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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in Rev. Justin, Culinary Engineer's LiveJournal:

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Thursday, April 18th, 2013
12:46 am
COBRA!
So it turns out Livejournal is STILL out there! I've had a lot drink and have decided to start posting here again to see if anything comes of it...

Current Mood: blah
Sunday, May 27th, 2007
4:16 pm
Hey, I've got a LiveJournal!
I don't so much post anymore as I more do not...

Just posting for posting's sake.

I've been in a good mood for three days now...

...I know, I'm scared too!
Monday, April 23rd, 2007
1:40 pm
Welcome to the Machine.
deus ex machina \DAY-us-eks-MAH-kih-nuh\ noun

: a person or thing (as in fiction or drama) that appears or is introduced suddenly and unexpectedly and provides a contrived solution to an apparently insoluble difficulty

Example sentence:
Only a deus ex machina could resolve the novel's thorny crisis.

Did you know?
The New Latin term "deus ex machina" is a translation of a Greek phrase and means literally "a god from a machine." "Machine," in this case, refers to the crane that held a god over the stage in ancient Greek and Roman drama. The practice of introducing a god at the end of a play to unravel and resolve the plot dates from at least the 5th century B.C.; Euripides (circa 484-406 B.C.) was one playwright who made frequent use of the device. Since the late 1600s, "deus ex machina" has been applied in English to unlikely saviors and improbable events that bring order out of chaos in sudden and surprising ways.

So no one really uses LiveJournal anymore... Is that because of MySpace? Because no one ever posts anything worth reading on MySpace... there's the occassional bulletin that's worth commenting on; but personally mine consist of "I have a tummy ache". On here I used to spew out all sorts of insightful and horridly offensive and frightening things. But I began to get away from that because I typed out whatever it is I felt like typing in a private file I decided to keep for record purposed. But as is customary to my being, I stopped doing that a while back, as well.

So I just felt like... ya know... posting something...

My hands are dry and I have a headache.
Friday, December 22nd, 2006
4:22 am
Jewish Lightning Burned Down Jimmy's
You scored as Nightcrawler. Nightcrawler is a very symbolic X-Man. He is persecuted by society because of his devilish looks, but it is his faith in God that gives him strength. He is a very gentle x-man but he does know how to fight and he enjoys fencing. Powers: Teleportation

</td>

Wolverine

65%

Nightcrawler

65%

Cyclops

60%

Rogue

60%

Colossus

60%

Storm

55%

Emma Frost

50%

Gambit

40%

Jean Grey

40%

Iceman

35%

Beast

20%

Most Comprehensive X-Men Personality Quiz 2.0
created with QuizFarm.com
Saturday, December 16th, 2006
3:02 pm
Hey, Where Did 2004 Go?!

: of striking ability or excellence

Example sentence:
Allison's brother, a crackerjack computer technician, was able to quickly fix the problems with her laptop.

Did you know? sa
The late 19th-century pairing of "crack" and "jack" to form "crackerjack" topped off a long history for those words. "Cracker" is an elongation of "crack," an adjective meaning "expert" or "superior" that dates from 1793. Prior to that, "crack" was a noun meaning "something superior" and a verb meaning "to boast." (The verb use evolved from the expression "to crack a boast," which came from the sense of "crack" meaning "to make a loud sharp sound.") "Jack" has been used for "man" since the mid-1500s, as in "jack-of-all-trades." "Crackerjack" entered English first as a noun referring to "a person or thing of marked excellence," then as an adjective. You may also know "Cracker Jack" as a snack of candied popcorn and peanuts. That trademarked name dates from the 1890s.

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Croesus \KREE-sus\ noun

: a very rich man

Example sentence:
John D. Rockefeller became an American Croesus by dominating the oil business in the late 1800s.

Did you know?
The original Croesus was a 6th-century B.C. king of Lydia, an ancient kingdom in what is now Turkey. Croesus conquered many surrounding regions, grew very wealthy, and became the subject of legends. In one legend, he was visited by Solon, the wise Athenian lawgiver. (Historians say this isn't chronologically possible, but it makes a good story.) Solon supposedly told Croesus, who thought he had everything: "Account no man happy before his death." These words made Croesus angry, and he threw the lawmaker out of his court. Croesus would rethink Solon's pronouncement later when his empire was overthrown by the Persians. Croesus' name shows up in the phrase "rich as Croesus," meaning "filthy rich," and it has also entered English as a generic term for someone extremely wealthy.

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tantara \tan-TAIR-uh\ noun

: the blare of a trumpet or horn

Example sentence:
"But hardly had we sat down ere we heard the tom-toming of the kettledrum and tantara of trumpets and clash of cymbals...." (Sir Richard Burton, translator, The Arabian Nights)

Did you know?
"Tantara" is a shortening of the Latin "taratantara," an onomatopoetic word that in ancient times that evoked the terrible sound of the war-trumpet. When "tantara" entered English in the 16th century, the sound it evoked was a merry one. "Tantara, tantara, the trumpets sound, / Which makes our hearte with joy abound," wrote Humphrey Gifford in 1580. Today, "tantara" is sometimes used as a synonym of "fanfare," a word for a short, lively sound of trumpets that may also be onomatopoetic in origin.

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: hypocritically pious or devout

Example sentence:
My sanctimonious aunt always warns us about the evils of drinking and gambling, but according to my mother, she did those things herself when she was young.

Did you know?
There's nothing sacred about "sanctimonious" — at least not any more. But in the early 1600s, the English adjective was still sometimes used to describe someone truly holy or pious (a sense that recalls the meaning of the word's Latin parent, "sanctimonia"). Shakespeare used both the "holy" and "holier-than-thou" senses in his work, referring in The Tempest to the "sanctimonious" (that is, "holy") ceremonies of marriage, and in Measure for Measure to describe "the sanctimonious pirate that went to sea with the Ten Commandments but scraped one out of the table." (Apparently, the pirate found the restriction on stealing a bit too inconvenient.)

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Who, me? Just marking my territory. It's a sale, you know .

I'd like to now formally apologize to anyone who witnessed and were possibly offended by my actions this past shopping weekend. The only excuse I have (the one I used while standing before the Magistrate) is that if my kids don't find a Gamebox 3000 under the tree this Christmas, I will be forced to talk to them this year.

I can't do that.

I went through that in '03 when I failed to bring home a Fingerboy 1500.

'03 was a very long year.

I did have a nice conversation with the processing officer at the police station, though. That's because she is not a teenager. While fingerprinting me she mentioned that it was her theory that folks who make the Gamebox, along with the people who make the Fingerboy and the Squizzcube, conspire to keep production to a minimum. That way, hordes of idiots (her words) camp all night at the local stores and perform terrible acts to other competing shoppers (my actions) just to ensure the ability to buy a limited number of a product that, six months later, will be readily available and will sit, unwanted, everywhere we turn, including the grocery store, filling station and funeral parlors. After explaining her theory, she steered me toward my holding cell.

That night they served Salisbury Steak-Mmms, mashed potatoes and something green.

Here's a fact that many, including those at the Washington Square Toys n'At Store, probably don't realize: human urine does not affect the performance of the Gamebox 3000. It's proven. I'm going to use that fact, as explained in an article contained in the most recent issue of “Brainmush, the monthly journal of game playing vegetative fresh air fearing young adults” in my upcoming trial. They did some testing at the magazine. You see? Sometimes the young game player does not want to leave the fourteenth level of WhoreWitchCarJacker 4 to relieve him or herself. Sometimes they just leak. Sometimes that spillage seeps into the machinery. The “Brainmush” article made claims of no damage.

And that's what I'm hoping for.

Claims of no damage.

By now, you've probably read in the paper (unless you're 14 or under and cannot read) that my actions were premeditated. Hogwash. I did not have a plan in mind. It just sort of happened. There was a rush. Some were pushing. Everyone was grabbing. A thought suddenly came to mind as I recalled an earlier Volkswagen commercial in which a man, wanting his Croissant (or Smegma or whatever VW is calling their vehicles these days) licks the door handle of the new car, thus claiming it as “his”.

I needed to mark my territory.

I peed on the small stack of Gameboxes.

I'm not proud, but neither am I a liar - a pee bandit, yes, but not a liar. The surprising thing is that it did not work as well as you would think. While some were repulsed and ran (one woman took the time to mention how small my weapon of choice appeared) most people forged right through the urine stream to scoop up the videogame systems, on sale that day and that day only for four hundred fifty-nine dollars, or, roughly, two hundred dollars more than my fine for public urination.

And so, as I relaxed on the concrete cell floor, urine-soaked Gamebox 3000 under my head, next to a wino, a speeder and a guy who smoked a Marlboro at the airport, I thought about all the other poor people around the world who don't have it as good as we do in America. Who is urinating on the Christmas gifts in Iraq? How many are spending two week's salary (counting court costs) for the opportunity to refrain from having a conversation with the children they supposedly fathered in Darfur? Where are the Sudanese ADHD victims?

They don't exist.

Until next fall, of course, when they'll all appear in a new game called “ThirdWorldKillQuestWhoreBitch” designed for the as yet unreleased Squizzcube XA2 Game System, which will play none of the games my kid already owns.

My prediction?

It will be the best game system ever.

And it will, like the Gamebox 3000 my wife wrapped in pretty paper last night, smell vaguely of asparagus.

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cozen \KUZ-un\ verb

1 : to deceive, win over, or induce to do something by artful coaxing and wheedling or shrewd trickery
*2 : to gain by artful coaxing or tricky deception

Example sentence:
Five-year-old Mimi managed to cozen a second helping of dessert from her guileless grandmother.

Did you know?
"Be not utterly deceived (or to speak in plainer terms, cozened at their hands)." Denouncing the evils of the times, 16th-century Puritan pamphleteer Philip Stubbes thus warned against unscrupulous merchants. "Cozen" may not seem a "plainer term" to us, but it might have to the horse-dependent folks of the 16th century. Some linguists have theorized that "cozen" traces to the Italian noun "cozzone," which means "horse trader." Horse-trading, as in the actual swapping of horses, usually involved bargaining and compromise — and, in fact, the term "horse-trading" has come to suggest any shrewd negotiation. It seems safe to assume that not all of these negotiations were entirely on the up-and-up. Given its etymological association with horse traders, therefore, it's not too surprising that "cozen" suggests deception and fraud.

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debunk \dee-BUNK\ verb

: to expose the sham or falseness of

Example sentence:
The book debunks many longstanding myths surrounding the historical event.

Did you know?
If you guessed that "debunk" has something to do with "bunk," meaning "nonsense," you're correct. We started using "bunk" at the beginning of the 20th century. (It derives from a remark made by a Buncombe county, N.C., congressman.) A little less than 25 years later, "debunk" was first used in print for the act of taking the "bunk" out of something. There are plenty of synonyms for "debunk," including "disprove," "rebut," "refute," and the somewhat rarer "confute." Even "falsify" can mean "prove something false," in addition to "make something false." "Debunk" itself often suggests that something is not merely untrue, but also a sham; one can simply disprove a myth, but if it is "debunked," the implication is that it was a grossly exaggerated or foolish claim.

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Excuse me, young lady? My wife is about your size. Would you mind trying these on to see if they'd fit her? Slowly?

I've always maintained a good relationship with the folks at Victoria's Secret. Whenever I'm asked about them, I always reply that I am “pro lingerie” and most assuredly “pro Victoria's Secret”.

Those are lies, of course. In fact, I am not “pro lingerie”. I am “pro faded blue jeans and long blonde hair” quickly followed by “pro nakedness and intimate co-mingling”. The underwear part? I've never been that big a fan. However, I am very, very in favor of Victoria's Secret and all they stand for, no matter that I'd rather see my particular model sans the Angels Secret Embrace Invisible Lace Push-Up with Matching Panty®.

Why?

I continue to publicly support the underwear chain store and they continue to send me bi-monthly yanking materials. Every other month (sometimes once every thirty days) Victoria's Secret sends a catalogue of their latest offerings to my address, where it's quickly glanced at by the woman in charge and placed, along with the other seventy catalogues to have arrived that week, into the newspaper recycling pile. A few hours later, the man not in charge (that would be me) rescues it from that pile and takes it to a special, secret place where later, he will use it to do special, secret things.

Thank you, Victoria, for my special secret.

Masturbation materials are readily available at every turn these days. It used to be one had to have a furtive imagination and access to Dad's special stash. Nowadays, everyone is half-naked and sporting a come-hither look, from the girl who advertises snow shovels on a billboard to the nurse in the UPMC ad. Sex is now out in the open. Women wear their underwear to be seen. It's now overwear. Playboy is tame. Hooters has an airline. There is nothing that explains the phenomenon of sex-that-sells quite so openly as the arrival of the Victoria's Secret catalogue, unless you count the store itself.

I'm not a big fan of going to the mall. I will, on occasion, accompany the woman in charge. While she is comparison-shopping for sweaters, I will sit on the Pervert Bench, just a few doors down from the Victoria's Secret store, but not directly in front. I don't want to be too obvious. As I sit on the Pervert Bench I play the game that all men play from the age of eight or so until we stop breathing. It's a simple game called, “I wonder what she looks like naked.”

Don't even try to me you don't play.

You do.

I do.

We all do.

I, however, am the only one admitting to it on the radio in front of Bishop Donald Weurhl and everybody.

I imagine nearly everyone naked all the time, with the possible exception of when I am passing a roadside car wreck. Even then there is a small chance that I'll, for a fleeting second, fantasize about the attending EMT (if she's not too fat). There is no better place for this sort of sport than the mall on a busy day, there, on the pervert bench, just to the left of Victoria's Secret. The added twist to playing this game in front of that store is that you not only can wonder what she looks like naked, but whether she bought what's barely draped on the mannequin in the window.

If you don't believe that this sort of thing happens, try a little test next time you're at the mall. Take a walk past Victoria's Secret. Find the closest bench. Take a look at who is sitting on that bench.

Be polite.

It might be me.

As I've stated, I am “pro Victoria's Secret”. They provide a service not only to women who think they need stripper gear to be attractive, but to men who like strippers and other women. Each trip to the mall, they provide us with a way to waste an hour. Each month they send yanker books. God bless them, from their Scalloped Brazilian-art Panty© to their Very Sexy Jeweled Balconet with Matching Thong©, on sale this month.

Due to a recent magistrate-ordered one hundred-yard restraining order, I haven't had much contact with Victoria's Secret lately and had actually begun to search elsewhere for fun. Let me tell you something. The Eddie Bauer catalogue just doesn't do the same thing for me. Don't get me wrong. I like sweaters. I just don't fantasize about them.

That's why it came as such a joy, indeed, a Christmas joy, that my close personal friend, Victoria, sent me something in the mail this week. Along with a postcard reminder that CBS would be airing the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show on Tuesday December fifth at ten o'clock (where they used to air “The Red Skelton Show”), the store sent me a card that is redeemable for a “free BBV ultra-smooth seamless panty”.

I'm not a lawyer, but I can't see how this can be read as anything other than the end of that restraining order. It's kind of like how a Vampire can't hurt you unless you invite him into your house.

They've invited.

And so, tonight, right after this show, I'll be heading to the mall to take my usual seat on the pervert's bench just down the hall (but within sight of) Victoria's Secret. And if the Mall Guard comes by to give me a hassle? I'll just whip out my Free Panty card.

I'm legal.

I'm bonified.

God bless Victoria's Secret.

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Garrison finish \GA-ruh-sun-FIN-ish\ noun

: a finish in which the winner comes from behind at the end

Example sentence:
In an amazing Garrison finish, the home team, down by two, scored three goals in the final minutes to win the soccer championship.

Did you know?
Edward "Snapper" Garrison was a 19th-century American jockey known for his spectacular come-from-behind wins. During his 16-year riding career, he won nearly 700 races. By the time he rode Montana to a smash finish in the Suburban handicap in 1892 and rode Tammany to a breathtaking finish at New Jersey's Guttenberg track in 1893, his riding style had so captured the attention of the public that people had begun using the term "Garrison finish" for any victory in which the winner comes from behind. Garrison, who died in 1930 at age 62, was inducted into the National Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame in 1955, the first year of inductions.

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tattoo \ta-TOO\ noun

*1 : a rapid rhythmic rapping
2 a : a call sounded shortly before taps as notice to go to quarters b : outdoor military exercise given by troops as evening entertainment

Example sentence:
I was awakened by a woodpecker beating a tattoo against the drainpipe outside my window — alerting other woodpeckers, and me, to his presence.

Did you know?
Today's word has nothing to do with skin markings. That other "tattoo" comes from the Tahitian word "tatau." Today's "tattoo" comes from the Dutch colloquialism "tap toe," which can be translated as "turn off the tap," though it was most often used to mean something like "Shut up! Cease!" The Dutch began using "taptoe" for a drum beat, and then English speakers borrowed the term (changing it slightly, to "taptoo"). It was used especially by the military to name a drum beat (or possibly a bugle call) that signaled the day's end. This "taptoo" most likely led to our "taps," a term for the final bugle call at night in the military.

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Of all the dead trees, this one is the best. The best!

It's amazing how much time we spend picking out our Christmas tree.

There's no doubt you have seen us. We're the ones standing in the shopping center parking lot, near the highway, a couple of weeks before Christmas day, staring at a selection of trees that have been severed from their roots. Try as we might, we can't decide which of the deceased evergreens will look best in our living room. Most living rooms are not designed to hold a departed pine. Nobody goes to Sherwin Williams and asks for a shade of wall paint to go with a decaying fir. The furniture is not chosen for the feng shui it creates with dried, browning needles. And yet, there we stand, year after year, sucking in car exhaust, cold to the bone, imagining each candidate standing in the corner of our room.

“What do you think of this one?”

We pretend that we're looking for the one true symbol of our love for all mankind, a tree that will live on forever in our mind's eye. We justify that years later we'll look back gleefully on our decision saying, “Now that was a fine Christmas tree. Remember that one? That was a good one. Of all the bygone cone bearing bark wearers we looked at, that one was the best. We sure got a deal on that one. Yes, sir.”

A true symbol.

When it gets late in the game, however, the reason we choose one tree over another changes drastically. As December wanders toward its chilly conclusion the good dead trees disappear into thin air. Others, like ourselves, but with less to do and better abilities to plan, have beaten us to the real bargains. All that's left are a parking lot full of Charlie Brown props.

Of the worst, which is the best? That's the question that must be answered by all those, like us, standing on the asphalt, sucking in the carbon monoxide, trying to decipher the pricing system of colored plastic ribbon.

The best of the worst of the dead trees.

A two-week tree.

Two weeks is all we ask. We're looking for a tree that will look like it's still breathing for two more weeks, although it's been a cadaver for how long – a month? Two weeks is all we need. It's our own personal “Weekend at Bernie's”, except that the role of “Bernie” is played by a Scotch pine. After a couple of weeks we won't care. After the presents have been opened, the lights have been put away with the ornaments, we'll take that dead carcass of a shrub and treat it as any other discarded holiday trash – we'll put it out for the garbage men to deal with.

They won't care whether it was a good tree or a bad tree, whether it was from the West or the North or just from somebody's farm outside Slippery Rock.

What we really need is the help of an expert. Thank goodness that there, in the middle of the shopping center parking lot, near the highway, a couple of weeks before Christmas day, stands a man who will serve as our guide. He is a tree expert. We know this because he is dirty and smells of pine. He lives in a trailer, warming himself by an open fire, drinking soup from a thermos. Unlike other experts in their fields, he does not need to display his degree, certificate or learn-at-home diploma on the wall of his plywood-walled office. There is no need for verification. It is obvious that this man knows all there is to know about dead trees.

“I've still got a couple of Frazier firs left,” he says. “It's lucky you got here. I had six hundred just Friday. The last two are over here. I think they're still here.” He leads you to the secret stash of dead trees, because you are special, you are in need. He is an expert. He is here to save Christmas.

Frazier fir! The words emit magic. We hope against long odds that someone hasn't beaten us to it. We wish that we had started shopping for a tree last weekend instead of waiting until the last minute. Next year, things will be different. And then, just as we start to lose hope, he pulls a recently departed conifer from behind his plywood shed. It has been in hiding, waiting for just the right couple.

We are that couple.

“See how it has that citrus smell?” says the tree expert. He blows his nose on his sleeve. We sniff the air and imagine we smell oranges, although in actuality it's a mixture of chainsaw oil, body odor and stale soup. “Yes!” we say. “It does smell like citrus! It does! It does! It smells like… citrus!”

A dead pine tree that looks like a live pine tree and smells like an orange! This will be the best Christmas ever!

Sixty-five dollars later, we drive down the street with captured game precariously balanced on the roof of the car. It can't possibly get away. It's being held in place with string. Before we arrive at our destination, bringing Christmas spirit, we pass four other parking lots filled with four other tree expert's hidden stashes. We avoid looking. We wish to remain loyal to what's his name, the guy that just sold us our magnificent dead bush of a car hat.

Two weeks later, the garbage man will knock on our door to let us know he does not want the sixty-five dollar one true symbol of our love for mankind. “Excuse me?” he will ask. “This Scotch pine out here by the curb? We're not taking those this year. Sorry.”

Scotch pine?! Have you no respect for the dead? That, my good man, is a Frazier fir. At least, I think it's a… hey. Wait a minute! I paid sixty-five bucks for a dead Scotch pine!?

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: hungry, greedy

Example sentence:
Esurient for an even larger share of the local real estate market, the developer made an aggressive bid for the apartment complex.

Did you know?
If you're hungry for a new way to express your hunger, you might find that "esurient" fits your palate. Be forewarned, however, that when used literally "esurient" has a humorous flavor. This somewhat obscure word first appeared in English in the second half of the 17th century, deriving from the present participle of the Latin verb "esurire," meaning "to be hungry." It is also related to "edere," the Latin verb for "eat," which has given us such scrumptious fare as "edible" and its synonyms "esculent" and "comestible." "Esurient" can be used somewhat playfully to suggest an actual hunger for food, but it is more often applied to such things as wealth or power. In the latter contexts, it takes on the connotation of "greedy."

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: of, relating to, resembling, or characteristic of Thraso : bragging, boastful

Example sentence:
Bob's incessant bragging earned him a reputation as a thrasonical bore among his coworkers.

Did you know?
Thraso was a blustering old soldier in the comedy Eunuchus, a play written by the great Roman dramatist Terence more than 2,000 years ago. Terence is generally remembered for his realistic characterizations, and in Thraso he created a swaggerer whose vainglorious boastfulness was not soon to be forgotten. Thraso's reputation as a braggart lives on in "thrasonical," a word that boasts a history as an English adjective for more than 440 years.

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Holiday Greetings 2006 from the Paulsens!

Wow, name goes here, I bet you were surprised to find this five-page highly personalized letter written to everyone we know inside your Christmas card! Well, here it is - another Christmas is upon us and that means it's time for another update on what's gone on in the past year for those of you who are no longer talking to us after what happened.

It's been a busy year for the Paulsens!

2006 started normally enough. Our daughter Julie, the third-time ninth grader, came home from school one day in January and said she'd had a test in Geometry, a quiz in English and a baby during seventh period. I told her that if she'd had seven periods, the baby couldn't possibly be hers. That's when Mother hit me.

We're thinking about naming the baby.

Some would ask, “Didn't you notice your daughter was pregnant?” But as you'll soon learn from reading the rest of this note, we were pretty busy this year. And, after all, daughter is pretty fat.

In March, we found the dog.

With spring came flowers, a rebirth of hopes lost and an unfortunate return of the scabies. Now might be a good time to note that the pickles Mother sent along to everyone this summer may result in your own infection. If you need some ointment, I believe there's a little left in our tube.

Wasn't that a wonderful Fourth of July party? Thanks to everyone who came, especially those who hauled water from the pond to put out the fire. I think the idea of bringing your own fireworks was the best! Cousin Steve waves his stump and says hello from the “hospital room” Mother created in the basement. Our boy, Willie, really enjoyed the extended visit with his cousin, especially the part where he got to drive Steve's new truck into a ravine.

That boy loves to drive.

Before we knew it, school was starting again. Julie came home from her first day in ninth grade for the fourth time and noted that, “It seems easier every year”. She chose that moment to alert us that her Girls Physical Education teacher, Miss Mann, has taken a special interest in our daughter's personal hygiene. She made sure Julie got a full shower, even though all they did on that first day of school was fill out some forms and get their locker assignments. She's growing so fast for a 19-year old. One of these years she'll be in high school!

In September, while shopping for crack sealer, we were approached by a nice man who said the van he was driving for the Red Cross had broken down there in the parking lot of the Big Lots. Inside the van, he explained, were victims of Hurricane Katrina. The displaced hurricane victim we took home turned out to be not from the New Orleans area, as we had been told, but from somewhere a little farther south. A nice FBI agent from the Pittsburgh field office named Earl came by one day and asked about Pierre. As it turned out, Pierre's real name is Manuel and he's from Colombia, not Slidell. Furthermore, he was not a trained Cajun chef, as the nice man in the van had explained, but a drug dealer wanted in four countries. This came as bad news for that poor fellow driving the Red Cross van, but good news for Mother, who was upset when Pierre turned his nose up at her red beans and rice. There is hope Pierre, nee Manuel, might be released by next hurricane season and be able to return to his family in Slidell.

Or Colombia.

I guess by now you've heard that our boy, Willie, volunteered for the Army so he could drive a Humvee. The local dealership has a rule about having to “possess a valid driver's license” in order to take a test drive in one of their vehicles, so brother Willie outsmarted them. He joined the Army. The nice fellow at the recruiting station guaranteed that Willie will be able to drive as many Humvees as he wants, along with being a General by next year and leaving the service in three years with a Doctorate degree in whatever field he chooses. He left for boot camp and two weeks later in his first letter home stated that he had his Doctorate fields narrowed down to Brain Surgery or Gunsmithing. As yet he has not driven a Humvee, but has learned how to tie his boots correctly and walk in a straight line. Mother said that's probably why they call it “Boot Camp”. I said that sounded better than “walking in a straight line camp”. That's when she hit me in the head.

Again.

Right before Halloween, we lost the dog. Within a week, it was obvious that he was not going to return, so Mother decided to name the grandbaby “Duke”. No sense in a “perfectly good already monogrammed bowl going to waste”, she said. Here's hoping that little girl loves her new name.

She sure seems to like the “big chunks, low gas formula” dog food better than Duke ever did.

By now, someone has probably broken the big news for the year. You no doubt know that I hit the lottery right after Thanksgiving. I've been playing those same three numbers for years, but it wasn't until the Indian fellow (not a real Indian, but the foreign kind) at the Mini-Mart explained that in a “Pick Four”, you have to choose four numbers - that changed my luck. Those Indians – they sure are smart when it comes to the gambling. After splitting my winnings with Jujubee (I think that's how you say it) I bought three ready-to-eat subs and a liter of Mountain Dew and still had enough left over for bail money.

Well, that's about all the news that will fit on this stationary I “borrowed” from work and besides, it's time to get outside and chainsaw a tree for our yuletide celebration.

Well, name goes here, here's hoping you and yours have a great and happy Christmas! Keep washing your spinach and if you see our dog, keep him. Little Duke has grown accustomed to her new bowl and snaps when she's upset by change.

- The Paulsens

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palinode \PAL-uh-nohd\ noun

1 : an ode or song recanting or retracting something in an earlier poem
*2 : a formal retraction

Example sentence:
Oscar Wilde penned this famous palinode: "Not that I agree with everything that I have said in this essay. There is much with which I entirely disagree."

Did you know?
Does singing someone's praises in a palinode pay off? It did in the case of Stesichorus, a Greek poet of the 6th century B.C. According to Plato, old Stesichorus was struck blind after writing a poem insulting Helen of Troy, but his sight was restored after he wrote an apologetic palinode. That poet was only too glad to apply the Greek word "palinōidia" (a compound of "palin," meaning "back" or "again," and "aeidein," meaning "to sing"). So were 16th-century English poets, who borrowed and modified the Greek term to refer to odes of their own.

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: causing, marked by, or expressing misery or grief

Example sentence:
After listening to Charlene's dolorous hard-luck tale, Jonathan was moved to lend her money for hospital bills, rent, and groceries.

Did you know?
"No medicine may prevail... till the same dolorous tooth be... plucked up by the roots." When "dolorous" first appeared around 1400, it was linked to physical pain — and appropriately so, since the word is a descendant of the Latin word "dolor," meaning "pain" as well as "grief." (Today, "dolor" is also an English word meaning "sorrow.") When the British surgeon John Banister wrote the above quotation in 1578, "dolorous" could mean either "causing pain" or "distressful, sorrowful." "The death of the earl [was] dolorous to all Englishmen," the English historian Edward Hall had written a few decades earlier. The "causing pain" sense of "dolorous" coexisted with the "sorrowful" sense for centuries before slipping from use in the 19th century.

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I love the smell of rum in the morning .

As the stew that is America's involvement in the Iraq War comes to a full boil, as each opposing side shouts their arguments for withdrawal or continued occupation, there is one fact that cannot and will not be forgotten: the incredible performance of soldiers assigned to police what is an ever more confusing chain of events. Imagine, if you will, your boss coming to you on a weekly basis, changing your job description, your goals and the time given to complete your tasks (as bombs and bullets explode all around you). That's how it is for the fighting men and women of the U.S. military. Every possible obstacle has been thrown at the troops, many of whom are just a few years removed from high school. The enemy changes. The goals evolve. The end date of their service seems to fade into the distance and sometimes, I suspect, disappears completely like a Baghdad sunset.

They're incredible people.

It would be nice to offer them a break from duty, a vacation of sorts away from a world in which they have been asked to enforce order in a lawless state. Unfortunately, there are no days off in the service – not when you're fighting for your life. Even after being granted a few days leave, most soldiers never fully relax, knowing that they've left behind buddies who continue the fight.

If the Iraq occupation goes on for what some experts believe to be an estimated five to ten more years, the troops currently in country who survive will all have returned home by the time an end date arrives. The question then is not how long will we be in Iraq, but who, exactly, will be our occupation force?

There have always been those who are willing to sacrifice for the idea of country. My parents were such people. If we believe what the latest polls tell us, however, most in the states now oppose any further occupation of Iraq. With so many against, how do you raise your enlistment numbers to an acceptable level needed to sustain the occupation of a country in the middle of a major meltdown?

I say it's time to consider invading Fiji.

Fiji, for those unaware, is an island country to the East of Australia that over the centuries has garnered a reputation as one of the most beautiful places on the planet. It has been a playground for the rich and famous, the definition of “Tropical Paradise”, a nation consisting of hundreds of small islands, each replete with white sandy beaches, gorgeous native women and waves a Southern California surf rat would kill for.

Uncle Sam is looking for a few good surfers. Join the military and see Fiji.

Fiji, according to reports, is about to undergo its third military coup in the past two decades. The citizens are not happy with their government. The army is about to oust the leader. Things sure have changed since Marlon Brando died and the family sold his island there. Although each side is aiming for a bloodless coup, it is quite possible that the turmoil may escalate into a full blown civil war, or, as the White House likes to refer to it, “sectarian violence”. What they're going to need, down on the beaches, up at the cabana bar, is some trained military presence with experience in policing foreign terrorists.

I know just the guys and gals.

How you gonna keep ‘em down in An-Bar after they've seen Fiji?

Plenty of troops are now heading into their third or fourth rotation in the sands of Iraq and mountains and Afghanistan, fighting on the behalf of people who, at any moment, may turn and shoot their liberators. It must become increasingly mind numbing to be constantly having to decide who's on our side, if anyone.

Our soldiers need a break.

Not only would it give the hard-working military personnel in the Middle East a way to relax a bit while not losing any of their time served, but I estimate it would boost enlistment quite a bit as well. After all, what would you like to do with your life? Work another day at the box factory in Detroit or have a Fijian adventure?

Some of you may argue that there exist plenty of other hot spots around the world that need help from Uncle Sam. That's true. And while an occupation of Fiji does not help secure Exxon's bottom line and keep prices low at the pump, it is a lot more attractive as a recruiting tool than asking high school graduates to give three years of their life to fight in Korea or Iran.

As anyone who has spent time in the service will tell you, once you've signed the paperwork, all bets are off. Entice them with Fiji. Send them to Kabul. Give the Fiji duty to those who have been working their butts off to bring this mess in Iraq to a logical conclusion.

For the troops.

They deserve it.

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majordomo \may-jer-DOH-moh\ noun

1 : a head steward of a large household (as a palace)
2 : butler, steward
*3 : a person who speaks, makes arrangements, or takes charge for another; broadly : the person who runs an enterprise

Example sentence:
The journalist phoned the rock star's majordomo to request an interview.

Did you know?
"Majordomo" has relatives in Spanish ("mayordomo") and Italian (the now obsolete "maiordomo"), and English speakers borrowed the term from one of these languages. All three words — "majordomo," "mayordomo," and "maiordomo" — ultimately come from the Medieval Latin "major domus," meaning "chief of the house." In its earliest uses, "majordomo" referred to the head steward of a royal household. The position was a high one with some relatively weighty responsibilities. Later, in the U.S., the word was used for the steward or overseer of a ranch. Since then, the word's meaning has extended even further; today, "majordomo" can designate any person who takes charge of another's affairs, be they business or personal.

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maelstrom \MAIL-strum\ noun

1 : a powerful often violent whirlpool sucking in objects within a given radius
*2 : something resembling a maelstrom in turbulence

Example sentence:
The mayor has been swept up in the media maelstrom surrounding the laundering of thousands of dollars in state funds by city officials.

Did you know?
"Maelstrom" comes from an early Dutch proper noun that literally meant "turning stream." The original Maelstrom is a channel that has dangerous tidal currents located off the northwest coast of Norway. The word became popularized in the general vocabulary of English in reference to a powerful whirlpool, or something akin to one, in the 19th century. This was partly due to its use by writers such as Edgar Allan Poe and Jules Verne (whose writing was widely translated from French) in stories exaggerating the tempestuousness of the Norwegian current and transforming it into a whirling vortex.

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inveigle \in-VAY-gul\ verb

*1 : to win over by wiles : entice
2 : to acquire by ingenuity or flattery : wangle

Example sentence:
Not wanting to attend the gallery opening by herself, Alice tried to inveigle Glen into accompanying her.

Did you know?
"Inveigle," a word that dates from the 16th century, refers to the act of using clever talk, trickery, or flattery to either persuade somebody to do something or to obtain something through a similar method. What could such a word possibly have to do with blindness? "Inveigle" came to English from the Anglo-French verb "enveegler," which means "to blind or hoodwink someone," from the adjective "enveugle," meaning "blind." "Enveugle" derives from the Medieval Latin "ab oculis," a phrase which literally translates to "lacking eyes." You might say that a person who is inveigled to do or give up something is too "blinded" by someone's words to know that he or she is being tricked.

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Hi! It's me, Mr. Buzzkill. I'm back again to drop a big steamy turd into your punch bowl!

I've got two kinds of news tonight. There's the bad news and the bad news. Which would you like to hear first?

Good choice.

Let's go with that.

Remember Hurricane Katrina? That was fun, huh? It was about a year ago that it tore up the Gulf Coast, pretty much leveled New Orleans and made Mississippi look like a war zone. Remember how angry we all were that our government didn't get on the stick right away and help those poor hurricane victims out? Remember how we all spit nails at the President when he told us that “Brownie” was “doin' a heck of a job”? Remember how we all banded together and sent money to help with the relief, figuring at the time that while FEMA was inept, at least we could pitch in and save the day?

It's a year down the road now and the stories about what happened down in the Gulf Coast are starting to be published. As you might expect, they don't make for rosey reading. According to a report by the Government Accountability Office, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, that body that Michael “Brownie” Brown once headed, cannot account for more than one billion dollars in tax payer's monies. They're not sure where it went. It's just “gone”. Now that I, Mr. Buzz Kill, have given you the appetizer, would you like to move onto the main dish of bad news? Most of the billion, it is estimated, went to U.S. citizens who lied to the government, fraudulently robbing Washington of its disaster relief coffers by fabricating their situations. Numerous applicants received duplicate rental aid, thousands claimed the same property damage for both Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita, and at least three million dollars went to more than five hundred ineligible foreign students living in the Gulf Coast.

How did this happen? FEMA was slow in responding to disaster victims' needs. Citizens angrily complained. News programs, including this one, made public outcries. And so, given the angry state of their citizenry, the government relaxed regulations for handing out their checks. They moved claims through the system more rapidly. They didn't check the claims as thoroughly, because they wanted to get the money into the region more quickly.

In doing so, FEMA forgot one thing. Americans, by and large, see nothing wrong with stealing from the government. That's because some are too stupid to understand a simple fact: we are the government. It's not Washington's money that was stolen. It was mine and it was yours.

One year later, according to the G.A.O., the government, still understaffed and overmatched, continues to squander tens of millions in wasted disaster aid. It's been twelve months and they haven't fixed the problem. Chances are, according to the report, they will never recover the nearly one billion dollars that U.S. citizens stole through fraudulent claims.

As much as we love to blame the government, sometimes the people governed are much, much worse.

And now that Mr. Buzz Kill has given you the bad news, it's time to give you the bad news. The Iraq Study Group, that gathering of politicians from both sides of the aisle, has released its 151-page report on the mess that is the War on Terror. Mr. Buzz Kill spent the majority of his morning reading it. Thanks goodness Mrs. Buzz Kill had previously removed all the arsenic from the medicine cabinet.

According to the group, headed by James Baker and Lee Hamilton, conditions in Iraq are “grave and deteriorating” with a prospect that a “slide toward chaos” could not only topple the U.S. backed government there, but that the resulting consequences could “diminish the global standing of the United States”. “If the situation continues to deteriorate,” reads the report, “The result could be a humanitarian catastrophe. Neighboring countries could intervene. Sunni-Shia clashes could spread. Al-Qaeda could win a propaganda victory and expand its base of operations. Americans could become more polarized.”

And what solutions does the panel recommend? A withdrawal of nearly all of the United States' 140,000 troops by early 2008, the opening of talks with Iran and Syria and a change in the Bush administration's policies toward the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, among other ideas. The Iraq Study group goes on to mention, however, that “there is no path that can guarantee success” and that to improve the situation, the White House needs to be “candid and forthright” with the American people.

The Iraq War, pitched to the American people as a way to transform that nation from an evil dictatorship to a beacon of freedom and democracy in the Middle East, has become a disaster that threatens to undermine American power throughout the globe. It was a poorly conceived, badly executed mistake. We will live with its consequences for years.

It's easy to take depressing information like this and use it to criticize the President or the Congress or the idiot reactionary “dittoheads” you see and hear everywhere, but the truth of the matter is that I don't remember standing up and saying, “this war is wrong” before the invasion. I don't recall once bragging to a friend that I paid all my taxes, or for that matter, paid much attention.

That's going to have to change now.

We, all of us, from Mr. Bush on down, have a couple of messes to clean up.

I'm Mr. Buzz Kill.

It's been a pleasure.

Anyone for punch?

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steganography \steg-uh-NAH-gruh-fee\ noun

: the art or practice of concealing a message, image, or file within another message, image, or file

Example sentence:
No doubt, the Internet has enriched society, but it has a flip side; terrorists, for instance, can secretly network online using steganography.

Did you know?
"Steganography" is a word that was resurrected after being in disuse for almost 150 years! It was put to rest in the early 1800s, labeled an archaic synonym of "cryptography" by dictionary makers, but was brought back to life in the 1980s as a word for a type of digital cryptography. There is nothing cryptic about the word's origin; it is based on the Greek word "steganos," meaning "covered" or "reticent."

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Podunk \POH-dunk\ noun

: a small, unimportant, and isolated town

Example sentence:
After living in a Podunk for most of her life, it took a long time for Hannah to adjust to life in the big city.

Did you know?
"I hear you ask, 'Where in the world is Podunk?'" A correspondent asked that question of the editors of the Buffalo, New York, Daily National Pilot in 1846, then answered himself: "It is in the world, sir; and more than that, is a little world of itself." That writer may have introduced America to the concept of Podunk as an insignificant Anywhere, U.S.A., town, but the place isn't just imaginary; towns with that name have actually existed in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, and Iowa (and probably elsewhere) over the years. The exact origin of the name is murky, but it appears that "Podunk" comes from an Algonquian word, either the name of a tribe that inhabited an area near Hartford, Connecticut, or a more generic term meaning "swampy place."

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*1 : being pleasant and at ease in talking to others
2 : characterized by ease and friendliness

Example sentence:
Betty's father was so affable that when her friends came over they'd usually end up sitting and chatting with him.

Did you know?
"Affable" is one of several English words that evolved from the Latin verb "fari," which means "to speak." "Affable" comes from the Latin "affabilis," which comes from the "fari" relative "affari" ("to speak to"), plus "-abilis," meaning "able." Some other "fari" derivatives are "infant," "fable," and "fate." "Infant" comes from the Latin "infans," which means "incapable of speech" and combines "in-" and "fans," the present participle of "fari." "Fable" comes from the Latin "fabula," a "fari" offspring that means "conversation." "Fate" comes from the Latin word "fatum," meaning "what has been spoken" and deriving from "fatus," a past participle of "fari."

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poikilotherm \poi-KEE-luh-therm\ noun

: an organism (as a frog) with a variable body temperature that tends to fluctuate with and is similar to or slightly higher than the temperature of its environment : a cold-blooded organism

Example sentence:
The environment controls the body temperature of poikilotherms, although they can heat and cool themselves by moving in and out of the sun.

Did you know?
Poikilotherms are also called "ectotherms" or "cold-blooded animals." Such creatures are the thermoregulatory opposites of "endotherms" or "homeotherms" — better known to most of us as "warm-blooded animals" — which are able to maintain a fairly high and constant body temperature relatively independent of the temperature of the surroundings. "Stenotherms" are creatures that can survive only within a very narrow temperature range. The "-therm" in all of these terms comes from the Greek "thermē," which means "heat."

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All we are saying is give peace a chance. Oh, and happiness is a warm gun. Oh, wait. We forgot about crab-a-locker fishwife. That's all we're saying. For now.

History does strange things to facts. As the number of people who actually experienced an event grows smaller with time, the hard facts surrounding that event are changed by lost memories, altered by outside forces and, sometimes most disturbingly, cleansed for consumption. In my lifetime I've witnessed many men's lives rewritten in the years following their deaths. Legends are created. Myths are born. Martyrs are held up for public recognition. Complex circumstances are over-simplified and the poetry of a generation is reduced to advertising slogans. Sometimes if a death comes from tragic circumstances and the victim is judged to have left this Earth “before his time”, the legacies are spit shined, the departed elevated nearly to Sainthood.

Today is the anniversary of the murder of John Lennon. A deranged man gunned him down on a New York street as the former Beatle stood near the front steps of his apartment with his wife, Yoko Ono, by his side. With that act, the killer, Mark David Chapman not only silenced one of the world's great songwriters but also unwittingly changed the public's perceptions of rock stars. With his murder, all memory of John Lennon the left-wing terrorist, John Lennon the self-absorbed absentee dad, John Lennon the hateful bitter drug addict seemed to be erased. (These were not my memories, mind you, but there were many of our parents' generation who had those perceptions of Lennon.) With the shooting, John Lennon the peacemaker, John Lennon the people's activist, John Lennon the loving father, replaced those perceptions.

That's not necessarily a bad thing.

More praise for peace and less talk of hate is always good.

I just wonder what John Lennon would think about it.

I'm a big Lennon fan. But, as he once wrote, “I'm not the only one”. There are still many of us. We are the generation that grew up with the Beatles. We can tell you about the night they first appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show (I was sitting on the living floor of my Grandparents' house in New Jersey). We can tell you whose turntable first spun Sergeant Peppers' (Tommy Wilhelm, my brother's best friend). We can also tell you exactly where we were when we first heard the news of his death (Howard Cosell told me as I watched Monday Night football).

We, the Beatles generation, are aging. The fact is that in another twenty years, there won't be many left who heard the group for the first time in 1964. While that means little to our children (or our children's children) it does, unfortunately, mean quite a bit to history.

Let me give you an example.

One of the other memories I have of that early 1960's time period is the occasional news story about “another of the last survivors of the Civil War” passing away. At the time those stories meant absolutely nothing to me. I was a kid. Who cared about a hundred-year rebel private who survived a musket ball at Gettysburg? After all, there were history books crammed full of that junk, right?

And who wrote that history?

At first, those who lived the events chronicled them. Later, as the witnesses passed on to their next lives, it was left to researchers, who cleansed and changed and groomed the stories, changing history, creating myth. That's why, hundreds of years after the events, Lincoln fought the war to free the slaves, Washington threw a silver dollar across the Delaware and Christopher Columbus discovered America.

What's the point?

John Lennon played rock and roll. He was a uniquely talented musician and songwriter who, along with his band mates, influenced an entire generation of kids to pick up a guitar or grow their hair, expand their horizons or speak their minds. Was he a Saint? Did he have a greater grasp of man's struggles than most? Was he a leader, a visionary, a martyr, a revolutionist? Who knows? Soon, all that will be left to judge the man will be his body of work. The survivors of the Battle of Woodstock are passing on, leaving arguments for the next generation, the ones who did not live as witness to the Beatles.

As for us, the many who measure our young lives as a period that ran from “Love Me Do” to “Watching the Wheels”, John Lennon can be described by five words.

He played rock and roll.

That's all that needs to be said.

And that's enough for me.

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clerihew \KLAIR-ih-hyoo\ noun

: a light verse quatrain rhyming aabb and usually dealing with a person named in the initial rhyme

Example sentence:
My favorite of Edmund C. Bentley's clerihews is the following: "What I like about Clive / Is that he is no longer alive. / There is a great deal to be said / For being dead."

Did you know?
Edmund Clerihew Bentley (1875-1956) was an English writer whose book Biography for Beginners was published in 1906 under the name E. Clerihew. It was a collection of simple, humorous four-line verses about famous people. Bentley had begun writing them as a bored high school student. He didn't call them clerihews himself, but his readers began to do so after the book appeared. How soon after, we can't be sure, because so far we've unearthed nothing earlier than a 1928 description of clerihews as "nice slack metres and sly points." In any case, people have been having fun writing their own clerihews ever since Bentley shared his.

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1 : impossible to comprehend : unfathomable
*2 : of or relating to the bottom waters of the ocean depths

Example sentence:
Scientists have discovered remarkable creatures living in the abyssal depths of the sea.

Did you know?
"Abyssal" is a relatively infrequently used word, though it?s derived from the more prevalent noun, "abyss." In contrast, the adjective "abysmal" is more common than its corresponding noun "abysm." All four terms descend from the Late Latin word "abyssus," which is in turn derived from the Greek "abyssos" ("bottomless"). "Abyss" and "abysm" are synonymous (both can refer to the mythical bottomless pit in old accounts of the universe or can be used more broadly in reference to any immeasurably deep gulf), but the adjectives "abyssal" and "abysmal" are not used identically. "Abyssal" can mean "incomprehensible," but it's most often found in contexts referring to the bottom of the sea. "Abysmal" shares the oceanographic sense with "abyssal," but it more frequently means "immeasurably deep" or "absolutely wretched."

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As you can no doubt hear by my Sylvester Stallone-like voice, I am in the first stages of what is shaping up to be a major league head cold. Unless you like snot, you may want to step back from the radio.

There are one hundred twelve three-ply tissues in the average box of Kleenex. How do I know this? I used an entire box yesterday. It didn't occur to me until I came to that last tissue that I'd blown through every one. After they were gone and I'd moved onto the toilet paper I began to wonder how many I'd used. One hundred twelve. A look in the mirror confirmed my findings. I could have easily subbed for Rudolph. Try this one for size:

She thinks I'm cuuuuute!

See?

There are one hundred twelve tissues in the flat, fit-on-the-back-of-the-toilet-sized box of Kleenex. I used them all, which means I blew one hundred twelve tissues worth of snot from my system, or, roughly, an amount that could have ended the war in Iraq. Insurgents and terrorists may be tough stuff when armed with roadside bombs and automatic rifles but I can guarantee they'll run just like the average sissy when faced with a green gobs of my infected nose goo.

People, be they Middle Eastern Jihadists or Mid-Western accountants, are scared to death of snot. Sure. You may be a big tough boy now, but you'll be reduced to whining for your Mommy when I fire my nostril-mounted rocket launcher in your general direction.

Why is that?

When faced with blood, or spit, or, for that matter, poo or pee (for lack of better terms) parents across the land will gladly clean up messes made by their infants, but when holding the baby, you'd better pray their own noses don't start to drip. Mommy or Daddy will drop Junior like a hot coal and watch the baby bounce down the steps as they run for the Kleenex rather than have some mucous on the lip.

Snot scares the snot out of people.

It's a great deterrent. Thirty days of home incarceration and the loss of a license, one of the current punishments for driving while intoxicated, certainly hasn't stopped many from having an extra shot before lurching behind the wheel and starting the car. Tell that same Jack Daniel's junkie that the next time they drive while smashed we'll dip their head in a vat of snot and I guaran-damn-tee some reforming will be enacted.

