It’s the 24th century. Why are people having meetings in the lobby of a Cracker Barrel?
If you know or have a better thought what to do with this picture, please, use the space here. I’m mostly including a picture like this to pad out pointing over to my mathematics blog, which had some more comic strips to talk about the other day, which was yesterday. Suggested topic: why is Barclay’s cat eating a heaping dish of Brain Ice Cream? Is that really healthy for a creature made of live Photoshop “dry brush” pen strokes?
Next week: why didn’t my spell check object to “thermosons”, “thermoscoop”, “thermoshort”, and “thermoyard”? How can any of these possibly be wordlike constructs?
My love and I went to the Clearly Used To Be An Arthur Treacher’s Fish And Chips a couple blocks away, because a bunch of restaurants that have been around forever closed recently and we didn’t want to miss this one. While reading the newspaper there we got to the summary of recently-introduced state legislature bills, so you know what kind of fun people we are. I remind you, I’m a person who owns multiple pop histories about containerized cargo. But among recently introduced pieces of legislation is Michigan House Bill 5770. If passed, it’ll change some state law references regarding the Department of Community Health to the Vital Records Office. The blockbuster bill would also change “Department of Human Services” references to “Department of Health and Human Services”, reflecting some department mergers and renamings. Also if I’m reading it right they’re changing a reference to the “commission for the accreditation of birth centers” to the “commission for the accreditation of birth centers”. I think that was put in to see if anybody was reading closely. I was skimming.
I don’t mind the state legislature bowing to the forces of Big Copy Edit like this. Of all the special interests that might have their way in the capitol, the fearsome Blue Pencil Squad is one I’m not so afraid of. Sure, I’d like the roads to get fixed too, but I understand that takes money. This just takes fixing the web site listing state laws.
What gets me is that this bill has seven sponsors. Why? What was the controversy someone was hoping to squelch by showing the bill started with broad support around the state? Is it the bit where the use of “pursuant to” is changed to “under”? I bet it’s that. I know the kinds of people who say “pursuant to” and they will put up a heck of a fight to make other people say it.
I don’t mean to make this a political blog. But put me down in favor of correcting references to government departments in order to reflect the current names or the mergers of agencies into new administrative structures. And I don’t care who I’ve offended by saying this, unless it’s my love or the guy making my fish and chips meal. To them I say I’m sorry and remind them of my deep and long-held moral cowardice. Thank you.
When I was barely old enough to understand any of the editorial page writers, I understood and loved Art Buchwald’s Thanksgiving-Explained-To-French-People essay. The love’s stayed with me. A good nonsense explanation is maybe perfectly fitted to my attitudes. I love learning things, and yet, I love seeing the form of exposition smashed and scattered about and rebuilt into gibberish. It’s a tough mode to get right. It needs to have a strong enough factual backbone that the piece has the grammar of explanations. But it also needs a strong enough whimsical and absurdist backbone to carry the reader through.
How To Write Out Numbers, from April 2014, is one of my attempts at this that I’m happy with. In it I get to blend my love of mathematics with my deep interest in copy editing and standard-setting. I know what sort of person this makes me, but maybe you’ll also like it. If you don’t, that’s all right. We still probably have some things we can talk about.
- Governor (politician)
- Governor (engineering)
Based on generally accepted scholarly consensus from the words’ private writings or interviews with knowledgeable parties and, in some cases, interviews regarding the words’ political views.
From the 1976 Scoopy-Doo/Dynomutt Hour. Dynomutt episodes omitted, even the ones with Scooby-Doo and the Gang crossing over.
For the first time in the Scooby-Doo franchise neither Jekyll nor Hyde appear in episode titles. Also there was an episode in Venice that was never put into syndication for some reason? Canada too, and that one had a sea monster and everything. The heck, guys? When I was eight I’d have loved to see Scooby-Doo with a sea monster. You’ll give me the episode where, according to Wikipedia’s description, “the gang meets up with tennis star Jimmy Pelton, who has been cursed by a warlock”, but not a Canadian sea monster? The heck, I mean really, what the heck?
Most surprising point: while Hyde appeared in episode titles for both Scooby-Doo Where Are You and The New Scooby-Doo Movies Jekyll does not.
No, “Teughly” is not a word, but the Scrabble Dictionary allows it, as a giggle.
