Thursday, September 16, 2010




1 : lacking nutritive value
2 : devoid of significance or interest : dull
3 : juvenile, puerile

This word posits me at a busy intersection, eyes on an unfolded map, knowing only which way is up. Each of the above definitions is a possible route; I'm reminded of the anxieties inherent in the reading of a choose your own adventure novel. As adults, we all understand the metaphor underlying this literature-of-choice genre, but no other decision in life seems to call such attention to its consequence. There it is, in front of our young eyes on a soft page, browning around the edges: You can either do this, or this.

Choose wisely.

Of course, I am the god of this blog, so I can write about whatever I want, as much as I want, and as rampantly as I'd like. My only restriction is time. Each of today's definitions interests me. I have read some about choice creating anxiety; in contemporary western culture people feel bogged down by the amount of choice and decision making involved in everyday life. They waste varying amounts of time standing in front of a wall of 78 types of tomato sauce trying to pick the very best variety, fearing regret at choosing incorrectly (as though there is such thing). I do not normally have a problem with choice. What I have a problem with is the depressing notion that I will most likely not be able to try every type of tomato sauce before I die. This is where the anxiety rears its head. It happens most often in the bookstore. I nearly tear up at the realization of the many, many books I will never read.

Today I have all of three choices. And I could conceivably write about all three. I do have a whole day.


What I take from every above definition is the sense of something being just short of satisfying.

1) lacking nutritive value
a) I work in a bakery, and hardly a day goes by when I am not asked: "How do you work here and stay so thin?" While this question is annoying and bothersome on several levels, I will avoid digression and instead discuss my case against baked goods, specifically pastry. Now—do not misunderstand—I do enjoy sweets, mostly dark chocolate in its simplest form, a piece broken off a bar, preferably 70% or darker (though anything past 85% contorts my facial expression). In addition, I would like to add that I respect the art of pastry and support the quality of the product I sell. However, will you catch me eating a scone or a bearclaw for breakfast? Never. And the reason is because PASTRIES HAVE LITTLE TO NO NUTRITIVE VALUE. Pastries are like one night stands—temporarily satisfying, but in the long run leave you wanting more. Every day I watch as these JEJUNE treats fly off the rickety shelves of our old, wooden display case—morning rolls, sticky buns, chocolate chip muffins—and I don't get it. I suppose this is one of many answers as to how I "stay so thin": I think too much and I am neurotic. Not to mention my near inability to eat a meal that doesn't involve of a fair amount of fiber.

2) devoid of significance or interest : dull
a) a random selection of things I* may describe using the above statement
1) television programs about any of the following
a) hospitals, ERs, surgeries, etc.
b) nonfiction accounts of life among wealthy white people
c) any show that involves the process of "voting off"
2) any and all forms of sports journalism
3) any video games made after the original Nintendo
4) knick-knacks
5) most types of shopping, excluding grocery

* I must clarify that this list applies solely to my own opinions, and I am in no way claiming that its contents are "devoid of significance" in a general sense. I do believe EVERYTHING has cultural value; these items are merely dull to me as an individual. Although, I see little purpose in anything one would describe as a knick-knack, except perhaps as a placeholder in a future FREE box on the side of the road.

3) juvenile, puerile
a) Defining the difference between childish and childlike
1) childish
a : of, like, or befitting a child
b : puerile, weak, silly.
2) childlike
a : like a child, as in innocence, frankness, etc.
b) Exploring the difference
1) Things I associate with childish
a) the act of "ganging up" on someone
1) def : ganging up : act of uniting in opposition against someone or something
b) competitiveness
c) laziness
d) insubordinance
2) Things I associate with childlike
a) the empress from The Neverending Story
b) the humility in revealing a crush
c) the everlasting joy of swinging on a swing, any swing
1) despite newfound motion sickness
d) the devouring of sweets without remorse
1) bringing us full circle back to pastry

This unintentionally cyclical exploration has illuminated the essence of JEJUNE—an indulgence in something for no practical reason or consequence, only to satisfy the desire to indulge. The "empty calories" of life experience, I suppose.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010




: one that goes before

It seems this word is most commonly used in reference to the Homo ANTECESSOR, an extinct human subspecies dating back 1.2 million to 800,000 years. The first fossils were discovered in the mid-1990's at the Gran Dolina cave site in the Sierra de Atapuerca region of Burgos, Spain. This site is known to be the oldest of hominid-fossil-bearing sites in Europe, and hence the H.A. are now thought to be the earliest specimens of human remains on the European continent, pre-dating the Homo Heidelbergensis, and prompting revisions of the "human family tree."

