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

Paperweights

“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

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 Portfolio.com.


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? http://tinyurl.com/c3ufjt This is the "Pluto isn't a planet thing" all over again… Sure, you’re cooking, but are you cooking with smen? (http://en.wikipedia.org/wik...) 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.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Incident at Peppringe Eye

Links of note, found by me and provided for your entertainment.
And two general links to blogs where good things happen.

Half-Man, Half-Dog, All Wrong

Ren & Stimpy creator John K keeps a blog on which he discusses various matters relating to cartooning. From reading it somewhat regularly, I’ve learned that there’s a great deal about animation that John K doesn’t care for, and he usually has a well-thought-out argument for why the given thing shouldn’t be the way it is. Last month, he took on a subject that I’ve quietly pondered since I was a kid: Disney’s dogmen.

You know what I’m talking about if you watched Ducktales — and no, I never expected to be writing about Ducktales with such frequency in 2009. The show featured a few dogmen prominently: Duckworth, Scrooge McDuck’s stuffy buttler, and the Beagle Boys, the group of criminals who are constantly trying to steal from Scrooge. They’re clearly not ducks, as most of the Ducktales characters are, but they’re not fully dogs — at least not in the style of Goofy or Pluto, those two canines who populate Donald Duck’s universe and, thus, could presumably have reason to meet Duckworth and the Beagle Boys.

left: beagles boys. right: duckworth. left and right: horrifying dog men.

left: goofy. right: pluto. left and right: cartoony dogs that nonetheless look like dogs.

As John K points out, the dogmen are pretty damn horrifying. Grotesque in the traditional sense, they have human faces with dog noses placed on the vaguest hint of a snout. And sometime not even that. Some have strange, floppy, fleshy ears. Others have more human-shaped ears. Either should rightly creep you out.

I have always wondered why these creatures exist, except maybe to suggest some species-based social hierarchy in which white-feathered waterfowl dominate the dogmen. John K puts forth a good theory:
Can anyone explain why this existed? The only thing I can come up with is that conservative cartoonists felt a bit guilty about drawing regular funny animals that walked and talked (because that makes no sense) — but their jobs demanded it. Donald, Mickey, Bugs and all the animated cartoon stars were very cartoony and easy for the audience to suspend their disbelief, but maybe not so easy for the more conservative of the comic artists — so when they got to create their own incidental characters from scratch, they naturally drew more "realistic" and sensible humans in clothing — but then — so as not to alert Walt to it - at the last second, they would paste a dog nose or pig snout onto the human to trick their bosses into thinking that these were also funny animals that matched the style of the popular star characters.

It’s probably more likely that it was unconscious conservative auto-pilot drawing, never realizing how much more bizarre half-way cartoon characters are.

The reason I suspect conservatism as the culprit is that if it wasn’t, there would be many funny variations on the idea.

How about a realistic dog that stands on his hind legs but has a human nose?

Or a man with Crab eyes? A filter-feeding flesh colored shark that walks on realistic human legs with no pants, but a tuxedo jacket and a duck beak on top of his head?

How about an eel in a Burka? I mean, this could go on and on. It has limitless potential for fun.
Something worth thinking about, at least if you’re still plagued by memories of Ducktales.

The original post generated quite a discussion, with commenters weighing in on this and that below. One of the thats merits a mention here, I felt. The concept of dogmen wasn’t just limited to Disney franchises, and the proof is Betty Boop’s first ever appearance, in the Talkartoon short “Dizzy Dishes.” Boop pops up at a singer in a restaurant club populated by anthropomorphic animals. She looks more or less the same as to what she looks like today, save for those creepy, fleshy, floppy dog ears. Wikipedia claims she was initially designed to be an anthropomorphic dog.


She shows up at about the 2:20 mark. I have provided a still below for the lazy and impatient.


