Dictionaries: Concise, Compact, and dacoit

Dacoit: noun; one of a class of criminals in India and Burma who rob and murder in roving gangs. A member of a band of armed robbers in India or Burma. A bandit. Origin: Hindi and Urdu. I love dictionaries. I like opening them up to a random page and just reading, discovering words and uses that I didn’t know. I love finding origins of words … (more–>)

The Weird World of Plotto

I came across Plotto a few years back – references to it in other works, rather than the actual book. it sounded strange, complex and wildly over-reaching. I couldn’t find one – it was long out of print. It wasn’t until I got my own copy that I realized how really odd, clumsy – and delightful – it is. Plotto was first published in 1928, and … (more–>)

I’m struggling with this…

My recent passion for bread and baking has caused a bit of an internal upset. Not the baking thereof, but rather the writing about it. I’m doing a lot of that, recently. Writing (and, yes, baking too). And of course it comes with the attendant research into bread’s history, the combing through websites for recipes and book reviews, the hunt for equipment and the discussions about … (more–>)

The Fretful Porpentine

Like quills upon the fretful porpentine. That phrase just makes the modern reader stop and wonder. What, you ask yourself, is a porpentine? And why is it fretful? We never learn, although later interpreters would knowingly tell us a porpentine is a porcupine in today’s argot. Porcupine itself dervices from the Old or Middle French term, “porc espin” or spined pig. Which it isn’t – it’s … (more–>)

The Circuitous Path from Bulge to Budget

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MQO7e_a-gvU] If tinkers may have leave to live, And bear the sow-skin budget, Then my account I well may, give, And in the stocks avouch it. Autolycus in The Winter’s Tale,  Act IV, Sc. III, Shakespeare These lines got me thinking about the town’s finances. Sow-skin budget? What does that mean? And how does that relate to the financial plan for the coming year staff is preparing … (more–>)

Words, words, words

Writing before the arrival of the internet*, Bob Blackburn commented on the nature of exchange on then-prevalent BBS (Bulletin Board Systems), words that could as easily be written today about the internet: “…the BBS medium reveals not only a widespread inability to use English as a means of communication but also a widespread ignorance of that inability, and, in consequence, a lack of interest in doing … (more–>)

The (sometimes violent) urge to write

As of this writing, I will have published 253 posts since I began this blog at the ending week of December, 2011. Two hundred and fifty three posts in 21 months. Just over one post every two-and-a-half days, on average. Plus 30 or so still in draft mode. Another half-dozen scribbled in word processing notes or notebooks. And that doesn’t include the six years of blog … (more–>)

Why Spelling Matters

Sometimes I despair when I surf through the social media. Technology has empowered everyone to be able to comment, to post their stories, to share their opinion. Yet it has not enabled their ability to compose a sentence, or to spell the words correctly. It has not made us better grammarians, better spellers. And in my despair, I’m not alone. Others take exception to the general … (more–>)

Of Type and Typography

Humans have remarkable ability that is shared by – as far as we know – no other animal. We can turn abstract images and symbols into meaning. Words are, of course, the prime example, as old as our history. We can turn a  word like dog, tree, table or vacation into a broad and deep understanding of what that word means to us. Of course when … (more–>)

Three Archy poems by Don Marquis

pete the parrot and shakespeare i got acquainted with a parrot named pete recently who is an interesting bird pete says he used to belong to the fellow that ran the mermaid tavern in london then i said you must have known shakespeare know him said pete poor mutt i knew him well he called me pete and i called him bill but why do you … (more–>)

Hell 2.3

Before I carry on with my exploration of Miriam Van Scott’s Encyclopedia of Hell, I wanted to note that I just got my copy of her other book – the Encyclopedia of Heaven, from Abebooks. It’s dated 1999, so it’s a year later than her book on Hell. Yet it has many related topics – like Goethe’s second Faust. And it has lots of pop culture … (more–>)

Hell 2.2

Might be time to recap my reasons for writing this series. New readers could get confused about the content in the Hell posts, of which this is the fourth. They’re all the result of a convergence of several recent themes and activities in my life; a lot of which have to do with recent reading and research. I started reading several books, more or less simultaneously … (more–>)

Hell 2.1, a small update

I left you in my exploration of the Encyclopedia of Hell pondering which version of the Faustus story was better: with or without his final redemption. Personally, I prefer without, because it offers greater dramatic opportunities. I also don’t like the notion of redemption: it seems like a “get out of Hell free” card. Christianity is the only religion I know of that offers this particular … (more–>)

Hell 2.0

I left you last time after finishing the letter D, in Miriam Van Scott’s Encyclopedia of Hell. I’m back in book form to take you through a few more entries in her exploration of the afterlife. But first a couple of additions to your reading material. First on the list is Alice Turner’s 275-page The History of Hell. It’s an illustrated guide to how Westerners have … (more–>)

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