Sunday, December 30, 2012

2012: The Year of High Resolution

At the end of 2011, I set forth a new twist to the standard New Year’s Resolution schtick, resolving to do twelve specific things, one for each month of the year. Some good things happened in the last year, but as far as these resolutions were concerned, 2012 was pretty much a failure:

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Ten Great Things about the End of the World

Thinking about the apocalypse can be scary. The end of all of one's hopes and plans in some great (and possibly painful) conflagration is enough to give anyone nightmares. But the end of the world isn't all bad. Here are ten things you can actually look forward to after the planet is destroyed/the universe ceases to exist/everyone else is raptured:

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A Three-Word Wednesday Limerick: Hire an Editor

Today's three words are abnormal, dangle, and lavish.

An editor knows how to wrangle
Participles that just want to dangle,
And your abnormal text
Will be lavished, not hexed,
If you hire a pro to untangle.

See what others have done with these three words at ThreeWordWednesday.com.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Dirty Words

The following is a true story.

Well, it's really closer to two or three true stories combined into on. We call that literary license.

Some of the names have been changed to protect my reputation the innocent and sensitive.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Literature Needs More Groupies

Last night, I went to the monthly Indy WordLab meetup, where writers of all types and skill levels come together at a great bookstore and try some new things with their writing. Erik Deckers kicked off this particular WordLab by talking about some of the mechanics of humor writing, and then we set off into our various corners to write something funny, based on his advice.

After a while, we came back together to share what we had created. Maybe half the writers (of around 14) shared their humorous works with the whole group.

I was one of them.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Twas the Night of Thanksgiving

A Black Friday Poem

'Twas the night of Thanksgiving, and all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
Our family had left after Thanksgiving meal
In hopes we could grab a great doorbuster deal.

We'd given up all thoughts of snuggling in beds
While visions of gift receipts danced in our heads,
As ma with her wish list and I with a cart
Were waiting in line for Black Friday to start.

A clatter of locks and the shoppers all scrambled
As doorways sprung open (and three guys were trampled).
Away through the entrance I flew like a flash
And snatched from the greeter some "holiday cash."

Ma ran toward the back and I veered to the right
And the children set off for the toys, out of sight.
With wandering eyes we filled up the cart
With a flat-screen, a Wii, and a pink crystal heart.

We nabbed Tickle-Me Elmo, a George Foreman grill,
And all the Bond movies but "View to a Kill."
Then we packed up the car and, showing no shame,
We went to more stores as we called them by name!

"Now Wal-Mart! Now Macy's! Saks Fifth Avenue!
To Sears! To Home Depot! And on to J. Crew!
To Linen 'N' Things! To the Gap! To the Mall!
We'll shop at them! Shop at them! Shop at them all!"

As dry leaves that before wild tornadoes spin,
So we spun through boutique shops again and again.
Then we quickly drove home, down the roadway we flew,
With the car full of toys, and appliances, too.

And then, in a twinkling, we dropped off the loot,
Locked up the house, and then retraced our route.
It was shopping, round two! We weren't done yet!
No matter how deep it would put us in debt!

We found second wind, we found the right pace
As we dashed through the checkout at place after place.
That we'd get what we wanted, there was not a worry,
As we threw knees and elbows, a Black Friday flurry.

But suddenly there stood a big, burly man
Who wanted, it seemed, to impede our great plan.
His wide drooling mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And his scraggly soul patch was as black as a crow.

A lump of tobacco stood out in his cheek
And his big porous nose jutted out like a beak.
He had a broad face and a half-covered belly,
And his eyes, when he stared, turned my courage to jelly!

He was grumpy and mean, not at all like an elf,
And I plotzed when I saw him, in spite of myself.
A squint of his eye and a tilt of his head
Soon gave me to know I had so much to dread.

He spoke not a word, standing up there so tall,
But turned to the shelf, took the last Dora doll,
And pushing his finger inside of his nose,
He shoved through the crowd (to check out, I suppose).

Though we didn't get Dora, all was not lost,
As into the car all our presents we tossed.
And I heard my wife yell as we all drove away,
"Happy shopping to all! On to Cyber-Monday!"