I’d like to think this explains Betty Boop’s bizarre head shape, but I’m not sure it does.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Handshakefulness

Tonight marked the first rerun of the 30 Rock episode “Retreat to Move Forward.” Aside from being a thoroughly funny episode, it is also notably the one whose plot involves the Wikipedia profile for Janis Joplin being edited to include such misinformation as that her legs bent the wrong way, she speedwalked everywhere, she ate cats, she feared toilets, and that she had a signature cocktail made from cherry juice, buttermilk, and tequila, all in an effort to make Jane Krakowski’s character appear stupid.



The last first time the episode aired, Joplin’s actual Wikipedia page had to be locked to protect it from vandalism inspired the show. Tonight, the Wikipedia nerds are on high alert since they realized that the episode was airing again. This in itself strikes me a damn hilarious, but one particular discussion on the article’s take page took the cake.

Photobucket

Oh, coprophobia, when will you stop being relevant?

Alternate title for this post: “Robot Penis.”

Cosmic Creepers

In the wake of Valentine’s Day, people did not find my blog in particularly embittered or enraptured manners. But they still found my blog.
  1. Number one hit, shamefully.
  2. Step one: Find something better than a cereal box to make your purse, cheapskate.
  3. Yes.
  4. Not a reference to the band, but an accurate hit nonetheless.
  5. See? It was so totally not pointless to list their names. This person appreciated it, at least.
  6. Number one hit, for no apparent reason.
  7. Short answer: There is no explanation.
  8. Number one hit!
  9. Number one hit!
  10. Number one hit!
  11. Oddly enough, this actually led to a post I wrote on the very subject posed in this search term. Yes, at this point, an accurate search result truly is remarkable.
  12. Number one hit — and one of only two hits on all of Google.
  13. The one and only hit.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Escape to Four Toe Island

There’s something immensely satisfying for me about having Roommate Aly — who watched the first season of Lost but stopped following the show around the time Ana-Lucia showed up — ask me how tonight’s episode is going and me responding, “Great, they’re almost back to the island.” Confused look. Then angry stare. Then this: “I have so many questions, but I’m not going to answer any of them.”

Your Ugly Mug

A while back, I featured the word toby — “a drinking mug, usually in the shape of a stout man wearing a large three-cornered hat” — as the word of the week. Dina suggested it, mostly on grounds that the word represented a concept repulsive on multiple levels, as Dina is sometimes attracted to repulsive concepts. Papers could be written about it.

Dina’s jones for all things janky actually resulted in something productive today, however.

The newest post on Wordsmith.org’s A.Word.A.Day further links the concepts of drinking containers, human faces and ugliness. The term is mug’s game, which follows fool’s gold and sword of Damocles in this week’s series of odd, possessive turns of phrase that most people probably don’t understand. When one speaks of a mug’s game, Anu Garg explains, one refers to a foolish or futile activity. It comes from a usage of the word mug meaning “fool,” but goes back to a Scandinavian mugg or mugge meaning “cup.” Apparently such beverage containers were once decorated with grotesque faces, and Garg claims this association has resulted in the various meanings carried by mug in English today. Among them: “face,” “to rob,” and “to make faces in a photograph.” The American Heritage Dictionary entry on the subject is less certain about the association, but says it’s plausible nonetheless.

I’m just amused that there’s a possible etymological connection between coffee mugs and ugliness, both because I associate both concepts with my coworkers on early mornings and because the majority of my office feels the need to comment on my badly tea-stained mug, which I seldom wash.

That last use of mug refers to my cup, by the way. Jerk.

A Problematic Child’s Five Favorite Colors

They are listed in the following order for her parents, who are painting her room:
  1. “Clear.”
  2. “Plaid.”
  3. “Hazel.”
  4. “Hypercolor.”
  5. “Teal, but I hate Turquoise.”

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Do It — And Then Possibly Do It Again

A new candidate for the title “worthless word”: redouble, especially when referring to quantifiable amounts and not a general, vague increase.