How about that creepy guy who's been cruising the school grounds? The next time he rolls his window down and asks your little seventh grader if she'd like to take a ride with him, tell her to mine her booger shaft for a juicy one, whip that baby out and smear it on his windshield. The sound of peeling rubber is all she and her classmates will hear.

It works both sides of the street of course. The local counter guy at the all night Mini-Mart may no longer be shocked to have a nine-millimeter waved in his face, but how much faster do you think he'll remember the combination to that safe if he's faced with a squirt gun full of cold lung jizz?

And make it snappy.

With this in mind, I've begun to save mine. I'm angered that I wasted so much of it yesterday, during my first day of face-fauceting. I could have a quart by now. As it is, from this morning until now, I've dripped about half a pint or so, which I am saving in a Mason jar for future use. Snot, after all, is penetrating and convincing weapon. When faced with a choice of death by shooting, hanging, or drowning in snot, most people I've tied up in my basement and tortured have chosen either of the first two.

“Anything but snot!” many have cried.

I own handguns and a shotgun. I have two big snarly dogs and one snarly wife. But nothing will protect my house and personal belongings from would be thieves better than being confronted with a six-month old jar of my nose waste.

I won't even have to tell them to drop the weapon.

Trust me.

They'll drop the weapon.

My grandmother had a saying about making a negative into a positive. It was something about turning lemons into lemonade or some such nonsense. If she had been a practical woman of this century, she would have known that nobody cares about lemons or lemonade. What we care about is snot.

We don't want it.

We don't like it.

Get it away from us.

And so, I say to you, fellow cold sufferers: don't look at these few weeks of coughing and sneezing as a detriment to your well-being. Instead, look at the creation of your running fountain of snot as the first step in your long journey to power and independence.

Remember, nobody messes with a man whose nose is dripping.

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gourmand \GOOR-mahnd\ noun

1 : one who is excessively fond of eating and drinking
*2 : one who is heartily interested in good food and drink

Example sentence:
Jason trusted the discriminating palate of his Uncle Gerald, a gourmand who is well acquainted with the area's best restaurants.

Did you know?
"What God has plagu'd us with this gourmaund guest?" As this exasperated question from Alexander Pope's 18th-century translation of Homer's Odyssey suggests, being a gourmand is not necessarily a good thing. When "gourmand" began appearing in English texts in the 15th century, it was a decidedly bad thing, a synonym of "glutton" that was reserved for a greedy eater who consumed well past satiation. That negative connotation remained until English speakers borrowed the similar-sounding (and much more positive) "gourmet" from French in the 19th century. Since then, the meaning of "gourmand" has softened, so that although it still isn't wholly flattering, it now suggests someone who likes good food in large quantities rather than a slobbering glutton.

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symposium \sim-POH-zee-um\ noun

*1 : a social gathering at which there is free interchange of ideas
2 a : a formal meeting at which several specialists deliver short addresses on a topic or on related topics b : a collection of opinions on a subject; especially : one published by a periodical
3 : discussion

Example sentence:
The symposium gave Eduardo and other writers the chance to listen to and share new ideas about literature.

Did you know?
It was drinking more than thinking that drew people to the original symposia and that gave us the word "symposium." The ancient Greeks would often follow a banquet with a drinking party they called a "symposion." That name came from "sympinein," a verb that combines "pinein," meaning "to drink," with the prefix "syn-," meaning "together." Originally, English speakers only used "symposium" to refer to such an ancient Greek party, but in the 18th century British gentlemen's clubs started using the word for gatherings in which intellectual conversation was fueled by drinking. By the 19th century, "symposium" had gained the more sober sense we know today, describing meetings in which the focus is more on the exchange of ideas and less on imbibing.
Saturday, December 9th, 2006
5:53 am
And You Bitch That I Don't Update!
Kelvar978 (4:38:23 AM): you have the song?
Talorn (4:39:35 AM): sending
Talorn (4:44:33 AM): sent, you holly jolly bowl of figgie pudding
Kelvar978 (4:44:46 AM): what the hell is that?
Kelvar978 (4:44:50 AM): oh
Kelvar978 (4:44:54 AM): a I seeKelvar978 (4:44:57 AM): a commaK
elvar978 (4:45:01 AM): you bastard
Talorn (4:45:10 AM): that was hardly seasonal
Kelvar978 (4:45:32 AM): you great oily yule log
Talorn (4:46:40 AM): Much better
Friday, November 10th, 2006
4:04 pm
800 and Counting!
*1 : footgear
2 plural : shoes

Example sentence:
"'I delight in Hessian boots,' said Rebecca. Jos Sedley, who admired his own legs prodigiously, and always wore this ornamental chaussure, was extremely pleased at this remark...." (William Makepeace Thackeray, Vanity Fair)

Did you know?
What could shoes possibly have in common with a food item made of pizza dough stuffed with cheese and other fillings? Etymologically, quite a bit. Retrace the footprints of both "chaussure" and "calzone" (a word that, like the tasty turnover itself, comes from Italy) and you'll arrive at the Latin word "calceus," meaning "shoe." "Calzone" is the singular of "calzoni," which means "pants" (someone must have seen a similarity between the food and the clothing item). "Calzoni" in turn comes from "calza," which means "stocking" and descends ultimately from the Latin "calceus." "Chaussure" made its way to English via Anglo-French rather than Italian (and goes back to an Old French verb meaning "to put on footwear"), but it too can be traced to "calceus."

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.

propaedeutic \proh-pih-DOO-tik\ noun

: preparatory study or instruction

Example sentence:
"Families in state programs that stressed immediate work earned ... more per year than families in states that emphasized job training or education as a propaedeutic to work." (Richard Nadler, National Review, November 6, 2000)

Did you know?
You don't have to be a walking encyclopedia to use it, but "propaedeutic" does tend to occur mostly in scholarly discussions of learning and education. "I take thinking not to be a source of any moral code or set of ethical principles but a propaedeutic, a preparation for discernment and indeterminate judgment," wrote Dr. Elizabeth Minnich, for example, in Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning. "Propaedeutic" might be a "hard" word, but one easy thing to remember about it is that it is closely related to "encyclopedia." "Encyclopedia" is from Greek "paideia," meaning "education," plus "enkyklios," meaning "general." "Propaedeutic" is from Greek "paideuein," meaning "to teach," plus "pro-," which means "before." "Paideia" and "paideuein" both spring from the root "paid-," which means "child."

*1 : under the breath : in an undertone; also : in a private manner
2 : very softly — used as a direction in music

Example sentence:
After Hal got up from the table, Marie told me, sotto voce, about the surprise party she was planning for him.

Did you know?
It's no secret: in our example sentence, "sotto voce" functions as an adverb, modifying the past-tense verb "told." But "sotto voce," which was borrowed into English from the Italian word "sottovoce" (literally meaning "under the voice"), can also serve as an adjective. That's the role it plays in the following sentence: "Marie told me about the party in a sotto voce whisper." The adverb sense first appeared in English in the 18th century and soon afterward found use in musical directions calling for whispered vocals. The adjective sense came about in the early 19th century.

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.

And what are supposed to be, little girl? Or boy.

We all knew our friend Warren was a bit odd, but being eight and nine years old, none of us yet had the vocabulary to label him. We lived in a rural area, one that required a parent to drive the group of trick-or-treaters from house to house in a wood-paneled station wagon. With each stop came the requisite, “And what are you supposed to be, little boy?”

Josh would bark out, “I'm Frankenstein!”

And Warren, in a wig and a skirt (not too far removed from Carol's ballerina wear) would answer, proudly, “I'm my sister.”

We never thought much about it. Warren's Mom made such a fuss about helping him dress up. It wasn't until later years, those strange in-between times of ten, eleven and twelve, that we found him a bit cumbersome. Our group was forever waiting for Warren to catch up as we ran from house to house, soaping windows.

It's hard to run in high heels.

Had this Halloween dress up of his merely continued for a year or two, no one would have thought much about it. For Warren, however, there was no other annual costume mode. He varied, of course. One year he was a flapper. The next, he dressed as a nun. Eleven-year old Warren as famous Olympic figure skater Peggy Fleming was a bit much, with all the sparkle and fake gold medals dangling from his neck.

It's hard to run in women's skates.

As each of us learned in our own, sometimes painful methods, what a homosexual was and why our Uncle Johnny never married, but preferred to live with a succession of “roommates”, the Warren situation became even more confusing. Warren, you see, was not only fond of dressing in women's clothing, but was the best athlete we knew.

How could he be a “queer” when he could throw such a tight spiral?

Warren couldn't be a “fairy”, could he?

Further complicating matters was Sandy Webber. Sandy Webber was that legendary type of girl found in everyone's neighborhood who matured well beyond her eighth-grade years (and quickly). She taught many the ways of adulthood, or so we all believed. One day, we collectively dreamed, Sandy would teach us as well.

As soon as she was done with Warren.

Warren, junior high quarterback, A-student, female impersonator, became Sandy's “steady boyfriend”. When ninth grade rolled around, they were a bonified item. He spent so much time with her that by the time Halloween arrived, we were left to throw tomatoes at cars alone. The good news was we would not have to wait as Warren adjusted his bra straps. The bad news was our friend who fantasized about being a woman was the only one of us who was actually spending any time with the real thing.

It was all so confusing.

While we had all known Warren since childhood and therefore could justify his somewhat strange behavior through history, others we encountered at the consolidated high school were not so forgiving. “Why do you hang out with that queer bait?” was asked more than once. No matter how we wanted to explain our friend's obsession, group pressure got to all of us. In the Halloweens that followed we found it easier and easier to make plans that did not involve Warren.

Things have a tendency to work for all involved, or, as Cheap Trick once sang, “Everything works if you let it”. We never had to come to any decision about whether to stop hanging out with Warren on Halloween. Warren made that decision for us by driving to the big city, Pittsburgh, on successive Halloweens during our high school years. At first Sandy accompanied him. Later, he would go it alone, or with his “new” friends, who all dressed as KISS.

Warren was Paul Stanley.

Well , thought we avowed heterosexuals, at least he's no longer a woman .

Sort of .

I'd nearly forgotten about Warren until some years ago when I ran into Sandy. She had married (twice) and was studying to become a nurse's aide somewhere in Ohio. After some chit chat, I decided to ask the question that had been rolling around in the back of my head for some time, but before I could voice it, she asked if I'd heard about Warren.

“He's been nominated for an Oscar.”

She may as well have told me he'd been nominated for President.

“You know that movie? The musical with what's her name? He designed the costumes. Isn't that great?”

I learned from Sandy that Warren (not his real name) has also been married twice, to two different women, one of whom is an actress that I'm willing to wager many of our former group of trick-or-treaters has fantasized about a time or two.

Way to go, Warren.

Happy Halloween.

Now, adjust your bra strap and let's get moving. We've got lots more windows to soap.

debouch \dih-BOUTCH\ verb

1 : to cause to emerge : discharge
*2 : to march out into open ground : emerge, issue

Example sentence:
At their commander's signal, the soldiers debouched from the jungle into the dangerous open terrain.

Did you know?
"Debouch" first appeared in English in the 18th century. It derives from a French verb formed from the prefix "de-" ("from") and the noun "bouche" ("mouth"), which itself derives ultimately from the Latin "bucca" ("cheek"). "Debouch" is often used in military contexts to refer to the action of troops proceeding from a closed space to an open one. It is also used frequently to refer to the emergence of anything from a mouth, such as water passing through the mouth of a river into an ocean. The word's ancestors have also given us the adjective "buccal" ("of or relating to the mouth") and the noun "embouchure" (the mouthpiece of a musical instrument or the position of the mouth when playing one).

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.

weltschmerz \VELT-shmairts\ noun, often capitalized

*1 : a mental depression or apathy caused by comparison of the actual state of the world with an ideal state
2 : a mood of sentimental sadness

Example sentence:
The early lyrical works of Austrian poet Nikolaus Lenau express the weltschmerz of the Romantic period.

Did you know?
The word "weltschmerz" initially came into being as a by-product of the Romanticism movement in Europe of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The poets of the Romantic era were a notably gloomy bunch, unwilling or unable to adjust to those realities of the world that they perceived as threatening their right to personal freedom. "Weltschmerz," which was formed by combining the German words for "world" ("Welt") and "pain" ("Schmerz"), aptly captures the melancholy and pessimism that often characterized the artistic expressions of the era. The term was coined in German by the Romantic author Jean Paul (pseudonym of Johann Paul Friedrich Richter) in his 1827 novel Selina, but it wasn't adopted into English until nearly 50 years later.

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.

patina \puh-TEE-nuh\ noun

1 : a green film formed on copper and bronze by exposure to moist air b : a surface appearance of something grown beautiful especially with age or use
*2 : an appearance or aura that is derived from association, habit, or established character
3 : a superficial covering or exterior

Example sentence:
The weather-beaten inns and storefronts along the seaside give the area the patina of a Colonial whaling village.

Did you know?
Italians began using "patina" in the 17th century to refer to the green film that is produced on the surface of copper. They borrowed the word from Latin, where it means "a shallow dish." (Presumably, the Italian meaning developed from the observation of such film forming on copper dishes.) By the mid-18th century, English speakers were also calling the green film "patina." And by the early 20th century, "patina" was being used in English for the gloss of polished metals, like silver, as well as wooden furniture — a meaning that led to its literary use for a surrounding aura, as demonstrated in this quote from Stella Gibbons' Cold Comfort Farm (1932): "The very atmosphere seemed covered with a rich patina of love."

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.

*1 : having the form of an animal
2 : of, relating to, or being a deity conceived of in animal form or with animal attributes

Example sentence:
Sid's costume was going to be a pumpkin, but he changed it to a hippopatumus when he decided it looked more zoomorphic than vegetal.

Did you know?
"Zoo-" (or "zo-") derives from the Greek word "zōion," meaning "animal," and "-morph" comes from the Greek "morphē," meaning "form." These two forms combined to give us the adjective "zoomorphic," which was first used in English to describe something that resembles an animal in 1872. English includes other words that were formed from "zoo-" or "zo-," such as "zoology" (made with "-logy," meaning "science"). We also have other words that were formed from "-morph," such as "pseudomorph," for a mineral having the outward form of another species. (The combining form "pseud-" or "pseudo-" means "false.")

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.

Do you love your country - love it enough to sleep for three weeks?

How many times have you gotten up in the morning and said, “Geez. If I could go back to sleep right now, I bet I could sleep for a week”? If you add two more weeks to your request, you could be just the type of person NASA is searching for right now. “Yes! It's true,” as they say in the radio ads, “You can make money in your spare time doing nothing.”

This is not, like those spots promote, a clinical test involving some drug that's yet to be approved by the government. It's simply laying your body down and not getting up for three weeks. Doesn't that sound absolutely dreamy? The strange thing about the offer is that, so far, NASA has been unable to come up with enough willing participants.

Have they canvassed under the Clemente Bridge?

NASA's Johnson Space Center is conducting experiments as we speak on counteracting the effects of weightlessness. In order to fake what it's like to live in space for long periods of time, scientists are asking folks to lie down for three weeks on beds. Their feet are propped just a bit higher than their heads.

While it sounds like a great weekend at home, it's a bit more trying than just hanging out on your couch. When I say that they want you to lie down for three weeks, that's exactly what I mean.

You don't get up.

At all.

You eat while propped up on an elbow. You use a bedpan for a bathroom. You are showered while lying down on your waterproof gurney.

Hmmm.

Not so appetizing, eh?

Scientists already know that living in a weightless environment weakens muscle and bone. What they'd like to determine is whether the effects of long journeys through space can be countered. To do so, they want to strap some folks into their space cots and spin them around a bit (one hour a day, thirty revolutions a minute). The other twenty three hours, you're on your own to do whatever you'd like. You can lie down on your back. Or you can turn on your side. Every once in a while, you can prop yourself up on an elbow and eat space food.

Mmm.

Tang.

When it's time to evacuate (and I mean that in the most refreshing way) you just use the bedpan. Pretend you're in the hospital after you've crashed your motorcycle while on your way to football practice. Unfortunately, there will be no drugs involved, so you'll have to keep your own mind occupied as your body withers away.

Come on.

Who's with me?

Let's go!

America is awaiting your call. NASA wants you. Perhaps you don't want to volunteer personally, but would like to rid your life of a particularly annoying individual. Listen to the following instructions and pretend (as you relay them to that individual later) that we never spoke. Instead, tell the unsuspecting future lab rat that his or her country needs them desperately.

It's not that big a lie.

All told, the participants in the study will work (tough work – lying down) for forty-one days, twenty one of which will actually be spent prone, eleven days will be taken up with medical tests with nine set aside for recovery. For their time, effort and deteriorating body mass, they will be paid six thousand dollars.

Dr. Liz Warren, the deputy project scientist, is in charge of recruiting. You can contact her at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. She's waiting for your call. As a matter of fact, she's surprised she hasn't been swamped with contacts and that is why she has gone public with her search for guinea pigs – er – volunteers. The good doctor says, “I don't know why it's so hard to find volunteers. You look at how many people in this country do nothing but be couch potatoes anyway. Why can't they come to work for us?”

Good question.

Could be that whole “spinning couch” situation.

Could be that whole “hosing down for a shower” situation.

Or it could very well be that six thousand dollars for forty one days of doing nothing is actually less than most make at PennDOT for the same amount of work performed in the same amount of time.

Good luck, Doc.

They're waiting for you.

On a revolving cot.

1 : having deceptive attraction or allure
*2 : having a false look of truth or genuineness : sophistic

Example sentence:
From the get-go Shelly felt that Clark's claim was specious, but he insisted he was telling the truth and she couldn't at first prove otherwise.

Did you know?
"Appearances can be deceptive." "Things are not always as they seem." Like these familiar proverbs, the word "specious" attests that English speakers can be a skeptical lot when it comes to trusting outward appearances. "Specious" traces to the Latin word "speciosus," meaning "beautiful" or "plausible," and Middle English speakers used it to mean "visually pleasing." But by the 17th century, "specious" had begun to suggest an attractiveness that was superficial or deceptive, and, subsequently, the word's neutral "pleasing" sense faded into obsolescence.

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.

1 : not spiritually reborn or converted
2 a : not reformed : unreconstructed *b : obstinate, stubborn

Example sentence:

Did you know?
There was a time when the adjective "regenerate" had more to do with being spiritually reborn than with being physically re-created; in the 16th century, "regenerate" was used of someone spiritually reborn. By the late 1500s, English speakers had added "un-" to "regenerate" to describe someone who refused to accept spiritual reformation. Since then, "unregenerate" has taken on a life of its own, gaining the extended specific meanings of "unconverted to a particular doctrinaire viewpoint," "persisting in a reactionary stand," or just plain "stubborn." Both "regenerate" and "unregenerate" trace back to the Latin "genus," meaning "birth" or "descent."

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.

bonnyclabber \BAH-nee-klab-er\ noun

: sour milk that has been thickened or curdled

Example sentence:
When Grandma was a little girl, one of her jobs was to feed the bonnyclabber to the chickens.

Did you know?
In Irish Gaelic, "bainne clabair" means "thickened milk." In English, the equivalent word is "bonnyclabber." Whether or not this bonnyclabber is "the bravest, freshest drink you ever tasted" (as the English Earl of Strafford enthused in 1635) or "would make a hungry parson caper" (to quote English poet Thomas Ward in 1716), it has been a part of country folks' diets for many a year. Today, you might see "bonnyclabber" as a recommended substitute for buttermilk in a recipe for Irish soda bread (complete with directions for making your own bonnyclabber). The American version of bonnyclabber, brought to U.S. shores by Scots-Irish immigrants, often goes one step further in the thickening process, to produce something more akin to cottage cheese.

Which is better for America – a pervert or a liar?

There will come a day when someone will appear from my past to accuse me of wandering from the flock. I would like to follow my President's position on conflict by launching a preemptive strike. Before some transsexual intravenous drug user, his pockets full of pay offs, comes-a-calling to the press in an effort to thwart my campaign for borough dog catcher, I would like to admit that I did it.

Whatever it is.

I did it.

If I liked it I probably did it more than once. Furthermore, if I liked it a lot, I'm probably still doing it.

Whatever it is.

I'm guilty.

Maybe I tried it once and found it to be disappointing. That still counts. It doesn't mean I'm innocent. I tried it, whether or not I swallowed, inhaled or called her the next day.

Does that make me a bad person, or, more to the point, does that make me a bad dog catcher? Does the fact that I paid someone to do something to me that no one else would do for free in any way inhibit my abilities to round up the occasional stray cockapoo? Of course it doesn't, even if the act I paid someone to perform was, indeed, called “rounding up a stray cockapoo”.

The wife just won't try that one, officer.

If you've paid any attention to the coverage of the political process in our country over the past months, you may have come away with some misconceptions. The big question voters face this year is not who can do a better job of governing, but which is worse for the country – a pervert or a liar? It seems all anyone is interested in talking about. Solutions to problems? Haven't heard many of those. But the airwaves have been rife with perversions and lies of all sorts.

I've given this some thought and I suggest you do the same before heading into that voting booth, which, by the way, if you believe the latest scare reports is chock full of computer inconsistencies that will leave each and every electorate officially rigged. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain and caress that touch screen. It is vitally important. We must decide, as a nation, who we would rather have in charge – the perverts or the liars. It's up to you. Remember while making your calculations that while not all of us tell lies, some of the things each of us do behind closed doors could be looked upon by others as being perverted.

That's why I'd like to admit here and now that I'm a pervert.

Of course, I could be lying.

I'm telling you, in the widest general terms, about my past and present indiscretions because I want to be your dog catcher, America. I don't think my love of crack and Asian boys has anything to do with the inner motivation that boils deep in my cockles to snatch a rabid shih tzu.

A rabid shih tzu.

Deep in my boiling cockles.

Yet another thing the wife won't try.

It is quite likely that my preemptive admission of perversions near and far, past and present, won't keep my opponent from attempting to muddy the political waters with attack ads. Because I've already told you, my constituents, of my twisted nature, publicizing trash about me won't do the other party any good, but it won't stop them from trying.

Let this be a warning to my sick friends.

You're next.

If I can't be harmed by the slime of the campaign, the next best thing these days seems to be finding someone I'm connected to who has taken a dip in the waters of nasty, evil, unforgivable sins. This person could be a colleague who has tried to pick up little boys with his emails, or a drug-addicted preacher, or, as has been the poison of choice this year, a President with whom I voted “ninety-nine point nine percent of the time”. They'll search high and low for someone connected to me who did something awful. Given my family, friends and business associates, they'll save money on private investigators. It won't take long. I'm not going to deny any of it, although I will admit that my cousin's blaming his bestiality on being touched while an altar boy is a bit of a stretch.

What I'm saying is that none of it will effect how well I scoop up a saluki.

My life is an open book. That's how much holding a position in the government means to me. I will pay no attention to the taunts, lies and slander that are spray painted on the walls of my world. I will admit all and deny none if you, the voter, in turn, promise to judge me on one thing and one thing only:

Can I do the job?

Can I catch dogs?

Unfortunately, as has been proven time and again, you can't do that, can you? Come Wednesday, I'll be going back to my position as all-night counter person at the Adult Maxi-Mart and 25 Cent Video Preview Booth World just off the interstate. I'm prepared to return to cleaning the walls of trucker excrement because I've become accustomed to a sad and obvious fact.

Voters don't care which candidates can do the job. They merely care about which side of the fence you stand. Are you a liar or are you a pervert?

Personally, I'm voting for the perverts this time around.

Last election I voted for the liars.

Look where that got us.

*1 : volunteering one's services where they are neither asked nor needed : meddlesome
2 : informal, unofficial

Example sentence:
Jane wanted to help her neighbors, but she was hesitant to offer assistance for fear of being perceived as officious.

Did you know?
Don't mistake "officious" for a rare synonym of "official." Both words stem from the Latin noun "officium" (meaning "service" or "office"), but they have very different meanings. When the suffix "-osus" ("full of") was added to "officium," Latin "officiosus" came into being, meaning "eager to serve, help, or perform a duty." When this adjective was borrowed into English in the 16th century as "officious," it carried the same meaning. Early in the 17th century, however, "officious" began taking on a negative sense to describe a person who offers unwanted help. This pejorative sense has driven out the original "eager to help" sense to become the predominant meaning of the word in Modern English. "Officious" can also mean "of an informal or unauthorized nature," but that sense isn't especially common.

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.

prescind \pri-SIND\ verb

*1 intransitive verb : to withdraw one's attention
2 transitive verb : to detach for purposes of thought

Example sentence:
If we prescind from the main issue for a moment, there is much to be gained by studying some corollary questions.

Did you know?
"Prescind" derives from the Latin verb "praescindere," which means "to cut off in front." "Praescindere," in turn, was formed by combining "prae-" ("before") and "scindere" ("to cut" or "to split"). So it should come as no surprise that when "prescind" began being used during the 17th century, it referred to "cutting off" one's attention from a subject. An earlier (now archaic) sense was even clearer about the etymological origins of the word, with the meaning "to cut short, off, or away" or "to sever." Other descendants of "scindere" include "rescind" and the rare "scissile" ("capable of being cut").

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.

What this car accident needs is some refreshments for the audience .

The phone rang at half past midnight. Once in my life this meant nothing but good things. Someone had found a party. There was a great band ready to hit the stage in a club within driving distance. These days, however, when the phone rings during the witching hour, it can only mean bad things.

As I trudged from bed and down the steps, the tiny Rollodex in my tiny brain flipped from card to card, tallying the various stages of sickness each of the senior relatives were currently enduring. The panic attack then catalogued who could have been arrested and how much bail money they'd be seeking. By the time I reached the phone I was ready for someone, anyone to tell me of the advancing Armageddon from the other end.

Turns out it was a false alarm.

“Hey, man!” a friend called out. “You need to get down here, dude! There's been a great car wreck – right in front of my house!”

I think American guys are the only ones who place the words “great” and “car wreck” next to each other. Some women as well, no doubt, enjoy a nice accident – not participating directly, mind you, but in a voyeuristic sense.

We like to watch.

If you have any doubt as to the pleasure American guys get in looking at smashed automobiles, I call your attention to any of the major highways in your city at rush hour. There will, no doubt, be a moment in the next few weeks when traffic will crawl to a standstill due to an auto accident. The wreck might well be cleared within just a few minutes. Both parties involved could be exchanging numbers and shaking hands by the time you cruise by. That won't stop you from looking.

We are the rubberneck nation.

The friend who called after midnight to invite me out to his house to look at two midsized sedans entangled in what was described by him as a “mad, passionate, doggy style wreck” lives in Uniontown. That's an hour from my house. It was by then quarter to one in the morning. And yet, for just a split second, I thought about slipping into a pair of shoes and hopping in the car.

Just for a quick peek.

That's how strong the draw is of twisted metal.

I reminded my buddy how far from him I lived and how it would be way past two by the time I would arrive. Instead of understanding and wishing me a great good night, he did what most American guys would do in such a situation. “Hold on,” he said. Closing his cell phone into the palm of his hand, he then asked the two drivers involved (as they waited for the ambulance to arrive) if they could hold off on getting their cars towed until I got there. He came back to our conversation to report that the two were discussing the possibility. “I should tell them who you are,” he said. “They'd probably want to meet you.”

Right.

I know each time I've skirted death, thanks to air bags and pure dumb luck, I've often thought, “Geez. If only a minor celebrity with a sick streak was here to gawk.”

I hung up and returned to bed, where my wife, awakened from dreaming of a Scott Blasey lap dance, asked who died. “Nobody,” I told her. “Just a fender bender.”

“If you're going to go look at it, put the garbage out,” she said before passing out again. “Tomorrow's Wednesday.”

That's why we've made it twenty years. She understands the basic needs of an American guy. It's not just sex, macaroni and rock and roll, as has been reported. There's also a deep-set need to look at others' mangled metal.

And that's when it hit me.

Big Idea number 437.

The Car Wreck Museum.

Tell me that men, American guys, would not pay an admission price to tour an old factory floor turned into studio space, its floors covered with car wrecks. If you want to be artistic about it, create a scene around each wreck. Flashing lights. The sound of a train approaching. Tires squealing. With each display, place a placard explaining how the wreck occurred and who, if anyone, survived.

After the art has been enjoyed, send your patrons to the snack bar.

Big Idea number 437.

The Car Wreck Museum.

And now, if you'll excuse me, I'm heading down to the bank to ask for a loan. If the officer hedges at all, I'll take him out to the parkway and wait until some Camry rear ends a Civic. As the crowd gathers to look at the aftermath, I'll point and say, “Look at the crowd! You know what they need right now? A beer and some nachos. And I know just the guy who's gonna give it to ‘em.”

1 : inferior, trashy
2 : mean, despicable
3 : trivial
*4 : meager, measly

Example sentence:
Nora was struggling to support herself on the paltry wages from her day job, so she began to wait tables at night to supplement her income.

Did you know?
Before "paltry" was an adjective, it was a noun meaning "trash." That now obsolete noun in turn came from "palt" or "pelt," dialect terms meaning "a piece of coarse cloth," or broadly, "trash." The adjective "paltry" first meant "trashy," but currently has a number of senses, all generally meaning "no good." A "paltry house" might be run-down and unfit for occupancy; a "paltry trick" is a trick that is low-down and dirty; a "paltry excuse" is a trivial one; and a "paltry sum" is small and insufficient.

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.

gainsay \gain-SAY\ verb

*1 : to declare to be untrue or invalid

Example sentence:
Although he claimed to be astonished by the accusations made against him, Kevin made no attempt to gainsay them.

Did you know?
You might have trouble figuring out "gainsay" if you're thinking of our modern "gain" plus "say." It might help to know that the "gain-" part is actually related to "against." In Old English, "gēan-" meant "against." From that came the Middle English
"gain-." "Gain-" was joined with "sayen" ("say") to form "gainsayen," the Middle English predecessor of "gainsay." So when you see "gainsay," think "say against" — that is, "deny" or "contradict." When you do happen to come across "gainsay," it's likely to be in literature. "Gainsay" is a literary, somewhat old-fashioned word that isn't heard much in everyday modern speech.

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.

peroration \pair-uh-RAY-shun\ noun

*1 : the concluding part of a discourse and especially an oration
2 : a highly rhetorical speech

Example sentence:
The President concluded, in an eloquent and ringing peroration, that it was necessary for the nation to stand together against hardships.

Did you know?
As you may have already guessed, "peroration" is a relative of "oration." Both words ultimately derive from the Latin "orare," meaning "to speak" or "to plead." The direct ancestor of "peroration" is the Latin verb "perorare," meaning "to declaim at length" or "to wind up an oration." "Perorare," in turn, comes from the combination of "per-" ("through") and "orare." The English language also has the verb "perorate," which means "to deliver a long or grandiloquent speech" or "to offer a concluding part of a speech."

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.

colligate \KAH-luh-gayt\ verb

transitive senses
*1 : to bind, unite, or group together
2 : to subsume (isolated facts) under a general concept
intransitive sense : to be or become a member of a group or unit

Example sentence:
All of the files have been colligated as one large searchable database.

Did you know?
"Colligate" descends from Latin "colligare," itself from "com-" ("with") plus "ligare" ("to tie"). Which of the following words is NOT tied to "ligare"?

ligature ligament lien rely ally

collocate oblige furl league

"Ligature," "ligament," "lien," "rely," "ally," "oblige," "furl," and "league" (in the sense of "an association of persons, groups, or teams") can all be traced back along varying paths to "ligare." That leaves only "collocate," which means "to set side by side" and comes from "com-" plus "locare," meaning "to place."

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.

often capitalized : rigorously strict or just

Example sentence:
The judge took the maliciousness of the crime into account and decided upon a rhadamanthine punishment.

Did you know?
In Greek mythology, there were three judges of the underworld: Minos, Aeacus, and Rhadamanthus. Minos, a son of Zeus and Europa, had been the king of Crete before becoming supreme judge in the underworld after his death. Aeacus, another son of Zeus, was king of Aegina before joining the underworld triumvirate. Rhadamanthus, brother of Minos and king of the Cyclades Islands, was especially known for being inflexible when administering his judgment — hence, the meaning of "rhadamanthine" as "rigorously strict or just."

The election's over. Get your sign out of my yard .

Now that Election '06 is thankfully finished, now that the votes have been tabulated, the winners have been congratulated and the losers have given their heartfelt farewells, I would like to ask a simple question that will hopefully not be taken as an insult. It is not meant to be one.

Why did Lynn Swann run for Governor?

I asked that question on the day he announced his candidacy. I waited patiently for an answer. It never came. I was still waiting the other night as he gave his concession speech.

Why did you run for Governor?

Did you have new ideas?

Did you have new solutions?

Was the current Governor screwing things up so badly that Pennsylvania needed to be rescued?

If you answered “yes” to any or all of those questions, then why did I, a voter who paid more attention to this election than any before, not get your message?

I like and respect Lynn Swann very much, having worked with him on several occasions for various fund raising events. He's an intelligent, thoughtful and caring individual. Those are some of the traits of a world-class leader and certainly would have done him well in the office of Governor of the Commonwealth. We quickly learned, however, that Lynn lacks many of the other attributes needed to be a successful candidate and a winning politician.

It's not enough to believe in yourself. It's not enough to realize the people in charge are doing a poor job. It's not even enough to have ideas. You must be able to tell your story, relate your message, preach your vision in such a manner as to convince.

While he is intelligent, caring and thoughtful, Lynn Swann was not a good candidate. He did not relate his message. He did not convince. Even if you have no ideas of your own, if you are able to make an argument against your opponent, you can still be elected. That happened repeatedly in this campaign. For an example, look no further than Bob Casey. Not many knew what he stood for, but a majority knew they did not want the alternative.

Have a better idea.

Lynn was unable to do either of those. Like it or not, you must have at least some Darth Vader in your Luke Skywalker bloodstream to govern. You have to know the weaknesses of your opponent's platform and you must be willing to expose and exploit them.

Nasty, isn't it?

Nasty is not a word that comes to mind immediately when thinking of the Hall of Fame former wide receiver and community beacon. Swann is a lot of things, but he is not nasty. But nasty, unfortunately, is what you sometimes must resort to if you have no original ideas.

What did Lynn Swann, candidate for Governor, stand for, exactly? “Reducing our property taxes” was one of his platform planks. While everyone would like to pay less in tax, it's not exactly a visionary theme. “Creating economic opportunities” was another plank. That couldn't be more vague, could it? He also promised that the state would “treat our veterans better” in his administration, proposed ideas to make the state more “sportsmen” friendly and vowed to “lower the personal income tax” from its current three-point-oh-eight percent to its former rate of two-point-eight percent.

While attractive on the surface, none is a new idea or particularly different from what we hear each and every campaign. Arguments about taxes are exactly the kind of thing that makes the average person turn from the Governor's Debate to watch whatever's on HBO. It's not exactly stimulating. Unfortunately for Mr. Swann, his ideas were not attractive enough or they were not presented well enough to register with the registered electorate. Citizens of Pennsylvania turned to HBO, then voted overwhelmingly to return Ed Rendell to office as the Governor.

To lose the 2006 Governor's race, Lynn Swann spent an estimated three million dollars.

Three million dollars of donated funds.

Who knows how much of his personal wealth disappeared in the last twelve months?

For what?

Why did Lynn Swann run for Governor?

I cross my fingers that some “state party leadership think tank” didn't approach him a few years back and put the bug in his ear, reasoning that with a powerful tool like the name “Lynn Swann”, they could return their party to power. I knock on wood that the “people behind the people” don't underestimate the citizens that much. I have faith in the fact that Mr. Swann still believes he can lead our community towards a better way and that in the future he'll find his place in the process, either through politics, business or public service.

I have no doubt that we'll see him again down the road.

Next time, Lynn, before saying “yes” to the big dogs, find an answer to the question, “Why are you running for the office of Governor?”

Now. Has anybody heard how Bubby Brister did in his race for Bayou County Dog Catcher?

perseverate \per-SEV-uh-rayt\ verb

*1 : to repeat or recur persistently
2 : to go back over previously covered ground

Example sentence:
To ensure the accuracy of his or her data, the scientist necessarily perseverates, repeating each experiment many times and comparing the results.

Did you know?
Looking at "perseverate" and "perseveration," you may guess that the latter was formed by adding a suffix to the former, but that is not the case. "Perseveration" is actually the older term. It has been around since the 1600s, when it was used as a synonym of "perseverance" (which at one time was pronounced, like "perseverate" and "perseveration," with the stress on "sev," instead of on "ver"). In the early 1900s, psychologists adopted "perseveration" for the act of repeating a behavior over and over again. (For instance, continually repeating the same syllable or word might be called "verbal perseveration.") Shortly afterward, those scientists wanted a verb for such acts of repetition, so they changed the "-tion" of "perseveration" to "-ate" and "perseverate" was born.

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.

doyen \DOY-un\ noun

*1 : the senior or most experienced member of a group
2 : the oldest example of a category

Example sentence:
We watched a TV documentary by Jacques Cousteau, the doyen of undersea explorers.

Did you know?
English picked up "doyen" from French in the 17th century. The French term in turn comes from the Late Latin word "decanus," which itself comes from the Greek "dekanos," meaning "chief of ten." A "doyen" can be a leader of a group, such as a diplomatic corps. In this regard, the word has been used to refer to someone who is specifically or tacitly allowed to speak for that group. More broadly, a "doyen" refers to a highly skilled and respected veteran of a particular field. The feminine form of "doyen" is "doyenne."

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.

noblesse oblige \noh-BLESS-uh-BLEEZH\ noun

: the obligation of honorable, generous, and responsible behavior associated with high rank or birth

Example sentence:
"In the Robinson family's circles, public service had long been common; it connoted not personal ambition so much as noblesse oblige." (Connie Bruck, The New Yorker, July 23, 1990)

Did you know?
In French, "noblesse oblige" means literally "nobility obligates." French speakers transformed the phrase into a noun, which English speakers picked up in the 19th century. Then, as now, "noblesse oblige" referred to the unwritten obligation of people from a noble ancestry to act honorably and generously to others. Later, by extension, it also came to refer to the obligation of anyone who is in a better position than others — due, for example, to high office or celebrity — to act respectably and responsibly.
Saturday, October 28th, 2006
4:30 am
I Wish...
..A tornado would come and scoop us all up, twisting and turn until we're dropped up-side-down and all dead.
There would be an amazing gas leak, and we'd al die at work durng the dinner rush.
That I would finally snap and just begin to kill until I'm shot down dead.

"Do you need anything, Justin?" Yeah, a bullet to the brain.
"Last call! Who wants a shot?" Me, to the brain!

majuscule \MAJ-uh-skyool\ noun

: a large letter (as a capital)

Example sentence:
I can always recognize my brother's handwriting at a quick glance based on how elaborately the majuscules are formed and how they dwarf the other letters.

Did you know?
"Majuscule" looks like the complement to "minuscule," and the resemblance is no coincidence. "Minuscule" appeared in the early 18th century as a word for a lowercase letter, then later as the word for certain ancient and medieval writing styles which had "small forms." "Minuscule" then acquired a more general adjectival use for anything very small. "Majuscule" is the counterpart to "minuscule" when it comes to letters, but it never developed a broader sense (despite the fact that its Latin ancestor "majusculus" has the broad meaning "rather large"). The adjective "majuscule" also exists (as does "majuscular"). Not surprisingly, the adjective shares the noun's specificity, referring only to large letters or to a style using such letters.

: harmful

Example sentence:
"Poorly tuned engines can put out up to 800 times the nocuous emissions of properly maintained ones." (PR Newswire, January 7, 1992)

Did you know?
You are probably more familiar with the adjective "innocuous," meaning "harmless," than with its antonymous relative "nocuous." Both "nocuous" and "innocuous" have immediate Latin predecessors: "nocuus" and "innocuus." (The latter combines "nocuus" with the negative prefix "in-.") Both words can also be traced back to the Latin verb "nocēre," meaning "to harm." Other "nocēre" descendants in English include "innocent" and "nocent," which means "harmful." "Nuisance" (which originally meant, and still can mean, "a harm or injury") is a more distant relative. "Nocuous" is one of the less common "nocēre" descendants, but it does turn up occasionally.

I'm donating my body to medical science. Good luck to whoever receives what is left of this brain.

If you look on my Pennsylvania driver's license, right next to the photo that makes me look like a happy terrorist, you'll see the words that seal my fate. In bright green letters it states, “Organ Donor”. If they find my body in time, someone will have the grave task (no pun intended) of carving me like so much Thanksgiving turkey and doling my parts out to the needy.

Trust me when I tell you that after spending quite a number of years with my parts, I would qualify anyone with good use for my organs to be very, very needy.

Best of luck with that liver.

I did not, for even a brief moment, put any monetary value on my body when volunteering for the organ donor program. Not being particularly attached to the physical world, I've always believed that the body is just a tool. That hasn't kept me from prancing and preening in front of every mirror I pass, making sure my tool is shiny and well oiled. I like my body, but I never really considered it as one would a good, used car.

As it turns out that may have been a financial mistake.

My body (and yours) is worth cash money to the medical community and there are some who are taking advantage of the market. In a legal case played out recently in the state of New York, it was revealed there is a huge market for previously owned organs. Some funeral home directors have been plundering corpses for quick cash.

The family of Alistair Cooke, the public television personality who hosted “Masterpiece Theater”, first brought the case to the public's attention. By discovering, in the most gruesome of circumstances, that Dad's body wasn't all there, Cooke's sons and daughter threw a spotlight onto a rather bizarre situation.

“Harvested”, by the way, is one of my favorite words. If you want to truly frighten the family, talk about how you'd like your organs to be “harvested” after you kick. Personally, I think my crop is getting a bit beyond ripe, but, judging from the Cooke case, there's not exactly a freshness date. He was, after all, ninety-five years old and some entrepreneur felt as though his bones were still of value.

And so, they stole them.

In an attempt to hide the thefts from unsuspecting funeral attendees, some Home Depot shopping morticians replaced leg bones with lengths of PVC pipe. This is not a weekend project I've ever seen diagramed in Popular Mechanics, but it will provide archeologists in the year 2600 with some fun.

In the New York case, seven separate funeral directors pleaded guilty to undisclosed, lesser charges in exchange for their testimony about what is described as a growing black market for stolen tissue. The body parts are harvested (there's that word again) and sold to biomedical companies who then resell them, legally, to hospitals for procedures as varied as dental implants and hip replacements.

The Alistair Cooke case came to light not because his heirs discovered grandpa's PVC, but from complaints from organ recipients. After bone transplant patients throughout England had post-operative complications, medical investigators were forced to trace the path of their donated parts. It was found that some came from not-so-reputable sources.

“Where did you get this brain?”

“From someone named Abbie.”

“Abbie?”

“Yes. Abbie Normal.”

Prosecutors allege that a guy named Michael Mastromarino, a former oral surgeon, and three other men secretly removed skin, bone and other body parts from more than one thousand bodies. They harvested the organs (harvested!) from funeral home cadavers, without permission of the deceased's families.

Why?

Millions, baby.

New York's prosecutors estimate that Mastromarino and others have pulled in literally millions from supplying good used parts to bad old biomedical companies. Among the crimes the wonderfully ghoulish group committed was falsification of documents, mainly death certificates. In the case of Alistair Cooke, his age at death was changed from ninety-five to eighty-five and the cause of death was changed from bone cancer to heart attack. I guess you can make more selling bones from a dead eighty-five year old heart attack victim than from a ninety-five year old claimed by bone cancer.

It's the same no matter what business you're in.

You have to know your market.

Now that I know my old wasted pancreas is worth some pennies or dimes to someone, I may be rethinking this whole “donating” of my organs. You have to look out for your family, right? I have full intentions of spending every red cent I make during my lifetime, leaving exactly nothing to my so-called heirs, save for a couple of stacks of very used long-playing records and my ever-growing magazine collection.

It would be nice to leave them something.

The good news is that, thanks to songwriter John Prine, I don't have to leave instructions. I'll just leave a copy of his “Please Don't Bury Me” on top of that stack of albums with instructions to listen and obey.

Down in that cold cold ground

No, I'd druther have ‘em cut me up

And pass me all around

Throw my brain in a hurricane

And the blind can have my eyes

And the deaf can take both of my ears

If they don't mind the size

Give my stomach to Milwaukee

If they run out of beer

Put my socks in a cedar box

Just get ‘em out of here

Venus de Milo can have my arms

Look out! I've got your nose

Sell my heart to the junkman

And give my love to Rose”

And remember, whatever you decide to do with me… make sure you get a receipt.

For tax purposes.

farceur \far-SUR\ noun

1 : joker, wag
*2 : a writer or actor of farce

Example sentence:
The movie features a famous farceur trying his hand at a serious role for the first time.

Did you know?
You've probably already spotted the "farce" in "farceur." But although "farceur" can now refer to someone who performs or composes farce, it began life in the late 18th century as a word for someone who is simply known for cracking jokes. Appropriately, "farceur" derives via Modern French from the Middle French "farcer," meaning "to joke." If you think of "farce" as a composition of ridiculous humor with a "stuffed" or contrived plot, then it should not surprise you that "farce" originally meant "forcemeat" — seasoned meat used for a stuffing — and that both "farce" and "farceur" can be ultimately traced back to the Latin verb "farcire," meaning "to stuff."

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.

techno-thriller \TEK-noh-thrill-er\ noun

: a work of fiction having a high degree of intrigue, adventure, or suspense and a plot that relies on modern technology

Example sentence:
The techno-thriller's protagonist, equipped with an arsenal of futuristic weapons, must prevent a terrorist group's strike on the nation's capital.

Did you know?
"Techno-thriller" owes a lot to technology. Not only do fictional techno-thrillers include a lot of technology in their plots, the word itself includes the combining form "techno-," which derives from the word "technology." The artistic and literary genre is relatively new and so is the word that describes it; the first documented use of "techno-thriller" dates from 1986.

Let's go to the automobile farms! The hot rods are ripe and ready to pick.

Everyone should have a hobby. Whether yours is collecting and mounting bi-winged insects or collecting and mounting bi-breasted bar sluts, a hobby is a great way to keep one's mind occupied and force all naughty thoughts back to the dungeon.

And, as many a priest has confessed from many a far-off Pacific island punishment parish, keeping the naughty thoughts in the dungeon is the real struggle of mankind.

I am a hot rod voyeur.

It's one of my hobbies.

I go to car shows, buy hot rod magazines and rarely miss a week of the Auto Trader. I watch all the rebuild-your-heap shows on TV. The reason I call myself a hot rod voyeur is that while I am always shopping for an old car, I haven't bought one in years.

Honestly, I just like to look.

There are those who do more than just look. They buy. They buy, they build and they sell on a seasonal calendar. I call them hot rod farmers. Some day, when my ability to keep the naughty thoughts in the dungeon begins to evaporate, I will be a hot rod farmer. But for now, I'm still strong and still just looking.

The hot rod farmer spends winters in a garage, building cars he sees in his head. The difference between the car in his head and the car in his garage will determine the amount of time he will spend in that garage. For a simple project, the hot rod farmer will spend a few nights a week and most of his weekends away from the family, holed up in his home away from home, four walls and an air compressor. For more radical and serious dreams, the hot rod farmer will be absent without leave, a sailor out to sea on a ship built of old welding tanks.

In the spring the doors of the garage are opened. Like a butterfly emerging from a cocoon, or a sleeping bear waking and stumbling from a cave in need of a good, long whiz, the car that was in the hot rod farmer's head is rolled from its winter home and into the sunlight. It is a marvelous and breathtaking event. His friends and other voyeurs, like myself, gather around to congratulate the hot rod farmer and praise his abilities to revive dead steel.

During the summer, the hot rod farmer will tow his treasure to car shows, and sit in a lawn chair while others parade by and gasp in wonderment at his ability to stuff a motor that big into a chassis that small. While the adulation of gape-mouthed strollers may provide some pleasure, there are times when the hot rod farmer will want to be alone. On those days, he will sit in a lawn chair in his own driveway and stare at his creation while the family is off doing “family” things, like conversing and interacting with other living, breathing carbon-based life forms.

Sometimes, on those rare, rare occasions, when there are completely clear, sunny days with temperatures between fifty-five and seventy-two, the hot rod farmer will actually drive his car.

And then, sometime after Labor Day and before the first snows, the hot rod farmer will begin to get itchy. He will begin to become bored with his most recent project. He has, by that date, done everything humanly possible to the car, added every option, changed every bolt, polished every surface, squirted grease into every anxious nipple.

It is now harvest time.

After nearly twelve months of loving care, restoration and threats of divorce, it is time for the hot rod farmer and his project car to part ways. Like a prized 4-H pig, the pride of his work must now be taken to market and sold to the highest bidder. He may get an even return on his investment. Chances are, though, he will probably lose money. That doesn't matter so much to the hot rod farmer. He'll sacrifice a small loss. He needs to move the old car. It is fall. He must empty his garage, so that he can buy another broken down wreck and start the process all over again.

