Category Archives: Language

Thoughtwanderer

When Whiskey Advocate came in yesterday’s mail, I was puzzled about why I received it but pleased to have found it in my mailbox. It wasn’t long before it occurred to me that I traded DeltaMiles for the subscription (there’s … Continue reading

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Thought-Skipping

Today’s post is evidence of thought-skipping, that experience in which one’s thoughts skip across many subjects in a short period of time. It’s like a smooth, flat stone thrown across the surface of a body of still water, the forward … Continue reading

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Forgiveness and Food

I spilled red wine on a grey and white carpet last night. I did my best to clean it; my best was inadequate, as ample evidence of the spill remains. My faux pas bothered me, but it didn’t send me … Continue reading

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The Upper Edge of Anything Hollow

Before I get into the meat of this post, I want to document something I wrote for another post I subsequently discarded. I liked this little snippet from that post, but didn’t like the rest. Maybe I’ll use this sometime … Continue reading

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Chiselers

I don’t remember where I came across the word “chiseler” in the past day or so, but the word stuck with me. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone speak the word since I heard my father use it many, … Continue reading

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Implied Promise

What is an implied promise? Is a strong suggestion an implied promise? (You’ll have to assume an implicit action is associated with the strong suggestion.) Is a statement of future fact an implied promise? And what, by the way, is … Continue reading

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Sesquipedalian

Sesquipedalian; 1) given to using long words; 2) containing many syllables. I first encountered the word nine years ago on Facebook. Really. The word was included in a post on the Smith College Facebook page. Ah! That explains it. I … Continue reading

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The Effects of Attention Deficit Bureaucracy on Linguistic Inquiry

This morning, for breakfast, we had toasted thin bagels topped with cream cheese, purple onion, capers, and smoked salmon. I had mine open-faced;  as in an open-faced sandwich. While I was eating my breakfast, I wondered aloud where the term … Continue reading

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Language Crimes

Go ahead, call me a Grammar Nazi. But, actually, t’s not grammar. It’s vocabulary. Here’s a heading for a story I read recently on CNN.com: “Man breaks in to rob a Florida Wendy’s but stops to make himself dinner first.” … Continue reading

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Time is Money

Time is money. That apothegm means, to most of us, that time is a valuable resource and, as such, it is better to do things as quickly as possible. But I also see it from another perspective. That is, one … Continue reading

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Authenticity in Appetite

I find it interesting that definitions of passion conflict with one another. For instance, on one hand passion can mean ardent affection or strong sexual desire but, on the other, it can mean an outbreak of anger, as in a … Continue reading

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Phrases

Not long ago, I wrote a somewhat depressing philosophical screed that included concepts and phrases I’ve never used before. Phrases like “tetanus fog” and “smothering with a cellophane pillow.” I didn’t post the discourse on my blog, but I kept … Continue reading

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Opening Death’s Door

Several days ago, I received a promotional/informational email from Liquor.com. The message contained a list of gins that, according to the sender, represent the best of the beverage. My wife, a gin aficionado who rarely drinks any alcohol, found the … Continue reading

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Fourthgraders

On occasion, I slog through writing I’ve posted here or stored in directories on my hard drive. I’m looking for words that have merit, writing of which I might one day be proud. I’m afraid I rarely find those gems … Continue reading

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Of Words and Weather and Automotive Maturation

Uncharacteristically cool temperatures for late July and early August give me hope. Soul-crushing hot weather tends to sear despair into my brain, but the scar heals quickly when evening and early morning temperatures dip into the sixties. Were it not … Continue reading

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Psycholinguistic Musings

Sinew. That word can evoke, for me, images of sturdy steel bands, thick in the middle but narrowing almost to points on the ends; ribbons of metallic lies constrained at either end by truth. It’s as if truth confines the streamer of … Continue reading

Posted in Language, Philosophy, Ruminations, Writing | 1 Comment

A Roundabout Tribute to Maggie Roche

I’m a fervent admirer of a handful of musicians. People who know me may understand the depth of my admiration for Leonard Cohen, whose deeply meaningful poetry set to music moves me beyond anyone else’s art. Yet, even in the … Continue reading

