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.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Hot behind

So if you've ever worked in a restaurant, your understanding of the term hot behind is different from the average person - in restaurant lingo, this means "I'm walking behind you with something hot." In fact, the most important words in a busy kitchen are probably hot, behind, and corner. As in, I'm holding something hot, I'm right behind you, or I'm coming around a blind corner. This shorthand is so incredibly useful, I don't understand why it's limited to the food service industry. This would be especially great where I work - software types tend to be introverted, and we get a lot of collisions caused by both parties being very busy staring at their shoes.
Another term used in restaurants is 86. There are many stories as to the origin, all equally improbable. One of the most popular is that the term comes from Chumley's, a historic Manhattan pub at 86 Bedford street. During prohibition, it's said, the bar was so frequently raided that they developed a code - 86 meant that the cops were coming in the side door, so the patrons should run out the front door. This answer, however, only raises more questions. Why didn't the cops cover both doors? Why not just shout "front door"? And do the Pawn Stars people actually think we believe that Chumley's idiot antics aren't scripted? Seems most likely to me that one or more restaurants used a numeric shorthand for commonly used expressions and 86 stuck. 
I used to work at a filthy hell hole of a burger stand where the code for the fried bologna sandwich was B Butt+. Because when making a fried bologna sandwich, you never want to forget the extra butt.
If you work in a restaurant, no matter how much of a grammar snob you are, customers aren't seated they're sat. All day means altogether - so if you want to know how many burgers should be on grill total - as opposed to for just one order - you'd ask how many all day? Kill it or cremate it means extra well done. 
Cambro is a company that makes containers for the food industry, like food pans and pitchers. But since Cambro makes so many products, different businesses use it to mean different things. At a coffee shop where I worked, a Cambro was a giant beverage pitcher, where, at aforementioned filthy hell hole of a burger stand, it was the plastic canister we kept soups in. 
Well now I'm hungry. I think it's time for a trip to the old filthy hell hole. As horrible a place as it is, horrible as the owners are, it has the best damn burgers in the city. The secret ingredient is extra grease. 

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Yes, our god is that petty

I live in Ohio, otherwise known as the Hell Is Real capitol of the United States. I drive past this bad boy every day.
I'm sure it'll sink in any day now.
I don't get why this is the thing people advertise. Why would you worship a God who will cast you into the fires of hell for failing to kiss his ass in the correct way? How is that god worth your devotion?
I don't think I'm being at all hyperbolic when I say that shoving this shit down the throats of children is psychological torture. And honestly it's not just children. There was this dude at the group home where I used to work who had gruesome delusions and hallucinations of demons and hell. The house director, an evangelical Christian, thought maybe we shouldn't discourage this, as it might help him "act right." The people at our group home had demons enough and then the door-to-door God salesmen would come and extort them with threats of eternal torment. They came with free Bibles to say "Here, follow all the laws in this book or else you're going to hell. PS, it's literally impossible to follow all the rules at once. Have fun guessing which ones result in eternal fire. You can make the check out to cash."
I remember being in second grade getting ready to make confession. We watched a film strip about the different types of sin - how venial sins made Jesus sad inside you, but mortal sins made Jesus dead inside you. And if you committed a mortal sin (which could be as serious as killing someone or as trivial as missing mass on a Sunday) and died before receiving absolution, you were going to hell.  We were 8. What teacher can threaten children with eternal pain beyond their worst imagining and still worship a god that cruel?
There is a lot I can respect about faith. And I can agree to disagree about a lot of things. But what kind of Christian can cram this filth down people's throats and still claim that god is love? It's cruel perversion. 
I can understand the temptation to believe that hell is real. I'd love to believe that Hitler and the Nazis are roasting in the fires of hell right now. But if some evangelical Christians have it right, all those Jews they tortured and murdered are roasting right along with them. And if my 2nd grade teacher is to be believed, those Jews are being fried on the same spit as all the little children who missed mass and then died before making confession. Is this Christianity? Is this what people actually think of the god they worship?
If the Bible is right and "God is love" (1 John 4:8), how can God allow the eternal torment of children? If the Bible is right and "love does no harm to its neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law" (Romans 13:10), how can the law also allow great harm to come to people for loving people of the wrong gender? If the Bible is right and "There is no fear in love... the one who fears is not made perfect in love" (1 John 4:18), then why is it considered desirable to be a "god fearing" person? 