American Heritage Dictionary offers the definitions “to double,” “to repeat,” and, when referring to bridge, “to double the doubling bid.” Webster, however, gives “to double is size or amount,” the archaic “to echo back or “repeat.” Only Wiktionary — the accuracy of which, yes, cannot be trusted, yes, yes — offers the non-bridge-related definition that I feel like anyone encountering it for the first time would intuit, “to double, especially to double again,” which I feel would be used synonymously with “to quadruple.”

Outside of the context of a bridge game, I can’t imagine why anyone would use this word when it seems like a variety of other words could be used to accurately convey whichever meaning he or she intended.

Milk of Life

There exists an oil used in various Middle Eastern and North African dishes. The name of this ingredient is smen. I find this hilarious. Please discuss.

Never Trust a Hazelnut

As she did every evening after an arduous day at the rubber plug factory, Eunice sat at the table in her kitchen-bedroom and slowly ate a sack of hazelnuts, raw but removed from their shells. She did so as the result of her incorrect belief that the nuts would prevent pregnancy.


The nuts’ supposed contraceptive powers had been explained to her at length by Mr. Castaneda, the hazelnut vendor, whose children’s private school education was being partly funded by Eunice’s unusual diet. It should also be noted, however, that the school itself was neither especially expensive nor especially good — because really, how much profit can one make of one gullible hazelnut customer? — and, also, that only two of the three Castaneda children — Filberto and Pinola — were offered this moderately improved education, as Mr. Castaneda had concluded that such opportunities would have been wasted on his youngest, whose name, it must be noted, was Hazel. Nonetheless, the expense of sending one’s older, smarter children to even a moderately priced school is considerable, and that fact alone should give you some indication of Eunice’s monthly hazelnut budget. Indeed, when Mr. Castaneda heard of Eunice’s desire to avoid having a baby, he was more than happy to embellish the virtues of hazelnuts beyond mere thiamine to include magical baby-repelling substances that, technically, no one had told him did not exist.

Furthermore, Eunice only desired to prevent possible pregnancy as a result of words spoken by her dying mother. “Eunice, you were not meant to have children. I hope you believe me when I tell you this. That right there,” said Eunice’s mother as she pointed at Eunice’s belly, “is good for food and that’s about it.” Eunice had assumed proximity to death had given her mother precognitive powers and that any offspring would wreak some fiery evil upon the world. Everyone else standing at the dying women’s bedside correctly assumed that that the proclamation stemmed from the honesty that only encroaching death can permit.

The third and final factor that led to Eunice’s daily hazelnut ritual was simply that Eunice has learned nothing of the female reproductive system — not only because her mother chose not to do so and hope for the best, but also because, unlike Filberto and Pinola, Eunice was never given the opportunity of a good education. No, Eunice — like poor, dumb Hazel Castaneda — lacked what her mother termed “a head good for thinking,” which in turn meant she lacked “a belly good for babies” and any proper explanation for how better-suited mothers-to-be actually get a baby inside. Thanks to an expression wholly appropriate for a woman of her specific mental abilities, Eunice had no suitors and was in no danger of becoming accidentally blessed with child. Her ignorance of all matters related to babymaking, however, left her all the more concerned. In her mind, she could become pregnant through the most casual of interactions with men, though one in particular haunted her: As she began her shift at the plug factory, pulling the lever that forced the stamp again and again into the squares of warm, soft rubber that would scoot down the conveyor belt, Eunice could only think of Horace, a leering pig of a man who worked the preceding shift at Eunice’s station and whose manipulation of the same lever could cover the thing in the goop or dust or bugs that cause babies to grow in women’s bellies, for all Eunice knew.

For these reasons and possibly some others that only she would understand, Eunice crunched through the sack, nut by nut, all as a result of her misguided effort to occupy her internal real estate with tenants that, however temporary, would block babies out. Today, however, would be unique, though it would Eunice even mention to anyone the incident that made it so.

As she reached into the sack, now halfway depleted, she heard the hazelnut that she currently grasped between her index finger and thumb cry out “No!”