That's right.

The car he has spent a year of sweat, money and threats of divorce to finish is leaving. The vehicle he invested a year of his life into getting just right is going away. It will be replaced by another car, one that needs all the same work he just performed.

Car nuts call this a hobby.

Others call it an illness.

Some call it means of keeping the naughty thoughts in the dungeon.

Me? I just like to watch.

ingurgitate \in-GUR-juh-tayt\ verb

: to swallow greedily or in large quantities : guzzle

Example sentence:
The kids were so hungry after the ball game that they ingurgitated their fries before I even finished squeezing the ketchup on mine.

Did you know?
Most people are familiar with "regurgitate" as a fancy synonym for "throw up," but far fewer know of its rarer antonym "ingurgitate." It's a word as likely to turn up in a spelling bee as in a conversation, but it does see occasional use, both literal (as in "ingurgitating red wine") and figurative (as in "ingurgitating artwork"). "Regurgitate" and "ingurgitate" (as well as "gurgitate," an even rarer synonym of "ingurgitate," and "gorge," meaning "to eat greedily") can be ultimately traced back to the Latin word for "whirlpool," which is "gurges."

*1 a : done by stealth : surreptitious b : expressive of stealth : sly
2 : obtained underhandedly : stolen

Example sentence:
When Teresa asked who had left the surprise on her desk, Patrick and I exchanged furtive glances across the room.

Did you know?
"Furtive" has a shadowy history. It may have slipped into English directly from Latin or it may have covered its tracks by arriving via French. (The French "furtif" derived from the Latin "furtivus.") But however "furtive" got into English, the Latin word "fur," meaning "thief," is at the root. "Fur" is related to, and may come from, the Greek "phōr," which also means "thief." When first used in English in the early 17th century, "furtive" carried a meaning of "done in a way so as not to be seen," though later it also came to mean, less commonly, "stolen." Whichever meaning you choose, the elusive ancestry of "furtive" is particularly fitting, since a thief must be furtive to avoid getting caught in the act!

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.

A spitball? Please. I would never stoop so low. Hand me that pine tar rag, would you?

Many were too depressed by another boneheaded, spoon-handed Steelers loss last Sunday afternoon to watch game two of the World Series that night. It's too bad, too, that you missed two. What you missed was one of the main reasons baseball fans love the game.

Cheating.

Baseball is the cheatenest sport in town. The fact that rules are routinely broken is one of the strongest arguments for being a fan of the game. Creative cheating is not only accepted in professional baseball – it's expected.

Equipment and human hormones are doctored. Bats are drilled hollow and filled with cork to make them lighter. Players are injected full of steroids to make them stronger; they ingest speed to make them more alert. Secret agents hide in outfield scoreboards, staring through binoculars, stealing the opposing catcher's hand signals. It all evens out in the end, because the pitchers are cheating too.

Why?

May as well ask why we didn't just study for that big test rather than write the answers on the bottoms of our shoes an hour before class.

For many baseball players, pitchers in particular, cheating prolongs a short career. While two more years of working in your office might not mean much to your bank account, two more years in the major leagues, where the annual average salary is more than a million dollars (that's the average salary!) can make or break a pitcher.

He may come to the majors at the age of twenty-four with a curveball that drops like it's falling from a cliff. However, if he's still in baseball by the time he's forty, his arm ligaments will no longer produce the sharp twist needed to make a baseball do such things. He'll have discovered the art of cheating.

It's a choice.

Cheat or get out.

Kenny Rogers has chosen to cheat. The forty-one year old starter for the Tigers cheated Sunday night in game two of the World Series. Tony LaRussa, manager of the Cardinals, called the home plate umpire over to the dugout sometime during the first inning and pointed to the mound. “What was that in Roger's hand?” Tony asked, as if he did not already know.

They stopped the game and asked the ancient one what he had.

“Mud. Just some dirt,” came the answer.

Mud?

I think Rogers cheated. LaRussa beleived Rogers was cheating. The umpire certainly had to have suspicions that Rogers was cheating. And yet, because he promised to come back the next inning with washed hands, we all secretly applauded him for making it through two outs before discovery. We knew that he had to face the rest of game with just the regular forty-one year old stuff.

He pitched eight innings and won.

We may never know what Kenny Rogers was using to doctor the ball. It may have, indeed, been mud. More likely it was pine tar, the sticky gum used by batters to keep their gloves stuck to the handles of bats. Pine tar is an accepted cheat. Todd Jones, famous relief pitcher and former teammate of Rogers, told the Sporting News, “Pine tar is no big deal to players. Everybody uses pine tar. It's almost a basic part of the game. Sandpaper and Vaseline however, are looked at as cheating.” When asked what he thought Rogers was using, Jones replied, “It could have been chocolate cake.”

Mmmm.

Cheating.

It tastes like cake.

Those who are not baseball fans may not realize what the fuss is about. Unlike you or I, a professional hitter can not only see a baseball being thrown at him from sixty feet away, but can also pick up rotation of the ball, the grip used by the pitcher's hand and the movement of the ball as it approaches at well over eighty miles per hour. One of the ways a pitcher can fool such an eagle-eyed hitter is change the way a ball “slips” out of his grip as he throws it. The pitcher does this naturally by holding the ball a bit differently for each pitch, or does it by rubbing some goop into his hand. It makes the ball “slip” as it flies from his hand. To the batter, the pitcher's arm movement looks like he's thrown a fastball. Unless, of course, he's cheated. A Vaseline-smeared ball will leave the hand a millisecond second later. A pine tar-streaked ball will dip a bit sooner. A ball that had been scuffed with a sharp object (like a sharpened belt buckle, an Emory board, nail file or just good old hidden hunk of sandpaper) will drop like it's falling from a cliff.

Just like it did when the pitcher was twenty-four.

Before his ligaments and cartilage got old.

Before he had to cheat to make his millions.

For me, a man who was once a boy who had trouble keeping his eyes on his own test, there's nothing more delightful than major league baseball, the cheatenest sport in town.

All hail pine tar!

Pass the Vaseline!

God bless the Emory board!

In the name of Gaylord Perry, I say, well done, Kenny Rogers! Well done!

antipode \AN-tuh-pohd\ noun

1: the parts of the earth diametrically opposite — usually used in plural
*2 : the exact opposite or contrary

Example sentence:
"The 12 USFL teams will play every week from March 6 to July 3, the antipode of the NFL season...." (Geoffrey Colvin, Fortune, March 21, 1983)

Did you know?
We borrowed the word "antipode" over 600 years ago. It first appeared in a translation of a Latin text as a word designating "men that have their feet against our feet," that is, inhabitants of the opposite side of the globe. The word, which originated in Greek, combines "anti-," meaning "opposite," with the root "pod-," meaning "foot." "Antipode" is no longer used in English as a designation for people, but the notion of the other side of the globe lives on in its current geographical sense. We have come to use the plural term "antipodes" (pronounced \an-TIH-puh-deez\) to refer to Australia and New Zealand because they are on the other side of the earth from Britain.

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.

: refusing to submit to authority

Example sentence:
Several recusant senators refused to vote along party lines.

Did you know?
In 1534, Henry VIII of England declared himself the head of the Church of England, separating it from the Roman Catholic Church, and the resultant furor led to increased attention focused on people's religious observances. A "recusant" was someone who (from about 1570-1791) refused to attend services of the Church of England, and therefore violated the laws of mandatory church attendance. The word derives from the Latin verb "recusare," meaning "reject" or "oppose." The adjective "recusant" has been in use since the early 17th century. Originally, it meant "refusing to attend the services of the Church of England," but by the century's end, both the adjective and the noun were also being used generally to suggest resistance to authority of any form.

And what are supposed to be, little girl? Or boy.

We all knew our friend Warren was a bit odd, but being eight and nine years old, none of us yet had the vocabulary to label him. We lived in a rural area, one that required a parent to drive the group of trick-or-treaters from house to house in a wood-paneled station wagon. With each stop came the requisite, “And what are you supposed to be, little boy?”

Josh would bark out, “I'm Frankenstein!”

And Warren, in a wig and a skirt (not too far removed from Carol's ballerina wear) would answer, proudly, “I'm my sister.”

We never thought much about it. Warren's Mom made such a fuss about helping him dress up. It wasn't until later years, those strange in-between times of ten, eleven and twelve, that we found him a bit cumbersome. Our group was forever waiting for Warren to catch up as we ran from house to house, soaping windows.

It's hard to run in high heels.

Had this Halloween dress up of his merely continued for a year or two, no one would have thought much about it. For Warren, however, there was no other annual costume mode. He varied, of course. One year he was a flapper. The next, he dressed as a nun. Eleven-year old Warren as famous Olympic figure skater Peggy Fleming was a bit much, with all the sparkle and fake gold medals dangling from his neck.

It's hard to run in women's skates.

As each of us learned in our own, sometimes painful methods, what a homosexual was and why our Uncle Johnny never married, but preferred to live with a succession of “roommates”, the Warren situation became even more confusing. Warren, you see, was not only fond of dressing in women's clothing, but was the best athlete we knew.

How could he be a “queer” when he could throw such a tight spiral?

Warren couldn't be a “fairy”, could he?

Further complicating matters was Sandy Webber. Sandy Webber was that legendary type of girl found in everyone's neighborhood who matured well beyond her eighth-grade years (and quickly). She taught many the ways of adulthood, or so we all believed. One day, we collectively dreamed, Sandy would teach us as well.

As soon as she was done with Warren.

Warren, junior high quarterback, A-student, female impersonator, became Sandy's “steady boyfriend”. When ninth grade rolled around, they were a bonified item. He spent so much time with her that by the time Halloween arrived, we were left to throw tomatoes at cars alone. The good news was we would not have to wait as Warren adjusted his bra straps. The bad news was our friend who fantasized about being a woman was the only one of us who was actually spending any time with the real thing.

It was all so confusing.

While we had all known Warren since childhood and therefore could justify his somewhat strange behavior through history, others we encountered at the consolidated high school were not so forgiving. “Why do you hang out with that queer bait?” was asked more than once. No matter how we wanted to explain our friend's obsession, group pressure got to all of us. In the Halloweens that followed we found it easier and easier to make plans that did not involve Warren.

Things have a tendency to work for all involved, or, as Cheap Trick once sang, “Everything works if you let it”. We never had to come to any decision about whether to stop hanging out with Warren on Halloween. Warren made that decision for us by driving to the big city, Pittsburgh, on successive Halloweens during our high school years. At first Sandy accompanied him. Later, he would go it alone, or with his “new” friends, who all dressed as KISS.

Warren was Paul Stanley.

Well , thought we avowed heterosexuals, at least he's no longer a woman .

Sort of .

I'd nearly forgotten about Warren until some years ago when I ran into Sandy. She had married (twice) and was studying to become a nurse's aide somewhere in Ohio. After some chit chat, I decided to ask the question that had been rolling around in the back of my head for some time, but before I could voice it, she asked if I'd heard about Warren.

“He's been nominated for an Oscar.”

She may as well have told me he'd been nominated for President.

“You know that movie? The musical with what's her name? He designed the costumes. Isn't that great?”

I learned from Sandy that Warren (not his real name) has also been married twice, to two different women, one of whom is an actress that I'm willing to wager many of our former group of trick-or-treaters has fantasized about a time or two.

Way to go, Warren.

Happy Halloween.

Now, adjust your bra strap and let's get moving. We've got lots more windows to soap.

protocol \PROH-tuh-kawl\ noun

1 : an original record of a document or transaction : memorandum
*2 : a code of strict adherence to correct etiquette and precedence
3 : a convention for formatting electronic data

Example sentence:
Ed's actions constituted a severe breach of military protocol.

Did you know?
In Late Greek, the word "prōtokollon" referred to the first sheet of a papyrus roll bearing the date of its manufacture. In some instances, it consisted of a flyleaf that was glued to the outside of a manuscript's case and provided a description of its contents. Coming from the Greek prefix "prōto-" ("first") and the noun "kolla" ("glue"), "protokollon" gave us our word "protocol," which in its original English sense (dating from the 16th century) referred to a record of a document or transaction. In the late 19th century, it began to be used in reference to the etiquette observed by the Head of State of France in ceremonies and relations with other dignitaries. This sense has since extended in meaning to cover any code of proper conduct.

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.

*1 : characterized by aphorism
2 : given to the composition of aphoristic writing

Example sentence:
The poet Emily Dickinson, who wrote "Tell all the Truth but tell it slant," is known for her highly individualistic, gnomic style.

Did you know?
A gnome is an aphorism — that is, an observation or sentiment reduced to the form of a saying. Gnomes are sometimes couched in metaphorical or figurative language, they are often quite clever, and they are always concise. We borrowed the word "gnome" in the 16th century from the Greeks, who based their "gnome" on the verb "gignōskein," meaning "to know." (That other "gnome" — the dwarf of folklore — comes from New Latin and is unrelated to today's word.) We began using "gnomic," the adjective form of "gnome," in the early 19th century. It describes a style of writing (or sometimes speech) characterized by pithy phrases, which are often terse to the point of mysteriousness.

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.

huckster \HUCK-ster\ noun

*1 : hawker, peddler
2 : one who produces promotional material for commercial clients especially for radio or television

Example sentence:
It was said that Martin was such a clever huckster that he could even sell snow shovels to sunbathers in the summertime.

Did you know?
Hawkers, peddlers, and hucksters have been selling things out of the back of wagons, in narrow alleys, and on the fringes of towns for years (though nowadays, they're more likely to plug their wares on television or the Internet). Of those three words — "hawker," "peddler," or "huckster" — the one that has been around the longest in English is "huckster." It has been with us for over 800 years, and it derives from the Middle Dutch word "hokester," which in turn comes from the verb "hoeken," meaning "to peddle." "Peddler" (or "pedlar") was first attested in the 14th century, and this sense of "hawker" has only been appearing in English texts since the early 1500s.

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.

Do you love your country - love it enough to sleep for three weeks?

How many times have you gotten up in the morning and said, “Geez. If I could go back to sleep right now, I bet I could sleep for a week”? If you add two more weeks to your request, you could be just the type of person NASA is searching for right now. “Yes! It's true,” as they say in the radio ads, “You can make money in your spare time doing nothing.”

This is not, like those spots promote, a clinical test involving some drug that's yet to be approved by the government. It's simply laying your body down and not getting up for three weeks. Doesn't that sound absolutely dreamy? The strange thing about the offer is that, so far, NASA has been unable to come up with enough willing participants.

Have they canvassed under the Clemente Bridge?

NASA's Johnson Space Center is conducting experiments as we speak on counteracting the effects of weightlessness. In order to fake what it's like to live in space for long periods of time, scientists are asking folks to lie down for three weeks on beds. Their feet are propped just a bit higher than their heads.

While it sounds like a great weekend at home, it's a bit more trying than just hanging out on your couch. When I say that they want you to lie down for three weeks, that's exactly what I mean.

You don't get up.

At all.

You eat while propped up on an elbow. You use a bedpan for a bathroom. You are showered while lying down on your waterproof gurney.

Hmmm.

Not so appetizing, eh?

Scientists already know that living in a weightless environment weakens muscle and bone. What they'd like to determine is whether the effects of long journeys through space can be countered. To do so, they want to strap some folks into their space cots and spin them around a bit (one hour a day, thirty revolutions a minute). The other twenty three hours, you're on your own to do whatever you'd like. You can lie down on your back. Or you can turn on your side. Every once in a while, you can prop yourself up on an elbow and eat space food.

Mmm.

Tang.

When it's time to evacuate (and I mean that in the most refreshing way) you just use the bedpan. Pretend you're in the hospital after you've crashed your motorcycle while on your way to football practice. Unfortunately, there will be no drugs involved, so you'll have to keep your own mind occupied as your body withers away.

Come on.

Who's with me?

Let's go!

America is awaiting your call. NASA wants you. Perhaps you don't want to volunteer personally, but would like to rid your life of a particularly annoying individual. Listen to the following instructions and pretend (as you relay them to that individual later) that we never spoke. Instead, tell the unsuspecting future lab rat that his or her country needs them desperately.

It's not that big a lie.

All told, the participants in the study will work (tough work – lying down) for forty-one days, twenty one of which will actually be spent prone, eleven days will be taken up with medical tests with nine set aside for recovery. For their time, effort and deteriorating body mass, they will be paid six thousand dollars.

Dr. Liz Warren, the deputy project scientist, is in charge of recruiting. You can contact her at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. She's waiting for your call. As a matter of fact, she's surprised she hasn't been swamped with contacts and that is why she has gone public with her search for guinea pigs – er – volunteers. The good doctor says, “I don't know why it's so hard to find volunteers. You look at how many people in this country do nothing but be couch potatoes anyway. Why can't they come to work for us?”

Good question.

Could be that whole “spinning couch” situation.

Could be that whole “hosing down for a shower” situation.

Or it could very well be that six thousand dollars for forty one days of doing nothing is actually less than most make at PennDOT for the same amount of work performed in the same amount of time.

Good luck, Doc.

They're waiting for you.

On a revolving cot.

: characterized or brought about by the combination of different forms of belief or practice

Example sentence:
Dr. Portman practices a syncretic form of medicine, borrowing from both Eastern and Western medical traditions.

Did you know?
"Syncretic" has its roots in an ancient alliance. It's a descendant of the Greek word "synkrētismos," meaning "federation of Cretan cities" — "syn-" means "together, with," and "Krēt-" means "Cretan." The adjective first appeared in English in the mid-19th century, and the related noun "syncretism" debuted over 200 years earlier. "Syncretic" retains the idea of coalition and appears in such contexts as "syncretic religions," "syncretic societies," and even "syncretic music," all describing things influenced by two or more styles or traditions. The word also has a specific application in linguistics, where it refers to a fusion of grammatical forms.

bowdlerize \BOUD-ler-ize\ verb

1 : to expurgate by omitting or modifying parts considered vulgar
*2 : to modify by abridging, simplifying, or distorting in style or content

Example sentence:
The new regime bowdlerized history books, deleting all mention of the leaders of the resistance.

Did you know?
Few editors have achieved the notoriety of Thomas Bowdler. Bowdler was trained as a physician, but when illness prevented him from practicing medicine, he turned to warning Europeans about unsanitary conditions at French watering places. He then carried his quest for purification to literature, and in 1818 he published his Family Shakspeare [sic], a work in which he promised that "those words and expressions are omitted which cannot with propriety be read aloud in a family." The sanitized volume was popular with the public of the day, but literary critics denounced his modifications of the words of the Bard. Bowdler applied his literary eraser broadly, and within 11 years of his death in 1825, the word "bowdlerize" was being used to refer to expurgating books or other texts.

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.

antonomasia \an-tuh-noh-MAY-zhuh\ noun

: the use of a proper name to designate a member of a class (as a Solomon for a wise ruler); also : the use of an epithet or title in place of a proper name (as the Bard for Shakespeare)

Example sentence:
"It's antonomasia when you refer to the mayor as His Honor or to Babe Ruth as the Sultan of Swat." (Michael Gartner, Newsday [New York], July 3, 1988)

Did you know?
What's in a name? When it comes to "antonomasia," quite a bit. English speakers picked up that appellative term from Latin, but it traces back to Greek, descending from the verb "antonomazein," meaning "to call by a new name," which itself developed from the Greek noun "onoma," meaning "name." You may already be familiar with some other English "onoma" descendants, such as "onomatopoeia" (the naming of something in imitation of the sound associated with it), "polyonymous" (having multiple names), and "toponymy" (the place-names of a region). "Antonomasia" has been naming names in English since the mid-16th century.

1 a : green in tint or color *b : green with growing plants
2 : unripe in experience or judgment : green

Example sentence:
"The green, leafy concert site is nestled between the winery's handsome French chateau and its verdant, sculptured gardens...." (Patrick Macdonald, The Seattle Times, September 1, 2006)

Did you know?
English speakers have been using "verdant" as a ripe synonym of "green" since the late 16th century, and as a descriptive term for inexperienced or naive people since the 1820s. (By contrast, the more experienced "green" has colored our language since well before the 12th century, and was first applied to inexperienced people in the 1540s.) "Verdant" is derived from the Old French word for "green," "vert," which in turn is from Latin "virēre," meaning "to be green." Today, "vert" is used in English as a word for green forest vegetation and the heraldic color green. Another descendant of "virēre" is the adjective "virescent," meaning "beginning to be green."

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.
Wednesday, October 4th, 2006
3:26 am
A U-Turn of Events

1 : of or relating to the science of designing and arranging things people use so that the people and things interact most efficiently and safely
*2 : designed or arranged for safe, comfortable, and efficient use

Example sentence:
The hotel's Web site boasts that each room has a work desk with high speed internet access and an ergonomic chair.

Did you know?
In 1969, a British publication assured the public that, although the word "ergonomics" looks forbidding, "all it means is the science of making things fit people, instead of asking people to fit things." Ergonomic design as a field of study originated in the 19th century when a Polish author, Wojciech Jastrzebowski, wrote an article about the relation between human activity and the methods used to accomplish that activity. In the article, written in his native Polish, Jastrzebowski coined the word "ergonomji," an efficient combination of the Greek "ergo-," meaning "work," and "nomos," meaning "law." British scientist K.F.H. Murrell is credited with creating the English word "ergonomics" in 1949, applying the "-nomics" ending to "ergo-" in imitation of "economics."

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.

divarication \dye-vair-uh-KAY-shun\ noun

1 : the action, process, or fact of spreading apart
*2 : a divergence of opinion

Example sentence:
A divarication arose over how to handle next year's themed party, with one faction arguing for a Hawaiian luau and another proposing a 1950s sock hop.

Did you know?
There's no reason to prevaricate about the origins of "divarication" — the word derives from the Medieval Latin "divaricatio," which in turn descends from the verb "divaricare," meaning "to spread apart." "Divaricare" itself is derived from the Latin "varicare," which means "to straddle" and is also an ancestor of "prevaricate" ("to deviate from the truth"). The oldest sense of "divarication," which first appeared in print in English in 1578, refers to a literal branching apart (as in "divarication of the roads"). The word eventually developed a more metaphorical second sense that is used when opinions "stretch apart" from one another.

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.

The bad news is I'm a pervert. The good news is I'm also a drunk. So, see? I can get help!

Former member of the United States House of Representatives Mark Foley capped a busy weekend by checking himself into a rehabilitation facility for alcoholism.

Oh.

Okay.

That explains everything.

There is no doubt by now you've heard Foley's story. It was an instant headline grabber, the kind of story that combines all the necessary tabloid elements, that of the rising political star who is brought down to Earth by allegations of his being a sexual predator. Some former pages, high school-aged volunteers who serve as go-fers for government officials in trade for gaining unprecedented experience, stepped forward with incriminating emails and tales of creepiness, claiming Foley was after much more than their undying support. Rather than deny the allegations, Foley resigned his post and sought help for his alcohol problem.

Alcohol?

There are many people who are unhappy with Representative Foley. There are the teens who served him and were rewarded for their slavery with emails jam-packed with ham-handedly veiled and cheesy pick up lines. Are you staying in shape? Please send me a photo! There are the voters of Palm Beach County, Florida, already infamous for their inability to operate a punch ballot, who must now take the responsibility for keeping this degenerate in office as well. It's a responsibility they must share with Foley's working buddies, those members of Congress who apparently knew of his boy-love problem months ago and did very little to address it, no doubt too busy solving Health Care, Social Security, Immigration and Education problems. It's easy to see that with a schedule that full, it would be tough to take a few moments to do something about the “Foley problem”. While it may have been too much to ask, perhaps, that this fool be tossed from his all-important House seat, what with an election in the balance and all, could you have seen your way to at least remove the known boy-love addict from his spot of honor on the Congressional Caucus on Children's Issues? Mark Foley once stated after a meeting of that body that he was proud to lead the fight against “sick individuals” who “preyed upon unsuspecting kids” via the internet. Apparently, placing a known fox in charge of the henhouse was all part of our government's new “Hannibal Lecter” approach to protecting its citizens: if you want to catch a serial killer, hire a serial killer.

We all remember how well that worked out for Clarice.

After resigning his position because of allegations that he yearns for the companionship of young boys, former Representative Foley checked himself into an as yet unknown rehab facility to get a grip on his alcoholism. Add another group to the list of people who are not very happy with him. Come on, Foley. You had to drag drinkers into your little puddle of quicksand, too? It's not enough to make voters look stupid, other congressmen look idiotic and the U.S. Government (once again) look asinine. You have to pick on drinkers now?

It's the classic Washington shell game in action. The government, unable or unwilling to hit the correct target, goes after something a little easier. Education system failing? Pass a flag burning law. Unsafe ports? Keep gays from marrying. Congressman trying to pick up teenaged boys on the internet? Get him some alcohol counseling. They've got big guns in the nation's capitol and they're not afraid to use them. Not a day goes by when somebody isn't firing a shot. They often score direct hits and cause massive destruction. Unfortunately for the country, the targets often have nothing to do with problems that plague us as a country. Former President Bill Clinton aimed and hit Fox News the other day. Condeleeza Rice shot back at Clinton. Bob Woodward scored a bulls' eye on George Bush. And Bush? He reminded America that it was those “cut-and-run” Democrats that ought to be fired upon.

In the meantime, Osama bin-Laden is still out there.

Washington has no problem firing guns. It does, however, have a small issue with identifying targets. Remember that Dick Cheney friendly fire mishap, the one where he sprayed his hunting buddy with buckshot? That wasn't just a tabloid story. It was a metaphor for politicians in America.

Big guns.

Lots of noise.

Direct hits and plenty of destruction.

Wrong targets.

: marked by careful unremitting attention or persistent application

Example sentence:
It's no surprise that my neighbor Jeanne's assiduous tending of her garden results in a good crop — but you'd be surprised how well I do with my haphazardly tended plot.

Did you know?
Judges presiding over assizes (former periodical sessions of the superior courts in English counties) had to be assiduous in assessing how to best address their cases. Not only were their efforts invaluable, but they also served as a fine demonstration of the etymologies of "assiduous," "assess," and "assize." All three of those words derive from the Latin verb "assidēre," which is variously translated as "to sit beside," "to take care of," or "to assist in the office of a judge." "Assidēre," in turn, is a composite of the prefix "ad-" (in this case, meaning "near" or "adjacent to") and "sedēre," meaning "to sit."

vernissage \vair-nih-SAHZH\ noun

: a private showing or preview of an art exhibition

Example sentence:
Before the art auction, there will be a vernissage during which people can mingle with the artists and preview their work.

Did you know?
"Vernissage" has its roots in the old practice of setting aside a day before an exhibition's opening for artists to varnish and put finishing touches to their paintings — a tradition that reportedly dates to at least 1809, when it was instituted by England's Royal Academy of Arts. (One famous member of the Academy, Joseph Mallord William Turner, was notorious for making major changes to his paintings on this day.) English speakers originally referred to this day of finishing touches simply as "varnishing day," but sometime around 1912 we also began using the French term "vernissage" (literally, "varnishing"). Today, however, you are more likely to encounter vino than varnish at a vernissage, which is often a gala event marking the opening of an exhibition."

Current Mood: Haven't Been Quite HERE before
Saturday, September 30th, 2006
5:19 am
I Can See... Where We All... Soon Will Be...
"delectation \dee-lek-TAY-shun\ noun

: delight, enjoyment

Example sentence:
"To summarize the plot in a 'novel of suspense' is usually to deny ... the pleasures hidden for the reader's delectation and surprise...." (Nicholas Meyer, The New York Times Book Review, January 10, 1988)

Did you know?
"Pleasure," "delight," and "enjoyment" are all synonyms and all signify the agreeable emotion accompanying the possession or expectation of what is good or greatly desired. Why, then, use "delectation," that not-so-familiar synonym? Because, as with most synonym groups, each word has its own subtle distinctions. "Pleasure" stresses satisfaction or gratification of the senses. "Delight" adds the idea of liveliness or obviousness in that satisfaction, often less enduring than pleasure. "Enjoyment" suggests a wide range of deep pleasure, from merely transient though complete gratification to deep-seated happiness. "Delectation" (which is from the Latin word for "delight") suggests a reaction to pleasurable experience consciously sought or provided. More than all the others, it connotes mere amusement or diversion.

: a spirit of friendly good-fellowship

Example sentence:
The sense of camaraderie among colleagues in the sales department is the main reason Julie enjoys coming to work each day.

Did you know?
"Camaraderie" comes from "camarade," the French word whose Middle French ancestor was also the source for our word "comrade." "Camaraderie" made its first appearance in English in the middle of the 19th century. In Middle French, "camarade" was used to mean "roommate," "companion," or "a group sleeping in one room." It derived by way of Old Spanish from the Late Latin "camera," meaning "chamber." We also have the word "comradery," which means the same thing as "camaraderie" but did not take the same etymological route as its synonym. That word, formed by attaching the "-ry" suffix (as found in "wizardry" and "citizenry") to "comrade," didn't appear in English until almost 40 years after "camaraderie."

As the Corvair motor sputtered, somewhere around four hundred feet above Lone Pine, I suddenly wondered why helicopters did not have wings. With wings, I would have been able to drift down to a nice soft landing.

I like to read men's magazines. In the end it all works because I am a man (spell it m…a…etc.) I stopped reading women's magazines after getting some sideways glances at the tire store while perusing the “Top Ten Reasons He Cheats” in a Cosmopolitan some years back.

Word got around.

When I say that I like to read “men's magazines” I do not mean those fluff jobs that feature chest shaven male models on their covers, their insides chock full of easy paths to a rock hard gut and a bigger crank through a diet of broccoli and dry, baked chicken. I may pick one up every once in awhile to stare at the slutty pin-up chicks. That's built into my DNA (spell it m…) but I don't read those kinds of men's magazines. The way I see it, even if their easy path to a rock hard gut and a bigger crank worked, what would I be? A man with a protrusion below the waist who smelled like broccoli and dry baked chicken farts.

The men's magazines I read are ones that feature machinery and weapons, some home built using spare parts from your garage, all nearly guaranteed to cause great bodily harm to you and those around you. Car and Oil, Guns and Dirt, Field and Cammo, Popular Wrench.

You know.

Men's magazines.

The best parts of these magazines are contained in the final five to ten pages, which each month feature classified ads from home businesses that make unbelievable offers. Very rarely do any of these offers include promises of harder guts or bigger cranks, but sometimes they do make claims that are nearly as unbelievable.

“You've been waiting for it!” screamed the tiny advertisement at the bottom of page 116. “Now you can BUILD and FLY your own personal HELICOPTER!” The black and white ad showed a grainy photo of a bald guy behind the controls of what looked like a dragonfly. “Call or write today! I'll send you PLANS!”

I would estimate that it takes an incredible amount of self-confidence to build and fly your own helicopter. First, there's the manual dexterity required to chop, cut, weld and fabricate. Then there is the ability to think in the abstract – to visualize, if you will, from a two-dimensional drawing the three-dimensional monster that will take you to your doom. The real example of confidence, though, is shown once the project is complete and it's time for the shakedown flight.

To me, a man who often builds home projects and somehow always manages to have parts left over, this offer of constructing a helicopter was a horrible, horrible idea. However, there was one caveat contained in the fine print of the ad that sealed the deal. “All you need,” read the explanation, “is a Corvair engine!”

Oddly enough, I happen to have in my possession an extra, unused Corvair engine.

Seriously.

So I called the guy.

Who, his son explained, is dead.

I know what you're thinking. It's the same thought I had. To ease both our minds, the son of the intrepid inventor piped up that his father had passed several years ago from cancer, not a helicopter incident. The family kept the ad running in the magazine in his memory and the hope that there were, somewhere in America, people like dead Dad who had an extra Corvair motor and a death wish. If so, kind son continued, plans could be had to build my own helicopter, in my spare time, at home, in my garage, for just twenty-five bucks.

I took it as a sign.

If my new New England phone friend was to be believed, somewhere in these United States of Confidence, there are “dozens” of people flying around neighborhoods like mine in home built helicopters based on fifteen dollar blueprints bought from an advertisement in the back of a men's magazine.

A real men's magazine.

Not the kind that promises a rock hard gut and a bigger crank, but instead the kind that provides new and imaginary ways to die for the price of fifteen dollars, a phone call and a good, used Corvair engine.

The best part?

No broccoli.

And now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to the garage to finish building a nuclear reactor using Clorox and some rubber bands. Honey? Where are the good scissors?

: incapable of being surmounted, overcome, passed over, or solved

Example sentence:
The battalion's strong defensive position proved to be an insuperable obstacle for the enemy.

Did you know?
"Insuperable" first appeared in print in the 14th century, and it still means now approximately what it did then. "Insuperable" is a close synonym to "insurmountable." In Latin, "superare" means "to go over, surmount, overcome, or excel." The Latin word "insuperabilis" was formed by combining the common prefix "in-" (meaning "not" or "un-") with "superare" plus "abilis" ("able"). Hence "insuperabilis" means "unable to be surmounted, overcome, or passed over," or more simply, "insurmountable." The word "insuperabilis" was later anglicized as "insuperable." Related words such as "superable," "superably," and even "superableness" have also found a place in English.

1 : occurring by chance
2 : fortunate, lucky
*3 : coming or happening by a lucky chance

Example sentence:
How fortuitous it was that the day before the rattlesnake bit little Jessica, her Dad had completed a first aid course!

Did you know?
For some 250 years, until the early part of the 20th century, "fortuitous" meant one thing only: "happening by chance." This was no accident; its Latin forebear, "fortuitus," derives from the same ancient root as the Latin word for "chance," which is "fors." But the fact that "fortuitous" sounds like a blend of "fortunate" and "felicitous" (meaning "happily suited to an occasion") may have been what ultimately led to a second meaning: "fortunate." That use has been disparaged by critics, but it is now well established. Perhaps the seeds of the newer sense were planted by earlier writers applying overtones of good fortune to something that is a chance occurrence. In fact, today we quite often apply "fortuitous" to something that is a chance occurrence but has a favorable result.

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.

No matter how much I age I never seem to get to be old enough to play with the really cool toys. Those always go to the big kids.

When I was tooling around on my tricycle I would often look up to my older brothers and sisters and think, “Boy. Some day, when I'm older, when I'm bigger, I'll get to ride a real bicycle, just like the older kids. I only have this crappy old baby tricycle.” Sure enough, a few years passed and I was riding my own bike. It was about that time that I noticed my older siblings and their friends were getting guitars and drums and starting to play in bands in the neighbors' garages. “Boy,” I thought at the time. “Some day, when I'm older, when I'm bigger, I'll get a guitar and I'll play in a garage band. I never get to have any fun. All I've got is this dumb old bicycle.” Sure enough, a few years passed and there I was, banging out three-chord rock just down the street. As we practiced, some of the older kids would drive by in their cars and I would think, “Some day, boy, I'm going to be old enough and big enough to get my license and tool around in a real car. All I've got is a lousy guitar.”

And on and on and on.

No matter how old I became, there were always older, bigger kids who had better toys. They were dating and going away to college and getting an apartment and having a wedding and landing a job. And there I always was, wishing to be just a few years older so that I could enjoy what they had.

Well.

Now that I am a few years older (a few more than a few years, to be exact), I have discovered something very significant. No matter how much I age, that same group of kids, the ones born just a few years before me, are still older than me.

The worst part?

They're still getting all the cool toys.

“Wow. Look at that,” I say to myself. “Look at him. He doesn't have to go to work at all. He's retired. He just plays in the yard and drinks beer. Boy. Some day, I'm gonna be old enough to retire and sit around.” That will happen, of course. I will reach that age, as I have reached all the other ages I wished to be before it. I've come to realize, however, that it will never be enough. I know that there will never come a time when I will discontinue this constant envy.

“Geez. I wish I could have a Craft-Matic Adjustable bed. All I have is this crappy old regular mattress.”

“Wow. Look at that. A Rascal Scooter. Here I am, walking everywhere with this stupid cane when my hip hurts like a mother. If only I was old enough, if only I was big enough to get one of those Rascals. Some day.”

“Cool! Look what she has! A Clapper! She doesn't even have to get out of her Craft-Matic Adjustable Bed to turn the lights off! Oh, well. Maybe some day I'll be old enough to get the really cool stuff the older kids get to have.”

“Hey. How come I'm always having to walk to the bathroom and you older kids never seem to care about it? What's that? You're wearing what? A diaper?”

Boy.

Some day.

When I get older.

When I get bigger.

I'll get the really cool toys.

Like… diapers.

lotusland \LOH-tus-land\ noun

*1 : a place inducing contentment especially through offering an idyllic living situation
2 : a state or an ideal marked by contentment often achieved through self-indulgence

Example sentence:
With its white sands, stunningly blue water, and beautiful sunsets, the island is a lotusland for beach lovers.

Did you know?
In the Odyssey, Odysseus and his men discover a magical land of lotus-eaters. Some of the sailors eat the delicious "lotus" and forget about their homeland, pleading to stay forever in this "lotusland." (It is likely that the lotus in question was the fruit of a real plant of the buckthorn family, perhaps the jujube, whose sweet juice is used in candy making and which has given its name to a popular fruity candy.) The label "lotusland" is now applied to any place resembling such an ideal of perfection, but it also carries connotations of indolence and self-indulgence, possibly derived from the way the sailors refused to work once they reached the original lotusland. The dreamy unreality of a lotusland is a nice place to visit, but you wouldn't want to live there.

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.

firebrand \FYRE-brand\ noun

1 : a piece of burning wood
*2 : one that creates unrest or strife (as in aggressively promoting a cause) : agitator

Example sentence:
John views himself as a relentless firebrand who stands up for his beliefs even when they are not popular.

Did you know?
The original firebrands were incendiary indeed; they were pieces of wood set burning at the fire, perhaps for use as a light or a weapon. English speakers started brandishing those literal firebrands as long ago as the 13th century. (Robinson Crusoe held one high as he rushed into a cave on his deserted island and saw "by the light of the firebrand... lying on the ground a monstrous, frightful old he-goat.") But the burning embers of the wooden firebrand quickly sparked figurative uses for the term, too. By the early 14th century, "firebrand" was also being used for one doomed to burn in hell, and by 1382, English writers were using it for anyone who kindled mischief or inflamed passions.

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.

I'd like to call a moratorium on Hitler. Next one to say “Hitler” is a monkey for a week, starting …now!

It's becoming more and more obvious that you're really no one of consequence until someone has compared you to Hitler. The Pope, a largely ignored fellow since he placed the big funny hat on his big German head, finally made the big time this past month after a Turkish lawyer and television commentator said the Pontiff's recent comments about Islam made him a “modern” Hitler.

Well, at least he's modern.

Congratulations to Benedict XVI. Way to go. You're now somebody. The membership you've been handed is to a not-so-exclusive club, however. This year alone, George Bush, Al Gore and Rudy Guiliani have all been compared to Adolph Hitler. Dick Cheney was called Hitler, as was the FCC. Saddam Hussein has been called Hitler so often I sometimes get the two confused.

Apparently I'm not the only one.

Kanye West, the singer and rap artist, was given the big Hitler comparison this year. Martha Stewart's business practices were said to be “Hitler-like”. Rick Santorum compared Democrats to Hitler. Robert Byrd compared Republicans to Hitler. Kim Jong-Il, a dictator, compared Donald Rumsfeld, not a dictator, to Hitler. Rumsfeld countered by comparing al-Qeada operative Abu Musab al-Zarkawi to Hitler. Hugo Chavez, a short man, called Spanish Prime Minister Jose Aznar, a tall man, “little Hitler”.

All this “Hitlerization” was not restricted to human beings. In the past global warming has been compared to Hitler. Madonna compared AIDS to Hitler. Ted Turner said that Fox News was like Hitler. And last, but certainly not least, Sheri Drew, who opened the Republican national convention with an invocation in 2004, said those who support gay and lesbian families are no different from those who supported Adolph Hitler in the years preceding World War II.

Sure.

I can see that.

I think it's the leather boots that attract them.

To paraphrase the great oddball celebrity artist Andy Warhol - in the future, we will all be compared to Hitler for fifteen minutes.

The capper, perhaps, happened just the other day. While leaving the grocery store, I heard one kid say to another that having to check his own purchases through a self-serve cash register was, “Just another way that Giant Eagle is trying to Hitler all of us.”

How right you are.

I remember distinctly reading about how Der Fuhrer forced those Polish Jews to bag their own asparagus just before sending them to the slums in Krakow to await their mass executions.

I never thought I would ever be saying something this ridiculous, but I'm afraid the time has come for someone to step up and defend the memory of Adolph Hitler. The more often we compare everyday annoyances and people we don't agree with to the lifetime achievements of this truly evil man, the less he evil he becomes. I believe it's incredibly important to remember just how depraved, destructive and diabolical this little man was. I'm not here to teach a course in twentieth century history. Unfortunately there are many who would benefit from such a lesson. I will, however, give you the stats to perhaps refresh your lost memories about our Adolph.

Hitler rose to power in the early 1930's in Germany. Using the time-proven actions of information control and exploitation of his countrymen's fear of foreigners, he preached the gospel of one master white race whose survival was based on the destruction of all others. He is responsible for the documented imprisonment and murders of more than six million people (despite what the leader of Iran and Mel Gibson's father say). Along the way, he began a World War that resulted in another estimated three million deaths.

Adolph Hitler was a murderer who oversaw the killing of more than nine million people.

And while that is not as devastating or as impressive to some as, say, having to bag your own groceries or, perhaps, voting against your political party on a bill to fund Social Security, the facts remind us that Adolph Hitler is not a name to be tossed around each time you'd like to insult your enemy.

It's fine with me if you'd like to tell the world how much you hate your next-door neighbor. What does bother me is your insistence of comparing his loud stereo to the executions of millions of innocent men, women and children, some of whom were used as slave labor before their deaths, some as laboratory rats by experimenting surgeons. Their possessions were stolen. Their lives were taken. Their bodies were pushed into mass graves or incinerated in human ovens.

Language is more powerful than some would credit.

The name Adolph Hitler has impact.

Otherwise, when the next Hitler does come along, we won't have anything to call him. When the next dictator arrives to kill millions of innocents, all we'll have left to title him will be a name that has been watered down so much it will, by then, merely describe the all-encompassing evil that is …Al Gore.

Ooooo.

Now you're scaring me.

pontificate \pahn-TIF-uh-kayt\ verb

: to speak or express opinions in a pompous or dogmatic way

Example sentence:
Joan didn't tell Harry about her decision to sell her house herself, knowing she'd have to listen to him pontificate at length on all the reasons people use real estate agents.

Did you know?
In ancient Rome, the pontifices were powerful priests who administered the part of civil law that regulated relationships with the deities recognized by the state. Their name, "pontifex," derives from the Latin words "pons," meaning "bridge," and "facere," meaning "to make," and some think it may have developed because the group was associated with a sacred bridge over the river Tiber (although there is no proof of that). With the rise of Catholicism, the title "pontifex" was transferred to the Pope and to Catholic bishops. "Pontificate" derives from "pontifex," and in its earliest English uses it referred to things associated with such prelates. By the early 1800s, "pontificate" was also being used derisively for individuals who spoke as if they had the authority of an ecclesiastic.

Example sentence:
Ross has criticized his company for joining the gadarene rush into the global market.

Did you know?
Gadara, in Biblical times, was a steep hill town just southeast of the Sea of Galilee. In the account given in the Book of Matthew (8:28), Jesus, on a visit there, exorcised the demons from two possessed persons and sent the demons into some nearby swine. The possessed swine ran in a mad dash down a steep bank into the Sea and drowned. "Gadarene," an adjective used to describe a headlong rush, made its first plunge into our lexicon in the 1920s. The swine sometimes make an appearance as well, as when an imprudently hasty act is compared to "the rush of the Gadarene swine."

rowel \ROW-ul ("OW" as in "cow")\ verb

1 : to goad with or as if with the pointed disk at the end of a spur
*2 : vex, trouble

Example sentence:
With one of the best fastballs in the league combined with a wicked changeup, Lester roweled the opposing line-up for his second career no-hitter.

Did you know?
If you've seen Western movies, you've seen rowels. The noun "rowel" names the circular, point-covered disk on the end of a spur that is used to urge powerful steeds to maximum speeds. But cowboys didn't invent rowels; knights in shining armor were sporting them even before the 12th century. English speakers of yore picked up the noun "rowel" from the Anglo-French "roele," meaning "small wheel" ("roele" is also an ancestor of the word "roulette"). By the end of the 1500s, "rowel" was also being used as a verb for any process of prodding or goading that was as irritating as being poked in the side with a rowel.

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.

corollary \KOR-uh-lair-ee\ noun

1 : a deduction from a proposition already proved true
*2 : something that naturally follows : result
3 : something that incidentally or naturally accompanies or parallels

Example sentence:
As a corollary of the factory shutdown, a number of people are struggling financially.

Did you know?
"Corollary" comes from the Late Latin noun "corollarium," which can be translated as "a garland given as a reward." "Corollarium" comes from the Latin "corolla," meaning "small crown or garland." If you know that a garland or small crown was sometimes given to actors in addition to their pay, it makes sense that another sense of "corollarium" is "gratuity." Later, "corollarium" developed the philosophical sense of a supplementary proposition that follows directly from one that has been proved. (You can think of a corollary as a "bonus" that follows from the proof of something else.) The broader modern sense, "something that naturally follows," evolved from the philosophical one.

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.

If they don't got no more of them Elmo dolls I'm suing somebody!

Just got back from my job interview. I think I nailed it. I think they loved me. I think this could be the next step for me. Then again, that's what I thought after my first and only date with Judy Renfrew, shortly before she signed the court-approved restraining order.

I'm looking for a little extra Christmas cash. Frankly, I don't want to work very hard for it. There are plenty of positions available for people who actually want to work. I don't. I just want to make some extra money, preferably for doing something I'd be doing anyway.

As it turns out there is such a position.

Last year at this time a friend of mine who we'll call fat and black (because we don't want to insult her by using her real name) applied for and landed a job that required her to do what she did at this time of year anyway. Her position? A fat, black woman who rushes into department stores just after the doors open and fights with others over the dwindling inventory of the current hot Christmas gift while being taped for the news.

What a great job!

You probably saw her. She was in all kinds of news footage last year. She trampled some smaller folks and grabbed a child's talking doll at a Wal-Mart one day. The next, she made it onto the news by laying on the linoleum floor at Target complaining of chest pains while frantic shoppers stepped over her to get to a video game display. It was a busy Christmas season on the news and she made all kinds of money.

That, as it turned out, was the problem. Once she cashed her check, she found that not only had she made enough money to pay for her own Christmas gifts, but had enough left over to afford stomach stapling surgery. Some of her friends tried to talk her out of the operation, but not me. It's your body, baby. That's what I told her. You do what you want.

She did.

She looks great.

She feels great.

But now that it's Christmas insanity season and the fake news companies are hiring again, she's feeling kind of left out. Although she's smaller now and still pretty (she was pretty before, just bigger), she didn't have the same confidence her weight gave her. After all, she told me, you don't see many thin black women on tv news footage. Fat women and angry, law-breaking teens are the only blacks that get jobs in the fast-growing field of pre-produced news. To help bolster her self-esteem, I went along to the interview.

Funny thing is… I may end up with a job.

I never thought much about the news clips I watched every year as the Christmas shopping season began. Not being that big a shopper, I didn't ever pay that much attention, to be honest. Just like you, I watched as the local news crews showed footage of masses of crazed people just about busting down the front doors at the stores and beating each other senseless to get to the sale items first.

It never occurred to me they were faked.

It never occurred to me that they shot that footage in October.

It never occurred to me those people were hired actors.

The people from the video production company (the one hired by the toy company) told me they were looking to fill four positions this year. First was the role of the fat, black woman who runs over smaller, helpless people on her way to the sale item. Obviously not me. Second was the position of the helpless security guard, whose job it is to hold his arms out and try to stem the tide of humanity as they rush toward the stacks of this year's hot item. That kind of sounded like work. Thirdly, they were looking for pregnant trailer trash women who looked like they camped outside all night. I'd almost given up on being employed this year when the interviewer told me about a job I would be perfect for.

Angry white guy.

“Angry white guy?” I asked, interested as I could be.

It was explained that each and every one of these pre-season toy rushes has to have some footage of the angry white guy. He wears a baseball cap, looks into the camera and threatens to sue the store if they don't come up with more of whatever this year's hot item might be. If I'd like, the interviewer added, I could turn toward the masses of wrestling shoppers and say something derogatory about them as well.

Make fun of people?

And get paid?

After the interview was over and we were walking back to her car, my friend filled me with confidence. “I've seen you be very angry,” she commented. “And you're very, very white. You're perfect! They have to hire you.” She didn't feel quite as bold about her own prospects, though. She tried for the position of pregnant trailer trash camper, but she'd seen some women who actually were pregnant filling out the applications, some who were missing teeth and dipping snuff.

“What do you think they'll have us fighting over first?” I asked.

“Somebody said there's a new Elmo doll this year,” she answered. And then she asked, “Do you think you can do that?”