i sing of Olaf glad and big, ee cummings

i sing of Olaf glad and big
whose warmest heart recoiled at war:
a conscientious object-or
his wellbelov├ęd colonel(trig
westpointer most succinctly bred)
took erring Olaf soon in hand;
but--though an host of overjoyed
noncoms(first knocking on the head
him)do through icy waters roll
that helplessness which others stroke
with brushes recently employed
anent this muddy toiletbowl,
while kindred intellects evoke
allegiance per blunt instruments--
Olaf(being to all intents
a corpse and wanting any rag
upon what God unto him gave)
responds,without getting annoyed
“I will not kiss your fucking flag”
straightway the silver bird looked grave
(departing hurriedly to shave)
but--though all kinds of officers
(a yearning nation’s blueeyed pride)
their passive prey did kick and curse
until for wear their clarion 
voices and boots were much the worse,
and egged the firstclassprivates on
his rectum wickedly to tease
by means of skilfully applied
bayonets roasted hot with heat--
Olaf(upon what were once knees)
does almost ceaselessly repeat
“there is some shit I will not eat”
our president,being of which
assertions duly notified 
threw the yellowsonofabitch
into a dungeon,where he died
Christ(of His mercy infinite)
i pray to see;and Olaf,too
preponderatingly because
unless statistics lie he was
more brave than me:more blond than you.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

They're coming to take me away

This week, Facebook suggested that I might like an article called Nonconformity and Freethinking Now Considered Mental Illnesses. But Facebook also thought I might enjoy 40,000 Farmville requests from that old lady that came to my church that much, so clearly they're not nearly as good at data gathering as everyone says.
The article says that the latest edition of the DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) had identified a new mental illness, Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD). Well first of all, the latest edition of the DSM is the DSM-V, not the DSM-IV, and ODD was first identified in the DSM III circa 1980, but who wants to split hairs?
We're going to set aside the outlandish hubris of the very term freethinking for now and focus on this new mental illness that will have doctors dragging all Vampire Weekend fans off in chains. 

ODD is "a pattern of angry/irritable mood, argumentative/defiant behavior, or vindictiveness lasting at least six months," according to the DSM V. And while moodiness, defiance, and arguing are also common symptoms of childhood, ODD symptoms go way beyond what's normal for other kids - even "freethinking" ones.
You know how headaches can be a sign of brain cancer but they can also be a sign you stared at the computer screen too long? Mental illness kinda works the same way. Just as oncologists aren't going to force brain surgery on you if you admit you have a headache, therapy ninjas aren't going show up and force medicate your child for thinking too freely. 
And  you don't take your kid to therapy just because they refuse to drink their apple juice.
People go to therapy, people take their children to therapy, because they're suffering. They take their child to therapy because their child is about to be expelled from school for having a screaming melt down every single time she's told to take out her math book. They take their child to therapy because he is so cruel and vindictive at home that his siblings are going bald from stress. 
Untreated oppositional defiant disorder puts kids at greater risk of school failure and trouble with the law later in life. It can progress into conduct disorder, which is characterized by violence. But special parenting classes, therapy, social skills training, and extra academic help have been shown to head off those outcomes.
I know there are a lot of stereotypes about power mad child psychologists zombifying the genius out of kids, but take it from a lady who knows - it's hard to be a genius with a head full of hornets. People think of child psychology as a way to subdue unruly children and crush their individuality. But the goal of child psychology is to help troubled kids regulate their emotions and behavior so that they can succeed in school and stay off drugs and have a happy home life. 
I'm gonna level with ya. If they'd have had the psychiatric interventions when I was a kid as they do now, I'd probably jump on that, even if it meant that I wouldn't grow up to be a genius blogger. I wouldn't mind knowing what would have happened if I'd been able to shut up, sit down, and learn something in school. Sobbing and self-injury seriously cut into homework time.
As long as we're ending things on a down note.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