I’m a know-it-all. By this I mean simply that I assume you have an opinion about David Rice Atchison, and whatever it is I am prepared to argue that you are wrong. It’s amazing that I don’t spend more time running away from people meaning to slap me. But I credit that for my always loving the mock-explanatory essay. I love the real things, certainly, but the humorist who can capture the rhythms of explanation while producing nonsense — well, that’s wonderful. Robert Benchley in My Ten Years In A Quandary And How They Grew provides one of the most perfect examples of this. From the fourth paragraph on there’s barely a misfired word or a weak sentence, and the first three paragraphs are a good warming up. The antepenultimate paragraph alone is worth learning what “antepenultimate” means.
The Word “Three”
I don’t know whether you care or not, but etymological circles are in an uproar. They have just discovered what the word “three” comes from.
They have known the derivation of all the other words in the number-table (as, for example, “two” from “Tuesday,” or the second day in the week if you don’t count Sunday as the first, and “five” from the god Woden, or Thor, or Buttercup, and so forth and so forth), but they have never been able to figure out where the word “three” came from.
A little fellow from the University of Welf discovered it. He doesn’t speak English himself, but he is awfully interested in people who do. It was during one of these periods (I should have told you that he has periods when he looks up words) that he found out about the word “three.” He was looking up the word “tree” and, not speaking English well, he thought that it was pronounced “three.” You can see how that might very well be.
The word “three” comes to us direct from the French, collect. The original word was (and still is) tri, which means a sorting, or, as in card-playing, a deal. Thus, one would say: “Give me a tri,” or “How is your tri?” meaning “Give me a deal” or “How is your deal?” If one were really speaking in French, of course, all the other words in the sentence would be French, too. (i.e., “Donnez-moi un tri” or “Votre tri, ça marche?”)
Just how the word tri got into the French language is a mystery which occupies practically nobody’s attention at the moment. It is supposed to have come from the Creole patois of New Orleans, and was used to signify hurry or lethargy. The old form of the word was blo, which gradually was shortened into tri. Later the whole word was dropped from the language by a rising vote.
The Normans brought the word into England just before the Norman Conquest. In their use of it an extra syllable was added, making it triouille, meaning white-bait or Roger crab. We still are no nearer than we were to finding out how it came to mean three of anything. Don’t think that I’m not just as worried as you are.
With the advent of water-power and the subsequent water-pistol, Luke (Luke was the fellow I was speaking of a few yards back) didn’t know what to do. Unless I am greatly mistaken, this paragraph belongs in another article.
Well, anyway, the people who are making up the English language found themselves with names for every digit except “three.” And, as there were three of quite a lot of things (Marx Brothers, blind mice, wishes and cent stamps) it got increasingly embarrassing not to have a word to express “three.” They tried using the word “four,” but it ended only in confusion, especially when addition or subtraction was at stake.
Suddenly someone said: “Why don’t we take the word tri from the French? They’ll never miss it, and they owe it to us anyway.” This seemed like a logical plan, and everybody but one man agreed to it. He later committed suicide when he found out how successfully it had worked out. “I was a blind fool,” he wrote.
As it sounded rather common to say tri, they put in an h and substituted a double e for the i. This made as pretty a “three” as you could wish, and from that day on it was a part of the language. They tried it out in a little rhyme: “One-two-three—buckle my shoe,” and it went so well that soon everybody was saying it.
Frankly, I don’t know whether I like it as a word or not. It still sounds a little slangy.
You know how it is you just sometimes realize you’re using a word way more than normal? This happened to me recently.
If you’ve got any notable uses of the word “crazypants” or are curious about my other word uses let me know!
Not charted: the crazypants Immanuel Kant quote that kind of set off this whole recent crazypants phrasing.
- 1. 1
- 1. (tie) 6
- 1. (tie) 10
- 1. (tie) 2
- 5. 5
- 5. (tie) 4
- 5. (tie) 9
- 5. (tie) 0
- 9. 8
- 9. (tie) 7
- 9. (tie) 3
- 12. 11
- 12. (tie) 30
- 12. (tie) 12
- 12. (tie) 20
- 16. 15
- 16. (tie) 16
- 18. 18
- 18. (tie) 14
- 18. (tie) 19
- 18. (tie) 13
- 22. 17
- 23. 21
- 23. (tie) 26
- 23. (tie) 22
- 26. 25
- 26. (tie) 24
- 26. (tie) 29
- 29. 28
- 29. (tie) 27
- 29. (tie) 23
I have another bunch of mathematically-themed comic strips reviewed over on my other blog that I’d like you to read, if you would. I’m aware that’s pretty soon after the last time I collected such a bunch of comics so there isn’t really a quite mad enough edition of Mell Lazarus’s Momma to highlight here, though I will say the dialogue of Wednesday’s strip is kind of weird.
