Friday, April 28, 2006

Tuercas del eje

I hesitate to write about work. Not that I fear retribution or anything. I just feel funny about it. But I have to share:

My translation duties often find me sorting through pages of monotonous material. But on Wednesday, I was stopped dead when a gem of a word sparkled on the page. I giggled like a little girl. For the rest of the day. I'm not kidding.

Am I childish? Absolutely.

What was the word? Shaftnuts.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Sweatin' the Small Stuff

Running a bit behind today, but here's a language post to sate my sense of blogging duty. Let us take up the word transpire, a great example of a word that has correct and less-than-correct-but-not-necessarily-entirely-wrong meanings. does a good job of making the distinction.

Correct and accepted by almost everyone who's not objectively batshit insane:

  • To give off vapor containing waste products, as through animal or plant pores
  • To become known; come to light

Problematic and likely to ruffle the feathers of the strictest of grammarians and etymologists:

  • To come about; happen or occur

* * *

So, why the ruffled feathers? Both of the broadly accepted meanings suggest a passing-through, while the contentious usage as a synonym for occur departs entirely from this notion of a passing-through. And for the meaning-conscious, this departure is bad-bad-bad. Evil almost. It should die. And painfully, at that.

I highlight the difference here, but not necessarily to change your usage. Do whatever you want. You certainly won't be alone if you use the contentious meaning. But know that I'll be there, in the back of the room, smugly thinking to myself:

You think you've just used a high-fallutin' synonym for "occur," but technically you've deployed a highly charged word whose definition is very unstable and, as a result, unclear. And, if you were trying to impress someone with your complex verbiage, there's an increased chance that you've actually accomplished the opposite. But of course, I don't take offense nor do I lower my assessment of your personal worth, which is infinite and unquantifiable, as all human life is beautiful and good. FYI.
So, as I said: do whatever you want.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Papal Smear Campaign

I don't often talk about my Catholic upbringing. It's just not something that comes up, really. But I do follow the news and trends of the Catholic Church.

I was especially excited tonight, when I learned that there are Catholics who consider Pope Paul VI a heretic given the results of the Second Vatican Council (Vatican II as it's called). As a heretic, the story goes, Paul VI forfeited the papalship, meaning all subsequent popes (including the current one---that German guy who used to be named "Ratzinger" but now has a much personable name) have been illegitimate. This line of argument leaves the door open for any number of Pretenders to the Holy See.

Apparently, you can even self-proclaim yourself Pope (well, according to the Benedict XVI crowd, you're actually an antipope).

So, who wants to be Pope? We can form a conclave.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Lawnmower Boy

Things That I Think About While I Wait For The Sunshine To Evaporate The Rain Water On The Lawn So I Can Safely Mow My Front Yard

- Sometimes (and this is one of those times) I get not enough sleep. And it makes me feel strange. Like blurry or like my head is underwater. And still, when it's time to go to bed, I don't. But then, for the twenty minutes after I drink a cup of coffee, I feel like Superman.
- Last night I totally wussed out on the end-of-the-evening kiss, and it's going to bother me possibly for the rest of my life, because that's not the kind of thing I usually wuss out on - that's the kind of thing that people not as amazing as me wuss out on; that's the kind of thing that middle-schoolers wuss out on; that's the kind of thing that the meek wuss out on. In my defense, though, I'm gay.
- This morning I went to Barnes & Noble and bought my weight in expensively-priced, cheaply-made paperback books and one $6 copy of The New Yorker. I really like The New Yorker. And books, too. But I wish they were all still leatherbound, because animals need to die so I can have a soft, fleshy, nice-smelling cover for my first edition signed copy of The Devil Wears Prada.
- I'm supposed to go to Toys R Us today to buy Adam more bullets for his Nerf gun. Because I shot them all out the window at UVa kids last night. And I didn't hit anybody. I don't even think anybody noticed. Then again, Adam was supposed to mow the lawn like FOUR days ago. Fuck it.
- Why does grass need to be dry before you mow it anyway? Is it an issue with the mower blade? Am I going to rust it? Because I'm only going to wait for five more minutes. I have things to do, and they don't ever involve ever waiting for grass to dry.
- I wonder if it's possible to grow a beard all the way to your toes.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Sore, numb, then sore again

This week's language post is about health care. A visit to the MD this morning confirms: I have pharyngitis. Let's get a summary of events:
  1. I awake with a sore throat for the second day in a row.
  2. I drive to the doctor's office (actually, I saw an FNP; I've always enjoyed Nurse Practitioners; they've done me right).
  3. I tell the FNP, "I have a sore throat."
  4. She pokes around, asks questions, does a strep test, and makes a diagnosis: "You have pharyngitis, but it's not strep. It's almost certainly a virus, so just get a lot of rest and drink plenty of fluids."

