Brigid Daull Brockway is technically a writer

Brigid Daull Brockway is technically a writer

A blog about words, wordplay, and etymology, with slightly more than occasional political rants.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Counting Casualties

My, but it has been a long time. The buying, making, wrapping, finishing-touching and food purchasing tend to take up a lot of one's time when one and one's husband will have visited with 60-odd relatives over the course of two days.
Yes, we tried to put a lid on the gift-giving by donating to charities instead. Didn't take; now we donate to charity and give each other presents. I don't think it's an over-commercialization of Christmas thing in our families though. I think it's just that we can't resist the urge to share with the people we love. We think of the look on Mom's face when she opens this package and it's all over.
Plus, all of us crafty folks have to do something with this toilet paper cozy we made.
Also, my mom is a sucker for fairly traded handy-crafts from folks in third-world countries, so we always find ornaments or jewelry made from recycled trash and elephant dung in our stockings. When my sister pulled the necklace of lovely newspaper beads out of her stocking this year, my mom informed us that this piece was made by a colony of Ethiopian women with leprosy. After which the beads were suddenly on the other side of the room. While one might logically know that one can't get leprosy from a trash necklace, that doesn't make it any easier to have leper jewelry around your neck. 
But I digress as usual. 

Well, another battle in the War on Christmas is on the books, and it looks like the heathens lost once again. One day the 5% of Americans who don't celebrate Christmas will emerge victorious. One day.
So now the great endangered holiday is over, and it is time to put the righteous holiday greeting indignation on the shelf beside the Christmas lights. 
Or, we could stop behaving like petulant children and realize it's okay for different people to wish each other season's greetings in different ways. Just as saying hola or aloha is not an attack on the English language; just as saying gesundheit isn't an attack on blessing people; just as saying she's at peace now instead of he's in a better place isn't an attack on heaven; choosing to say happy holidays is not an attack on Christmas.

Although going ape on a person or place of business for wishing you happiness is kind of an attack on the spirit of Christmas. And free speech. And, you know, behaving like a civilized adult.

Or perhaps you should gird your loins for a battle Christians really are losing without even knowing they're losing it. It's the battle on Easter.
Once, my dad was at church and wished an old woman a happy Easter. The woman whirled around on him and said "Easter is a pagan holiday. It's Resurrection Sunday." She's right. The word Easter refers to Ēostre (or Ostara), an Anglo-Saxon goddess celebrated in feasts throughout the month of April. Chances are good that the Easter Bunny, Easter Eggs, and several of the other customs associated with Easter go back to Ēostre celebrations. 
Take your holiday back, Jesus lovers! Don't let the pagans win!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Raindrops on Roses

So when I was a kid, I got this book from the library full of random facts. Slowly, over the course of the past few decades, I have learned that nearly everything that book told me was a lie.
I should have known better than to trust a book from a library with an entire wall full of Danielle Steel novels. Except I didn't know who Danielle Steel was and probably assumed that she was some sort of expert on sunsets, or beaches, or front porch swings or something.
Okay, honestly, I still have no idea what Danielle Steel is all about. I mean, I get erotica. It's a great way to look at porn without having to clear your browser history afterward. But romance? I have no idea what that even means. Then again, this is coming from the woman whose husband made her play Dungeons & Dragons on their first Valentine's Day together and then poisoned her character so she had to sit out the rest of the game. Yes that was the year 2000. Yes I am still mad. But I digress as usual.
Anyway, this book was busting at the seams with every trivia lie you've ever heard: the thing about the number of hooves a horse has on the ground being a code for how the rider died; the one about sleeping tight; and the reason that Silly Putty is called Silly Putty.
In retrospect, I realize that it was pretty absurd to believe that Silly Putty is so named because it was invented by Joseph Siller. Then again, I was young and thought that Daniel Steel was a beachporchologist. 
Silly Putty, that fascinating non-Newtonian fluid that never copied the funnies section as well as I'd been led to believe, was invented by a guy with a name that isn't remotely silly - James Wright. Wright, according to, wasn't trying to create a non-Newtonian novelty, he was trying to invent a synthetic rubber for the US military back during WWII. It wasn't a bad attempt, actually, other than the fact that it didn't work. It's just that tires are required to be 100% Newtonian, it's kind of a deal-breaker. (Yes, I know that solids aren't Newtonian.) Anyway, everybody agreed that the substance, which was then called bouncing putty, was really cool, but none of the best scientific minds in the country couldn't think of a use for it (apparently scientists never ran across a situation in which the funnies need to be copied onto a non-Newtonian fluid). Until an ad-man named Peter Hodgson got a hold off it and found a use. He ordered a big batch of the stuff and, because he had some on hand, stuffed the stuff into plastic Easter eggs. It was Hodgson who came up with the name Silly Putty
Back when I was a kid, we'd go downtown the day after Thanksgiving and my sister and I got to visit the Twigbee Shop inside of the downtown Higbee's. At the Twigbee Shop, your folks gave you money, and some nice ladies brought you around and helped you buy horrible gifts for your family. You know, perfume that smells like bathroom air freshener; large, hideous pins that your poor mother would, God love her, wear proudly to church; that sort of thing. Then, one year, between the neon-patterned polyester neckties and the tire gauge key rings (speaking of God loved people, my dad checked every tire on both cars in the snow with that thing), I found the perfect horrible gift for my godfather. A luxury Slinky. Gold. And resting on a wooden platform designed to let you display the device in all its glory. And bearing a gold plaque engraved "Executive Spring." I pictured the thing front and center on his desk, impressing the hell out of his very important clients and employees. It would be a conversation piece, and he would brag about his brilliant goddaughter and her miraculous gift-picking ability. But I digress as usual.
The Slinky. That fascinating metal coil that never walked downstairs as well as I'd been lead to believe. Like Silly Putty, the Slinky was born when scientist Richard James (who I've heard was a supafreak) tried to create a spring that could be used on naval ships. One day, he knocked the spring off a shelf and discovered it could walk (I call shenanigans. I couldn't make that foolish thing walk down the steps on purpose, let alone by accident). James spent a year refining the design, then prepared to sell the spring as a toy. It was James' wife Betty who came up with the name, and the toy was a smash hit from the start. I assume it's because nobody had found out about the whole stair walking thing being a lie.
All of which is to say I've been having way too much fun shopping for munchkins. I'm going to have to use all of my strength not to keep them for myself.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

This horse dead yet?