Eunice stopped and examined the nut to find that it, upon close inspection, had two tiny eyes and a proportionally miniscule mouth. “Who are you?” she asked of the hazelnut, who was appreciably troubled and did not answer her question, instead beginning, “I’ve held my tongue for long enough and if I don’t say something now I’ll never get the chance,” the hazelnut said, its voice shaking with fear but gradually growing stronger. “What right have you to eat us?”

Less shocked by the prospect of a talking hazelnut and more annoyed by the fact that her nightly ritual had been interrupted, thus allowing for valuable seconds in which babies could make their way in, Eunice simply responded, “I bought you. I paid money. That’s why I’m eating you.” And then she began the motions of popping the talking hazelnut into her mouth. “Wait!” cried the hazelnut. Eunice paused and raised the unusually talkative bit of produce from in front of her mouth to in front of her eyes. “Don’t you think you should re-evaluate how you examine the interactions you and your kind have with my people? Haven’t I already observed to you that I, at least, am capable of thought beyond what one usually expects of common livestock? We are a proud people, with our own history and culture. We have art and music and a sense of humor that, like yours, finds pleasure in the unexpected outcomes of routine events. We have science. We have named for the very phenomenon that comprises your world. The constellation you know as ‘The Big Dipper,’ for instance, is known to us as ‘The Hazelnut That Had a Tail.’ What you call ‘protons’ are known to us as ‘Hazelnut Particle Type A.’”

The hazelnut’s words caused Eunice’s brow to furrow. “You’re a hazelnut,” she stated, as if that somehow made the hazelnut’s claims untrue.

“Yes, I am, but I am also a thinker and a believer and a creator and a lover, just as what you do defines you,” the hazelnut continued.

“Well, I am a human! I’m not — I’m not a hazelnut or something,” Eunice retorted. This talking nut had begun to anger her. Though she was not sure why, she suspected it was that he was insinuated that she was a nut. And she was not a nut. She was certain of that.

“Yes, you are a human. I technically didn’t say you weren’t,” the hazelnut continued, still gripped between Eunice’s thumb and index finger. The fear in his voice had faded, the courage had grown and a hint of frustration at Eunice’s obtuseness had crept in. “What I meant to say is that that fact alone doesn’t warrant that you should eat us.”

Eunice’s brow softened. She began to realize the gravity of the situation. “Can you all talk?” she asked slowly.

“Yes!” cried a tiny voice from the bag. That voice began to speak a full sentence, but it was soon drowned out by the babble of hundreds of other tiny voices, each speaking to a human for the first time. Eunice glanced between the nut sack and the solitary nut she held in her hand trying to focus on one voice at the expense of the others. She could not. Her face twisted beyond just a furrowed brow and into a full-fledged scowl and she slammed her free hand onto the table. “OH YOU BE QUIET, you… nuts!” she blurted out, with only her confusion tempering her growing anger. The nuts fell silent. “You can say whatever you want, for all I care, but I need to eat you. You’re the only thing preventing me from having a devil baby by that awful Horace, and that baby will make a mess of everything, you hazelnuts included. My mother said so.”

As small voices from the sack made quiet, confused noises to each other and attempted to make sense of Eunice’s claims, the first hazelnut spoke directly to Eunice. “What are you talking about?” he asked, baffled that he — the talking hazelnut — could have wound up more confused by the given situation than the woman to whom the talking hazelnut revealed himself. “If you’re eating hazelnuts, this man will not copulate with you? Is that it?”

“No,” Eunice replied, “eating hazelnuts keeps babies from growing inside me. Mr. Castaneda said so.”

“That’s not true at all!” the hazelnut replied.

“It is so. Why would Mr. Castaneda lie?”

“Well, I don’t know this person you speak of,” the hazelnut said. “But I feel like you should believe me when I tell you that hazelnuts do nothing that would prevent you from becoming pregnant. Believe me — if there’s one thing we know about, it’s hazelnuts, being a race of sentient, academically inclined hazelnuts that have previously refrained from revealing our sentience to humans. It’s been hazelnut, hazelnut, hazelnut for us, for as long as we remember. We’re our own favorite subject to study.”