Anyway, since I don’t have another comic strip I feel like showing off, I’d like to mention something I learned from that Caption This! thingy from Star Trek VI earlier this week, and that is: Apple’s spelling dictionary recognizes the word “thingamabob”. It also recognizes “thingumabob” as an equally good spelling of the word. It does not respect “thingimabob” or “thingemabob”, and it makes an audible yicking noise at “thingomabob”, even though that last one seems at least as plausible to me as “thingumabob”.
From this I must conclude that either someone at Apple decided of her own initiative that the `a’ and `u’ spellings of “thing*mabob” were acceptable while the `i’, `e’, and `o’ ones were right out, or else there was at least one staff meeting in which the matter was debated and decided. And I so hope they took minutes which will someday be available to corporate biographers.
Meanwhile I’m so glad I went with “thingamabob” instead of “doohickey” for the caption because otherwise how might I have discovered all this?
I have a Peanuts page-a-day calendar because otherwise I’d only be reading three different Peanuts strips online every day, and on the back of every page is a miscellaneous bit of stuff, like a word puzzle or a sudoku puzzle or a note about what the day’s an anniversary of, which would be kind of useful if I saw it before I tore the page off the next day. On the back of January 27 they had this:
Corporate executives consider Tuesday the most productive day of the week. It’s the day to get down to business and start crossing off items on to-do lists.
Is this a “fun fact”? I’m not a fair judge of whether something is fun because I own multiple books which explain the history of containerized cargo, and I’ve been thinking seriously about picking up James Q Wilson’s Bureaucracy for recreational reading. I know that sounds like a joke, but I got interested in Wilson’s book because of some reading I was doing about Harry S Truman’s 1946-1949 director of the Bureau of the Budget, so you see why that all makes sense. You can tell me whether corporate productivity assessments are fun.
But is it a “fact”? People have a complicated relationship with facts. We like them, because we’re pretty sure knowledge is built out of them, but just how that building gets done is a mystery. You can check in the World Almanac and find out how many tons of steel the United States produced in 1945, if you were trying to look up when Arbor Day is and had some trouble with the index, but all that really tells you is how much steel the American Iron and Steel Institute was willing to admit was made back then. And really, all you learn is how much the World Almanac claims the American Iron and Steel Institute claims was made back then, and they’re pretty sure you aren’t going to go checking, what with Google being a much easier way to find out when Arbor Day is. Knowing what you do about American steel production rates in 1945 doesn’t give you any idea about why Arbor Day.
We want facts to be on our side, as we get ready to do cognitive battle with the world, but they’re not reliable allies. A fact can be pretty hard to dispute — that steel-production figure has got to be pretty sound if I could figure out where I left the World Almanac so I could look it up — but then it’s also too dull to enlist except on a game show; it’s got at most the power to make you go “huh” and move on. Facts that are about anything interesting are graded and qualified and have subtleties and need other facts to help them out. If we, say, want to know what made World War II happen and what we can do to prevent a recurrence we can’t really grab anything concrete and have to content ourselves to not calling that area “Prussia” anymore.
We want facts to speak for themselves, as long as they stick to our scripts. When we run across a treacherous fact that doesn’t seem to care if it supports us we could say something about how we might change our minds based on “this fact, if it’s true.” This should cause Mrs Furey to pop up from seventh-grade English class and berate our intellectual carelessness. If it isn’t true it isn’t a fact, by definition, which is a kind of fact used to divert an argument we might not win into an argument everybody will walk away from, losing and bitter. We can get away with the carelessness because it’s a big world and Mrs Furey might need years before she can get back to us.
That’s all right; only the old-fashioned try to change minds with facts anymore anyway. Now it’s all done with the right colored lighting, appropriate background music, and the vague scent of vanilla, which research into the psychology of decision-making shows will cause us to decide, never mind what we said before, we are going to buy whatever it is that’s in front of us, whether it’s a Snoopy doll, a footstool, a bowl of keychains, or a 2016 Toyota Something Limited Edition (pre-recalled for your convenience). At least that’s what the facts they report say and who are we to quibble?
If there’s a fact I am pretty sure about, it’s that the calendar company started putting this stuff on the back of their pages at the same time they stopped printing separate pages for Sundays. That’s fourteen percent of the year they’re hoping I won’t miss if they put in a sprinkling of fun facts. I bet they decided to do that on a Tuesday.