So I know I promised to tell you about some more kick-ass women who didn't embody what some Fox News op-ed said a Woman should be. Then I kind of realized the pointlessness of preaching to the choir about a debate that was settled in the minds of most sane people decades ago. And that furthermore, said article is totally irrelevant to the vast majority of Americans who can't really afford to turn up their noses at an entire additional income. 
I think it's great, happy, noble, and Womanly to stay home and concentrate on being a good wife and mom. I respect the hell out of anyone who manages. But it can also be womanly to work hard to provide for your family while in so doing answering your own calling.
I do, however, want to address this idea that I've heard a lot of people arguing: that feminism has made it okay for women to browbeat men. Y'all, the whole "henpecked man" trope is a stereotype since before written history exists and is most certainly not the product of feminism. Greek and Roman mythology is full of some browbeating, murderous, and revengeful women - I mean, look at all the evil Hera rained down upon poor innocent Hercules just to punish Zeus for shoving his junk into anything that moved. Go back to Greek theater and you've got Lysistrata, in which women use sex in a calculated effort to control their men. Katrina in Taming of the Shrew; just about every woman Oscar Wilde wrote about; Alice Kramden in The Honeymooners, that show reviled by feminists everywhere, is a sharp-beaked twit to her husband. Also, I so don't have a problem with The Honeymooners
Also, the term henpecked has been around since the 1670s, which kind of tells you something. 
All that said, I do want to give one more example of a woman whom that editorial would deny being a Woman, my mom. Yes, the woman who leaves soup on the doorstep of sick people and runs away. The woman who brings communion to shut-ins and cooks like an angel, the woman who makes up half of the most happily married couple I know.
But mom worked. She worked hard. She worked for a lot of reasons, but I'm glad she did. If not, my family would have cheated hundreds of already severely disadvantaged children out of maybe the best teacher they ever had. 
In my house, if you had a gift, you learned how to find a way to share it with the world.
There weren't boys' toys or girls' toys in my house, there were only toys. I had dolls and I loved them, but not nearly as much as I loved the awesome little set of real tools she got me when I was 7 (with which I promptly built a lovely gash in my thumb). She sometimes regrets how strict she was by not letting us play with Barbie dolls, but I completely get the logic now. Barbie's defining characteristics were her appearance and her clothes. That's not really something my mom wanted us to aspire to. Instead, I played with Strawberry Shortcake, whose defining characteristic was smelling like fruit, and what mom doesn't want her girl to aspire to live inside a strawberry, talk like she's been sucking on helium, and smell like fruit? I don't know if the Barbie ban made any difference one way or another, but I really appreciate the sentiment behind that.
I love my mom. She taught me how to be a Woman. I mean, it didn't take, but she tried.

Monday, December 3, 2012

On Women who aren't... part II

This post is a continuation in a series of posts that describe powerful, ambitious women that men love; women who embody everything that society once thought women should not be.
This very unladylike lady is a lady every man I know would like to get his hands on, and the one woman who might be able to steal my husband away if she took a mind...
Kari Byron is a geek boy's dream come true. She's hot, she's brilliant, she's a redhead (geek boys seem to have a thing for redheads), and she plays in the dirt.
Kari Byron wanted a job as a prop-maker at M5 Industries, and Jamie Hyneman said no. But Kari Byron was not deterred. Driven by a very un-Womanly ambition, she showed up outside Hyneman's workshop every day to ask for a job, and every day she got the same answer. Until one day when the answer was yes. That day just happens to have been right around the time the show Mythbusters began recording at Hyneman's prop studio. Byron was hired to work for the prop shop, not the show, but one fateful day the show needed a butt to make a plaster cast with, and they chose hers.

Byron began appearing on the show more often... apparently someone realized that, on a show with two of the ugliest men in the business, a smoking hot geek chick might just be an asset.

During her nearly ten years on the show, she has appeared onscreen shooting guns, playing in poop, operating power tools, swimming with sharks, and making things explode. Like, really,really big explosions. Who wants June Cleaver when you can have a smoking hot badass who could totally save your life in the event of a zombie apocalypse?
"I really like just getting my hands dirty...
that's the kind of science I like to do" - Kari Byron

Byron took half a season off following the birth of her daughter Stella Ruby, but returned when the next season began filming. Of being a working mom, she said this in her blog on
Being a working mom is hard. Anyone that tells you different is lying. Not that I would have it any other way... I do have dark moments of working-mom guilt, but I actively try to crush them with my list:
My daughter has a positive role model of a career woman. She can be anyone she wants to be. 
I never take a moment with her for granted. She has my full attention and I savour my time with her like dark chocolate. 
 She has a college fund and she is only 1.
I am the first one she sees in the morning and the one who kisses her goodnight. 

According to Susan Venker's article, Kari Byron is bad news, the kind of non-Woman woman responsible for causing men not to want to get married. 
But I disagree. Most of the men I know are geeks, so maybe what I'm seeing doesn't reflect what all men like, but it seems to me, guys may not want to compete with their wives, but they do want to be with a woman who challenges them. They like having a companion, someone intelligent who shares their interests. Kari Byron isn't just gorgeous because she's gorgeous. She's gorgeous because she's brilliant. Because she likes to get dirty and break things and blow stuff up... and what guy, deep down, doesn't love some or all of the same things. 
And as for women staying at home, I don't know many dudes who would choose a live-in housekeeper over having 100% more money. Do you? 
Feminism, my friends, has been framed. Feminism isn't about hating men and blaming and emasculating. Feminism is about women like Kari Byron and Tina Fey, who are sexy because they're smart and hella good at what they do. I highly doubt women like them sit around their houses brow-beating their men and blaming them for things. They're far  too busy being awesome.
As for more women who are busy being awesome... more on them to come.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

On women who aren't... part 1

So in my last post I talked about Susan Venker's silly op-ed piece on, which I am once again dignifying with a response. Because actually, it got me thinking about what men really want.
See, I talk to a lot of guys too, and I think that Venker's wrong about what men really want. Of course men don't want some angry domineering ball-buster (I mean, well, some of them really, really do, but only in the Biblical sense, if you know what I mean), but banging and blaming simply aren't what mainstream feminism is about. And I posit that some of the women that men love most would not be who they were if they were Women, by Susan Venker's definition.

Tina Fey

Tina Fey may have scorched the cover of Esquire with her incredible hotness...

But the Tina Fey that men (and women) first fell in love with everywhere looked more like this:

Gorgeous, yes, but also brainy, wearing minimal makeup, and sporting a scar that might have kept her from the screen entirely a few generations ago. A scar that she never hides from the camera, that isn't even touched out in photos, though it easily could be, a scar that might have shamed someone like her grandmother from leaving the house.
And you probably wouldn't see either Tina Fey on TV if not for the groundwork laid down by the feminist movement. The first because respectable women did not appear scantily clad on the cover of a men's magazine, and the second because she might not be on television if not for her ambition in another field. Tina Fey didn't begin as a performer on Saturday Night Live, but as a writer - a woman in an overwhelmingly male-dominated field - one of only four women on a writing team of more than 20. When she became the head writer for Saturday Night Live in 1999, she was the first woman ever to fill the position. A few years later, she did what surprisingly few women have done - she created a hit television show: 30 Rock, which is loosely based on her experience at SNL. 
Fey doesn't just show up in tons of "most beautiful people" lists and on the covers of men's magazines, fashion magazines, and feminist magazines; she's also consistently ranked one of the most powerful and influential people in Hollywood.
If her husband, composer Jeff Richmond has a problem with being married to an ambitious, educated, successful, working mom, he hasn't said so. They've been married for 11 years - which is like, a century in Hollywood marriage years.
There are thousands of women in Hollywood more thin and beautiful than she is; the reason men and women love her is that she's hilarious, talented, strong, and brilliant. She's everything Venker claims a Woman isn't, but I don't know many straight men who would kick this woman out of bed. Or gay men. Or straight women...

