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Category Archive for ‘words’ at Three Roads Blog
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Archive for the 'words' Category Page 2 of 2



Moistest

moistest.jpg

 

A lot of people have problems with the word moist. I’m not a fan, although it doesn’t elicit nausea like the word sofa does. (Don’t ask me why.)

But moistest—that’s a pretty beastly word, one that should never be used to describe food, particularly if the objective is entice someone to eat it.

What’s wrong with moist? For one thing, it sounds like some other unfortunate words: soil (as in, “I soiled my slacks”), ointment, boil (I’m thinking skin ailment), toil, oink, and roil (“This discussion has my stomach roiling”) just to name a few.

The problem is lack of alternatives. Damp leaves a lot to be desired and it isn’t always as accurate as moist, and there’s issue of the negative connotations.

moist.jpg

Here are some others, none of which is much better, particularly when used to describe cake:

  • Humid
  • Soggy
  • Clammy

Humid is weird. Soggy is gross. Clammy is just silly.

In a perfect world we’d have gender-neutral pronoun and a positive word to describe a cake that is not dry.

Yay for adverbs!

I love it when really smart people take down other smart people for acting like snobs.

Here’s Language Log’s Geoffrey Pullum embracing adverbs and shunning their snooty detractors:

A beautiful Valentine’s Day to all our readers. For my philosopher partner I managed to find a card which had the words passionately, devotedly, fervently, completely, utterly, and absolutely on the front (with the first person singular pronoun as subject and adore you as the predicate). It seemed ideal. When a grammarian loves you, you should expect adverbs. Lots and lots of adverbs.Adverbs do have enemies; Stephen King has said (in his On Writing) that “the road to hell is paved with adverbs”, and his hostility to them follows in a long tradition. A long tradition of pontificating fools who should shut up and write rather than telling us how (nearly all of them unwittingly use adverbs in the very paragraphs in which they condemn them; on this, see chapter 2 of Ben Yagoda’s lovely little book If You Catch An Adjective, Kill It, published in 2006). There were adverbs, daffodils, morning tea, and breakfast in bed this morning. And a kiss, of course. When a grammarian kisses you, you stay kissed.

I admire Stephen King and can even understand (though not agree with) his distaste for adverbs, but I can never forgive him for his mean-spirited dig at, Nicholson Baker, one of my favorite writers, who is twice the writer that Stephen—Pontificating Fool—King is.

Retronyms

According to Schott’s 2008 Desk Almanac:

Retronyms are terms that has been created to clarify an exiting word rendered ambiguous by evolutions in technology or social practice.

I’m currently reading Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma,” which is a beautifully written and thoroughly researched lament about our evolution (or degeneration) from eaters of food to consumers of “food-like products.”

With that book in the forefront of my consciousness, the following retronyms, listed in the Feb. 1 entry of my Schott’s page-a-day calendar, took on a timely significance:

  • Organic food
  • Conventional oven
  • Free-range eggs
  • Fruit in season

These terms came into being with the advent of the industrial food supply. Before chemical fertizers and factory farms and free trade agreements and cheap oil, all food was organic, free range and/or seasonal.

And it was cooked in a conventional oven.

Now we must specify.

[UPDATE]

In the near future, we may have to add a modifier to ‘cheeseburger.’ As in, “This conventional cheeseburger is much better than the canned cheeseburger I had yesterday.”

A New Type of Sadness

Talking to my mom on the phone yesterday, the subject of the weather came up. The temperature in Vermont—keep in mind this is January—was pushing 60 degrees. Earlier that day, I’d heard there were flood warnings for upstate New York and parts of Vermont.

Here in Colorado, winter is typically peppered with mild days, some of which go into 60 degree territory. Vermont, however, is not supposed to be like Colorado.

“It’s creepy,” my mom said of the warm spell.

I agreed. Pause.

This month’s issue of Wired Magazine features a short article with the headline, “How the Next Victim of Climate Change Will Be Our Minds,” and it tells the story of Glenn Albrecht, an Australian philosopher who has created a new word.

The word, solastalgia, is an amalgam of the latin words solacium (comfort) and algia (pain), “which together aptly conjure the word nostalgia,” notes the author of the story.

Albrecht created the new word to describe the reaction of his fellow Aussies to the effects of climate change.

In interviews Albrecht conducted over the past few years, scores of Australians described their deep, wrenching sense of loss as they watch the landscape around them change. Familiar plants don’t grow any more. Gardens won’t take. Birds are gone. “They no longer feel like they know the place they’ve lived for decades,” [Albrecht] says.

The current and potential economic and environmental effects of climate change are forefront in people’s minds. But what about the mental effects? Albrecht’s observations are a wake-up call: there will be a mental toll to climate change. “In the modern, industrialized West, many of us have forgotten how deeply we rely on the stability of nature for our psychic well-being,” says Albrecht.

Thinking about my conversation with my mom, with this new word in my brain, I guess there was a sense of loss in our exchange. It wasn’t creepy that Vermont was so warm in January—it was just sad.

Writer Clive Thompson closes the article with this harrowing thought: “In a world that’s quickly heating up and drying up, you can’t go home again — even if you never leave.”

w00t

Merriam Webster announced their Word of the Year yesterday: the word is w00t—spelled with two zeros instead of Os. It’s a exclamation of joy spoken by a video game player.

Yeah, pretty silly. Destined for the shelf of embarrassingly dumb words. Right next to hella.

Swear Festival

Here are two events on the agenda at the upcoming Swear Festival, which will be held in San Francisco on Nov. 10.

Panel: Experts Discuss How Shits and Fucks Change Our World
Swear Into the Light – Curse torture, sponsored by The Dick Cheney Ideas Group

Link
Via: Errata, the Wordie blog

Word of the day—jentacular

This word’s definition comes from Wordsmith.org, via Moke.

jentacular (jen-TAK-yuh-luhr) (adjective) Relating to breakfast

Now for some jentacular subject matter.

The Health Care Blog unhappily reports on a new Hardees breakfast burrito that fits a half a day’s calories (920) and all of your daily fat and sodium allowances into one tortilla. (It’s still a better option than the Hardees salad, which has 1,100 calories.)

And here’s some jentacular etymology from Patricia T. O’Conner: “The word “breakfast,” by the way, dates from 1463. It refers to the meal that we eat to “break” our overnight “fast.” That reminds me of a poem by Shelley that compares breakfasts “professional and critical” to dinners “convivial and political.”

I’d say the Hardees burrito fails both of Shelly’s breakfast criteria.

And lastly, we have a headline from the Onion that explains a lot:

Most Terrorists Fail To Start Day With Good Breakfast