far:

A is for Ailsa.

B is for Bettina.

C is for Chabella.

D is for ?????

E is for Elizabeth.

F is for ?????

G is for ?????

H is for ?????

I is for Isabel.

J is for Jeliszaveta.

K is for ?????

L is for Liz.

M is for ?????

N is for ?????

O is for Orszebet.

P is for Peka [short for Elikapeka, the Hawaiian version].

Q is for ?????

R is for ?????

S is for Sibeal.

T is for Tib.

U is for ?????

V is for Veta [short for Jeliszaveta].

W is for Wiz.

X is for Xabete [short for Elixabete, the Basque version].

Y is for Yeghisabet.

Z is for Zabby.

From Ailsa to Zsoka and everything in between

From Ailsa to Zsoka and everything in between published on No Comments on From Ailsa to Zsoka and everything in between

As I mentioned a while back, all the digital hairstyles I have created are named after variants or nicknames of my name. Flush with creativity, I have been constructing digital hair like mad — about nine or ten hairstyles in the past three weeks. All but one [Receding Ponytail] is named after me. I’ve tried to distribute the names throughout the alphabet so they neither cluster around the same letters [like E and B], nor overlap confusingly. Names I have used so far are as follows:

  • Ailsa
  • Aliza/Aliza 2.0
  • Bess
  • [Messy] Bessy
  • Bethiah
  • Elisheva
  • Elspeth
  • Izzy
  • Jeliszavet
  • Lillibet
  • Liziko
  • Orszebet
  • Sibeal
  • Ybel
  • Zabby
  • Zabelle
  • Zsoka

My favorite variants are the ones that either start with an unusual letter and/or connect less obviously to the source. In terms of unusual beginnings, I’m especially partial to Jeliszavet and Yelizaveta [a name I used for a character morph I created]. For less obvious derivatives, I really like Ailsa, Sibeal, Ybel, and Zsoka.

One could probably span an alphabet with variations on my name, even including especially ornery letters like J, W, Y, and Z. I bet I could do it!

 

Ghostlaw: another name in the spirit of Braintree

Ghostlaw: another name in the spirit of Braintree published on 1 Comment on Ghostlaw: another name in the spirit of Braintree

In the spirit of “How did this name end up looking like a strange combination of two unrelated words?”, I hereby present the surname Ghostlaw. Speaking of spirits, this word recalls the legislation of the dead, but did it originally mean what it looks like it means?

Typing words, place names, and surnames into search engines can often yield fascinating stories and sources for a word’s etymology, as it does for the previously discussed Braintree. Google’s results on Ghostlaw, though, come up pretty barren. Not until page 3 of search results on “surname ghostlaw” did I yield anything helpful.

Back in 2004, Amy Layton posted on the ancestry.com forums, looking for information on the Ghostlaw surname. She stated that she had been unable to trace this branch of her family tree further back than the Ghostlaw generation because she had been told that they had changed their name from something else. What could it be?

While no one directly answered her specific question, respondent Stephanie Beaver posted with information about her grandfather, Charles James Ghostlaw. She noted that both his and his father’s last names were listed as Gosselin on his baptismal certificate. She thus confirmed what I suspected, viz., that Ghostlaw never started off as “ghost + law,” but, rather, some surname that was changed to some vague homophone.

I like to think, in my unusual imagination, that the Ghostlaws and Braintrees are connected. Maybe the disembodied brains, fruiting from the braintrees, imagine counterfactual legal doctrine known as ghostlaws?

 

Things that will eventually be grammatically correct, even though they currently aren’t

Things that will eventually be grammatically correct, even though they currently aren’t published on 1 Comment on Things that will eventually be grammatically correct, even though they currently aren’t

There are a few linguistic errors that I encounter with such frequency that I really think that they will eventually move into standard, accepted use:

  • Apostrophes in to signify possessives.
  • Quotation marks as a means of emphasis.
  • “I” replacing “me” as a direct object, but only in conjunction with another pronoun. I encounter this exchange pretty much daily, in which people of all educational and socioeconomic backgrounds will say something like, “Let’s find some time for you and I to meet.”

As a result, the following sentence will eventually be perfectly acceptable:

Let’s find some time for you and I to meet “really” soon about your proposal’s.

After that, all the prescriptivists’ heads will explode!!!! :p

Actually, I think that the third item will gain ground much more quickly than the first two. People are “extremely” picky about punctuation mark’s!

Words that I don’t like to use on principle

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While I’m talking about words, I should mention some that I don’t like to use on principle, mostly business jargon:

  • “Issue.” At some point in the recent past, “problem” disappeared as a perfectly acceptable word to be replaced by “issue.” I mostly see it in the wild as a snide, judgmental term for “difficulties.” For example, our upstairs neighbor throws temper tantrums, complete with stomping, banging and yelling, despite the fact that he’s in his twenties. He clearly has “anger issues.”
  • “Liaise.” A back-formation from “liaison,” this means “to act as a liaison.” It sounds, though, like a chronic skin condition…or maybe a rancid condiment. I prefer “connect” or “coordinate.” However, in my capacity as the vice president for the Friends of the Winooski Library, I am the liaison between the library board and the Friends, so I always use “liaise” to describe what I do because it cracks me up.
  • “Bandwidth.” This means “something akin to time/energy/availability.” Interestingly, I mostly hear it in a negative context, i.e., people insisting that they do not have the bandwidth for more work. I find other terms serviceable for the same concept, and I don’t wish to use a technical IT term.
  • “Contact” and “reach out.” These terms are useful because they cover a variety of means of communication [E-mail, phone, in-person]. I still prefer “talk to.”
  • “Pushback.” This, of course, is a synonym for “resistance.” This one really irritates me, as it seems to reflect a euphemistic tendency to avoid calling out conflict and disagreement for what it is.

In other news, I’ve gotten over my revulsion for “webinar,” if only because of its ubiquity. I’m also much more of a descriptivist these days.

New [to me] business jargon

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At my job I have encountered some [new-to-me] business jargon: “value-add,” “moving the dial,” and “down in the weeds.”

A “value-add,” as far as I can tell, is either the essential point of something or the usefulness of something. The term most frequently comes up in my workplace in questions such as “What is the value-add for this ask?” Translation: “What’s the point of this request?” [Implied answer: “This is a worthless request, so we are going to ignore it.” :p ]

To “move the dial” means to cause significant change. For example, in a performance improvement project, the participants dig around to determine what changes have the greatest effect. These changes “move the dial” on the project, driving the improvements.

“Down in the weeds” just means in amongst the fine-grained details of something. People around here refer to getting “down in the weeds” to find out what will “move the dial” on something they’re working on. I find this an odd term because, to me, weeds connote unwanted distractions, so I think of “down in the weeds” as an undesirable place. However, in business jargon, it just appears to be a value-neutral term in contrast to, say, a bird’s-eye view.

The moral of the story: If you have to go down in the weeds to find the value-add of an ask, it’s probably not going to move the dial.

Working definition of “genderqueer”

Working definition of “genderqueer” published on 1 Comment on Working definition of “genderqueer”

Genderqueer, along with the somewhat newer and less politicized term nonbinary, are umbrella terms intended to encompass individuals who feel that terms like man and woman or male and female are insufficient to describe the way they feel about their gender and/or the way they outwardly present it.”

I can dig it. On that note, there ought to be a term equivalent to “nonbinary” that defines the state by what it is, rather than what it’s not. Right now, “nonbinary” is like the non-dairy creamer of gender identities. How ’bout “multifarious” or “polymorphous?”

The Rule of 5 and the mystery painting

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Sometime when I was back in college, I found a nifty painting of the number 5, surrounded by red and gold and strong diagonals that drew the eye. I didn’t know the name or artist, but put the picture in the scrapbook, as 5 is my favorite number.

Recently, I just started a job where the person I am working for has an ideal schedule of ≤5 hours of meetings a day. Assuming an eight-hour work day, ≤5 hours gives her time to  move between meeting locations, accomplish assignments from the meetings, reduce the amount of work she takes home, leave the office at a reasonable time, etc., etc. In other words, she stands a chance of having a work/life balance. She impressed upon me that this was not some pie-in-the sky goal, but a serious necessity for her overall happiness, health and efficacy. I decided that this guiding principle should be called the Rule of 5.

I thought I should hang in my office a reminder to adhere to the Rule of 5 in all my scheduling endeavors, so I immediately recalled the dramatic 5 painting from my scrapbook. Tragically, since my scrapbook had been lost, I couldn’t just pull the poster and bring to work. I had to find the mystery painting on the Internet.

I tried “no. five” as search terms on Google, since I remembered those words in the painting, but that mostly brought up Jackson Pollock’s work. Nope.

I then tried an image search for “no. five,” and the sixth result showed the painting I remembered. It’s called “The Figure 5 in Gold” by Charles Demuth, and it’s a portrait of his friend, William Carlos Williams, through a visual interpretation of Williams’ poem “The Great Figure.” Judith Dobrzynski writes a lucid overview of the painting’s context and significance in the Wall Street Journal.

Anyway, now I have a print-out of the painting on my bulletin board at work, for professional and aesthetic reasons.

The story of Braintree: a town with an interesting name

The story of Braintree: a town with an interesting name published on No Comments on The story of Braintree: a town with an interesting name

Of the many place names in New England transported here from settlers hearkening back to their connections in Old England, I most like that of Braintree. There’s a Braintree in Massachusetts and one here in Vermont. Both of them take their name from Braintree, Essex in England. As far as I’m concerned, though, that’s less than half the story. The etymology geek in me has a burning desire to know how several locations in the world are named after [according to my overheated imagination] trees growing out of skulls.

