Tuesday, November 30, 2010




: harsh or discordant sound : dissonance; specifically : harshness in the sound of words or phrases

The first thing that comes to mind in the category of CACOPHONOUS sounds are the discordant and piercing screams of children. It recently occurred to me that I haven't screamed—and I mean really screamed—in probably a hearty two decades. At some point in early pre-adolescence it just becomes socially unacceptable to scream like a child unless you are being murdered or attacked in a seriously life-threatening way. This is kind of a shame. As a child I prided myself on my screaming abilities; I would often attempt to scream louder and longer and deeper than my peers. I suppose it was a symbol of something—passion? inhibition? liveliness? Not to mention that screaming was an irreplaceable release—all of my excitement or fear reaching out from the depths of my childhood in the form of a shrill and guttural sound that cut into the air with the urgency and volume of an ambulance siren.

What takes the place of this release in our adult lives? Karaoke? It's not quite the same. Where does your average city-dwelling adult go to scream, just for the sake of screaming? If I scream in my house the neighbors—separated by two exterior walls sandwiching five feet of open space—will surely think I'm being slaughtered. I don't have a car in which I can blast music and conceal my scream's absurd volume. There are no secluded places out of earshot—open fields, woods—within reasonable distance. Cities really should have "screaming ranges." I suppose they could charge by the scream. Two, three dollars a pop? I would pay a couple bucks to go scream somewhere. Imagine the CACOPHONY in that establishment.

Oh, but the relief—priceless.

Monday, November 29, 2010




slang : great in quantity or amount : many, much

I cannot say I've seen this word used out of the French context. According to M-W the word is playful slang, although I'm not sure who casually tosses around the word BEAUCOUP. I would consider a slang synonym of "many" to be something more like "a shitload."* But that's just me.

*See also: buttload, assload, fuckload.

Here is a picture of BEAUCOUP rats.

Sunday, November 28, 2010




: marked by disorder or disarray

From the Middle English discheveled, this word translates specifically to "with disordered hair." I'll have to remember that next time I use the word to describe my sloppy dress. It's interesting, though, the role of hair in overall countenance. When I was in college so many girls would show up to morning classes (anything before 11 am) half-dressed, and I don't mean half their skin was exposed, I mean they were still mostly in pajamas—oversized RIC sweatshirts, flannel pants, flip-flops (even in winter) or sometimes slippers, a lanyard of keys hanging from the neck, an extra-large cream-drowned iced coffee from Dunkin Donuts, and a Louis Vuitton dangling from the forearm. But the hair, THE HAIR, was always done, always put together, as if that somehow forgave everything else. Perhaps these young women knew the meaning of DISHEVELED, and made the effort to save themselves from that designation by forgoing all other preparations to style the shiny, layered coifs atop their heads.

I don't know.

Saturday, November 27, 2010




: a highly ornamented ceremonial pipe of the American Indians

I must begin by pointing out one of the most glorious benefits of technology—the glitch. This morning I woke up to an email that looked like this:

Merriam-Webster Logo
Word of the Day
November 27Audio Pronunciation\KAL-yuh-met\
a highly ornamented ceremonial pipe of the American Indians

Where it says "November 27" in huge, bold letters, it should actually say "CALUMET." The word of the day is not "November 27." If it was, I would have to discuss this particular day, how it falls between November 26 and 28, how this was the day that Saint Anastasius began his reign as Pope in 399, and Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway in 1582, and in 1910, Penn Station opened its doors to a chilly New York City. Or I would talk about how in choosing the current date as the word-of-the-day, the etymologist was, in fact, implying the word TODAY, the concept of the ever-present, the current moment, the now.

But the word is actually CALUMET—a word stolen by the English from the French to brand upon the Native Americans. It means "peace pipe." Pipes were carefully and artfully crafted, an act to complement the religious ceremony of tobacco smoking among Native Americans. The pipes are often adorned with elements significant to the owner—feathers, beads, human or animal hair. Smoke from the CALUMETS is believed to carry prayers to the creator.

There are nine CALUMET towns or cities in the United States. CALUMET City, Illinois, was the birthplace of CALUMET Baking Powder Company (1889-1929 [General Foods buyout]). This brand featured an image of a Native American silhouette on their packaging. CALUMET containers appear in the pantry storage scenes in Stanley Kubrick's The Shining. Some read this as a symbol supporting the reading of the film that suggests it is a commentary on the Native American genocide. The inclusion is certainly thoughtful on Kubrick's part—we do know the Overlook is built on a Native burial ground. The CALUMET is, at the least, a clever irony.