The most interesting feature about these early fossils is the presence of distinct cut marks on various bones, indicative of dismemberment. The marks match those on faunal specimens, suggesting the hominid's responsibility in the act of cutting. While this could make them ANTECESSORS to leatherface, archeologists believe they were cannibals.

Above you will find a model of a female Homo ANTECESSOR digging for human brains, courtesy of the Ibeas Museum in Burgos. She looks to the audience, as though to say, "Yeah? And?"

Tuesday, September 14, 2010




1 : to revoke (a command) by a contrary order
2 : to recall or order back by a superseding contrary order

So what. Big deal. Somebody took something back, changed their mind, COUNTERMANDED. It happens every day. I see the evidence at work—a chocolate bar resting on the display of brownies, a second thought, a new craving, eyes opening on the reality of another option. Wait—this is what I really wanted. They leave the chocolate bar there for me as though to say: here are the inner-workings of my decision making process, make of it what you will. There is great intimacy in being offered a glimpse into a stranger's train of thought.

I sit on a rocking chair in my living room, laptop resting on a hatbox resting on an ottoman, pulled toward my body, comfortably between my straddled legs, and I can think of very, very little to say about COUNTERMAND. To revoke an order—it's so simple, so straightforward. Either you do it or you don't. Black and white. A counter-command. The command and its other. Take it back. Think of a better solution. Do this instead. Usurp your own authority. An act of practical self-insubordinance.

I have a better idea.

Except, I don't have a better idea about this word. Just a better idea. In general.

Monday, September 13, 2010




1 : to struggle to move or obtain footing : thrash about wildly
2 : to proceed or act clumsily or ineffectually

As much as I have tried, I cannot seem to locate a connection between the verb and noun forms of the word FLOUNDER. I have to admit, I always thought the verb derived from the image of a fish out of water, flopping around desperately on the deck of a boat. That is a fair assumption. The etymology suggests, however, that FLOUNDER comes from the verb founder—to fall or sink, to utterly fail, to stumble or break down. No source seems to be sure of when and where that "L" made its first appearance, but there it is.

While FLOUNDER refers more to physical stumbling, I find myself FLOUNDERING words more than anything (although I have trouble balancing on my right foot for some reason). As I write more often, better, and with greater ease, my verbal skills seem to be slipping. I am less articulate than I would like in conversation, tripping over my words, having trouble accessing my vocabulary bank, sometimes even gross mispronunciation (most often after a beer or two). This is nothing less than embarrassing, and I grow more and more frustrated with my inabilities as they make themselves ever present in my daily speech. Mayhap I should quit speaking and begin a life of solely written communications. Or I could move somewhere where I am utterly unknown, lie about being a mute, and carry around a small chalkboard on which I scribble daily formalities. Just a thought.

Sunday, September 12, 2010




: perhaps

You are not wrong—this word is a hybrid between maybe and perhaps. MAYHAP is by origin the conglomeration of the phrase "it may hap," but since maybe and perhaps are so widely used, MAYHAP immediately sounds like a bastard son."Hap" is a Middle English noun meaning "chance" or "fortune." "Maybe" obviously comes from "it may be," and "perhaps" is the product of "per"—meaning "through the agency of"—and, of course, "hap." I almost feel like I need to stop here. I could, but I won't.

So, who actually says MAYHAP these days without sounding like a one of those people who poorly fakes a British accent because it makes them feel more intellectual. Well, first and foremost, two dudes in Raleigh, North Carolina, who named their experimental funk band after this Middle English compound. In the extensive bio that appears on their website, they never quite explain why they settled on the name, although it came at the end of a string of other band formations like Mojo, Drifting Through, and Gambit. Gems. The bio is fairly colorful, using phrases such as "sun-deprived skies," "hone his chops," and "succumbed to the pressures of adulthood." Read more here. Their debut album is appropriately titled, "Might Could."