Unfortunately, the etymology geek in me will not be adequately satisfied. Wikipedia, font of all knowledge online, deems the origin of the name Braintree "obscure." Despite that, the online encyclopedia discusses several possible sources for the name, most of which support the idea that, somehow, Braintree began life as something like "Brantry" or "Branchetreu," both of which seem to mean "town by the river."

In fact, in the Domesday Book, a 1086 record of land use and taxation covering much of England, records Braintree as "Branchetreu." As far as I can tell, this appears to be the earliest record of the place name in its somewhat recognizable form. Thus it’s worth looking into the sources of Branchetreu.

Branchetreu, like Braintree, breaks down into two syllables with a different origin for each: "Branche-" and "-treu." The speculation that Braintree means "town by the river" leads me to interpret the "Branche-" as equivalent to the French la branche, which is one of those words that means the exact same thing in both language. La branche in French and "branch" in English both refer to those small extensions of a tree growing up and out from the main trunk; both words also carry the same figurative meanings that denote the subsidiary parts of certain things [e.g., governments]. Therefore both words can mean "a separate smaller offshoot of a larger river." "Branche-" clearly equals "river," at least in my mind.

So what about that "-treu?" According to Wikipedia, the suffix "-treu" is equivalent to the modern suffix "-try" or "-tree," which used to mean "farm" and then expanded to mean "settlement" or "town." Apparently this appears in town names around Wales. If that’s so, then "Branche-" = "River-" and "-treu" = "town," making "Branchetreu" = "Rivertown." The shifts changes in spelling and pronunciation we can attribute to the inevitable changes in language as it wends through the landscape of time.

Even though I know Braintree is basically Rivertown, the poetic images of its current iteration — brains and trees — will always teem in my mind. When I think of Braintree, I think of a tree in a cemetery growing out of someone’s skull. More specifically, I think of an old New England family plot, full of effaced and canted stones, and an apple tree rooting in one corner, planted firmly in the pot of a dead person’s skull. Or I think of another feral apple-like tree, once by a house that has long since disappeared. Short and broad, it bears the heavy burden of its fruit: bright ripe brains, swinging from their stems. Or, more metaphorically, I think of the nervous system as the epitome of a brain-tree: with the spinal cord as its trunk, it ramifies in electric branches throughout the body, with the brain at its fruiting crown.

This entry was originally posted at http://modernwizard.dreamwidth.org/1704798.html. You can comment here, but I’d prefer it if you’d comment on my DW using OpenID.

Strong Language: a blog right up my alley

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It’s all about words and, more specifically, swears!

This entry was originally posted at http://modernwizard.dreamwidth.org/1704209.html. You can comment here, but I’d prefer it if you’d comment on my DW using OpenID.

Neil Diamond, the “song she brang to me” and the creative bankruptcy of anti-rap

Neil Diamond, the “song she brang to me” and the creative bankruptcy of anti-rap published on 2 Comments on Neil Diamond, the “song she brang to me” and the creative bankruptcy of anti-rap

I really, really, really dislike Neil Diamond. All his stuff just sounds to me like a long, soulful whinge, which is attractive to some people, but not me. I could handle the droning whines if it weren’t for songs like Play Me, which contains the immortal words:

Song she sang to me
Song she brang to me
Words that rang in me
Rhyme that sprang from me
Warmed the night
And what was right
Became me

As far as I’m concerned, this verse illustrates just how creatively bankrupt he is. All his failings are encapsulated in the word "brang." The older I get, the less of a linguistic prescriptivist I am and the more of a laissez-faire descriptivist, but this "brang" deeply irritates me. Using apostrophes for pluralization, deploying "unique" as a synonym of unusual, saying "literally" when one means "figuratively" — all of these grammatical solecisms that it’s fashionable to rant against do not offend me to the core the way that Neil Diamond’s "brang" does.

Why do I have such a problem with "brang?" Well, clearly he’s not using it as part of a character’s particular voice, as it’s the only non-standard past participle in the song, so he’s using it as a songwriter. He obviously knows the correct past participle, as he sings repeatedly in You Got to Me that "You brought me to my knees." Thus the "brang" is a fully intentional artistic choice.

I could accept "brang" as an on-purpose use if it served some sort of coherent aesthetic program, but it doesn’t. It just rhymes with "sang," "rang" and "sprang." "I used it because it rhymes" can be an acceptable justification for certain vocabulary, but only if you really need that word there. This verse does not need "brang" or, indeed, the whole "Song she brang to me" line. The verse could go as follows without a problem:

Song she sang to me
Words that rang in me
Rhyme that sprang from me
Warmed the night
And what was right
Became me

This verse says the exact same thing as the version up above. The singer receives a song as a gift from a woman. It enters his soul and affects him deeply, calling forth an answering rhyme from him. He feels perfect and right in his union with her. 

Unfortunately, Neil Diamond is not taking my lyrical advice. He’d rather inflict us with "brang," which, being narratively unjustified, stands out harshly as a gratuitous mangling of an innocent past participle. He uses "brang" because he likes it and because he’s so unreasonably attached to it that he can’t excise it, even though its loss would improve the whole song. "I like it, and it sounds nice" is not an acceptable justification for retaining wretched prose or lyrics.

Neil Diamond is like the personification of anti-rap. Rap epitomizes a high-flying, experimental spirit of rapid-fire linguistic invention in which endless play with vocabulary, stress and meter often reveals surprising and illuminating connections between phrases and concepts. Someone with some actual talent could rap that whole verse, including "brang," and it wouldn’t be a shitty invented past participle, but an echo of the ringing that touches the speaker so intimately that it changes even the most ordinary words into bell-like sounds. Sadly, however, Neil Diamond does not have that talent. His "brang" depends not on linguistic inventiveness, but on a stale, stagnant affection for a sound he couldn’t let go.  

This entry was originally posted at http://modernwizard.dreamwidth.org/1694134.html. You can comment here, but I’d prefer it if you’d comment on my DW using OpenID.

Girl, implicated: the child in the labyrinth in the fantastic

Girl, implicated: the child in the labyrinth in the fantastic published on No Comments on Girl, implicated: the child in the labyrinth in the fantastic

Greer Gilman, master of purple involuted mock-Jacobean epics, muses about one of my favorite themes. The girls who have adventures in labyrinths fare differently compared to the boys. [Also she has a bone to pick with Tehanu’s crabbed domesticity in Ursula Le Guin’s novel of the same name. So do I, Gilman. So do I.]

I like her observation that the girls [Ariadne, Alice, Eilonwy from — yack! — the endlessly irritating Book of Three, Arha/Tehanu, Sarah] find their ways out; they know where they’re going. Meanwhile, the boys [Theseus, the White Knight {?}, Taran, Sparrowhawk/Ged, Jareth] don’t; they get lost and bonk around aimlessly. They’re "clueless," Gilman says, which is to say without a clue…or without a clew, Ariadne’s map-like ball of thread that knows the way through the passages. ["Clue" as a hint of a guide derives from "clew" qua thread. I love etymology!]

So why do we only hear of the boys getting out and through the maze? Why don’t we ever hear of the girls who get to know their labyrinths and walk through the darkness, unafraid of Minotaurs?

Beats me. For some reason, Inanna’s descent to the otherworld ain’t considered as compelling. Why not???

Pfffffft.

Goin’ to read Moonwise again, even though it drives me up the wall.

This entry was originally posted at http://modernwizard.dreamwidth.org/1673607.html. You can comment here, but I’d prefer it if you’d comment on my DW using OpenID.

Names for my eventual digital hairstyles

Names for my eventual digital hairstyles published on No Comments on Names for my eventual digital hairstyles

If all goes according to plan and I purchase PhilC’s Hair Designer and start generating my own digital hairstyles, I have decided that they will all be called by permutations of my name.

I don’t know if I still have it, but, in my youth, I collected variants of my name. I got well north of 60, I think, before I moved on to other pursuits. Some of my favorites include the following:

  • Orszebet
  • Lillibet
  • Wiz [a former coworker’s nickname]
  • Yelizaveta
  • Ealasaid
  • Isabel
  • Ilsabeth

Special mention goes to Zibber, my brother’s name for me when he couldn’t pronounce Elizabeth. This once irritated me to no end, but now I find it hilarious.

This entry was originally posted at http://modernwizard.dreamwidth.org/1660918.html. You can comment here, but I’d prefer it if you’d comment on my DW using OpenID.

“Spastic” has NEVER been an “innocuous” term over here.

“Spastic” has NEVER been an “innocuous” term over here. published on 3 Comments on “Spastic” has NEVER been an “innocuous” term over here.

In one of Weird Al’s recent parodies, Word Crimes, about a prescriptivist’s rant against supposed language misuse, he sings:

Saw your blog post
It’s really fantastic
That was sarcastic
‘Cause you write like a spastic

When I heard this part of the song, my esteem for him immediately plummeted, as "spastic" is, in my world, a derogatory, dismissive term for a very energetic and/or clumsy and/or forgetful and/or fidgety and/or unintelligent person. It derives from "spastic" as a description for people, particularly those with cerebral palsy, because of their muscle spasms. Said spasms, which cause uncontrollable contractions and may cause involuntary movements, may cause a person’s limbs, head or core to shake. Speech may also be interrupted. People who didn’t know any better interpreted these spasm-induced movements as signs that disabled people were overly excitable, clumsy, forgetful, fidgety, uncoordinated, etc. It became a shorthand insult, which then itself was shortened to "spaz," a term most prevalent in the late 1970s and 1980s.