Saturday, December 1, 2012

She Stayed at Home, She Did Her Wool

Earlier this week, a bunch of my ugly-shod Facebook compatriots in the feminist sisterhood rage-reposted* a link to The War On Men, a Fox News opinion piece by anti-feminist author Susan Venker. Which I am now dignifying with a response while rewarding the site with more web traffic in an act of re-rage-reposting**.  
In the article, Venker exposes a chilling statistic. Men are 6% less likely to say that a successful marriage is important to them. SIX! That's as many as three twos! Or six ones!
Maybe if women were still women, Lex Luthor wouldn't have to
steal cakes. You ever think of that, feminazi? 
Venker has talked to hundreds, if not thousands of men, some of whom say that they don't want to get married because women aren't women anymore Venker tells women that we're doing themselves and all other women a great disservice with our blaming and browbeating and job pursuing and college degree getting. If we keep on emasculating men by competing with them in the workplace, well then, nobody's going to marry us and we're going to be old maids. 
...and that's terrible.
And that got me thinking: what defines a Woman? When were women Women, and what, when women were Women, was a Woman supposed to be? She doesn't think it's okay that women are getting more than half of college degrees or that they make up more than half of the workforce. Don't worry, Suz, women are still earning less than 80% of what men do!**** 
She says that non-Woman women are undermining men, what with our mannish competence and our lesbian-esque work ethics. That a Woman doesn't compete with her man, she lets him care for her. We need to stop brow-beating our men. We need to stop being so defensive and angry, and give over to our feminine natures.
Well I have to call shenanigans on you, Miss Venker. I'll have you know that I have, many times, selflessly offered to quit my job and let my husband take care of me. In fact, I make this selfless offer nearly every morning when the alarm clock goes off. He keeps saying that we need "enough money" to "pay our bills." And I never compete with my husband, because I have a vagina, making me superior to him in every way - competing with him would just be rubbing it in.
And I wouldn't be so angry, Miss Venker, I wouldn't be so defensive, if my husband wasn't such a male chauvinist pig. Do you know he expects me to help him with the housework? What century does he think this is!? Everyone knows that because men have subjugated women for millennia, it is men's turn to be subjugated. Everyone knows a man's place is in the kitchen, and when he and I get home at the end of a long work day, I expect him to make up my chocolate martini and then cook dinner while I'm communing with my online Wiccan coven about our vaginas and the new world order in which we crush men under our combat boots. Really, Susan Venker, is that too much to ask?
Also, I would never beat a man's brow, whatever that means. Like a true feminist, I only beat men's genitals. 
Oh, and Jeremy would totally back up my opinion if he weren't cowering behind the couch right now.  

This article actually did get me thinking some interesting things about Women and women, and over the next couple of days, I will be featuring some women who are most certainly not Women by Venker's definition. Women whom no man would ever want to marry.

*A new term I've just coined to refer becoming so enraged with a website that you are viewing that you must share it with everyone you know. Which I guess sort of the Internet equivalent of sniffing sour milk and then shoving the carton at your spouse saying "Ew, smell this."
** A new term I've just coined that is awfully fun to say.
*** Yes, I know that the gender wage gap is based on a number of complicated factors, and is not based on simple discrimination. 

And there it is, an entire post on feminism that doesn't mention Birkenstocks once. Oops.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Buzzed at the Meniru Meadery

Not long ago, a little shop opened at the end of my street, a place called Meniru Meadery. Apparently, mead, the very first fermented beverage that man ever produced, is enjoying a resurgence. It also turns out that mead is freaking delicious. Don't let the photo on Meniru's website fool you. There isn't a single table in the place large enough to hold that many people. Small table size notwithstanding, the place is excellent, and if you're in Canton, you should go there. Because I would like it to stay open so that I can keep walking to the end of my street whenever I want mead.
Now, while Meniru Meadery's mead is really great, the etymology their menu gives for the word honeymoon probably isn't. It gives up the more interesting of etymologies out there, that the word refers to the European tradition of giving newlywed couples a month's supply of mead as a wedding gift. That story, like many of the more interesting etymologies, probably isn't true - there's no real evidence to support the idea. The more likely explanation is the one the Online Etymology Dictionary gives - that the word refers to the period during which the marriage is sweetest - the period that will invariably wane within the first month. 
It's kind of ironic that a word for marital bliss should refer to honey because the critters that make the honey have some seriously messed up mating habits, and there's not much of any bliss involved. Or not for very long anyway. See, round about the time the queen bee gets randy, she flies out of the hive and waits for males, or drones, to come give her some sugar (see what I did there?). Each lucky drone that mates with the queen meets the same fate - the second he gets in there, he ejaculates so hard that part of his penis blows off. Or maybe the queen's just mad that he had such a hair trigger, so she keeps his junk as punishment. Then, to add insult to injury, the drone falls to his death. The queen mates with a dozen unfortunates, then flies on home. She'll use the sperm she stores for the rest of her life. Now that she's got no use for the drones she didn't bump uglies with, they're unceremoniously shoved out of the hive. Sometimes after the worker bees have chewed their wings off. And human males think it's a hardship when their mate wants to cuddle afterward. Drone, by the way, comes from middle lower Germanic and is probably an onomatopoeia
The queen gets hers, in the end. Once she gets old and feeble, all the other bees in the hive cuddle up to her and basically suffocate her, then appoint a new queen to take her place.
In summary, bees are assholes. 
Jeremy's and my marriage, by the way? Still disgustingly sweet. It's a tiny bit nauseating. 

