Saturday, February 28, 2009

Fire Coming Out of an English-Speaker’s Mouth

This week: a rare word that deserves more use, if through a metaphorical extension of its actual meaning.
ignivomous (IG-niv-AH-muss) — adjective: breathing fire.
For all I know, clever writers and speakers have long used the word to refer to people with foul tempers or with grandpa breath. And good on them. I just can’t imagine how anyone aside from volcanologists or dragonologists ever had a reason to use ignivomous literally. A Google search turned up two groups that mostly likely don’t use the word literally: a New York-based, art-advocating nonprofit and a Melboune-based death metal quartet. Not helping ignivomous’s chances of becoming any better-known among English-speakers is the fact that the latter Ignivomous choses to display its name in the stylized fashion pictured bleow.

Igni-wha-wha? Perhaps they should take some tips from the other, more aesthetically savvy Ignivomous.

The word — even as an illegible band name — comes from the Latin words for “fire” and “to vomit,” in that order.

Previous words of the week:

Forgetting Tammi Littlenut

I feel that us normals should generally avoid approaching famous people, especially when the interaction amounts to little more than a statement of “I recognize you from my TV box!” and other such idiocy. However, I am willing to violate this principle as a result of some combination of the following factors: (1) me being drunk, (2) the celebrity in question being perhaps not superfamous to the world at large, and, (3) as a corollary to the previous factor, the possibility that the recognizable-but-not-superfamous person perhaps doesn’t get randoms coming up to him or her just to say “Hey, you’re good. Keep it up.” Because I feel like I wouldn’t mind that if were famous.

The stars that govern awkward interactions aligned last night, I think, because I saw someone whose work I enjoy — perhaps more so than the average numbskull with a remote control — and did, in fact, approach her. It was Maria Thayer, an appealing redheaded actress who is probably most familiar as Jerri Blank’s chipper friend Tammi Littlenut on Strangers With Candy but who has recently become known to a wider audience as a result of a supporting role in Forgetting Sarah Marshall — she was the wife of Jack McBrayer’s character — and a recent appearance on 30 Rock — in which she played a blind girl romanced by McBrayer’s character. Seeing Thayer was a high point, even on a night when I sat through a lecture by Anthony Bourdain and saw A.C. Newman play.

She looks like this:

I can’t put my finger on why, exactly, but I’ve always felt that Thayer exuded a good quality in whatever she does and I’m happy that her career seems to be growing. That, more or less, is all I wanted to tell her, and I felt that if I did so properly, I could avoid embarrassing myself too much.

How it was going to work in my mind:
(Drew taps pretty redheaded woman on the shoulder.)

Drew: I’m sorry to bother you, but is your name Maria?

Woman: Yes.

Drew: Are you Maria Thayer?

Woman: Yes I am.

Drew: I don’t want to be a pest, but I just wanted to tell you that I recognized you and I enjoy what you do. Keep it up.

Woman: Why thank you! That’s nice of you to say! Have a pleasant evening.
It didn’t really go like this. I had had a few drinks by the time I spoke to her. I wasn’t completely destroyed, but I was perhaps a bit more loquacious than I would have been were I sober. And, come to think of it, everyone I was with was suspiciously supportive of me going to talk to this woman, so I have to wonder if they were taking some sick joy in watching me disturb a moderately famous person’s evening and, in the process, make an ass out of myself. As near as I can remember, the actual interaction went like this:
(Drew taps pretty redheaded woman on the shoulder.)

Drew: I’m sorry to bother you, but is your name Maria?

Maria Thayer: Yes.

Drew: Are you Maria Thayer?

Maria Thayer: Yes I am.

Drew: I know you!

Maria Thayer: Are you a big Strangers With Candy fan?

Drew: Yeah, and I enjoyed what you did on that show. And then Forgetting Sarah Marshall was good too. And the Strangers With Candy movie.
This is all I really remember, as far as words that were spoken. I know she introduced me to the gentleman she was with, and I know she asked me what I thought of the A.C. Newman set. I have no idea how I responded to either of these events. Also, I feel like I probably talked to her for about five minutes altogether. And you can fit a whole lot of crazy into the four minutes and thirty seconds that I have forgotten. I’m going to assume the worst — and that worst is represented below with a third take on my memorably unremembered conversation with Maria Thayer.
(Drew taps pretty redheaded woman on the shoulder.)