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Linguafile

An idea for a story came to me during a conversation with my wife yesterday. The story would have been a whimsical one in which a young boy dreams of becoming fluent in every human language and, by working hard, … Continue reading

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A Turn of Phrase

I suspect this is the sixth or seventh time I’ve written about the French phrase, Le jeu n’en vaut pas la chandelle, translated into English as “the game is not worth the candle.” The phrase sums up feelings of depression … Continue reading

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Ensteubulous Thursday

Soft, early morning light filtered through the windows when I woke up this morning, a highly unusual circumstance for someone who’s up well before dawn almost every day. Why I slept in is beyond me. But sleep in I did. … Continue reading

Posted in Food, Language | 1 Comment

Negative Space

Negative space. That’s an interesting concept. The term refers to the space around and between one or more subjects of a visual image; it’s the space that surrounds an image. To an artist—and others who understand the concept in an … Continue reading

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The Cleansing

Certain words convey meanings that dictionary definitions do not adequately express. One such word , in my humble opinion, is “boisterous.” A group of pre-school children might be called boisterous. But the word is inappropriate to describe a gang of violent … Continue reading

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Blood

Some words occupy spaces only they can fill.  Those words are like surviving twins; they are incomplete pairs that cannot be repaired, no matter how much energy is expended to that end. One such word is blood. Oh, one might … Continue reading

Posted in Just Thinking, Language | 1 Comment

Letters and Numbers

What gives me reason to think I can stitch together a small sample of all the available words in the English language to create something new? Any word I might choose to use has been used before, very probably in concert … Continue reading

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Petrichor

There’s a word for the smell of fresh rain, an aroma that evokes memories of my childhood better than any other. The word is petrichor, derived from the Greek words petra (stone) and ichor (the blood of the gods), coined … Continue reading

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A Single Word Can Change Everything

I stumbled upon an interesting bit of wordplay this morning, courtesy of a writer-directed Facebook post. Here it is: She told him that she loved him. The post went on to say that by inserting the word ‘only’ in various places, … Continue reading

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Unutterable

It has come to my attention that the French language is far more difficult for me to understand than I had earlier imagined. My mouth is not properly configured to speak, nor are my ears constructed to hear, the sounds … Continue reading

Posted in Absurdist Fantasy, Language | 2 Comments

Two Hundred

Poetry can utter thoughts one dare not say aloud, nor commit to prose, because poetry is a language of suggestion, interpretation, influence. “It means what it means to you” or “It means what you want it to mean.” That vague avoidance of … Continue reading

Posted in Language, Poetry, Writing | 2 Comments

Only So Far…

The difference between fear and terror is one of intensity and effect. Fear is authoritative. Terror is dominant. Fear generates a response. Terror triggers panic. Fear leads to action. Terror results in paralysis. Consider, as well, the difference between liking and loving. … Continue reading

Posted in Just Thinking, Language | 2 Comments

And on other matters…

It seems one of my favorite phrases, “slogging through the porridge,” belongs only to me. I have used it only once in my blog (that I can find), but it escapes my lips in conversation not infrequently and it has … Continue reading

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Caramel Floods

Soft and thick like flash-cooled caramel, my thoughts creep along in slow motion, their hard edges dragged around obstacles that get in their way by the more pliable core within. Thinking is, at times, an exercise in  patience. When the mind … Continue reading

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Un Qualunque Mattino

Some of my favorite tunes are by Gianmaria Testa, an Italian singer-songwriter. I do not understand the words to any of his music because I do not speak Italian, but I think I understand the emotions of the music. Still, I wish I … Continue reading

Posted in Language, Music | 4 Comments

I Should Have Sawn This Coming

The complexity of the world around us is staggering.  It’s not enough that we must be capable of acknowledging and recognizing the incalculably vast differences between butterflies and locomotives. No, we have to distinguish between components of each of them, and of … Continue reading