I am all but certain there was a time in my life when I could look at a sign and not feel helpless before the questions it posed, but now, I realize I can’t even look around one of those sad little minor arcades tucked in the far back section of the Cedar Point amusement park without noticing something like this “Guide To Coin-Operated Video Games”, and the description of game content. Particularly, there’s this pair at the bottom:
|Contains commonly used four-letter words.|
|Contains strong four-letter expletives.|
What do they mean by “commonly used four-letter words”? Since it’s “mild” language that suggests they mean words such as “word” and “four” and “used” and “mild” and maybe even “blue”, “them”, “malt”, “thaw”, “ever”, “pear”, or the mildest of all mild words, “chat”, a word so mild it only becomes enraging because anyone asking for a “chat” with you is transparently trying to manage you to becoming angry at someone other than them, the person you should be angry at.
And by pinning down the red-zone warning words to “strong four-letter expletives” they seem to be ruling out all cases where you take a popular strong expletive and turn it, say, into an adjective or adverbial form, or maybe where you insert it into the middle of some other word like “absolutely”. But also if they mean this then how do they qualify the phrase “h-e-double-toothpicks”, which is nineteen letters but so mild that you can say it anywhere that hasn’t been ravaged by controversy over the toothpick industry? These are all questions I feel I cannot answer.
- (1) 17
- (2) 18
- (2) 14
- (2) 19
- (2) 13
- (6) 15
- (6) 16
- (8) 11
- (8) 12
- (8) 20
- (11) 8
- (11) 7
- (11) 3
- (14) 5
- (14) 4
- (14) 9
- (14) 0
- (18) 1
- (18) 6
- (18) 10
- (18) 2
So I took the plunge and got a bag of wordseed. Took delivery today, and I should’ve expected. You expect a 20-pound bag of things to have a certain bulk, but this was way smaller and so much more trouble to deal with. You know the densest matter in the universe is neutronium with twenty boxes full of books that need to be moved upstairs? It’s about like that. They had to deliver it on a dolly that was itself carried on another dolly.
Anyway, I prepared a bed like the instructions recommend — a stockpile of books that are far too precious for me to ever get rid of even though I never read them and try not to touch them — and scattered the seed fairly uniformly, leaving only a decent set of margins. I’m skeptical what’ll come up, but, we’ll see.
So this was listed in the Summer Catalogue:
Year-round cracked syllable and diphthong mixture to attract the widest variety of words. Blend effective all year round in zones with a Flesch-Kincaid number of 8 or above or Gunning fog index of at least 10; temperature climates support a Flesch-Kincaid of 6 or higher. Very good at attracting loan words from exciting language families. Certified low-zeugma. Gerund-safe. 20 pounds, $11.98 and free shipping.
It seems like a good deal and yet I wonder if it’s really for me. I have no idea what the Gunning fog index is around these parts.
As your Saturday or Sunday or whatever reference guide, here are some things I’ve found not to work in a game of Boggle, that puzzle game to find the words in a randomly generated matrix of letters:
- Rolls. (Letter ‘R’ wasn’t actually there.)
- Queue. (Dispute about whether a ‘Q’ on the board automatically included a ‘u’ with it.)
- Cat. (Didn’t see it.)
- Flinch. (Shied away from it. Admitted irony of the situation.)
- Aququrqu. (Was just needless sarcasm after that Queue dispute above.)
- Obelus. (Nobody believes me that’s even a thing.)
- “What do you mean that’s not in the Scrabble dictionary?” (They meant what the words obviously imply.)
- Dogma. (Letter ‘G’ was actually a ‘Q’.)
- “Let’s play cribbage instead.” (Fantastically bad move.)
- Hemed. (I couldn’t believe that was a word.)
- Sighing and walking away, shaking my head sadly that things should have come to this. (Insufficiently cool. I should have pretended I saw a squirrel doing a cute thing and never come back.)
I’m starting from the premise that you just can’t say “unbeknownst” anymore, not without sounding at least a little arch and like you’re making fun of the people who use words like “unbeknownst” without meaning to sound a little arch and like they’re making fun of (I’m sorry, I have to call this sentence off because of the recursion error). Anyway, if you’re not willing to give me that premise we’re just not going to get anywhere.
The thing is that “unbeknownst” was a perfectly good word, usable for all sorts of conditions when the beknownsting of things was aptly described as un-, and now it isn’t. At some point the comical uses of the word so overwhelmed the serious uses that the word had to be given up as part of the usable non-humorous vocabulary.
So that means there’s someone out there who was the last person to use “unbeknownst” without meaning it archly, and without expecting the audience to hear it a little archly, and given that arch uses of the word had to be on the rise then I wonder: was this last-serious-use of the word something the writer knew was going on, or was it unbeknownst to her? But if it was beknownst to her, doesn’t that keep it from being a legitimate use? Even a little bitty bit? Or did she refuse to think about that lest she lose the spot of last-legitimate-user to whoever used it just before she did?