Monday, November 19, 2012

Five Ways NOT to Write about E-Books

People have strong feelings about books. Vehement, emotional discussions about the fate of print books in a publishing industry evolving toward all-digital output are a dime a dozen online. At one extreme, the die-hard paper-lovers alternately thump their chests and wail the plight of the demise of traditional books, while at the other extreme, insatiable tech junkies turn their noses up at archaic, dead-tree publications as if they were totemic relics of a savage age.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Election 2012, A Week Later

A Sonnet


A week ago, the country went to vote
Mitt Romney and Barack Obama sing
"Ebony and Ivory" to thousands of adoring fans.
For who it hoped would be the candidate
Who'd curb the constant governmental bloat
And change this country back from good to great.
For months before, the hopefuls flung insults,
Not stopping until ev'ry barb was spoke,
While others tried to purchase poll results —
Relaxed on the veranda with a Koch.
But then democracy just did its thing
And proved the cause of freedom can't be Trump'd.
The winners hoped for what the future'd bring;
The losers raved and Roved and oft harrumphed.
That's how elections work, but dry your tears —
We'll do it all again in four more years.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Friday Flash: The Butcher's Son

This short story is a result of the prompt from the Nov. 5, 2012, Indy WordLab. The assignment was to show the relationship of a parent and a child by having them doing something together. Here, a father passes on the skills of the family business to his son.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween Recycling

I sometimes worry that too many people die in my stories. That too many of my stories revolve around death.

But on Halloween, I revel in the thought.

Here are some creepy, scary, gory, or dark stories of mine for your Halloween frightification (the titles are links):

Saturday, October 27, 2012

You Must Be Mistooken

I had never heard of someone using tooken instead of taken until about a month ago, when a friend of mine complained about a coworker who consistently uses this "word." Now, he's on his last nerve. He might go postal.

I can see the headline now: Office Shooken by Tooken Massacre.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Book Review: How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe, by Charles Yu

About the story (3.5 of 5 clocks)

I read How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe (hereafter How to Live) in e-book format, so I don't have the benefit of the various blurbs and synopses that accompany print books. But if this book's dust cover doesn't say something like the following, then someone wasn't paying attention:

How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe is about a time travel technician who, while searching for his father, finds himself instead — both metaphorically and literally.


Monday, October 22, 2012

Today's Word: supernumerary

For much of the world, supernumerary means exactly what you think it means based on the word's parts: super (over or exceeding, e.g., superimpose, supernatural ) + numerary (as in number) = a number that is higher than an expected number. It can be synonymous with superfluous, excessive, overabundant.

In the world of theatre, though, it means something else.

The term comes from the Latin supernumerarius, which was what they called someone who was hired to appear on stage in crowd scenes or, for opera, in small, non-singing roles.

Supernumeraries are the theatrical equivalent of movie extras, which makes sense considering that supernumerary and extra are synonymous. Unlike movie extras, though, theatrical supernumeraries need to have some acting chops. They are cast not only as random background people milling about, but as flag-bearers, royal assistants, live statues, fishermen, and on and on. Even though they have no lines, they still might have stuff to do, and they need to be in character.

Some people make a living as supernumeraries, and larger opera houses might even have their own troupe of supernumeraries. But many do it just for fun and to get involved in the theatre. Sometimes, people well-known in other areas get the craving for theatre and take on supernumerary roles. Supreme Court Justices Anthony Kennedy and Ruth Bader Ginsberg, for example, have performed with the Washington National Opera; their last performance (as far as I can gather) was in Strauss's operetta Die Fledermaus.


It's a nice, important-sounding word, too, front-loaded with that super-. Being "an extra in a play" just doesn't have that hifalutin ring that being "a supernumerary in the theatre" does.

Friday, October 5, 2012

The Exam

The following story is true, inasmuch as my memory is reliable. So, I guess it's true-ish.

This is the result of a writing experiment at October's Indy WordLab meetup.



In retrospect, I was totally unprepared. I blame my parents, as all children do.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

How Reading a Story Aloud Changes the Story

I discovered William S. Burroughs sometime in college. It probably started when I read Allen Ginsberg's "Howl," and then I made my way through his literary friends, the kingpins of the Beat writers: Jack Kerouac, Gregory Corso, Neal Cassady, and William Burroughs. I liked Burroughs the most. His stories were so raw and grotesque, so otherworldly yet still somehow derived from the fears and shortcomings of man alone.

Carl Solomon, Patti Smith, Allen Ginsberg and ...
Carl Solomon, Patti Smith, Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs at the Gotham Book Mart celebrating the reissue of JUNKY, NYC, 1977. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
For a time, I devoured Burroughs's work like it was the black meat,* soaking up his macabre monstrosities of sex and death. I bought up all of his spoken-word albums and listened to them until I had his words memorized. I loved his raspy voice, like he was dragging his words through the gravel. It was always so dark, so grimy.

But then something happened.

I heard a recording of Burroughs reading in front of a real audience. It was the first time I had experienced anyone's reactions besides my own, and their reactions surprised me: As Burroughs read through his grotesque story, the audience was laughing.