“If I don't get to, I'm going to sue somebody!”

“Oh. You definitely got the job,” she said.

“Look at those people,” I muttered, practicing my lines. “Idiots.”

“Very angry,” she said. “Very white. I think you're definitely going to get that job. You own a ball cap?”

ruminate \ROO-muh-nayt\ verb

*1 : meditate, muse
2 : to chew repeatedly for an extended perio

Example sentence:
After meeting with her counselor, Meg passed the afternoon ruminating on the question of what to do with her life.

Did you know?
When you ruminate you chew something over, either literally or figuratively. Literal rumination may seem a little gross to humans, but to cows, chewing your cud (that's partially digested food brought up from the stomach for another chew) is just a natural part of life. Figurative ruminating is much more palatable to humans; that kind of deep, meditative thought is often deemed quite a worthy activity. The verb "ruminate" has described metaphorical chewing over since the 1500s and actual chewing since the early 1600s. Our English word derives from and shares the meanings of the Latin "ruminari," which in turn derives from "rumen," the Latin name for the first stomach compartment of ruminant animals (that is, creatures like cows that chew their cud).

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.

1 : a small rich shell-shaped cake
*2 : one that evokes a memory

Example sentence:
The crack of the bat and the sight of his son running the bases were madeleines for Tom, calling up memories of the great times he had playing the game in his youth.

Did you know?
The madeleine is said to have been named after a 19th-century French cook named Madeleine Paumier, but it was the French author Marcel Proust who immortalized the pastry in his 1913 book Swann's Way, the first volume of his seven-part novel Remembrance of Things Past. In that work, a taste of tea-soaked cake evokes a surge of memory and nostalgia. As more and more readers chewed on the profound mnemonic power attributed to a mere morsel of cake, the word "madeleine" itself became a designation for anything that evokes a memory.

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence."
Friday, September 22nd, 2006
2:06 am
Landy Family Picnic 2006

1 : of, relating to, or constituting a portent
2 : eliciting amazement or wonder : prodigious
3 *a : being a grave or serious matter b : self-consciously solemn or important : pompous c : ponderously excessive

Example sentence:
Saving any species from extinction is a portentous matter, but the Save-the-Owl folks could garner more support with a lighter approach.

Did you know?
It's easy to see the "portent" in "portentous," which comes to us from the Latin adjective "portentosus," itself the offspring of the noun "portentum," meaning "portent" or "omen." And indeed, the first uses of "portentous" in the mid-1500s did refer to omens. The second sense of "portentous," describing that which is extremely impressive, also developed in the 1500s. Centuries later, an editor working on the second edition of Webster's New International Dictionary in the 1930s added a third definition, "grave, solemn, significant," which has since been refined to include the suggestion of a pompous attitude. We are not sure just when the third sense arose, but our evidence goes back to the beginning of the century. And these days, it's the sense we most often use.

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.

1 : agreeably stimulating to the palate; especially : spicy
*2 : engagingly provocative; also : having a lively arch charm

Example sentence:
Reggie's piquant commentary always makes for interesting listening, though sometimes his remarks can go too far.

Did you know?
Piquant flavors "sting" the tongue and piquant words "prick" the intellect, arousing interest. These varying senses reflect the etymology of the word "piquant," which first appeared in English in the 17th century and which derives from the Middle French verb "piquer," meaning "to sting" or "to prick." Though first used to describe foods with spicy flavors, the word is now often used to describe things that are spicy in other ways, such as engaging conversation. Have we piqued your curiosity about another "piquer" offspring? If you've already guessed that the verb "pique," meaning "to offend" or "to arouse by provocation," comes from "piquer," too, you've got a sharp mind.

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.

*1 : simultaneously holding contradictory attitudes or feelings (as attraction and repulsion) toward someone or something
2 a : continually fluctuating (as between one thing and its opposite) b : uncertain as to which approach to follow

Example sentence:
I love learning about the solar system, but I'm ambivalent about paying to take an astronomy course.

Did you know?
The words "ambivalent" and "ambivalence" entered English during the early 20th century in the field of psychology. They came to us through the International Scientific Vocabulary, a set of words common to men and women of science who speak different languages. The prefix "ambi-" means "both," and the "-valent" and "-valence" parts ultimately derive from the Latin verb "valēre," meaning "to be strong." Not surprisingly, an ambivalent person is someone who has strong feelings on more than one side of a question or issue.

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.

dithyramb \DITH-ih-ram\ noun

1 : a usually short poem in an inspired wild irregular strain
*2 : a statement or writing in an exalted or enthusiastic vein

Example sentence:
"Among the items offered was the brand of peanut butter I especially relish..., with my published dithyramb to it alongside." (William F. Buckley Jr., The New Yorker, February 9, 1987)

Did you know?
In ancient Greece, the wine god Dionysus (or Bacchus) was feted several times throughout the year. Processions, feasts, dances, and dramatic performances, accompanied by poems recited or sung in the god's honor, were all part of the revelry. Not too surprisingly, the poems tended to be wild, irregular, and dissonant. We know that the Greeks used "dithyrambos" as the word for a poem in honor of Dionysus, but beyond that the origin of the word is unknown. The ancient Greeks also had an adjective, "dithyrambikos," which gave us our adjective "dithyrambic," meaning "pertaining to or resembling a dithyramb."

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.

mogul \MOH-gul\ noun

1 capitalized : an Indian Muslim of or descended from one of several conquering groups of Mongol, Turkish, and Persian origin; especially : Great Mogul
*2 : a great personage : magnate

Example sentence:
The media mogul owned such a large number of newspapers and television stations across the country that his influence on political discourse could not be denied.

Did you know?
Started by Bābur, a descendant of Genghis Khan, the Muslim Mogul dynasty ruled much of India from the early 16th century to the mid-18th century. The Moguls were known for their talented and powerful rulers (called "Great Moguls"), so it's no surprise that in English the word "mogul" came to denote a powerful person, as in our frequent references to "movie moguls," "industry moguls," and the like. Skiers might wonder if such power moguls have anything to do with the name they use for a bump in a ski run, but that hilly homonym has nothing to do with Asian Mogul dynasties. We picked up the skier's "mogul" from a German dialect root that is probably related to the Viennese "mugl," meaning "small hill."

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.

I know that you're robbing me. But, couldn't you at least be entertaining about it?

Depending on a number of factors including your location and your fear of fellow human beings, chances are likely that you'll get hit up for a donation of some sort today. The pitch might come from the supposedly homeless person you pass on the Clemente Bridge, from the worker bee in your office who is selling candy bars so that her child's elementary school orchestra can buy a new contrabassoon or from the televised ad for starving fly-infested children who need the word of Jesus and fifteen of your cents a day to survive. This month I've been asked to donate to the United Way, my local volunteer fire fighter brigade, the American Cancer Society and for a fund that promises to buy a life-saving operation for a dying dog.

Beggars are everywhere, having now infiltrated the world wide web, both through websites and my email system. If you surf frequently you've no doubt come across a website or two that blatantly asks for loose change. In addition most of us have also received the scam emails from foreign dignitaries who need not our money, but merely our checking account numbers and passwords to gain access to our online banking. They ask only to “rent” our accounts for a few days. In return, they promise to make us rich.

You can't fool me more than three or four times a month.

I know when you're begging.

I nearly always spare loose change for the disabled and those who give their time and effort for no compensation like volunteer firefighters, e.m.t.'s and food banks. But when it's large, corporate beggars I tend to stand back and contemplate a bit. The way I see it, if you can afford television and magazine advertising budgets, compensated boards of directors and celebrity spokespeople, you may not be getting as much of my money to the needy as you suggest.

Oh.

And I also like funny people.

It goes against everything I believe and have already stated, but when somebody comes up with a clever and entertaining way to beg I will usually fork over some cash. In the old days, during the Great Depression and afterwards, “gypsies” would hit city dwellers for loose change with a scam involving a button box and a monkey. The monkey would dance as the “organ grinder” played his button box. After a crowd gathered, the monkey, armed with a tin cup, would work his way around, picking up loose change from suckers.

The “Wizard of Oz” ruined all that.

I realize there's little difference between creative types and the guy who stands in shoes more expensive than mine while shaking a Burger King cup, invoking the Lord's name and demanding loose change for his terrible plight. They're both scams, all right. For some reason, though, a little entertainment goes a long way.

This holds true for the internet as well. While I'll immediately send any message from the “Grand Chancellor of Namibia” telling me of his plight to free up frozen assets in his home country to the trash file, I will give a little of my time to anyone whose pitch is a little more energetic and creative.

The website also includes an “F.A.Q.” section. The first question listed is “Are you an idiot?” to which our intrepid beggar answers, “Absolutely. Why else would I want donkeys at my reception?” He then goes on to promise to post photos of the donkeys if all goes well, meaning, of course, if we all give this fool a dollar.

Of course I did.

And now if you'll excuse me, I've got to go out to the coop to see if I can get one of our hens to learn the basics of drink serving. If so, we're heading right down to Carson Street.

Tell me I couldn't make some cash on a Friday night.

discomfit \diss-KUM-fit\ verb

1 : to frustrate the plans of : thwart
*2 : to put into a state of perplexity and embarrassment : disconcert

Example sentence:
The governor appeared to be discomfited by the reporter's question, and he struggled for a way to change the subject.

Did you know?
Disconcerted by "discomfit" and "discomfort"? Here's a little usage history that might help. Several usage commentators have, in the past, tried to convince their readers that "discomfit" means "to rout" or "to completely defeat" and not "to discomfort, embarrass, or make uneasy." In its earliest uses "discomfit" did in fact mean "to defeat in battle," but that sense is now rare, and the extended sense, "to thwart," is also uncommon. Most of the recent commentaries agree that the sense "to discomfort or disconcert" has become thoroughly established and is the most prevalent meaning of the word. There is one major difference between "discomfit" and "discomfort," though — "discomfit" is used almost exclusively as a verb, while "discomfort" is much more commonly used as a noun than a verb.

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.

: a small rapid jerky movement of the eye especially as it jumps from fixation on one point to another (as in reading)

Example sentence:
In reading, the eyes scan the text in a series of saccades and form what can be thought of as still photographs processed by the brain.

Did you know?
"Saccade" is a French word meaning "twitch" or "jerk." It galloped into English in the early 18th century as a term used in horseback riding for a quick check using the reins. (Today, this meaning is too specialized for entry in Merriam-Webster's Collegiate® Dictionary, but it is stabled in Webster's Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged.) In 1879, French ophthalmologist Emile Javal observed that a reader's eyes make a series of short jumps, which he referred to in French as saccades. It wasn't until 1938, however, when experimental psychologist Robert Woodworth wrote about the pioneering Javal and his saccades, that the ocular use of the word was seen in an English publication.

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.

thank-you-ma'am \THANK-yoo-mam\ noun

: a bump or depression in a road; especially : a ridge or hollow made across a road on a hillside to cause water to run off

Example sentence:
"That night on the way home, thinking of his pleasant visit, he was suddenly shaken out of his tranquility ... when his touring car hit a 'thank-you-ma'am' in the unpaved road." (Hugh Manchester, Centre Daily Times [State College, PA], August 22, 2000)

Did you know?
"Thank-you-ma'am" might seem like an odd name for a bump in the road, but the expression makes a little more sense if you imagine the motion your head would make as you drove over such an obstacle. Most likely, the jarring would make you nod involuntarily. Now think of the nodding gesture you make when you're thanking someone or acknowledging a favor. The "thank-you-ma'am" road bump is believed to have received its name when someone noted the similarity of those two head bobbing motions. It's a colloquialism particular to American English, and its earliest printed use is found in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's 1849 prose piece, Kavanagh: "We went like the wind over the hollows in the snow; — the driver called them 'thank-you-ma'ams,' because they make every body bow."

*1 : marked by repeated twists, bends, or turns : winding
2 a : marked by devious or indirect tactics : crooked, tricky b : circuitous, involved

Example sentence:
The road over the mountains was long and dangerously tortuous.

Did you know?
Be careful not to confuse "tortuous" with "torturous." These two words are relatives, and both ultimately come from the Latin verb "torquēre," which means "to twist," "to wind," or "to wrench," but "tortuous" means "winding" or "crooked," whereas "torturous" means "painfully unpleasant." Something "tortuous" (such as a twisting mountain road) might also be "torturous" (if, for example, you have to ride up that road on a bicycle!), but that doesn't make these words synonyms. The twists and turns that mark a tortuous thing can be literal ("a tortuous path" or "a tortuous river") or figurative ("a tortuous argument" or "a tortuous explanation"), but you should consider choosing a different descriptive term if no implication of winding or crookedness is present.

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.

dunnage \DUN-ij\ noun

*1 : loose materials used to support and protect cargo in a ship's hold; also : padding in a shipping container
2 : baggage

Example sentence:
The container and dunnage add almost two more pounds to the total shipping weight of the items we're sending.

Did you know?
Here's a little quiz for word history buffs. Which of the following statements is true?

a) "Dunnage" derives from the Low German word "dünne twige," meaning "brushwood."
b) "Dunnage" derives from "Dunlop," the name of a famous cheese-making town in Scotland.
c) Etymologists don't know the exact origin of "dunnage."

You've got the goods if you guessed "c." Etymologists have pointed out the similarity of "dunnage" and "dünne twige," but no one has ever proven the two are related. Dunlop lent its name to the cheese it's so famous for, but neither the town nor the cheese has any connection to "dunnage." Truth be told, though "dunnage" has been with us since the 15th century, its etymological history remains a mystery.

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.

instauration \in-stor-RAY-shun\ noun

*1 : restoration after decay, lapse, or dilapidation
2 : an act of instituting or establishing something

Example sentence:
"Once, humanity dreamed of the great instauration — a rebirth of ancient wisdom that would compel us into a New Age...." (Knute Berger, Seattle Weekly, December 14, 2005)

Did you know?
"Instauration" first appeared in English in the early 17th century, a product of the Latin verb "instaurare," meaning "to renew or restore." This same source gave us our verb "store," by way of Middle English and Anglo-French. Less than 20 years after "instauration" broke into English, the philosopher Francis Bacon began writing his Instauratio Magna, which translates to The Great Instauration. This uncompleted collection of works, which was written in Latin, calls for a restoration to a state of paradise on earth, but one in which mankind is enlightened by knowledge and truth.

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.

1 : of the nature of a secondary result : indirect
2 : following as a result or effect : consequent
*3 : having significant consequences : important

Example sentence:
Who would have thought stepping off the elevator on the wrong floor that day would be such a consequential moment in Wayne's life?

Did you know?
"Consequential" dates from the 17th century and can be traced back to the Latin verb "consequi," meaning "to follow along." "Consequi," in turn, combines the prefix "con-," meaning "through" or "with," and "sequi," meaning "to follow." The English words "sequel," "second," and "suitor" are among the offspring of "sequi." With the publication of Henry Fielding's 1728 comedy Love in Several Masques, "consequential," which until that point had been used primarily in the context of results, acquired the meaning "important." Evidence for this usage declined temporarily in the 19th century, causing its acceptability to be questioned by such commentators as H. W. Fowler; it resurfaced in the 20th century, however, and is now considered standard.

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.

pariah \puh-RYE-uh\ noun

1 : a member of a low caste of southern India
*2 : one that is despised or rejected : outcast

Example sentence:
Sasha became a pariah among the experts in her field after publishing a highly inflammatory article.

Did you know?
"Pariah" comes from Tamil, the language spoken in Tamil Nadu, a state of India, and in parts of Sri Lanka. The predecessor of "pariah" is the Tamil word "paraiyan," which literally means "drummer." "Paraiyan" is also the name of an ancient tribal group whose members are included in the Untouchables, or Harijans, the lowest caste in India. Consisting mostly of servants and laborers, members of this tribal group traditionally beat their drums at festivals but were excluded from religion processions. "Pariah" was originally the English rendering of the name of that specific group. It was eventually extended to denote any member of the lowest Hindu caste, and finally used more broadly as a synonym of "outcast."

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.

*1 a : suggestive of repose : leaning, resting b : lying down
2 : representing a person lying down

Example sentence:
When Bert glanced at his father's recumbent form in the armchair, he immediately thought that he could use a good nap himself.

Did you know?
If you're ready to take your vocabulary lying down, you'll want to be familiar with the synonyms "recumbent," "prone," "supine," and "prostrate," all of which mean "lying down." "Recumbent," which derives from the Latin prefix "re-" and the verb "cumbere," meaning "to lie down," focuses on the posture or position native to sleeping or resting. "Prone" describes someone who is lying facedown, as, for example, in doing push-ups. "Supine" flips it over, suggesting the position of someone lying inert on the back, while "prostrate" implies a full-scale physical collapse or submission, regardless of the exact position of the defeated body. "Recumbent," dating from 1705, is the newest of the four words; the others all entered English before the 16th century.

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.

skylark \SKYE-lark\ verb

1 : to run up and down the rigging of a ship in sport
*2 : frolic, sport

Example sentence:
As the couple was walking past the playground, they stopped and watched the happy children laugh and skylark and thought about how they would soon be having a child.

Did you know?
As far as we know, people were skylarking at sea before they were larking on land. "Skylarking" was originally a term used by seamen for their scampering about on the rigging of ships. The first known use of the word in print is from 1809, though the term was part of the sailor's vernacular before that. "Lark," meaning "to engage in harmless fun or mischief," didn?t get jotted down until 1813. Whether or not the meanings of these words came about from the song and/or behavior of birds is uncertain. One theory of the verb "lark" is that it began as a misinterpretation of the verb "lake," which in British dialect means "to play or frolic."

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.

Dear Johnny Wonder: How do a thermos know?

It's been a horrible week for Dr. Luis von Ahn, the 26-year old Computer Science professor at Carnegie-Mellon University. First, the troublemakers at Popular Science Magazine named him one of their annual “Brilliant 10”. As if that wasn't terrible enough, the nightmare continued as Dr. von Ahn was informed that he had been awarded a MacArthur Fellowship. There were 25 MacArthur Fellows named this year. Each of them has been handed $500,000 to, according to the foundation, “continue to reflect, explore and create” with no strings attached. Tell me how bad that would suck. Luis is a genius. You can tell that right away when you Google him. Here's how one published article described what Dr. von Ahn does each day: he “works at the intersection of cryptography, artificial intelligence and natural intelligence to address problems of profound theoretical and practical importance”. Hey! Me, too! Does he get to play Led Zeppelin requests? The most amazing thing about Dr. von Ahn being awarded a MacArthur Fellowship is not that the man lives and works in Pittsburgh. As a city, we're chock full of geniuses. Between CMU and the medical community, the Steel City is more than pulling our own weight in brainiacs. What is most astounding to me is that someone, in this case something called the MacArthur Foundation, hands out$500,000 checks to a select number of deep thinkers, asking only in return that they continue to think deep thoughts. Way to go, Scarecrow. The best part of it all is that, chances are, after the photo ops and accompanying newspaper articles, nobody from MacArthur is going to check up on what Luis did with the cash.

With a lot of fun games and rides.

And those little pastries.

I could go into greater detail about how the MacArthur Foundation works, how they come up with their annual list of smart people who need pocket money and how Dr. von Ahn qualified to be the first such person in Carnegie-Mellon's long and ivy-covered history, but two things stop me from doing so. The first is the fact that two sentences into reading any article I've found about the good doctor, I'm drooling and snoring, face down on the computer keyboard. Secondly, and most important, I'm pretty busy these days cobbling together my own presentation for the MacArthurs.

Rpresentatives form the Foundation are coming to town to award Luis his check. From what I've been able to find in my research of major online gambling and pornography sites that have links to news headlines, I've got about a month to come up with something really smart and impressive to show them. I'm sure that once duly impressed they will hand me a check as well.

I'm not pretending to be in the same league as the aforementioned CMU professor. After all, I've never even bought a single issue of Popular Science, much less having been featured as one of their “Brilliant 10” (I am, however, willing to buy a subscription if it impresses the MacArthurs). Nobody can hope to rocket from watching reruns of Jackass to working “at the intersection of cryptography, artificial intelligence and natural intelligence to address problems of profound theoretical and practical importance” in a month. That's why I don't expect to be awarded the full half a million, as the good doctor has been handed.

A couple of grand would be nice, though.

The MacArthur Foundation's Fellowships are aimed at geniuses who are working with concepts that can't be described in simple terms. But what about the rest of us? Shouldn't regular, average, terminally dull people be awarded with some cash money if we increase our own knowledge? The theory I'm thinking of submitting to the visiting MacArthurs is based on some work I've been doing with a potato gun.

I call it “a study of combustion vegetable projectile using hair spray accelerator”. The way I see it, if the idea of a cash-award fellowship is to promote continued progress in your chosen field by freeing you of monetary restraints and allowing the awarded to “continue to reflect, create and explore” with no strings attached, then I'm your man.

Just don't call me a genius.

Once you've been handed that label, like the poor, unfortunate CMU professor, you're done. Not a Thanksgiving will roll by without you being the one chosen to figure out how to put the leaf in the good table. Nary a Christmas will arrive absent of your responsibility for building the perfect bicycle. “Hey, Mr. Genius,” the wife will call from afar. “Does it take a rocket scientist to remember our rule about the toilet seat, or should I offer you a Fellowship to continue your studies?”

I feel badly for the unfortunately bright and now honored man. I wouldn't trade places with him for a moment, unless that moment is the one when he cashes that check.

Other than that instant, I am happy to remain one of the regular, average and terminally dull who are trying to better themselves by straying past the comic section and sports pages. Would a couple of grand for a guy such as me be such a bad example? Come on, MacArthur people? What about the rest of us?

If possible, I'd like to show you my potato gun.

Job's comforter \JOHBZ-KUM-fer-ter\ noun

: a person who discourages or depresses while seemingly giving comfort and consolation

Example sentence:
When Tracey's second interview didn't go well, more than one Job's comforter remarked that she probably would have hated the job anyway.

Did you know?
Poor Job. He's the biblical character who endures extraordinary afflictions in a test of his piety. He loses his possessions, his children, and his health. And then, to make matters worse, three friends show up to "comfort" him. These friends turn out to be no comfort at all. Instead, they say that the things that have been happening to him happen to all sinners — and point out a number of his faults. In the mid-18th century, English speakers began using the phrase "Job's comforter" for anyone who offers similarly unhelpful consolation.

savvy \SAV-ee\ verb

: understand

Example sentence:
Although I savvied little Spanish, I could hear the urgency in the woman's voice and immediately sought a translator.

Did you know?
You may be familiar with the noun "savvy," meaning "practical know-how" (as in "he has political savvy"), and the adjective use (as in "a savvy investor"). And if you've seen the blockbuster movie Pirates of the Caribbean, you also know that the verb is often used as an informal, one-word question meaning "Do you understand?" (as in "I'm Captain Jack Sparrow. Savvy?"). But Jack Sparrow (i.e., Johnny Depp) didn't invent the term. Both the noun and the verb came into use around 1785. "Savvy" is based on the Portuguese term "sabe," meaning "he knows," which itself is from Latin "sapere," meaning "to be wise." Creole speakers interpreted the Portuguese term as "sabi" and began using it as one would "know." Eventually, the Creole's "sabi" evolved into today's word.

1 : marked by fullness, strength, and clarity of sound : sonorous
*2 : pompous, bombastic

Example sentence:
Josh cleared his throat dramatically, then did a dead-on impression of the professor's orotund, patronizing speech.

Did you know?
The Latin roots of "orotund" are related to two more common English words — "oral" and "rotund." Latin "or-" means "mouth," and "rotundus" means "round" or "circular." The Roman poet Horace joined forms of those Latin terms to create the phrase "ore rotundo," literally meaning "with round mouth," and figuratively meaning "with well-turned speech." "Ore rotundo" was modified to "orotund" and adopted into English in the late 18th century. It can indicate either strength of delivery or inflated wording.

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.

hinterland \HIN-ter-land\ noun

1 : a region lying inland from a coast
2 a : a region remote from urban areas *b : a region lying beyond major metropolitan or cultural centers

Example sentence:
Ty and Saja spent a few days in the capital before setting off for the hinterland.

Did you know?
When you're dealing with geography, it helps to know your hinterland from your umland. In 1888, geographer George Chisholm borrowed the German word "Hinterland" (literally, "land in back of") and applied it specifically to the region just inland from a port or coastal settlement. (Chisholm spelled the word "hinderland," but English-speakers eventually settled on "hinterland.") Early in the 20th century, another geographer adopted the German "Umland" ("land around") to refer to the territory around an inland town. What "hinterland" and "umland" have in common is a reference to a region economically tied to a nearby city. But nowadays "hinterland" has a less technical use as well; it's used for land that's simply out in the sticks.

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.

confrere \KAHN-frair\ noun

Example sentence:
Although Sam is a gifted poet in his own right, he's most often recognized as the confrere of a much more famous author.

Did you know?
"Confrere" arrived in English from Anglo-French in the 15th century, and ultimately derives from the Medieval Latin "confrater," meaning "brother" or "fellow." ("Frater," the root of this term, shares an ancient ancestor with our word "brother.") English speakers also began using another descendant of "confrater" in the 15th century: "confraternity," meaning "a society devoted to a religious or charitable cause." In the past, "confrere" was often used specifically of a fellow member of a confraternity," but these days it is used more generally.

Hi, I'm Willie Nelson and I'd like to introduce you to a very natural product I've been using most of my life.

Each and every month I pay a small fortune to watch TV. In return I am given access to a menagerie of incredibly entertainmenting and educational programming, along with a lot of crap I would never give a penny for if it wasn't included as “part of the package”. It's sort of like this station. To get you to listen, they give you a couple of really great shows, but in addition, you have to listen to me.

Life's a bitch, ain't it?

A man who never threw anything away and a woman who added water to ketchup to get every last drop from the bottle raised me. I was taught from a very young age that if you paid for a sub sandwich that came with anchovies, you ate the anchovies even if you hated the taste because, by God, you paid for ‘em, didn't you?

Perhaps that's why I've watched every channel that came with my satellite dish. I paid for ‘em, didn't I? I've seen them all, some of them just once, some of them just momentarily, just to prove they're there and in full working order. I've no reason to return to SkyAngel, the Christian Satellite Network, although I've seen it. None of the eleven home shopping channels will be seen again. Likewise, I won't be going back to catch up on what they're showing on CCTV, the Chinese station. I can't speak enough Spanish to follow what's on the four Spanish-language channels, although most of the time, from what I've been able to witness, it has to do with somebody cheating on their lover with a waitress. We have the Brigham Young Channel, a Mormon backed religious talk station. There's DIY Television, which stands for “do it yourself”. It shows people some useful projects they could be working on if they weren't wasting time watching TV.

The other night I was checking in with RFDTV, “Rural America's Channel”, which usually airs a lot of shows about horses and cows and the people who touch them. That particular night they were not featuring farm animals, but 1960's country singers. It was a show called “The Wilburn Brothers”, a very, very low budget music-variety mess apparently taped in Nashville somewhere before the age of enlightenment, which featured a pair of bad Everly knockoffs and their guests, Dottie West, Loretta Lynn and some guy in rainbow suspenders. Just as I was about to move on to the Food Channel to check in on what Emeril was blamming, the less inbred of the Wilburns (I believe it was Teddy) announced that they would be pausing for a word from their sponsors.

And suddenly there was Willie Nelson.

Willie, in a spot produced not in the late 1960's, but sometime recently, spoke to RFDTV viewers from his tour bus, his image preserved for posterity by a Christmas gift HandyCam, somewhere on the road.

Again.

The ad was for a gas station, a single gas station, “Carl's Corner Truckstop”, located in central Texas, near a town called Abbott. Willie invited us all to drop by the next time we're in central Texas. And while at Carl's, he pleaded, we should fill up on a tank of BioWillie. BioWillie is a bio-diesel fuel made from corn. It's the farmer's friend, according to Mr. Nelson. He explained this as we the viewers watched him pump some of this mixture into a school bus. It not only helps out the country's farm community, said Willie, but it's a great way to get us all off this “nasty” dependence on foreign oil.

Leave it to Willie to know a nasty dependence when he sees one.

The question, as I saw it, was how much high-test gasoline I would burn driving to somewhere in the middle of Texas to buy a tank of Willie's corn moonshine go juice? Not to worry, calmed the red-headed stranger. If my “local service station doesn't currently carry BioWillie”, all I needed to do was “ask”.

They looked at me like I was crazy down at the 7-Eleven. Try to get a woman who has studied English as a second language to understand the concept of BioWillie.

All this viewing of Willie came at a precipitous time. As you no doubt have heard by now, he was busted yet again for possession of marijuana (along with some trippin' mushrooms) somewhere in the bayou country of Louisiana the other day. They were cruisin' on the bio in the bayou. Willie and his traveling companions (possibly on board the very same tour bus I saw in the commercial) were pulled over by state troopers. Although the gang was carrying more than a pound of pot between them (along with those shrooms), they were given a mere misdemeanor and a warning.

Must be the power of BioWillie.

He's all natural.

At the end of the commercial, Willie politely thanked us for our time and support (he's always very kind). The spot closed with a shot of the tour bus pulling back onto the road as we got a look at the strange airbrushed artwork that takes up the entire rear end. It's a painting of an eagle and a man's face (Willie's, I'm guessing) that are melded together to give us a sort of “Willie, the Eagle-Eyed Protector of Streams, Mountains and America” feeling.

You know what I thought when I saw it?

My parents would have been proud.

Willie and the boys didn't waste those mushrooms they bought.

It's interesting that a single truckstop in the middle of nowhere can now reach millions of people world wide through satellite TV advertising, as long as they are connected to a big name country act and are willing to promote his foray into the fuel market. Of course, there is no guarantee that Carl from Carl's Corner Truckstop is actually reaching millions. He is, after all, way up on RFDTV, channel 9027 on my box.

You heard me right.

Nine thousand.

Twenty-seven.

The channels at that end of the dial are the anchovies of my TV sub sandwich, but I paid for ‘em, so, by God, I'm going to watch ‘em. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to get to the computer and hit MapQuest up for directions to Abbott, Texas. I need me some of what Willie's got.

And some bio-diesel would be nice as well.

mimesis \muh-MEE-sis\ noun

: imitation, mimicry

Example sentence:
Late in her career, the painter became less interested in mimesis and began to experiment in styles of abstraction.

Did you know?
"Mimesis" is a term with an undeniably classical pedigree. Originally a Greek word, it has been used in aesthetic or artistic theory to refer to the attempt to imitate or reproduce reality since Plato and Aristotle. "Mimesis" is derived from the Greek verb "mimeisthai," which means "to imitate" and which itself comes from "mimos," meaning "mime." The English word "mime" also descends from "mimos," as do "mimic" and "mimicry." And what about "mimeograph," the name of the duplicating machine that preceded the photocopier? We can't be absolutely certain what the folks at the A. B. Dick Company had in mind when they came up with "Mimeograph" (a trademark name that has since expired), but influence from "mimos" and its descendants certainly seems probable.

: of or relating to rogues or rascals; also : of, relating to, suggesting, or being a type of fiction dealing with the episodic adventures of a usually roguish protagonist

Example sentence:
Kirk's first novel was a picaresque tale of a young orphan boy coping with life in the big city.

Did you know?
"Picaresque" derives from Spanish "picaresco," which means "of or relating to a picaro." What is a picaro? This word, which also derives from Spanish, means "rogue" or "bohemian." "Picaro" describes a type of character that has long been a popular subject for fictional narrative. Typically, the picaresque novel centers around a wandering individual of low standing who happens into a series of adventures among people of various higher classes, often relying on his wits and a little dishonesty to get by. The first known novel in this style is Lazarillo de Tormes (ca. 1554), an irreverent work about a poor boy who works for a series of masters of dubious character. The novel has been attributed to Diego Hurtado de Mendoza, but his authorship is disputable.

: suggestive of the friendly homespun character of a country store

Example sentence:
"One thing I like about the South," she said, "is that total strangers will often start up cracker-barrel conversations in places like elevators and waiting rooms."

Did you know?
In the days before pre-packaged food and huge supermarkets, a trip to the nearest store was more than just an errand; it was also a chance to socialize and keep up with goings-on. The country store of yesteryear was the focal point of many rural communities, and the heart of the country store was the cracker barrel. Literally a barrel containing crackers, the cracker barrel — which afforded a seat for at least one person — was the spot where folks would gather to chat about weather and politics, or to swap stories, jokes, and gossip. Today, cracker barrels are largely a thing of the past, but the flavor of those friendly exchanges lives on in the adjective "cracker-barrel."

upbraid \up-BRAYD\ verb

1 : to criticize severely : find fault with
*2 : to reproach severely : scold vehemently

Example sentence:
After being late to class for the third time in a week, Marshall was upbraided by his teacher and given detention.

Did you know?
"Upbraid," "scold," and "berate" all mean to reproach angrily, but with slight differences in emphasis. "Scold" usually implies rebuking in irritation or ill temper, either justly or unjustly. "Upbraid" tends to suggest censuring on definite and usually justifiable grounds, while "berate" implies scolding that is prolonged and even abusive. If you're looking for a more colorful term for telling someone off, try "tongue-lash," "bawl out," "chew out," or "wig" — all of which are fairly close synonyms of "berate." Among these synonyms, "upbraid" is the senior member in English, dating from the 12th century. "Upbraid" derives via Middle English from the Old English "ūpbregdan," believed to be formed from a prefix meaning "up" and the verb "bregdan," meaning "to snatch" or "to move suddenly."

poltroon \pahl-TROON\ noun

: a spiritless coward : craven

Example sentence:
In the end, their leader proved to be a traitorous poltroon whose main concern was saving his own skin.

Did you know?
When you get down to synonyms, a "poltroon" is just a "chicken." Barnyard chickens are fowl that have long been noted for timidity, and the name "chicken" has been applied to human cowards since the 17th century. "Poltroon" has been used for wimps and cravens for even longer, since the early 16th century at least. And if you remember that chickens are dubbed "poultry," you may guess that the birds and the cowards are linked by etymology as well as synonymy. English picked up "poltroon" from Middle French, which in turn got it from Old Italian "poltrone," meaning "coward." The Italian term has been traced to the Latin "pullus," a root that is also an ancestor of "pullet" (a young hen) and "poultry."

There's gonna be a fight after school! Bush and that little Tatu guy!

A couple of days ago Hugo Chavez, the Grand Puba of Venezuela, stood up before the General Assembly of the United Nations and told the world's leaders that the President of the United States, George Bush, was Satan and that the podium where Chavez stood (the same lectern Bush had used the day before) still smelled like sulphur.

Sulphur, for those who have forgotten Junior High chemistry class, smells like rotten eggs. It is, in some religious texts, a sign of the Devil.

Chavez then continued to spout that the President had to be stopped in his campaign to rule the world and that the U.S. should stay out of everybody else's business.

My reaction upon seeing video of this speech was to be thankful that the little guy from Fantasy Island, Tatu, had finally found more work. The second thought I had was that this was another in a long series of events that shows the United Nations is a largely pointless body. The reaction from Washington was a bit different. The President, Secretary of State and Ambassador to the U.N. all had no official comment. That's because they're world leaders. They try to keep from heckling the comics. It's part of their job.

Fortunately for me, it's not part of mine.

To quote the very sage Samuel Jackson from the movie “Pulp Fiction”, “Are you finished? Good. Then allow me to retort.”

For all your hollow talk about the evil Satan that is America, you don't seem to understand much about the country you're insulting. When you insult the President, our President, you insult us, all of us. Even those who would see the man impeached have somewhere within them a slight pinch when you make your grade school comments. All Americans may not support the policies of the current administration, whoever that administration consists of at any given time. However, the one thing we're wholly united in is meeting anyone who insults that leadership in the parking lot after school and giving that person …an economics lesson.

You thought I was going to say, “a beating'”, didn't you?

To me, knocking the crap out of my enemies, while fun, is not the most effective solution. The new model for retribution of wrongs endured is economics. Basically, to show somebody a real lesson, take away all their money and make them beg for food and shelter.

It's a tough world.

Each day the United States of America imports one million barrels of oil from Venezuela. 365 million barrels, at 60 dollars a barrel, comes to 21 billion-with-a-b dollars. We hand this bozo 21 big each year so that he can get up in front of the world and tell everyone how we smell like rotten eggs. President Bush said a few months back that we're addicted to oil. If that's true, then our pusher just dissed us.

How smart was that?

This is not the first time Tatu has called America out. He's been name calling for a while. He's also made some interesting threats. Last year, Chavez vowed to cut off Venezuela's supply of oil if the United States doesn't get its nose out of Iran.

Now that, my little man, is a great idea.

I wasn't with you on the whole “Bush smells like the Devil” thing, but this plan of cutting off America's supply of Venezuelan oil? That's a bright bulb. Let's go with that! First, one hundred million barrels of oil a day stops arriving into U.S. ports. Next, the price of gasoline in America spikes to four or five dollars a gallon. This would be followed by a huge chunk of the annual gross national product of the country of Venezuela disappearing overnight.

So let's play a little game, shall we, Hugo?

We'll call it “Whose Economy Collapses First?”

Here's how we play: As the price of gas skyrockets in America, the vast science and research community works at breakneck pace to come up with a workable alternative to oil. It takes the U.S. about ten years to implement the new fuel, made in part from a home grown vegetative crop. The changeover to the new natural fuel is driven by corporate leaders who see a great way to make lots of money, selling American products to American consumers and, oh, by the way, selling the new fuel to all the former customers of Venezuela worldwide. Living with higher oil prices for ten years does slow the economy and some businesses suffer. But our country is so large, so diverse, economically, that the slowdown is just that, a slowdown. It is not a collapse.

In part two of the game, Venezuela's vast science and research community, forced to find another way to make money on the world market, now that the idiot leader has insulted the country's biggest customer… oh, I'm sorry. That's right. Venezuela does not have a vast science and research community. Well, there's always the corporate leaders of the other diverse industries in Venezuela who, no doubt, will come up with others ways to… oh, I'm sorry. That's right. Venezuela does not have corporate leaders of the other diverse industries.

All Venezuela has, as it turns out, is a single income resource, starving people and a power-hungry crackpot at the controls.

But not for long.

If we play our little game of “Whose Economy Collapses First?” as Chavez has proposed, long before Venezuela can go belly up, the starving people rise up snatch the insulting little man from his throne, tossing him in jail, or, perhaps, ending his life long before things get way out of hand. That's because, unlike the United States, Hugo Chavez's country does not freely elect their leaders, changing the person in charge through the power of the voting booth when they are dissatisfied, supporting those they think are less “Satan-like” than most.

And thanks for playing “Whose Economy Collapses First?”

Wasn't that fun, Tatu?

It's a fantasy, of course. But don't think it could not happen. I, for one, have lived my entire life watching my country tied to these oil pushers. They're all the same. They're drug dealers. They're world leaders who care nothing for their own peoples. They've tied their economies into one single product and twisted their policies to protect that one source of income. These are men who we would not give the time of day under normal circumstances. Wouldn't it be a fun game to see what would happen if their veiled threats of cutting off our oil supply came true?

I'm betting we would buckle down and thrive.

Tatu would crumple up and starve.

Of course, there's always meeting the little piece of crap in parking lot after school.

réchauffé \ray-shoh-FAY\ noun

*1 : rehash
2 : a warmed-over dish of food

Example sentence:
"[It] is a réchauffé, ... lifted and stitched from 'The Gastronomical Me' and other books." (Victoria Glendinning, The New York Times Book Review, June 9, 1991)

Did you know?
We borrowed "réchauffé" in the early 19th century from the French; it is the past participle of their verb "réchauffer," which means "to reheat." Nineteenth-century French speakers were using it figuratively to designate something that was already old hat — you might say, "warmed over." English speakers adopted that same meaning, which is still our most common. But within decades someone had apparently decided that leftovers would seem more appealing with a French name. The notion caught on. A recipe for "Réchauffé of Beef a la Jardiniere," for example, instructs the cook to reheat "yesterday's piece of meat" in a little water with some tomatoes added, and serve it on a platter with peas and carrots and potatoes. "Réchauffé" shares its root with another English word, "chafing dish," the name of a receptacle for keeping food warm at the table.

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.

1 a : felt in or as if in the viscera : deep b : of, relating to, or located on or among the viscera
*2 : not intellectual : instinctive, unreasoning
3 : dealing with crude or elemental emotions : earthy

Example sentence:
The story about the abandoned dogs elicited such a visceral reaction in Amy that within minutes she was on the phone offering to adopt one.

Did you know?
The "viscera" are the internal organs of the body — especially those located in the large cavity of the trunk (e.g., the heart, liver, and intestines). The word "viscera" comes from Latin, in which it has essentially the same meaning. Something "visceral" has to do with the viscera. In a more figurative sense, something "visceral" is felt "deep down." Even in the early years of its use, "visceral" often referred to things emotional rather than physiological. For example, in 1640, an English bishop named Edward Reynolds wrote, "Love is of all other the inmost and most visceral affection." This figurative use is the most common use of "visceral," but the word continues to be used in medical contexts as well.

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.

1 a : belonging or native to a particular people or country *b : characteristic of or prevalent in a particular field, area, or environment
2 : restricted or peculiar to a locality or region

Example sentence:
Today, cybercafes are endemic to the downtown areas of big cities.

Did you know?
If you translate it literally, "endemic" means "in the population." It derives from the Greek "endēmos," which joins "en," meaning "in," and "dēmos," meaning "population." "Endemic" is often used to characterize diseases that are generally found in a particular area; malaria, for example, is said to be endemic to tropical and subtropical regions. This use differs from that of the related word "epidemic" in that it indicates a more or less constant presence in a particular population or area rather than a sudden, severe outbreak within that region or group. The word is also used by biologists to characterize the plant and animal species that are only found in a given area.

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.

1 : full of concern or fears : apprehensive
*2 : meticulously careful
3 : full of desire : eager

Example sentence:
"She nursed him, she read to him, she anticipated his wants, and was solicitous about his feelings." (George Eliot, Middlemarch)

Did you know?
If you're solicitous about learning the connections between words, you'll surely want to know about the relationship between "solicitous" and another word you've probably heard before — "solicit." "Solicitous" doesn't come from "solicit," but the two words are related. They both have their roots in the Latin word "sollicitus," meaning "anxious." "Solicitous" itself came directly from this Latin word, whereas "solicit" made its way to English with a few more steps. From "sollicitus" came the Latin verb "sollicitare," meaning "to disturb, agitate, move, or entreat." Forms of this verb were borrowed into Anglo-French, and then Middle English, and have survived in Modern English as "solicit."

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.

1 : full of concern or fears : apprehensive
*2 : meticulously careful
3 : full of desire : eager

Example sentence:
"She nursed him, she read to him, she anticipated his wants, and was solicitous about his feelings." (George Eliot, Middlemarch)

Did you know?
If you're solicitous about learning the connections between words, you'll surely want to know about the relationship between "solicitous" and another word you've probably heard before — "solicit." "Solicitous" doesn't come from "solicit," but the two words are related. They both have their roots in the Latin word "sollicitus," meaning "anxious." "Solicitous" itself came directly from this Latin word, whereas "solicit" made its way to English with a few more steps. From "sollicitus" came the Latin verb "sollicitare," meaning "to disturb, agitate, move, or entreat." Forms of this verb were borrowed into Anglo-French, and then Middle English, and have survived in Modern English as "solicit."

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence."
Monday, September 11th, 2006
6:20 am
Durr... HELLO!
First RP of Green's SL without Toni--but he has things planned for her. So other than a great night, Dustin locking his keys in hsi car, etc... a really good (mostly OOC) night--here is some filler! You know it's all I ever post!
Fear not, I have pics and memories to share if ya'll want them!
Or youns...

deflagrate \DEF-luh-grayt\ verb

*1 : to burn rapidly with intense heat and sparks being given off
2 : to cause to burn in such a manner

Example sentence:
Certain materials, such as black powder, will deflagrate rather than cause a violent explosion when they are ignited.

Did you know?
"Deflagrate" combines the Latin verb "flagrare," meaning "to burn," with the Latin prefix "de-," meaning "down" or "away." "Flagrare" is also an ancestor of such words as "conflagration" and "flagrant" and is distantly related to "fulgent" and "flame." In the field of explosives, "deflagrate" is used to describe the burning of fuel accelerated by the expansion of gasses under the pressure of containment, which causes the containing vessel to break apart. In comparison, the term "detonate" (from the Latin "tonare," meaning "to thunder") refers to an instant, violent explosion that results when shock waves pass through molecules and displace them at supersonic speed. "Deflagrate" has been making sparks in English since about 1727, and "detonate" burst onto the scene a couple of years later.

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.

zephyr \ZEFF-er\ noun

1 a : a breeze from the west *b : a gentle breeze
2 : any of various lightweight fabrics and articles of clothing

Example sentence:
"There was not even a zephyr stirring; the dead noonday heat had even stilled the songs of the birds." (Mark Twain, Tom Sawyer)

Did you know?
For centuries, poets have eulogized Zephyrus, the Greek god of the west wind, and his "swete breeth" (in the words of Geoffrey Chaucer). "Zephyrus," the personified west wind, eventually evolved into "zephyr," a word for a breeze that is westerly or gentle, or both. Breezy "zephyr" may have blown into English with the help of William Shakespeare, who used the word in his 1611 play Cymbeline: "Thou divine Nature, thou thyself thou blazon'st / In these two princely boys! They are as gentle / As zephyrs blowing below the violet." Today, "zephyr" is also the sobriquet of a lightweight fabric and the clothing that is made from it.

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.

palaver \puh-LAV-er\ noun

1 a : a long parley usually between persons of different cultures or levels of sophistication b : conference, discussion
2 *a : idle talk b : misleading or beguiling speech

Example sentence:
"Ask folks involved why they opted to make [the movie], and you're not going to get a lot of palaver about high art and noble intentions." (Joshua Rich, Entertainment Weekly, May 19, 2006)

Did you know?
During the 18th century, Portuguese and English sailors often met during trading trips along the West African coast. This contact prompted the English to borrow the Portuguese "palavra," which usually means "speech" or "word" but was used by Portuguese traders with the specific meaning "discussions with natives." The Portuguese word traces back to the Late Latin "parabola," a noun meaning "speech" or "parable," which in turn comes from the Greek "parabolē," meaning "juxtaposition" or "comparison."

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.

: derived or acquired from something extrinsic

Example sentence:
"As someone born in Baltimore as opposed to having moved there, I have been given the northern character..., a character that is adscititious to my father's way." (Michael Weaver, My Father's Geography)

Did you know?
"Adscititious" comes from a very "knowledgeable" family — it ultimately derives from "scire," the Latin verb meaning "to know." "Scire" also gave us "science," "conscience," "prescience" ("foreknowledge"), and "nescience" ("lack of knowledge"). "Adscititious" itself comes to us from "scire" by way of the Latin verb "adsciscere," which means "to admit" or "to adopt." This explains why "adscititious" describes something adopted from an outside source. "Adscititious" also has a rarely encountered second sense, meaning "additional" or "supplemental" (as in "adscititious remarks").

: exhibiting or relating to design or purpose especially in nature

Example sentence:
"What is the true purpose of life's voyage?" wrote John R. Illingworth in 1907, posing what he termed "the great teleological question."

Did you know?
"Teleological" (which comes to us by way of New Latin from the Greek root "tele-, telos," meaning "end or purpose") and its close relative "teleology" both entered English in the 18th century, followed by "teleologist" in the 19th century. "Teleology" has the basic meaning "the study of ends or purposes." A teleologist attempts to understand the purpose of something by looking at its results. A teleological philosopher might argue that we should judge whether an act is good or bad by seeing if it produces a good or bad result, and a teleological explanation of evolutionary changes claims that all such changes occur for a definite purpose.

ensky \in-SKYE\ verb

: exalt

Example sentence:
"Her first appearance in evening dress was a revelation to me; she was my idol, enskied and sacred." (Frank Harris, My Life and Loves)

Did you know?
Someone who has been enskied has been raised, figuratively, as high as the sky. The "en-" prefix indicates putting something or someone into or on whatever the second part of the word indicates — in this case, the sky. Lots of words have been formed this way; some of them are quite familiar ("enthrone," "entrap"), whereas others are as high-flown as "ensky." "Enisle," for example, means "to put someone on an island," or, figuratively, "to isolate someone." "Enwomb" means "to shut one up as if in a womb." The very first, and most famous, use of "ensky" occurs in Shakespeare's Measure for Measure, when Lucio tells Isabella, a novice in a convent, "I hold you as a thing enskied and sainted."

yegg \YEG\ noun

: safecracker; also : robber

Example sentence:
"[Her] attorney does admit that his client had developed 'platonic' relationships with two cons, a couple of yeggs named Ollie and Marvin, but only to gather information." (Fort Collins Coloradoan, December 6, 2002)

Did you know?
"Safecracker" first appeared in print in English around 1825, but English speakers evidently felt that they needed a more colorful word for this rather colorful profession. No one is quite sure where "yegg" came from. It first appeared in the New York Evening Post on June 23, 1903, in an article about "the prompt breaking up of the organized gangs of professional beggars and yeggs." By 1905, it had acquired the variant "yeggmen," which was printed in the New York Times in reference to unsavory characters captured in the Bowery District. "Yegg" has always been, and continues to be, less common than "safecracker," but it still turns up once in a while.