The spoils of star war

I will start by pointing out that there are no Star Wars spoilers in this blog. That said, if you haven't seen The Force Awakens yet, I order you to go out and watch it now. I'll wait.
The days surrounding the release of the latest Star Wars movie made me suddenly aware of a dramatic shift in the way we view spoilers - information about the plot of a book or film or what have you that spoils the surprise. 
Before the film even opened, folks on social media were posting warnings about what fate might befall a spoiler spreader, generally something that involved light sabers being applied to people's "exhaust ports," if you will. And that's actually quite a departure.
It wasn't so long ago that spoilers were tolerated and even sought after. By the end of the Scream movie franchise, they were only allowing actors to look at one page of the script at a time, filming half a dozen different endings with only a few people knowing which ending was real, and even leaking fake spoilers to throw viewers off the scent. Nowadays, I can't imagine a film truly needing to do all that - audiences will now go to great lengths to avoid being told that the butler did it. Reddit and other places where geeks congregate were actually banning and deactivating the accounts of people who posted spoilers without the appropriate "spoiler alert." Some of my friends just stayed off of social media entirely until they got a chance to see the film. Studios no longer really need to do the work of keeping secrets - fans are more than willing to do it themselves.
The word spoiler has been part of the English language since the 1530s, although for the first four hundred and some odd years of its life, it referred to one who robs or plunders. It wasn't until 1982 that people started using it to refer to information that spoils a story, according to the online etymology dictionary.
And if you've ever wondered what spoiling has to do with the unnecessary decoration on the back of your Hyundai, that usage first appears in 1928, to refer to the totally necessary flap that thwarts or "spoils" the lift.
Of course, spoiler descends from the word spoil, which first found its way into English in the 1300s, from French, which got it from Latin, which probably got it from the Proto-Indo-European word spol-yo, for skin stripped from a dead animal. 

So here's a question this whole anti-spoiler movement creates: what is the statute of limitations on spoilers? Like, no one expects you to keep mum about Darth being Luke's father, or that soilent green is made from people, but the whole "Bruce Willis was dead the whole time" is kind of grey area (which I'm carefully side-stepping by not telling you what movie I'm talking about. JK, it's Die Hard). I really don't feel I should have to say "spoiler alert" before spoiling the ending of Breaking Bad, even though the show ended years ago. 

Thursday, January 14, 2016


Yesterday saw the release of the most beautiful game I'll never play, That Dragon, Cancer. In 2010, game developers Amy and Ryan Green's son Joel was diagnosed with cancer. In 2014, Joel died, aged 5. One night, Ryan said, he and Joel were at the hospital. Joel was horribly sick from treatment, dehydrated, and crying inconsolably. Ryan walked him and bounced him and sang to him but nothing quieted him. Finally, exhausted, Ryan collapsed from exhaustion and prayed.
It was right around then that Ryan realized this experience needed to be a video game. 
Now, if this sounds absolutely appalling to you, you should know that the video game isn't what it used to be. The past several years have seen an explosion of games that are more art than game, in forms few ever imagined they'd take. 2013's Depression Quest is creator Zoe Quinn's memoir of her experience with clinical depression. 2015's Beyond Eyes tells the story of a newly sightless little girl interacting with her environment, in which sounds, smells, tastes, and feelings are visually represented with beautifully rendered watercolor-like graphics. That Dragon, Cancer is startlingly unique, but not nearly as weird as it may seem.
So far the reviews have been glowing, if tear-drenched, with many reviewers taking a moment to tell their own stories of losing loved ones to cancer. I find it quite beautiful that Ryan and Amy's memorial for their son touched off a thousand tiny digital vigils for other loved ones lost. 
I realize it's kind of weird to write about a game I'll probably never play, but I found it so remarkable and beautiful and heart-breakingly original that I thought you all should know about it. I don't plan to play it because I've had to take about six cry breaks just writing about it. 