Take a listen, for example, to "Twilight's Last Gleamings," a story about a supremely botched appendectomy aboard a sinking ship:



The laughter didn't seem out of place in his reading, but it was somehow a new experience for me. I don't know if he had intended the story to be funny when he wrote it. And I suppose it doesn't matter.

I was reminded of this Monday night when I got the chance to read one of my own stories at the Indy WordLab meetup. (The story will show up here eventually, but I want to submit it a few places first.)

So I stood up in front of these people, all writers of varying experience, and read the story. I thought I was building a realistically horrible background of a man trying to be a good son to his dying mother, a selfish, short-sighted, abusive, and bitter old woman who longed only for a life of movie-like drama.

But while I was reading, the audience reacted. They chuckled. They laughed. And I noticed, while I was reading, that yes, that really was kind of funny. Right up to when the main character set the house on fire.

I wasn't expecting their reaction. But their reaction was true, and I appreciate it.

The larger point, though, is the different life that words can take on when they leave the page.Certainly some of it has to do with the delivery. The world's greatest essay will fall flat if it's delivered in a fast, quiet monotone; it won't stir anyone to introspection, laughter, or fear. And the simplest story can become a masterpiece if it's delivered with character and emotion.

But there's more to it than that. There's a whole context to reading a work aloud that isn't present on the written page, and listeners' reactions feed off both that context and your spoken words. They will hear inflections in your voice that you didn't put there. They will interpret subtle physical motions — shifting in your seat, clearing your throat, making eye contact with the audience — as a part of your story and interpret the two together.

They'll even hear jokes that you didn't write. Not intentionally, anyway.

A common self-editing trick is to read your work aloud to yourself, which somehow shines a light on otherwise hidden errors and other shortcomings. Further along in the writing process, having someone else read your work to you can be even more helpful by placing your words into a new context. (If you don't have someone to read to you, try recording your own reading and listening to it without the manuscript in front of you.)

If nothing else, it can give you a better idea of what the narrator in your story might sound like in someone else's mind.

*"The black meat is like a tainted cheese, overpoweringly delicious and nauseating, so that the eaters eat and vomit and eat again until they fall, exhausted." From Naked Lunch


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Monday, September 24, 2012

For National Punctuation Day: Victor Borge

To mark National Punctuation Day, I give you Victor Borge and his famous "Phonetic Punctuation":

Friday, September 21, 2012

Instant Continuous Writing Inspiration

Imagine being the first person to realize that if you tied a rock to a stick, you could hit things with greater force and lower the risk of smashing your own fingers, which you inevitably do when you use a rock alone.

Imagine that: You've just created the first hammer. You must feel like a genius!

Or do you? Your whole life, you've been hitting things with rocks and smacking them with sticks. The raw materials for a hammer have been in front of you for as long as your Cro-Magnon mind can remember. Why did it take you so long to put the two together?

That's kind of how I feel about the following suggestion.
The secret of getting ahead is getting started
— Agatha Christie
Some writers wake up in the morning all bright-eyed and inspired, as if their muse has already brewed and downed the first pot of coffee. These writers sit down in the morning with a whirlwind of ideas spinning in their heads and the inspiration to pluck out the best of them and put them on paper — or, more likely, on the screen. They practice their craft daily with unerring fluidity and grace, facing neither frustration nor ennui.

At least, I've been told there are writers like this. I don't know any of them, and I'm certainly not one myself.
It's never too late to be what you might have been.
—George Eliot
Most writers have to deal with writer's block, lack of inspiration, self-doubt, frustration, and a seething hatred of Monday mornings. There's not much I can do about Monday mornings, but I can help you with the other four. Or rather, I can show you how to help yourself — if you write at your computer.

And, like that first hammer, the tools have been in front of us for a long while; we just have to put them together.
Success is taking your talents seriously but not yourself.
—Sarah-Jayne Gratton
The first tool comes from your favorite writers, the ones who inspire you to write and to keep writing. You know which words of advice and inspiration touch you and motivate you; gather them. (You might use some of the quotations peppered throughout this post.)

And it might not be a quotation, but just an image of your favorite author: Kurt Vonnegut staring out through curls of cigarette smoke, or Ernest Hemingway laughing heartily. Gather those, too.
You're not insane. You're not a failure. You're just trying to do something that matters.
—Hugh MacLeod, aka Gaping Void
The second tool is your computer, where you do your writing. Since Windows Vista, you have been able to select a folder full of image files for your desktop wallpaper, and Windows will shuffle through those images at a speed you set. (You might be able to do this on a Mac, too. I don't know.)
Imagination grows by exercise.
—W. Somerset Maugham
Put the two together: Create a new folder. Fill it with images (or images containing quotations) that inspire you and motivate you to write. Then point Windows to that folder for your desktop image. (If you don't know how, you can find instructions at Dummies.com. Full disclosure: I work at Dummies.com.)