Friday, November 26, 2010




1 : frenzied, frantic

FRENETIC comes from the Greek work phrenitis, meaning inflammation of the brain. Symptoms include: mental confusion, continuous delirium, fever, headache, drowsiness, paralysis, coma, etc. The medical term is no longer in use and has been replaced by the more modern encephalitis.

While most cases of encephalitis—a viral infection that causes inflammation in the brain and spinal cord—pass unnoticed, severe cases can be fatal. On the lighter end of the spectrum the virus causes only headaches, lethargy, fever, and joint pain—typical flu-like symptoms. More severe cases bring confusion, hallucinations, double vision, seizures, tremors, and personality changes—overall FRENETIC behavior.

I imagine this word was chosen today (Black Friday) to call attention to the ludicrous behavior of shoppers who wake at 3:30 am in order to arrive first at Walmart for a half-price DVD player—an item for which they will push, shove, and/or trample other members of the human race. Consumerist culture in America both fosters and encourages this competitive and FRENETIC behavior, especially between the dawn after Thanksgiving and twilight before Christmas Eve. I wonder if these shoppers realize their behavior is likened to those suffering from complicated brain disorders like encephalitis and meningitis. Hm. Better yet, I wonder if there is an actual physical condition that causes one to rationalize the act of rising at such an ungodly hour for a deal* on a Snuggie or something involving the designation "bluetooth." Perhaps involving a slight swelling at the base of the skull...

*likely mediocre compared to the comfort of a warm bed

Thursday, November 25, 2010




1 a : capable of laughing
b : disposed to laugh
2 : arousing or provoking laughter; especially : laughable
3 : associated with, relating to, or used in laughter

The following is a catalogue of my attempts to qualify my sense of humor using the internet as a tool. Here are the results of three different online quizzes—

1) The 3 Variable Funny Test (OkCupid):

Results: The Wit (67% dark, 38% spontaneous, 32% vulgar [not sure about the scale here...]):

You like things edgy, subtle, and smart. I guess that means you're probably an intellectual, but don't take that to mean pretentious. You realize 'dumb' can be witty--after all isn't that the Simpsons' philosophy?--but rudeness for its own sake, 'gross-out' humor and most other things found in a fraternity leave you totally flat.

2) Sense of Humor Quiz (Quizfarm):

Results: of the Dark/Sarcastic Humor variety (results accompanied by a photo of Kevin Smith).

People never know if you are being serious or just kidding...and that is how you like it. You feel you have poetic license to say whatever the F*ck you want to whenever you want.

3) What's Your Sense of Humor? (youthink.com):

Results: Slapstick

Slapstick is comedy where you find it funny when people get hurt or fall down. You probably have a loud laugh and are seen as one of the guys (especially if you are a guy!)


Some of the questions in the above quizzes were absurd (Do you enjoying confusing and lying to children? If you friend gets a new dog, what name do you suggest: dog, tip-toe, pandemic, poopsy, or sugarcube?), and many featured grossly unfunny photographs of animals in compromising positions. I have discovered nothing about my sense of humor, except that I am funnier than people who devise internet quizzes. It is apparent (at least by the above examples) the internet is no place to determine specific qualifications of one's RISIBILITY.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

to quoque



: a retort charging an adversary with being or doing what he or she criticizes in others.

...i.e., the accusation upon discovering hypocrisy.

I think of such other phrases as:

It takes one to know one!
He can dish it out, but he can't take it!
Why don't you look in the mirror, buddy!

I added that last one; I don't know if it's an actual idiom.

The TU QUOQUE entry in The Free Dictionary is complex and lists both illegitimate and legitimate uses of the Latin phrase:

Illegitimate uses—

In many cases tu quoque arguments are used in a logically fallacious way, to draw a conclusion which is not supported by the premises of the argument.

You-too version

This form of the argument is as follows:

A makes criticism P.
A is also guilty of P.
Therefore, P is dismissed.

This is an instance of the two wrongs make a right fallacy.


"He cannot accuse me of libel because he was just successfully sued for libel."

Inconsistency version

This form of the argument is as follows:

A makes claim P.
A has also made claims which are inconsistent with P.
Therefore, P is false.

This is a logical fallacy because the conclusion that P is false does not follow from the premises; even if A has made past claims which are inconsistent with P, it does not necessarily prove that P is either true or false.


"You say airplanes are able to fly because of the laws of physics, but this is false because twenty years ago you also said airplanes fly because of magic."

Legitimate Uses—

Not all uses of tu quoque arguments involve logical fallacy. They can be properly used to bring about awareness of inconsistency, to indirectly repeal a criticism by narrowing its scope or challenging its criteria, or to call into question the credibility of a source of knowledge.

You-too version

A legitimate use of the you-too version might be:

A makes criticism P.
A is also guilty of P.
Therefore, the criticism is confusing because it does not reflect A's actual values or beliefs.