Yes. I've just swum to shore from my yacht, anchored out in the Mon. I must have dropped my gold bullion on the way. Would you care to loan me a grand if I told you I was rich?

I'd like to ask the single women of the city of Pittsburgh a question. Exactly how stupid are you? From news reports I've recently read, you'll be unable to answer me in the usual manner – a one-to-ten scale. So let's try something a little lighter. How stupid are you? Are you just a bit stupid, as in “I'm-still-trying-to-figure-out-how-to-set-the-clock-in-my-dashboard” stupid? Are you moderately stupid, as in “I-know-he's-kissing-his-male-roommate-but-I can-turn-him-straight” stupid? Or are you full-blown stupid, as in “What-do-you-mean-you're-not-a-Steeler” stupid?

Remember a couple of months ago when a guy, posing as Ben Roethlisberger, managed to skin a bar skank of several hundred bucks before she finally caught on that perhaps this guy, who is short, fat and 32 years old, might not be who he claimed?

That was fun.

When he was finally hauled in for questioning and his story posted on websites and on the TV news, more women came out of the dark to admit that they, too, had been fooled by Steeler impersonator Brian Jackson. Ben Roethlisberger wasn't Jackson's sole undercover persona. He had also used backup quarterback Brian St. Pierre, marking the only time St. Pierre's name or face made it onto the news since he'd been drafted.

That was even more fun.

Being a red-blooded male, I immediately thought Jackson's motivation for telling women he was a Steeler was to get into their pants. The question should be, “How stupid am I ?” He didn't want into their pants, but into their purses. After all, here in the real world, if a fat, dumpy schmuck named Brian meets you in a bar, asks you out and hits you up for a couple of hundred bucks on the second date, you're going to tell the guy to take a flying leap. But in the world of the terminally doltish, if that same fellow is a Pittsburgh Steeler who has (ahem) misplaced his wallet, he's going to get into your purse, and perhaps your pants as well. There is an apparently growing breed of cement-headed single Pittsburgh women.

But wait.

The fun's not over.

After being charged in the Roethlisberger-St. Pierre scam with disorderly conduct and ordered to spend thirty days in the county lockup, followed by psychiatric counseling, Brian Jackson was released into the general population a few months ago. Upon his return to the wilds of Western Pennsylvania's tavern forests, Brian approached the first mouth-breathing single Pittsburgh woman he saw and used a new approach.

“Hi,” he said. “My name is Jerame. Jerame Tuman.”

Brian Jackson has now been charged with theft by deception after he borrowed money from a woman who fits into the aforementioned third category of stupidity. What was his incredibly believable story, the one that convinced this Mensa member to fork over more than three thousand dollars to this scam artist? He told her he was tight end Jerame Tuman and that all his Steeler teammates were heading up to Mountaineer Gaming resort for a weekend of playing the slot machines. He had misplaced his wallet, you see. Must have been all the confusion of winning a Super Bowl.

She fronted him 200.

About a week or so later, Brian, aka Jerame, told the woman his ex-wife had frozen his bank accounts in a child-support dispute. Another friend had offered him a great deal on some rims for his truck. Darned if he didn't have access to the cash he needed to buy them.

She fronted him 1800 more.

Let's pause now and recap. She met a guy in a bar who claimed he was a Pittsburgh Steelers tight end. The guy has very little in the way of money, has an ex-wife and doesn't pay his child support. At this point, in the real world, even if you're completely trusting or too lazy to check any number of hundreds of sources posting Tuman's photo, you may begin to suspect that a guy with no cash who doesn't take care of his kids might not be the sort of guy you're looking for. But in the world of Pittsburgh's dim singles, you don't question. You just sing along - if you're stupid and you know it, hand him cash (clap clap)!

I realize I'm painting with far too broad a brushstroke. There can't be too many women who are this dumb. The argument against that statement is the fact that this guy, who doesn't exactly seem to be qualifying for final Jeopardy himself, was able to fool not one, not two, but three separate ladies into handing over their cash. All of Western Pa's female population may not be riding the short bus to school, but a small percentage is doing their level best to screw up the grading curve.

My favorite tid-bit to this news item is the fact that the latest victim never seemed to catch onto the fact that this dork was not an NFL player until she called Steelers offices in an attempt to track Tuman and her thousands down. They referred her first to a photo of Jerame and then to a photo of Brian Jackson, taken from the news the last time he succeeded in fooling a stupid woman.

Oh, yeah.

That's the guy.

It's just like back in school. They used flash cards with the really slow kids.

I have no patience and little compassion for stupid people, be they man, woman or undecided. If you are imbecilic enough to lend money to a man you've known for only a few weeks, you deserve what you get – even if he's a gypsy with a flair for football. However, I do have empathy for the lonely. No one should be alone. I know plenty of single guys, good looking, with great personalities, who would love to meet a nice girl.

So if you're interested, give me a call.

Frank O'Harris.

: hasty

Example sentence:
"Even [the company's] successes . . . are vestiges of 1990s thinking. They may halt a festinate death, but you don't build a company around them." (Fritz Nelson, Network Computing, August 21, 2000)

Did you know?
"Festinate" is one among many in the category of words whose first recorded use is in the works of Shakespeare ("Advise the Duke where you are going, to a most festinate preparation." — King Lear, III.vii.10). Perhaps the Bard knew about "festinatus," the Latin predecessor of "festinate," or was familiar with the Latin proverb "festina lente" — "make haste slowly." Shakespeare also gets credit for the adverb "festinately" (first seen in Love's Labour's Lost, III.i.6: "Bring him festinately hither."), but another writer beat him to the verb "festinate" (pronounced \FESS-tuh-nayt\), meaning "to hasten."

volplane \VAHL-playn\ verb

*1 : to glide in or as if in an airplane
2 a of an airplane : to descend gradually in controlled flight b : to fly in a glider

Example sentence:
An eagle soared and volplaned gracefully across the sky.

Did you know?
"Vol plané," meaning "gliding flight," was a phrase first used by 19th-century French ornithologists to describe downward flight by birds; it contrasted with "vol à voile" ("soaring flight"). Around the time Orville and Wilbur Wright were promoting their latest "aeroplane" in France, the noun and the verb "volplane" soared to popularity in America as a term describing the daring dives by aviators. (Fly magazine reported in 1910 that "the French flyers are noted for their thrilling spirals and vol planes from the sky.") The avian-to-aviator generalization was fitting, since the Wright brothers had studied the flight of birds in designing their planes.

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.

: of never-ending duration : eternal

Example sentence:
The owner of the lost exotic bird made it clear that whoever found his pet would receive a handsome cash reward as well as his sempiternal gratitude.

Did you know?
Despite their similarities, "sempiternal" and "eternal" come from different roots. "Sempiternal" is derived from the Late Latin "sempiternalis" and ultimately from "semper," Latin for "always." (You may recognize "semper" as a key element in the motto of the U.S. Marine Corps: "semper fidelis," meaning "always faithful.") "Eternal," on the other hand, is derived by way of Middle French and Middle English from the Late Latin "aeternalis" and ultimately from "aevum," Latin for "age" or "eternity." "Sempiternal" is much less common than "eternal," but some writers have found it useful. Ralph Waldo Emerson, for example, wrote, "The one thing which we seek with insatiable desire is to forget ourselves...to lose our sempiternal memory, and to do something without knowing how or why...."

: tending to create a favorable impression : attractive

Example sentence:
"Although it is not an especially prepossessing plant, it is one of my favorites." (Barbara J. Euser, Marin Independent Journal, March 11, 2006)

Did you know?
If you've heard of the word "unprepossessing," it probably comes as no surprise to you that there's also a "prepossessing." You may not know, however, that both derive from the verb "prepossess," which is also still used in English, although it's quite rare. When "prepossess" first appeared in print in English in 1614, it meant "to take previous possession of," but that sense is now obsolete. The adjective "prepossessing" came into use approximately 30 years later, based on a later sense, "to influence favorably beforehand." Someone or something that is prepossessing, therefore, makes a good first impression.

tourbillion \toor-BILL-yun\ noun

1 : whirlwind
*2 : a vortex especially of a whirlwind or whirlpool

Example sentence:
"In the history of any art there are unexpected eddies and tourbillions." (C. B. Cox, The Twentieth-Century Mind)

Did you know?
"Tourbillion" comes from the same root as "turbine" — namely, the Latin word "turbo," meaning "top" (as in a spinning object) or "whirlwind." "Tourbillion" has been used over time to refer to other spinning objects besides an actual whirlwind. Among watchmaking enthusiasts, "tourbillion" is the name of a kind of watch with a mechanism designed to compensate for the effects of gravity on its movement. Among pyrotechnics fans, a tourbillion is a kind of firework having a spiral flight. The variety of meanings for "tourbillion" is enough to make one's head spin!

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.

paronomasia \pair-uh-noh-MAY-zhee-uh\ noun

: a play on words : pun

Example sentence:
Humorists claim that Harry Truman offered the delightful paronomasia "Missouri loves company" when he invited a friend to join him in Independence, Missouri, for a home-cooked meal.

Did you know?
Puns (essentially, humorous uses of words to suggest more than one interpretation) have their share of critics as well as fans. English philosopher-poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, for example, called puns "the lowest form of wit." "Paronomasia," which derives from a Greek verb meaning "to call with a slight change of name," can simply be a synonym of "pun." But it can also be used, somewhat playfully, to suggest an uncontrollable urge to make puns (as if it were a dread disease, rather than harmless word play). For example, in the July 6, 1980 New York Times, William Safire announced, "an epidemic of paronomasia has raced around the world." And on January 1, 1989, Jerry Kobrin of The Orange County Register resolved to seek treatment "for a near-terminal case of paronomasia."

razzmatazz \raz-muh-TAZ\ noun

*1 : a confusing or colorful often gaudy action or display : razzle-dazzle
2 : inflated, involved, and often deliberately ambiguous language : double-talk
3 : vim, zing

Example sentence:
It was a rally like any other, perhaps, but amidst all the flag-waving and razzmatazz, we detected a stronger than usual strain of genuine patriotic feeling.

Did you know?
Before early forms of "razzmatazz" entered English, "razzle-dazzle" appeared on the scene, and long before "razzle-dazzle" there was simply "dazzle" (from "daze"). English speakers are fond of forming new words through reduplication of a base word, usually with just a slight change of sound. Think of "okey-dokey," "fuddy-duddy," "super-duper," "roly-poly," "fiddle-faddle," and "dilly-dally." A hundred or so years ago, the spirit that prompted "razzle-dazzle" seems to have also inspired "razzmatazz" shortly afterward. The coiners of "razzmatazz" may have had "jazz" in mind. Some of the earliest turn-of-the century uses of "razzmatazz" refer to rag-time or early jazz styles. By the 40s, we'd come round to the "razzle-dazzle" sense, though we still haven't completely settled on the spelling. You might, for example, see "razzamatazz."

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.

grubstake \GRUB-stayk\ verb

: to provide with material assistance (as a loan) for launching an enterprise or for a person in difficult circumstances

Example sentence:
"Hoping to turn the situation around in California, the state now grubstakes entrepreneurs to try their hand at salvaging urban woods." (John Balzar, Los Angeles Times, March 8, 2004)

Did you know?
"Grubstake" is a linguistic nugget that was dug up during the famous California Gold Rush, which began in 1848. Sometime between the first stampede and the early 1860s, when the gold-seekers headed off to Montana, prospectors combined "grub" ("food") and "stake," meaning "an interest or share in an undertaking." At first "grubstake" was a noun, referring to any kind of loan or provisions that could be finagled to make an undertaking possible (with the agreement that the "grubstaker" would get a cut of any profits). By 1879, "grubstake" was also showing up as a verb meaning "to give someone a grubstake," and, since at least 1937, it has been applied to other situations in which a generous benefactor comes through with the funds.

Next week, 53 players will be introduced as the 2006 Pittsburgh Steelers team. Last night there were 74 guys in uniform on the sidelines. You do the math.

Call me crazy if you'd like (go ahead, I'll wait), but I really enjoyed watching the last Steelers pre-season game. I know that many of the well-known names of the Super Bowl champion black and gold did not make it onto the field. Big Ben, Hines Ward, Fast Willie, Joey Porter and the boys looked like a bad night of Halloween, standing on the sidelines all dressed up in full uniforms (including cups, no doubt) with nothing to do but play grab-ass and ape for the roaming cameras.

In their stead, a lot of former college players with names you've never heard sought to besmirch the fine image of professional play the NFL has come to stand for lo these past decades by breaking rules, misinterpreting instructions and forcing Bill Cowher and his Carolina counterpart, John Fox, to use language usually reserved for rush hour on the Parkway East. That description isn't mine. It was printed, aired and webbed today by any number of sportswriters, at least two of whom suggested football fans seek a high school game this weekend to remind them of how this game is supposed to be played.

Bitchy, boys.

Very bitchy.

Apparently the so-called “sports experts” all have secure jobs, workplaces where their bosses love their every effort and shower them with riches and compliments. Maybe the football writers have not had to wonder lately whether their entire lives to this point have been mostly wasted time and effort. Perhaps had they spent the last ten years fighting toward one goal, that of playing in the NFL, only to have that goal appear inches from their grasp and yet unreachable, they would feel a bit differently about the last quarter of the so-called “meaningless” last NFL pre-season game.

Ask Omar Jacobs how he felt about playing in front of a less-than-capacity crowd. The young quarterback will give you a decidedly different take on events. Ask the receiver he sought to connect with, Lee Mays. Ask linebacker Arnold Harrison or running back Duce Staley if last night's 15-13 loss to another group of unknowns wearing the uniforms of the Carolina Panthers was meaningless. As poorly played as the game was, for those four players and many more on each sideline, it was the single most important game of their lives.

Playing in the Super Bowl with the eyes of millions of fans worldwide staring on as the game is sent, via satellite to nearly every civilized country in the world creates a tremendous amount of pressure on an NFL star. I would argue that playing in the fourth quarter of the last NFL pre-season game in front of thousands of bored fans from Steubenville to Blawnox creates even more pressure. If you're still standing on the field when the referee blows his whistle to alert the participants that it's time to switch ends of the field for the fourth quarter of the last pre-season game, it means one thing: in a few days the life you've lead since you were twelve years old could be over. If you're playing in the fourth quarter of the last pre-season game, it is because you have not yet secured work.

You're not playing because football is fun. You're not playing to someday make it to the Super Bowl and feel the adulation of a quarter million fans packed into downtown Pittsburgh to greet your parade caravan. You're playing simply because you need to show somebody, anybody with a decision making voice in the Pittsburgh Steelers coaching scheme, that you are worth employing.

The risk is incredible. Even if you perform your job perfectly there is still a chance your effort will go unseen. Worse yet, there exists the awful mathematics of economy. You may have played the best game of your career, but when there are already too many guys doing what you do, some of whom are better known and proven, what are the chances that you're going to employed come next week?

You've got one last chance.

The fourth quarter of the last NFL pre-season game.

I need this job.

This is all I've ever done.

I don't know how to do anything else.

That's why, although I may miss the first, second or third pre-season games, I always watch the last one. Do I want to see if Ben Roethlisberger looks like he's in shape? Do I want to see James Harrison sack a third-string quarterback from the Eagles on the second weekend in August? Do I care if Jeff Reed can still kick the ball 70 yards?

Sure I do.

But not nearly as much as I care about how hard Cedric Humes can run with four minutes left in his career. Humes, a seventh-round draft pick from Virginia Tech, who, it would seem, has very little chance of being a Pittsburgh Steeler come next week, was carrying the workload in the last quarter of the last pre-season game.

And I was rooting for him. If you listen to the sports writers, you may believe that what football fans want to see is a game filled with perfectly executed plays run by professionals. Not always. Sometimes adversity and passion are more than enough to keep us entertained. When your back is against the wall and you need to perform to the best of your abilities, how do you respond? One of the best barometers for such tests comes in the last quarter of the last NFL pre-season game.

Why would I want to be anywhere else?

Good luck, men.

Thanks for the effort.

: essential, necessary

Example sentence:

Did you know?
Acquiring an understanding of where today's word comes from won't require a formal inquiry. Without question, the quest begins with Latin "quaerere," which means "to ask" and is an ancestor of a number of English words, including "acquire," "require," "inquiry," "question," "quest," and, of course, "requisite." From "quaerere" came "requirere," meaning "to ask again." Repeated requests can express a need, and the past participle of "requirere," which is "requisitus," came to mean "needed" or "necessary." The English language acquired "requisite" when it was adopted into Middle English back in the 1400s.

fealty \FEE-ul-tee\ noun

1 a : the fidelity of a vassal or feudal tenant to his lord b : the obligation of such fidelity
*2 : intense fidelity

Example sentence:
Out of fealty to his boss, who had hired him after no other employer would, Jesse stayed on with the struggling company.

Did you know?
In 1626, Francis Bacon wrote, "Fealty is to take an oath upon a book, that he will be a faithful Tenant to the King." That's a pretty accurate summary of the early meaning of "fealty." Early forms of the term were used in Middle English around 1300, when they specifically designated the loyalty of a vassal to a lord. Eventually, the meaning of the word broadened. Fealty can be paid to a country, a principle, or a leader of any kind — though the synonyms "fidelity" and "loyalty" are more commonly used. "Fealty" comes from the Anglo-French word "feelté," or "fealté," which comes from the Latin "fidelitas," meaning "fidelity." These words are ultimately derived from "fides," the Latin word for "faith."

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.

: in a left-handed, wrong, or contrary direction : counterclockwise

Example sentence:
In the book, the members of the coven hold hands and dance widdershins around the fire.

Did you know?
By the mid-1500s, English speakers had adopted "widdershins" (which is from the Middle High German "wider," meaning "back against," and "sinnen," meaning "to travel") for anything following a path that is opposite to the apparent direction of the sun as it travels across the sky in the Northern Hemisphere (or opposite the direction of the movement of the shadow on a sundial or the hands on a clock). In its earliest known uses, "widdershins" was used to describe cases of bad hair in which unruly locks stood on end or fell the wrong way. But because many people in times past considered the widdershins direction to be "backwards," it has long been associated with magic, witchcraft, and, sometimes, the devil.

conurbation \kah-ner-BAY-shun\ noun

: an aggregation or continuous network of urban communities

Example sentence:
While some cities are built around a central hub, others, such as Los Angeles, are often described as sprawling conurbations with no fixed center.

Did you know?
When Sir Patrick Geddes, a Scottish biologist turned sociologist, sat down in 1915 to write Cities in Evolution, a work on urban planning, he needed a word. How should he refer to thickly populated regions consisting of a sprawling range of cities clustered together? "Some name, then, for these city-regions, these town aggregates, is wanted....What of 'conurbations'?" he asked rhetorically early on in his work. For his coinage, Geddes combined "urbs" (the Latin word for "city," already familiar in "urban" and "suburb") with the Latin prefix "con-" ("together") and the English noun suffix "-ation." It turned out that his word suited English speakers just fine — we've been using it ever since.

oppugn \uh-PYOON\ verb

1 : to fight against
*2 : to call in question

Example sentence:
As a young research assistant, Erin had the audacity to oppugn the conclusions of her department head.

Did you know?
"Oppugn" was first recorded in English in the 15th century. It came to Middle English from the Latin verb "oppugnare," which in turn derived from the combination of "ob-," meaning "against," and "pugnare," meaning "to fight." "Pugnare" itself is descended from the same ancient word that gave Latin the word "pugnus," meaning "fist." It's no surprise, then, that "oppugn" was adopted into English to refer to fighting against something or someone, either physically (as in "the dictatorship will oppugn all who oppose it") or verbally (as in "oppugn an argument"). Other descendants of "pugnare" in English include the equally aggressive "pugnacious," "pungent," "repugnant," and the rare "inexpugnable" ("incapable of being subdued or overthrown").

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.

*1 : hairy
2 : covered with coarse stiff hairs

Example sentence:
Todd is hirsute, and gets a five-o'clock shadow, whereas his best friend Ryan can get away without shaving every day.

Did you know?
"Hirsute" has nearly the same spelling and exactly the same meaning as its Latin parent, "hirsutus." The word isn't quite one of a kind, though; it has four close relatives: "hirsutism" and "hirsuties," synonymous nouns naming a medical condition involving excessive hair growth; "hirsutal," an adjective meaning "of or relating to hair"; and "hirsutulous," a mostly botanical term meaning "slightly hairy" (as in "hirsutulous stems"). The last three are not especially common, but are entered in Webster's Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged.

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.

dearth \DERTH\ noun

1 : scarcity that makes dear; specifically : famine
*2 : an inadequate supply : lack

Example sentence:
Teri had forgotten to bring a book, and the dearth of reading material in her uncle's house had her visiting the town library the first morning of her stay.

Did you know?
The facts about the history of the word "dearth" are quite simple: the word derives from the Middle English form "derthe," which has the same meaning as our modern term. That Middle English form is assumed to have developed from an Old English form that was probably spelled "dierth" and was related to "dēore," the Old English form that gave us the word "dear." ("Dear" also once meant "scarce," but that sense of the word is now obsolete.) Some form of "dearth" has been used to describe things that are in short supply since at least the 13th century, when it often referred to a shortage of food.

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.

There's a round near my grandpap's house that is Dearth Road, but some kids keep spray painting it to DEATH road--if only they knew..

: enjoyment obtained from the troubles of others

Example sentence:
"There is simply no higher level of schadenfreude than when the rich or famous stumble." (John Gonzalez, Boston Magazine, August 2005)

Did you know?
"Schadenfreude" is a compound of the German nouns "Schaden," meaning "damage" or "harm," and "Freude," meaning "joy," so it makes sense that "schadenfreude" means joy over some harm or misfortune suffered by another. "What a fearful thing is it that any language should have a word expressive of the pleasure which men feel at the calamities of others," wrote Richard Trench of Dublin, an archbishop with literary predilections, of the German "Schadenfreude" in 1852; perhaps it was just as well he didn't live to see the word embraced by English speakers before the century was out.

constellate \KAHN-stuh-layt\ verb

transitive verb
1 : to unite in a cluster
2 : to set or adorn with or as if with constellations
*intransitive verb : cluster

Example sentence:
"Like orbiting planets, the members of the family seemed destined to constellate around a table, held by the gravity of our affection for each other." (Elsa M. Bowman, Christian Science Monitor, July 11, 1996)

Did you know?
It's plain that "constellate" is related to "constellation," and, indeed, things that "constellate" (or "are constellated") cluster together like stars in a constellation. Both words derive ultimately from the Latin word for "star," which is "stella." "Constellation" (which came to us by way of Middle French from Late Latin "constellation-, constellatio") entered the language first — it dates to at least the 14th century. "Constellate" didn't appear until a full 300 years later.

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.

Now. The one thing you want to be really careful of when handling these wonderful, colorful, friendly creatures is the sharp and poisonous tail barb.

Oops.

That stung.

Crikey.

Maybe that's where they got the name...

Steve Irwin, better known the Crocodile Hunter, died this past weekend after being stabbed in the heart with the knife-like spiked tail of a stingray. He was, perhaps, the only person on the planet for which that sort of demise brings no surprise to the general public. Upon first hearing that a man was killed by a rare stingray attack, some may have been taken aback. But after learning it was Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter, who had fallen dead, most shrugged shoulders and said, “Oh. Him. Well. There you go.” There are billions of people on Earth. Steve was likely the only one expected to die from an on-the-job swim-by stabbing.

We don't get much of that poisonous fish attack thing where I work.

Lots of jobs are dangerous in nature. Statistically speaking, most people die while at work or on their way to or from the jobsite. That's why it's no surprise when someone punches out while still punched in. With some professions, it's nearly a given. On the day when the sad news arrives concerning Hugh Hefner, creator of the Playboy Empire, will anyone be surprised at the cause of death? Given a choice, most of us would opt for a plastic breast smothering rather than the less sumptuous stab to the heart from a ray's tail.

Oh. Him. Well. There you go.

Steve Irwin's death, as sad, tragic and yet completely expected as it was, teaches a valuable lesson. Never tease Nature. Nature has been around longer than man. Nature will be here after we're all killed by plastic breast smothering. Nature can wait for just the right moment. Nature is patient. A couple of year ago, Irwin teased Nature by holding a hunk of meat in one hand and his newborn baby in the other while standing over a rather large and dangerous crocodile. He danced around the snapping jaws of the reptile and tried very hard to keep from getting the two hands mixed up as a crowd looked on.

Damn.

The kid was in my RIGHT hand.

The meat was in my LEFT.

Crikey.

Mom's not going to like this one bit, mate.

The thing is, the Crocodile Hunter wasn't just entertaining a busload of retired teachers from Boise on their initial visit to “the Outback”. He was also, knowingly or not, teasing Nature. And as we all remember from the margarine commercials of our youth, it's not nice to fool Mother Nature. Nature took notes that day Irwin dangled his child. “The next time this fool attempts to mount a stingray from behind,” Nature wrote in her little journal, “I'm going to have that ray back up and stab this dork in the heart with a poisonous tail barb. That'll surprise him.”

Perhaps surprised him.

But it didn't surprise many of us.

It was, strangely enough, expected. While many of us had already placed our bets with the 2-to-1 favorite, “crocodile attack”, and others tossed their wager on the bookmakers' 5-to-2 pick, “jealous wife with a handgun”, “stingray stabbing” came from the back of the pack to hit the wire a winner at 4-to-1. While some were angry that their children's college funds had been further depleted, none were likely shocked.

After all, it is what he did for a living.

His mistake was not trying to hump a stingray, but teasing Nature with that whole my-kid-or-chum scenario. The tease caught up to him. As soon as he got away with that foolishness, his days of dancing with wolves were over. Steve Irwin failed to learn the lesson taught to many before him, like Evel Knievel.

It would have come as no surprise to hear, anytime during my youth, of the demise of Evel Knievel. He, after all, jumped motorcycles over great distances, seldom taking into consideration the finer points of landing. Knievel crashed repeatedly, reportedly breaking most of the major bones in his body at one time or another.

So how come he never died?

Simple. When Knievel teased Nature by claiming to be able to jump the Grand Canyon on a motorcycle, he was smart enough to make that his last jump. He never did jump the Grand on a motorcycle, of course, as he promised. Instead, he attempted something called the Snake River. The fact is he didn't jump on a motorcycle at all, but a small rocket. The further fact is that he did not jump at all, but was shot into the air over the canyon from a launching pad and, after traveling about 50 feet, was floated back to terra firma by an attached parachute.

We weren't the only ones who felt teased.

Nature made a note. “The next time this fool promises to jump in the desert,” Nature wrote in her journal, “I'm going to have him land butt-first on a poisonous spiked cactus. That'll surprise him.”

Evel was smart enough to know his time had come. The battle plan of “no more jumps after the big canyon scam” has kept him a cranky and crippled, but still breathing human lo these many years.

The same can't be said for Steve Irwin.

Goodbye, Steve.

You were fun. You were entertaining. But you forgot the big rule. Don't tease Nature.

Crikey.

: accomplishing by complex means what seemingly could be done simply; also, : characterized by such complex means

Example sentence:
"We had to devise equipment constantly and have it jerry-built with Rube Goldberg contraptions." (Ralph Morse, Air & Space Smithsonian, June/July 1989)

Did you know?
Reuben Lucius Goldberg was a Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist who satirized the technology of modern times. He was best known for his cartoons of complicated, ramshackle contraptions that performed simple tasks in ludicrously complex ways. His cartoon character Professor Lucifer Gorgonzola Butts, for example, invented an automatic stamp licker. The contraption involved a robot that would dump a can of ants onto upturned stamps and a starving anteater that would then lick up the ants, moistening the stamps. Long before Goldberg died in 1970, his name had become associated with unnecessarily complicated contraptions and procedures.

weal \WEEL\ noun

: a sound, healthy, or prosperous state : well-being

Example sentence:
"During his two years as county judge, other qualities ... became apparent. One was an unusual ability to persuade men to sacrifice for a common weal." (Robert Caro, The New Yorker, January 15, 1990)

Did you know?
"Weal" is most often used in contexts referring to the general good. One reads, for example, of the "public weal" or the "common weal." The latter of these led to the formation of the noun "commonweal," a word that once referred to an organized political entity, such as a nation or state, but today usually means "the general welfare." The word "commonwealth" shares these meanings, but its situation is reversed; the "political entity" sense of "commonwealth" is still current, whereas the "general welfare" sense has become archaic. At one time, "weal" and "wealth" were also synonyms; both meant "riches" ("all his worldy weal") and "well-being." Both stem from "wela," the Old English word for "well-being," and are closely related to the Old English word for "well."

euchre \YOO-ker\ verb

1 : to prevent from winning three tricks in euchre
*2 : cheat, trick

Example sentence:
The report said that people in the community were being euchred out of their life savings by scammers presenting phony investment opportunities.

Did you know?
Euchre is a card game for four players that is played in tricks, or rounds, with a deck of 32 cards. Etymologists are not sure where we got the name for the game, though they do know that it first appeared in English in the mid-19th century. The first sense of the verb "euchre" arose from an action that takes place during the game: a player is "euchred" when an opponent blocks him or her from winning three or more tricks after making trump. Deception can often be key to a winning strategy, and sure enough it took almost no time at all for "euchre" to develop a sense meaning "cheat" or "trick."

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.

ilk \ILK\ noun

: sort, kind

Example sentence:
Mr. Reynolds ran a tight, efficient business with hard-working employees, and so he had no patience for slackers like Charlie and his ilk.

Did you know?
The Old English pronoun "ilca," the predecessor of "ilk," was synonymous with "same." "Ilk" persisted in that use in Scots, where it was used in the phrase "of that ilk," meaning "of the same place, territorial designation, or name." It was used chiefly in reference to the names of land-owning families and their eponymous estates, as in "the Guthries of that ilk," which meant "the Guthries of Guthrie." But a misunderstanding arose concerning the Scots phrase — it was apparently interpreted as meaning "of that kind or sort," a usage that soon found its way into modern English. "Ilk" has been established in English with its current meaning and part of speech since the late 18th century.

conquian \KONG-kee-un\ noun

: a card game for two played with 40 cards from which all games of rummy developed

Example sentence:
The friends whiled away a long summer day with endless games of conquian.

Did you know?
"Conquian" is an old card game, played more frequently in the past than it is now. It is based upon the "draw and discard" principle that forms the basis for all modern games of rummy and is played with 40 cards, setting aside certain cards of a 52-card deck. (The most common variations involve the removal of either all face cards, or the tens, nines, and eights.) The goal of the game is to form three or four of a kind, or sequences. "Conquian" comes to us from Mexican Spanish, but the word is ultimately derived from the Spanish "¿con quién?" meaning "with whom?"

jeunesse dorée \zheuh-ness-dor-RAY\ noun

: young people of wealth and fashion

Example sentence:
"On any sunny afternoon in Dublin, you will see the jeunesse dorée taking their ease under the awnings of pavement cafes." (Bruce Anderson, The Spectator, July 2001)

Did you know?
French revolutionary leader Maximilien Robespierre and his allies, the Jacobins, gained many enemies for their role in the Reign of Terror. One of their fiercest opponents was Louis Freron, a former Jacobin who played a key role in overthrowing their government. On July 27, 1794, counter-revolutionaries toppled the Jacobin regime and had Robespierre arrested and executed. In the midst of the chaos that followed, Louis Freron organized gangs of fashionably dressed young toughs to terrorize the remaining Jacobins. French speakers called those stylish young thugs the "jeunesse dorée" — literally, the "gilded youth." By the time the term "jeunesse dorée" was adopted into English in the 1830s, it had lost its association with violent street gangs and simply referred to any wealthy young socialites.

dog days \DOG-DAYZ\ noun

*1 : the hot sultry period of summer between early July and early September in the northern hemisphere
2 : a period of stagnation or inactivity

Example sentence:
With the steamy dog days upon us, air conditioners are selling like hotcakes.

Did you know?
Dogs aren't the only creatures uncomfortable in oppressive heat, so why does a dog get singled out in "dog days"? The dog here is actually the Dog Star, which is also called "Sirius." The star has long been associated with sultry weather in the northern hemisphere because it rises simultaneously with the sun during the hottest days of summer. In the ancient Greek constellation system, this star (called "Seirios" in Greek) was considered the hound of the hunter Orion and was given the epithet "Kyon," meaning "dog." The Greek writer Plutarch referred to the hot days of summer as "hēmerai kynades" (literally, "dog days") and a Latin translation of this expression as "dies caniculares" is the source of our English phrase.

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.

delate \dih-LAYT\ verb

*1: accuse, denounce
2 : report, relate

Example sentence:
"In that year Archbishop Blackadder of Glasgow delated some thirty heretics to James IV who let the matter go with a jest." (J.D. Mackie, A History of Scotland)

Did you know?
To "delate" someone is to "hand down" that person to a court of law. In Latin, "delatus" is the unlikely-looking past participle of "deferre," meaning "to bring down, report, or accuse," which in turn comes from "ferre," meaning "to carry." Not surprisingly, our word "defer," meaning "to yield to the opinion or wishes of another," can also be traced back to "deferre." At one time, in fact, "defer" and "delate" had parallel meanings (both could mean "to carry down or away" or "to offer for acceptance"), but those senses are now obsolete. Today, you are most likely to encounter "delate" or its relatives "delation" and "delator" in the context of medieval tribunals, although the words can also relate to modern ecclesiastical tribunals.

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.

incunabulum \in-kyuh-NAB-yuh-lum\ noun

*1 : a book printed before 1501
2 : a work of art or of industry of an early period

Example sentence:
Among the library's archives is a collection of exquisite incunabula.

Did you know?
The invention of the mechanized printing press in the 15th century revolutionized the way books were produced, dramatically increasing the number and variety of works to be published and distributed to awaiting readers. "Incunabulum" first appeared in English in the 19th century, referring retroactively to those books produced in the first decades of printing press technology, specifically those printed before the year 1501, a date that appears to have been determined only arbitrarily. Coming from Latin, "incunabulum" is singular of "incunabula," which translates literally to "swaddling clothes" or "bands holding the baby in a cradle." The "baby" in this case is likely a figurative one, referring to a book that was produced when the art of printing was still in its infancy.

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.

1 : flowing in abundance
*2 : having a generously sufficient and typically increasing supply of material possessions

Example sentence:
While the affluent families head for their mountain getaways on sultry summer weekends, the less well-heeled seek respite in the river that flows through town.

Did you know?
Are your coffers overflowing? Is your cash flow more than adequate? Are your assets fluid? If so, you can consider yourself "affluent." Today's word is all about "flow" — that is to say, it's based on the Latin word for "flow," which is "fluere." (Some other "fluere" descendants are "confluence," "fluctuate," "fluid," "influence," "mellifluous," and "superfluous.") The older sense of "affluent" refers, both literally and figuratively, to an abundant flow, as in "an affluent fountain" or "affluent joy." The use of "affluent fortune" for an abundant flow of money is what likely led to the use of "affluent" as a synonym of "well-to-do."

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.

It's hard out here for a wimp.

There is an interesting lawsuit making its way through the courts of Pittsburgh. The story goes like this: an underage guy walks into a bar, sits down with his friend to watch a rap group. The lyrics of one of the band's songs suggest to the listener that the best thing to do at that moment is to beat the nearest total stranger to a pulp. The underage guy, unfortunately, is cast in the role of the nearest total stranger.

While recovering from a jaw broken in two places and various scrapes and bruises after being knocked to the dance floor, hit with a chair and repeatedly kicked by other bar patrons, all in the name of good fun, the stranger decides enough is enough and seeks legal action against the club. Unfortunately for the under-aged stranger, but apparently very fortunate for the surrounding community, the club since closed its doors.

With no club and therefore no club owners to sue, the beaten man's lawyers turned to the only other means for reprisal – they're suing the band. Their argument is that the under-aged club patron, unknowing of the lyrical content of the night's entertainment, didn't see his beating coming. Had he known, says the team, that the band would demand their fans break the bones of anyone who doesn't know the words to their song, chances are the 19-year old and his friend would have found other means of entertainment that night.

The guy bringing forth the lawsuit is Ramone Williams of McKeesport. The band in question is Academy Award-winning rap artists Three 6 Mafia of Memphis, Tennessee. The club is the former Rock Jungle at Station Square. You may remember that name. Rock Jungle was one of several nightspots owned by Thomas and Margaret Jayson. Another was Station Square's Touch Club, where eight people were shot during another fun night of dancing and gunplay a little over a month ago. The Jaysons lost their liquor license over at Rock Jungle and closed the club's doors shortly after Ramone Williams was beaten.

All this gunplay comes as a slight shock to those of us who remember the toughest thing at Station Square being the steaks at Bobby Rubino's. The big story, of course, is the amazing amount of violence that uncontrolled gun ownership brings and the inability of police officers to investigate any crime involving the black community when the community does nothing but stonewall the cops.

However, the more interesting aspect of this particular story is who holds responsibility for inciting a riot – is it the owner of the club who books the band, or the group itself, who shouts out lyrics that demand fans “start a riot”, later pleading that they cannot be held responsible for the actions of total strangers. They're just artists, man.

Three 6 Mafia won the Oscar for best song in a feature film this year for “It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp” from the movie “Hustle and Flow”. Great movie. Great tune. That's not the song that's gotten them into trouble. The song in question is “Let's Start a Riot”, an absolutely delightful little number that gently coaxes the polite listeners in this fashion: smack the person on your left down, smack the person on your right down, then get a person on the ground and kick the crap out of them. I've substituted some words, but you get the idea.

It's a modern hokey-pokey.

The problem (as it usually is) is that people are stupid. Crowds of stupid people, armed with alcohol and the bravery of a concealed weapon, are more likely to take the lyrics of a song to be commands. According to witnesses, the crowd that night at Rock Jungle was real, real stupid and very easy to command. The result was a 19-year old kid beaten to a bloody pulp.

It would be simple to say that Ramone Williams should have known better, that when things started getting out of hand and he started feeling as though he was no longer in control of the situation, he should have left the club. It's also a given that every year another new musical act comes along that gets off on playing dictator from the stage. For my generation that person was Jim Morrison of the Doors. For this generation, at this moment, it's Three 6 Mafia. Time didn't do anything but reflect the two acts. The difference is the amount of violence in today's world. And this is far from the first lawsuit involving fans reactions to a musical group's lyrics. For the record, no, Ozzy did not cause your kid to off himself. We're guessing there were other problems long before heavy metal took its toll.

The question the courts must decide (if this suit makes it to court) is whether or not a band holds any responsibility for its fans' actions. This week Three 6 Mafia's lawyers sought to have the suit thrown out of Allegheny County Court, stating that many of the band members named in the lawsuit were not present at the time of the incident and that the two guys manning the mics during that particular song are not actual members of the band, but special guest MCs.

Throw the special guest MCs to the wolves, say the lawyers. Let the band play on. After all, there's nothing like a little nasty publicity to generate CD sales.

An Oscar? That's nothing.

A riot! Now, that's how we sell music!

If only someone could've died.

Oh well. Maybe next time.

1 a : concerned with a particular end or purpose *b : formed or used for specific or immediate problems or needs
2 : fashioned from whatever is immediately available : improvised

Example sentence:
When her car broke down, Susannah managed an ad hoc repair that lasted long enough to get it to the mechanic's.

Did you know?
In Latin, "ad hoc" literally means "for this." That historical meaning is clearly reflected in contemporary English uses of "ad hoc" — anything that is "ad hoc" can be thought of as existing "for this purpose only." For example, an "ad hoc committee" is generally authorized to look into a single matter of limited scope, not to pursue any interesting issue. "Ad hoc" can also be used as an adverb meaning "for the case at hand apart from other applications," as in "a commission created ad hoc." The adverb is older (it has been used in English since the mid-17th century), but the adjective is no quickly improvised addition to our language; it has been part of English since at least 1879.

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.

schwarmerei \shavair-muh-RYE\ noun

: excessive or unwholesome sentiment

Example sentence:
The poet's later works are refreshingly free of the schwarmerei that hobbled his earlier efforts.

Did you know?
In 1845, the editors of the Edinburgh Review felt compelled to use the German "Schwärmerei" to describe fanatical enthusiasm because the concept seemed so foreign to them. In commenting on the writings of German critic and dramatist Gotthold Lessing, they declared "Schwärmerei" to be "untranslatable, because the thing itself is un-English." That German word derives from the verb "schwärmen," which means not only "to be enthusiastic" but "to swarm" (it was used to refer to bees), and its ancestors were part of Old High German. Ironically, the Edinburgh Review's use (the first ever documented in an English publication) seems to have contributed to making the word much more English, and it has since become a naturalized citizen of our language.

*1 : having a smooth rich flow
2 : filled with something (as honey) that sweetens

Example sentence:
Lucy recognized the actor's mellifluous voice immediately from the many voice-overs he had done for commercials, station breaks, and documentaries.

Did you know?
In Latin, "mel" means "honey" and "fluere" means "to flow." Those two linguistic components flow smoothly together in Late Latin "mellifluus" and Middle English "mellyfluous," the ancestors of "mellifluous." Nowadays the adjective most often applies to the sound of words or speech or music — as it has for centuries. In 1671, for example, poet John Milton wrote in Paradise Regained of the "Wisest of men; from whose mouth issu'd forth / Mellifluous streams...." But "mellifluous" can also be used of flavor, as in the following rave from an article entitled "The Sublime Wine": "The first taste sensation is an electric sweetness that explodes within the mouth, but what emerges after swallowing is a mellifluous, lingering flavor...." (James Villas, Town & Country, December 1991)

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.

desiccate \DESS-ih-kayt\ verb

*1 : to dry up or become dried up
2 : to preserve (a food) by drying : dehydrate
3 : to drain of emotional or intellectual vitality

Example sentence:
Weeks of blazing heat along with a prolonged lack of rain have desiccated many of the plants in our garden.

Did you know?
Raisins are desiccated grapes; they're also dehydrated grapes. And yet, a close look at the etymologies of "desiccate" and "dehydrate" raises a tangly question. In Latin "siccus" means "dry," whereas the Greek stem "hydr-" means "water." So how could it be that "desiccate" and "dehydrate" are synonyms? The answer is in the multiple identities of the prefix "de-." It may look like the same prefix, but the "de-" in "desiccate" means "completely, thoroughly," as in "despoil" ("to spoil utterly") or "denude" ("to strip completely bare"). The "de-" in "dehydrate," on the other hand, means "remove," the same as it does in "defoliate" ("to strip of leaves") or in "deice" ("to rid of ice").

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.

emollient \ih-MAHL-yunt\ noun

: something that softens or soothes

Example sentence:
Doctors wash their hands so often that many have to rely on a constant application of emollients to avoid having terribly dry skin.

Did you know?
"Emollient" derives from the present participle of the Latin verb "emollire," which, unsurprisingly, means "to soften or soothe." "Emollire," in turn, derives ultimately from "mollis," meaning "soft." Another descendant of "mollis" is "mollify" (essentially meaning "to make softer in temper or disposition"). A more distant relative is "mild," which can be traced back to the same ancient source as "mollis." The adjective "emollient" first appeared in print in English in 1626; the noun arrived on the scene about 30 years later.

diapason \dye-uh-PAY-zun\ noun

1 *a : a burst of sound b : the principal foundation stop in the organ extending through the complete range of the instrument c : the entire compass of musical tones d : range, scope
2 a : tuning fork b : a standard of pitch

Example sentence:
Diapasons of laughter echoed through the auditorium as the comedian wrapped up his act.

Did you know?
"Diapason" covers a wide range of meanings in English, almost all pertaining to music or sound. The word derives from the Greek roots "dia-," which means "through" and occurs in such words as "diameter" and "diagonal," and "pasōn," the genitive feminine plural of "pas," meaning "all." "Pas" is related to the prefix "pan-," which is used in such words as "pantheism" and "pandemic." In Greek, the phrase "hē dia pasōn chordon symphōnia" translates literally to "the concord through all the notes," with the word "concord" here referring to a combination of tones that are heard simultaneously and produce an agreeable impression on the listener.

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.
Saturday, August 19th, 2006
12:31 pm
Fingernails Were Invented in 3000 bc in China
"caesura \sih-ZYUR-uh\ noun

1 : a break in the flow of sound usually in the middle of a line of verse
*2 : break, interruption
3 : a pause marking a rhythmic point of division in a melody

Example sentence:
"Without so much as the caesura of a drawn breath I was first shouting in joy, then screaming in shock." (E.L. Doctorow, World's Fair)

Did you know?
Caesuras (or caesurae) are those slight pauses one makes as one reads verse. While it may seem that their most obvious role is to emphasize the metrical construction of the verse, more often we need these little stops (which may be, but are not necessarily, set off by punctuation) to introduce the cadence and phrasing of natural speech into the metrical scheme. The word "caesura," borrowed from Late Latin, is ultimately from Latin "caedere" meaning "to cut." Nearly as old as the 450-year-old poetry senses is the general meaning "a break or interruption."

1 : containing or made up of fundamentally different and often incongruous elements
*2 : markedly distinct in quality or character

Example sentence:
James often complained about the disparate expectations for himself and his younger sister, who was required to do far fewer chores than he was.

Did you know?
Have you ever tried to sort differing objects into separate categories? If so, you're well prepared to understand the origins of "disparate." The word, which first appeared in English in the 15th century, derives from "disparatus," the past participle of the Latin verb "disparare," meaning "to separate." "Disparare," in turn, comes from "parare," a verb meaning "to prepare." Other descendants of "parare" in English include both "separate" and "prepare," as well as "repair," "apparatus," and even "vituperate" ("to berate or scold severely"). Incidentally, "disparate" can also be a noun meaning "one of two or more things so unequal or unlike that they cannot be compared with each other" (it's usually used in the plural).

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.

paparazzo \pah-puh-RAHT-soh\ noun

: a freelance photographer who aggressively pursues celebrities for the purpose of taking candid photographs

Example sentence:
As a child star she had been constantly pursued by paparazzi, but only a single photographer showed up at her 21st-birthday bash.

Did you know?
We can thank Italian for "paparazzo" and its plural "paparazzi." On the immediate origin of "paparazzo," there is complete agreement — it was the surname of one of four aggressive photographers in Federico Fellini's 1959 film La dolce vita. Opinions divide, however, on where Fellini got the word. According to Fellini himself, the name was taken from an opera libretto. But "Paparazzo" was also the name of a hotelkeeper in George Gissing's 1901 travel memoir By the Ionian Sea. Some folks have also noted that in the dialect of Ennio Flaiano, who co-wrote the script of La dolce vita with Fellini, "paparazzo" refers to a kind of clam that snaps its shell open and shut frequently. This supposedly reminded Flaiano of the action of a camera shutter.

*1 : designed for or understood by a small number of people; broadly: difficult to understand
2 : private, confidential

Example sentence:
Computer programming was once an esoteric subject, but beginner courses and how-to books have made it easier to grasp.

Did you know?
The opposite of "esoteric" is "exoteric," which means "suitable to be imparted to the public." According to one account, those who were deemed worthy to attend Aristotle's learned discussions were known as his "esoterics," his confidants, while those who merely attended his popular evening lectures were called his "exoterics." Since material that is geared toward a target audience is often not as easily comprehensible to outside observers, "esoteric" acquired an extended meaning of "difficult to understand." Both "esoteric" and "exoteric" started appearing in English in the mid-1600s; "esoteric" traces back to ancient Greece by way of the Late Latin "esotericus"; the Greek "esōterikos" comes from the comparative form of "eisō," which means "within."

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.

To be annoyed in English, press “1”. To be ignored in Spanish, press “ocho”.

We live out beyond where the newspapers are delivered, in the land of septic tanks. There is no cable television as yet, although we've heard rumors. It is said the rescue expedition sent by Comcast has narrowed its search to within a thousand acres, more or less, of our road.

Until then, the modern country couch man must survive.

In a world without cable, the modern country couch man is faced with three options. The first is that of choosing to have no television whatsoever. The only people who have achieved this lofty goal are six hippies from the 60's (now in their 60's) who entertain one another by sitting on a porch and singing folk songs.

And who really wants that?

Modern country couch man choice number two for those without cable access is the antenna. You may remember the antenna from old black and white movies where the action happened on the rooftops of tenements somewhere near the docks. Antennas will allow you to watch the four major networks, along with, perhaps, the PBS station and a pirate signal broadcast from an odd man's garage somewhere near Wheeling. While his snow-laden bellowing about how the “ape race is ruining America” may provide minutes of sideshow interest, it's not exactly entertainment. For that, you must turn to country couch man option number three, the satellite dish.