Eunice looked directly into the hazelnuts small eyes, and then towards the sack of his comrades, who slowly began chiming in with “He’s right!” and “Listen to him!” and the like. She then looked back at the hazelnut in her fingers and, for the first and possibly only time in her life, a clever train of thought began chugging through her head.

“That exactly what you would say if you wanted me not to eat you,” Eunice said with a smile and nod. Tragically, she was right, and though she’d never before caught on to anyone else trying to mislead or deceive her, she was quickly convincing herself that she this time had the jump on someone — even if that person was a talking nut. In Eunice’s head, no smart-talking hazelnut would get the better of her. And with that, she placed that first talking hazelnut into her mouth and bit down, allowing him only a moment to scream. She continued her Friday ritual as usual, doing her best to block out the sobs and curses of the remaining nuts as she ate them one by one.

Eunice was quite pleased when, the following morning, her belly had once again not become fat with child overnight. And when she visited Mr. Castaneda’s stall at the market that next Friday afternoon, she inspected the bag carefully, finding it to be more like other bags she had purchased and far less talkative that the previous night’s. She never spoke of that night, though specifically for the reason that she remembered it as the occasion on which she was quite nearly outsmarted by a nut. The fact that a nut spoke and that hazelnuts specifically have a culture that they at least consider that they keep invisible to the eyes of humans, however, did not and has not since struck her as particularly remarkable.

AN EXPLANATION: The vast majority of little nothings that I write never get published here, mostly because they lack an ending. This managed to find as much of an ending as it possibly could have. So now you can read it in its entirety if you so choose.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Before We Turn to Ghosts

The new mutation of my abandoned song-of-the-week series, apparently, is that I just put a video before your face and dare to say that it is good. I’m basically fine with it.



It’s “Brave Bulging Buoyant Clairvoyants,” a track which is by the English band Wild Beasts and which I was introduced to by my friend Jesse and which I hated initially but which I have quickly come to love. Disregard the above video. Think of it only as a way to hear the song for free. In my mind, when I hear this song, I envision the monsters from Where the Wild Things Are dancing. There, does that make it any more appealing for you?

Delicious Infidel Leaves

In relation to the prevous post, a bonus bit, totally in line with the -istan theme.


The blog Lingwë accurately points out that the name Kafiristan translates into English as “place of infidels.” The Online Etymology Dictionary ponders the Arabic root word qafir a bit and expand that translation into such memorables as “place of impious wretches,” “place of concealers,” “place of deniers,” “place of non-Muslims,” and “place of Christians.” As the post at Lingwë points out, that Arabic qafir is probably more familiar to people today from the name of Kaffir limes, whose leaves are often used in Thai cuisine. The Wikipedia page on the Kaffir lime cites the Oxford Companion to Food as recommending that we call the these ingredients makrud leaves and makrud limes, as the “heathen” associations still attacked to Kaffir are a little unsavory — even if the leaves themselves might be a savory ingredient, for all I know.

Pakistan, Packing In Meaning

Summary: Pakistan has a capitol, but it also has capitals. Ha.

Being an American who knows only as much about certain areas of the world as he can glean from the newspaper, I make this assumption that things I don’t understand about the areas of the world where people have been living for an especially long amount of time all tend to result from the result of thousands of years of history that I don’t know about. In short, things are the way the are because of something that happened a long time ago and that I may well not know about.

Most of the time, this theory makes me right, but I was nonetheless surprised to read the name Pakistan is a relatively new word, formed in 1933 by Muslim nationalist Choudhary Rahmat Ali as a kinda-sorta acronym. The word comes from the names of the five Muslim homelands of Western India — the initial letters of Punjab, Afghania, Kashmir, and Sindh, and the last three letters of Balochistan. The “i” between the “k” and the “s” was apparently inserted to make the name more easily pronounceable for Westerners like myself. I actually can’t say it quickly without inserting a slight vowel noise in there.