That is, I spent my time and money (not to mention my loving HMO's money) to learn that "pharyngitis" is a synonym for "sore throat" [not to hate too much on modern medicine; after all, I did learn that I definitively do not have strep throat; I also learned that I had a temperature of 100.0°(!!!)].

Of course, all was not for naught: I walked away with a prescription for "Viscous Lidocaine," this gooey stuff I've been swishing around every couple of hours. It makes my mouth go numb, preventing me from talking as much. Which is, of course, a bad thing for everyone.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Nonsense in Amuricka

Excerpts from today's WaPo's "Nation In Brief:"

  • BENTON, Tenn. -- Authorities put out traps baited with honey buns and doughnuts Friday in hopes of capturing a potentially crazed black bear that killed Elora Petrasek, 6, and mauled her mother, Susan Cenkus, 45, and 2-year-old brother, Luke Cenkus.
  • WILKES-BARRE, Pa. -- WNEP-TV declined to broadcast an opening-day baseball game between the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons and Norfolk because it was being played on Good Friday. Instead, the station said it would air local news, followed by the tabloid show "Inside Edition," an episode of "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" and then "Primetime."
  • RENO, Nev. -- A casino company's requirement for female bartenders to wear makeup does not amount to sexual discrimination, a federal appeals court ruled. Lawyers for Harrah's Entertainment Inc. said the 7 to 4 ruling against Darlene Jespersen -- who was fired in 2000 for refusing to wear makeup after 21 years as a bartender at Harrah's in Reno -- affirms the right of employers to adopt reasonable dress and grooming standards.
  • GIBSONIA, Pa. -- A wood chipper being hauled by a dump truck broke free and bounded across a highway, striking a minivan and killing Spencer Morrison, 37, and two of his 4-year-old triplets, police said. The third triplet was in critical condition.
  • ORLANDO -- DEA agent Lee Paige, who accidentally shot himself while demonstrating gun safety to schoolchildren, sued the agency, saying its alleged release of a video of the incident has made him the joke of the Internet and late-night comics. Paige was making a presentation to children at the Orlando Youth Minority Golf Association on April 9, 2004, when he shot himself.
  • UNIONTOWN, Pa. -- A man threw a microwave at his girlfriend, then fatally beat her after she refused to heat up sandwiches, police said. Walter S. Fordyce, 58, was charged with criminal homicide in the death of Mary McCann, 58.
  • MIAMI -- An woman who fled 30 years ago before she could be sentenced for killing a 13-year-old boy was arrested at her apartment, authorities said. Maria Josefa Otero, 87, was found guilty of second-degree murder in 1976 for the shooting death of Johnny Perez, who had jumped into the pool of a building Otero owned. Perez was shot after Otero ordered the youths to leave.

So that's our country, the short version.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

You're a Smellfeast and a Lickdish

This week's language post comes from World Wide Words, a great resource for word origins and obscure (and not-so-obscure) expressions. There I found these two gems:

Smellfeast (n.) - A parasite, a greedy sponger, a freeloader.


Lickdish (n.) - An even ruder synonym of the above word.

Unfortunately, both words have fallen out of usage. Which is a damn, dirty shame. And not only because both of them have subtle sexual implications (if you're a pervert, that is).

Your homework: deploy both of these words in the next seven days, and report back in the comments section. Go. Now. Get to work.

Saturday, April 08, 2006


From today's WaPo comes a story on students getting credit for attending the big immigration rally, scheduled for Monday. The reaction has not been all roses and buttercups. Several parents phoned in their complaints to the school systems offices, and best of all:

callers were abusive to school system staff, using derogatory ethnic comments in expressing their views

First off, the bigotry strain in the anti-immigrant set is astounding. Why are these people so full of ill-will? They really seem filled with hater for immigrants, the vast majority are law-abiding human beings who find themselves in an awkward political and social position.

Secondly, props to Montgomery County for rewarding activism. You finally have students who care enough about an issue to go out and do something about it. I question the motives of those who stifle such participation, by youths or anyone else. (To be fair, anti-immigrant non-profit organizations are equally viable options, should students wish to take up that activist cause. And rightly so, methinks.)