Drew: I’m sorry to bother you, but is your name Maria?

Maria Thayer: Yes.

Drew: Are you Maria Thayer?

Maria Thayer: Yes I am.

Drew: I know you!

Maria Thayer: Are you a big Strangers With Candy fan?

Drew: Yeah, and I enjoyed what you did on that show. And then Forgetting Sarah Marshall was good too. And… the Strangers With Candy movie.

Maria Thayer: Oh, that’s nice.

Drew: But the Strangers With Candy movie wasn’t as good.

Maria Thayer: Oh, okay.

Drew: I don’t know why you made it.

Maria Thayer: Did you enjoy the show tonight?

Drew: Shut up! Are you Kenneth the page’s girlfriend, because that’s awesome.

Maria Thayer: No, I’m not. By the way, this is my friend.

(Maria Thayer physically pulls a man larger than Drew to her side, in a clear effort to end the interaction with Drew prematurely.)

Drew: You were the best thing in Storytelling. You made Selma Blair look like scrambled eggs.

Maria Thayer: I don’t know if that’s really true.

Drew: No, you’re best thing. You should gets Oscars for Strangers With Candy. (Drew leans his face next to Maria Thayer’s and points his cell phone in an attempt for a photo with her. The button he mashes instead calls his parents, waking them up.) And my old roommate Tristan thought you were hot — like, way hotter than Stephen Colbert.

Maria Thayer: …

Drew: You should be hosting your own news parody show. You’re better than him. And Anthony Bourdain, too, because you could totally be the one eating the entrails and it would totally be better. Do you know that the African bushmen eat pig rectum? Not me. I wouldn’t. But I think you could. Because you’re like the African bushmen. You know how to work for something. Now listen — I’m going to get my friends over there (Drew points at an expanse of empty floor nowhere near where his friends are standing.) And I think you’d like to meet them and then we can all have a real party at my house, where we don’t have drugs because we don’t do drugs but we do have at least one sleeve of Thin Mints that we haven’t eaten yet. So you just wait right here.

(Drew shambles toward an undetermined destination. Maria Thayer and her friend flee.)
I’m hoping that overshooting the mark with that last rendition will somehow magically absolve me of any wrongdoing I committed during the actual sequence of events.

Thursday, February 26, 2009


“Anything can be a paperweight.” This was the conclusion I made at the end of a long-ago conversation with friends about the strangeness of paperweights being souvenirs that people would actually pay for. Compared to paperweights, other souvenirs are inherently better. Snow globes, for example. Or postcards. Both serve a function that a “just anything” can’t. I can’t remember if the friends and I reached a unanimous agreement on this or not, but I at least arrived at the belief that paperweights were inherently inferior to other souvenirs because literally anything can be used in place of them. A stapler. A mug. A tape dispenser. A rock. A well-behaved baby. Even a moderately heavy writing implement could successfully prevent a small stack of papers from blowing away. If one was for some reason hung up on the notion of pinning these papers down with a memento from some vacation, there’s enough to pick from on the vacation itself. A seashell. A different kind of mug. A vacation place rock. A well-behaved baby that happened to have been conceived while away. Really, anything can be a paperweight. Why do people have such problems keeping their papers from blowing away? Can’t they just close their windows or, if the problem really is so bad, move to a less drafty house?

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Peacock Without Pride

I enjoy that my friends help keep my “Ha Ha — This Person’s Name” series. Just recently, Dansy sent in this clunker, which suggests famed TV detective Columbo but with more of an emphasis on the colon.

There’s also a bit of Geronimo in there to the point that this name may one day supplant Geronimo as the name we yell as we fall out of planes. And regardless of the long history the masculine name Ariel has, it doesn’t help that people like me associate it primarily with The Little Mermaid.

Then there’s what Sanam sent me:

It would be funnier if part of my dad’s family didn’t actually have the last name Peacock and if one of them didn’t have the first name Andrew, though I never realized before today that his name was only one syllable away from “droopy cock.” I guess I’d find it funnier still if I hadn’t nearly been saddled with the middle name Peter, which could have made my name “Drew P. Mackie.” Had it not been for a certain sagacious great-aunt, I would have been called “Droopy” all my life. I quite nearly could have shared this kid’s pain.

Despite what the series tag might imply, bad names are often not all that funny.

Dog Market, for Dogs

It’s considerably more difficult to ask “How much is that doggy in the window?” when you have to address the dog itself.