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Glittering Prize

Eep! Has it really been over a week since I posted? I've just been so excited about turkey, my least favorite member of the meat family - of the meats I will actually eat, anyway. However, I'm pretty sure Grandma Brockway could find a way to make deep fried shoes tasty, so I survived. 
Today, I am thankful for all the usual things - family and cats and amazing friends and Grandma Brockway's cooking. But I'm exceptionally thankful for the magical migraine medication that kept me from missing out on my amazing family. I hate that I'm one of the pill people now, but I'm grateful the pills are there.
That's all the Thanksgiving content I've got for you today. If you demand turkey talk, there's always this post from two years ago. Also, I've been doing this blog for over two years. 
Also, I'm watching Glee, in which I just spotted a continuity error. How shocking is that? Actually, maybe that's why I put up with Glee's terrible writing. It's exactly as well-written and researched as the backdrop of my childhood - comic books. 
Comic books, especially Marvel comics, are infamous for their lack of continuity. They'd sort of have to be, what with the fact that superheroes don't so much age - the original X-Men are awfully sprightly considering they were in their late teens in 1963. Sure, you could posit that because they're mutants, they don't age as quickly, but how would you explain Batman? He's been around 1939, and his only actual superpower is his money. Okay, fine, I stole the money superpower thing from Cracked.
Round about 1964, Marvel Comics got tired of all the people writing in to inform them of every tiny continuity error they found, so they introduced the No-Prize, which they rewarded to people who wrote in with piddly complaints. Originally, it was just a mocking thing, but over time, they started emailing out No-Prize envelopes with nothing in them. 
Eventually, Marvel changed the requirements for the prize. People not only had to point out the continuity error, they had to explain it away. For instance, in one issue, the Beast quotes a Yeats poem, but one reader pointed out that that he'd gotten the quotation wrong. Beast is a super-genius who would never flub a quotation. Of course, said the reader, there's a perfectly reasonable explanation. Beast is a genius who loves poetry. He's probably poured over early manuscripts of Yeats' poetry, and likely found and memorized an earlier version of the poem he quoted, probably because he liked it better. Obviously. 
My mom used to bribe her students to behave with the nothing-bug. The nothing-bug was an invisible bug that lived in a plant on the windowsill, and the kid who stayed in line best got to carry the nothing-bug until they came back to the classroom. The kids vied ardently for the right to carry the thing. Over the years, though, the nothing-bug stopped working. Kids, even kindergarteners, are too jaded now, and lack the imagination for pretending. Mom says kids don't hardly play pretend anymore. They've got video games and television and electronic toys that make it unnecessary to pretend for themselves. And if kids never learn to play pretend, what are movies and books going to look like when these kids grow up?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Sticks and Stones

Someone I know posted a link to this article on, in which a reporter tracked down some teens who used the N-word to describe the president over Twitter - students who display their school's names on their profiles and post under their own names. Then the reporter called the kids' schools to make them aware of this.
Jeremy and I just had a spirited discussion of this and he's brought me around to his opinion that this was kind of a dick move on the part of the reporter. I mean, I'm certainly not sorry for the kids - you've got to learn sometime that we're accountable the things we say under our own names on an international forum. However, calling their schools to tattle on them is maybe a little lame. And snooty. And a tiny bit creepy.
But this post isn't about that. It's about the argument that always comes up when the question of whether white people should use racial slurs. The old "they" can call "us" anything they want argument. I'm not saying that black people should be calling white people horrible names. I'm asking whether this is a thing that happens. I've known a lot of black people, including my fair share of racist black people, but the closest thing I've ever gotten to a racial slur was when someone once called me a white bitch. Which, to be fair, is a factual statement. 
I'm not saying there aren't any black people running around shouting honky out the car windows, I'm just saying that if that language is as common and socially accepted as folks seem to think it is, I must be deaf. 
I listen to rap and hip hop, which are supposed to be scandalously anti-white, and I've yet to hear a cracker or honky or any other slur against white people. I mean, Eminem calls himself white trash, but again, factual statement. I even Googled "racist rap lyrics." That, as it turns out, is an excellent way to stumble onto Neo-Nazi websites. So that's in my browser history now. Awesome. I'm not saying there aren't racist rap lyrics. I'm just saying that in my experience, artists who rap about killing whitey are just as outside of the mainstream as Neo Nazi bands like the late Prussian Blue, which was made up of tween girls (they seem to have reached the age of reason last year, giving up the act and the white nationalist rhetoric last year).
My point: You're not a persecuted minority. Your inability to say the n-word without social consequence isn't a great social evil. And the "why can't I do it; the other guy gets to do it" argument stopped being valid when you were 8 and your mom wouldn't let you ride your bike to the end of your block even if the other kids are allowed.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Cold Chicken

So you know how in the first Harry Potter book, all problems could have been resolved at any point if the kids had just gone to Dumbledore? And you know how in the second Harry Potter book, all problems could have been resolved at any point if the kids had just gone to Dumbledore? And you know how in the third Harry Potter book... you get the idea.
That realization is an example of what Alfred Hitchcock once called an icebox scene - a plot element that makes no sense, only you don't realize it until you're at home pulling cold chicken out of the icebox. 
Some of my favorite icebox moments.

  •  In The Avengers, Thor's hammer has destroyed everything he has ever hit with it. Meaning that when he, sparring with Iron Man and Captain America, had no idea he wasn't, in fact, going to murder them.
  • In The Avengers, where's Loki while everyone's sitting around eating shwarma?
  • In Harry Potter, if Peter Pettigrew showed up with his own name on the Marauder's Map, even when he was in the form of Scabbers, Ron's pet rat. If the Weasley twins had been in possession of the Marauder's Map up until they gave it to Harry, then they would likely have noticed their brother Ron sharing a bed with a strange man every night.
  • On CSI, pretty much none of the technology they use to catch bad guys exists. You probably figured out that ATM cameras can't show a mole on the elbow of a person a mile away. But there's stuff even more basic. Anyone who owns a cat knows that hairs get tracked everywhere all the time, and finding a single hair at a crime scene doesn't mean jack. I mean, if I make my mom a scarf at my best friend's house in DC, and my best friend's dog sheds in it (because that's what her dog does for a living), and my mom gives the scarf to a homeless guy because she's deathly allergic to dogs and thus the scarf, then there's a chance there's a homeless dude wandering the streets of Cleveland with hairs on him from a dog in DC. That doesn't mean he murdered the dog. (Don't ask yourself why my mom didn't just wash the scarf - that's another icebox moment). So anyway, in the real world, there are going to be dozens, maybe hundreds of hairs floating around any given crime scene, and DNA testing is expensive. Even if you tested every piece of hair around the crime scene, the chances of matching it to the bad guy and then using it to hang him are... somewhat less good than TV would have us think.
  • How the hell does Marty McFly's mom not notice that her son looks exactly like that dude she hit with her car and tried to sleep with when she was in high school?
  • The X-Men leave more bodies in their wake than probably all their enemies put together. There's even a whole super villain team made up of the few people that Wolverine has left alive. And then there's the whole Phoenix murdering five billion people thing. In fact, countless lives could have been saved if the X-Men had just let Magneto enslave humanity in 1963. Because really, how were he and half a dozen freaks with sorta lame powers going to rule the world anyway? 
  • Movie and TV characters always have way more money than they have any business having, unless it's a plot point that they don't. Like where did Juno get the money for all those pregnancy tests, especially from a convenience store? Those things - especially the fancy kind that don't make you pee in a cup - cost like $15 at WalMart - and would cost a lot more at a convenience store. And how many did she say she'd taken? Half a dozen? That's a huge chunk of change to a teenager, especially one from a not so rich family. She clearly doesn't have a job... 
  • In Dogma... there's a little flaw in Bartelby and Loki's plan to get back to heaven. According to a Catholic tradition, anyone who walks through a church on its centennial is forgiven of all sins. Bartleby and Loki are going to thwart God's will by going through the doors to a church on its centennial - however, in order to truly be absolved of one's sins, according to the church, you must genuinely repent and intend to sin no more. If you're walking through the doors with the intention of thwarting God's will, then you're sinning. If you can get around that, since the cops were sure to shoot them when they left the church, then leaving the church would be suicide, a mortal sin.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Keep Calm and Kill Zombies