Posted in Language, Tools | 1 Comment

Skin in the Game

Here’s how it happened: I went looking for the etymology of “skin in the game.” What I found was a set of words that describe some concepts I never knew existed or, at least, I’d never thought about. A word exists, I learned, … Continue reading

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Scientific Inquiry

The older I get, the more I appreciate the magnificence of scientific inquiry and the more I appreciate its civility. Science and politics are worlds apart, one populated by people who strive to understand the world, the other by a … Continue reading

Posted in Language, Science | 2 Comments

The Ides of March

In my opinion, the primary reason we know the ides of March is that Shakespeare incorporated the phrase “beware the ides of March” into Julius Caesar, a soothsayer’s warning to Caesar. His impending assassination by Brutus and Cassius would take place on … Continue reading

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Trends in Benign Neglect

I read something not long ago  in which the term “benign neglect” was used.  My memory tells me it was used to describe a suggested policy in which improvements in education would occur if the State would just stop investing time and … Continue reading

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The Trouble with Words

Komorebi, as I came to learn recently, is a Japanese word meaning sunlight filtering through tree leaves.  If I am to properly describe the dim, non-illuminated areas on a wall next to the komorebi coming through the window, I need a … Continue reading

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The Sound of Wind Rustling in the Trees

I have added another word to my vocabulary, though I can’t guarantee it will stay.  Thanks to my friend, Trish, I now know that psithurism (a noun) means, according to various sources, the sound of wind in the trees and … Continue reading

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Morbid Curiosity?

I stumbled across something intriguing this morning.  It was of sufficient interest to warrant the further investigation which followed.  My fascination with language and its role in the human condition prompted my search and what, ultimately, might be considered morbid … Continue reading

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In the Beginning, There was the Word

The concept of human language is fascinating to me.  How is it that the sounds constituting Japanese and English and Arabic are so remarkably different, for example? And, quite apart from the differences in spoken words, how and why did written … Continue reading

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We Can Borrow Them

木漏れ日 The symbols above constitute a Japanese phrase for “sunlight filtering through tree leaves.” The English spelling of the phrase is komorebi.  I see no need to reinvent the wheel, or create a new word in a language that already has some … Continue reading

Posted in Language | 3 Comments

Another Lover, Same Story

So many definitions of love, such a vast array of wildly disparate  viewpoints of an emotion; yet people seem to have stunningly similar, deeply intimate perspectives on the emotion that feeds on intimacy. I have fallen in love again, for perhaps the thousandth time, but … Continue reading

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Starving Artists and Other Crimes

I love words—the way they work together to express thoughts. But they can work together with context to form thoughts, too.  The title of this post, for example.  If I had been clever, I could have called this post a how-to guide, but … Continue reading

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There’s a term for that…

Repetition has the interesting effect of making perfectly normal words sound like nonsense syllables.  Try it. Prong. Prong. Prong. Prong. Prong. Prong. Prong. Prong. Prong. Eventually, perhaps already, the word has begun to sound like gibberish. It will work equally … Continue reading

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Lengua Confudido

Question: What is a powerful narcotic one might find in Addis Ababa? Answer: Ethiopiate. Question: What statement about a word cannot easily and simply be made in written form without using non-alphabetic symbols? Answer: There are three ways to spell the word whose sound is best … Continue reading

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Which Came First?

I watched several instructional YouTube videos yesterday, videos posted as marketing pieces for online art instruction.  My purpose in watching them was to learn a bit about painting with acrylics, something I’ve done several times without the benefit of any instruction … Continue reading

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Crimson

April 17, like all other days, provides me with an opportunity to exhibit random curiosity. Today’s random curiosity found itself exploring the meaning and origins of the word “crimson.” I can’t say with even a shred of certainty why that … Continue reading

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Red Herring

If you make a point, every day, of thinking about and then learning about something of which you know little, you will expand your intellectual horizons.   That’s what I say. Today, I explored the etymology of the term “red herring.” … Continue reading

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Lagniappe in Suspension

A few years ago, my wife introduced me to a term I’d probably heard before, but did not quite understand: amuse-bouche. She introduced the term to me as we sat in a Mexican restaurant and were served a very nice … Continue reading

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