You probably won't find pre-made images with the inspirational quotes you want — though I might soon have a Pinterest board of my own that you can draw from. That means you'll have to create them yourself. There are plenty of free programs to do this with. I prefer GIMP, but you can just use MS Paint.

Now, whenever you sit down at your computer, you've got instant and continuous writing inspiration. When you're mired in self-doubt, frustrated, blocked, and uninspired, press the Windows key and D to show the desktop, lift your spirits, and get you back on track.

It's really such a simple thing. I don't know why I didn't think of it sooner.

So, what quotations would (or do) you include in your motivational desktop? What inspires you to write?

Monday, September 17, 2012

Creating a Twitter Handle from Your Experiences


@Rose by Any Other Name Would Still Smell as Tweet

Coming up with a Twitter handle for yourself can be difficult, especially if you have a common name. And as the number of Twitter users grows, the available possibilities decline.

You can find articles all over the Internet with hints and tips and guidelines for creating a Twitter name that is memorable and personal without getting you fired. But in every case, you need somewhere to start, and it doesn’t have to be with your name. Thinking about your likes, dislikes, and experiences can yield just the right name for you.

A while back, I asked my Twitter followers for the stories behind their Twitter handles. I got a number of responses that show a wide range of sources for their names. Here are their stories.

But first, my story:

@4ndyman
Back in the late '80s and early '90s, I attended a week-long fine arts church camp every summer. One summer, we had six attendees (including me) named Andy — maybe 10% of the total number of campers. It was a strange occurrence, and we made the best of it.

Dinner entertainment was common throughout the week. After one dinner, we six stood at the front of the room and sang the chorus to “In the Garden,” but using the punch line to the blonde-at-the-pearly-gates joke: “Andy walks with me. Andy talks with me. Andy tells me I am his own . . .” At the next dinner, we sang “Handy Man” (made famous by James Taylor), only we sang it as “. . . fixin’ broken hearts, baby I’m your Andyman.”

Fast-forward to my first year of college, and I’m telling the week-of-too-many-Andys story to Becky, my new best friend. She immediately latches on to Andyman and calls me by that name for the next four years.

People have been misspelling my last name for my entire life, even when I spell it out for them. So when the Internet took off and I needed to come up with usernames for bulletin boards, eBay, and whatever else I was dipping into back then, I knew that using my last name wouldn’t be the best choice if anyone else ever had to type it. Andyman was right there at hand.

That lasted a couple times, but then I hit a site that already had some other Andyman registered. Taking a slight cue from Neal Stephenson, whose Snow Crash included a character named Da5id, I substituted a number for a letter. 4ndyman just made sense, and I began using it everywhere I needed a new username.

And in case you’re wondering, just calling me “Andyman” is fine. That’s how I refer to it. Some people have tried to pronounce the 4 (like when I proposed to Anita Samen about an hour into the Chicago Manual of Style in the Age of Twitter panel), rendering it as something that sounds like “foreign D-man.” You don't need to do that.

@FARfetched
Around 10 years ago, I was pushed into buying a house I didn't want by my wife and in-laws who "wanted that 10 acres back in the family." Of course, it's me making the payments, and I'll have to do so until I'm 73, but that didn't seem to matter. The house was bigger than we needed, and cost more than we could really afford, and I said this repeatedly (to no avail).

So I named the place FAR Manor, where FAR is an acronym for "Forget About Retirement." The handle "FARfetched" was an easy hop from there when I started the blog, and then later when I jumped into Twitter.

@GordinaryWords
In the early 2000s — back before the rise of the blog — I felt compelled to create a website of anecdotes. Called "Out of the Gordinary," the site was, in retrospect, about as amateur as it gets: coded manually and hosted (for free) through my ISP.

At first, I focused on humorous (but largely self-deprecating) stories from my childhood. As time went on, I added whatever struck my fancy: journal entries, photos, grammar tips, and even Survivor commentary. Through it all, the site remained visible to a small group of people — generally, just the few friends and family who'd received the URL.

By the mid-2000s, Web crawlers had found my site. I was excited by the increase in traffic, but I was totally weirded out by seeing my content, taken out of context, in search engines. Especially given the amount of personal information in my stories, I thought it wise to take the site offline until I could find better way to implement it.

Unfortunately, it's been over five years since I pulled that plug.

As I look through my local archive of the site, I find myself both amused and horrified: amused anew at the stories I'd since forgotten, yet horrified at how much of the content seems too personal for today's Internet.