So I'm hanging out in the mountains of West Virginia, like one does. Enjoying Tamarack, one of the few giant billboard bearing shopping attractions on the way to Atlanta worth visiting. Super cool craft items from super amazing artisans. You know something funny about being a crafter? Non-crafters might look at the pretty hefty price tags on items and balk. I look at the price tag and, knowing how much work went into the thing, am horrified by how little these poor folks are able to get for their amazingly beautiful craft items. I kinda wanted to ask if I could pay more for my purchases. But I digress as usual.
While I was in the store, a woman held up a "Keep Calm and Carry On" poster to her friends. "I see this everywhere. What does it mean?" she asked.
One of her friends replied "oh, it's that zombie apocalypse thing. You know how in zombie movies they always say 'keep calm'? That's what it refers to. And then 'carry on' is one of the Marines' slogans. So the saying is like, if you have to go to war with zombies, keep calm, but fight like a Marine."
My dad is fond of telling those sorts of shaggy dog stories, and seeing how long it takes you to catch on that he's just making something up. But man, if this guy was kidding, he's got the best poker face ever. I think he actually thought this is what the sign meant.
So where does the phrase come from? Well, I'll give you a clue: it's got nothing to do with zombies.
"Keep Calm and Carry On" is the slogan from a quintessentially British World War II propaganda poster. Unlike other posters from the era with other, just as quintessentially British propaganda posters (Make Due and Mend, Let Us Go Forward Together), it never saw circulation, and went forgotten for many decades.
The reason the poster was never circulated, according to a 2009 article in The Guardian, is somewhat chilling. It was being saved for the invasion, should it come.
Happily, the poster was never needed, and it faded into obscurity. Then, in the early 2000s, according to a story I vaguely remember from NPR, someone rediscovered it. The owners of an antique bookstore found a copy of it pressed it between the pages of some mouldering old book.
I can't say just why the thing got so popular, but one columnist for The Economist, theorized that the fondness is that it "taps directly into the country's mythic image of itself: unshowily brave and just a little stiff, brewing tea as the bombs fall." And since England is the new Japan among the geek kids, and since geeks are the new cool kids, the poster has reached ubiquity here on the other side of the pond.
And, you know, zombies.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The problem with Katy Perry is she's too intellectual an example of a sentence that may never have been used in the history of the English language. 
A truly original sentence might be rarer than you think. Even though we make up most of the sentences that come out of our mouths right on the spot, a ton of them have been spoken a hundred, maybe a million times before. If I say "I always wear hoodies" (which I do), even though it occurred to me spontaneously, it's totally possible that a hundred people across the English speaking world have spoken that phrase today. In fact, a Google search for "I always wear hoodies," in quotes, yields over 300,000 results. Heck, even "I always wear underpants on my head," in quotes, brings back 7 results.
I'm surprised it's that high. I mean, I've only known one person in my entire life who regularly wore underpants on his head. True story. 
So every now and then, Jeremy or I will say something, then conjecture as to how many times that something has been said before. "The cat was begging me to take a bath this morning," is one I suspect hasn't been spoken too many times before, and yet my cat does, in fact, beg me to take a bath in the morning. He likes people soup, you see. He loves to drink out of the tub while we're in it. But I digress.
Anyway, Jeremy ran across a sentence while playing World of Warcraft today that he thinks may be an example of the elusive perfectly original sentence - another player had occasion to say "Seriously, fuck these eels." (He has apparently failed to take into account Rule 34).

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Brain Drain

NPR told me today that an electric eel is not an eel, it's a fish. A horned toad is not a toad, it's a lizard. A mountain goat isn't a goat but a sheep. Additional research tells me that the King Cobra isn't a cobra belongs to a genus of its own. Sperm whales are also not giant sperms. More appropriately, their heads aren't full of sperm; however sailors thought the substance inside their heads was sperm, hence the name.
This close-up of a glass sculpture at the Columbus Art Mueseum
has nothing to do with anything.
Also, I have met quite a few ladybugs and let me tell you, they're no ladies.

On a completely unrelated note, one of my coworkers has embarked on a truly brave endeavor - she's reading all the Modern Library's Top 100 Books of the 20th Century. Seeing as I'm such a follower, I'm now doing the same. She's far braver than I though, as she started at the beginning with Ulysses. I decided to start at the end with The Magnificent Ambersons. I'd never heard of it before, but it's quite good, and has the added benefit of not sailing over my head as James Joyce tends to do.
What am I missing, by the way? I've tried reading A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, and to the best of my understanding, it's a collection of words that occasionally pertain to a boy at a boarding school. Can anybody tell me what I'm missing?

Thursday, October 25, 2012

All Aboard

A couple weeks back, Jeremy and I went with some friends to a bad movie night at a theater in Columbus. As with any event that involves ironic enjoyment of things, the place was crawling with hipsters. Now, I know what you're thinking: my friends and I were enjoying things ironically - doesn't that make us hipsters? The answer is no. In order to be a hipster, one has to be hip, and there is no risk of that among our crowd.
And we noticed something. Everyone around us was dressed like Halloween costume versions of us. Superhero and cartoon character and and sci-fi t-shirts, brightly colored Converse sneakers, blue jeans that have been out of style since before we bought them. The difference between them and us was that we've always dressed this way (we dressed this way, in fact, before it was cool). At first we were like "hey! It's our people!" And then they were like "I can tell you are not wearing that X-Men t-shirt ironically. Attack!"
When I was a kid, geek was an insult. According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, geek, which came to be associated in teen slang with socially awkward technophiles around 1983, used to refer to a circus or sideshow freak. This might come from the word geck, for a simpleton or idiot (so kind of the opposite of what it means today). This may have come from an old Germanic onomatopoeia geck, meaning to croak or cackle.
It's ironic that the thing that people mocked geeks for is the thing that brought them to the top. Steve Jobs and Bill Gates grew up to become the bosses of us all, and now we're like, one whole rung up on the food chain. Now the comic books we got mocked for loving are all over the big screen, half the costumes at the Halloween store are wizard-themed, and stars from Cameron Diaz to Katie Perry are claiming to have been geeks as kids (please. You know Katie Perry and her friends set geeks on fire and threw them in dumpsters. Not in high school, either. Last week. For reals. I read it in Star).
I miss something about the days before the geeks inherited the earth. I miss the organic nature of geek-dom. When I discovered Star Trek TNG, I was the only kid in my class who watched it. I persued brainy stuff not because my friends were, but because that interested me. At my all-girls high school, I never met another comic book lover. That's how it used to be for geeks. You became a geek organically - you didn't just buy a package.
That's what I don't like about the geek sub-culture coming out of its parents' basement, so to speak. It used to be all about what you love, and now it's a little bit about what marketers want you to love. For instance, a couple years ago, Geeks all started loving bacon. has a wide variety of bacon products - from bacon wallets to bacon flavored candy to (I kid you not) bacon magnetic poetry. I mean, I love me some bacon, but what the hell does bacon have to do with being a geek? I suspect ThinkGeek did a marketing survey, found out that geeks are statistically likely to enjoy bacon, and decided to capitalize off of it by telling us that geeks love bacon? Why do we all worship duct tape now? That's got nothing to do with being a geek either. 
I don't know what my point is. Other than to say that I was a geek before geeks were cool. Also, geeks aren't cool.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

