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, November 26, 2014

The first Thanksgiving after

I started to write this really bitter post about how we're celebrating the day when white people took a break from all the killing and the raping to enjoy some Native American hospitality, and how the more things change the more they stay the same.
And then I was going to write this really sappy post about how grateful I am for having the perfect life, which I am and I do.
But I don't have either in me today. All I can think about is how many families are planning their first Thanksgiving after.

Monday, November 24, 2014

No god but God

Stories similar to this one have been popping up all over the news lately - people complaining because Muslims want to worship in a place people don't want them to worship, people complaining because their children are being taught about Islam in history class (alongside the four other major world religions). One guy threatened to bring a "shit storm" down on a school if they made his child learn about Islam in history class, because the book "makes it seem" like Muslims are peaceful people.
Always at some point in the story, the person complaining about Muslims says something about how they're offended because those people worship Allah and not God.
For the love of all that is holy, you people worship the same God. Muslims, like Christians and Jews, worship the God of Abraham. Allah is just the Arabic word for God. Arabic Christians also use the word Allah, because he is the same guy.
If you're going to paint all 1.6 billion Muslims on the planet with the same hateful brush, wouldn't you want to know literally the first thing about them? 
I'm not saying this isn't a complicated issue, I'm just saying that it's a good idea to know anything, at all, about Islam before shrieking about how all Muslims are monsters.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Male feminists

The folks at The Truth Shall Set You Free call male feminists "the monstrous regiment's useful idiots."
Tweeter @JustineTunney echoes the words of like, every anti-feminist ever when she insists that male feminists are just trying to get laid.  
Anti-feminists universally describe male feminists as whipped, cowed, stupid pussies. 
A Return of Kings (a website so hateful it seems like heavy-handed satire but it probably isn't) blogger accuses male feminists of having "lispy, effete voices" (what?) and have appearances that "make it patently obvious he never hits the gym and poses no danger whatsoever to anyone." 

I have nothing to say to this, but these male feminists might like a word.
I made this myself. Woo.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Don't try this at home

This American Life ran a story titled The Wisdom to Know the Difference, and it's been troubling me ever since I heard it.
The story is of a woman named Tina who got sober at the age 13. She was well-known in AA circles for her inspirational story and a poster child for teens in the program. But at age 33, she became obsessed with the notion that she might not be an alcoholic after all. So she started drinking again. Responsibly. And after 7 months of handling alcohol without spiraling out of control, she's ready to say she's not an alcoholic after all. 
The reporter's clearly buying it, but anybody who's spent any significant amount of time in the rooms of AA, NA, or Al Anon has heard this story so many times we can recite it verbatim. It never has a happy ending. So when the story wrapped, it left me feeling like it ended with a woman standing on her tiptoes at the edge of a cliff. It's possible she won't fall to her grisly death. It's possible she isn't really an alcoholic after all. But I feel like the reporter failed to do her job by relaying Tina's story without apparently talking to a single addiction expert.
The story is, in the end I believe, dangerously naive. By presenting the story of a single individual without pointing out, "hey, experts say this is a terrible idea," the reporter is painting a very incomplete picture of the disease of addiction.
And the reporter missed a huge red flag. Tina says she agonized, every single day for 9 months, whether she should try drinking again. Discussed it with her fiance - who said he'd support her no matter what - every day for 9 months. But here's the thing - overblown claims about the magic of red wine aside, drinking provides no tangible benefit. Billions of people will go their entire lives without ever touching a drop, and they'll be none the worse for it. So why, if the benefits are so low and the risks so very high, would she take the risk? Especially when she's been in the program for 20 years, hearing people tell exactly this story for 20 years. She's a big girl and entitled to her own decisions, but I feel like the reporter should have probed that question, if not with Tina, than with an addiction professional. 
It seems to me that the general public is already so unaware of how addiction and addiction recovery programs work, and I feel like this story made listeners all a little more ignorant, which is kind of the opposite of what journalism is supposed to do. And while in the end, it's the addict who is solely responsible for his or her behavior, the people around the addict should know that Tina's story is far more likely than not to end in disaster.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Basically high school