Enter Twitter:

I signed up for a private Twitter account in early 2009 — at the time, solely for the purpose of sharing random tidbits with a smaller pool of friends than Facebook allowed.


I'm a huge fan of language and wordplay, and it didn't take me long to find like-minded people on Twitter — people I couldn't interact with through a private account. The 2011 National Grammar Day haiku contest (hosted by @EditorMark) was the final incentive I needed to create a public Twitter account. As a nod to both my long-defunct "Out of the Gordinary" website and my perpetual status as a linguaphile, I chose the screen-name "GordinaryWords."

@cmdrsue

Star Trek Crew
Star Trek Crew (Photo credit: JoshBerglund19)
@cmdrsue comes from a band of Trekkies. Commander Sue London was born during Christmas vacation 1983 when an off-hand comment by her brother (aka Captain Dave Paris) inspired the creation of The Strange Crew. Four crewman have penned episodes (all of the Crew are based on real people) with even more crewmen contributing ideas. None of the stories, to my knowledge, reside on the Internet.

The last penned and yet-unfinished was The Return of the Prodigal Dave (or The Hazards of Dirty Undies) which was set down in the early 90s. Not exactly pre-Internet (we were playing MUDS at the time), but close enough. Many of us still fondly recall our ship (the USS Bob, NCC-0000) and notice things like the fact that my Prius is "Commander Sue Blue."

(Among our affectations were a slightly different color scheme than regular Trek.)

@zizzivivizz

It's a simple story, really. I discovered Neil Simon when my older sister brought home a collection of his plays in high school. I idolized her, so naturally I stole the book . . . and read it cover-to-cover in one night. My favorite of the plays was The Star-Spangled Girl, about a two-man magazine operation that falls apart when a beautiful girl moves in next door. The formerly prolific writer, Norman, takes to painting Latin love letters on the stairs and presenting her with gifts of livestock, and when he finally tries to write again, he comes up short. The only word he can write is “zizzivivizz.”

That moment in the play fixed itself in my brain, and I started using the word in my letters and journals any time I had writer's block or felt I had nothing to say. And a few years ago, when I realized that the personal blog I'd started for no particular reason had become a place to write when I just couldn't think about my grad school work anymore, Zizzivivizz seemed the only appropriate name. Since then, it's become my blog name, URL, Twitter name, and pretty much every way that I identify myself socially on the internet.

I love Zizzivivizz because it captures my relationship with writing so well, and because it's a piece of my history. That volume of Neil Simon plays taught me so much about writing and humor and the ways laughter and tragedy are connected, and it's still something I go back to like an old friend. Zizzivivizz feels like me.

@sesquiotic
When I was in grad school back in the '90s, one of the things I was interested in was semiotics (suitable enough for someone studying drama, but most of my fellow students were a bit scared of it for some reason). One time, when I was talking with a friend of mine, he joked about sesquiotics (semi : half :: sesqui : one-and-a-half). Otic also happens to be a word referring to ears.

So when, around 1999 or 2000, I decided I wanted to put together a website for myself, I decided to call it institute Sesquiotic: "Lend us an ear and a half . . . Do you feel that a word — or other signifier — that can't mean at least two things at the same time isn't worth much? Is language your favourite sport? Would you rather be usefully wrong than uselessly right?"

I've been using "sesquiotic" as a username in a variety of fora since then. But I didn't do that much with the theme until 2008, when I got the idea for word tasting notes (I'm a wine buff and edit, among other things, the website of a noted wine writer). Sesquiotics was a natural for that, and I called the blog Sesquiotica (after the journal Semiotica, which, incidentally, once published a paper by me). And when I finally started a Twitter account, of course it was as @sesquiotic.

@KillerLashes
Is there a story behind @KillerLashes? Alas, there's really not . . . just my longtime envy of boys with beautiful eyelashes!

So what's the story behind your Twitter handle? Is it something you pulled from literature? From pop culture? From personal experience? Share your story in the comments below.



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Sunday, August 26, 2012

Pangrammatology

Last week, I held a contest offering up a free word-lover's book to whoever came up with the best new pangram (that is, a sentence that uses all 26 letters) that comes in at under 65 characters. While I was hoping for some great participation and shows of wit, the contest received only two entries.
Quibbling over Mitt's tax return may just lead to a wicked prize fight.
Although I thank @Mededitor and @AlgotRuneman for their entries, I was hoping for more. You made me sad today, Internet. Was I expecting too much, hoping that you might
Just don your quixotic thinking fez and weave a fabulous pangram?
But, though the number of entries was not what I had hoped, I still will award the prize. In fact, I'll simply award a prize to both entrants. Here are their pangram entries.