Let me tell you about muscle spasms, at least from my secondhand experience. My sister Jill, who has cerebral palsy, regularly experiences them. My ex-wife, who also had cerebral palsy, had them. Janna regularly has them as well. In all their cases, their muscle spasms manifest as uncontrollable twitching and jerking in the affected body parts. In all cases, the spasms cause them pain and sometimes keep them up at night. In none of their cases do their muscle spasms have any connection with their overall levels of energy, coordination, excitability, forgetfulness and/or fidgetiness. In none of their cases do their muscle spasms limit their brain functions. To take an adjective for disruptive, excruciating pain and transform it into a dismissive term for a silly person is a prime example of rank ableism.

This is why I object to Language Log’s discussion of Weird Al’s use of "spastic" and subsequent apology. Ben Zimmer, author of a post discussing the term, claims that "spaz" and "spastic" have "become innocuous playground slang in the U.S. but a grave insult in the U.K." He asserts that Weird Al apologized for using "spastic" primarily because it offended British listeners.

NO! You are wrong wrong wrongity wrong, Ben Zimmer. "Spaz" and "spastic" have always been derogatory and insulting because they transfer terms for disability into the realm of insult, thereby turning disabilities into insults. Weird Al should not have apologized because "spaz" is an insult over in the UK. He should have apologized because ableism is nasty and harmful in general the world over.

Anyway, even though he apologized for his ableism in Word Crimes, Weird Al’s ableism remains on display in his song Lame Claim to Fame. STOP USING "LAME" TO MEAN "PATHETIC" PEOPLE!

This entry was originally posted at http://modernwizard.dreamwidth.org/1657673.html. You can comment here, but I’d prefer it if you’d comment on my DW using OpenID.

Learned a new word today!

Learned a new word today! published on No Comments on Learned a new word today!

Skeuomorphism is the practice of including features of old technology in new technology, but as design elements, without their old functionality. Examples include folders in the GUI of a computer to click on to access groups of files and the sound effect on my digital camera that sounds like a shutter clicking whenever I take a picture.

I think you could also extend its use metaphorically to cover terms for new technology that use old technology as a basis for comparison. One example of this type of use would be "horsepower" as a skeuomorph referring to the strength of a car’s engine. Another example would be "astronaut"/"cosmonaut" [literally "star-sailor"/ "universe-sailor" according to the Greek roots] for those who travel in outer space.

This is an extremely useful word, applicable in many instances today. I love it!

Incidentally, the word skeuomorphism has as its roots the Greek terms for "tool" ["skeuo-"] and "shape" [morph"]. Literally it means "a thing shaped like a tool" — with the implication that, although it appears to be a tool, it cannot be used exactly as its appearance suggests. Its very existence interrogates the nature of originality and reality. Whoa, dude — that’s so, like, deep!

This entry was originally posted at http://modernwizard.dreamwidth.org/1624549.html. You can comment here, but I’d prefer it if you’d comment on my DW using OpenID.

BJD jargon, as used on DOA

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An incomplete glossary of selected terms from the BJD subculture, assuming that the reader at least knows what a BJD is:

Suwarikko

Sanding

DOA

Eye putty

Restringing

Adoption: the process of buying a BJD on the secondary market. Some people use an extended metaphor of their BJDs as children.

Blushing/Brushing: application of chalk pastels and/or acrylic paint to a BJD’s body to represent variations in skin tone. Called "blushing" when applied to a doll’s head, but "body blushing" when applied elsewhere.

Bonding: emotional attachment that an owner ostensibly develops to a BJD.

Boy/Girl: a BJD, depending on the assigned sex of the doll, almost always used with possessive pronouns [e.g., "My girl looks so cute holding your boy!"] as part of the BJD:child metaphor.

Dolly diet: restriction of BJD-related purchases, usually because one has recently overspent.

Event head: a limited edition head issued by a BJD company as part of a sales event.

Faceup: hand-painted blushing, eyebrows and lips on a BJD’s head. Term seems to be a combination of "face" + "makeup."

Fullset: a limited edition BJD sold with a particular faceup, eyes, wig, outfit and sometimes accessories. Also used as an adjective, as in, "I’m selling her with the fullset dress and bonnet, but keeping the shoes."

Group order: a business transaction headed by an organizer who combines many small orders into a single large one, takes orders for participants, then submits all the orders as a single large purchase to the doll company. Item prices factor in a base price, a percentage of shipping from the doll company to the organizer, then shipping and handling from organizer to partner. The organizer collects payment, places the order, receives the items, then ships them to participants.

Grail doll: the one particular BJD that someone really wants, but often has difficulty acquiring because of limited edition, scarcity, expense, etc.

Heel feet: BJD feet sculpted with toes flexed up so that a doll can wear high heels. Sometimes sculpted as a single piece with the calf to eschew ankle joints and add stability.

KIPS: small silicone discs used by Volks in a BJD’s joint sockets to help the doll pose better. A type of sueding.

Mod: either a truncation of "modify" or "modification." To make change to a BJD, usually through the addition of sculpting epoxy putty or through the use of sandpaper and other subtractive tools, or the change itself.

MSC: Mister Super Clear, a Japanese spray used to seal a faceup or body blushing.

MSD: Mini Super Dollfie, the line of ~40cm, 1:4 scale BJDs created by Volks. As the first commercially available BJDs of this size, they have also become the standard by which other dolls are measured. Thus MSD also refers more generically to the size of the doll, i.e., 40cm and 1:4 scale. Sellers of BJD clothes, accessories or props may refer to things as "MSD" or "MSD size," which does not necessarily imply any association with Volks MSDs.

NSFW/NWS: not safe for work/not work safe. These labels appear on shots of BJDs with visible nipples and/or genitalia that, it is assumed, may not be prudent to view at one’s workplace.

OC: original character or a BJD representation thereof, in implicit contrast to the many BJD representations of fictional characters from other media.

Recast:
an illegally duplicated BJD, often much lower in price than the legitimate original. Recasts may be literal recasts, i.e., products of unauthorized use of official molds, or copies achieved by reverse-engineering a mold from an existing legitimate BJD.

Reshelling: deciding that a different type of BJD would make a better representation of a character [often an OC] than the doll one currently has, selling the current shell and buying a new one.

SD: Super Dollfie, the line of 60cm, 1:3 scale BJDs created by Volks. As the first commercially available BJDs of this size, they have also become the standard by which other dolls are measured. Thus SD also refers more generically to the size of the doll, i.e., 60cm and 1:3 scale. Sellers of BJD clothes, accessories or props may refer to things as "SD" or "SD size," which does not necessarily imply any association with Volks SDs.

Shell: a BJD representation of a fictional character, often an OC.

Sleeping head: a BJD head with fully or partly closed eyes. Fully closed eyes do not require the use of eyeballs and may not even have sockets, while partly closed eyes have sockets and can use eyeballs. There is no standard terminology for sleeping heads. One company’s "sleeping" [e.g., Fairyland] is another company’s "romantic" [Soom], "reminisce" [Elfdoll], "slack afternoon" [Dollshe], etc.

Split: a type of group order where an organizer advertises that they want to buy a doll, but only for certain parts. The remaining parts are then available for split partners to purchase. Group order procedures then follow. Also the act of selling parts of a doll separately on the secondary market.

Sueding: the addition of some type of grippy material to a BJD’s joint balls and/or sockets to help the doll hold poses better. Materials include suede, hot glue and KIPS discs.

Yellowing: the discoloration of a resin BJD when exposed to sunlight. May be counteracted to some degree by stabilizers that keep the resin pigmentation from changing too much, the addition of UV resistance to resin, coating the BJD with MSC or another sealant or just keeping the doll in the dark, but is ultimately inevitable.

This entry was originally posted at http://modernwizard.dreamwidth.org/1552158.html. You can comment here, but I’d prefer it if you’d comment on my DW using OpenID.

Gah! What is this shit?

Gah! What is this shit? published on No Comments on Gah! What is this shit?

"The abyss, with gulfy maw, / Thirsts on unsated…"

That’s Roy Campbell, trying to translate part of Baudelaire’s Horloge and, tripping on the hurdles of redundant froufrou, failing miserably. 

The sentence in question is, "Le gouffre a toujours soif." Literally, that’s, "The pit is always thirsty." But nah…let’s go with a "translation" that basically says, "The abyss, with an abyssal abyss, abysses abysmally."

Baudelaire tends not to fare well in translation…

This entry was originally posted at http://modernwizard.dreamwidth.org/1516399.html. You can comment here, but I’d prefer it if you’d comment on my DW using OpenID.

Stupid cis people strike again!

Stupid cis people strike again! published on No Comments on Stupid cis people strike again!

Reading a paper on operations that trans persons may choose to undergo as part of their bodily transitions…

Authors go on and on about "sex reassignment surgery." No, dipshits, it’s not "sex reassignment surgery." Frankly, I’m not entirely sure what the most accurate term is at this point, but it’s not that. I think the general term I’ve heard is "gender transition surgery," which encompasses a variety of procedures.