You may be spelling your name wrong

I have never said this to anyone's face before, because how do you tell someone, "Hey dude, you're spelling your name wrong"? Well just like that, I suppose. But we must admit it's awkward for everyone.
Jeremy and I are the Brockways. We are not the Brockway's. If Loki were married, he and his wife (or husband - he kind of gives me a big gay bear vibe) would be the McLardasses not the McLardass' or the McLardass's. Likewise, if Puck were a single father of two demonic children, they'd be the Von Douchebags, not the Von Douchebag's. (Where's the mom, you ask? How the hell would I know? It's not like I sit around thinking up fantasy lives and ridiculous last names for my cats. That would just be pathetic.)
In fact, in the case of nouns, proper or otherwise, apostrophes are never ever used to make plurals. Possessives, yes. Plurals, no. That means, Mr. Coffee Shop Owner, you do not sell smoothie's, you sell smoothies. Unless, of course, you're selling something that belongs to a smoothie, in which case, you're missing a word.
And no, it does not matter whether the word ends with a vowel. I'm looking at you, Panini's. You may have placed my french fries in my sandwich where they belong, but unless you're selling me sandwiches that belong to another sandwich, you're spelling your name wrong. 
Also, I just learned Panini's is a local chain that sells paninis (the Italian word for sandwich) and thus you may well have no idea what I'm talking about. Well, they make delicious sandwiches with french fries in them and they spell their name wrong. Ironically, Panini is also the name of an ancient Sanskrit grammarian etymologically unrelated to the sandwich.
It is possible that I carry a Sharpie around to correct such errors when I find them. I'm pretty sure it's not graffiti if by changing it, you make it correct.
In summation, before you order those address labels for the Christmas card list, remember that you aren't the Smith's or the Jablonski's or the Lipshits'; you're also probably not the Smiths or the Jablonskis or the Lipshits. But whatever your last name, I assure you it's not spelled with an apostrophe.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Sociology of poverty

Granted, I'm not an expert on this subject. I dropped out of school before I could finish my Sociology of Poverty class. It wasn't entirely because we had to create a grocery list for people living below the poverty line and it turned out I had a lower food budget than the members of the family in my assignment. But that was certainly a factor.
Anyway, people always want to know why the poor don't just pick themselves up and get out of the ghetto. Go to school, apply themselves and work hard and get a better life. They don't realize that poverty is like quicksand. You try to kick and thrash your way out of quicksand and you only end up sinking deeper, and while it's not impossible to find a vine and drag yourself out, it's not exactly child's play either.
When you're poor, you're so weighed down by your own baggage that you can't remember what it was like to live without debt, if you ever did. If you can cover all your bills for the month, that's a red-letter month. 
I was born to relative privilege and the fact that my parents both had college degrees raised my odds of going to college myself considerably. Yet at 24 I found myself living next door to a drug dealer (or possibly someone with a lot of sketchy looking friends who liked to visit for five minutes at a time), fending off the nutter who accosted me for money every other night, and getting myself on a first name basis with the bill collectors. It was a brief encounter with something only akin to poverty, but it was enough. I had a college degree, a great resume, and I was a damn good worker, but there just weren't jobs. There weren't jobs in my field, there weren't jobs in anything tangentially related to my field. What jobs I did apply to always told me how great my cover letter looked, how impressive my resume was, how they'd call me back. It was a couple years before someone finally did.
I remember sobbing as bill collectors berated me, telling me I was lazy and a liar. I remember what it was like to have debilitating mental and physical health problems and being unable to afford to treat them. I remember the clumps of hair that fell out every time I showered, the result of stress at whatever low-pay, hellish job I was working.
You can only get called names by a bill collector, berated by your boss, and scorned by the upper crust so long before you start to believe they're as worthless as they say you are. I had a support system. We had families who loved and believed in us. Who bought us groceries without our having to ask and who promised we weren't horrible people. Not everybody has that.
The ghetto is like quicksand. Skill game parlors and cash til payday loan places spring up through cracks in the cement and lottery ads glow on every billboard. TV commercials promise debt relief, great rates on furniture rental, get rich quick schemes; all of which serve only to dig you deeper into debt.
That technical school they advertise on TV has so many hidden fees that you're bankrupt before the semester's out. If you manage to finish, you go out on your first interview and find that fancy degree's worth less than the paper it's printed on.
The corner grocery store charges twice what the nice one in the suburbs does, but you've got no way to get there, or no time. Every payday, scammers and snake oil salesman crawl out of the woodwork and promise an end to all your troubles. You get burned once or twice, you get swindled for what little you got and you learn not to trust anybody who offers you a better life.
You put your head down and you give up trying and you're sure there's no hope. So you go to work. You clean out the grease traps. You ignore your health problems and you beg for overtime. You try to raise your kids for something better, but you don't even know what that something better looks like.
Sometimes, through some magical combination of aptitude, luck, self-esteem, and hard work, somebody gets out, and that's great for them. They deserve their success. But not everybody has that magic combination. Not everybody finds a way. It's not because they're dumb or lazy or bad or dishonest, it's because everything around them is set up to help them fail, and breaking free is more than just a matter of will.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