Give them a call. They'll find your house, no matter how far from civilization, slap a pizza-sized aluminum receiver on the tin roof of your barn, aim it at the satellites and bless you with every program ever shown and then repeated via the West coast feed.

Until one day, when out of the blue, it breaks.

I spent an hour Wednesday night on the phone listening to someone in East Punjab leaf through what I imagined to be a copy of “Satellite Dishes for Dummies”. Crouched in front of my receiver, my remote in hand, I followed instructions given by the sullen, bored and accented toll-free technician. She was no help but I was happy to be speaking with any human being after having been forced through the maze of telephone key pad commands that now crack the whip on we poor, unsuspecting customer-dogs. “If you're having trouble with reception, press one. If you'd like to order pay-per-view programming, press two. If you would like to speak to a technician, press three. If you're a crazed man from somewhere near Wheeling who is broadcasting on a pirated signal, spouting racist diatribe, press K-K-K.”

After twenty minutes of being commanded to fiddle with buttons by a woman from who-knows-where, it was decided that a technician was, indeed, needed. If they packed the mules and headed out at first light, I was told, they could be at our house by Sunday between noon and five. All it would cost me was forty-nine dollars. I was asked if I'd like that to go right onto my bill. “Why, sure!” I happily agreed. “I don't own this equipment. It's yours. In fact, if I don't return it, you'll charge me for it. But now that your faulty equipment has broken, I'd be thrilled to pay fifty bucks to have one of your outstanding employees fix it. Why didn't you ask sooner?”

During this entire “do-it-yourself-home-satellite-dish-repair” phone seminar, I heard sporadic yelling from upstairs. As the technician asked me to switch from “menu” to “program” to “you're screwed”, someone on our second floor was screaming about “Asians”.

Strangely enough, the very same day the dish flew south, the telephone reception at our house grew a new healthy crop of static. My wife was upstairs talking to the phone company on her cell phone as I was downstairs with the dish people on the static line. Each of us spent an hour of our lives on telephones, pushing appropriate buttons, getting no place slowly. Later, after we compared notes, I learned the phone company is in fact far worse than the dish people when it comes to automation. They not only want you to push the appropriate button, but also would like you to sit up and bark for your supper. If you grow frustrated enough with the non-response from the phone company's machines and wish to speak to a real human being, the computer actually commands you to say the word “Agent” into your phone.

It wasn't “Asian” after all.

It was “Agent”.

And so, while the dish woman asked me to use my remote to “adjust my signal strength”, I heard, from somewhere above, my wife yelling, “Agent!” And as the dish woman informed me that I'd be paying the dish company to repair the faulty equipment that I do not own, I heard my wife repeat, “Agent! Agent! Agent!” from above. And as the dish woman tried to extort six bucks worth of protection money from me, I was interrupted in answering by a crazed woman on the second floor, screaming “AGENT! AGENT! AGENT! AGENT! AGENT! AGENT AGENT AGENT!!!!” And then I heard the sound of a window sliding open and a cell phone being hurled into a cornfield.

So as we sat on our porch Sunday between noon and five waiting for the dish repair man, singing a couple of verses of “Michael Rowed the Boat Ashore”, we thanked our lucky stars we live out beyond where they deliver newspapers, in the land of septic tanks. It's place where you cannot get cable TV, but the good news is that you can yell the word “Agent” as loudly and often as you like and no one will say a thing.

The bad news is the groundhogs now have a cell phone.

bricolage \bree-koh-LAHZH\ noun

: construction achieved by using whatever comes to hand; also : something constructed in this way

Example sentence:
Knowing that the motor was assembled from a hasty bricolage of junk parts, Raphael had little hope that it would run effectively.

Did you know?
According to French social anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss, the artist "shapes the beautiful and useful out of the dump heap of human life." Levi-Strauss compared this artistic process to the work of a handyman who solves technical or mechanical problems with whatever materials are available. He referred to that process of making do as "bricolage," a term derived from the French verb "bricoler" (meaning "to putter about") and related to "bricoleur," the French name for a jack-of-all-trades. "Bricolage" made its way from French to English in 1966, when Levi-Strauss's The Savage Mind was translated from his native tongue to ours. Now it is used for everything from the creative uses of leftovers ("culinary bricolage") to the cobbling together of disparate computer parts ("technical bricolage").

Example sentence:
Amy suspected that her hortative letter to her son about the values of hard work and education would be ignored in the swirl of freshman partying, but she sent it anyway.

Did you know?
"We give nothing so freely as advice," observed French writer Duc de La Rochefoucauld in 1665. "Hortative" and "exhort" (meaning "to urge earnestly") are two words that testify to our eagerness to counsel others. Both trace to the Latin "hortari," meaning "to urge." "Hortative" has been used as both a noun (meaning "an advisory comment") and as an adjective since the 17th century. The noun is now uncommon, but it makes an appearance now and then, as in a 1992 article in The New York Times : "Facing directly into the camera, Mr. [Ross] Perot chronicled what he called the decline and potential fall of the American economy, keeping up a steady stream of hortatives as he went along. 'Let's just raise the hood and go to work!' he said. 'Let's just link arms and go do it!'"

1 : composed of many discrete details or parts
*2 : of, relating to, or characteristic of pointillism or pointillists

Example sentence:
The painting was done in a pointillistic style.

Did you know?
In the late 19th century, Neo-Impressionists discovered that contrasting dots of color applied side by side would blend together and be perceived as a luminous whole when seen from a distance. With this knowledge they developed the technique of pointillism, also known as divisionism. It was in the 1920s that the adjective "pointillistic" finally needled its way into the English language — first, as a word describing something having many details or parts, such as an argument or musical composition; then, as the adjective referring to the art of pointillism and its artists, the pointillists.

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.

The good news is that if you're a fan of New England defensive back Randall Gay, the NFL no longer bans you from buying his jersey .

Gay is back on the back. Until Randall's arrival last season, NFL Shops were not permitted to sell you a personalized jersey with the word “Gay” printed on the back. Gay was one of over one thousand words compiled by the league and passed around to the hundreds of NFL Properties outlets.

They are the naughty words.

They are dangerous.

You may not purchase them.

Gay, thanks to Randall, is back, which is great news for Cleveland fans who still long for the days of their favorite hero, Ben Gay. Ben was a Brown a few years back who, because of his exaggerated size and tremendous athletic abilities, was able to defend himself throughout his young life against those who would taunt him for having the moniker of a muscle pain ointment.

Unfortunately, if you're an NFL follower who roots for Billy Beastiality, you're out of luck. There will be no animal love on the NFL planet. Beastiality, misspelled as it is, has made the list of no-nos. It‘s seems the perfect fit for those in the “Dogpound” or for a fan of Panthers, Rams or Sheep.

Sacramento Sheep?

Words are not the only expressions censored by the NFL. You may not purchase any team's jersey with the number “420”. That's a drug reference, Mom. Likewise, your habit of requesting the number “69” on every sporting shirt you've ever owned must come to a complete stop, according to league marketing officials. That's a sex reference, Mom. If your third choice after 420 and 69 is “666”, the number of the beast, save a trip to the NFL shop. They're not allowed to print that one. No “666” with the name “The Beast” emblazoned above on your Raiders shirt. That's a satanic reference, Mom.

Those, albeit ridiculous, are obvious. Other words included on the NFL's list are: Back Door, Balls, Beat Your Meat, Biatch, Blackout, Budweiser, Bull Dyke, Butt Head, Butt Stain, and Butt Plug (basically anything that starts with the word Butt). No butt references allowed. Nothing to do with carpets, either. And there will be no calls for cherries, clams, or dicks of any kind, shape or size (sorry, Mr. Butkus). The NFL wants nothing to do with the word “eat”, no matter what your choice of meal. Foot Licker is on the list, as is Free For All and God.

God?

What if I'm born again? What if, above all, even the mighty Pittsburgh Steelers, I want to place the name of my favorite deity? Sorry, says the NFL. There is no God – or, at least, there will be no reference to him on official game-licensed apparel. No God, no Jesus (a great blow to all those new fans south of the border), no Go to Hell, and no Christ. However, if you'd like a Dolphins jersey emblazoned with Allah, the NFL will not stop you. Seahawks and Buddha? Go for it. Chiefs and Khrishna? All you. But leave Jesus out of it. This football, for Christ's sake.

Molester is on the list. That's too bad. I'm sure policemen world wide need all the help they can get in identifying possible problem fans. Other criminal references on the league's “No Shirt” list include Murder, Hooker and Pot Smoker.

It's obvious that the league would like to keep people from offending those who are frightened by words. That's understandable. There's no accounting for taste, so sometimes it's necessary for an organization to give the general public some borders to color within. Otherwise, we'd have people walking around with football jerseys emblazoned with words like Horny, Jerk Off, or Kotex. Horny? Okay, got it. Doesn't bother me, but I can see how it might make some answer embarrassing questions from the youngsters. “What's horny mean, Dad?” is coming, but why make it happen this week? Jerk Off? I'm with you on that one. But, Kotex? Kotex? Who on Earth is spending more than a hundred bucks on a Jets jersey and asking the woman behind the counter to print Kotex across the shoulders? Were there really that many requests for that one – so many that the league had to include it on the list? Kotex is not the only big question mark the list raised. Are there that many people who have asked for Lucky Camel Toe? How about Poor White Trash, Smack the Monkey or Willie Wanker? They all made the list, which means either a lot of people are walking around, proud to be poor white trash, or the league has seen a trend the rest of us haven't yet spotted. If the NFL is correct, somebody at Wal-Mart better start stocking up on that poor white trash wear. It's back to school time.

The bottom line is that the league had to police idiots who buy it's product, just as they have to step forward at games to tell the average dimwit when he's had too much to drink, just as they must announce before each and every game that it's not accepted behavior to drop the “F Bomb” a hundred times a quarter.

By the way, “F Bomb” is indeed, on the list.

People are dumb as a bag of hammers – that's a given. But sometimes, you must allow people to show their cement-headedness so that they can learn. Rather than disallowing the words “Bin Laden” on a football jersey, as the NFL has recently ruled, why not let whatever dolt would order such a thing to go ahead and parade around in it? See how long that lasts.

You can make all the lists you'd like.

But you can't legislate stupidity, Mr. 420 Kotex Butt Plug.

: of or relating to agriculture

Example sentence:
"Lanford Wilson has created yet another remarkable play... a fascinating tale of a georgic Midwestern community and the secrets lurking beneath the surface of its bucolic hum." (Adweek, March 25, 2004)

Did you know?
The adjective "georgic," which dates from the first half of the 18th century, derives by way of Latin "georgicus" and Greek "geōrgikos" from the Greek noun "geōrgos," meaning "farmer." That noun, in turn, was formed by a combination of the prefix "geō-" (meaning "earth") and "ergon" ("work"), the latter of which gave us words such as "allergy" and "ergonomics." The noun sense of "georgic," which dates from the early 16th century, refers to a poem that deals with the practical aspects of agriculture and rural affairs. The standard for such poems, Virgil's Georgics, is responsible for its name. The poem, written between 37 and 30 B.C., called for a restoration of agricultural life in Italy after its farms fell into neglect during civil war.

expiate \EK-spee-ayt\ verb

transitive
1 : to extinguish the guilt incurred by
*2 : to make amends for
intransitive : to make expiation

Example sentence:
"It seemed to me that I was hurried on by an inevitable and unseen fate to this day of misery, and that now I was to expiate all my offences at the gallows...." (Daniel Defoe, Moll Flanders)

Did you know?
"Disaster shall fall upon you, which you will not be able to expiate." That ominous biblical prophecy (Isaiah 47:11 RSV) shows that "expiate" was once involved in confronting the forces of evil as well as in assuaging guilt. The word derives from "expiare," Latin for "to atone for," a root that in turn traces to the Latin term for "pious." "Expiate" originally referred to warding off evil by using sacred rites, or to using sacred rites to cleanse or purify something. By the 17th century, Shakespeare (and others) were using it to mean "to put an end to": "But when in thee time's furrows I behold, / Then look I death my days should expiate" ("Sonnet 22"). Those senses have since become obsolete, and now only the "extinguish the guilt" and "make amends" senses remain in use.

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.

1 : debonair
*2 : marked by or given to offhand and often disdainful dismissal of important matters

Example sentence:
"I'm tired of the cavalier way you brush off my concerns," Mom said, "so I'm taking away the car keys until you start listening to me."

Did you know?
According to a dictionary prepared by Thomas Blount in 1656, a cavalier was "a knight or gentleman, serving on horseback, a man of arms." That meaning is true to the history of the noun, which traces back to the Late Latin "caballarius," meaning "horseman." By around 1600, it had also come to denote "a roistering swaggering fellow." In the 1640s, English Puritans applied it disdainfully to their adversaries, the swashbuckling royalist followers of Charles I, who sported longish hair and swords. Although some thought those cavaliers "several sorts of Malignant Men, ... ready to commit all manner of Outrage and Violence," others saw them as quite suave — which may explain why "cavalier" can be either complimentary or a bit insulting.

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.

oriflamme \OR-uh-flam\ noun

: a banner, symbol, or ideal inspiring devotion or courage

Example sentence:
"My [word-a-day] calendar had become an oriflamme, inspiring me to try out my new grasp of the language, non-stop." (May Brown, Times Colonist [Victoria, BC], January 5, 2003)

Did you know?
The original "oriflamme" was the banner of Saint Denis, a patron saint of France who is said to have been the first bishop of Paris. Middle English speakers referred to this red or reddish orange banner using the Middle French term "oriflamble," from Old French "ori flambe," meaning "small flag." From the 12th to the 15th centuries, French kings carried the banner into battle as a way of inspiring their troops. This tactic met with such success that, by 1600, English speakers were using "oriflamme" to refer to any group's rallying symbol.

Hmmm. No mention of “porn actor stunt double”.

Sometimes when I run away from my job and head off on vacation to an exotic locale such as Lone Pine (or if we've saved some money, Vandergrift), I will leave a note on my studio door which reads, “Gone Fishin'”. After reading a study released this week by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, I expect to be greeted upon my return from my next week off with looks of admiration and notes of appreciation from all those who should now realize what a brave and danger-loving individual I really am.

Fishing is the most dangerous job in America.

Fishing?!

In statistics revealed this week by the B.L.S. we are told that for every 100,000 commercial fishermen plying their trade in the U.S. last year, 118.4 were killed. That's a shocking enough statistic without realizing that somewhere, probably off the waters of Florida, four-tenths of a guy met his death. Commercial fishing, obviously, is much more dangerous than casting your line in Lake Dirty Diaper, hoping to land the elusive bottom-feeding Turdsucker. There are no stats to back my theory up, but I'm guessing that if more commercial fishermen drank heavily, as those of us who fish for fun do, there would be far fewer accidents. Once you've had a case of Old Frothingslosh, the need to reel in the prize winner diminishes somewhat and you take far fewer chances. The Bubba Gump Shrimp Company should take some advice. More booze, boys – especially you, the guy who (according to the government) is four-tenths dead.

The second most dangerous job, as stated by the U.S. Bureau of Labor, is logging. Here, once again, is something I've done. And let me tell you, there's nothing more invigorating after a day of heavy drinking and fishing than coming home and staggering out to the woods with a chainsaw. There were 80 deaths last year on commercial logging sites, or, as the B.L.S. so effectively points out, 92.9 deaths per 100,000 logging workers.

I've seen that point-nine guy.

They call him “Stumpy”.

Flying an airplane is not a safe job. There are many dangers, not the least of which are wacko religious nuts who want to alter the world's political makeup by taking over the controls after one easy lesson. I would pause again to suggest some heavy drinking for those involved in this profession, as I have stated for fishing and logging, but from what I've read, some pilots are far, far ahead of the curve on that one. Keep up the good work boys, and no matter what they tell you, carry a Glock on that jump from Boston to D.C. You don't want the next movie to be about you.

Structural iron and steel workers showed up as the fourth most dangerous job in America. That comes as no surprise. After all, you're working with heavy equipment while perilously perched on precipices, sometimes hundreds of feet in the air. The Bureau tells us that 35 ironworkers fell to their deaths last year in the United States. They don't however, mention anything about the poor saps on the ground that cushioned those falls.

Number five on the list of top ten most dangerous jobs was a slight surprise – garbage collectors. It always seemed like such a fun, clean and delightfully safe job. After all, what do you do all day? You stick your hands and arms into containers filled to the brim with germs and disease. You then empty those containers into a machine that has enough crushing power to flatten an automobile into a fashionable coffee table sold at a Shadyside furniture boutique. How could that possibly be dangerous?

The dangerous jobs list is rounded out by mentions of farming, electrical line workers, truck drivers and construction laborers. While each of these careers has its obvious inherent dangers, many resulting in death, there are some jobs that surprised me in their absence on the list.

The rodeo is a dangerous workplace. Whether you're a clown, the strange misnomer given to the men whose job it is to distract an angry bull from goring a cowboy by tossing yourself in front of the snorting monster, or the man who rides crazed wild broncos for a living, there are perils aplenty at the world's fastest growing sport. The hairiest position at the rodeo has to be the person whose job it is to attach the leather strap to the bull's gonads just prior to a bull riding competition. After all, it is that strap and its annoyance that makes those bulls so angry. They're normally happy-go-lucky, but turn into crazed killers once someone puts the stranglehold on their jewels.

But don't we all?

Another job I would have to rate in the top ten of uncertainty is UN Peacekeeper. Let's send you into a war zone armed only with a sky blue helmet and the hope that, deep down inside, we can all live together as one on a planet of lollipops and rainbows. While the rest of the world is walking around high as a kite on religion and local hallucinogens, the UN Peacekeepers are armed with popguns and pleas for reconciliation.

If it's all the same to you, I'd rather collect garbage.

And finally, how can any list of most dangerous jobs be complete without a mention of the Third Most Important Guy in al-Qeada? In the past four years, nine men have held that esteemed position. Eight are now dead. We can't seem to kill the top guy – Osama bin-Laden. We're having a bit of trouble pinning down the number two man in al-Qeada, Ayman al-Zawahiri. The number threes, however, have fallen one after another in a death rate that would measure far beyond anything on the government's statistical list. Since nine-eleven, nine men have been mentioned as the number three in line at bin-Laden's corporate hierarchy. Eight have been killed. That's more than 90,000 deaths for every 100,000 number threes on the job.

Thanks, Mr. Osama, but I'm having second thoughts about applying.

I think, given the possibilities, I'd rather be fishing.

*1 : admitting maximum passage of light without diffusion or distortion
2 : reflecting light evenly from all surfaces
3 : easy to understand

Example sentence:
The coastal waters were clean and pellucid, allowing us to easily identify the marine life on the ocean floor.

Did you know?
"Pellucid" ultimately derives from the Latin "lucēre" ("to shine"), which in turn contains the root "luc-" ("light"). "Pellucid" is formed from "per" ("through") plus "lucidus" ("lucid, clear"). "Pellucid" has many shining relatives in English. Among the offspring of "lucēre" are "translucent" (essentially, "clear enough to allow light to pass through"), "elucidate" ("to make clear, explain"), "lucent" ("luminous" or "clear"), and of course "lucid" itself (which can mean "shining," "mentally sound," or "easily understood"). Another related word is "Lucifer" (literally, "light-bearer"). Other relatives — such as "lackluster" ("lacking brightness"), "illustrate" (originally, "to make bright"), and "lustrous" ("shining" or "radiant") — trace from the related verb "lustrare" ("to brighten"). Clearly, "pellucid" is just one of a family of brilliant terms.

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.

: not commensurable; broadly : lacking a basis of comparison in respect to a quality normally subject to comparison

Example sentence:
The two theories are incommensurable, making any attempt at comparison across disciplines ridiculous.

Did you know?
"Commensurable" means "having a common measure" or "corresponding in size, extent, amount, or degree." Its antonym "incommensurable" generally refers to things that are unlike and incompatible, sharing no common ground (as in the "incommensurable theories" of the example sentence), or to things that are very disproportionate, often to the point of defying comparison ("incommensurable crimes"). Both words entered English in the 1500s and were originally used (as they still can be) for numbers that have or don't have a common divisor. They came to English by way of Middle French and Late Latin, ultimately deriving from the Latin noun "mensura," meaning "measure." "Mensura" is also an ancestor of "commensurate" (meaning "coextensive" or "proportionate") and "incommensurate" ("disproportionate" or "insufficient"), which overlap in meaning with "commensurable" and "incommensurable" but are not exact synonyms.

foodie \FOO-dee\ noun

: a person having an avid interest in the latest food fads

Example sentence:
A serious foodie, Beryl reads cookbooks like novels and scours specialty shops in search of exotic ingredients.

Did you know?
"Foodie" is a relatively recent addition to our language (dating from the early 1980s), but it derives from a much older word, "food," which has been with us for as long as there has been anything that could be called English. "Food" can be traced back through Middle English to the Old English form "fōda," which is itself related to Old High German "fuotar," meaning "food" or "fodder," and Latin "panis," meaning "bread." "Panis" is the source for "empanada," a Spanish turnover with a sweet filling, "panatela," a type of cigar, "panettone," an Italian bread containing raisins and candied fruit, and "pantry," a room used for the storage of provisions.

sabot \sa-BOH\ noun

1 *a : a wooden shoe worn in various European countries b (1) : a strap across the instep in a shoe especially of the sandal type (2) : a shoe having a sabot strap
2 : a thrust-transmitting carrier that positions a missile in a gun barrel or launching tube and that prevents the escape of gas ahead of the missile
3 : a dealing box designed to hold several decks of playing cards

Example sentence:
"All her kind, at least in the countryside, wore... sabots, well past the century's end." (Eugen Weber, France, Fin de Siècle)

Did you know?
The term "sabot" may have first been introduced into English in a 1607 translation from French: "Wooden shoes," readers were informed, are "properly called sabots." The gun-related sense appeared in the mid-1800s with the invention of a wooden gizmo that kept gun shells from shifting in the gun barrel. Apparently, someone thought the device resembled a wooden shoe and named it "sabot" (with later generations of this device carrying on the name). Another kind of French sabot — a metal "shoe" used to secure rails to railway ties — is said to be the origin of the word "sabotage," from workers destroying the sabots during a French railway strike in the early 1900s. The word "sabot" is probably related to "savate," a Middle French word for an old shoe.

Once again, let us review: no bottled water on the plane.

This week the little Tri-State Airport down in Huntington, West Virginia, was shut down for more than nine hours after a Pakistani woman attempted to board a Charlotte-bound airplane while carrying two bottles of liquid. One was drinking water. The other was filled a face cleanser. For some reason, these two bottles tested positive for explosives residue (twice) and the woman, 28-year old Rima Qayyum, who is four months pregnant and lives in nearby Barboursville, West Virginia, was asked to please step aside.

Rima, dressed in traditional Islamic headcover, cooperated completely with authorities. She was, by all reports, polite and patient as the FBI and local authorities tested and retested her water and soap. Meanwhile, the terminal was evacuated and the more than 100 passengers headed for North Carolina were asked to be as patient as possible. It took nine hours to straighten the matter out. By the time Ms. Qayyum was found to be exactly what she is, a expectant mother headed for a connecting flight in Charlotte on her way home to see the family in Detroit, the national media had blown the story completely out of proportion, one report stating that Rima was a “Pakistani radical”.

The liquids in question were exactly as she described them – a bottle of water and a bottle of astringent for her skin. Something in the liquid or the plastic of the bottles themselves triggered a positive warning from the field tests. There was no other recourse for airport screeners than to alert the FBI and ask all customers to hang out at the Tri-State Airport, where there is no SkyMall, no Starbucks and no Borders Books to pass the time.

They did buy everyone pizza at Sbarro's.

The aftermath of this event is that Ms. Qayyum's mother, Mian, has reacted as any angry, protective mother would, telling the press that the airport incident was “…not only a false alarm, it was racial discrimination because there was nothing.” She added, “They should clear her name and apologize on national TV.”

I understand your anger, Mrs. Qayyum. Perhaps if I were of Pakistani origin, wore traditional Islamic garb and was stopped at the airport every time I went through the screening process, I would be mad as hell as well. Fortunately for me, Irish-Italian-Danish Americans from Pittsburgh did not plot to blow up trans-Atlantic airliners this month.

Pakistanis did.

Judging from her actions, your daughter is a saint. Four months pregnant, sitting in an airport in Southern West Virginia in the middle of a hot August day, stared at and immediately profiled as the being the cause of all the problems in the world, she kept her cool. Everyone contacted by reporters, those on hand who witnessed events, tell the same story: Rima is a nice woman. She just happened to miss the warnings about liquid carry-ons.

And the airport screeners? They did their jobs. When it looked as if this woman was completely innocent of any wrongdoing or evil plots, they did their jobs. They tested her water bottle again. And it came up “positive” for explosive materials. Again.

You're correct to protect your kid. You're absolutely right to call it as you see it: racial profiling. That's exactly what it was. And until white yuppies from Indiana start trying to blow up airplanes, it will continue to be so. If you want to blame someone for the situation your daughter found herself, point your scorn at the more than 20 would-be killers who were arrested last week. Most of them, like your daughter, were in their mid-twenties and Pakistani.

Being “pulled aside” and asked impolite and personal questions about your background, belongings and future plans while already undergoing that most grating of experiences, air travel, can be enough to make someone crazy with anger. Believe me. I know. Back in the day when I had hair down to my waist and was often boarding airplanes while carrying guitar cases or electronic equipment, I was profiled so often that it became routine. After a while my wife and I would factor in the time we'd undoubtedly spend in the little room off to the side of the screeners, explaining who I was, where I was headed and who I was meeting when I got to my destination. I have been searched more than once, questioned countless times and yes, berated when my answers did not come quickly and with politeness. It stunk and all happened long before the world became a much more dangerous place in which to fly. I can only imagine what it would be like now, wearing a turban, sweating and fidgety, rushing to make my connecting flight.

I will not offer an apology to either of the Mrs. Qayyums, but I can offer some advice:

Be proud to be Pakistani.

Be proud to be an American.

Most of all, be understanding of the situation you now find yourself. Your nationality and heritage not only define who you are - unfortunately, in this, the twenty-first century, they also make you a suspect.

*1 : of or relating to the study or collection of coins, tokens, and money
2 : of or relating to currency : monetary

Example sentence:
Jason was disappointed to learn that the 1936 buffalo nickel he owned had virtually no numismatic value.

Did you know?
The first metal coins are believed to have been used as currency by the Lydians, a people of Asia Minor, during the 7th century BC, and it is likely that folks began collecting coins not long after that. The name that we give to the collection of coins today is "numismatics," a word that also encompasses the collection of paper money and of medals. The noun "numismatics" and the adjective "numismatic" came to English (via French "numismatique") from Latin and Greek "nomisma," meaning "coin." "Nomisma" in turn derives from the Greek verb "nomizein" ("to use") and ultimately from the noun "nomos" ("custom" or "usage"). From these roots we also get "numismatist," referring to a person who collects coins, medals, or paper money.

bedizen \bih-DYE-zen\ verb

: to dress or adorn gaudily

Example sentence:
"Adorned by minarets and spires and bedizened by more than a million lights, Coney Island embodied what has been called the 'architecture of exhilaration.'" (Blaine Harden, New York Times, August 28, 1999)

Did you know?
"Bedizen" doesn't have the flashy history you might expect — its roots lie in the rather quiet art of spinning thread. In times past, the spinning process began with the placement of fibers (such as flax) on an implement called a "distaff"; the fibers were then drawn out from the distaff and twisted into thread. "Bedizen" descends from the verb "disen," which meant "to dress a distaff with flax" and which came to English by way of Middle Dutch. The spelling of "disen" eventually became "dizen," and its meaning expanded to cover the "dressing up" of things other than distaffs. In the mid-17th century, English speakers began using "bedizen" with the same meaning.

obloquy \AH-bluh-kwee\ noun

*1 : a strongly condemnatory utterance : abusive language
2 : the condition of one that is discredited : bad repute

Example sentence:
The manager walked quickly back to the dugout as insults and obloquy rained down from the stands.

Did you know?
English speakers can choose from several synonyms to name a tongue-lashing. "Abuse" is a good general term that usually stresses the anger of the speaker and the harshness of the language, as in "scathing verbal abuse." "Vituperation" often specifies fluent, sustained abuse; "a torrent of vituperation" is a typical use of this term. "Invective" implies vehemence comparable to "vituperation," but may suggest greater verbal and rhetorical skill; it may also apply especially to a public denunciation, as in "blistering political invective." "Obloquy," which comes from the Late Latin "ob-" (meaning "against") plus "loqui" (meaning "to speak"), suggests defamation and consequent shame and disgrace; a typical example of its use would be "subjected to obloquy and derision."

: with or in bad faith

Example sentence:
The judge concluded that the company had acted mala fide in concealing the information.

Did you know?
You may be familiar with the more commonly used "bona fide" (\BOH-nuh-fyde\), which can mean "made in good faith" (as in "a bona fide agreement") or "genuine or real" ("a bona fide miracle"). Not surprisingly, in Latin "bona fide" means "in good faith" and "mala fide" means "in bad faith." These days "mala fide," which dates from the mid-16th century, tends to turn up primarily in legal contexts.

kludge \KLOOJ\ noun

: a system and especially a computer system made up of poorly matched components

Example sentence:
"The original satellite contrivance was the asynchronous satellite downlink with a phone connection uplink. This was doomed to fail because it was a kludge." (John C. Dvorak, Boardwatch Magazine, February 2002)

Did you know?
The first recorded use of the word "kludge" is attributed to Jackson W. Granholm, who defined the word in a 1962 issue of the magazine Datamation as: "an ill-assorted collection of poorly-matching parts, forming a distressing whole." He further explained that it was derived from the German word "klug," meaning "smart" or "witty." Why Granholm included a "d" in his spelling is not known. What we do know is that speakers of American English have agreed to keep it silent, making the vowel pronunciation of "kludge" reflect the pronunciation of German "klug" (\KLOOK\). We can also tell you that not everyone agrees with Granholm on the "d" matter: the spelling "kluge" is also popularly used.

*1 : noxious, harmful
2 a : offensive to the senses and especially to the sense of smell b : highly obnoxious or objectionable

Example sentence:
"The streets were narrow and very dirty, the air smoky and noisome, the people mostly wretched." ( Ken Follett, The Man from St. Petersburg)

Did you know?
Consider the two following sentences: "The babysitter tried to quiet the noisome children." "My son works at a fish market, and his clothes bring a noisome stench into the house when he comes home." Which sentence uses "noisome" correctly? If you picked the second one, you chose correctly. Though "noisome" sounds like it might be a synonym of "noisy," it's not. Something noisome is disgusting, like that fishy stench, or harmful, the way toxic fumes or waste can be. "Noisome" does not come from "noise," but from the Middle English word "noysome," which has the same meaning as "noisome." The "noy" of "noysome" means "annoyance," and comes from Anglo-French "anui," which also means "annoyance."

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence."
Saturday, August 5th, 2006
12:02 pm
I'm Even Slacking on My Memories
wildcatter \WYLD-katt-er\ noun

*1 : one that drills wells in the hope of finding oil in territory not known to be an oil field
2 : one that promotes or sells stock in unsafe and unreliable enterprises; especially : one that sells stocks in such enterprises

Example sentence:
Her father was a lucky wildcatter with an instinct for drilling gushers.

Did you know?
Messing with a wild cat, such as a lynx, can be a pretty risky undertaking, but ferocious felines played only an indirect role in the development of the word "wildcatter." That term has been used in English since the late 19th century, along with the verb "wildcat," which refers to the risky practice of drilling experimental oil wells in territory not known to produce oil. English-speakers associated "wildcat" with risk-taking ventures after a number of U.S. banks fraudulently issued banknotes with little or no capital to back them up. Supposedly, the banknotes issued by one particular bank bore the image of a panther or, as it was known locally, a "wild cat," and it was those risky notes that led to the financial risk-taking senses of "wildcat" and "wildcatter."

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.

caparison \kuh-PAIR-uh-sun\ noun

1 a : an ornamental covering for a horse b : decorative trappings and harness
*2 : rich clothing : adornment

Example sentence:
For her role as the queen, the costume department fitted Rita with the kind of caparisons suitable only for royalty.

Did you know?
"Caparison" first embellished English in the 1500s, when we borrowed it from the Middle French "caparaçon." Early caparisons were likely used to display the heraldic colors of a horseman, and in some cases may also have functioned as protective covering for the horse. In British India, elephants, not horses, were decked out with caparisons — and to this day both animals can still be seen in such attire during parades and circuses. It did not take long for "caparison" to come to refer to the ornate clothing worn by a man or woman. "Caparison" also serves English as a verb, a use first recorded in Shakespeare when Richard III commanded, "Come, bustle, bustle; caparison my horse."

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.

"There he went, Steelers! There he went!

Over the past weekend, Latrobe, Pennsylvania became the center of the known universe. Sure, the Middle East may be the new hatching pad for World War Three. The price of gasoline could escalate to more than four dollars a gallon by the end of the summer. Mel Gibson could go on a thousand drunken tirades, insulting all races, creeds and colors before he dries out. But no one from the Kittatiny Mountains to the Ohio Valley, from Erie to Buchanon, cared much about those happenings this weekend. Something much more significant was brewing in Latrobe.

Clark Haggans was taking a dump.

Pittsburgh sportswriter Gerry Dulac reported in the Post-Gazette newspaper that more than 10,000 terrible towel wavers showed up on the first day of full workouts at the 2006 Pittsburgh Steelers training camp.

That's a crowd of 10,000.

That's a football practice.

The highlight of the day, wrote Dulac, was when Clark Haggans, linebacker, used a portable toilet. As he emerged, a gathered crowd cheered. I'll repeat that, just in case you missed the subtle nuances.

The guy took a dump.

People applauded.

The last time this happened was probably when Haggans was a toddler, and I can all but guarantee the crowd was not as big. Probably just Mom. She knew then what black and gold fans understand today. In order for a team to be successful, they must be fast. In order for them to be fast, they must be lean. In order to be lean, they must be regular. Regularity has now become one in a long line of accomplishments met with high praise and reported nearly immediately on all outlets.

“This just in!

The prunes worked!

And now the weather…”

The third most noticeable item on a long list of Latrobe happenings, after the huge turnout and the reciprocal appreciation by players and fans, is the effort by Latrobe businesses to make as much money in as short a period of time as possible. Basically, it's Christmas in Latrobe. There's a car dealership on route thirty, just down the road from the practice fields, where you can order any new model Chrysler, Jeep or Dodge. For a nominal fee, they'll paint it black and gold and affix your favorite player's number to the door. There isn't a single baked good in any of Latrobe's bakeries that isn't covered with black and yellow icing. Stop into the gas station on the way to practice and pick up a black and white football for twenty-four dollars. It comes with an attached gold inked pen for autographs.

Sure, it's opportunistic.

You take advantage of opportunities. How many times in life will you be positioned just down the street from the Super Bowl champions? How many times will a daily crowd of thousands of people be driving through Arnold Palmer's back yard? How many times does one get the chance to applaud a really good linebacker bowel movement?

Enjoy it, Steelers fans.

Savor the sights.

Drink in the smells.

And while you're at St. Vincents College, please feel free to drop by the Johnny-on-the-Spot, the official porta-john of the Pittsburgh Steelers. For a nominal fee, payable at the entrance, you can actually sit where Clark Haggans, Super Bowl Champion, once sat – not on the original toilet seat cover, of course. We've already unbolted that one, photographed and bagged it.

This afternoon, we'll post that sucker on eBay.

That doesn't mean you can't feel closer to your Super Bowl champs. Come by and visit the official porta-john of the black and gold. For just five dollars for number one and twenty dollars for number two, you can evacuate just like the pros did.

Well, at least one.

Don't be fooled by imitators. We have documentation. Three yinzers in face paint who were next in line have signed an affidavit assuring that Clark Haggans once grunted in this very portable toilet. And now you can, too.

For a small fee.

And the best news? This week only, at no extra charge, the rest of the fans on hand at Steelers practice will cheer as you do your business.

“There you go, Steelers fan! There you go!”

cunctation \kunk-TAY-shun\ noun

: delay

Example sentence:
When a case that had been carried on the court calendar for nearly three years was brought before the judge, he admonished the lawyer for flagrant cunctation.

Did you know?
"Cunctation" isn't the only word we have from Latin "cunctari," which means "to hesitate." There are the adjectives "cunctatory," "cunctatious," and "cunctative" ("tending to delay"), and the noun "cunctator" ("one who delays"). Without hesitation, we will tell you that although "cunctation" has been around for over 400 years, all these words are pretty rare — but that's not to say that no one ever uses them now. For example, our example sentence was inspired by an actual modern use in reference to a cunctatory lawyer. Nor are they just "lawyer words": "The FAA has a cunctative approach to supervising airline security," wrote Playboy magazine in 2002. So, if you delight in hard words, don't forever put off using one of these vocabulary-boosting terms.

: to offer as example, reason, or proof in discussion or analysis

Example sentence:
"Leon has made some pretty strong accusations here tonight," said Tim, "but he has adduced no convincing evidence in support of them."

Did you know?
We won't lead you astray over the history of "adduce"; it is one of a plethora of familiar words that trace to the Latin root "ducere," which means "to lead." Perhaps we can induce you to deduce a few other "ducere" offspring if we offer a few hints about them. One is another term for kidnapping, one's a title for a British royal, and one's a process of abridging or consolidating something. Give up? They are "abduct," "duke," and "reduce," respectively. There are also many others, including "induce," which means "to persuade" or "to bring about."

Hello? Hi. It's me. Listen. When I called you last night and said that left-handed West Virginians were responsible for AIDS? I was drunk. Sorry. Everybody knows it was left-handed Italians.

There used to be a show on TV called “To Tell the Truth”. Each weekday, while I was supposed to be in school, I would watch as an interesting story from everyday life was told to a panel consisting of three semi-celebrities. The stories were usually about someone performing a heroic act, inventing a well-known product or, sometimes, being the center of controversy. The subject of the tale would then be introduced to the panel, along with two liars. By asking the three subjects probing questions, the semi-celebrities would determine which of the unknowns was telling the truth.

We could use a little more of that right about now.

People lie so often these days it has nearly become ho-hum. Everyone from the woman who sells you clothes to the President of the United States will gladly look you directly in the eye and tell you things you know cannot be the truth. Whether it's “You look great in that blue dress” or “I didn't spooge on that blue dress”, it seems no one is willing to trust their fellow man with the facts.

Why?

When I was fifteen the President of the United States (a man I thought to be a great leader named Richard Nixon) was forced to become the first man step down from that office after a complicated investigation revealed a simple fact: he lied. The same fate nearly befell another President, Bill Clinton. You can argue what the meaning of the word “is” is, or wave off his sexual behavior as insignificant in the shadow of world politics. That doesn't change the fact that nearly brought him down: he lied. “I did not have sexual relations with that woman” became the modern-day version of Nixon's “I am not a crook.” The American people learned that, in fact, he did have sexual relations with that woman, just as Nixon was, in fact, a crook.

I had nearly the same reaction as an adult to one President's lying as I had to another's deceits during my teenaged years. “Why,” I asked myself “didn't he just level with us? Doesn't he think we can handle the truth?” I have always believed that in the case of a royal, public screw-up, the best approach is to put your cards on the table, explain your actions and hope for forgiveness.

I may have been wrong.

There's no better example of what can happen when you lay it all out for judgment than what is happening this week. Mel Gibson, an actor and director from Hollywood, was arrested for driving while intoxicated. During his arrest, the drunken idiot spouted all sorts of unprintable, rude and stupid things about Jewish people, repeatedly asking the arresting officer if he was “a Jew” and reminding him that, “Jews have started every war in history.”

Probably no need for a breathalizer at that point, eh?

Test him they did, however, and it was found that Mr. Gibson had twice the legal limit of alcohol in his bloodstream for driving. He was arrested, booked, fingerprinted and photographed. By the time he was sober enough to bury his demons and make a few phone calls, it was decided (by himself or his management) that the best approach would be the obligatory admission of alcoholism and a stay in rehab.

That would take care of the drunk driving, but what about the ten thousand pound “Jew” elephant in the room? They could have attempted to hush it up. Hollywood cops have muffled bigger stories, no doubt. It's a small town, from what I've read. Everybody knows everybody and they look out for their own. Instead of pulling a Nixon or a Clinton, Gibson opted to tell the truth. His exact quote: “I acted like a person completely out of control when I was arrested, and said things that I do not believe to be true and which are despicable. I am deeply ashamed of everything I said, and I apologize to anyone I may have offended.”

I thought his apology was a smart and honest act. Guess what, Mel? You're an idiot. You screwed up. And guess what else? You're not the only one. You're just a famous one. So, get in line at the clinic. Dry out. Talk to a therapist about that Jew hating gene your holocaust non-believer Daddy placed in your DNA and let's get back to making some movies!

Simple, right?

Not so easy, as it turns out.

My theory of “fessing up and moving on, having learned our lesson” is not exactly how life works, unfortunately. There are reports out of “tinsel town” this week that Gibson's stellar career in front of and behind the camera might be over. “Do what you want with your personal life,” they seem to be saying, “but don't bite the hand that feeds you, lest your supply of kibble be discontinued.”

That's nearly as big a lie as “I did not have sexual relations with that woman”. Anyone with half a brain realizes that if it makes money, the entertainment industry turns a blind eye (insulted or not), every time.

Mel makes moguls money.

Me? I have more respect for an honest racist than a liar of any color. At least with the honest racist I know where I stand and can make future decisions concerning that person knowing their twisted outlook. With a liar, who knows?

No one is perfect. We all have closeted skeletons. When the door to yours is flung wide open, revealing the ugly self you keep hidden, will you be a stand up man and promise “To Tell the Truth”?

mien \MEEN\ noun

*1 : air or bearing especially as expressive of attitude or personality : demeanor
2 : appearance, aspect

Example sentence:
Professor Hart's cool and gallant mien was appealing to some students and off-putting to others.

Did you know?
Like its synonyms "bearing" and "demeanor," "mien" means the outward manifestation of personality or attitude. "Bearing" is the most general, but now usually implies characteristic posture, as in "a woman of regal bearing." "Demeanor" suggests attitude expressed through outward behavior in the presence of others; for example, "the manager's professional demeanor." "Mien" is a somewhat literary term referring to both bearing and demeanor. "A mien of supreme self-satisfaction" is a typical use. "Mien" and "demeanor" are also linked through etymology. "Mien" arose through the shortening and alteration of the verb "demean," which is also the root of "demeanor." (In this case, "demean" means "to conduct or behave (oneself) usually in a proper manner," not "to degrade." That other "demean" is a distinct word with a different etymology.)

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.

apple-polish \AP-ul-pah-lish\ verb

*1: to attempt to ingratiate oneself : toady
2: to curry favor with (as by flattery)

Example sentence:
Edna really wanted the internship working with the professor over the summer, so she took his course and apple-polished a bit.

Did you know?
It began innocently enough — a shiny apple for the teacher, a young student's gift (OK, bribe) given in the hope that classroom high jinks would be forgotten or forgiven. The college students of the 1920s tried a more sophisticated version of the trick, polishing professorial egos with compliments in the hopes of getting a better grade. Because of its similarity to the "apple for the teacher" practice, college students dubbed that grade-enhancement strategy "apple-polishing." But the idea quickly lost its luster and by 1935 the verb "apple-polish" had picked up negative connotations. Nowadays, the apple-polisher (academic or otherwise) is viewed in the same much-maligned class as the toady, sycophant, and bootlicker.

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.

Aw, geez, Mom! Do I have to take Raul with me? Me and Che and the guys are trying to lead a revolution and overthrow the government! He'll just get in the way!

My thoughts today are with Raul Castro, the next leader of the Cuba. Raul is the Jermaine Jackson of world politics, the Jim Belushi of communism, the little brother named Beaver who keeps getting left behind by Wally. The only thing separating Raul from Billy Carter is that no one has named a beer after him. Raul Castro, as some of us learned recently, is the younger brother of Fidel Castro. Fidel, as you remember from any movie starring Andy Garcia, is the evil, horrible man most likely to turn the streets of Miami into one gigantic party merely by catching a cold.

As soon as word was leaked that the leader of communist Cuba had been admitted to a hospital (a complete cigarectomy, including the dangerous hat removal and beard delousing) Cuban nationalists living in southern Florida expressed their deep concern for his well being by drinking heavily, shouting at passing cars, dancing in the middle of the street and peeing (that's right, I said “peeing”) on posters of Fidel.

No matter how you feel about the guy's forty-seven years in power, you have to admit that somewhere, down inside, you have a tiny bit of empathy for the old man. Watching those crazed Cuban exiles in Miami, I can't help but wonder if anyone will do the Salsa when I'm on my deathbed.

Gee.

I hope somebody hates me enough to at least one bird dance.

It's not the unhealthy Fidel I'm concerned about these days, but the apparently fit Raul. Being the younger brother to the most famous dictator in the Western Hemisphere probably worked nicely during much of Raul's life. He never had to wait in line at the DeSoto mechanic's shop. He was second on bath night. And how about all those medals? Those are nice. Raul got those for being the head of the Cuban Army, which is akin to being put in charge of the lifeguard patrol in the desert.

It was a life of no real responsibilities and pressure. His only job was to tell people what it was like to be the younger brother of a famous guy. All that changed this week.

Fidel's illness resulted in two distinct actions. First, a large majority of the Miami population suddenly had yet another reason to dance, drink and have sex, albeit a decidedly sick one. You know some twisted Cuban nationalists down on South Beach were hurrying home to make a baby when they heard the news that Castro was near death. “Hey! The old guy's going to die! How about some sex, baby?”

I tried that when Reagan passed.

It didn't work.

The second measure put into motion by Fidel's rising temperature was the onset of real, true fear in poor Raul. Let's face facts. He's seventy-five years old and has, for the past forty-seven of those years, had his name followed by the phrase “younger brother of Fidel Castro” each time it has been spoken. Suddenly, and without much warning, Raul is about to be pushed from the shadows into the bright spotlights.

I'm not expecting much.

Don't get me wrong. I'm sure Raul has learned the basics like how to keep your people subjugated, how to cut off all ties to the modern world, how to provide the major leagues with shortstops who in turn both criticize you and make twenty times your income. But sitting in the passenger seat and actually driving the car are two distinctly different things, especially when that car is a '53 Hudson held together by duct tape and sugar cane.

That's why I'm organizing a little get together this weekend at the house. Just a few of my friends. We're going to play a little poker, talk a little about world events, but mostly we're going to vent about what it's like to be the most talented member of the family, yet never receive a fair shake because of your brother's fame. I've invited Raul, along with Brian Doyle-Murray, Clint Howard, Roger Clinton, Tommy Aaron, two of the Baldwins and Zeppo Marx.

Call it our “famous brother support group”.

We're going to be there for Raul.

He's going to need us.

There's a chance, of course, that Fidel will recover nicely from his so-called surgery and will be back starving thousands needlessly again very soon. That would be a shame. I've been pulling for Raul to get his chance at running things ever since I learned of his existence, some time yesterday morning. The moment I caught a glimpse of this old man in a military uniform, covered with medals and trying to look brave, I said to myself, “There's a guy who's in way, way over his head. He needs a hug. And a bath. And some pals. Let's invite him over!”

Good luck, Raul.

Running a country might be pretty tough going for a guy without much experience and only his family name to rely upon.

But don't worry.

You won't be the first.

And you couldn't possibly be the worst.

1 : most sacred or holy : inviolable
*2 : treated as if holy : immune from criticism or violation

Example sentence:
For years the respected scientist's theories were treated as sacrosanct by his colleagues, and only recently have his ideas been seriously challenged.

Did you know?
That which is sacrosanct is doubly sacred: the two Latin components underlying the word, "sacro" and "sanctus," were combined long ago to form a phrase meaning "hallowed by a sacred rite." "Sacro" means "by a sacred rite" and comes from "sacrum," a Latin noun that lives on in English anatomy as the name for our pelvic vertebrae — a shortening of "os sacrum," which literally means "holy bone." "Sanctus" means "sacred" and gave us "saint" and obvious words like "sanctimony," "sanctify," and "sanctuary."

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.

: marked or caused by fever : feverish

Example sentence:
"He discovered febrile symptoms, and ... all farther resistance became in vain; and she was glad to acquiesce, and even to go to bed, and drink water-gruel." (Sir Walter Scott, The Heart of Midlothian)

Did you know?
Not too surprisingly, "febrile" originated in the field of medicine. We note its first use in the work of the 17th-century medical reformer Noah Biggs. Biggs used it in admonishing physicians to care for their "febrile patients" properly. Both "feverish" and "febrile" are from the Latin word for "fever," which is "febris." Nowadays, "febrile" is used in medicine in a variety of ways, including references to such things as "the febrile phase" of an illness. And, like "feverish," it also has an extended sense, as in "a febrile emotional state."

leitmotif \LYTE-moh-teef\ noun

1 : a melodic phrase or figure that accompanies the reappearance of an idea, person, or situation especially in a Wagnerian music drama
*2 : a dominant recurring theme

Example sentence:
The struggle of finding identity in an anonymous world is a common leitmotif in the director's earlier films.