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Stay Woke

Look, I know that the vast majority of cops are good, selfless people who put their lives on the line for us every day. I know that they are drastically understaffed, overworked, and unconscionably underpaid. They deserve our respect and our gratitude. 
However, at a time when bad cops can rape a dozen female suspects before getting caught, anally rape women at routine traffic stops, and crush the life out of restrained men while taunting "fuck your breath," it is our duty as citizens to act.
Look, nobody wants a camera shoved in their face while they're trying to do their job. But in times like these, our First Amendment rights become our First Amendment responsibilities and people of conscience cannot sit by a second longer.
With that in mind, here are some tips I've gathered around the Internet for filming police interactions.

First, know your rights. The First Amendment gives you the right to film police interactions as long as you aren't getting in the way or breaking any other laws. The ACLU points out that cops are not allowed to compel you to stop filming, to confiscate your camera or phone, or delete any pictures or videos they might find. says to learn your rights, national, state, and local so that you can repeat them back to officers who engage, but be respectful about it. The more obnoxious and intrusive you are, the worse the situation gets, making everything more tense and dangerous for everybody. Just calmly assert your rights and comply with lawful and/or reasonable orders.
Consider getting an app like Cop Watch or Five-O, which upload videos to the cloud as soon as you take them, in case your phone gets lost or broken.
Second, learn to film effectively. Hold your camera horizontally so you can shoot in landscape mode - it records more of the scene. Stay quiet so that you don't drown out the audio from the interaction. Hold the camera as still as you can, which is easier if you hold your elbows close to your body. People have a tendency to stick their elbows out when filming, but that actually makes you less stable and as a consequence, film can be wobbly and blurry.
Finally, if you catch cops on film doing their job well, post that online too, or send the video along to their precinct. Like I said, most cops are awesome and deserve to be recognized for the heroes they are. Support good cops who blow the whistle on bad cops. Share stories about good cops on social media, and find ways to let the good cops in your area know that you support them.
18th century philosopher Edmond Burke is often quoted as saying "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." Well, he didn't say that. But he did say "when bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall, one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle." If you agree with those sentiments, it's time to do something.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Speaking of things that should be forgot

When you get older and wiser, you'll find hangovers get rarer and rarer. Because you fall asleep before you have time to get properly drunk. 
So since it's the new year, I'd like you all to resolve to help me make the world a better place this year by eliminating these obnoxious phrases from the language. By force if needed:

Hump Day: We all know what day it is. We all know what today is in relation to Friday. Announcing hump day is like announcing that we all breathe oxygen.  
Jokes relating to Chinese food and neighborhood cats: The racism is bad enough, but a decades old cliche that wasn't funny in the first place? That's the real crime. Also, how are you going to trick people into eating an animal that almost certainly tastes like pure hate?
Rescue animal: You did not drag your dog out of a burning building, you got a free dog at the damn pound. Unless you actually did drag your dog out of a burning building, in which case, props.

I can't even: Can't even what, damn it? Can't even what?? I can't live with the suspense! What can't you even? 
Break the Internet: says that this expression took off thanks to a 2008 episode of The IT Crowd: 
Just because something was hilarious once does not mean it will be hilarious every time you say it. Funny, though. I heard an NPR Interview with one of the IT guys at He said that one day in the fall of 2014, an editor popped 'round to ask him what would happen to the site if, say, it suddenly got a hundred million page views in one day. Later that month, released those infamous sexy zombie pictures of Kim Kardashian. Those pictures didn't break the Internet, but they certainly would have broken