To sum up, worrying about this nonsense is why I got like two hours of sleep last night.
Come on down to the Deer Mouse Street Library to enjoy the fifth annual pronunciation-off at 3:15 pm Thursday. Main Auxiliary Room. Participants are hoping after the preliminary rounds to make it through most of “oryctolagus”. Attendees are asked to specify when they arrive whether they believe “snuck” to be a word so they may attend the correct session. We don’t want a repeat of the quarrels which broke out last time, although we admit it was kind of great when Ms Windling, shaking with rage, demanded the judges tell her whether they thought “tuck” was the past tense of “teak”.
The North American Council on Poetic Quality has issued the following guidelines of words that can no longer be used in consumer- or industrial-grade poetry. Exemptions will be applied for cause. The Council also reminds all that National Haiku Pedantry Month starts the first of November, so be ready to help them enforce the rules about cutting words and nature imagery by leaping up on desks and shaking golf clubs about while insisting it’s everyone else on the Internet that has the issue and they should go write limericks instead.
O: as a particulate extrapolation that fills in those little bits where it feels the sentence hasn’t quite got started yet, the word-letter “O” has suffered from extreme overuse and fatigue, bringing the population of the word-letters to the brink of extinction. Therefore the word-letter “E” is to take its place, as the stocks of this are much more robust and have a tendency to get into the garage if not thinned out some. Use with abandon, the long E only.
I should’ve known I’d get myself into trouble. I was hoping to pick up a little extra money because there’ve been all these unexpected expenses like food and those roller coaster seeds I’ve been trying to grow in the front yard. Anyway, I took a contract bit where I just have to work up a name for a newly-invented color, which I figured I could toss off in a moment, the way someone decided that “Cornflower” could be a color.
Anyway, what they want is a word for the shade of orange you get when someone built a community college in like 1971 and put bright orange carpeting all over the walls, because that was something that seemed normal in 1971, and then it’s still somehow up there in 2013. Sure, you know the color I mean from that description, but what are we supposed to do if we need to describe that quickly? Worse, what are people doing with that color that they need it described in a word?
I should’ve taken a temp job making JSON do that thing where you get error messages from your web browser instead.
[ Unrelated: WordPress tells me I’ve now got 250 people following this blog. Thanks kindly to each of you, and I hope that you’re enjoying the occasional glance around these parts. Please feel free to introduce yourselves to one another as there’s a fine student lounge with an indescribable orange-carpeted wall available. ]
Q. When someone talks about what-nots, as in, “taking care of this or that or what-not” (this isn’t a good example and I should fix that before I send the question in) what are they referring to?
A. Begin by considering things. Now rule out from the set of things: mathematical operations, griffins, pancake breakfasts, sandcastles, ham radio repeater stations, tool sheds, rock operas, and the things you keep in that compartment of your car’s armest but not where CDs are supposed to go. Now take the geometric mean of the things that remain. You can’t, because that’s a mathematical operation, which you ruled out, see? The what-nots are the trinkets you keep on your shelf so that it would be too much bother to remove them before dusting, as well as the receipts from ATM transactions and movie purchases that you keep because they might come in handy someday. Also included, optionally, are up to one quarter-cup of spices (any kind).
I see from the Institute for General Wordiness that “pusillanimous” has been added to the official collection of Words That May As Well Not Mean Anything, Because Nobody Uses Them Enough To Remember What They Do mean. I’m a little offended because I remember the word very well, as it was one of my favorites in the 7th grade vocabulary sheets that gave us words to learn how to spell and to define, and I was very good in those. Pusillanimous means, I believe, quarrelsome and unpleasant but not quite so much as the March 2011 inductee “lugubrious” does. Anyway, it’s a perfectly “vibrissae” day outside so I’m going to watch the lawn instead of worrying about it.
I mean words, not the lawn. I have people to worry about the lawn for me.
I need to clear out some books and so offer these samples of my eclectic tastes to any takers. Please contact this or any department if you would like it sent gratis, or contact me if you would like it sent to you.
An Incomplete History Of The Cold War, by Daniel “D D” Davison “Hall”, accepts that any history of a complicated event will be incomplete, and so for this popularization it includes only the years 1947, 1953-55, 1964-67, 1978, 1980, then goes back to 1972 because of some stuff it thought about, and 1980 again; and it omits completely all reference to “Poland” or “Belize”, the latter of which the author insists was merely coincidence. 325 pages.