At the end of their profile, they close with:

"So come out to the next show. MAYHAP you'll like it."

Saturday, September 11, 2010




1 : a tumultuous breakup of ice in a river
2 : a violent disruption (as of an army) : rout
3 : a : a great disaster; b : a complete failure : fiasco

DEBACLE is one of those words I use with frequency in an over-exaggerated manner. For example, I might refer to the repetitive re-scheduling of a coffee date as "the social DEBACLE of 2010." One might describe this word choice as sarcastic, calling attention to the hyperbole in such a statement. In reality, re-scheduling a coffee date is not a "great disaster," nor is it a "violent disruption" or a "tumultuous break-up of ice in a river." It's just a pain in the ass. But it's FUNNY to over-exaggerate. After all, over-exaggeration is NOT THE END OF THE WORLD.

DEBACLE comes from the French verb débåcler (I'm terrible with keyboard symbol shortcuts, forgive me): to clear, unbolt, unbar. The etymology moved as quickly as the broken ice flowing down the thawing river—from the breaking, to the disastrous flood, to a collapse in general, to the less intense fiasco. It's interesting how the meaning of words often gets softened as language unfolds. The breaking of ice in a river is an extremely violent natural event. Hence, referring to something as a DEBACLE is essentially holding it up in comparison to this violence.

When I do a search in Google News for the most recent uses of the word DEBACLE, this is what I find:

"MTV hoping to move on from West DEBACLE at VMAs." -Associated Press

"Wheeler intends to play with an edge this year after last season's DEBACLE (38 points)." -NBC Sports

"New York Giants get chance for revenge vs. Panthers after December DEBACLE." -New York Daily News.

Pop culture, sports, and sports—all referring to TUMULTUOUS AND VIOLENT DISASTER, I'm sure.


I think about sitting beside a river in early spring, the tips of my ears numb with the cold of morning, my gloved hands wedged under my bent knees, the slant of sunlight barely reaching the water's edge, listening to the sound of the DEBACLE, the ice cracking, pulling, tearing away from itself, drowning out everything else around. This never happened. At least, yet.

Friday, September 10, 2010




1 : the quality or fact of being simultaneous
2 : the coincidental occurrence of events and especially psychic events

First of all: thanks, Sting, for ruining this word. It's not that I don't like The Police (although I much prefer their earlier work...), I just hope that musicians realize what they're doing when they utilize a fairly uncommon word in an album title and/or the chorus of a song. The word becomes forever synonymous with said song, and a person like myself who is writing about the word will probably have that same song in her head all day. Need I remind the reader about the word copacetic.

Moving right along, there is something beautiful in the concept of SYNCHRONICITY, and it's the same thing that aesthetically pleases me about multi-tasking, parallel lines, and being able to eyeball the correct milk to cereal ratio: it's about a sort of temporal and/or physical harmony. Getting to the stop seconds before the bus arrives, having exact change, only one seat left open—for you. These things happen every day. Although I know this isn't the case, these events seem to reveal a system at work, cosmic checks and balances.

There is one instance of SYNCHRONICITY that I find particularly pleasing. Waiting in a turning lane at a red light, turn blinker on, a green arrow flashes on your dash board—click, click, click. A steady beat. The rear blinker of the car in front of you, flashing at its own steady pace, illuminating your windshield in second-long washes of red light, maybe a little slower, maybe a little faster than yours. If you're there long enough, eventually the two lights will be synchronized for one blink, like eye contact on a crowded side walk, only to pass by, and then slip again out of beat. I wait for the SYNCHRONICITY, anticipation building as the two beats grow closer together. When they meet I close my eyes, trying to meditate in the moment of harmonic coincidence. It's really...satisfying.