"Transexualism is a gender identification disorder…" A) Authors can’t even spell "transsexualism." B) Cissexism is a disorder in which people think that there are only two categories of people, "men" and "women," and that all people in each group must have bodies that look exactly the same.

Authors are obsessed with penetration, defining a neopenis as one that can successfully achieve penetration and a neovulva as one that can successfully be penetrated. They apparently think that the only type of sexual activity available is penis-into-vulva penetration.

ARRRGH!

This entry was originally posted at http://modernwizard.dreamwidth.org/1508236.html. You can comment here, but I’d prefer it if you’d comment on my DW using OpenID.

Scanner juice

Scanner juice published on No Comments on Scanner juice

Just purchased a secondhand scanner from a person who said she was getting rid of it to "liquefy" unwanted possessions. Is it just me, or can English be an exceptionally confusing language, even for people who speak it as a first language? 

This entry was originally posted at http://modernwizard.dreamwidth.org/1508040.html. You can comment here, but I’d prefer it if you’d comment on my DW using OpenID.

Ever notice…

Ever notice… published on No Comments on Ever notice…

…how no one chit-chats on TV shows? I was watching Grimm this morning [back from its winter hiatus and as gloriously stupid as ever!], and yet again I noticed how no one ever stammers, stutters, repeats themselves or says hello or goodbye. [Apparently meaningful stares take the place of these conversational markers.] Everyone says everything just once, in the most condensed, pithy, comprehensible way possible, and the listeners always comprehend perfectly and let their interlocutors go without saying goodbye.

I understand that TV represents a stylized view of human interactions, but we spend so much time saying hello, making small talk, repeating ourselves, going "uhhhhhhh…" and saying goodbye that TV’s persistent refusal to even acknowledge the actual form of most modern conversations just kills my suspension of disbelief. Instead of following the story, I’m too busy thinking about a) how actors are apparently paid by the world, so cheap studios limit their lines so they don’t have to pay them too much and b) how rude and socially inept all the characters would be if they acted like this in real life. Then I become irritated with the whole enterprise and start wanting to throw things at the screen.

This entry was originally posted at http://modernwizard.dreamwidth.org/1481877.html. You can comment here, but I’d prefer it if you’d comment on my DW using OpenID.

The history of curry

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Mostly Slate pisses me off, but occasionally it publishes something interesting. Today’s find is an article on the history of curry.

Archaeologists from the US and India are working in the Indus River Valley. They analyze the microscopic signatures of food remains to determine what people ate thousands of years ago. The ingenious methods are fascinating to read about.

Surprise surprise — they were currying the heck out of their cuisine, just the way we do today. [Well, not in exactly the same manner, but surely with the same amount of enthusiasm!]

…Now I want curry…

This entry was originally posted at http://modernwizard.dreamwidth.org/1455650.html. You can comment here, but I’d prefer it if you’d comment on my DW using OpenID.

Today’s words: “jeggings” and “quellazaire”

Today’s words: “jeggings” and “quellazaire” published on No Comments on Today’s words: “jeggings” and “quellazaire”

"Jeggings" are leggings that look like jeans. Some neologisms are cutesy and pointless — I’m looking at you, "meggings" [men’s leggings]! — but I think jeggings serves a purpose. It signifies that the leggings in question are styled differently than your standard simple, stretchy, undetailed elastic-waist tights.

A "quellazaire" is a cigarette holder, not a storage case, but a tube on which the cigarette is mounted. It’s an actual word, but I can’t find an authoritative reference online for it. I have no idea of the etymology either, but I’d love to find out.

This entry was originally posted at http://modernwizard.dreamwidth.org/1443035.html. You can comment here, but I’d prefer it if you’d comment on my DW using OpenID.

Came across the niftiest name today…

Came across the niftiest name today… published on No Comments on Came across the niftiest name today…

Pearlene! I suppose that means that there will be a 1:6 scale Pearlene in my future.

This entry was originally posted at http://modernwizard.dreamwidth.org/1427588.html. You can comment here, but I’d prefer it if you’d comment on my DW using OpenID.

I actually like looking at this sometimes…

I actually like looking at this sometimes… published on 4 Comments on I actually like looking at this sometimes…

Slant magazine provides some of the most pretentious, convoluted, obtuse, overwritten, horribly bad movie “reviews” I have ever read. Here’s an example. Basically the author dislikes the movie for being overly sympathetic to all characters and not judgmental enough. But God forbid he come right out and say that. Instead we get Death by Adjectives and phrases like “limning a milieu with extraneous humanism,” which sounds like it just came from the keys of someone who has recently discovered the thesaurus [or maybe the Increase Your Word Power! section of Reader’s Digest].

As you can see [if you can make any headway in the impenetrable thicket of purple prose], the reviewers make it a point to dislike pretty much everything. Then they expound on their dislike with the grandiloquent bloviation worthy of those self-important people who think that they are too stupendous to crack jokes. To a man [and I think they’re all men], they’re acutely allergic to clarity of expression and direct communication of ideas. They clearly believe that, the more subordinate clauses their “reviews” have, the better they are.

I like to read stuff like this occasionally, just to roll my eyes at its egregiousness. It reminds me what not to do.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, there’s a milieu that needs some limning with extraneous humanism. :p

P.S. This also brings up the question — if you hate movies, both generally as a concept and specifically as individual films, which the writers of Slant apparently do, why write about them in the first place?

Oh hell, let’s just call it “pale purple.”

Oh hell, let’s just call it “pale purple.” published on 1 Comment on Oh hell, let’s just call it “pale purple.”

I seriously have a problem with the word “lavender.” I can never remember how to spell it, which is very unusual because I usually know how to spell most English words I run across.

L A V E N D A R ?

L A V A N D E R ?

I can’t think of any mnenomic device to help me remember the correct spelling either.

Hmmm, well, it is kind of like “lave” + “ender,” both of which I do know how to spell. Maybe I can remember it that way.

[To “lave” is a wonderful word meaning “to wash” or, metaphorically, “to soothe.” It rhymes with “save.”]

No! You can’t use that word!

No! You can’t use that word! published on 2 Comments on No! You can’t use that word!

Do you have body integrity identity disorder? Well, that’s neither here nor there, since I really don’t care about your BIID.

I do care, however, when you start calling yourselves “transabled” and organizing your whole identities around the supposition that your experiences are analogous to those of people who are trans or who have disabilities.

First of all, you don’t get to use the word “transabled.” By doing so, you appropriate the terminology of the trans rights movement and disability rights movement. You dismiss the lived experiences and struggles of trans and/or disabled people by using their vocabulary as your metaphor. You’re therefore objectifying and dehumanizing trans and/or disabled people. You’re perpetuating discrimination and prejudice against these populations. Go find your own terms.

Second of all, neither do you get to claim that your oppression is like that of trans and/or disabled people. When you are murdered for your state of being and society finds your killer[s] understandable, justifiable, sympathetic and symptomatic of an entire social program that dehumanizes people like you with the goal of eliminating them, then we might be able to talk. Otherwise, you need to understand that being different does not axiomatically entail being oppressed.

[Prompted by a similar takedown on Womanist Musings.]

50 Shades: “Fair point well made” ARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRGH!

50 Shades: “Fair point well made” ARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRGH! published on 2 Comments on 50 Shades: “Fair point well made” ARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRGH!

Of all the recycled phrases in the 50 Shades trilogy, the one that's driving me up the wall the most is "Fair point well made." Ana and Christian say this about as often as they have sex, which is up to twice a chapter. Sometimes they even say, "Fair point well made as ever."

I have never heard anyone in my life say this, especially not a 26-year-old Harvard dropout [Christian] and a 21-year-old recent college graduate [Ana]. If people under the age of 30 who have been born and raised in the US want to acknowledge someone's opinion that they disagree with, they typically use one of the following phrases:

"Yeah, but…"

"Okay, but…"

"Touché."

If one feels the burning need to use the word "point," one could say, "Good point."

One could also say, "You have a point."

If one feels like being particularly snotty, one could also say, "Fair point." I've never heard anyone actually use that phrase in the wild, but it's not outside the realm of possibility. I think I've probably read it in a novel somewhere.

But "Fair point well made"?! What the hell? Who even says that? Is it some sort of Britishism? If so, I've never encountered it in any of the British literature I've read before the 50 Shades trilogy. [The author lives in London, England.] It could possibly be a function of E.L. James' fallback on her own British idiom and her lazy refusal to invest in any research that would make the voices of two US citizens in their 20s realistic and believable. However, I can't really tell much about the origin and current use of this phrase, because, hilariously enough, most Google results of "fair point well made as ever" point to pages lambasting the 50 Shades trilogy for this irritating verbal hiccup.

SHUT UP, Cassandra Clare!

SHUT UP, Cassandra Clare! published on No Comments on SHUT UP, Cassandra Clare!

Cassandra Clare writes popular YA fantasy series. I have no problem with that; in fact, I enjoy them as mind candy. I really wish she would stop quoting British literature, though. In the Infernal Devices series, a quotation from some British novel or poetry begins every single chapter for no apparent reason. Furthermore, the characters spew poetry at inopportune intervals too. Why? Why? Why?