Mededitor wrote,
For the love of quinces, zero waxy bad ones pack good jam.
And Algot Runeman wrote,
My boffing zone wax entry is quiescently poked and honed by jove!
Winners, I'll be contacting you through Twitter to get your address and choice for which of the three books you would most like to own. Or, if you read this before I get to you, just DM the info to me.

For those of you who read about the contest but didn't enter, why not? Was it too difficult? Too uninteresting?
Criticizing my bookkeeper's exquisite jewelry could lead to a violent fight.
I really would like your opinion about this. And if you have a new pangram that you would like to share, feel free to do it here.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Gotta Catch 'Em All: A Contest


About a week ago, I tweeted that when I reached 900 Twitter followers, I would celebrate by having a contest on this here blog. On Wednesday, I hit that 900 mark. (It didn't last long…dropped back down to 897 and then hovered at 899 for over a day, like a golden flounder nibbling at the bait. It finally finally grabbed the hook Friday evening.) So here is the promised contest.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Build a Pangram Machine in Excel

If you're anything like me — a somewhat compulsive, geeked-out word nerd — your psychiatrist probably has you on some pretty strong tranquilizers most of the time. But in your more lucid moments, you might find yourself playing around with words and letters and seeing what new things you can do with them.

Words are, after all, the best toys.

Read Carefully: The Importance of Understanding Your Sources

One of the requirements of good journalism is getting information from reliable sources. Normally, when you see that a writer has picked sources she trusts, you are more likely to trust what she reports.

But there's an important element of having good sources that sometimes gets neglected or overlooked: You have to understand what your sources mean. It isn't enough to find great sources of information — from scientific research to political analysis — if you misunderstand, and therefore misrepresent, the information.

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Verbing of NBC

In the midst of the ongoing kerfuffle of NBC's coverage of the 2012 Olympics, a new word was coined. Though Jay Baer probably wasn't the first to use it, he was the first person I heard use it — during his Friday morning keynote speech at Blog Indiana 2012 last week.

The word: NBC'd (or, if you're an apostrophe conservationist, NBCed).

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

My Response to Infinite Jest

Infinite Jest is a strange novel.

I'm slightly embarrassed to say that I started reading Infinite Jest back in January of this year, and I just last night (finally) reached the final period of the final sentence. There may be spoilers in the words that follow here, but they will be more or less spoilers about the way David Foster Wallace wrote IJ and not so much about what happens in IJ. It would be hard to spoil that novel, like telling you the ending. As you'll see soon enough.

And per my usual unusual logophilic touch, I will attempt to mimic DFW's predominate IJ style while I write about IJ.

Mimic, not mock.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Post That Almost Was

I just spent the better part of two hours trying to write a post about how hard it is to come up with something interesting and original to say on this blog. After the third version veered once again into a pity party for yours truly, I gave up and deleted it.

The gist of it was that it's hard to come up with something to say that hasn't already been said. But that's all I really had to say about it. That it's hard. The rest of the potential post just seemed like gravy. Cold, flavorless gravy.

I thought I might develop it into a monologue about how no one can expect to post day after day something that is truly original. Unique. But I'm not entirely sure how I feel about that, and so I couldn't get it there.

I tried to figure out how to mention that I have been writing, working bit-by-bit on a larger work in progress, and that I'm about 11,000 words in, but it didn't fit in quite right.

And I thought I would end it with half-hearted promises about things that might come soon if I ever get my act together, like blogging about next week's Blog Indiana conference and then, sometime after that, having a contest involving wordplay. But, of course, I never got to the end.

So I didn't get to tell you all that stuff because it kept devolving into something I didn't want to read, much less want to show to anyone else.

A pity.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Book Spine Poems

Here's a fun little word game to play with your shelves:

Stan Carey over at Sentence First, expanding on an idea from Nina Katchdourian, is stacking books so that their titles create nice little poems. He calls it a bookmash. It's a neat little way to look at your books in a different light.

Stolen from Stan Carey

A woman speaks
About time, love and summer:
Arrow in the blue;
Land of milk and honey,
Sixpence in her shoe.

I'll most certainly be posting my own bookmashes from time to time, and I encourage you to do the same.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Five Ways to Get Your Editor to Kill You

If there’s one thing writers do well apart from writing, it’s killing themselves. I mean that literally, as in suicide. Although it seems as if writers are more prone than people in other professions to write their own endings to their life stories (and an astonishing number of writers have done just that), at least one source says that doctors have the highest suicide rate.