I engage in this temporal awareness also when riding public transit, but in this case with the spatial SYNCHRONICITY of telephone poles. For example, while passing through an intersection, I may close my eyes while a further pole and a closer pole line up in my field of vision, for the split second while the bus passes. I'm not sure of the purpose guiding my behavior. I think my efforts to close my eyes during these moments are a sort of pause, as though everything in the world is momentarily aligned, and I just want to slow down and take it all in before it inevitably falls out of place.

Thursday, September 9, 2010




1 a : offering or providing help b : functioning in a subsidiary capacity
2 : constituting a reserve : supplementary

The first things that occurs to me upon viewing this word is AUXILIARY inputs, a.k.a.: AUX. An AUXILIARY input in a unit allows one to hook-up a smaller unit to the main unit, and thus channel the smaller through the main. Example: an iPod through a car stereo.

The AUX input is an image I directly relate to my days working for Guitar Center. For nearly four years I stood in a grey-carpeted kiosk, leaning my torso over the rail into the path of those moving toward the exit, ready to grab a guitar or an amp or a keyboard, and, of course, a receipt. One facet of my surprisingly complicated job—technically "inventory control specialist," non-technically "door girl"—was to match serial numbers on gear to serial numbers on receipts. After years of searching for these numbers, I knew exactly where to look. I knew which guitars listed numbers on the back of their heads, on the base of their necks, on a sticker, carved into the wood, buried in the sound hole, hidden below a pick-up. Most amplifiers listed numbers on their backs, amidst an aggregation of ONs, OFFs, INs, OUTs, THRUs, and AUXs. If I had stopped to think about what AUX meant, I'm sure I could have answered it, but for those moments it was only a stopping point for my eyes on the way to a 8-12 digit identification number. Images of serial numbers haunted me for months after I quit this job. I still find myself staring at the serial numbers on automatic hand-dryers in public bathrooms as I hold my wet hands under a stream of lukewarm recycled air.

If one had asked me a decade ago if I would eventually become sensitive to the image of a serial number, I wonder what I would have thought. Life is strange and gloriously unpredictable.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010




1 : the point of the celestial sphere that is directly opposite the nadir and vertically above the observer
2 : the highest point reached in the heavens by a celestial body
3 : culminating point : acme

Like many others (or at least, I hope) when I see the word ZENITH, I think immediately of that little reflective lightening bolt of a "Z" that appears at the bottom of many a television set. I'm sure at some point my family owned a ZENITH brand TV; we went through many sets, and not so much as a day passed between the death of one set and a the purchase of a new sale item from Sears. Entering a living room sans television set felt like a arriving at a major intersection without a traffic signal. Something obvious was missing. A hole needed to be filled.

I find out this morning that ZENITH electronics is most famous for their invention in 1956 of the world's first practical remote control, aptly called: Space Commander. The bulky handheld relied on ultrasonic sound as a trigger mechanism (eventually replaced by modern remotes which use infrared light), sending frequencies between remote and television hub. The device reminds me of a Twilight Zone prop, perhaps something actually used in fictional space travel—a real historical object which resembles an imitation of a false historical object. Hmm. I suppose that kitsch for you.

ZENITH electronics derived their name from their call sign "9ZN," but I'm sure the fact that ZENITH connotes "the acme of everything" at least partially swayed their decision away from other words containing the letters "Z" and "N," like zinnia or zenana. ZENITH says success, these guys are at the top of their game, of everybody's game, actually.

In case you find yourself in a bind trying to think of a bold and effective company name, check out The Seventh Sanctum Corporation Generator. Endless, endless creations.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010




: using or involving the use of a minimum of words : concise to the point of seeming rude or mysterious

I'd like to talk about how a minimal use of words is considered rude or mysterious. Something another young girl said to me as child sticks with me. (Forgive my redundancy: I know I've used this anecdote many times) Second grade, perusing the school field with a pack of girls a few steps ahead of my social development, I hang back, quiet, observing, taking it all in. It doesn't take long for my lack of responsiveness to call attention to itself.

"What's the matter, Candace? Cat got your tongue?" says the designated leader. The other girls laugh, crossing their arms and shifting their body weight from leg to leg. I had nothing to respond, not that they even cared. They moved on and I stood where I was.