Another legitimate use of this version asserts:

A makes criticism of P for Q.
A is also guilty of Q.
Therefore, the criticism is confusing because it does not reflect A's beliefs.


Version 1: "You say that taking a human life is wrong under all circumstances, but support killing in self-defense; you are either being inconsistent, or you believe that under some circumstances taking a human life is justified."
Version 2: "You claim to believe that taking a human life is always wrong, and you criticize John for it. Contradictory to this, you also support killing in self-defense. You are a hypocrite and are inconsistent in your criticisms."

Note the difference between this legitimate usage and the fallacious one: in the latter, we attempt to use A's hypocrisy to prove that criticism P is false. This is illogical, since the truth value of a claim does not depend on the speaker. In the former, we are showing that A does not make a good critic, therefore arguing for greater skepticism toward his/her claims.

Inconsistency version

A legitimate use of the inconsistency version might be:

A makes claim P.
A has also made claims which are inconsistent with P.
Therefore, A is an inconsistent source of information.
Inconsistent sources of information are untrustworthy.
Therefore, A is an untrustworthy source of information.


"John Smith told the police he was at home alone on Friday night, but later said he was with friends at a bar; we can't take what he says about the crime at face value since he lied about his alibi."


Wow. There's your reading for the day. Take a break. Stretch. Open a new window and check your Facebook.

I'm kidding.

It's important to understand the algebraic essence of linguistics.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010




1 : to regard with reverential respect or with admiring deference
2 : to honor (as an icon or a relic) with a ritual act of devotion

The etymology blurb distinguishes VENERATE from synonyms such as revere, worship, and adore, by elaborating that VENERATE implies a sacrosanct admiration based on character, association, or age, while the above neighboring words focus on tenderness, ceremony, and personal attachment, respectively.

I've tried to conjure people I VENERATE based on the three signifiers. Actually, that's false. I haven't tried. I've only just thought of this now, a day overdue, after a ten hour work day on four hours of sleep. But from this point on, I will try.


Character, in this sense, is defined as possessing moral and ethical qualities such as integrity, honesty, courage, etc. The first and last person that comes to mind is my dear friend Josh, always painfully focused on doing what is morally just, no matter what lengths he must go to fulfill this goal. For example, I've sat idly in the passenger seat of his car while he took three tries to parallel park as close to the curb as possible, as well as equally between the surrounding parked vehicles. Now, while this may be considered slightly obsessive-compulsive, I don't believe neuroses motivates his behavior (although I'm sure it does to an extent). I truly believe he is concerned with the greater good—if everyone parked straight and equally spaced their cars, more vehicles could fit on the street and fewer drivers would experience parking/road rage. The golden rule is at work with Josh, in an exemplary way.


I suppose this is relevant in our culture, although I truly couldn't give two fucks about who anyone knows. My father liked to tell the story about how he arm-wrestled (and beat) Cassius Clay (yes—before he had Parkinson's). He was so proud of his association, and sincerely wanted to be VENERATED for his one degree of separation from the great fighter. Truly, while I don't believe I care, I still enjoy telling this story and perpetuating my father's claim to fame. But I don't tell the tale to brag about his association as much as I attempt to illustrate his absurdity.


"Respect your elders." I hated the phrase as a child, and it still aggravates me as an adult. This phrase is a cop-out. If one acts respectfully—at any age—one deserves respect. And if you're an entitled asshole sneering and whining and yelling at me because the bakery where I work sold out of your precious bearclaws, then I don't care if you're a hundred-and-forty-two. You're not getting anything from me.

Monday, November 22, 2010




1 : a selection of passages used to help learn a language
2 : a volume of selected passages or stories of an author

A suppose a modern autobiographical CRESTOMATHY would be someone's self-created online profile, specifically the selected list of "likes." On Facebook, this includes: interests, activities, music, books, movies, and television. Through these selections one is expected to glean the roundness of another's personality.

The act of creating a profile has always presented itself as a dilemma to me. I grow anxious at the task of choosing just the right elements to speak to my "true" self (at least, what rings "true" in my own subjectivity). I fear that I will leave an incredibly relevant piece out, so obvious it is forgotten, or I will choose to add something that has only grasped my attention for the moment, eventually not making the cut of the "timeless."

But do my favorite albums and books and television programs really say anything about who I am? I suppose to an extent. These choices place me into a cultural context, which in turn has influenced my development as a person. I am roped into a zeitgeist, a generation, a subculture. While it's nice to think these lists add up to a person, there are still things missing—qualms, pet-peeves, psychoanalysis, secrets, lies one tells one's self, etc.


The list (CRESTOMATHY) goes on...