Did you know?
The English word "leitmotif" (or "leitmotiv," as it is also spelled) comes from the German "Leitmotiv," meaning "leading motive" and formed from "leiten" ("to lead") and "Motiv" ("motive"). In its original sense, the word usually applies to opera, and was first used by writers interpreting the works of Richard Wagner. The German composer was famous for employing leitmotifs in operas such as Der Ring des Nibelungen and Tristan und Isolde, although Wagner himself did not invent the technique. "Leitmotif" is still commonly used with reference to music and musical drama, but is now also used more broadly to refer to any recurring theme in the arts or in everyday life.

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.

Hello, Boss? I'm going to be a little late for work again today. That's right. Another monkey attack. Third one this week.

It's obvious now that we're hopelessly addicted to gasoline. They could price it at five dollars a gallon, at six, seven, and most of us would still lie down quietly, spread our legs wide open and close our eyes, thinking happy thoughts until it was over.

One of the alternatives to driving alone behind the wheel of a gas-guzzler is to use public transportation. In Pittsburgh, that means the bus. But who wants to take the bus? Most people just won't do it. Those riding on PAT busses in our town are people who have no other transportation – it's not a conscious choice by most. The rest of us pass them, behind the wheels of our honkin' huge, gas guzzlin' SUVs.

The question is, “How can we attract more people to the idea of riding the bus to work?”

Monkey fights.

As much as I'd like to take credit for this ground-breaking idea, the fact is that monkey fights during rush hour have been going on in other places in the world for quite some time. There's no documentation showing these fights to have increased the numbers of riders elsewhere in the world. I think it might just work here, though. If there's one thing I know about Pittsburghers, it's that we love a good bloody monkey fight, especially first thing in the morning.

Monkeys have been attacking riders on India's commuter trains. That's the kind of real problem people in other parts of the world face. Monkey attacks. Apparently, according to reports I have read this week, wild monkeys are as common as pigeons in many Indian cities. The bad monkeys are so prevalent that the government has had to resort to hiring guards for the parliament building in the nation's capitol.

Who did they hire to guard the capitol from monkeys?

Other monkeys.

Good monkeys.

And as we all remember from Phys Ed class, when you mix bad monkeys and good monkeys, you get monkey fights.

Some of you may be saying at this point, “Please remind me to never, ever visit India. I'm sure the culture is wonderful. The art must be magnificent. The few Indian-Americans I've met in my lifetime have all been wonderful people – friendly, intelligent and extremely polite. However, I won't be going home with any of them to meet the folks.”

That's understandable.

Monkey fighting is not for everybody.

To help keep the general population protected from gangs of angry, destructive monkeys, the government and private rail services in Delhi and other larger Indian cities have hired langurwallahs, a word that means “monkey trainer”. The langurwallahs are paid one hundred fifty dollars a month to provide the train stations with langur monkeys – trained langur monkeys – to chase away the angry, destructive, bad attacking monkeys, whose specific species is not mentioned but who, no doubt, come from broken homes and have not had the benefit of a stay-at home father.

You can board your train in Delhi and head off to work at quarter to eight. You can order a cup of coffee from the on-board Starbucks at ten ‘til eight (make sure to check for that cream, dammit). You can then settle into your seat to watch, up close and personally, that morning's monkey fights.

You don't get that on a PAT bus.

Not yet.

In my estimation, if some real entertainment were provided for your buck and a half trip from McKees Rocks to Oakland, perhaps more of us would fork over the cash and have seat on the bus.

What's the best we can now hope for? An annoying crack head, begging for cash? A p.o.'d mother, smacking the crap out of her bad kids? The comparison of varied body odors might be an attraction to some, but to me, there's nothing that gets a morning commute headed in the right direction than a nice wild monkey attack, defended by the soldiers of right and might, trained langur monkeys.

The good news is that it's not only possible but quite affordable.

We need only make the commitment.

While it could be viewed as a tough choice to some (notably those like myself who still fear the flying chimps from the Wizard of Oz), we must sacrifice our own fears for the betterment of the community. We must conserve gasoline. We must attract more riders to pubic transportation.

We must give the boys in India a call and see how quickly we can arrange a monkey-attack-and-defense schedule.

Al Gore would be for it.

I know he would.

I would ask him, in fact, but there's been a monkey outside my office for the last three mornings and I haven't been able to get to my computer.

I don't think he's one of the good ones.

He's got that look.

He's a monkey from the bad side of the tracks.

: borne, deposited, produced, or eroded by the wind

Example sentence:
For her senior project, Erin is studying the effects of eolian erosion on the desert environment.

Did you know?
When Aeolus blew into town, things really got moving. He was the Greek god of the winds and the king of the floating island of Aeolia. In the Odyssey, Homer claims Aeolus helped Odysseus by giving him a favorable wind. Aeolus also gave English speakers a few terms based on his name, including "eolian" (also spelled "aeolian"), an adjective often used for wind-sculpted geological features such as caves and dunes, and "aeolian harp," an instrument that makes music when the wind blows across its strings.

: a slight offense

Example sentence:
Michael's thank-you note to his hostess was sincere and touching; his only peccadillo, however, was addressing her by her first name instead of "Mrs. Buchanan."

Did you know?
"The world loves a spice of wickedness." That observation by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow may explain why people are so willing to forgive peccadilloes as youthful foolishness or lapses of judgment. The willingness to overlook petty faults and minor offenses existed long before English speakers borrowed a modified version of the Spanish "pecadillo" at the end of the 16th century. Spanish speakers distinguished the "pecadillo," or "little sin," from the more serious "pecado," their term for a sin of magnitude. And these Spanish terms can be traced back still further, to the Latin verb "peccare," meaning "to sin."

*1 : biting and caustic in thought, manner, or style : incisive
2 : burning, pungent

Example sentence:
As the guest of honor at the charity roast, Jacob good-naturedly received the mordant remarks directed at him by his friends, family, and colleagues.

Did you know?
The etymology of "mordant" certainly has some bite to it. That word, which came to modern English through Middle French, ultimately derives from the Latin verb "mordēre," which means "to bite." In modern parlance, "mordant" usually suggests a wit used with deadly effectiveness. "Mordēre" puts the bite into other English terms, too. For instance, that root gave us the tasty "morsel" ("a tiny bite"). But nibble too many of those and you'll likely be hit by another "mordēre" derivative: "remorse" ("guilt for past wrongs"), which comes from Latin "remordēre," meaning "to bite again."

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.

To paraphrase Steppenwolf, “Got-DAMN the computer man!”

I've been a big fan of the personal computer since they started storing photographs of naked women in mine. As soon as I discovered that, I was a computer fan for life. I will put up with a lot to see naked women. Back in the days of visiting strip clubs, I'd put up with watered down, expensive drinks, smoke being blown in my face and the chance that while returning to my car in the parking lot, I'd be robbed. Now, with a computer, I don't have to deal with any of that.

I just have to deal with computer sales people.

Recently I was introduced to a new program that not only shows photos of naked women, but also allows those naked women to move around. My life changed. Now, not only could I stare at women I'd never touch, but I would also get to see how they move. It was almost like being at the strip club, except the drinks were cheaper.

That was good news.

The program cost me one hundred forty nine dollars. Once I got the software home and eagerly began to install it, I was greeted by a message that informed me my system was not compatible with their software. I've run into this problem before. It's called cabbage. It's not compatible with my system, along with ballet, opera and most Elvis movies. The friendly, printed greeting alerted me that my machine was running operating system “ten-point-two-point-eight”. What was needed to view moving, naked women I would never hope to meet in real life was operating system ten-point-three.

Ohhh.

The nearest computer store that sells my brand of machine is located in France. It was a long drive, but once you've committed to seeing moving, naked women life becomes a quest. After fighting through traffic with the help of Bread's Greatest Hits, I arrived to find a helpful salesperson who immediately calmed my frayed nerves by talking to me in a condescending manner formerly known only at BMW dealerships. Foreign car dealers and computer stores hire people who ask questions aloud and follow them with looks that add an additional, silent, “You moron”.

“What can we do for you today, sir?” You moron .

“What kind of noise is the car making?” You moron .

“What operating system are you running?” You moron .

Yes, I did say, “Bread's Greatest Hits”. You see? I loaned the car to my friend, a woman who likes the sappy sounds of David Gates. She somehow got the Greatest Hits stuck in my CD player. No AM. No FM. No XM. It's just the CD player, offering “Baby I'm a Want You” until I give up and take the car in to the dealer.

One condescending experience at a time. You moron .

Three times through “I found her diary underneath a tree” and I was ready to do anything to see photos of moving, naked women. I explained my situation to the mightier-than-thou boy with the “Chad” nametag. He heaved a sigh that expressed four wasted years earning an undergraduate degree in Computer Studies and asked what system I was currently running. I felt proud to answer “Ten-point-two-point-eight”. I'd been practicing in the car all the way to France. As David Gates moaned about the guitar man, I whispered along with him, “Ten-point-two-point-eight, ten-point-two-point-eight”. I knew they'd ask. I didn't want to appear to be what I am, which is a moron. You moron .

I didn't know there'd be a follow up question.

“Which processor are you running?” Processor? For some unknown reason, I suddenly knew the answer to that one as well. G-3!! My processor was a G-3!! More importantly, I knew that my processor was a G-3!! I felt so proud I nearly blurted it out. “G-3!” I said.

He laughed.

Laughed.

Out loud.

Had I answered wrong? No. As it turned out, the G-3, bought just five years ago, had already become the steam engine of computer processors. “You're not going to be able to run ten-point-four on G-3,” Chad scoffed. “You're going to need at least G-4 to run ten-point-four.” You moron .

“Wait a minute,” I interjected. “The program says I need ten-point-three. Do I have to get ten-point-four?”

“If you want it to run right,” said the smart boy. “What you really need is ten-point-four on a G5 platform.”

I knew that's what I needed.

I said as much to my wife just the other night.

Having run into this obsolescent computer problem four other times in the past dozen years of downloading porn, I decided to skip ahead and ask for the G-7. “G-7?!” barked the sales boy. They haven't started making the G-7 yet!” You moron .

“When will they make the G-7?” I asked.

“About the same time you buy the G-5,” he said, and looked around to see if any of the other boys in blue vests had caught that one. These were the jokes, people.

After leaving the store with system ten-point-four, which, like all computer software products, was assuredly recommended by Chad to all but install itself, you moron , I got back into the car to find out what happens “if a picture paints a thousand words”. On the drive back home to America, I thought about the latest commercials I've seen for my particular brand of computer. The cool guy, who plays my computer, stands next to the dumpy guy, who plays a PC. The cool guy (my guy) holds hands with a cute Japanese girl who pulls a photo from her butt. I'm not sure who they're aiming that commercial at, but if you've been attracted, let me warn you. You won't be able to pull any photos from your butt (or from a Japanese girl's butt, for that matter) unless you change your G-3 to at least a G-4, if not a G-5, and your OS has ten-point-four, not ten-point-three or the ancient ten-point-two-point-eight.

You moron.

1 : involving or accomplished with careful perseverance
*2 : diligent in application or pursuit

Example sentence:
Daphne was a sedulous student whose hard work and determination earned her a number of college scholarships.

Did you know?
No fooling — the word "sedulous" ultimately comes from the Latin "se dolus," which literally means "without guile." Those two words were eventually melded into one, "sedulo," meaning "sincerely" or "diligently," and from that root developed the Latin "sedulus" and the English "sedulous." Don't let the "sed-" beginning mislead you; "sedulous" is not related to words such as "sedentary" or "sedate" (which derive from the Latin verb "sedēre," meaning "to sit"). "Sedulous" types are not the sedate or sedentary sort. They're the hardworking types Scottish author Samuel Smiles must have had in mind when he wrote in his 1859 book Self-Help, "Sedulous attention and painstaking industry always mark the true worker."

dilettante \DIL-uh-tahnt\ noun

1 : an admirer or lover of the arts
*2 : a person having a superficial interest in an art or a branch of knowledge : dabbler

Example sentence:
"He continued a dilettante, never quite abandoning his art, but working at it fitfully, and talking more about it than working at it." (William Dean Howells, The Rise of Silas Lapham)

Did you know?
If someone calls you a dilettante, they're probably not too impressed with your devotion to your art. But "dilettante" didn't always have the disparaging tone that it has today. "Dilettante" is an Italian word, derived from "dilettare," meaning "to delight." In the 18th century, a dilettante was simply a person who delighted in the arts. Later, the term came to refer to someone who cultivates an art as a pastime without pursuing it professionally — that is, an amateur. From this meaning developed the somewhat negative meaning that the word carries today, indicating a person who dabbles in an art or subject but is not truly devoted to it.

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence."
Tuesday, August 1st, 2006
1:04 pm
Giant Millworms
I was at Burger King with my Aunt and girlfriend the other day when this guy walks in; dark, curly hair... black thick-rimmed glasses.
He ordered 4 Triple BK Stackers and ate them all in just five bites, then went outside and lit up a fat doobie.

It was Donnie Iris!
Thursday, July 6th, 2006
4:31 am
Grip it By the Husk!
emhart da 8401 (4:23:35 AM): Hey
Talorn (4:24:03 AM): hi
emhart da 8401 (4:24:12 AM): Want to check out my profile? WxWxxWx.MySpacePages.xNxExxT
Talorn (4:24:20 AM): not so much...
Talorn (4:24:39 AM): are you a robot?
Talorn (4:30:03 AM): filthy robots!
Tuesday, June 6th, 2006
2:11 pm
Didn't Someone Say Something About Poop?
"meliorism \MEE-lee-uh-riz-um\ noun

: the belief that the world tends to improve and that humans can aid its betterment

Example sentence:
Jane's resolute meliorism fueled her insistence that both world peace and the worldwide eradication of hunger were indeed attainable within her lifetime.

Did you know?
In 1877, British novelist George Eliot believed she had coined "meliorist" when she wrote, "I don't know that I ever heard anybody use the word 'meliorist' except myself." Her contemporaries credited her with coining both "meliorist" and "meliorism," and one of her letters contains the first documented use of "meliorism," but there is evidence that at least "meliorist" had been around for 30 years or so before she started using it. Whoever coined it did so by drawing on the Latin "melior," meaning "better." It is likely that the English coinages were also influenced by another "melior" descendant, "meliorate," a synonym of "ameliorate" ("to make better") that was introduced to English in the mid-1500s."

Matt is back, I believe until the end of 2006. He covered for the short order cooks Friday, and then for me Saturday. I went back on pizzas with Mrs. B. Toni was apparently supposed to work downstairs on Friday, but neither her or I had any idea. Barb cae to pick her up while she was on break from Shop N Save.

Toni called me while Barb was knocking on the door, asking me if I knew if she was scheduled to work.
Barb blames Kelly for this.

Wednesday, right as I was hugging Toni goodbye before I was to step out the door for work my nose began to bleed; profusely. While trying to get it to stop and washing the blood off of my face and arms, my mother called. She wanted to me give Gulliver some water. I ran over to her house and got a glass of water for him, but knocking over and breaking another glass in the process.

After being at work for about 2 hours or so I got another terrible nose bleed. Any attempt to tilt my head back just caused massive amounts of blood to pour down my throat, gagging me. Swallowing blood doesn't bother me, it's just swallowing so much of it at one time does.

Jumping back ahead to Sunday, Toni worked at 3. So after church we ate at New Century, yet again. More and more I find that I can't eat as much as I could just a few months ago. I just get full very fast. Yet my gut is ever-growing...

After dropping Toni off at home, we took Brakk and Emily to Youngwood so that they could go to Pittsburgh. My father was unhappy about that, but he did it anyway...
On the way there we could see a black wall of torrential down pour creeping closer to us. Then nearly all at once we were blinded by rain.

After dropping them off my father and I went to the Home Depot to price fence. Then to Radio Shack so he could get a gift card for Melissa.

Finally we went to Wal*Mart and Paul bought me bed sheets.

After returning home my mother wanted to go for a walk. She suggested Dawson, if the rain let up. Toni was supposed to get her break around 6:30 so I didn't want to go that far.

We went to the Ash-dumps instead. Shortly after we go there it began to rain again. My shoes got soaked. I gave my mother my camera since her coat seemed water-proof. It wasn't. My flash stopped working for a time, but it seems fine now.

I washed my shoes and used the sun, the dryer, and Toni's hair dryer to get them dry.
They shrank and got weird for a bit, but I think they'll be fine for The Walk. They were fine enough for work yesterday.

I put a different filter in the verairium but it doesn't seem to be doing much.

"catchpole \KATCH-poal\ noun

: a sheriff's deputy; especially : one who makes arrests for failure to pay a debt

Example sentence:
David knew that it must be the catchpole knocking at his door, so he quickly threw on his shoes and coat and snuck out the back.

Did you know?
Imagine chasing a chicken around the barnyard. Catching it would be no mean feat. And chasing down someone who owes you money is pretty challenging too. It's no surprise then that these two taxing tasks come together in "catchpole," which derives from a word that literally means "chicken chaser" ¡ª Anglo-French "cachepole." Before it referred to the debt police, "catchpole" was used more generally for any tax collector. That's the sense demonstrated in a 12th-century homily about the apostle Matthew: "Matheus thet wes cachepol thene he iwende to god-spellere" ("Matthew who was a catchpole until he turned into a writer of the Gospel").

Excuse me, doctor? I seem to have a problem. It talks when I pee .

I have been blind drunk, but never a blind drunk. Therefore, I am not speaking from experience. Judging from what I've learned this week being blind and drunk just got a lot tougher.

Not that it was easy before.

Imagine for just one moment that you are, in fact, blind. I would also ask that you imagine for just one moment that you are, in fact, drunk, but since this is the Friday of a big holiday weekend, I'm not going to ask you to imagine. I'm simply going to ask that you continue being you, only with your eyes closed.

You make your way into the restroom of your favorite comfortable establishment, a path you've traveled often enough to do it drunk and sightless. You take the usual three steps in, two steps to the right and pause before unzipping, just in case anyone is there. No one is, so you do. And just as you let fly with the waste product of four tequilas, someone located just below your waist pipes up. ¡°Hey you. Yeah, you,¡± he commands. ¡°Having a few drinks?¡± Being blind, you can't identify the short person with the seemingly mechanical voice who seems to be located at your feet. But before you can answer politely, he continues his cross-examination. ¡°Think you've had too many? Then perhaps it's time you called a cab or asked a sober friend for a ride home.¡±

I guess so.

I'm peeing on the head of a concerned dwarf.

It's time to call a cab.

The voice, of course, is not that of a wee man, as appropriate as that may seem. If you were sighted, you would immediately recognize that the sound stems instead from the urinal cake you just christened yellow.

That's right.

A talking urinal cake.

Being a blind drunk just got a little more frightening.

A company from Canada has begun manufacturing small speakers, each the size and shape of a urinal cake, to be placed in, of course, urinals. They are not triggered by your stream, as you might think, but instead by your shadow. As you stand in front of the urinal, a digital recording is triggered. At first, the company making these frightful inventions pitched them at advertisers.

¡°Having trouble getting started? Call Dr. David Wilson, urologist, at 1-800-prostate. He's in the yellow pages under Yellow.¡±

Not surprisingly, the talking urinal cakes were a failure as an advertising tool. However, they've been resurrected as a non-traditional approach to preach the anti-drunk driving sermon. The police departments of major cities like Los Angeles, New York and Yellowstream, Montana, have bought dozens and are distributing them to bars and taverns.

Someone needs to get the word out to blind drunks before they get blind drunk and believe their pee stick is communicating. ¡°Seriously, doc. I seem to have a problem. It talks when I pee.¡±

The problem, of course, is not that someone has invented a urinal cake that warns us of the dangers of drunk driving. That's a good thing, on the surface. Trouble arrives in paradise the moment someone realizes that if you can place a message about designated drivers in a urinal, you can just as easily place other messages as well.

¡°Hey,¡± the future urinal cake might say. ¡°That looks like a penis. Only smaller.¡±

Heckled by a toilet.

There is good news, however. I've heard some negative comments lately about this country's abilities to respond to crises. Some question whether our technological advances can keep up with our ever-increasing needs.

Worry no more, my friends.

If we have the technology to make a urinal talk, we can do anything.

That includes scaring the pee out of blind drunks.

yen \YEN\ noun

: a strong desire or propensity : longing; also: urge, craving

Example sentence:
"I feel a sudden yen for chocolate ice cream," said Norton as he turned the car into the parking lot of the roadside ice cream stand.

Did you know?
Although "yen" suggests no more than a strong longing these days, at one time someone with a yen was in deep trouble indeed. The first meaning of "yen" was an intense craving for opium. The late 19th-century English term evolved from the Cantonese "y¨©n-y¨¢hn," which itself combines "y¨©n," meaning "opium," and "y¨¢hn," meaning "craving." In English, the Chinese syllables were transformed to "yen-yen" and ultimately abbreviated to simply "yen." Eventually, "yen" was generalized to the more innocuous meaning of "a strong desire," and the link to drug cravings was lost.

You want to pay me fifteen dollars to do what?!

I was sitting on the stoop one Wednesday, just waiting for the city to open the pool, when a nice young man came up to the porch and asked if I'd like to make fifteen dollars.

Fifteen dollars?!

Why, yes, I told him. I may be eighty-seven years old, but I still could use fifteen dollars. What kind of question is that? Twenty dollars would be better. But fifteen was still looking pretty good. I had nothing going on at the time. Like I said, the city's broke and it doesn't look like they're going to open the pool any time soon; it's been bone dry for four years. It was looking as though nobody would be needing me to watch and make sure the children came up for air once in a while, which, up until the city went broke, was what I did on hot summer days like Wednesday.

I can see the pool from my stoop.

I asked the nice young man what he wanted me to do for his fifteen dollars, adding that I am adverse to physical labor when the red in the thermometer reaches a certain height. The taller it gets, the more adverse I am. On this particular day, a Wednesday, it was damned tall and I was damned adverse. He explained that the company he represents was staging a demonstration downtown to show support for building a new hockey arena and, by the way, a casino. I heard about that. I may be old, but I still get the paper. What he wanted me to do for fifteen dollars was get on a bus, ride downtown, get out of the bus, stand around with some other people and look supportive.

For fifteen dollars?

Count me in.

Before I got on the bus, however, I had some questions, because my Momma didn't raise no idiot children. First, would the police be involved? Second, would there be a bathroom on the bus? If not, would there be a bathroom, a real bathroom, not one of those smelly plastic Port-Johns, somewhere near where I would be showing my support? And last, just to reiterate, would there be any physical labor involved?

You see? A few years back (more years than I wish to admit) I was part of a protest. It was one that I did not, in fact, get paid for, but have been paying for ever since. It was summer. Mr. David Lawrence and a bunch of his men decided that what the city really needed, more than anything else, was an opera house. And so, without asking anybody I knew, they started tearing down our neighborhood to build the Civic Opera House.

You probably know it as the Civic Arena.

My house used to sit where one of the parking lots is now.

Mind you, the nice new housing that sits where my neighborhood used to be is a lot prettier (in some ways) than some of the old places we used to live in. They didn't need a bulldozer to push Mr. Withrow's house over. A huff and a puff would have done it. But they brought a bulldozer anyway, and that kind of upset some people, so we decided to march downtown to talk to Mr. David Lawrence and his men even though they never talked to any of us.

Nobody paid me fifteen dollars.

Especially not the police, who stopped us from seeing Mr. David Lawrence and his people.

After I got out of the hospital, the doctor said that I shouldn't lift too many heavy objects for awhile. That's pretty much what I did for a living in those days, so although his advice was good (I'm sure) I just couldn't pay much attention to it. I imagine that's why, all these years later, I have to pass my water so often. My wife (God rest her soul) used to say that I was tethered to the john.

It was right about at that point in my story that I noticed the nice young man, the one who made the offer, was starting to get all glassy-eyed and fidgety, looking around and whatnot. People these days don't want stories. They want results. And to get those results, I guess, they're willing to pay people fifteen dollars to take a bus ride.

The bus ride was nice - on time, for once.

Some of us stood around and talked. Those who were not adverse to physical labor when the red in the thermometer is tall held signs. A few younger people tried to teach us a chant, but, to be honest with you, standing around for fifteen dollars seemed good, but chanting and carrying signs and the like seemed to be more than fifteen dollars worth of support to me.

And then I had to find a bathroom.

That was a few weeks ago.

This morning, another nice young person came up to the stoop. She was dressed all pretty like Sunday, even though it was the middle of the week. She introduced herself as a news reporter and wanted to know if she could ask me a few questions about that ¡°rally¡±.

I said fine, the city's broke and it doesn't look like the pool's going to open anytime soon.

She asked if it was true that ¡°some residents¡± had been offered fifteen dollars by a ¡°casino company¡± to take a bus ride down to market square. She asked if it was true that the same company asked us to say we supported that company's plans for ¡°rebuilding the Hill¡±.

I said yes, I guess that's what happened.

I said no.

They paid me fifteen dollars. The pool isn't open. I wasn't doing anything anyway. There was a real toilet. The police were friendly. And Mr. David Lawrence and his men have been dead for a long, long time.

I'm eighty-seven.

I can only hold on to a grudge for so long.

Now, I asked the nice young lady from the TV station, how much are you going to pay me?

seder \SAY-der\ noun

: a Jewish home or community service including a ceremonial dinner held on the first or first and second evenings of the Passover in commemoration of the exodus from Egypt

Example sentence:
Ari enjoys the stories, songs, and ceremonies that accompany dinner on the night of the seder.

Did you know?
Order and ritual are very important in the seder, so important that they are even reflected in its name; the English word "seder" comes from a Hebrew word that means "order." The order of courses in the meal, as well as prayers, stories, and songs, are recorded in the Haggadah, a book that retells the story of the Exodus and relates the events of the seder to it. Each food consumed as part of the seder recalls an aspect of the Exodus. For instance, matzo (unleavened bread) represents the haste with which the Jews fled Egypt; maror (a mix of bitter herbs) recalls the bitterness of life as a slave; and a mixture of fruits and nuts called charoset (or haroset) symbolizes the clay or mortar the Israelites worked with as slaves.

Don't be former. Be bold .

I've preached in the past that one should avoid, at all costs, being described in a news story as a ¡°former¡±. To recap: If you are, unfortunately, the subject of a news story on television or in your local paper, and in that report are referred to as a ¡°former¡± anything, chances are you've been a bad person. ¡°Nate Newton, former Dallas Cowboy, was arrested today after police found nine hundred pounds of suspected marijuana in his automobile.¡± If you've done something bad, no matter whether you're a prostitute, TV personality, city councilman or member of the Hell's Angels, that job designation will follow you all the way to the grave. They'll be writing ¡°former¡± in your obituary. You'll be dead, meaning that everything you did and everything you were becomes ¡°former¡±, but, if you're an Angel, a ho, a councilman or the six o'clock weather guy, they're still going to use that ¡°former¡± tag.

How boring, to be remembered merely as a position in life.

It seems to me that one way to eliminate the focus on ¡°former¡± is to make at least one act of entertaining excess during your lifetime.

If you whither away and expire in the intensive care wing, succumbing to a cell-eating disease, washed out and washed up, having never done anything considered abstract, ¡°former¡± is going to bite you on the butt. There is a way to avoid this dullness.

Be bold.

To wit: A man was arrested this week in Key West, Florida wearing a woman's purple bathing suit, carrying a flare gun and walking down the middle of the street, shouting that he was ¡°going to get rid of all the dirt bags in Key West¡±.

Nobody referred to this man as a ¡°former¡± anything, although ¡°former stabile person¡± might have applied. There was no mention of what he once did for a living, what clubs or organizations included his membership or what awards he might have won long ago. We did not read, ¡°The man, who was wearing a purple woman's swim suit and a flare gun, is a former eighth-grade spelling bee champion¡±.

He successfully avoided ¡°former¡±.

He was bold.

The man's name is reported to be Jeffrey Anderson and he is said to be 55 years of age. That's not important, of course. What is of utmost importance is that he was wearing a purple woman's swimsuit, a flare gun and, when police arrived, was shouting about ridding the Keys of dirt bags. The news story further describes Mr. Anderson as ¡°dancing in the street showing tourists his private parts and asking people for money when they took his picture¡±.

Too bold.

Sometimes changing your position in life can eliminate all need for ¡°former¡±. Last week a man from Cincinnati contacted the folks at the White Castle hamburger chain and informed them he was bringing suit against the fast food maker, claiming that the new White Castle garlic cheese sandwich was dangerous. Why? According to the Cincinnati man, the garlic-laden sandwich ¡°angers the undead¡±. How does he know this? That's easy. He's a vampire - or so he told the folks at White Castle when he informed them of his suit.

No one now cares what he was before. All we know now is that he is, or claims to be, a vampire. And, if he's correct (and who's to say?) there are lots and lots of Draculas who are now stirred up because of White Castle.

By the way, there is no such thing as a ¡°former¡± vampire. Like landing on a catalogue mailing list, there's no ridding yourself of that curse. Once you've gone blood sucker, you're there forever.

That's bold.

And spicy.

If a change in position or employment does not work to rid you of the possibility of the ¡°former¡± description in your news story, then why not try changing your name? Become someone with more stature. How about being the Lord?

A Hindu woman claimed this week that she is, in fact, Jesus Christ. Even though it is nearly impossible to dispute or prove her claim, by merely making it, Katherine Jhawarelall has immediately eliminated all chance of being referred to as a ¡°former¡± anything.

Who cares where she went to school?

No one is interested in which cubicle she occupies.

Who knows what her children's names are?

She's no longer Katherine. Instead, she has become ¡°that woman who says she's Christ¡±, just as the guy who doesn't like the new garlic sandwich is ¡°that Cincinnati vampire¡± and the man in Key West, hunting dirt bags, is now and forever ¡°the guy in the woman's purple swimsuit, armed with a flare gun¡±.

If you want to avoid ¡°former¡±, you know what you have to do, my friends.

Be bold.

But avoid standing in the middle of the street in your women's swimsuit with your flare gun, looking for fresh blood and preaching your own gospel.

That's been done.

seder \SAY-der\ noun

: a Jewish home or community service including a ceremonial dinner held on the first or first and second evenings of the Passover in commemoration of the exodus from Egypt

Example sentence:
Ari enjoys the stories, songs, and ceremonies that accompany dinner on the night of the seder.

Did you know?
Order and ritual are very important in the seder, so important that they are even reflected in its name; the English word "seder" comes from a Hebrew word that means "order." The order of courses in the meal, as well as prayers, stories, and songs, are recorded in the Haggadah, a book that retells the story of the Exodus and relates the events of the seder to it. Each food consumed as part of the seder recalls an aspect of the Exodus. For instance, matzo (unleavened bread) represents the haste with which the Jews fled Egypt; maror (a mix of bitter herbs) recalls the bitterness of life as a slave; and a mixture of fruits and nuts called charoset (or haroset) symbolizes the clay or mortar the Israelites worked with as slaves.

Unbelievable! We finally found somebody who can keep Joey Porter quiet for sixteen minutes.

I like our President.

That statement may come as a surprise to some of you who, if you've been paying attention, have probably correctly guessed my politics to be at odds with the current administration on a number of subjects. What most people fail to grasp when it comes to politics, religion or business, is that sometimes you can disagree with a person and still like them.

I like our President.

For the two or three minute clips during which he is shown to us, I get the feeling that he's an okay guy. I may be completely wrong. You're never supposed to judge a book by its cover. But there's something about the man that is definitely endearing. That may go a long way to explaining his popularity.

One of the ways the White House ensures we all try and like our leader is for him to pose for pictures. According to the President's daily schedule, which is posted in The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post and other fine newspapers, these photo ops happen, on average, seven to eight times per week.

I promised there would be no math today and that we would hold class outside, so I'll get out my handy calculator and round that off to 350 photo ops per year.

Today, the President spent 16 minutes posing with and trading barbs with the Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers. What was he doing before that? Where did he go afterwards? We don't care. All we care about is sixteen minutes spent joking around with our favorite team. For all we know, the President could have just finished a meeting in which he was informed of some terrible, tragic news. Perhaps he had to make a decision that affected innocent peoples' lives.

Doesn't matter to us.

All we care about is sixteen minutes.

If the President rushed into this morning's photo op, paused momentarily, gave a plastic smile and walked away, would I be telling you how much I like the guy? Nope. Instead, I'd probably say nothing about him at all. If I did, it might be a comment about how poor a job he's doing on any number of issues.

But, instead, he stopped his day for sixteen minutes and reminded everyone in the Steeler Nation how much we like him. He joked that he used to pump iron with Casey Hampton, back when Hampton was a Texas Longhorn and the President was the Governor. Said the President of the weight lifting, “His took. Mine didn't.” When describing the Steelers magical season, Mr. President reminded fans that the black and gold were counted out halfway through the campaign. “I kind of know that feeling,” he said. And later, the President reminded the Steelers that he'd be right there, in the White House, next year when they were “ready to return”.

How can you not like that guy?

The Presidency is really two jobs. The first job is providing for the security, safety and well being of your citizens. In that part of the mission, nearly every President has fallen short of the mark and has been subject to deserved criticism, this one included. The second part of the job is the mission of public relations. The President of the United States is not our leader in name alone. He sets the tone for millions of Americans.

That part?

He's got that down.

He was best described by a friend of mine during the last election. “I don't agree with his politics,” my buddy said, “but I wouldn't mind having a beer with the guy.”

If only the job was photo ops and beers.

Sixteen minutes later the Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers left the White House having met a good guy who seemed at ease and full of life. They went on to tour the beautiful city of Washington and revel in the glow of having met one of the world's leaders, having shared a moment or two with a man who is shaping history.

And the President?

He was off to a meeting in which he and some other guys in suits would best decide how to handle the problem of overtaxed war weary Marines being accused of killing innocent civilians in cold blood on the streets of Iraq and Afghanistan. That would be followed by a meeting with some men in suits about how to somehow protect our country's borders without condemning the idea that immigrants built this country. Right after that, he would talk with the leader of Jordan about talking to the leader of Iran about ways of somehow avoiding World War Three.

And then, right after three in the afternoon, he would have his photo taken with an eighth grade girl from Maryland who can spell better than any child in the land.

The little girl's parents, friends, teachers and everyone reading the Maryland newspapers or watching the local news tonight will come away with the same impression all Steelers fans had today:

I like this guy.

I like our President.

And our President will leave that photo op with the same thought he has had for every photo op for the past six months: A couple of hundred more of these and I can go home.

And you wanted to grow up to be President, huh?

theriac \THEER-ee-ak\ noun

1 : a mixture of many drugs and honey formerly held to be an antidote to poison
*2 : cure-all

Example sentence:
Garlic has been called the poor man's theriac.

Did you know?
There really is no such thing as a single remedy for all that ails us. But that hasn't kept English speakers from creating, not just a single word, but several words, that mean "cure-all" — "catholicon," "elixir," "nostrum," "panacea," and today's word, "theriac." When we first used "theriac," it meant "an antidote for poison" — for any and all poisons, that is. That's how our Roman and Greek forebears used their "theriaca" and "thēriakē," which derive ultimately from the Greek word for "wild animal." The first theriac was supposedly created by the first-century Greek physician Andromachus, whose concoction consisted of some 70 drugs pulverized with honey. Medieval physicians created even more elaborate theriacs to dose a plague-dreading populace, for whom the possibility of a cure-all didn't seem too wild a notion at all.

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.

Question eleven: How often do you trim your nose hair?

Big John fell in love with a girl he met at a controlled clinical study. He had panicked and was leaving. She was there to have her armpits sniffed. After seeing her, he turned around and went back in (although having a stranger's nose in his pits really freaked him out).

You can see how that would impress a girl.

And that was the main difference between Big John and myself. I would never have had my armpits sniffed for the love of a woman. For fifty dollars, yes. But love? Not so much. John, however, was big on love and fell in love five or six times a day.

At the time I was playing in a band. Gigs were few and far between and so some of us sold plasma and some of us hocked p.a. systems and some of us read on the bulletin board in the commons that we could make fifty dollars if we met certain requirements and showed up at the Science Building. I met certain requirements. Big John met certain requirements.

I was worried they would pump us full of drugs and we would end up years later in an institution, examples of the government's failed experiments. (“When asked why he agreed to such a thing, the patient replied that it was all worth fifty dollars.”) We showed up at the Science Building, filled out papers, passed along identification and were not given medications of any sort, but were simply asked to sit at cafeteria tables on plastic chairs directly opposite bored graduate students and answer questions about our hygiene habits.

“When was the last time you bathed?”

“Do you shave every day?”

“What instruments do you use to clean your teeth?”

A clarinet? Vibrating reed and all - who knows? Maybe it knocks the plaque loose. I pondered and was asked to take my shirt off. Meanwhile, at the next table, Big John was receiving the same inquisition but was reacting with something more than mere pondering. As I pulled my t-shirt over my head, I could hear Big John asking four questions to his questioner's one. “What instruments do I use to clean my teeth? What kind of question is that? Who uses the word instrument ? Who wrote these questions?”

Never once had Big John fantasized about having a small graduate assistant with bad breath ask personal yet inane questions about his hygiene habits. The few fantasies he cared to share with me had nothing to do with grad students. Some did, in fact, deal with nuns. Catholic school. Rulers. But that was as close as it came.

The scientist-in-training then asked for a sniff of John's armpit.

It didn't really bother me when mine asked; I was thinking about where I could cash a fifty-dollar check without having to give ten percent and decided to instead ask for straight cash. Big John was not as focused an individual. He couldn't get past the guy's nose in his pit and so he bolted.

There are times in a friendship when your friend does something and because you are a friend to your friend, you, as your friend's friend, are expected to do that same thing. Because I was Big John's friend and he freaked out and bolted, I was then expected (as listed in The Code of Friends) to freak out and bolt in my own personal style. My style, instead, was to continue doing what they asked until someone paid me fifty dollars, no matter what my small and hot headed friend did. Besides, by the time Big John freaked out, I had already had my pits sniffed. It wasn't any big deal. I was putting my shirt on as he got up. I just knew I was close to fifty bucks.

As Big John pushed his way out of the Science Building he nearly ran over a moderately cute girl headed in the opposite direction. She asked directions to the clinical study. He informed her of the odd nose-to-pit assault he'd recently deftly sidestepped and begged her to reconsider.

She, like I, needed that fifty.

Big John, smitten, followed her right back in.

He went to the same tables, filled out the same forms and showed the same identification to the same bored volunteers. He sat down at a table directly across from his newfound instant love and when asked to remove his shirt, did so without hesitation. Surprisingly, the girl seated across from him at the next row of tables, the woman he'd tried to save from such a fate, stripped her shirt as well.

They'd only shared a short conversation and one quick, mutual disrobing and already Big John was sure this was the woman for him. She was wearing a black bra. His love quickly turned, however, when he noticed she sported two of the hairiest armpits Big John had ever seen. It was as though someone had glued two bird's nests to her. She looked across and smiled. He tried to think of something nice, like birthday cakes. And then the grad student who had asked Big John to take his shirt off stuck his nose into Big John's pit and sniffed.

“Have you moved your bowels today?”

And for the second time that afternoon, Big John abruptly left the Science Building. He was now at least fifty dollars in the hole, perhaps 75, if answering embarrassing questions about hygiene counted as half-credit. Not only was he financially poorer for his actions, but he had been shorted on love as well, having left a perfectly good date possibility at the table, her hairy up-to-date armpits being inspected by a bored boy in a lab coat.

It was okay.

Big John made another hard, fast rule about love: Another girl will come along. And, if probability was to be believed, she'd probably have shaved pits.

acceptation \ak-sep-TAY-shun\ noun

1 : acceptance; especially : favorable reception or approval
*2 : a generally accepted meaning of a word or understanding of a concept

Example sentence:
I may not be an "athlete," in the common acceptation of that word, but I do enjoy my daily workouts at the gym.

Did you know?
"Acceptation" is older than its synonym "acceptance"; it first appeared in print in the 15th century, whereas "acceptance" took until 1574. Grammarian H. W. Fowler insisted in 1926 that "acceptation" and "acceptance" were not actually synonymous (he preferred to reserve "acceptation" for the "accepted meaning" use), but the earliest meaning of "acceptation" was indeed "acceptance." Both words descend from the Anglo-French word "accepter" ("to accept"), but "acceptation" took an extra step. Anglo-French added the "-ation" ending, which was changed to form "acceptacioun" in Middle English. (English embraced the present-day "-ation" ending later.) "Acceptance" simply comes from "accepter" plus the Anglo-French "-ance."

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence."
Sunday, May 28th, 2006
2:13 am
But I'm a Real Live Girl!
benedict \BEN-uh-dikt\ noun

: a newly married man who has long been a bachelor

Example sentence:
Tabloid reporters never tire of asking celebrity benedicts what they think of married life.

Did you know?
"Benedick" is the chief male character in Shakespeare's play Much Ado About Nothing. Throughout the play, both Benedick and his female counterpart Beatrice exchange barbed comments and profess to detest the very idea of marriage, but the story eventually culminates in their marriage to each other. As a result, Benedick's name came to be applied to men who marry later in life. The spelling was changed to "benedict," possibly by association with a use of "benedict" meaning "bachelor" (although the evidence for this use is scant). Some early 20th-century usage commentators regarded the respelling as incorrect with regards to the etymology, but "benedict" has become the established spelling nevertheless.

Green: ...and we'll meet you at the theatre.
Me: The what?
Green: The theatre?
Me: ...I can't say it, because I can't open my mouth much.
Green: What? Oh! I didn't know what you meant... I hate myself a little more, now.
Me: I hate you a little more now too, Green.

Donna kept trying to call me, Thursday. Rodney apparently ate turkey. He ordered a ham something from Wendy's, but what he got was white meat. Not the pink that ham tends to be.
Donna kept telling him it was turkey, but he insisted it was ham.

Then his throat began to swell shut.

By the time I called her back, Rodney was apparetly o-k.

While I was outside with my mother trying to decide what to do and eat a bird flew out of the bush in the back and hit Annibelle in the head; disrupting her turd-feast.

I yelled to her "get it, Annibelle!"

I hate birds, but I never expected her to actually get the bird.

*I had to pause because I laughed out loud, again, just thinking about it*

She chased after it, and slamed into the fence so hard that she knocked a board loose.

But she got, and killed, that fucking bird.

In reguards the to phone call from Green that I posted above, we went to see the 12:01 showing on X-Men 3. I purposely call it X-Men 3, and will continue to call it that.

Green had NOTHING D&Dish planned at all, whatsoever, yet again. Plus Tasha scored us one or two free tickets. She also got us movie cnady for like 50 cents a box.
I couldn't eat any candy... but still.
She also gave Toni her little bow-tie.

Maybe we should invite Tasha to do more stuff with us!

Lastnight, it rained. The grass on the hill I take to/from work was wet. It was also a while since the people who "own" it cut the grass.

they cut it today

While I was running home I decided to slow myself while going down the hill... I don't know why. I never do, and that always works.

So I fell, hard. I hit my head, which with the tooth missingness, it hurt a whole lot.

I also got grass stains. Bad ones.

When I got home I just took off most of my clothes.

That's when Brakk came to the back door to give me the rest of the money he owed me from my mom's alcohol.

He commented on how much he liked my underwear.

Alos, just for the record, Rachael didn't even so much as check to see if we needed anythign sliced Friday night.

So after that little cunt left, we ran out of tomatoes, ham, onions, the works.

And we just kept selling Italian subs.

We Jimmy came in today and had to slice shit for over an hour Rodney kept telling him it was because of a late hit, and not that bitches incompetence.

I'm still so fucking pissed about that.

To make it all the better, the pasta maker is broken, so I was cooking all her fucking pasta on the stove.

So just leaned against the fucked counter and smiled at Rodney.

Then Donna yelled at me about bringing it up after we were closed.

But Donna yelled at me 3 times again tonight.

At least Brakk likes me underwear.

1 : of, relating to, or resembling the orchids
*2 : showy, ostentatious

Example sentence:
"There's no clutter; no outlandish designer flatware or china; no orchidaceous, wordy wine lists. . . ." (James Villas, Town and Country Monthly, March 1998)

Did you know?
In its sense first used by botanists in the 1830s, "orchidaceous" means "belonging to the family Orchidaceae" — that is, to the orchid family, a very large family of flowering plants. While the basic shape of an orchid is simple — three petals with, on many orchids, an enlarged middle petal — there is no such thing as a typical orchid. Orchids range in size from very tiny flowers on inch-high plants to flowers a foot across, and they grow in habitats from tropical rain forests to semideserts. But when people use "orchidaceous" as a flashy term in phrases like "orchidaceous writing," "orchidaceous colors," and "orchidaceous ladies," it's the colorful, showy tropical species they have in mind —species which, as Jacob Breynius, a 17th-century German botanist, put it, "surely excite our greatest admiration."

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.

"Summer is just around the corner and you know what that means – the crop of Teamsters will soon be ripe and ready to pick.

The FBI came by this morning looking for Jimmy Hoffa. I mistakenly thought they showed up for the guns, drugs, pornography and mattress tags and so, immediately handed them over.

The worst part of it is you just can't get any of that stuff back. The FBI calls that “evidence”.

The real reason for the eight in the morning call was that they think Hoffa is buried in my pasture, between the chicken coop and the horse barn. A 75-year old inmate with another ten years left on his sentence told them he remembers hearing something about it. It never occurred to the FBI that, perhaps, the 75-year old inmate with 10 years left on his sentence gets few pleasures in life, apart from guns, drugs, pornography and mattress tags. Maybe he just wanted to see the FBI run around a lot. Maybe he's got a brother in the construction equipment rental business who lives in my township. His reason remains unknown; the results are that at half past early the doorbell rang, the dogs went ballistic and soon enough, some yahoo was hauling a back hoe through the meadow to find the former head of the Teamsters Union.

All I can say is God Bless America.

I've been playing the lottery since I was five years old. Have I ever won? Not a dime. Have I ever missed a week? Not a chance. Why? That's obvious. I'm from West Virginia. It's my fate to be rich. We who were raised Hoopees believe found wealth to be our birthright.

So, if not the lottery, then why not Jimmy Hoffa?

I'm always polite and accommodating to officers of the law. My behavior does not stem from fear, but of an understanding that working any job where you have to deal with the public on a daily basis deserves some politeness and accommodation. These days are not good ones for the FBI. They're in a big, big slump and need to put together a winning streak. I'm sure it started before nine eleven, but that debacle really focused the country's attention on how the upper echelons of law enforcement and intelligence gathering are subject to the peter principal and a little old-fashioned bone-headedness now and again.

I didn't bring those items up in my early morning conversation with the agents. I'm polite. I'm accommodating. Most of all, I'm not stupid - with the possible exception of handing them my stash of Playboys.

The FBI needs a score and Jimmy Hoffa just might be the ticket. For those of you who are too young or foggy to remember, Mr. Hoffa was a very powerful man in America, one of a few who could be said to be more powerful than the President himself. One day, his power ran out. Too many toes were stepped on. Too many contracts were broken. Too much money went into the wrong hands. Somebody wanted Jimmy Hoffa dead and, as far as we can tell, got their wish.

They've never found his body.

That's the thing about law enforcement. They hate open files. More than anything, they'd like to find Jimmy Hoffa's body, just to close the damned case. It sure would be nice , some agents are undoubtedly thinking, it sure would be nice to be able to say to every one of the twenty or so oddballs who call each day to tell me where that scumbag's decayed flesh is rotting, more than 20 years after the fact, to take a long walk off a short pier .

Sure would be nice for the FBI to close this case.

But not as nice as it would be for me.

If they do, indeed, find Mr. Hoffa's remains under my corncrib, as they seemed so intent on doing this morning, it would be a windfall for me. First and foremost, I'd get a new barn. They're tearing the old one down, just in case the informant's memory is a little off, location-wise. That's great news. The barn was just about to fall down anyway, and now they'll have to replace it with a brand new one.

Thanks, Jimmy Hoffa.

I'm considering asking the FBI if they don't think he could be buried under the house as well. And maybe parts of him are inside my old beat to crap pickup truck. As a matter of fact, it wouldn't surprise me if Jimmy's body parts are spread under the entire 95-acre fence line that surrounds our farm.

Well, sort of surrounds.

Okay.

It wouldn't surprise me if Hoffa's body parts are spread under the entire 95-acre fence line that's falling down, post by post, gate by gate, all around our farm.

Look there, Efrem Zimbalist, Junior!

There's a finger!

There's a toe!

When do you want to start putting that new fence in?

Momma always told me, “When you're handed lemons, make lemonade, and when a dead Teamster's body is plunked into the clay behind the horse barn, make some crap up until they replace every structure on the property.”

Or something like that.

Now, Mr. FBI man? Let's talk about how I can get my guns, drugs, porn and mattress tags back. I'll turn my back and promise not to say anything about the CIA and when I turn back around, all my stuff will be right where it was last night.