That may be because some writers just don’t have the gumption to take their own lives. But have no fear, clinically depressed and suicidal wordsmiths, you can get your editor to do the deed for you. Just do the following things and your editor will be more than willing to metaphorically cut your story short.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Today's Word: anaclitic

Considering that the prefix ana- can mean "upward" or "backward," I'm certain those dirty-minded among you can come up with a snigger- (or grimace-)worthy definition for anaclitic.

Although it's true that you could use anaclitic when describing your involvement with a woman, that woman is probably your mother or grandmother. Or your father, for that matter.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Interference

A bit of flash fiction. Microfiction, really. It's only 25 words:

Eldon didn't stop arguing with the flight attendant about how his smartphone couldn't possibly interfere with the pilot's instruments until the plane hit the water.
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Stewardess, circa 1949-50, American Overseas, ...
Photo credit: Wikipedia

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

A Visual Three-Word Wednesday

Today's three words for Three-Word Wednesday are cling, murmur, and taken. It seems like all I've been doing lately is writing and copy editing, so today I thought I would do something different. Which means that all you're really going to get from me are the three words themselves. Here they are:

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Middleborough Says "Fork You!" to Protected Speech

Warning: Contains profanity, but for a good reason. If you live in Middleborough, Massachusetts, reading this aloud may cost you.

I was both mildly amused and annoyed last week when I heard that the town of Middleborough, Massachusetts, was considering an ordinance that would allow the police to fine people for swearing in public. Here, I thought, was another stupid idea espoused by small-minded people trying to get the government to force others to live and act the way they, the small-minded, want people to live and act. The ordinance couldn’t possibly pass because it is so obviously not only unconstitutional, but downright wrong.

And then, this morning, I learned that the ordinance passed. I was astounded. And horrified.

And it wasn’t just passed by a small council of old, curmudgeonly, right-wing, fundamentalist Christians as one might expect; it was passed in a town meeting by a vote of 183 to 50.

I couldn’t believe it. Is this what democracy has become? Is this what America is now?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Ray Bradbury: Literary Artist and Hero

Photo of Ray Bradbury.
Ray Bradbury (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Ray Bradbury died today.

Of course, I only ever knew the man through his works, but he sure taught me a lot about what our language can do.

Ray Bradbury is one of those literary artists whose work straddles the line between prose and poetry. He’s the one who taught me that there is so much more to a great story than just the story, that there’s so much beauty just in the words themselves, the way they string together and sound and feel on our lips, regardless of what they actually mean.

Ray Bradbury, for me, was a wonderful poet who just didn’t worry about adding those incessant line breaks that make poems look like what we think poems should look like.

Consider the beginning of The Martian Chronicles:
One minute it was Ohio winter, with doors closed, windows locked, the panes blind with frost, icicles fringing every roof, children skiing on slopes, housewives lumbering like great black bears in their furs along the icy streets.

And then a long wave of warmth crossed the small town. A flooding sea of hot air; it seemed as if someone had left a bakery door open. The heat pulsed among the cottages and bushes and children. The icicles dropped, shattering, to melt. The doors flew up. The children worked off their wool clothes. The housewives shed their bear disguises. The snow dissolved and showed last summer’s ancient green lawns.
Read that passage out loud. Listen to the words. Feel the words on your lips and tongue.

“...housewives lumbering like great black bears in their furs along the icy streets.” This could be a line straight out of Ginsberg’s “Howl.” And can’t you just feel the pulsations when you say “cottages and bushes and children”?

And consider the images that he forces into your mind! Can you see the closed-up buildings, the housewives, the icicles?

Or this bit, from later in the book:
See all the carnival lights? There are beautiful boats as slim as women, beautiful women as slim as boats, women the color of sand, women with fire flowers in their hands. I can see them, small, running in the streets there. That’s where I’m going now, to the festival; we’ll float on the waters all night long; we’ll sing, we’ll drink, we’ll make love. Can’t you see it?
Can’t you see it? This isn’t just narrative. This isn’t Hemingway-esque simplicity. This is using language to create not just a story, but an artwork. This is the difference between a lecture on the Spanish Civil War and Salvador Dalí’s “Premonition of Civil War.”

It’s poetry, pure and simple.

Foreshadowing the conflict: Salvador Dalí's So...
Salvador Dalí's Soft Construction with Boiled Beans (Premonition of Civil War) (1936) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
And that's what I learned from Ray Bradbury: When you're writing, how you say something is every bit as important as what you say. Your words can be brief and straightforward. They can be relaxed and familiar. But most of all, they can be beautiful.

Ray Bradbury wrote so many beautiful sentences.