I can’t help but feel like Sindh and Balochistan got the shaft, what with their contribution being so close to the -istan suffix that shows up Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan and probably a few others I’m forgetting. (That suffix, by the way, translates from Persian into English as “place of.” It goes back to a Proto Indo-European root that gives English its verb stand. It also provides the suffix appearing at the end of the names of such German cities such as Allstedt, Helmstedt, Kroppenstedt and others.)

Rahmat Ali later expanded on his coinage, saying that Pakistan actually came from the initial letters in Punjab, Afghania, Kashmir, Indus Valley, Sindh, Turkharistan, Afghanistan and the final letter of Balochistan. Again, even with this more expansive etymology, I feel like poor Balochistan still got screwed. But I also feel like Pakistab doesn’t make for a pleasant name for anyone’s nation. Considering that the -istan suffix comes from Persian, it works out nicely that the word pak in Persian means “pure.” Thus, someone in Iran could accurately translate the name of the county as “land of the pure.”

I say it’s good branding. Catchy, at least.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Way to Phone It In, Sarah Wiggum

Post title notwithstanding, the opening credits to The Simpsons appeared tonight for the first time in hi-def, completely redrawn and altogether for the better. It looks resembles the show’s early years less so and more like the refined look of The Simpsons Movie. I mean, hell — there’s shadows.

I’m happy, despite even how much attention I once gave the show’s more familiar opening credits.



The rest of the episode aired in hi-def too, but at this point well-polished opening credits beat even a halfway decent episode. Among the non-aesthetic pluses of the opening scene: Bygone characters like Jacques the bowling pro and Bleeding Gums Murphy are eliminated in favor of a more up-to-date character roster that includes Apu’s octuplets, evil Baby Gerald, Disco Stu, Crazy Cat Lady, Rich Texan as well as such non-human Springfield inhabitants as Mr. Sparkle and Lard Lad. And, finally, the crow whose call punctuates every establishment shot of the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant is for the first time depicted. (To you, I’m sure this sounds lame. For lifers like me, it’s strangely validating.)

As for the episode itself, I can at least say I was happy to see the return of Principal Dondelinger, the appearance of Al Gore on a show for which his daughter wasn’t a staff writer, and the debut of Debbie Pinson, a previous never-seen from Homer’s high school days. Also, the notion of Homer still being a high school student in the 1970s apparently eliminates that episode that had him being freshly graduated in the 1990s, which I have to like, even if it means Homer and Marge nearing are nearing their 60s.

A Mosquito Beyond Explanation

You’d think that a word with an unknown etymology would leave me with little to write about. But you’d be wrong.
gallinipper (GAL-eh-nip-per) — noun: an insect capable of inflicting a painful bite, usually a large mosquito or a crane fly.
Officially, that small chunk of syntax above seems that all that anyone has to say about the word, other than that it is chiefly used in the American South and Midwest and that its first recorded use was in 1709. Curiously, the crane fly as defined by Wikipedia doesn’t seem to bite, so only the “large insect” aspect of the creature would seem to render the definition accurate. Also, the insect is known as “daddy long-legs” in Canada, the U.K., Ireland, New Zealand and Australia, whereas that name here in the U.S. usually refers to a spider. (I’d forgotten it, but I mentioned the crane fly previously on this blog, when I was pondering the plural form of the word daddy long-legs. A few years later, I still don’t know what the plural might be, though I’m happy to see that I’m not the only one wondering.) Thus, gallinipper and daddy long-legs both seem to be catch-all words that rarely seem to mean much. As far as where it comes from, I can only say that it would seem to follow a certain pattern common to that very specific kind of Americanisms along the lines of thingamajigger and other such old timey-sounding metasyntactic words.

A 1985 dictionary of regional English — brought to you and me alike through the magic of Google Books — gives us some added dimension to the confusion, offering no less than twelve variants on the word, including galnipper, galknipper, gallinapper, gallon dipper, gannipper, ganninipper, gollynipper, gullynapper, gurnipper, gabber napper, galliwopper, and my personal favorite, granny nipper. Even this entry, however, notes that “some of these insects do not bite.”