As if being poor wasn't bad enough

According to a study conducted by The Salvation Army earlier this year, 27% of Americans think that the poor are lazy. 
From this, I can only conclude that 27% of Americans are so busy counting their money that they don't have time to think.
I mean, have they never looked inside the kitchen at McDonald's? Passed a moment to think about the home health aide who wipes their ailing mothers' bottoms? Tried to imagine just what a hotel cleaning lady does all day?
I have a good job. I work hard at my job, and I worked hard to get it. But I got my first job before high school, worked as many of three jobs to help put myself through college, and spent quite a few years after college cursing my choice of major. Over all that time, I had a rich sampling of the sort of jobs those lazy poor people work. Sort of like that lady who wrote Nickeled and Dimed, only not on purpose.
I've never been to hell, but I have a hard time imagining it is hotter, or smells worse than a fast food kitchen. When I was an assistant manager at a local chain of burger places, I saw people literally beg for overtime. I literally begged for overtime. Because the managers who make up the schedules are sadists, or possibly pissed off because they're managers at fast food places,  people were regularly scheduled to work until 2 and then come back in at 9. Think hard work and bootstrap-pulling pays off? My place didn't hire from within. They thought you wouldn't manage your employees well if you used to not be their boss or some bull. That's not uncommon in food service. Food service workers are nameless, faceless, and disposable. It doesn't matter if your milkshakes make the angels sing - you put cheese on the wrong side of the bun when your boss is having a bad day, you're over. 
No seriously, I had a general manager berate me for five minutes over my cheese placement skills, then for another 15 minutes for apparently not being appropriately humbled by her cheese-related tough love. Do you know what makes your employees respect you? Not being reduced to tears over cheese in the middle of the kitchen during lunch rush. 
That wasn't unusual. It was Tuesday. That's reality for people in fast food. And they beg for extra shifts. They go home, they scrub off the grease, they try to spend a minute with their kids, and then they go to their second job and pray the car doesn't break down, or your kid's asthma doesn't wind them up in the emergency room again before payday (kids in poverty are three times more likely to die from asthma attacks and many times more likely to be hospitalized for them).
Direct care workers spend their days cleaning up every manner of bodily fluid. Some get kicked, bit, hit, spit on, and threatened on a daily basis. I loved working with kids with disabilities, but I still have scars from scratches and bites. At the facility where I worked, you could get "mandatoried." That meant if a third shifter called off, your boss could tell you that you must work a second shift or you're fired. Mind you, if you fall asleep during your enforced third shift, you're written up, possibly fired.
When I worked at the adult group home, someone threatened to murder, rape, or beat me up at least three times a week. I ended up in the ER twice - once from getting beaten up and once after a client's suicide attempt resulted in my getting blood in an open cut on my arm. 
That's reality for people in direct care. And they beg for extra shifts. They leave work and hope nobody decides to follow through on a threat to slit their throat (and to be fair, they rarely do). They go home and they do their best to stop seeing the bloody sheets every time they close their eyes. No seriously. Any time I think my job is hard, I remember the day that I foiled a suicide attempt, got bled on, went to the ER, went back to work, spent hours cleaning up the blood, and got told off by my boss for getting bled on. I was apparently not supposed to attempt first aid in the case of bloody suicide attempt. Silly me.
And there are people who spend their whole goddamn lives working like this. I've seen grandmothers work 18 hour shifts just to pay the bills. I've seen people pass out from heat or exhaustion. You think the poor are lazy? Switch jobs with them for a day and find out just how lazy they are.

And why don't they just pull themselves up by their bootstraps and get out of the ghetto? More on that tomorrow.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

This needs posted

Around here, cars need washed, dogs want pet, and cats need sprayed in the face because they're scratching my new effing couch.
I didn't find out that this was wrong until I got my current job and folks started telling me that cars don't, in fact, need washed. Not that they aren't dirty - they need washing or need to be washed, but "needs washed" is wrong. Hilarious and absurdly wrong, to people outside of the Midwest, apparently. Though I can't for the life of me figure out why.
Also, there's a new V8 commercial claiming that the taste of V8 is "indescribable." Is there any way to describe V8 other than "cold tomato soup with too much salt"? Perhaps "watered down ketchup with too much salt"? I guess "virgin Bloody Mary" or "thing that invariably makes your hangover worse" if you're feeling fanciful. No seriously. I'm pretty sure that whoever started that "V8 cures your hangover" rumor was some kind of teetotaler who wanted to punish people for drinking.
Teetotaler, according to the Online Etymology Dictionary, dates from 1834 and probably comes from something like "totally sober with a capital-T." 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Bad Movie Monday: Operation Endgame

It's time for another installment of Bad Movie Monday! Today's bad movie: Operation: Endgame. If you know me in person, chances are I've forced you to watch this movie (because I hate you), so you can probably skip this post.
If you love ultraviolence (and who doesn't?) and don't so much care if a movie has a discernible plot (and who does?) this movie is your dream come true. Starring a British actor whose American accent is inexplicably more convincing than his English accent; an American actress who inexplicably has phone sex with a Russian accent; and Australian actress Emilie de Ravin speaking in a Southern accent that is as adorable as it is obviously fake.
This is basically a conglomeration of A-minus list celebrities murdering each other with office supplies for reasons that never really become apparent. Particularly pointless is Zach Galifianakis, dressed like "a bearded tampon." I have watched this movie maybe a dozen times (because I hate me), and I still have not figured out what the point of this character is, nor why he is in a haz-mat suit.
With one-liners like "Well I'm still drunk, so it can't be the DTs," Rob Corddry of The Daily Show fame steals the show. Although Ving Rhames does utter the line "You're about as smooth as a three-month old bikini wax," and is described as "a black MacGuyver but without the fancy mullet."
I first watched this movie because of my bizarre and possibly unhealthy fascination with Joe Anderson, the guy who looks like a corpse in a bad suit. I rewatched this movie a dozen times because misery loves company and I wanted all my friends to have to suffer the way I did (because I hate them).
Here's the trailer.

In the spirit of the many inexplicable things in the movie, this YouTube clip is titled "Black guy gets owned by paper shredder!" I'd say that this is by far the most creative bit of ultraviolence I've ever seen. Please, if you are squeamish about people being killed by paper shredders, do not watch this clip.
This movie, by the way, was created by the people behind Donnie Darko. Endgame is by far the better movie. I still have plans to sue Jake Gyllenhaal for the time I wasted watching that one. 

Monday, October 8, 2012

Irreconcilable Differences: A Play in One Act

Kludge (noun): A messy fix, often unsustainable in the long term. Primarily computer programming slang. This kludge stops the error message from popping up, but doesn't prevent the error condition from occurring.
Kludgy (adjective): Having to with sloppy computer fixes - also may refer to section of code containing multiple kludges. 
Uncertain origin, though there are many fanciful guesses peppering the Internet. May be related to a Germanic word, klug, meaning clever; contrariwise, could be related to the Scots word kludge for public toilet.