Now, at the ripe age of seven, I was not being intentionally LACONIC by any means. In groups of strangers I tend to freeze up, shy away, fear judgment; the appropriate words are often trapped or lost or constipated. I don't think people consider me rude or mysterious—mostly just socially inept. Those girls didn't think I was being mysterious, they thought I was being pathetic, and they rightfully called me out, as seven-year-old girls will.

When I imagine LACONIC, I imagine a deliberate pinching of words, mostly for effect—whether that is rudeness, or mystery, or intrigue. In a culture which often begs for verbal diarrhea, brevity of language certainly does stand out. I confess to being attracted to people who are terse with their words, mostly because I assume there's a river of wisdom running underneath the uncomplicated surface. I am often wrong. Many LACONIC people have nothing more to say than what they initially offer, and I have found this out the hard way, more than once.

However, I still believe in leaving a little to the colloquial imagination. Perhaps there's a happy medium between LACONIC and, say, verbose. I suppose that might be...vernacular.

Note: I discovered the above image while doing a search for the phrase "terse with words." The internet amazes me, every day.

Monday, September 6, 2010




1 : a friend going with a bridegroom to fetch home the bride in ancient Greece; also : the bridesmaid conducting the bride to the bridegroom
2 : a : best man; b : bridesmaid

Modern American PARANYMPHAL traditions/responsibilities:

- Attend/plan: engagement party, bridal shower, bachelorette party, rehearsal dinner, WEDDING, farewell brunch. Attendance also often expected at: dress shopping, cake tasting, facility rental, tradition research, stuffing of envelopes, and making of party favors.
- Offer emotional support to bride AT ALL COSTS
- Execute "last minute rescues," i.e.: straightening out a bunched veil or a drunk ex-girlfriend
- DO NOT upstage the bride by looking better/sexier/happier

According to, there are also several activities a modern PARANYMPH can undertake to go above and beyond her call of duty:

- Create a PowerPoint presentation for the wedding speeches or bridal shower.
- Take photos of the whole process, from wedding dress shopping to cake tasting.
- Create a scrapbook of the wedding planning and celebrations. Include photos, momentos, receipts, ribbons, wedding favors, and so on.
- Send champagne, strawberries, and flowers to the bridal suite for the wedding night.
- Write a poem, paint a portrait, or make something special that celebrates the bride and groom. Use your unique talents and skills to create something special for the wedding couple.

I'm not sure what the equivalent of PowerPoint was in Ancient Greece—a scroll and a pointer?

Seriously, though—PowerPoint wedding presentations? We live in a sad, sad world sometimes.

Sunday, September 5, 2010




: of, relating to, or suggestive of the labors of Sisyphus;specifically : requiring continual and often ineffective effort

When I first learned of Sisyphus, I must have been about fourteen; ninth grade was the year the school curriculum introduced myth into our young lives. I remember reading The Odyssey, or at the least, its Cliff Notes. I didn't read much of anything at fourteen. Perhaps Dean Koontz.

It was with Greek mythology that I first considered the concept of eternity. I grew up without any sort of religious beliefs or concept of eternal life. Heaven and hell were vague concepts at best—like southern California and boarding school, respectively. But when I read stories of Sisyphus forever pushing a boulder up a mountain only to watch it roll back down, or Prometheus having his liver forever pecked out by an eagle, these images resonated far more with me as an adolescent than previous images of a nondescript fire-y pit of foreverness. I suppose it's in the details.

The thing that has always bugged me about eternity is consciousness. I'm assuming the reason eternity feels so daunting to us (as a race) is because the small part of our brains used for consciousness is unequipped to fathom anything that doesn't have an end. We understand life as a closed circle, not a infinite line. The thought of pushing a boulder up a mountain every day forever is literally unimaginable. I wonder how this activity would feel if the pusher was under the impression there was an end—sort of like factory work. Executing the same task every day, knowing it will always be the same, and eventually there will be retirement or death. If this wasn't the case, the SISYPHEAN subject would probably do one of two things:
a) lose his mind
b) gain access to the part of his mind from which the idea of eternity is fathomable
I truly wonder what it would feel like to be able to grasp this idea. Forever. I just don't get it.