Look!

Over there!

Is that an arm?"

slugabed \SLUG-uh-bed\ noun

: a person who stays in bed after the usual or proper time to get up; broadly : sluggard

Example sentence:
Rather than be a slugabed for her entire vacation, Jeanne made it a goal to rise at 6:00 AM and go for a jog every morning.

Did you know?
The first known usage of "slugabed" in English can be found in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet (1592), when Juliet's nurse attempts to rouse the young heroine by chiding, "Why, lamb! why, lady! Fie, you slug-abed!" The first half of the word, "slug," is a now-rare verb once used in English to mean "to be lazy or inert" or "to move slowly." Experts believe this word to be of Scandinavian origin, and the same thing can be said of the noun "slug," which can mean "sluggard" or "lazy person" as well as refer to the slow-moving gastropod. The second half of our featured word, "abed," is a word still used in English today to mean "in bed."
Thursday, May 25th, 2006
11:11 am
Lots of Blood Part Tres!
Hello, once again, boys and girls.

I got what was left of my wisdom tooth pulled lasterday. That means only two to go!

Those two are the ones that are terribly impacted and will cost a great deal more to have extracted...

anywho!

I spent more time in the chair in the waiting room than I did in the operating chair.

The office said they'd call me with a definate time closer to the acutal date. All I kne wis that it would be on Wednesday, and in the moring.
I got tired of waiting, so I called them. The woman said it would be for 11:15.
So I called my Aunt Diane and she said she'd take me.

The next day, they calle dme back to tell me it was at 11.

Not that bad of a change. We got there right around 11, and Toni and I went in while Aunt Diane went to KMart. She LOVES KMart.

At around 11:30 or so they called me back.

I was done and home before noon.

The shots made my mouth swell. I went numb more quickly than I normally do. I think it was due in part to the numbing stick the woman jammed into my mouth. So all I could really feel was a growing pressure on my tongue. It took me a second to realize the roof of my mouth was coming down to visit my tongue and lower jaw.

The swelling either went away after I was completely numb, or it just didn't present a problem for Doctor Bender (not a dentist).

They told me I could keep the tooth if they didn't have to break it.

That made me nervous. Especially when they stuffed gauze down my throat so I wouldn't choke on the little bits.

Not the choking, or the prospect of pain. It was that I wouldn't get to keep the tooth. That's what made me nervous. I'm much mroe concerned about my collection of human teeth than I am about several days of discomfort.

They had a bit of trouble getting ahold of my tooth, since a portion of it was missing. But after they tooth some tool and skinned my gums back the tooth came out with great ease.

The last time I had a tooth pulled it became a major ordeal because of my mutant roots.

This tooth had very long, but mildly straight roots.

There's still chunks of my gums on this one.

They bleeding didn't want to stop after I got home. So I kept biting down on the guaze. I swallowed a lot of my blood because they told me not to spit. Spitting would keep it from ceasing to bleed.

I wasn't allowed to drink milk or alcohol or any carbinated beverage. And not use of straws or tabacco.

The milk and carbination thing didn't come up last descade I had this done. Or at least I don't recall.

Instead of spitting I decided to just let the blood run out of my mouth. I stained everything in the kitchen garbage, the bedroom garbage, and coated the bathroom sink, in blood.

When Patti took Brakk to Sandy's, she stopped by my mothers work and procured my some 800 mg Motrin.

Dr. Bender didn't give me antibiotics or pain killers. That saved me money, I suppose.

The Motrin helped, actually. Most of the pain was from my jaw locking up due to my biting down on the guaze.

I needed to go to Wal*Mart. Brakk joined us. He recent had two of his wisdom teeth pulled and was also given no medication. We whined and bitched at each other.

At Wal*Mart, while in the baby food isle THIS happened!

Me: (through my blood filled guaze) Come on! Let's go! I wanna get home and eat my baby food! I'm starved!

Weird Old Man: (appears from nowhere) BABY FOOD?!

Me: uh, yeah. I just got my tooth pulled. (I pointed to the mildly swollen part of my face)

The old man made certian to grab Toni's shoulder when she tried to turn away from him. He told us the name of his wife and his daughter. Then told us how he just went to the dentist and was out and about. His with, daughter, and several other women he mentioned, would have been spending the day in bed. Not he, though. He was a survivor!

Then he leaned over and touched Brakk.

And with that, he was gone.

Until we got to the soup isle. I made myself look as busy as possible while Toni ducked closed to the cart for protection.

Brakk fled in terror and reappeared behind the end cap at the start of the ilse behind us.

The old man was with who I could only assume was his wife and he ignored us.

Then I spotted him while we were heading through produce. I suggested we go the long way around to avoid him.

He checked out right next to us, and if not for the out cashier being insanely slow, we'd have run into him.

The woman at the register asked us about energy drinks, then imediately asked us if we liked Zima. Toni said she'd never had it, and all I said was that I did not. Not stopping there she asked Toni something about our child.

We don't have a child. It was the baby food that made her think that, though. Toni explained about my tooth being pulled and I watched the creepy old guy head towards the far exit.

After we got home I pured the small bag of gravel into my would-be aqua-terrium without delay. It, sadly, was not enough.

I'm going to have to purchase another twenty five pound bag and just use part of it.

I need peat moss, anyway...

Toni and Brakk were also in great need of food, so while at Wal*Mart I suggested Wendy's, or maybe McDonalds; they have smaller burgers, and my jaw was still a little locked-up.

My mother wanted to go to Lobinger's, instead. I didn't mind that, but it took my a while to explain to her that I don't like there burgers.

The fries and shrimp I had caused my mouth to swell a little, but nothing too terrible. While we watched a special on child molestors in a mirror I notcied a girl I went to school with picking up a pizza.

I then remembered that I had a dream involving zombies and a mall (seperately) that she was in.

After watching the season finally of Lost we went to Paul's. Unfortunately, Green had nothing prepared for us to RP.

However we're going to Paul's again tonight and Green said he'd have something for us.

So huzzah.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to wash things. Things that aren't me on my mouth.

1 : resembling, consisting of, or producing the humor phlegm
*2 : having or showing a slow and stolid temperament

Example sentence:
He is a phlegmatic coach at courtside, but in the locker room he fires up (and, when necessary, reams out) his players, inspiring them to win.

Did you know?
According to the ancient Greeks, human personalities were controlled by four bodily fluids or semifluids called "humors": blood, black bile, yellow bile, and phlegm. Each humor was associated with one of the four basic elements: air, earth, fire, and water. Phlegm was paired with water — the cold, moist element — and it was believed to impart the cool, calm, unemotional personality we now call the "phlegmatic type." That's a bit odd, given that the term derives from the Greek "phlegma," which literally means "flame," perhaps a reflection of the inflammation that colds and flus often bring.

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.

Dear Johnny Wonder...

After watching the Preakness horse race this past Saturday from Pimlico, I am left with many questions, the first and foremost of which is, “Why do they often kill a horse after it has broken its leg?”

I watched the race favorite, Barbaro, snap an ankle shortly after the starting gates opened. He had lunged forward and opened the gate in front of stall six moments before, forcing the race to be re-started. The announcers on hand for NBC commented that Barbaro's chances of winning were significantly lessened by that fault. It was extremely rare for any horse, even a Triple Crown threat, to come back after a false start to win a race. Once the horse's energy had peaked, it was difficult to regain that momentum for a restart.

Once pushed back into the starting gate, Barbaro exploded forward again at the bell, sprinting toward the lead until ten lengths or so into the race. It was then that something appeared to go very, very wrong. The horse came up lame. The jockey pulled as hard as he could to get the race champion to stop running. Barbaro looked as if he wanted to continue racing, even though he only had three legs working.

Once he stopped, it became obvious to all (even a geek sitting at home on his couch) that something was very wrong with this horse. His right rear foot was just hanging from his leg like a hunk of hard cheese attached by a string.

As the rest of the field continued pounding around turn one, the network analysts were quick to point out that if the leg was broken, that might be all for Barbaro.

Not just “all”, as in “his racing days are over”.

But, “all”, as in “they're going to have to put him out of his misery”.

Someday, I thought, they'll be saying this about me. One bright and sunny Saturday afternoon I will go from being a Triple Crown contender to being so much dog food. And what say will I have about it? Hopefully a bit more than the million-dollar racehorse. He had no say at all as he was loaded onto the equine ambulance.

And it made me wonder, as it does each time I see a racehorse injured, “Why do they often kill a horse after it has broken its leg?” Since it was only hours before the Sunday funnies came out to the local newsstand, I knew I did not have enough time to contact my usual source of trivial information, Johnny Wonder. Johnny's been there for me in the past, answering questions like “How do plants grow?” “How does a metal airplane stay in the sky?” and “How come it burns when I pee?”

That Johnny.

He knows.

If you're keeping score at home, that's “photosynthesis”, “air pressure” and “skanky hos”.

Unfortunately, the horse question was left not to Johnny Wonder, but to the wise old owl in the Tootsie Pops commercial, who, after biting into my lollipop, told me it took three licks to get to the center. Not the answer I needed, I reminded him, but thanks anyway.

And so, like a lazy student, it was off to the internet to find the information I needed for my book report. Horses, I found out, don't breathe well while lying down. Their lungs are not built to remain at rest for very long. Once a horse has been prone for more than a day or so, his lungs will fill up with fluid and he will, literally, drown. That makes the seemingly simple problem of a broken leg much more difficult to heal.

Think about it. If you broke your ankle badly while horsing around with your friend, a break so bad it required plates and screws and pieces of string and ceiling wax and other fancy stuff, they'd slap your butt in a Rascal scooter and you'd not walk for at least two or three months. That can't be done with horses, mostly because the Rascal Corporation has yet to see the tremendous upside of electric wheelchairs for Mr. Ed, but also due to the fact, that, as of this morning, no horses can understand English.

Or, in the case of those from south of the border, Spanish.

I know what you, the Horse Whisperer, are saying right now. “My horse can understand me! Every time I tell him what to do, he does it.” Great. Each time you yank him or dig your heel into him or squeeze your butt cheeks a certain way, he moves. Every time you offer him a slice of apple, he munches. There is, of course, a subtle difference in those actions and trying to explain to your horse that his ankle has been surgically repaired and he needs to stay off it for six to eight weeks while interspersing cold packs to stem the swelling with hot water soaking to promote circulation.

Or, in the case of those south of the border, “El Coldo yo Hotto, Compadre”.

Horses can't hit the recliner for long periods of time and, unlike me, they are very, very hard to keep sedated. In addition, you and I have cable, meaning the happy telemarketers at Craftmatic Adjustable Beds are ready to help our discomfort. Barbaro, who does not have a credit card, will be strapped into place like an S and M movie stand-in.

It's veterinary science.

At some point in time, a decision will have to be made as to whether all this torture is too much for the horse to handle. And then it will happen, just as it will in our lives, if we live long enough.

They'll feed us a sugar cube.

They'll turn a little knob.

We'll dream of fillies.

So, keep this in mind the next time you and the other ponies get together and start horsing around. Be careful. Someone could get hurt. And if they do, it all could end very badly.

Not all of us get to go to stud service.

flat-hat \FLAT-hat\ verb

: to fly low in an airplane in a reckless manner : hedgehop

Example sentence:
Unable to resist the temptation to show off, the young pilot decreased altitude and flat-hatted over the county fairground.

Did you know?
Legend has it that the term "flat-hat" originated with an incident back in the days of barnstormers in which a pedestrian's hat was crushed by a low-flying airplane. According to one version of the tale, the reckless pilot was subsequently required to purchase a new hat for the hapless pedestrian. It seems unlikely that such an event actually took place, but we can well imagine how fear of having one's hat smashed flat by a passing airplane might have given rise to such a vivid verb. "Flat-hat" first appeared in English in 1940; another word for flying low to the ground, "hedgehop," debuted 14 years earlier.

We're all so proud. He's finally getting out of the house .

With the aid of hindsight I now see where I made most of my financial mistakes. I left my money in the stock market too long during the tech boom and bubble's bust. I should've held onto that muscle car I had back in high school. And the next time a friend of mine comes to me asking for a couple of hundred bucks to get his idea off the ground, maybe I won't laugh in his face quite so quickly. What do you mean, portable telephones? Who would want to carry around a telephone when there are plenty of phone booths available? Who would want to talk on the phone and drive at the same time? What a stupid idea! Haa haa haaaaa!

Most of all, if give the chance to repeat my financial life, I will definitely send out some graduation announcements. By the time the announcement people came door to door in my high school, during my senior year, my mind was so far from the little printed notes and business cards and photographs. All I wanted to do was survive the next four months and get the hell out of there without suffering a complete breakdown and turning the northern panhandle of West Virginia into Columbine (years before there was a Columbine).

To put it simply, I didn't enjoy high school very much, so anything having to do with commemorating my forced stay there was out of the question. I had to be forced to have a senior portrait taken. I said no thanks to a yearbook. Didn't want graduation announcements. It has taken me over twenty-five years to discover what a grand mistake that was.

Each June since, my mailbox has contained more and more high school graduation announcements. Each of them is nicely printed on that expensive looking chunky paper. They all have a tiny business card stuffed inside. On it is printed in flowing script the full legal name of the high school senior I've usually never heard of, probably never met more than once or twice and wouldn't recognize if they were behind the counter at my favorite movie rental store. Also in the card is a tiny piece of tissue paper. I guess that's there for my use if my eyes well up with tears when I think of how proud I am of the graduating senior – that is, if I can place who the heck they are. Is this my cousin's kid? Is this the neighbor kid? Are there this many Jasons in the world?

The card is an announcement of the graduation ceremonies. It is an invitation to attend the event. In machine-perfect dainty script, it usually reads something along the lines of “The faculty and senior class at Arthur Fonzarelli Senior High School announce their commencement exercises, Friday evening, June thirteenth, 2006, seven-thirty o'clock, Shirley Feeney Amphitheater, on the school grounds”.

That's printed on the card, but that's not what the card says . Instead, what the card says is “Soon, the teenager whose name is printed on this fancy card will be traveling with his buddies to the beach, sometime in June, 2006, ten o'clock in the morning. His parents, who are your friends / and / or / relatives, neighbors or total strangers, are broke, having spent their entire savings sending him to a prom which he did not want to attend. Since he has refused to get a job to support himself, we are sending you this card in hopes that you will send him cash”.

And it works.

Nearly every time.

With that in mind, I've decided to make amends for not sending any graduation announcements in June of nineteen hundred seventy seven . I will send them now. The faculty and Latin dance class partners at Arthur Murray Dance Studio announce the commencement exercises of all graduating students, forced by their wives to endure twelve easy lessons . Inside the announcement will be my card – Scott Cletis Witherow Paulsen.

I'd like to leave for the beach by the end of the month, so a prompt reply would be appreciated.

Oh.

One other thing.

I can't afford to send you that little slip of useless tissue paper in my announcement. Instead, I offer a torn corner of a paper towel. Enjoy!

: brought back

Example sentence:
"Polka dots, stripes and florals with ... a distinct '50s and '60s redux aura ... are a trend we're glad to see returning." (Jaimee Rose, The Arizona Republic, July 15, 2005)

Did you know?
In Latin, "redux" (from the verb "reducere," meaning "to lead back") could mean "brought back" or "bringing back." The Romans used "redux" as an epithet for the Goddess Fortuna with its "bringing back" meaning; Fortuna Redux was "one who brings another safely home." But it was the "brought back" meaning that made its way into English. "Redux" belongs to a small class of English adjectives that are always used postpositively — that is, they always follow the words they modify. "Redux" has a history of showing up in titles of English works, such as John Dryden's Astraea Redux (a poem "on the happy restoration and return of his sacred majesty, Charles the Second"), Anthony Trollope's Phineas Redux, and John Updike's Rabbit Redux.

Well, yeah. He's pretty damned useless in a crisis. But he's chocolate .

Every once in a while I catch a whiff of intelligence and the future; the cause of the common people supercedes skin color; the world unites to save itself from itself.

And then there are days like Saturday.

Ray Nagin, the man who once said that it was time for New Orleans to once again become a “chocolate city”, that “God wants it that way” and that God sent Hurricane Katrina to the gulf coast because “black America is not taking care of ourselves”, was re-elected Mayor of that city this weekend. Citizens of the Big Easy once again placed their trust in the mayor who oversaw what many experts categorize as a prime example of bureaucratic government failure at its worst. His office's inability to provide shelter, care or relief to New Orleans citizens, his poor decision making, including leaving parking lots full of empty busses as flooding victims clamored for transportation out of the city, has been cited as the cause for many injuries and deaths during the storm. Those same citizens who were trapped by their government's inabilities seem to be saying to the rest of the world, “Sure, he may be ineffective, but at least he ain't white.”

The population of New Orleans is black by majority (sixty percent) and the city has had an African-American mayor since 1978. Nagin's opponent in the Mayor's race was white Louisiana Lieutenant Governor Mitch Landrieau. Looking at the results, it's easy to genralize about what happened in the race for New Orleans Mayor. "Black people voted for the black guy. White people voted for the white. More black people equals another term for Ray Nagin."

Having visited New Orleans a grand total of four times in my life, I have no knowledge of how the people think or why they made this choice. I've loved every moment I've spent in Louisiana and cherish the people I've met. I don't want to insult anyone and, being an outsider, it may not be my business to analyze an election.

What were you thinking?

The unfortunately obvious conclusion is that, for as much progress as we may hope we've achieved, people still are unable to see past skin color. Most people are not naïve; most understand. I live in a mostly whitebread city. There isn't much in the way of chocolate here – certainly not a majority. Prior to this weekend, I believed that if our white mayor was a negligent bumbling over reactionary hothead during a crisis, his bad decisions costing the lives of his constituents, he would be ousted from office in the following election.

Even if his opponent was black.

Now? I'm not so sure. Perhaps I give people too much credit for being able to look past race to performance. Could be I live in a pragmatic dream world. All I know is what I read. The news reports tell me that not only was this guy, Ray Nagin, an impotent and feckless civil servant – he was, in addition, blatantly racist in his remarks and actions.

When idiots like Pat Robertson spout racist remarks, when they target gays, minorities and foreigners, when they invoke the name of the Lord to give their insane arguments merit, we shine the big, white spotlight on them. We take them and their comments to the public square and put their ugliness on display. We ridicule and parody them. We make sure the innocent know and understand that this is not how we function in America. This is not how we are. This is not to be rewarded.

And yet, when given the chance, what have the people of New Orleans done? They've handed an ineffectual leader who continually promotes race for his gain another term.

What were you thinking?

I don't have a problem with New Orleans being a “chocolate city”. The problem I have is its being a “stupid city”. The citizens of the Big Easy obviously thought differently than the rest of us; they realized the incumbent Mayor did a “heckuva job” during Hurricane Katrina while we saw a guy who was in way over his head - literally. It was either their love of Nagin's work or the fact that the Lieutenant Governor is a complete waste of time that allowed Mayor Ray another term.

Why else would you give him another chance?

Do you want to see if he does better with the next disaster?

Or could it be that, given the choice, you'd rather have a total incompetent than a white man of any qualifications?

How dumb is that?

Well. He's pretty damned useless in a crisis. But at least he's "chocolate".

rigmarole \RIG-uh-muh-rol\ noun

1 : confused or meaningless talk
*2 : a complex and sometimes ritualistic procedu

Example sentence:
Instead of going through the rigmarole of filling out deposit and withdrawal slips, waiting in line, and explaining her transactions to the bank teller, Lauren usually finds it simpler to use the ATM.

Did you know?
In the Middle Ages, the term "Rageman" or "Ragman" referred to a game in which a player randomly selected a string attached to a roll of verses and read the selected verse. The roll was called a Ragman roll after a fictional king purported to be the author of the verses. By the 16th century, "ragman" and "ragman roll" were being used figuratively to mean "a list or catalog." Both terms fell out of written use, but "ragman roll" persisted in speech, and in the 18th century it resurfaced in writing as "rigmarole," with the meaning "a succession of confused, meaningless, or foolish statements." Only in the last century did "rigmarole" (also spelled "rigamarole," reflecting its common pronunciation) acquire its most recent sense, "a complex and ritualistic procedure."

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence."
Monday, May 22nd, 2006
4:13 am
Toni Loves Me In The Back
My watch stopped again Saturday. I have a problem with that... they end up over-wound long after I wind them in the morning, then they stop. They usually start back up, unexpectedly... *shrug*

Super-Ezra!

After raiding an Alchemy Lab, our group encountered a 5-headed Hydra. So in order to make our chances to get the crystal ball (which wasn't int he ower anyway) remotely possible Toni's char drank some of the potions we found and into battle we went.

She drank two potions of enlarge person, making her huge. Not just in description, she went from medium to large, then large to huge. She ten drank the potion of blur we found. Giving her opponents a 20% miss chance. To top it all off, Dustin' Char cast mage armor on her. This gave her the following:

And AC of 21 and an ATK of +11 and DMG 4d6 + 12

We messed up, only givng her +10 DMG.

The hyrda didn't last long. With the bad math it had a few negative hit points left, so Jhaeyemns dealt the final blow.

After the spells all wore off and the corpse of the centaur corpse and tomes were discovered, we created a decent plan to take out the minotaur a few floors down. Ezra fell unconscious, Lysander and Jhonas didn't hit it at all, and Jhaeyemns amazingly was not KOed and killed (for once). It was defeated, however.

Tonight in mid RP I looked up at the tops of the cutians of the back window in Paul's living room and involuntarily uttered "holy shit!", or something pretty close to that.

Following my gaze, Green and Toni shouted fuck in one way or another and Paul either took the Lord's name in vain, or began to pray for all our souls. I'm not sure which, but are would have been quite fitting.

There atop the nicotine-stained fabric sat a spider so large that it could use it's webbing to catch whales. From leg to leg, it was about 4 inches in diameter.

Not the largest spider some of us have ever seen, but quite large. Toni had never seen an arachnid or such proportions in real life before.

Green nearly left the room, but turned to stay for whatever reason. Toni fled and Dustin moved back behind Paul and me. I moved forward, only slightly, to get a picture and a movie. Paul bellowed for an icecream container.

I told him this was not time for icecream.

After a few failed attempts to knock it into the empty plastic prison, Paul removed the curtian rod and Green, of all people, shoed it in.

He then took it into the kitchen and shook it to death. Once the curtians were down Dustin and Paul spotted another spider. I saw one that was tiny and slew it. Then Dustin pointed out where the second large (but not nearly as large as the first) spider had gone. Paul unfolded the curtians and I quicky smooshed the third one with one of the children's toys. It gooed poisonously.

Green awarded me 5 XP.

In other news, Brakk got punched in the face for taking the keys off of his drunk friend, and I got most of what I need for my frogging.

Scott had not slept in about 30 hours or more, then sat at the bar and drank from 9:30 until about 2. Then we decided he'd be a prime candidate to give Toni and me a ride home.

Patti and Rock came out to eat at New Century with us.

: loosely styled and irregular in measure especially for burlesque or comic effect; also : marked by triviality or inferiority

Example sentence:
Murray disparaged the new poetry anthology by saying that it contained little more than doggerel verse.

Did you know?
"Doggerel" comes from the Middle English word "dogerel" of the same meaning. Beyond that, etymologists aren't certain of the word's history. They think "dogerel" is probably the diminutive of the Middle English word "dogge" (meaning "dog"), though the connection between man's best friend and bad poetry is unclear. "Doggerel" is often used as a noun, too, meaning "doggerel verse." Stephen Crane uses the noun form in this excerpt from The Red Badge of Courage: "As he marched he sang a bit of doggerel in a high and quavering voice: 'Sing a song 'a vic'try, / A pocketful 'a bullets, / Five an' twenty dead men / Baked in a — pie.'"

General Washington! The enemy has been here! Look! A Rolling Rock bottle!

I have hiked Raccoon Creek State Park since way back when we called it “walking”. In high school we drove there to get away from it all, drink a little, smoke a little, toss some Frisbee, listen to tunes and take a walk in the woods.

Or, as we call it now, hiking.

There remain some fuzzy connections to my childhood. Raccoon Creek is one. So, whenever we want to repeat past mistakes and relive old glories, we take a drive out to Beaver County and get away from it all, drink a little, smoke a little, toss some Frisbee, listen to tunes and take a walk in the woods.

Being a Raccoon veteran, I know that on weekends such as the one that just passed, it's best to avoid the main entrances to the park; we opted instead for a back way I've known since I was a Golden Bear of Oak Glen High. Due to state funding running out back before disco destroyed the culture, the back way into the park is now overcrowded with trees and brambles. For a moment this past weekend we actually were doing some hiking.

“No, seriously,” I kept promising my lovely bride. “I know where I am. I used to go this way all the time. The picnic grove is around here. Somewhere.”

But first, a pee break.

There is something about the forest, bookstores and trips to New Jersey in my father's Plymouth that make me have to urinate nearly constantly. And, as Jeff Goldblum's character once said in the movie The Big Chill, nature is just one big toilet, so I unzipped and, stepping slightly from the overgrown path, let fly.

And that's when the shooting started.

Just as old books, trees and sitting on the hump tend to kick start my stream, there's nothing that makes the weener turtle faster than a gunshot.

And another.

And another.

And shouting.

And horses, galloping.

As I was thinking, “What the hell is going on?” my wife said those nearly exact words, substituting her favorites for those cleaned up for this broadcast. It was right about then that we saw them – the British military, on horseback, with long rifles and muskets, chasing the colonial militia, the French, the Indians and two hikers, one of whom was raising a small white appendage of surrender.

Noticing the cameras, I tucked myself back into my pants.

It was not something you see every day in a state park. It was the Colonial Army, circa seventeen hundred something-or-other (I'm guessing here – the day the French and Indian and British and not-quite-Americans-yet War was taught in school, I was at Raccoon Creek Park, smoking Frisbees).

Noticing the cameras, my wife hid her beer.

I am not a stranger to re-enactors or other boys dressing up in costume. In fact, my last boss was fond of dressing up as a Union soldier and shooting blanks at folks in grey. As soon as I learned of this, I tried to remember to never wear grey to work. I also had to get rid of my neato rebel cap, but that's another story. This was no ordinary re-enactment. When I looked out from the woods I spied, literally, dozens of guys on horseback, who all looked incredibly British and French in their costumes and period weaponry. Alongside them and scattered among the trees were men painted orange – Indians. They looked sort of realistic, except for the tint, which, in fact, made them look like they'd gotten an early start on tanning season with a huge vat of QT. Had I plugged my ears, I could have imagined being back in the seventeen-something-or-others, in the midst of a famous battle whose name I wouldn't recognize, which was being documented by a film crew.

It all seemed so real until a man with a bullhorn shouted, “Cut!” from somewhere in the distance. He then added, “Who are those people? Get them out of the shot!”

Those people, as it turned out, were us.

Still are.

Had we gone through either of the park's main entrances, we would have been stopped by state police and informed that, unfortunately, the park was closed. A movie company was using it to film scenes for their upcoming production about George Washington. It's to be called “Gentlemen Warrior: George Washington” and stars Bryan Cunning as the young Washington who leads Colonial troops against the British in the “Battle of the Back Trail that Leads into Raccoon Creek State Park”. If you don't remember that one from your history books, don't feel badly. You're not alone.

An Indian was the first to see us (go figure). His name is Chad and he lives in Wilmerding while studying acting at CMU. Yes, he admitted, the makeup was uncomfortable, but at least he was working. We chatted for a moment about acting and horses with Chad, and Ed, another Indian and two or three of the Brits until a guy in a golf shirt asked us politely to leave. We did so (they had muskets).

Having somehow avoided a confrontation with the state police, making six straight visits to the park without a reprimand or arrest, we headed home with a new tale to tell. While traipsing and gallivanting we were attacked by the Colonial, British, and French armies, along with two Indians named Chad and Ed.

It had been a big day.

And, if you're extremely lucky, when the movie “Gentlemen Warrior: George Washington” is shown at the Sundance Film Festival, Robert Redford and everyone else will get to watch one battle scene in which a middle aged guy in a t-shirt and blue jeans can be seen peeing behind the French.

That is, if they were using a zoom lens.

A big, big zoom lens.

chouse \CHOWSS ("OW" as in "cow")\ verb

: cheat, trick

Example sentence:
In Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities, Mr. Cruncher says, "If I ain't, what with piety and one blowed thing and another, been choused this last week into as bad luck as ever a poor devil of a honest tradesman met with!"

Did you know?
"You shall chouse him of Horses, Cloaths, and Mony," wrote John Dryden in his 1662 play Wild Gallant. Dryden was one of the first English writers to use "chouse," but he wasn't the last. That term, which may derive from a Turkish word meaning "doorkeeper" or "messenger," has a rich literary past, appearing in works by Samuel Pepys, Henry Fielding, Sir Walter Scott, and Charles Dickens, among others, but its use dropped off in the 20th century. In fact, English speakers of today may be more familiar with another "chouse," a verb used in the American West to mean "to drive or herd roughly." In spite of their identical spellings, though, the two "chouse" homographs are not related (and the origin of the latter is a source of some speculation).

Well, Pittsburgh. It looks like we've lost another of our superstars to free agency .

Sometimes, it can be so annoying to live in a town that's a shrinking market. With each passing season, we the fans realize that our teams are falling further and further behind the rest. Every year, it seems, another of our superstars jumps ship to go to where the money is.

What happened to loyalty?

We all remember Barry Bonds, right? Love him, hate him or jab him in the buttocks with a syringe full of magic hormonal goo, you have to admit that had the Pittsburgh Pirates been at the top of the supply chain rather than dwelling in the cellar of the salary house, Bonds would be going for number 714 this week against the Reds here in the ‘Burgh.

How about Jaromir Jagr? We all remember that he was quoted as saying being in our town, playing for the Penguins was like “dying alive”. His spectacular mangling of the English language aside (I don't speak a word of Czech), I would much rather see Jags on a line with Sidney Crosby than the parade of unknowns we got to witness occupy that slot this past season.

Why are these two certain Hall of Fame players no longer wearing the black and gold? That one's easy. Money. In Pittsburgh it's hard to hold onto talent when other, bigger markets come calling with their checkbooks open.

And now it's happened again.

The Pittsburgh Roman Catholic Diocese has announced that Bishop Donald Wuerl has been dealt to the Washington, D.C. diocese for two altar boys and a novena to be mumbled later. It's strictly a matter of money. We just didn't have the payroll to keep him.

Last season, the final year of his contract, was arguably the Bishop's best. It's a scenario we've come to expect here in Western Pennsylvania. Every time a big name, big money player gets to the end of his contract with one of our teams, he responds by having a career year, thus pricing himself right out of the market.

In 2005, his option year, Bishop Weurl set a new league mark by comforting 283,650, in person and on television and radio. He also went 67 for 90 in save opportunities. That's a save percentage of just over .750.

No wonder they were calling him a “franchise Bishop”.

So, given his incredible record, why did the Pittsburgh Prayers let him go? Why didn't they just sign him to another long-term deal? It's simple. They just don't have the money. Oh, I know it looks like they're loaded – on paper. It seemed like the Prayers were ready to win it all this season. Sure, there were some holies to fill. But, on paper, this Pittsburgh Catholic Diocese was looking more and more like a championship caliber team. As we all have come to learn, what's on paper means nothing, especially if DaVinci had anything to do with it. It's looking more and more obvious that without Donald Weurl hitting in the Bishop's slot in the batting order, well, you can kiss this season goodbye.

Is there any chance of our town returning to the glory days of the seventies? Will there come a day when we can look forward to making the playoffs again? What would it take to bring the coveted Blessed Sacrament back to Pittsburgh?

It would take a miracle.

On ice or otherwise.

Or, perhaps, something a bit more rare - a new league-wide "Reverend Sharing" Plan. They've been talking about it for years, but the richer dioceses won't give up the power they've been given. Blessed are the meek, but screwed are those who have no major league talent.

Who's to blame?

Me? I have to look toward management. Things sure seemed better when John Paul the Second (or as we called him, “the Chief”) was the GM. He knew how to treat his stars. He treated them like Saints. This new guy, Benedict? He doesn't know anything about winning championships. To him, it's all about profits and marketing.

You would have never seen a single Training Camp holdout in the days of JP II. There were no agents. No one got an endorsement deal from a multi-billion dollar wafer and wine company. Back then, all you'd see in the stands were regular people. Now, you can't go to a midnight mass without a BMW and a season ticket package. Don't even think about it. It's all corporations that own the front pews now. Used to be, back in the days of Bishop Canevin, you could buy a seat in the church by tossing a quarter into the collection plate and, just before the Homily, moving down to the front row.

Those were the days.

Back before the juice.

Grape.

Ask anyone. They'll tell you about how all that juicin' was the beginning of the end.

So it is with a sad heart that I tell you about yet another great Pittsburgh figure leaving because of the lack of payroll. Bishop Donald Weurl is going to Washington Catholics. And what did we get in return? Two kids I've never heard of and novena that hasn't been said in at least six or seven seasons (and even when it was said every day, it didn't really pull its weight).

What are we to do?

The answer is obvious. We need to build a new church – a big, big church, with plenty of skyboxes and prayer lounges – one that looks like an old church but has all the amenities of a modern church. That way we'll be able to put together a revenue stream that will make us competitive against the bigger market dioceses.

Some corporate sponsorship might help. Let me run something by you.

St. Joseph's Baby Aspirin. Little, orange stained glass windows in the rectory?

Yves Saint Laurent Sunday School?

We can always look at it this way: If we do finish last in the Catholic League this season it might bring us closer to Hell, but we'll get the first pick in the draft.

And in Hell, we might need a draft.

Was that lightning?

: highly injurious or destructive : deadly

Example sentence:
Farmers stopped using the pesticide after discovering that it had a pernicious effect on some wheat crops.

Did you know?
When the wind blows ill and wicked, and you need a word for the evil that such deadly currents can do, consider "pernicious" or "noxious"; both describe something exceedingly harmful. Of the two, "pernicious" more strongly implies irreparable harm done through evil or insidious corrupting or undermining. "Noxious" is more often used for that which is offensive or injurious to the health of body or mind. The sense of wickedness in those two words is entwined deep in their histories. "Pernicious" comes from the Latin root "nex" (meaning "violent death"), which is related to Latin "noxa" (meaning "harm"), the root of English "noxious."

And now, for your voting pleasure, let's give it up for Senator Rick Santorum who will perform his version of “Relax” by Frankie Goes to Hollywood.

This week, Allegheny County voters got to step right into the Jetsonian Age as they cast their ballots electronically for the first time. Touch screen voting came to town and, from all reports, worked effortlessly.

It was a great night for technology.

Not such a great night for incumbents.

Although the process was pain-free, the number of voters turning out was disappointing, as usual. In the past several years, we've seen a decline in voter turnout, not just for the state's primary elections, but in national Presidential polls as well.

In 2004, President Bush defeated challenger Senator John Kerry and was elected to a second term after 62,040,606 people cast ballots for him. Kerry finished second with 59,028,109 voters having pulled his lever. Not counting third or fourth party candidates or the massive number of “Donald Duck” write in votes, that's a total of 121 million voters in the November 2004 Presidential Election.

To give you some idea of how disappointing a turnout that was, consider that just a few months before, back in May of 2004, an estimated 130 million people called to cast their vote in the finals of the American Idol television talent show. If those estimates are to be believed, more people voted for Ruben Studdard and Clay Aiken than did for the President and one of the country's leading Senators.

Of course not.

But we do like to watch them more.

Thinking about this could depress a guy who cares about his country. But not me. You see? I'm an idea guy. I'm not just one of these fools who complains about things and doesn't offer a solution. I see the future. I want to take you there.

And the future, my friend, includes singing and dancing.

Now that we have the ability to use a touch-controlled computer screen to tabulate our vote, why not take it a step further? Most people reported having no problem manipulating the touch screen controls and casting their votes, but I would venture to guess that if you asked those same people if they had any difficulty deciding who, exactly, to cast their vote for, they would give a different answer.

Some people are well-educated voters who analyze each candidate's backgrounds and qualifications. For the other 98 percent of us, the voting process, as patriotic as it seems, is really a crapshoot.

We don't know enough about these people.

We can't possibly be secure in our decision-making.

We need to see how they sing.

What if, the next time we all stepped into the voting booth, we could see each candidate perform a song, on video, just by pressing a button. To save time, we'll limit each one to one minute performances. American Idol has proven time and time again that you can't really tell anything about anybody until they are forced by law to sing the first two verses and the chorus to “You Are the Wind Beneath My Wings”. Sure, they can balance a budget. But can they keep up with all that French gobbledygook in “Lady Marmalade”? They may act as if they could be King, but how will we know until we see them pretend to be The King?

How much easier a decision would we all have had if we'd been given access to video of President George W. Bush belting out, “All Shook Up” as Senator John Kerry countered with the Democratically-themed “In the Ghetto”?

It doesn't have to be an all Elvis election. We don't have to stick with themes, like Idol. Let's instead allow the candidates to choose their favorite song to perform, like they force the baseball players to pick before they're introduced to hit. Who knew Governor Ed Rendell was a Tool fan? Wouldn't it be wonderful to watch Senator Rick Santorum sing, “Like a Virgin”? Lynn Swann – we heard you once took ballet lessons. Let's see you shake it to “O.P.P.”

Governor Naughty by Nature.

The best aspect of this new voting system I propose is that we'll get to meet the lesser-known candidates up close and personal. Most of us can pick Specter out of a line up, but who among us would know the three candidates running for Lieutenant Governor if we hit them with a shopping cart in the parking lot of Wal-Mart?

Bet you'd remember Katherine Baker-Knoll after she belted out the first two verses and a chorus of “Boot Scootin' Boogie”.

I say punish those who gave themselves pay raises not by ouster alone. Let's make the fat cats sing. Literally. Touch screen election karaoke. Give it some thought. Get back to me.

After all, how many times in this life will we get the chance to see Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, standing in fishnets and five inch “poke-me” pumps, giving it her best Elton John with a rockin' version of “The Bitch is Back”?

lido \LEE-doh\ noun

: a fashionable beach resort

Example sentence:
Staff at hotels and restaurants along the world-famous lido are already gearing up for the huge influx of students during Spring Break.

Did you know?
The original Lido is a beach resort near Venice, Italy. The town's name comes from the Italian word "lido," which means "shore" or "bank." (The Italian root derives from "litus," the Latin word for "shore.") By the mid-19th century, Lido's reputation as a chic vacation destination for the well-to-do was the envy of seaside resorts everywhere. English speaking social climbers generalized the town's name and started using it for any fashionably Lido-esque beach.

Better stay away from Copperhead Road. Unless you need a fill up.

Since my experiment of attaching a coal-fired boiler to the sidecar of a steam-engined Electra-Glide ended so badly (all apologies to the neighbor for the loss of his dog's ears and tail), I have begun to explore other ways to save money at the pump. My research lead me to a fast-rising new/old technology, ethanol.

Perhaps you've heard the name.

Ethanol is an alcohol-based alternative to gasoline made by adding yeast to a grain (such as corn) and boiling in a pressure cooker. The same process, by the way, also creates moonshine.

Perhaps you've heard the name.

E85, the ethanol and gasoline mix so slickly advertised by GM and others as the new alternative to bad old High Test, is basically grain alcohol (moonshine) with a chaser of high-test gas. It's eighty-five percent moonshine, 15 percent gasoline and is readily available in about 11 or 12 gas stations in Indiana. They don't tell you that in the TV spots for GM's new line of E85 vehicles, cars and trucks that are ready, right now, to run on ethanol.

Yes, they'll run on the stuff.

But where is it sold?

Before you hurry right out to the dealer and plunk down thirty grand for an E85 vehicle, be aware that the car you're driving is likely to be ready, right now, to run on ethanol. That's one of the positive things about corn-based gas. The motor in your Camry, the engine in your F150, will burn the stuff, right now, right out of the pump, right down the road.

Somewhere in Indiana, right down the street from teh Willie Nelson Biodeisel truckstop.

I know that you haven't been paying any attention to what I've said in the past minute, mostly because I broke the surprise about ethanol being moonshine too early in this commentary.

Premature Information.

Some men suffer from it.

That is the God's honest truth of the matter – ethanol has been manufactured for years in the hills and hollers somewhere near your home. The answer to our dependence on foreign oil has been right under our noses. Instead of pouring it into the gas tank, however, your independent, local manufacturer has been pouring it into his stomach and down the windpipes of happy customers.

I've been one. It was summer (it's always summer in these stories, isn't it?). We were bored (we were always bored). Someone knew a guy. We drove there. The guy sold us some “grain”. After a taste and massive fits of coughing, our 17-year old minds figured out the secret of every great alcoholic – mixers. Off to the store we went with the remaining pooled five dollars and a need for orange juice.

It was years before I could drink orange juice again.

To best describe the taste of corn alcohol, I would say that it could have probably powered an internal combustion engine. I've also tasted gasoline during a summer siphoning accident (we were always bored). I must say that while the Sunoco did not necessarily have a “better” flavor, it did possess an “oakey” aftertaste.

So is ethanol for us?

The negatives are that alcohol is a corrosive solvent, meaning that eventually, over the long term, ethanol will eat through your fuel-injection components, the gas tank, and all pumps and hoses that come into contact with it. That's what GM means when they state that they're producing ethanol-ready vehicles – they're slapping stainless steel gas tanks and fuel injectors into those cars and trucks. Ethanol, when produced with corn, is actually more expensive from the ground to the pump than traditional gasoline. Hopefully, that will change if demand increases.

The positives are that because ethanol can be made from corn, wood pulp, or even sugar (as they do in Brazil), it could eventually be a cheap fuel. We've certainly got the ability to grow corn and sugar in America. We're real good at it, and frankly, the farmers could use the business. It's clean burning and higher-octane, producing more horsepower per gallon. Another big positive is, obviously, that the money you pay at the pump for ethanol will eventually find its way into the pocket of an American farmer and not into the wallet of an Arab oil Sheik.

The most important positive to me, having grown up in West Virginia and spent some quality time in Eastern Kentucky and Tennessee, is that ethanol is, essentially, moonshine.

That's a technology we already use.

If there's anything this great country knows about, it's moonshine.

Up in the hills, out in the barn, in the toilets of cell block D, we've been making corn liquor for a long, long time – longer, in fact, than we've been making cars.

The sooner we invest in ethanol, the sooner we'll be able to pull into our local service station and say to the man in the overalls an straw hat, “Fill ‘er up!”

That's when we'll twist open the cap on our gas tank.

And pass him our Mason jar.

Fill 'em both, my man.

I've got a long trip in front of me.

interpolate \in-TER-puh-layt\ verb

transitive senses
1 a : to alter or corrupt (as a text) by inserting new or foreign matter b : to insert (words) into a text or into a conversation
*2 : to insert between other things or parts : intercalate
3 : to estimate values of (data or a function) between two known values
intransitive sense : to make insertions (as of estimated values)

Example sentence:
The biographer has interpolated many letters by the painter within the text, along with numerous sketches and paintings.

Did you know?
"Interpolate" comes from the Latin "interpolare," a verb with various meanings, among them "to refurbish," "to alter," and also "to falsify." "Interpolate" entered English in the 17th century and early on applied to the alteration (and in many cases corruption) of texts by insertion of additional material. Modern use of "interpolate" still often suggests the insertion of something extraneous or spurious, as in "she interpolated her own comments into the report."

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.

Like most of us, I have many neuroses, phobias and psychological quirks, one of which is talking about my neuroses, phobias and psychological quirks on the radio.

I've grown accustomed to the majority of weirdness that happens in my skull. It's obvious at this point (more than halfway through my existence on Earth) that nothing can be done. As my analyst, Mr. Popeye, is fond of repeating, I yams what I yams and that's all that I yams.

One of my most annoying brain stutters returned this week with abandon. Chances are, you too are afflicted and have suffered as I from “earworms”. Earworms is the delightful little title German psychiatrists have given to the inability of most people to get a song to stop repeating in their heads, over and over.

You know what I'm taking about?

You're driving down the street, minding your own business, thinking about baseball statistics, how much money was in the pants you left on the dresser and why anyone would want to eat goat cheese when suddenly, from deep within your demented head comes the unmistakable sound of the Village People.

“Y…M C A! It's fun to stay at the…”

What?

Where'd that come from?

I don't even like the Village People!

But there it is. It had burrowed in and will be with you throughout the rest of the day, perhaps into the night and if you're extremely unfortunate, it will return at segmented intervals until the following Tuesday, when, for no reason, it will be replaced by “Whennnn the… moon hitsa you eye like a bigga pizza pie… that's amore!”

No.

That's annoying.

That song you've had stuck in your head is a common occurrence, so commonplace, in fact, that it has been named by the psychiatric community. They call them “Earworms”.

For me, they orbit like comets. Some are so infuriating I'm driven to distraction. Others are almost comforting. This week, I've had the theme from the Muppets Show appearing now and again at some inopportune and frankly, embarrassing moments. Not to go into too much detail, but how would you feel, if, in a moment of passion, your head decided to sing to you.

“Dum dum dum dum… it's time to put on makeup! It's time to light the lights! It's time to meet the Muppets on the Muppet Show tonight!”

I don't mind the Muppet Show and am not opposed to its theme song, but not right then, right there, at that instant.

Why?

Why does this happen?

Most times it's not even a full song, or a full verse of a song, but just one small snippet. Another of those ever-returning earworm comets that flies by at unspecified times is Mr. Yuck. I may not have thought about that little green S.O.B. for a year, but while in full repose, nearly asleep after a stressful day of playing records and being a goofball, just as I am about to glide gracefully into Mr. Sandman's chambers, my head will decide it's a perfect time to concentrate on child poison control.

“Mr. Yuck is mean… Mr. Yuck… is GREEN!”

Oh, forget it.

There's no point.

I'm not sleeping tonight.

The most confusing, confounding aspect of earworms is that anything, and I mean ANYTHING can trigger them. Once triggered and brought to life, an earworm can dig itself into my subconscious and pitch a pup tent. It's got supplies. It's got cable. It's not going anywhere. When I mention that anything can trigger one, I'm not being facetious. While doing research to write this piece, I triggered one, one I had never, to my knowledge, had in my head before. It's one that feels as though it could be in for the long haul, though.

The word “earworm”, the one used by German headshrinkers to describe my ailment, served as the trigger. For once my brain drank in the word earworm, it did its own version of a Google search until it came up with a snippet of a song.

Roger Waters.

Pink Floyd.

The Wall.

Hey You.

Not the entire song, mind you. Not even the guitar part, which I could stand over and over. What I can't stand over and over is whiny, self-absorbed Roger in my head as I'm shopping for tomatoes at Giant Eagle, singing, “And the worms ate into his brain.”

Pathetic. What a sick little passage to have repeating all day, all night, for days at a time. It's been bubbling up to the surface of Magic 8-Ball over and over and over for nearly a week. And the worms ate into his brain.

I'd almost rather have the Village People.

So that's what my last several days have been: rain, constantly, and a subtle reminder that, as the psychiatrists describe it, I have a bad case of worms.

And the worms ate into his brain.

Y…M C A!

Mr. Yuck is mean….

And the worms at into his brain."

doch-an-dorris \dahkh-un-DOR-is\ noun

Scottish & Irish : a parting drink : stirrup cup

Example sentence:
Our kind host supplied us with a wee doch-an-dorris, and then we set off on our journey feeling happy and grateful.

Did you know?
In Scottish Gaelic, it's spelled "deoch an doruis"; in Irish, it's "deoch an dorrias." In either case, it means, literally, "drink of the door" and it refers to the time-honored practice of sharing a parting drink with one's host or guests. But lest you think this custom is practiced only by the descendants of the Gaels, know that "doch-an-dorris" (as it's spelled in English and used primarily by the Scots and the Irish) has an English synonym: "stirrup cup." Originally a small drink of wine or something else taken by a rider about to depart on horseback, "stirrup cup" later acquired the general meaning of "a farewell drink.

Götterdämmerung \gher-ter-DEM-uh-roong\ noun

: a collapse (as of a society or regime) marked by catastrophic violence and disorder; broadly : downfall

Example sentence:
Although we all hoped for a peaceful transfer of power, we feared the conflict would instead end in a chaotic Götterdämmerung.

Did you know?
Norse mythology specified that the destruction of the world would be preceded by a cataclysmic final battle between the good and evil gods, resulting in the heroic deaths of all the "good guys." The German word for this earth-shattering last battle was "Götterdämmerung." Literally, "Götterdämmerung" means "twilight of the gods." ("Götter" is the plural of "Gott," meaning "god," and "Dämmerung" means "twilight.") Figuratively, the term is extended to situations of world-altering destruction marked by extreme chaos and violence. In the 19th century, the German composer Richard Wagner brought attention to the word "Götterdämmerung" when he chose it as the title of the last opera of his cycle Der Ring des Nibelungen, and by the early 20th century, the word had entered English."

346 days, 20 hours, and 51 minutes until Spider-Man 3!
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