Brigid: Hey Monkey, I could use your help. I want to write a blog post on the word kludge.
Jeremy: It's a good word.
Brigid: So, would this be a good analogy for kludge? Let's say your doorbell breaks, but you really need a doorbell right now. So you staple a rubber chicken over the broken doorbell, so people can squeak it when the want in. Then, when the chicken turns out not to do the trick, you cut a hole in its belly and stick a jingle bell in there. And then when you get an actual replacement doorbell, instead of taking the whole rubber-chicken-jingle-bell contraption down, you just glue the new doorbell on over it.
Jeremy: I guess so, sure.
Brigid: You're not laughing.
Jeremy: Oh, is it supposed to be funny?
Brigid: Of course it's funny, there's a rubber chicken.
Jeremy: Okay, sure.
Brigid: You're still not laughing.
Jeremy: It's just... well...
Brigid: YOU don't think rubber chickens are funny, do you?
Jeremy: They're not that funny.
Brigid: [sobbing] I thought I knew you.
Jeremy: I mean, I guess if you've got a rubber chicken as part of a sight gag or something, sure, in the right context it could be funny. But just using the words rubber chicken doesn't make something funny.
Brigid: Blasphemy! Rubber chickens in sight gags are hilarious. Rubber chickens in conversation are slightly, slightly less so.
Jeremy: They're really not.
Brigid: I want a divorce. You are not the man I thought you were.
Jeremy: I suppose that's fair.
Brigid: Hey, you think it would be funny if, instead of just using the rubber chicken thing, I presented the post in the form of the conversation we just had?
Jeremy: Not really, no.
Brigid: Why don't you ever support me?
Jeremy: Because I kinda hate you.
Brigid: Can't argue with that.
Proof that rubber chickens are the definition of comedy:

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Ahoy hoy!

What Thomas Edison invention do English speakers use every day, according to John Lloyd and John Mitchinson, authors of The Book of General Ignorance? The word hello
That may be a slight exaggeration, according to other sources I've consulted, but only slight.
You see, Thomas Edison wanted a word to use as a greeting while he was testing Alexander Graham Bell's telephone prototype. While Bell preferred the far more whimsical ahoy hoy, Edison felt that hello was easier to understand from a distance.
While The Book of General Ignorance hasn't convinced me that Edison coined the term, he does seem to be responsible for hello being the standard telephone greeting. Before that, telephone operators greeted callers with Who are you?, which seems an awfully rude way to greet someone.
Eventually, after hello became the most accepted form of telephone greeting, telephone operators came to be known as hello girls. According to General Ignorance, the first recorded use of name tags bearing the phrase Hello my name is... was at an 1880 telephone operators' convention.
This is not to say that hello was an entirely new invention. Variations on hello have been around a long time, according to the Oxford English Dictionary. There was hallo, originally used on ships to urge folk along, funny because it comes from the word holla, which was a command to stop. This led to halloo, a word meaning to shout. Hallo, in turn, gave rise to holler. This all came full circle in the early 2000s with the slang word holla, a form of greeting based on the word holler.

Sunday, September 30, 2012


... is the best word in the English language, according to cartoonist (and fellow self-effacingly titled blog writer) Tedd McCagg's Questionable Skills blog. McCagg, in disturbingly meticulous fashion, created a series of tournament-style brackets, one for each letter of the alphabet and then some, to definitively determine that the best word in the English language is one that everybody knows but few people know the meaning of - diphthong. It's the word for two vowels next to each other making one sound - like boink (an early contender for the title of best word itself), by the way.

Personally, I think that McCagg overlooked an important contender when he failed to include eponymous in the E bracket. However, McCagg is far more accomplished than I and therefore much more qualified to judge these things.

Eponyms, as it turns out, are the subject of tonight's post. An eponym (a word which my spell-checker eschews despite allowing eponymous) is a thing that gets its name from the person or critter or place most closely associated with it. For example, the sandwich is named for John Montagu, who was the earl of a place called Sandwich. 
Some cool eponyms, courtesy of Vivian Cook's All in a Word as well as

  • volt: named for Alessandro Volta, who invented the battery
  • saxophone: named for Adolphe Sax, who invented it.
  • gerrymandering: a portmanteau of Gerry, for Elbridge Gerry, and salamander. Gerry was a Massachusetts governor accused of remapping voting districts to further his own ends, one of which looked like a salamander. Kinda.
  • Mae West: a type of life jacket that makes it look like you've got big boobs, like actress Mae West's.
  • bowdlerize: this word, meaning to sanitize, gets its name from Thomas Bowdler, who, in 1918 decided to censor Shakespeare to make it appropriate for the kiddies by doing things like changing out, out damned spot to out, out crimson spot. This term, I suspect, will soon be supplanted by the word Disneyfied

Monday, September 24, 2012

Requests and Dedications

Last week, Sus' mom asked Sus to ask me what the expression "To have one's work cut out" means. Sus pointed out that it would take roughly ten seconds to find the answer on Google, but   Sus' mom knew that my answer would be way cooler and more entertaining that any old Google search. Sus' mom, I shall not let you down. Or I might. No way to tell yet.
My first thought was that it probably came from cobblers or tailors, and that it meant that all the material's been cut, it's ready, it's hanging over your head like the sword of Damocles, and there's no going back now. 
I'm probably right, according to Okay, well not a terribly entertaining answer. 

There. Now I've finished the work Sus' mom cut out for me.

Bad Movie Monday - Birdemic

This is the first installment in a series I'm calling Bad Movie Monday. Once a week, I'll describe and review a truly God-freaking-awful movie.
This does not make me a hipster. One needs to be hip to be a hipster. 
This week's feature: Birdemic. You should absolutely not watch this movie. Unless, I suppose, you have too much will to live and would like to drive the will down a bit. I didn't even watch the movie, so I suppose this is cheating. Too bad. My blog, my rules.
In Birdemic, a flock of vultures and eagles attacks a small town for absolutely no apparent reason. For some reason, these birds have the ability to get into homes, cars, and to make keys not work, as seen below. 
I am assured that this 58-second clip contains everything you need to know about this film. And most things you need to know to stay alive at that: when attacked by vicious killer .gifs, the most potent weapon to use while failing to get into your car is coat hangers. 

Fun fact: Birds hate my dear husband. When he was a small child, some barn swallows were angry that he was standing in his own garage and so they brutally dive-bombed him. When he was a bit older, he made the mistake of having a doughnut in proximity to a flock of seagulls. He still has nightmares. No, I'm not kidding, he still actually has nightmares. Those first two flocks must have marked him somehow, because everywhere we go, birds are out for him. We've had a turkey buzzard dive-bomb the car on the highway (he swerved at the last minute, so he's not dead). Perfectly calm and content flocks of pigeons will suddenly develop a need to fly directly toward us. Even the flamingos at the zoo eye him suspiciously, muttering "soon."
Jeremy has given me permission to inform you that on the frequent occasions on which we're swarmed by suddenly angry sparrows, he hides behind me. This may seem cowardly, but in truth, it's fair. It's not me they're after, after all.
PS, there's a sequel. Birdemic II, the Resurrection. I don't want to live on this planet anymore.