I learned a new phrase recently, and the fact that I only just learned it probably means I am one - basic bitch. A basic bitch, according to, is someone who is boring and unoriginal, usually a woman and usually white. Someone might be considered a basic bitch if she likes the products below - Uggs, infinity scarves, and pumpkin spice lattes. 
I'm super excited that we still think a person's consumer spending habits have anything to do with who they are. If we swapped out the Uggs for Docs, the pumpkin spice latte for absinthe, you'd no longer be unoriginal? If a hipster wore the outfit ironically, would the outfit cease to be basic?
The bitch on the right might be basic, but when she takes those earrings out
she won't have earlobes like a stretched out hair scrunchie. 
It cracks me up that supposed nonconformists still think that you can go into a store and buy a personality. Like only cool kids get their skinny jeans from American Apparel and only basic bitches get them at American Eagle. Wow, man, that messenger bag you got from Target may be identical to the one I dug out of the bargain bin at the Salvation Army, but you are clearly the soulless conformist, whereas I'm an individual (just like the million other people who accessorize exactly like I do). They're purses, dude. They hold your crap. The only difference between you and the basic bitch is that her bag didn't come with a colony of bed bugs.
Just noticed that this is an actual photo of a cat
It seems to me that basic bitches and the people who bitch about them are using clothing for the exact same purpose - to identify themselves with a tribe. Yoga pants are tribal tattoos for the modern world. Regardless of what you're wearing, if you're dressed exactly like your friends, you're not an individual, no matter how idiotically your friends dress.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Hey, beautiful

Some lady made a video of herself walking through the streets of New York getting cat called right and left. A lot of people watched it, then a lot of other people were like, "...uh, why is every single dude in this video a person of color?" 
So I'm not posting it, but instead I'm posting the video above. 
I don't have super strong feelings on the subject; either I've become hideous or people in Canton are way more civilized than people in Akron or Cleveland, but I can't remember the last time I got catcalled.
I do remember some of the first, when I was 11 or 12. Some drunk dude screaming "Hey little girl, you want some candy?" (his much more reasonable drunk friend revealed that they did not, in fact, have candy, much to my dismay). Walking a babysitting charge at 13 and having a dude offer to father my next kid in language not appropriate for a teenager, let alone the 2-year-old in the stroller I was pushing. 
And that's just the compliments. Dudes seemed to always feel inspired to loudly announce what they thought of my sexual orientation. Either that or I was always walking in at the tail end of really spirited debates about John Updike.  
It didn't destroy my world or anything, but creepers don't check ID before sexually harassing women. 

I feel like his "manswer" would change if it was his 12-year-old being "complimented."
PS, I posted the video above for no other reason than the awesomeness of her facial expressions, though the best part by far is where dude says that women who don't want to get catcalled shouldn't live in New York. They should come to Canton - you've got to deal with coyote calls and the occasional muskrat attack, but it is what it is.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

"Being a guardian of language is enjoying language," and other wisdom from Stephen Fry

Stephen Fry using the phrase higgledy-piggledy is maybe the most British thing that has ever happened. 
According to, we don't know the origin of the phrase higgledy-piggledy, only that it first appeared in the 1500s. The Phrase Finder website tells us that higgledy-piggledy is a reduplicated phrase - a phrase in which the second word repeats the sound from the first word, one or both words often being nonsense words. Other examples include helter-skelter, jibber-jabber, and hanky-panky. The Phrase Finder also admits that no one knows the origin of the phrase, but points out that a herd of pigs does sort of epitomize the phrase higgledy-piggledy.
Wikipedia tells me that there are actually several types of reduplication in the English language. There's rhyming duplication - like all the examples above. Wikipedia also gives hoity-toity, which I just realized is a double diphthong. 
There's also exact reduplication, according to Wikipedia, like bye bye and no-no. Shm-reduplication is a type of rhyming reduplication in which the second word is the same as the first word, but with the first consonant replaced by shm. Fancy-shmancy, cancer-shmancer, etc. This type of reduction comes from Yiddish, and found its way into our mouths by jumping from Yiddish to the New York dialect before going national.
A gorilla - scientific name: gorilla gorilla. When exact reduplication
occurs in biology it is called a tautonym.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Let them eat pie