The tenor of this immigration debate saddens.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Question of the Week

This week's question:

"Is there anything easier done than said?"
-Lisa, Ft. Worth, TX

This question places "done" against "said" in regards to "anything," Lisa, and I like it. We have to consider, however, whether this question is meant to be taken absolutely literally, or with respect and regard for our culture's assumed understanding of the statement, and because of this discrepency, the question is somewhat unanswereable.
Look: With "done," things are pretty obvious, I think. To "done" something, one has to perform the act of doing it, one has to complete the task. So if the "anything" is purchasing a puppy, than to "done" it, one would exchange currency or credit for a dog. If the person does not (a) spend money, or (b) receive a dog for the money, than they have not "done" the "anything."

With "said," things are a little less obvious, and we could go in two directions, and this is where the outcome can change, based upon our definitions of the question.
1) "Said" can mean the physical, vocal-chord-vibrating act of making the phrase "I want to buy a puppy" come from a body, regardless of whether anybody is within hearing distance, and regardless of whether anybody understands the phrase.
2) "Said" can mean the act of communicating the idea "I want to buy a puppy" to another person who understands the statement.

One (1) is somewhat interesting, in that it highlights the basic fact that talking or vocalizing or creating speech is by no means simple. Before language, in fact, everything was easier to do than say. And for a baby who can't speak, everything is easier to do than say. If you're old or incapable of speech or in possession of a speech disorder, than most things may be very difficult to communicate to another person, and instead of saying "I ne-ne-ne-ne-ne-need th-the c-c-ca-ca-c-cat-c-ca-c-cat-cat-cat-catsup" you might as well just get up and get the fucking ketchup.

Two (2), however, is, in my opinion, a more thought-provoking definition of "said." Two (2) suggests that another person has to understand that you are saying "I want to buy a puppy." So if I were in Italy, I'd have to know Italian, or I would have to learn to conjugate the verb "to want"; the verb "to buy"; the noun "puppy." And some Italian-speaker would have to understand me when I said this.
Two (2) is also concerned with how difficult it is for me to peat the phrase. A person's comfort in speaking is related to their confidence in speech and their audience. Am I comfortable saying "I want to buy a puppy?" or would it be easier, insofar as I'll have to teach myself Italian and be confused, to just go out and buy the puppy and not talk about it? If, for instance, the "done" is having sex with twelve people at once, and the "said" is talking about having sex with twelve people at once, to a group of four young girls, in front of their mother, in church, then it would probably be easier to just do it, because the discomfort and embarrassment in talking about it in that particular setting would be more emotionally taxing than the act of having sex with twelve people would be physically taxing.

(B)order Up!

Elements on the political Right seem caught up in a debate between amnesty and outright detention and deportation.

Meanwhile, the political Left seems to be still forming its response. Jesse Jackson, of all people, hinted at a sound position in his recent Colbert Report appearance. {Sorry, no transcripts yet.} I also heard a similar argument suggested on an NPR story weeks ago. {No links again. Fuck.}

Immigrants didn't just come here. They were ordered up. Employers made it obvious that they would hire more illegals, and the immigrants already here phoned home. They are humans. They deserve human rights. They are being and have been exploited.

This is, to me, a compelling line of argument. It smells of victimization, but perhaps these individuals are victims of the whims of economic trends beyond their immediate control.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Aye-Aye, Ye Been Warrrrrned

I would never make light of the all the recent pirate activity. I mean, these pirates are for real, and they have guns.

Still, it's a little weird to think of pirates in the here and now, and I confess that their seafaring ways---though illegal and heinous to be sure---are still, in a way, appealing.

Nonetheless, it's important to remember that pirates are dangerous. So here, as a courtesy, is a map (in French, of course) of places you might want to avoid next time you're out in your cruise ship, oil tanker, and/or trawler:

For example, that is

It's Tuesday, the day we write about language and words (apparently). This week's topic: [ i.e. vs. e.d. ].

Now, this example is one that almost fails to merit mention. It's so obvious to many of us that i.e. means "id est" (roughly: "that is {to say}"), whereas e.g. means "exempli gratia" (roughly: "for example"). I, too, find it a simple distinction.

But put bluntly:

i.e. = "that is"

e.g. = "for example"

Stop fucking it up, fuckers.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Ye Olde Photo Shoppe

UPDATE: Anneth sent in the real photo of the night: