Skip to content

{ Category Archives } Words

Nark – where words come from

Reading “The Hands of Mr. Ottermole” for my detective fiction class today, I came across this sentence, warning why most murderers will eventually give themselves away: …your everyday criminal is seldom clearheaded and dislikes being lonely.  He needs, if not the support of confederates, at least somebody to talk to; his vanity needs the satisfaction […]

The Connecticut Problem

[youtube:] In the age of the Internet, the obligation not to write something stupid rises dramatically. I’ve decided to call this the Connecticut Problem. (I started writing this post because I thought Lawrence Block had gotten the question of Kipling’s anti-Semitism wrong, but the issue may not be as simply resolved as I’d originally hoped.  […]

Congratulation, classified network master

I love Babelfish, the translation service that allows you to email in foreign languages. I had to use Google language detector to figure out that this was Dutch (I thought it might be German), but after that it was easy peasy Dutchy. Check out this exchange (in both languages, for your convenience): Original inquiry Beste […]

Tagged , , ,


I was explaining to a friend the acronym “FTW” (for the win) and realized that it isn’t properly an acronym because it isn’t a word, like FUBAR or SCUBA (“self-contained underwater breathing apparatus” — thank you Family Ties).  So I called it a netonym.  And I thought I had just coined a neologism.  I googled […]

Tagged , , ,

Oft used phrases

Reading Sarah Vowell’s The Wordy Shipmates, in which she details how the Puritan vision of a “city on a hill” has been co-opted and misshapen by politicians and the American public, I can’t help but reflect on oft-used phrases that are so ubiquitous that people who know them are often not familiar with their provenance.  […]


The Zero Effect. An excellent detective film starring Bill Pullman and Ben Stiller. A man hires a famous detective to find his missing keys. The Doppler effect. The pileup of sound waves that makes a fast moving object’s sound change in pitch when it zooms by. To whit, race cars don’t go Neeeeeeeee when they […]

Tagged , , , ,

It bugs me to no end…

That Simon and Garfunkel say …I wish I was Homeward bound. instead of …I wish I were Homeward bound. I know was has a better sound in the phrase, but it bugs me.

On language and other thoughts while parenting

Avery says “my” instead of “I” or “I’m.”  This puzzling linguistic development became clear once I figured out its boundaries.  Here’s how I figure it emerged: 1) We would say something about a posessive: “Have you found your shoes?” 2) She would say “Avery found your shoes.” 3) We would correct her, “You mean to […]

Tagged , , , ,

The other side of the coin

For every good experience on Google Image Labeler, there are at least two bad ones. Here’s my most recent: I got an image that showed three principle members of the Start Trek crew. Here are the labels I typed in the 40 seconds before my teammate passed, then the five more I obstinantly typed to […]


A couple rounds before bed

I often play a couple rounds of Image Labeler before bed.  Today, I got paired up with a couple real crackerjacks who think the way I do and type quickly.  Check out this score:

Tagged ,

Sentence of the week

See if you can pick it out. Context: P.Z. Myers grouses about some claims made in an article profiling “Intelligent” Design.  The boldfaced sentence is the claim being made by the article. IDists are correct to say love is not an illusion. Scientists say this. Frankly, this is the most dumb-ass argument in a whole […]

Tagged , , , ,


It occurred to me that my experience with Bruce Springsteen is a ubiquitous one. Not for the Boss, per se, but as a way of ingesting popular culture. A couple more examples: A student wearing a “COLLEGE” shirt admitted to me that he bought it because he thought it was cool, only later learning about […]

In the Restaurant!

The Mother Tongue: English and How It Got That Way by Bill Bryson I seem to be on a Bryson binge lately, somehow finding myself reading two of his books at the same time.  We have three more on the shelf downstairs, but it will be a while before I read another.  This book was […]

Tagged , ,

Opposite of Favorite

It occurred to me today that favorite has no antonym.


for Deb and Travis The joy of marriage stems from love requited. Popular wisdom about love focuses on Eros—lonely love, the pursuit of love: love unrequited. Aristotle posits love as a search for the other half of our soul, our soul mate. Medieval poets imagine love as a kind of pain, a longing we feel […]