Sunday, November 21, 2010




: a person transformed into a wolf or capable of assuming a wolf's form

I thought it would be FUN to do a little survey of male actors who have played WEREWOLVES in films, just to see if there are any similar characteristics among the chosen.

1) David Naughten in An America WEREWOLF in London (1981):

2) Michael J. Fox in Teen Wolf (1985):

3) Tom Everett Scott in An American WEREWOLF in Paris (1997):

4) Seth Green in Buffy the Vampire Slayer (TV Series) (1999):

5) Will Kemp in Van Helsing (2004): (no mid-transformation images...)

6) Benicio Del Toro in The Wolfman (2010):

Well, they're all kind of making a similar face. There's a general fullness of hair. They're all pretty white, with the exception of Benicio, who is half Puerto-Rican.

I'm a shade too over-worked to really process what any of this means, but I'm offering it for observation.

I may return to this later.

Saturday, November 20, 2010




: otherness; specifically : the quality or state of being radically alien to the conscious self or a particular cultural orientation

Apart from the fact that I often define my life by the acute awareness I have of the ALTERITY inherent in the human condition, specifically my human condition, there's not much to say about this word in relation to my person.

INSTEAD, let's talk about how much there is no such word as ALTERIOR. This is a fair guess as to the adjective form describing the state of ALTERITY. Alas, we are left with other, peculiar, disparate. I won't go on. My discussion regarding the supposed word ALTERIOR was slated to explore similarities/differences with the word ulterior. This discussion will no longer take place.

I discovered a blog with the title "ALTERITY." The most recent post offers a recipe for lamb sate. Opening words:

Take a goat, kill it and skin it (no I ain't provide a picture) [sic]

The blog is about traveling in Indonesia. Otherness; I get it.

The website Wordnik provided a bit more in depth definition of ALTERITY—

A philosophical and anthropological term for the 'other'. Cultural alterity is the process by which societies and cultures exclude particular people on account of their otherness.

—a concept responsible for things like Little Italy and Curves and that island of lepers in the movie The Fog.

I don't know. Read this philosophical article instead.

Friday, November 19, 2010




1 : flavored with the extract of the vanilla bean 2 : lacking distinction : plain, ordinary, conventional

I'd like to take this opportunity to talk about the ongoing VANILLA vs. CHOCOLATE battle. First, I have decided to capitalize both words so that VANILLA doesn't seem to be favored over CHOCOLATE in its all-caps-ness. I realize VANILLA is the word of the day, so I will give it fair attention as such. However, this is an ongoing debate, and I'm trying to remain non-partisan.

For the sake of brevity, I will keep this argument in the sphere of ice cream because, as most of us know, CHOCOLATE is much more versatile in the wider world of desserts than is VANILLA. This is just the truth. There is a spectrum of CHOCOLATE hues, as well as multi-levels of bitterness and sweetness and tartness and spiciness. I will not discount, however, the absolute necessity that is VANILLA extract, used in a vast majority of baked goods. That said, VANILLA-flavored items don't often cloud the bakery atmosphere. At the bakery where I work, our VANILLA items consist of VANILLA buttercream frosting (used on a few cakes/cupcakes) and a vanilla beignet consigned by a local French bakery. CHOCOLATE items present about 65% of everything, the others being mainly fruit- or nut-oriented.

MOVING ON. Ice Cream. According to MakeIceCream.com, VANILLA wins as the most popular ice cream flavor ranking at 29%, far beyond CHOCOLATE's 8.9%. These results come from the International Ice Cream Association (part of the larger International Dairy Foods Association), who comment in a recent article that VANILLA's versatility is responsible for its status:

Vanilla continues to be America's flavor of choice in ice cream and novelties, in both supermarket and foodservice sales. This flavor is the most versatile, mixing well with toppings, drinks and bakery desserts.

I mean, this is true. VANILLA is basic. I want to say, "VANILLA is the new black," but there is nothing new about it.

Versatility aside, I still think VANILLA is superior. My reasoning is NOT because VANILLA is healthier (grossly false) or classic (although that's an arguable factor), but simply that the more crap you add to CHOCOLATE, the less you can appreciate its flavor. The average ratio between dairy and CHOCOLATE in ice cream is 6 to 1. You might as well just drink a glass of milk through a CHOCOLATE straw. CHOCOLATE is best enjoyed in its most potent form—as just CHOCOLATE.

VANILLA on the other hand is similar to a spice—a little goes a long way. Adding VANILLA to ice cream is like putting barbecue sauce on chicken. You don't eat chicken-flavored-barbecue sauce—you eat some fucking barbecue chicken. The VANILLA towers over the dairy. There is no competition between the flavor and the milk.

I rest my case.