This incessant quoting serves no purpose. The pre-chapter quotes relate, sometimes in very strained, tangential ways, to the events in the chapter, but that's it. The characters' useless quotations do nothing to further the reader's understanding of the story or the characters, unless your understanding is furthered by knowing that the protagonist likes books. There's no thematic, sustained, interesting, clever or relevant treatment of the quotes or the works they're from. They don't do anything except waste space. At best, they prove the author's prowess in Googling public domain works of literature. Must be some sort of self-congratulatory textual porn for English majors whose intellectual achievements peaked with their close reading of Dickens' Great Expectations [snore] during their sophomore year at a small New England liberal arts college.

As an English major from a small New England liberal arts college [ask me about my close reading of Emily Dickinson!], I'm real impressed. :p

Today’s hilarious simile

Today’s hilarious simile published on No Comments on Today’s hilarious simile

And now, for something more amusing, let's turn to John Scalzi's blog entry, "Straight White Male: The Lowest Difficulty Setting There Is," which begins:

I’ve been thinking of a way to explain to straight white men how life works for them, without invoking the dreaded word “privilege,” to which they react like vampires being fed a garlic tart at high noon.

The entry itself goes on to analogize "straight white male" privilege as the easiest level setting in a video game. I sense some implicit Oppression Olympics going on in his analogy, so I can't recommend it unreservedly, but that opening comparison sure is hilarious.

Polyglot animals!

Polyglot animals! published on No Comments on Polyglot animals!

Derek Abbott's Animal Noise Page tells you what the standard onomatopoeia is for animals in different languages. Interesting how a cuckoo basically says "cuckoo" in all languages shown! Snakes also pretty much all say "ssss."

There's also a fascinating section on animal commands, so you can find out how to say "giddyap," "whoa," "here kitty kitty" and "scat" in different languages.

EDIT: For more fun and to hear people actually saying the onomatapoeia [not just for animals], go to bzzzpeek. It's fascinating!

“Vocal fry”

“Vocal fry” published on 2 Comments on “Vocal fry”

Wow, ya learn something new everyday. I didn't even know that that low, grating tone that you put on the end of words sometimes even had a name, but apparently it does. The New York Times introduced me to the subject in an article about linguistic novelty among girls. Unfortunately, it's difficult to describe vocal fry, but you know it when you hear it. Here's a Youtube commentary on vocal fry, including some examples. In my experience, vocal fry seems to be an affectation to suggest sophistication, doubt, frustration or sarcasm.

Word of the day: “tsuris”

Word of the day: “tsuris” published on No Comments on Word of the day: “tsuris”

I learned a new word recently: tsuris. It's a Yiddish word meaning "trouble" or "distress." It seems to be used in English to refer to a large, annoying vexation, i.e., "They are always creating artificial drama wherever they go, and you really don't need that tsuris in your life." Pronounced "tsir iss" or "tsoo riss."

“Here be dragons.”

“Here be dragons.” published on No Comments on “Here be dragons.”

A collection of fanciful beasts on old maps, presented in a slide show by Slate, addresses the famous phrase denoting the edge of the known world: "Hic sunt dracones," or, "Here be dragons":

It’s a common belief that “Here be dragons” was a typical inscription on old maps. In fact, the Latin equivalent, Hic sunt dracones, has been found only once, on the 16th-century Lenox Globe, and the first scholar to study the globe, one B.F. da  Costa, opined in 1879 that it referred not to mythical dragons at all,  but to the “Dagroians”—a bloodthirsty Sumatran tribe described by Marco  Polo. The phrase may have entered the public consciousness via the writer Dorothy Sayers, who used it in one of her Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries.

Today’s word: “wamble”

Today’s word: “wamble” published on No Comments on Today’s word: “wamble”

Today's word is "wamble," pronounced "wahm bull" or "wham bull." It means "to feel nausea" or "to move unsteadily from side to side." It seems pretty onomatopoetic to me!

I also think there's room for a figurative definition, "to tergiversate," i.e., "President Obama wambles on the issue of same-sex marriage; he used to support it, but now he hedges."

Today’s word: gravamen

Today’s word: gravamen published on 1 Comment on Today’s word: gravamen

I learned a new word today. It is “gravamen.” It is from the Latin “gravare,” “to weigh down,” so literally it means “that which is heaviest.” It is a legal term http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gravamen that refers to the most serious part of a suit against someone and/or the basis of a lawsuit. Its extended, non-judicial meaning is “the essence of an objection,” as in, “My gravamen against your character is that you are flagitious!!”

The gods of bdsm have a limited vocabulary.

The gods of bdsm have a limited vocabulary. published on 1 Comment on The gods of bdsm have a limited vocabulary.

I find Jacqueline Carey’s books about Terre D’Ange [wherein Jesus’ son settled down in France and produced gods of bdsm — it’s better than it sounds] entertaining, but oh my Lord…someone please stop telling her to use "betimes" and "apurpose" in every third paragraph.

Just to make matters more irritating, Carey uses "betimes" as a synonym of "sometimes," but the first meaning for this archaic word  is actually "in good time; early," as in, "The farmer got up betimes to milk the cows in the predawn darkness."

Carey’s lexical problems really interrupt my enjoyment of her mind candy.

“I’ve got an itch to scratch — I need assistance!”

“I’ve got an itch to scratch — I need assistance!” published on No Comments on “I’ve got an itch to scratch — I need assistance!”

When Janet sings that line in Toucha Toucha Touch Me In Rocky Horror, she’s talking about an itch to scratch that she herself can’t reach. Did you know there’s a word for the part of your body where you cannot reach to scratch? It’s called “acnestis.” Just reading the word makes me itch.

I wanna live in Transylvania.

I wanna live in Transylvania. published on 1 Comment on I wanna live in Transylvania.

…Just because of its name. Its name comes from Latin "trans-," meaning "through," and "silva," meaning "woods." I just imagine that it’s a secretive land surrounded by a deep dark dense forest. By name alone, it’s worthy of fairy tales [and vampires].

I would also like to live in Elizabethtown or Allentown, but the reasons for that are humorous, not etymological.

“Lame” and “retarded”

“Lame” and “retarded” published on 3 Comments on “Lame” and “retarded”

I can’t stand when people use the word "lame" to mean "bad," "undesireable," "contemptible" or "worthless." Every time anyone uses "lame" in such a context, he or she is telling me that he or she equates a mobility impairment with a moral failing. More specifically, he or she implies that my sister is morally objectionable because she uses a wheelchair.

Same with the word "retarded" to mean "bad," "silly" or "stupid." Such a use equates brain damage with a moral failing and judges my sister as morally objectionable because she has brain damage.  And I also feel personally offended whenever "retarded" comes up because it disparages the non-neurotypical, and I don’t think I’m completely neurotypical. "Lame" and "retarded" are stupid, hurtful, prejudiced words. STOP USING THEM.

I can’t believe I’m even writing this entry.

“Ask”: not a noun!

“Ask”: not a noun! published on 3 Comments on “Ask”: not a noun!

So someone at work today was requesting information from participants for a staff meeting, and she framed her request like this: "Here is my ask: [insert request here]." She used "ask" as a noun to mean "the thing that I am asking you for." Why does this piece of jargon even exist when "request" fits the bill as another noun created from a verb? What does "ask" accomplish that "request" can’t? Nothing!

Here’s my REQUEST: Don’t use "ask" as a noun.

Fuss about pus

Fuss about pus published on No Comments on Fuss about pus

Quiz: What comes out of a suppurating wound? More precisely, how do you spell it?

PUS.

P-U-S.

Not P-U-S-S.

Two Ses mean a cat, while one S means purulent liquid indicated an infected wound. [It’s also that white gunk inside zits.] Stop confusing them, people.

And for God’s sakes, don’t ever think that the adjectival form is "pussy," because that gets us into even more disgusting confusions. Acceptable adjectives meaning "full of pus" include suppurative, pyogenic and purulent.

Lexical pet peeves: “ogle” and “groce”

Lexical pet peeves: “ogle” and “groce” published on 3 Comments on Lexical pet peeves: “ogle” and “groce”

This word, which means "to look at flirtatiously or lustfully," is pronounced "OH gull." It rhymes with "mogul." It is NOT pronounced "AH gull." It does NOT rhyme with "goggle," "boggle" or "toggle."

Also I’ve been seeing a lot of "groce" instead of "gross" on message boards. Actually, it’s just on one message board, and I can’t tell if the users are purposely misspelling it, or if they just don’t know what they’re doing. It’s a gross error, and it pisses me off. Has anyone else seen this anywhere?

“Submittal”: a useless word

“Submittal”: a useless word published on 4 Comments on “Submittal”: a useless word

Why do people use the word "submittal" to denote "a thing that is being submitted?" [I run across the term "submittal" in my work when I see discussions of applications, permits, supporting material and related stuff that organizations are supposed to hand to one another to get approval for things.] "Submission" is a perfectly fine noun for these things.

"Submittal" is a redundant and stupid word.

SUBMIT! SUBMIT SUBMIT SUBMIT!

Incidentally, in my job search, I came across a SUBMIT button for some online application labeled SUBMIT TO WEB SITE or something similar. I felt threatened.

I really like the word "submit." It comes from the Latin, "sub-," meaning "under" and the Latin "mit," meaning "to send." So basically it means "to send under," which is a fascinating literal and figurative connotation for submitting documents or submitting to another person. When I think of this word, I think of submarines diving below the surface, letters sliding under doors and people sinking slowly into genuflection.

I may also be biased toward the word because my greatX8-grandmother was named Submit Allen.