Words that gallinipper beat out for this week’s spot include a few notables — among them griffonage (meaning “careless handwriting” seemingly in the way people today use chicken scratch), gumma (“a syphilitic tumor,” which hearkens back to the last “G” word-of-the-week, grandgore), and gunsel, which formerly meant “a man’s young homosexual companion” but thanks to a line in The Maltese Falcon can now mean “gunman” or “hoodlum.”

Previous words of the week:

Friday, February 13, 2009

Surrealist Personality Quiz

One: What woodland animals do your kitchen appliances most often transform into?

Two: Do you think the man who lives in your wallpaper is a benevolent? Why or why not?

Three: How would you chose to retaliate if trees were attempting to do you physical harm?

Four: While at holiday dinner, your family turns into ghosts and begin hovering about the room. What of your body parts do they eat first?

Five: Agree or disagree: Beavers often appear lazy.

Six: You’re playing Scrabble. You note that the words on the board seem to be giving you vague instructions. “RETURN.” “MOTHER.” “WATERFALL.” “PLACE.” “CREMATE.” But — oh no! — before you can decide whether to obey or not, you’re pulled into the Scrabble board, which feels like pudding skin as you pass through to a world in which humans are subservient to the letters tiles, with Z and Q reigning over the land as king and queen. The question is this: Do you submit to rule by these least-used letters or would you join with A, T, L and S in a planned mutiny?

Seven: When mystical circumstances permit others to enter your dreams, do you like it?

Eight: The vastness of your despair manifests in an actual desert in the world around you. Do you melt into the sand or do you become one with the wind that howls over the cliffs above, crying “ooooooh!” as you swoop and twirl in the air?

Nine: Upon dropping a deck of cards onto the ground, the Queen of Spades springs forth, looking regal and standing a good head taller than you. How does she sound?
a) Finnish
b) Angry
c) Like Nancy Pelosi
d) A and B
e) Like she’s talking in a made-up space language
Ten: Your hands are lobster claws.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Behave, Nonnie

A tipster sent me a candidate for this blog’s ever-growing series “Ha Ha — This Person’s Name.”

kumkum

As with my entry on Dickson Poon, I am slightly hesitant to have a laugh at this woman on grounds that her name doesn’t fit my Western conception of “normal.” All the same, ha ha ha. Bonus points for having a last name that sounds like a command to a Poseidon Adventure character to comport herself properly.

Watching, Eagerly

While watching the extended Watchmen trailer during a DVRed episode of Fringe this morning, I had the following thoughts:

image courtesy of sciencetostone.blogspot.com

The inevitable headline for article forecasting Watchmen’s box office potential: “Who will watch Watchmen?”

The inevitable headline for article commenting on how director Zack Snyder ruined what could have been a quality superhero film: “Who has botched Watchmen?”

A possible but unlikely blog post title for entry by a harried, comics-literate mom on the subject of cleaning up after her messy husband and sons: “Who will wash the Splotchmen?”

Inevitable gay porn spoof of Watchmen: Crotchmen. But who would watch that?

Also of note, since we’re on the subject is the following image. Look upon then, ye geeky, and despair.

image courtesy of alertnerd.com

Damn near puts Watchmen Babies to shame.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Reindeer Uprising of 2012

I had every intention of posting something worthwhile tonight, but Lost and Top Chef effectively deterred me. In lieu of a real update, please enjoy Kristen Wiig’s performance as Bjork on last week’s Saturday Night Live.