I choose take this as a sign that Asia may be more resourceful at pulling itself out of the worldwide economic slump than other parts of the world.

Source: Dogs Looking Like People, the gloriousness of which was made possible by a link from Stevi.

Carol Burnett Is My Coworker

So I know Condé Nast isn’t having such a great year, but that doesn’t mean I won’t mock them for the screwy staff listing for my paper that appears on

Least of all is the strangeness of having almost everyone in the office being described as “top executives.” (I suppose, then, that the hierarchy of the paper is composed of nothing but executives, with interns to do the executives’ bidding.) I’m particularly amused by the fact that the following people are listed as even working here, much less as top executive colleagues: comedienne Carol Burnett, current Santa Barbara County 3rd District Supervisor Doreen Farr, and, best of all, someone named “Joe Lodge Dies.”

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Singing Wolf for Breakfast

Etymologically, the word cantaloupe — which itself comes from the Cantalupo region of Italy — means “singing wolf.” I find this fascinating.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Sounding Just as Good Coming From Padma

With only one episode left in the current run of Top Chef, Padma Lakshmi’s line to departing contestants means more than ever: “Please pack your knives and go.” However, recent idle conversation created variants, which might suit Lakshmi if she’s looking into spin-off opportunities:

For Top Baked Potato Chef: “Please pack your chives and go.”

For Top Beekeeper: “Please pack your hives and go.”

For Top Reincarnationist: “Please pack your lives and go.”

For Top Polygamist: “Please pack your wives and go.”

For Top Abusive Polyamorist: “Please smack your guys and go.”

For Top Self-Mutilator: “Please hack your thighs and go.”

For Top Dadaist Chef: “Geese attack your pies and glow.”

For Top… Is Padma Lakshmi Breaking Up With Me and Choosing Strange Words To Do It?: “Please sack your lies and go.”

For Top Punster: Please pack your contrive…d attempts at wordplay and go.”

Retrospectacle, Returned

I just realized Saturday’s post — which celebrated the fact that this blog had entered its sixth year — did not show up in my site feed in my Google Reader account. This being a bad thing, I wanted to take this moment to point out that the Saturday post, which took just a bit of time to put together, is worth seeing and can be seen here.

The H-Bus

Two days after blogiversary festivities and one day after the required post-festivities period of recuperation, I’m back on track, making up for the word of the week I neglected to do this weekend. It’s more than a doozy. A doozleplex? A doozydoozy? A doobleoozy?
honorificabilitudinitatibus (hah-no-rif-i-ka-bil-i-too-dee-nee-ta-bus) — noun: the state of quality of being able to achieve honors.
(And I am only guessing on the pronunciation. Most articles on the word focus more on its strange history than on how to say it, I’m guessing because you probably wouldn’t ever speak this work, even if you wanted to. As for which syllables would be accented, I can only guess.)

Quite a mouthful, especially when honorableness would do the trick, as Word Web points out. This verbal oddity gets mentioned fairly often in word nerd circles, for all the right reasons.

First off, it is considered by some to be the longest word coined by Shakespeare, though dissenters might point out that he simply borrowed it from Medieval Latin. It’s the word honorificabilitudinitas, in the plural ablative form. (The ablative case is used in Latin more or less in specific prepositional constructions. Of all the languages one might learn in a typical American high school, I’m pretty sure Latin is the only one that uses the ablative, at least by that name.)

It’s also the longest word Shakespeare ever used, counting the ones other people made up. Though it’s used in Love’s Labour’s Lost and I have read this play, I have no recollection of it. It’s spoken by Costard in the first scene of the fifth act. “O, they have lived long on the alms-basket of words. / I marvel thy master hath not eaten thee for a word; / for thou art not so long by the head as / honorificabilitudinitatibus: thou art easier swallowed than a flap-dragon.” As if I needed to cram more worthless information into this post, I’m going to explain that last reference. A flap-dragon — which is apparently interchangeable with snap-dragon — apparently can be several things, though it seems most likely that Costard means the first one in the below list:
  • A worthless or trivial thing.
  • A Dutchman or a German, though to speak of such people in this way would not endear you to them. (It’s something to keep in mind if you travel back in time to seventeenth-century Europe.)
  • A fiendish sounding game that apparently bored people played on Christmas Eve in which they would attempt to snatch raisins out from a bowl of flaming brandy. (This could have been the game of kings back in the day, but I can’t help thinking that those who played flap-dragon then would be the ones smoking meth today.)
  • The bowl itself.
  • The raisins themselves.
  • Or whatever other fruit you decide to play the game with.
  • The one thing that Costard’s remark isn’t referring to, apparently, is the one thing I knew as a snapdragon prior to writing this post: those flowers that look like a dragon’s head and move when you squeeze them. The name for the genus is antirrhinum. The flower is oddly mentioned nowhere on the page for flap-dragon, despite that the flower is the one children should be encouraged to play with.
Honorificabilitudinitatibus is also the longest English word to alternate consonant-to-vowel from one letter to the next.