One of my dolls is named Submit. ^_^
 

Stupid word of the day: Webinar

Stupid word of the day: Webinar published on 4 Comments on Stupid word of the day: Webinar

A webinar is a specific type of web conferencing, like a seminar with a presenter and an audience, only online. I have nothing against the concept; I just think that the word sounds stupid. Unlike web + broadcast [=webcast], web + seminar do not easily create one word starting with web. What’s wrong with calling it a web seminar?

The 1955 Hillman Minx has a “new gay look.”

The 1955 Hillman Minx has a “new gay look.” published on 1 Comment on The 1955 Hillman Minx has a “new gay look.”

Thanks to humorist Dave Barry, we are all aware that the Hillman Minx is one of the silliest cars in existence. The hilarity ratchets up a notch when you look back on this ad from a time not so long ago [1955] when the first meaning of “gay” was NOT “homosexual.”

Lexical annoyances part II

Lexical annoyances part II published on 1 Comment on Lexical annoyances part II

1. “Definitely” is frequently misspelled “definately.” Yeah, that’s how people pronounce it, but it’s wrong.

2. “Who’s” != “Whose.” “Who’s” = “Who is” or “Who has.” “Whose” is the possessive form, meaning “belonging to whom.” 

Whose bringing the cupcakes? WRONG.

Whose turn is it to bring cupcakes? RIGHT.

Who’s bringing the cupcakes? RIGHT.

Who’s turn is it to bring cupcakes? WRONG AAAAAAARRRRRRRRGH.

Lexical annoyances

Lexical annoyances published on 1 Comment on Lexical annoyances

1. “Homage” is pronounced with the accent on the first syllable [“hommidge” or “ommidge”], not the second [“home aaaazh” or “ome aaaazh”]. I don’t care how it’s pronounced in French; now that it’s Anglicized, its pronunciation is too.

2. “Unique” does not mean “unusual,” “really cool” or “rare.” “Unique” means “one of a kind.” Its Latin root, “uni-,” means “one,” for God’s sake!  While unique things may be unusual, really cool and/or rare, things that are rare, unusual and/or really cool are not necessarily unique…only if one of them exists in the whole universe.

Today’s word: “chyron”

Today’s word: “chyron” published on 3 Comments on Today’s word: “chyron”

 I found a new word today: chyron. Emily Yoffe uses it in a Slate blog post here:

Hanna, you quote Ellen Tien’s assertion, “Beneath the thumpingly ordinary nature of our marriage—Everymarriage—runs the silent chyron of divorce," and wonder if those of us whose running chyron is saying “I am so lucky I am married to this man” are deluded.

From the context, I thought it was something like a constant refrain, so I looked it up. It turns out that "chyron" is the technical term for combinations of graphics and text that appear at the bottom of a TV screen. Chyrons often include the name of the story being shown, its location, the name of the presenter or the name of the person currently speaking.

My Google search suggests that this word is well-known within the news and reporting industry, but little known outside it. We should all use it more, however, because, as the usage above shows, it has great metaphorical potential!

The most gloriously silly phrase in the history of copywriting…

The most gloriously silly phrase in the history of copywriting… published on No Comments on The most gloriously silly phrase in the history of copywriting…

Here it is: “artillery-laden ski pursuits.” Ever since reading this phrase off the back of a video box for the Bond movie On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, I’ve tried to worm it into my daily vocabulary as much as possible. When I’m really rich and I have extra money to throw around, I’m going to buy artilleryladenskipursuits.com just for the hell of it. That is all.

Field Guide to Literary Devils: Logorrheus

Field Guide to Literary Devils: Logorrheus published on No Comments on Field Guide to Literary Devils: Logorrheus

Logorrheus: A minor demon among those that bedevil writers, Logorrheus is recognized by its bloated form full of bombast and hot air. Its skin is purple so that it may blend in with the type of prose that it feeds on. Though Logorrheus has a distinctive form, authors usually recognize the demon’s presence not because they have seen the demon itself, but because they have seen its effects. Wreaking devastation upon the libraries of writers, Logorrheus consumes all manner of reference books, including dictionaries, thesauruses, style guides and Bulwer-Lytton’s Least Comprehensible Poetry of the Victorian Era, then shits it out everywhere. The resultant fecal matter, which, according to observers, often smells overripe or overdone, contains linguistic abominations once thought achievable only through the unholy congress of monkeys and typewriters. To wit:

“It’s for you,” Japhrimel said diffidently, his eyes flaring with green fire in angular runic patterns for just a moment before returning to almost-human darkness. [Turd from The Devil’s Right Hand by Lilith Saintcrow.]

Writers afflicted with Logorrheus are advised to abstain from authors that could worsen the condition, including Charles Dickens and J.R.R. Tolkien. Instead, victims of Logorrheus can repel it with frequent use of any concise, pithy writer. Especially efficacious are Ernest Hemingway [possible side effects: inflated sense of machismo, obsession with Africa] and Emily Dickinson [possible side effects: inordinate interest in bees, romantic liaisons with a mysterious “Master”].

World Wide Words

World Wide Words published on 1 Comment on World Wide Words

Michael Quinion, a speaker of British English, writes essays about the origins of unusual words and slang. I followed a link to his site because I wanted to find out the approximate date of one of my favorite adjectives, copacetic. Its age is indeterminate, but I did find many other fascinating tidbits on the site.

Today’s word: “pillowy”

Today’s word: “pillowy” published on No Comments on Today’s word: “pillowy”

Lev Grossman describes the style of Stephenie Meyer, whose garbologous vampire train wrecks are the object of my current mini-obsession, as “pillowy…distinctly reminiscent of Internet fan fiction.”  A beautifully evocative adjective, yes? Still rather vague in this sentence, though. I think of a “pillowy” book as one you can take to bed: a comfortable, predictable story that leaves you feeling warm, unchallenged and happy. Since “pillowy” literally means “like a pillow” or “soft,” Grossman seems to have something in mind more along the lines of “squishy, sentimental and lacking in true substance.” I’d argue that Meyer’s books are “pillowy=comfortable and soothing” because they are “pillowy=sentimental and light.”

I also think “pillowy” should be removed from its derogatory relegation because it’s perfect for so many other things: the warm rounded curves of the Green Mountains, the gentle hills of cumulus clouds on a summer day, the layered mounds of petals in a rose flower, the frothy and cool sensations of Key Lime pie, the undulant stillness of floating in a calm body of water, the comfortable portions of a loved one that you like to rest your head against and, of course, the yielding mountains of bedclothes upon which you drop into dreams.

Previous entries in the Stephenie Meyer series are here: #1, #2, #3 and #4.

Following my post about “vegangelical…”

Following my post about “vegangelical…” published on 2 Comments on Following my post about “vegangelical…”

…Here are some observations from Feministing about the objectification of women to promote meatless eating.

As Feministing points out, using objectified women to sell meat is nothing new. [Here’s one of my favorite examples, a Carl’s Jr. commercial starring Paris Hilton, a hose, a car, a bucket of suds and a hamburger.] But apparently animal-rights activists, vegetarian organizations and vegan organizations exploit the same tropes as well. For example, here’s a commercial from the super-nutball, super-sexist PETA in which Alicia Silverstone comes out of a pool, naked, in slow motion. Somehow, this sells vegetarianism. In a press release about Eva Mendes posing naked for their “Fur? I’d rather go naked!” campaign, PETA, unsurprisingly enough, calls Mendes “one of Hollywood’s sexiest leading ladies,” “a regular red-carpet knock-out” and, just for some useless “hot-blooded Hispanic” stereotyping, a “sexy Latina.” The print text makes it clear that Mendes does not appear as someone you should pay attention to because she decided to abjure fur out of compassion or humanism or rational decision-making. You should pay attention to her because she’s glamorous and attractive, and she doesn’t wear fur, and do you YOU want to be just as glamorous and attractive as she is? PETA, while supplying my two examples, ain’t the only offender of such sexist, objectifying bullshit. See the Feministing entry for details about a vegan strip club [???!!] and the group Vegan Vixens [????!!!!].

Ann Friedman, post author, sums up the screwiness: “[U]sing the “ideal” female body type — something men want and women want to be — as an incentive to go vegan…is deeply fucked up, especially because there are dozens of real, compelling reasons to switch to a vegan lifestyle — none of them based on sexist bullshit.” 

P.S.: Here’s a super special bonus article from Salon, analyzing the misogynist, objectifying tactics of the popular Skinny Bitch “secret vegan ambush” cookbook.

Today’s word: “vegangelical”

Today’s word: “vegangelical” published on 4 Comments on Today’s word: “vegangelical”

I just came across the word “vegangelical” in an New York Times article about dietary differences among couples.

 

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/13/dining/13incompatible.html?_r=1&pagewanted=all

Here’s the relevant quote:

Dynise Balcavage, 42, an associate creative director at an advertising agency and vegan who lives in Philadelphia, said she has been happily married to her omnivorous husband, John Gatti, 53, for seven years.

“We have this little dance we’ve choreographed in the kitchen,” she said. She prepares vegan meals and averts her eyes when he adds anchovies or cheese. And she does not show disapproval when he orders meat in a restaurant.

“I’m not a vegangelical,” she said. “He’s an adult and I respect his choices just as he respects mine.”

A “vegangelical” is a zealous vegan who wants to convert others to his or her dietary habits. It’s a clever neologism for a certain subset of those who practice veganism.

“Beware of Japanese waitress bearing fortune cookie.”