So how is your skeleton?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Turn That Frown Into a Grimace

New Facebook feature

+

People who are either bored or procrastinating

=


Notes:
  • Easily the most interaction I have ever had on Facebook, ever.
  • Still not completely sure how the Facebook “like” feature works or what its intention is.
  • Do not think I will actively use said feature
  • For those unclear, Spencer is Spencer. Molly is Molly. York is York. Shannon is perhaps the character making a repeat appearance on this blog after a longer hiatus than any other returning character.
  • I really need to upload a new Facebook photo, as the one I have now is mostly of Kristen and I keep thinking that all my comments are actually her speaking.
  • Kristen is Kristen.
  • No one, however, commented on the status update that I thought was actually amusing. It looked like this, more or less:

  • All the redacted last names stem from my pledge to protect the privacy of the people I mention on this blog... to an extent.
  • I wonder if the “like” feature will result in a user-modified version in which people can say that they “like” something or that they “like like” something.
  • You can chose to say whether you like the fact that other people accepting yet other people as friends. This will certainly turn ugly, in a very high school way.
  • I wonder how coincidental it might be that this feature debuted so close to February 14 and if we are supposed to use it for purposes of wooing.

Monday, February 09, 2009

The Winnie Cooper Theorem of Unrequited Love

Things I learned from an Onion A.V. Club interview with Mayim Bialik, former star of Blossom: Danica McKellar, the actress who played the object of Kevin Arnold’s affection on The Wonder Years, went on to study mathematics at UCLA, co-authored a paper as an undergraduate and now has a theorem named after her. I find this remarkable.

I find it less remarkable but nonetheless a little neat that role of the far less likable Wonder Years character Becky Slater was played by Danica McKellar’s sister, Crystal McKellar, who is now a lawyer but does not have theorems named after her.

Those Olden Days of Video Game Sexism

Way back when, the people who make the Final Fantasy games and other epically popular RPG series teamed up with Nintendo and made Super Mario RPG. Included in the roster of playable characters was one female character — Peach, who performed the traditional “girl” role of feeble magic caster who can restore her teammates’ health. She did have one attack, however, called “Psych Bomb,” in which she’d blast enemies with what the game referred to as “psychic energy.”

Today I was looking at the website The Mushroom Kingdom — a handy compendium of all things Mario that’s been around for quite a while — and noticed that they had posted a list of differences between the game’s English and Japanese versions. Among them is the fact that the Psych Bomb is known in Japan as the Hisuterikku Bomu, or “Hysteric Bomb,” which strikes me a just a little hilarious.

The words hysterical and hysteria, of course, shares a root with the word hysterectomy and ultimately come from the Greek word hystera, meaning “womb.” Hippocrates himself is credited with coining the term hysteria to describe what he imagined was a disorder that resulted from from wombs becoming too dry and light from a lack of sexual intercourse and consequently traveled north, “compressing the hearts, lungs and diaphragm,” as Wikipedia explains it. The definition has since become divorced from its etymology and now just refers general over-the-top mental oogies in men or women. Some might take offense to it, but most people use it quite innocently. What’s funny about Super Mario RPG’s use of the term is that it appears to very consciously reference the word’s antiquated meaning. When that Hysteric Bomb goes off, I think we’re honestly supposed to think Peach’s womb energies have overcome their good sense and resulted in a violent pyrotechnic outburst.

In my mind, Peach’s Hysteric Bomb foreshadows the Nintendo DS game Super Princess Peach, in which Peach went on her first solo adventure with only a parasol and her rapidly fluctuating emotions to defend herself. Seriously — burning fire when she’s angry, gushing water when she’s sad, and gradual floating into the air when she’s happy. The game has yet to receive a sequel.

Peach has been more emotionally centered ever since, but her habitual cake-baking continues.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Jupiter Jazz

Look beyond here and find a more interesting there — online, I mean.
And finally, from the always phenomenal PCL LinkDump, is an early version of the Muppets singing “Mah Nà Mah Nà.” A reworking, featuring the Birdo-like Snowths, would become the first-ever sketch aired on The Muppet Show.



This above sketch features “Little Anything” back-up singers and a prototype version of the character Bip Bippadotta, whose name sounds a lot like the lyrics song before the “mah nà mah nà.” But it’s the “mah nà mah nà” part that Bip sings. The finalized version of the character appears in the more familiar version of “Mah Nà Mah Nà” with the Birdo-like Snowths singing back-up.