Despite this fact, it does not use the letter “e,” the most common vowel. The next-longest word to omit this letter is the equally phenomenal floccinaucinihilipilification — “the act of habit of describing or regarding something as useless,” which just happens to be what most people do to honorificabilitudinitatibus.

Wikipedia points out that by virtue of being used only once in Shakespeare’s collective works, honorificabilitudinitatibus is also a hapax legomenon, a fun title to give to words that only appear once in the written record of a language or a single text. For example, until the posting of this entry, floccinaucinihilipilification was a hapax legomenon on Back of the Cereal box. But it ain’t no more.

James Joyce also used honorificabilitudinitatibus, as World Wide Words points out, but no one apparently cares about this as much as Shakespeare’s use of it. I’m guessing Joyce used it more than once, thus preventing it from being a hapax legomenon but possibly also indicating that Joyce was the better writer since he found more than one apt occasion to use it.

Finally, and perhaps most spectacularly, the word is notable because Baconophiles — that is, those who love Francis Bacon — take its presence in Love’s Labor’s Lost as evidence that Bacon himself wrote the play and all of the other Shakespeare plays as well. Apparently this is a thing that people like to think. The word happens to be an anagram for the Latin phrase hi ludi, F. Baconis nati, tuiti orbi, meaning “these plays, F. Bacon's offspring, are preserved for the world.” This website takes it a bit further and gets into numerological theories that tie the word with creepy Rosicrucian stuff. More germane to the discussion of the play’s authorship, the appearance of honorificabilitudinitatibus in Love’s Labor’s Lost is followed by another strange line. Armado’s page Moth asks, “…what is a / B, spelt backward, with the horn on his head?” The conspiracy theorists allege that Moth’s question is a coded reference to Bacon — “Bacorn,” with the first two letters being those “spelt backward” and the corn meaning “horn” in the sense of unicorns and tricorn hats. Very strange, but suitably so, given the subject at hand.

Previous words of the week:

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Icarus Fights Medusa Angels

All I have to show from a renewed effort to Tweet in earnest.
The fuck? Magenta isn't a color, yet indigo still is? This is the "Pluto isn't a planet thing" all over again… Sure, you’re cooking, but are you cooking with smen? ( Not a typo… My blog is no longer the number one Google hit for "Gaylord Q. Tinkledink." And I must admit I'm a little miffed… Dropped cup of posole at Cantwells, resulting in red soup volcano erupting up into salad bar, tainting salad components. I tipped well… I am choosing to interpret the fact that 2009 has three Friday the 13ths as a good sign, though I have yet to see how my luck pans out…. Is it odd to anyone else that the name "Japan" comes from Dutch? Wouldn't it be better to call counties what their inhabitants do?... Went to eye doctor. Eyes dilated. Look like Powerpuff Girl… Random upswing in spam from Friendster teaches me one thing: It is really time to delete my long-neglected Friendster account… I cannot decide who is the more unlikely member of the Big Lebowski cast: Tara Reid or Aimee Mann…
Twitterverse response so far: tepid.

Saturday, February 21, 2009


As of today, this blog has entered its sixth year of occupying valuable online real estate.

I decided to celebrate this fact with what you see below: a visual index of sorts. Click the thumbnails. They all link back to old posts that have some sort of visual element. Of course, not all of these necessary trace back to good posts — some are really nothing more than the image, while other worthwhile posts had no visual element and therefore aren’t represented here.

Anyway, have a look. Hope you enjoy. And thanks for reading.

Okay, so maybe a lot hasn’t changed since that slow, gray day in Isla Vista when I first started this thing. Notably, it’s now a slow, gray day in Santa Barbara, only a few miles down the road. Between then and now, this blog has only covered the little things, but it’s been a lot of little things, at least.