“Beware of Japanese waitress bearing fortune cookie.” published on No Comments on “Beware of Japanese waitress bearing fortune cookie.”

At the end of one of the Pink Panther movies, Inspector Clouseau is dining at a Japanese restaurant when the server hands him something on a tray. It is a fortune cookie, which contains the following message: “Beware of Japanese waitress bearing fortune cookie.” Being completely oblivious, he takes a while to realize that he should have paid attention to the very person who gave him the fortune cookie. Meanwhile, the “Japanese waitress bearing fortune cookie” turns out to be Clouseau’s assistant, Cato, who takes every opportunity to ambush Clouseau to keep his self-defense techniques up to snuff. Cato attacks Clouseau. A melee ensues. And…curtain.

Beyond the stock comedic elements of drag, slapstick and food fights, this scene also depends on the viewer’s familiarity with fortune cookies. As presented in this country, fortune cookies are a phenomenon strictly associated with Chinese restaurants. Your average American probably thinks of fortune cookies as a Chinese invention, rather than a Japanese one, which is why “Japanese waitress bearing fortune cookie” is incongruous and therefore funny.

However, fortune cookies really are Japanese in origin, argues researcher Yasuko Nakamachi. Years of painstaking research into the fortune cookie trail have convinced her that the ubiquitous dessert of American Chinese takeout restaurants actually first began in shrine-side Japanese bakeries, where the wafers were hand-cooked over open coals. Reports of these Japanese fortune-cookie ancestors date back almost 200 years in literature and illustrations. Go read the article for speculation about how Japanese temple wafers hopped the ocean to California and somehow developed into a quintessentially American institution that was firmly associated with Chinese cuisine. 

And don’t tell me you didn’t learn anything today.

Multi-phthongs

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I always knew about diphthongs, but I didn’t know there were monophthongs and triphthongs as well. Monophthongs may be obvious [single, consistent vowel sounds], but triphthongs — single-syllable vowel sounds that vary three times over their duration — are more elusive. The only English example I have found is the pronunciation of “our” in dialects that drop the “r,” like a Bostonian accent, I guess, where someone would say “owww-uhhh-aaaaah,” to put it exaggeratedly.

Wow, I just greatly expanded the number of English words with the -phth- compound in them that I know. Monophthong, diphthong, triphthong, ophthamology [and variants], exophthalamos [and variants], naphthalene [and variants]. Man, that combination of letters together just looks odd.

Freakin’ fabulous fricatives and more

Freakin’ fabulous fricatives and more published on 1 Comment on Freakin’ fabulous fricatives and more

Fricatives are those sounds you make when you’re blowing air out your mouth, like ffffffff, sssssss, vvvvvvvv and zzzzzzzz. In fact, the word “fricative” begins and ends with a fricative! Frickin’ awesome!

Sibiliants are an awesome subtype of fricatives when the air that you’re blowing out is channeled by your tongue through your teeth, as in ssssssssss and zzzzzz. Wouldn’t you know — the word “sibiliants” begins and ends with a sibilant! Simply superb!

Plosives are those sounds you make when you stop air from going through your nose or your mouth, like bbbbbb, ddddd, gggg, kkk, pppp and tttt.  Oh look…the word “plosives” starts with a plosive. Positively preposterous.

Nasal stops are those sounds you make when air goes out your nose, but not your mouth, like mmmmmm and nnnnn. Hey, there’s a nasal stop begining the phrase “nasal stop.”

Affricates are sounds where you start blowing air out your mouth, then stop suddenly, so they are fricatives that end in plosives. They are sounds like chchchchchch and jjjjjjjjj.

As I was writing this entry, I just noticed that almost all of these terms for oral articulation contains in itself an example of the term it’s describing. They are self-descriptive. [There’s probably a technical term for that, but it escapes me now.] They’re almost onomatopoetic. Sound and sense sometimes do go together in a poetical way.

Hemicorporectomy?!?!?!?!?!?

Hemicorporectomy?!?!?!?!?!? published on 9 Comments on Hemicorporectomy?!?!?!?!?!?

I’m astounded, boggled and vomitoriously grossed out by my sheer accidental discovery of the extremely rare surgical procedure known as hemicorporectomy.

As the word itself suggests, a hemicorporectomy involves the removal of essentially half the body.

This medical dictionary says that the legs, pelvic bones, genitalia and excretory system [rectum to anus] are removed. I assume the reproductive system would be removed as well. This ain’t no double-limb amputation, people. It’s translumbar, which means that it goes through the lower back.

A hemicorporectomy usually happens because of a) a severe traumatic injury or b) horrible cancer of the lower spine or pelvic girdle  that doctors want to keep from spreading. It’s usually done in two stages. The first stage reroutes the excretory system to a colostomy bag. The second stage is the amputation.

Needless to say, this is a radical surgery with a high fatality rate, done only in the extremest cases. If a person does survive, he or she has many special considerations. For example, he or she has just lost half of his/her body weight, including circulatory system. He or she must be monitored to make sure that the heart is adequately adjusting a new blood pressure set point.  Also loss of the colon can lead to loss of electrolytes.

Survivors of hemicorporectomy face many mobility challenges. Obviously, without legs, they pretty much use wheelchairs or stay in bed. Furthermore, they have a smaller surface area on which to bear weight for sitting or lying. Pressure sores may result. Conventional prostheses are like bucket sockets, to put it crudely, with prostheses made from a non-breathing polymer to cap the lower torso. The polymer scrapes against the survivors’ skin, injuring them. Additionally, because the prostheses don’t breathe, the survivors cannot dissipate perspiration out of the area covered by the prostheses — a large area of their remaining body parts! — so they can’t regulate their body temperatures. This article shows some breathable, load-bearing alternatives to bucket prostheses. Check out the pictures, which give you an idea of what a clothed hemicorporectomy survivor’s lower body looks like. I’m still not clear on what’s keeping their remaining organs from falling out. Their diaphragms must be working hard, I guess.

So today I learned that people can survive without portions of their spine. That just amazes me. I always assumed that people needed their heads, necks and entire cores [body minus limbs] to survive. Now that I think about it, though, the entire core is not absolutely necessary. Ventilators can help to work the lungs, dialysis machines the kidneys, feeding tubes the digestive system, colostomy systems the excretory system. I suppose it is theoretically possible to move those bodily functions to machines so that the core consists of heart, [reduced] lungs, [reduced] digestive, [reduced] excretory, head and brain. That’s mind-blowing.

Apparently people can live without pretty much all of their bodies!!! Just think about it… People have been known to live without the following, where “without” means the absence thereof, not the non-working presence of… all limbs, hair, sweat glands, larynx, tonsils, 2 eyes, nose, 2 ears, 1 lung, teeth, tongue, upper palette, lower jaw, 1 or 2  kidneys, reproductive systems, 2 breasts, large tracts of intestine, spleen and other organs that I’m probably missing. People have also been known to live with portions of their brains removed. I want to say that I read about someone who was running successfully on one hemisphere after a radical operation designed to reduce seizures, but I don’t have a source for that.

Filling a linguistic void: “Murine”

Filling a linguistic void: “Murine” published on 1 Comment on Filling a linguistic void: “Murine”

Say you want to describe someone who looks like a rat or a mouse with a kind of long pointy face and prominent front teeth and twitchy disposition. “Mousy” indicates a shy person, which is not quite right, while “rat-like” has negative connotations [sorry, rats — but it’s true], and “rodent-like” is too general, given that rodents go from cabybaras to jerboas.

As a solution, I present to you the word “murine.” It means “of or pertaining to the family Muridae, a group that includes mice and rats.” It comes from the genitive plural murinus, which means “of or belonging to mice.” It also has deceptively tranquil and pleasing connotations, due to its accidental homophony with “marine.” 

Murine would make a good name for a murine therianthrope!!

Smells like rain…

Smells like rain… published on 4 Comments on Smells like rain…

You know that sharp, light, floral odor of the first rain? It has a name: petrichor. Actually petrichor is an exudation of certain plants during dry spells. This chemical leaches into rocks and soil, which then give it off, along with a compound known as geosmin [literally, “earth smell,” that full, brown, slightly crunchy, moist smell of, well, earthy things, like beets]. Petrichor + geosmin = “smells like rain.”

Incidentally, Petrichor and Geosmin are perfectly conceivable, under the current ridiculous drug-naming schemata, as names for medication. Petrichor is for drooling idiots with rocks in their heads…it comes in little brown pills. Geosmin, which comes in swirly blue and green tablets, aims to counteract LGS [Loss of Gravity Syndrome], when excess air in the cranial cavity causes a person to float away. Neither of them are really effective, but they sure sound imposing.

W/Racked with guilt?

W/Racked with guilt? published on 4 Comments on W/Racked with guilt?

If I’m wracked with an emotion, should I be RACKED or WRACKED? If I use “rack,” I conjure up the pleasant image of someone’s tendons being unscrewed on a Procrustean bed. If I use “wrack,” it connotes “wreck” and “wreak,” a verb that absolutely must be conjoined with “havoc.” [Seriously, what else do you wreak besides havoc? Destruction, maybe, but that’s about it.] Both spellings are acceptable and absolutely synonymous, so the choice comes down to a predilection for connotations. I use “wrack” because, when someone is wracked with pain, sobs, a coughing fit, etc., he/she is usually incapacitated, hunched over, deflated and otherwise wrecked. I like the wreckage, not the rackage.

