Tag Archives: words

blaugust #29: pluviophile.


I woke up this morning to the sound and smell of rain. That probably, doesn’t sound unusual, given that I live in Portland, OR. During the summer months, though, it doesn’t rain here. Ever. At all. It doesn’t cloud over for an afternoon. There is no overcast. We have three months of searing, unrelenting bright skies and sunshine. It’s great for agriculture, generally speaking. Nine months of rain, and three months of sunshine, and everything grows and blooms.

I’m a person who needs rain, however. A long stretch of bright days without the relief of softened light, and I start to feel disoriented. This summer has been particularly hot, and it’s felt like it would go on forever. A grey Saturday morning, with the smell of petrichor and a damp breeze coming in the window, is a great gift. The coffee is on, the windows are open, and I’m going to enjoy it.

(This is my 29th daily post for the Blaugust initiative.)

blaugust #22: wordswordswords.


“What exactly is he sniffing?” I asked, as Phil was uploading this fellow to Tumblr this morning. “Pocket lint,” he says, “All the pocket cruft from all the pockets in all the world.”

I saw stars for a minute. “Cruft?,” a stupid grin spreading over my face.

“Yeah, cruft.” He looked puzzled.



“I might be a little giddy. I’ve never heard that before.”

I was a little giddy. I love words. I love collecting them, I love learning about them, I love coming across my favorites in everyday use. I love hearing other people’s favorites. I have a column in Tweetdeck just for etymology tweeters. My favorites are archaic ones, like Haggard Hawks and Old English Wordhord. I also really love Wordnik,¬†which is a site devoted to archiving, defining, and curating words. You can create your own lists of words, you can Adopt a Word, you can look up history and usage of words, and you can subscribe to the Word of the Day email. Words.

Here, in no particular order, are some words I like. Just a few, I don’t want to spoil you.

  • Salacious: adj. lascivious, bawdy, obscene, lewd.

It’s a word that does what it says on the tin. It’s just fun to say. Salaaaaaaaaacious.

  • Rundle: n. a moat with water in it; a small stream; a rung, a step; a ball.

This was a Word of the Day find, and it came with a usage example from Viviette that has stuck with me – “I should get to be a fright – a bundle of ones and a rundle of skin – and you’d be horrified – I couldn’t bear it.”

  • Nefarious: adj. wicked in the extreme; abominable; iniquitous; atrociously villainous; execrable; detestably vile.

I don’t know how this extremely grim word came to be associated with a lighter side of villainy for me, but it always calls up a sort of obvious, hokey baddie. Mustache and cloak. Hamburgler stuff. It’s also really fun to say, as are most of the words in its definition. Iniquitous. I like that one too.

  • Snood: n. a small netlike cap worn by women to keep the hair in place.

Oh my, long-time favorite. Possibly my first favorite word. Never used to better effect than in White Christmas when Bing Crosby asks Danny Kaye, “What did you do with it, leave it in your snood?”

  • Flosculation: (archaic) n. an embellishment or ornament in speech; to speak in flowery language.

Well, yeah. Another one that does what it says on the tin. Very unlikely to appear in ordinary conversation, but I would place bets on seeing it appear in a novel by China Mieville.

I could do this all day, but I don’t think you’d stick around for that. It’s Saturday. It’s probably nice out. You run along.

(This is day 22 of the Blaugust initiative.)

day 16.

Pippin Poem

Practically speaking, the 
Pippins were superfluous.
Pears were the point of my errand. But
petite and tart,
puckered and gnarled, the 
Pippins seduced me at the market. I
picked up four. At home, I
posed them on the windowsill, their tubby sides
propped together while I 
prepared their
pastry nest. Floured the dough,
patted it into shape,
pressed it into a shallow green bowl.
Picking the apples from the sill, I
pared them, one by one, their little jackets
peeling in a heap. I tucked them in and
pricked the crust, resigned myself to
patience while they
perfumed the kitchen. When the pie emerged,
plump and bubbling, I
polished it off.

national poetry month, day 6.

In praise of words, the snap and pizzazz and taste of words.

Ode to American English
by Barbara Hamby

I was missing English one day, American, really,
     with its pill-popping Hungarian goulash of everything
from Anglo-Saxon to Zulu, because British English
     is not the same, if the paperback dictionary
I bought at Brentano’s on the Avenue de l’Opera
     is any indication, too cultured by half. Oh, the English
know their dahlias, but what about doowop, donuts,
     Dick Tracy, Tricky dick? With the elegant Oxfordian
accents, how could they understand my yearning for the hotrod,
     hotdog, hot flash vocabulary of the U.S. of A.,
the fragmented fandango of Dagwood’s everyday flattening
     of Mr. Beasley on the sidewalk, fetuses floating
on billboards, drive-by monster hip-hop stereos shaking
     the windows of my dining room like a 7.5 earthquake,
Ebonics, Spanglish, “you know” used as comma and period,
     the inability of 90% of the population to get the present perfect:
I have went, I have saw, I have tooken Jesus into my heart,
     the battle cry of the Bible Belt, but no one uses
the King James anymore, only plain-speak versions,
     in which Jesus, raising Lazarus from the dead, says,
“Dude, wake up,” and the L-man bolts up like a B-movie
     mummy. “Whoa, I was toasted.” Yes, ma’am,
I miss the mongrel plentitude of American English, its fall-guy,
     rat-terrier, dog-pound neologisms, the bomb of it all,
the rushing River Jordan backwoods mutability of it, the low-rider
     boom-box cruise of it, from New Joisey to Ha-wah-ya
with its sly dog, malasada-scarfing beach blanket lingo
     to the ubiquitous Valley Girl’s like-like stuttering,
shopaholic rant. i miss it quotidian beauty, its querulous
     back-biting righteous indignation, it preening rotgut
flag-waving cowardice. Suffering Succotash, sputters
     Sylvester the Cat; sine die, say the pork-bellied legislators
of the swamps and plains. i miss all those guys, their Tweety-bird
     resilience, their Doris Day optimism, the candid unguent
of utter unhappiness on every channel, the midnight televangelist
     euphoric stew, the junk mail, voice mail vernacular.
On every boulevard and rue I miss the Tarzan cry of Johnny
     Weismueller, Johnny Cash, Johnny B. Goode,
and all the smart-talking, gum-snapping hard-girl dialogue,
     finger-popping x-rated street talk, sports babble,
Cheetoes, Cheerios, chili dog diatribes. Yeah, I miss them all,
     sitting here on my sidewalk throne sipping champagne
verses lined up like hearses, metaphors juking, nouns zipping
     in my head like Corvettes on Dexadrine, French verbs
slitting my throat, yearning for James Dean to jump my curb.

excuse me while i go fuzzle myself.

Nothing I post for Words This Week could ever compare to this list of words that should never have become obsolete (complete with owl pictures to illustrate the feels). So I’m shamelessly recycling from buzzfeed via Simon Barron on Twitter, and will now pour myself a stiff gin. Happy Friday.