My favorite word just now: pastiche. A pastiche is, according to the Online Etymology Dictionary, is an artistic work that incorporates elements of work from at least one other artist, era, or style. For instance, the film Pulp Fiction is a pastiche, with the filmmaker creating a new story in the style of the dramatic and lurid pulp novels popular in the first half of the 20th century. 
Pastiche is a French word derived from an Italian one that means pie crust, according to So a pastiche is like a pie, in which a variety of ingredients are combined to create a single dishes in which the individual elements are still recognizable. 
May I interest you in some pastiche pie?
Pastiche is related to pasta, which, according to the Online Etymology Dictionary, comes from the Latin word meaning dough or pastry. Pasta appears to go all the way back to an ancient Greek word for sprinkle.
How about some pasta pastry? 
You've probably already guessed that pastry is related to pasta, both being foods made with dough. 
A pasty is a sophomoric giggle-inducing word for meat and vegetables wrapped in a pie crust and folded over to be eaten on the go, also known as a pocket pie. So this is the part where I was going to joke that pasties, the thing you eat, are etymologically unrelated to pasties, the things that women paste over their nipples because somehow obscuring one's nipples makes it legal to be topless in public (man nipples - no problem; lady nipples - filthy). Anyway, I was going to joke that the words are etymologically unrelated, but it turns out they're totally not. Pastie comes from paste, which also comes from pasta.
Oh yeah, you're looking at pastry pasties. That's happening. 

Comics to happy your day

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Foolish games

In recent weeks, you've probably heard of a controversy in the video game community that people are calling "gamergate." You've probably heard that it's about journalistic ethics, or the depiction of genders in games; you've heard wrong. 
Sure, there's been a lot of conversation about journalistic ethics and portrayal of women, and that's a good conversation to have. But the events that precipitated this debate have nothing to do with any of those things - they have everything to do with men who hate women.
A couple of months ago, a man named Eron Gjoni started ranting online about his relationship with an ex - a relatively little-known indie video game developer called Zoe Quinn. It was a 10,000 word manifesto about how she'd cheated on him a bunch of items, and he posted it on a bunch of online forums. 
The ex alleged that Quinn had had a relationship with game reviewer Jeremy Grayson, but did not allege that she had done so in exchange for a favorable review, mostly because Grayson had never reviewed Quinn's game. That did not stop thousands of gamers from launching a terror campaign against her from deep in their parents' basements.
Terror campaign is not hyperbole, by the way. A bunch of men who weren't involved in the conflict in any way dug up tons of personal information about her and posted it online. They made threatening calls to her, her family, and her friends. They plotted her demise online. The New Yorker gives one example of the sorts of things people posted about her:
"Next time she shows up at a conference we ... give her a crippling injury that's never going to fully heal ... a good solid injury to the knees. I'd say a brain damage, but we don't want to make it so she ends up too retarded to fear us."
Whoever defended her was a target for threats and hacking campaigns. There were graphic descriptions of how they would kill and rape her supporters. She fled from her home.
To reiterate, a phalanx of grown-ass men launched an atomic bullying campaign against a woman they don't know because a man they don't know claims she cheated on him. 
Name-calling: The best way to announce to the world
that you have absolutely nothing of value to contribute to
this conversation. You doody-heads.  
I don't know Zoe Quinn. She might be a horrible person. She might have cheated on her boyfriend with the entire cast of The Big Bang Theory. Worse, she might even watch The Big Bang Theory. An all-out terror assault from a bunch of people who don't even know her is not an appropriate response. If she had traded sex for favorable reviews (but she didn't), an appropriate response would be an angry letter to the editor, not a threatening call to her father. If Zoe Quinn was sacrificing kittens to the prince of darkness, none of this would be an appropriate response (and this is coming from me). Death threats are never okay. Rape threats are never okay. The fact that thousands of men in the gaming community don't know this is terrifying. 
Several times, the "Died" date was changed to coincide with
her public appearances. Other times it was just changed to "soon."

Saturday, November 1, 2014

No Shave November

Welcome to No-Shave November, the time of year when we remember that boys get cancer too. 

The idea is that dudes don't shave for the month of November to raise awareness about cancer. The campaign seems even dumber and more pointless to me than the ice bucket challenge. I see a dude with scraggly un-groomed facial hair and I don't so much think "cancer" as "too lazy to shave." But, as with the ice bucket challenge, if embracing one's inner old-timey hobo inspires people to donate to a good cause, who cares if it's stupid? Plus, No Shave November is probably the only good deed you can do by being even more lazy than you already are.
Me, I care so much about cancer that I observe No Shave November all winter long. And most of the rest of the year, let's be honest. 
So if you hate cancer, or love facial hair, or want to do your good deed for the day without even getting off your couch, consider donating to American Cancer Society