Boy, that silent W in “wracked” looks stupid. I guess I shouldn’t look at words like “write,” “wriggle,” “wrap,” “wraith,” “wreath,” “wrath,” etc. They all look RONG! :p

Scutwork

Scutwork published on

Today’s phrase is “the scutwork of the flesh,” from Alison Bechdel’s pretentious but fascinating graphic memoir Fun Home. She uses the phrase to refer to the minutiae of embalming that her father did when he ran the family funeral home. It’s a perfect word; it sounds foundational and visceral at the same time, as if it involves ploughing through muddy trenches or the furrows of an open abdominal cavity, trudging with dismal work. It also has a Shakespearean sound. “Poor forked creatures…” I think that phrase is from Shakespeare, but I can’t find out wherefrom.

Today’s fridge poetry is entitled “Please Shut Up!”

Today’s fridge poetry is entitled “Please Shut Up!” published on 1 Comment on Today’s fridge poetry is entitled “Please Shut Up!”

The online version of Online Poetry, Genius edition, certainly has a lot of vituperative terms in it… Either that or it’s just so much fun to denigrate someone with polysyllables.

we understand that
your vapid temerity is
an amalgam of crass platitutdes
with pejorative caterwauling
& a verbose fusillade of obtuse turgidity

I learned a new word today…

I learned a new word today… published on 2 Comments on I learned a new word today…

An exceedingly rare occurrence, given that I know the standard “unusual words.” Today’s word is hypaethral.  Can you guess its meaning from the context in the following sentence?

We were thinking of putting a roof over our porch, but, if we leave it hypaethral, we’ll get more sunlight and we’ll have a convenient location to look at stars on clear nights.

It means roofless. I learned it at FreeRice, a vocab quick with a cheap charity gimmick. My vocab level on the quiz fluctuates between 47 and 50, although, now, after 200 words, I see that they are recycling some. What’s your score?

Why does mint taste cold?

Why does mint taste cold? published on 2 Comments on Why does mint taste cold?

This is why you should listen to Quirks & Quarks because you can learn the answers to riveting scientific queries of the day, like this one. 

The sensation of mint as cold has long fascinated me, but I have never known why mint makes my mouth chilly. Now the answer is here. Apparently mint, like Tabasco sauce, stimulates your taste buds with a sensation like pain. It’s not technically a taste, but rather a feeling of pain! 

Because your taste buds have been primed by this painful mint, anything cold that you eat afterward with seem colder. Interestingly enough, anything hot that you eat afterward will seem hotter. 

Mint also increases your salivation and washes away thick protective saliva from your taste buds, so more of the cold or hot thing hits your naked, shivering taste buds.

That’s not a word!

That’s not a word! published on 2 Comments on That’s not a word!

You know what really pisses me off? When I’m reading an otherwise cogent, insightful and pretty well-written work on the philosophy of Victorian corsets [‘Hooked and Buttoned Together:’ Victorian Underwear and Representations of the Female Body, Casey Finch, Victorian Studies 34(3):337-363], and the author pulls a sentence like this out of his/her ass:

The ideology of reproduction was troped into a system of erotics where the meaning of sexuality operated not as a public “fact” but as a private secret.

TROPE is not a verb! It’s a noun, a pretty obscure noun, unless you live in the rarefied atmosphere of the academy. Bloody hell, people! “System of erotics” is just as bad. What is a “system of erotics?” Nobody knows! How am I supposed to enjoy my history of underwear if you keep making up jargon-laced sentences that don’t actually mean anything?!

Why not write something like this:

Erotic images centered around women’s reproductive capacities and visible sexual signs slowly changed into a set of erotic ideas about sexuality as dissociated from public reproduction and thus secret and hidden.

Sure, my version definitely has more words in it, but it’s much more readable, especially if you stopped living in an English department upon graduation.

Histories of underwear should be lucid, limpid, lively, highly illustrated and see-through, not complicated, obscure and difficult to undo.

P.S. And, if you’re going to use “trope” as a verb, don’t use it twice within 4 pages! Bad form, as Captain Hook would say.
 

Further podcasts for language geeks!

Further podcasts for language geeks! published on No Comments on Further podcasts for language geeks!

I’ve been enjoying A Way With Words, a KPBS radio show, for a while. Just today I found another show, a podcast, in the same vein: Word Nerds. It’s a weekly podcast of about 40 minutes, a thematically organized discussed of the ways language is used past and present. The presenters are a bunch of high school language and literature teachers with solid knowledge of Germanic and Romance languages among them. Their style is quieter than the lively, explosive A Way With Words, but I still enjoy the dry wit.

Recommended media: A Way With Words and Quirks & Quarks

Recommended media: A Way With Words and Quirks & Quarks published on 1 Comment on Recommended media: A Way With Words and Quirks & Quarks

I like A Way With Words, hosted by one of my favorite etymologists, Martha Barnette, along with slang dictionary author Grant Barrett. For about 45 minutes every week, the two answer callers’ questions about grammar, punctuation and slang. They also host listener quizzes about slang and solve language puzzles themselves. I rev up my inner word geek with A Way With Words every Monday morning since the shows originally air on Sundays. 

Additionally, the LoreMistress of Rampant Bicycles mentioned CBC’s weekly science program, Quirks & Quarks, to me last week. Since then, I have been slowly moving through the archives. With a robust catalog of shows going back years, Q&Q is a round-up of experts speaking on current scientific topics of interest and answering your questions. So far I’ve learned about growing new bladders for persons with spina bifida, the names dolphins give to themselves, the challenges of sampling ice at the North Pole, how to find planets around distant stars, etc. With a new downloadable hour every week, Q&Q will introduce you to many fascinating bits of information and make you feel smart.

Both A Way With Words and Q&Q have entered my regular rotation of programs I listen to at work. Add them to your bookmarks and increase your brains!

The amazing transsexual stick, or, Snakes on a Cane

The amazing transsexual stick, or, Snakes on a Cane published on 2 Comments on The amazing transsexual stick, or, Snakes on a Cane

So I’m reading Ovid’s Metamorphoses [translated by Allen Mandelbaum] for the nth time, enjoying it immensely. Ovid is such an overwrought, yet mellifluous, writer with a constant sense of fun.

One of my favorite Ancient Greek/Roman myths concerns Tiresias, a seer. He was walking along when he saw two snakes mating. He struck the female snake with his staff and changed sex to be a woman. After being a woman for 7 years, Tiresias came upon mating snakes again. He struck the male snake with his staff and changed sex to be a man.

After that, the gods had a fight about who enjoyed sex more, men or women. Zeus said it was women. Hera said it was men. They asked Tiresias to decide, since he had been both. He said women enjoyed sex more. Hera got pissed and blinded him in vengeance.

Tiresias passed the Amazing Transsexual Stick on to Hermes, messenger god, whose symbol is a winged staff called a caduceus with two snakes wrapped around it. This is not the same snake on a cane as Aesclepius’ rod, a medical symbol which probably comes from the way that ancient doctors tried to get, say, tapeworms out of people: by wrapping one end of the worm around a stick and pulling. More than you ever wanted to know here.

Aesclepius’ rod most properly symbols the medical practice that performs transsexual operations. Hermes’ rod most properly symbolizes transgendered persons who have had sex-change operations!

See Snakes on a Cane [a caduceus] below…

 

Asphyxiophilia

Asphyxiophilia published on 2 Comments on Asphyxiophilia

(un)real life 5.5, “Elucidation,” is up. I’m particularly proud of this ep because of the photo montages and manipulation involved. The pomegranate superimposed on the fire isn’t that technically advanced, but the “snow” filter on Muriel with the ice sheet in the background looks cool.

I also really like Muriel. She comes across as bossy, pissy and snappy, but I think of her more sympathetically as Anneka’s counterpart 100 years earlier. She’s so sharp and frustrated because she had very little place to develop herself when she was alive, and, now that she’s dead, all she does is hang around. For a smart, adventurous, kinky person like Muriel, watching life, rather than participating in it, constitutes the worst sort of hell. Too bad she’s dead dead dead [as opposed to Anneka and Will, who are just dead dead]. I sort of want to bring her back and let her cross blades paths with Anneka and Will s’more.

P.S. The word of the day is asphyxiophilia, which means the sexual practice of inducing arousal through partial, threatened or full asphyxiation, either by one’s own hand [bonus phrase: autoerotic asphyxia] or by another’s.

P.P.S. Though we usually think of asphyxiation as stopping someone’s breath, the origin of the word actually means “stopping the pulse.” Check this out. “Asphyxia” comes from the Greek prefix “a-,” meaning “without,” and the Greek noun “sphuxis,” meaning “heartbeat.” Literally, it is “the state of being without a heartbeat.”

P.P.P.S. Do you think the word “asphyxiation” is onomatopoetic?

Words that should exist

Words that should exist published on No Comments on Words that should exist

Subscendent: Of or pertaining to a state that’s shallower, less insightful and less alert than usual. The opposite of transcendent. Its appropriateness is best illustrated by the Calvin & Hobbes cartoon where Calvin describes the brain death that comes when he watches TV for too long. The punchline: “Yeah, I achieve a lower consciousness.” Exactly — it’s a subscendent experience.

Transcension: The act of transcending. Needed because transcendence refers to a static state rather than the struggle to achieve that elusive state. That struggle is transcension.

I’m also thinking that this language needs subscend and superscend, but I’m still working out what they mean. Stay tuned for more sub-, super- and trans- words!

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