There are some who say it’s difficult to feel sad about the passing of a man who lived a full life into his nineties. But that’s the thing about heroes. It isn’t enough to cling to that metaphor that they will live forever in your heart; we want our heroes to live forever in the hearts of everyone. We want our heroes to be everyone's heroes.

And Ray Bradbury was one of my heroes. Still is.

I have to wonder if he had any idea how important and instructive and inspirational his work was to me and to millions of readers and writers like me. I hope he did. I hope he died knowing that the world was a better place because of what he did during his short time on it.

But I shouldn’t have to wonder. It’s a simple thing to let our heroes know, while they’re still alive, what influence they've had on us. And there’s no reason they shouldn’t know that they are our heroes, that their lives extend beyond their bodies and into the hearts and minds of others.

So I encourage you today, right now, to write to your heroes — to your favorite author, or artist, or politician, or teacher — whoever it is that has pointed you toward your definition of success, or excellence, or happiness. Tell them how they have changed you. Let them know that the world, or at least your world, is better for having had them in it.

And do it now, before your heroes are gone.
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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Three-Word Wednesday: Old Money

Today's Three-Word Wednesday words are error, jingle, and vindicate. Here's a poem about something that really gets to me about the Republican robber barons who are trying to dictate what America is. It's called...

Old Money
The gold that jingles on your wrist
  Is not sophistication.
The hour a day you spend at "work"
  Is not a vindication.
The family wealth in offshore banks
  Is not an indication
    That you are living your life Right,
    Or that your soul is virgin white,
    Or that you should sleep well at night.

If you can look upon a child
  Who lives her life in terror
And think that this so human world
  Could not be any fairer,
And that you earned all that you have,
  Then you would be in error
    About the sum of your true worth,
    Th' importance of your sacred birth,
    And why you're here upon this Earth.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

This Is YOUR Video If YOU'RE into Gotye and Language

Here's a little rap video that is making the rounds on social media right now, so you've probably already seen it. But if you haven't, or if you just want to see it again, here's the you're vs. your rap based on that Gotye song.

The language on this is a little, shall we say, R-rated at times, so you probably don't want to blast this out of your computer's speakers at work or school.


Monday, May 14, 2012

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore

I just found this amazing video, "The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore," on YouTube and had to share. It's one of the most beautiful things I've seen in a while. This is for all you writers and book lovers.


There's just so much to read into this, from how books can help make one's life meaningful to the importance of writing your own story. I definitely think that this video is worthy of the Oscar for Best Animated Short.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Mother's Day Card

Mother's Day weekend rolled around once again, and I found myself scrambling for some sort of gift to give my mother to let her know . . . you know . . . the type of things you're supposed to let your mother know on Mother's Day. Like, my favorite movie and how regular I've been and stuff.

But I've been on the low side of broke for a little while now, so my options were rather limited. So I did what any thoughtful, loving, 10-year-old son would do: I wrote my mom a poem and put it in a card.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Son She Loved Less

The following story is the result of the second meeting of the Indy WordLab on May 7, 2012.



A mother is at the kitchen counter with the son she loves less. Unbidden, a fleeting image of him fingerless and bloody flashes through her mind as she passes the open can of beets to him and asks him to slice them.

She feels immediately guilty and wonders if she's blushing. He's your son and you love him, she tells herself.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Jedi Hamlet

"May the Fourth be with you!"
"And altho with you."

It being Star Wars Day, I thought it fitting that I share one of the greatest soliloquies Jediloquies from the only known work of science fiction from the Bard of Avon, William Shakespeare. I speak, of course, of Anakin Skywalker's famous lines from Jedi Hamlet.

Monday, April 30, 2012

April in Review

I set out this month to post at least five times a week to fulfill one of my New Year's Resolutions,and for the first time this year, I actually did it. (I will [might] finish the first three resolutions!*) And with 27 posts (28 with this one), I exceeded my goal with an average of almost seven a week!

But I didn't do it all by myself.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Carpet Situation

"Ew! My socks are all dirty!" Jamie sat on the hotel bed, left ankle on right knee, staring at the bottom of her foot.

"What?" Arnold, sitting at the small table, looked up from his e-reader.

Jamie stretched her leg toward him and flexed her ankle. The bottom of her white sock was now a mottled brown.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Guest Post: Jonathon Owen Shows Some Style

Our final guest post of April comes from Jonathon Owen, a master's student in linguistics at Brigham Young University. (And no, I'm sure he's never heard the "cunning linguist" joke.) He also blogs at Arrant Pedantry, which is named after something Winston Churchill probably never said. You can also find him daily on Twitter at @ArrantPedantry, which I'm quite certain Winston Churchill never tweeted.

Today he writes about a subject of particular interest to editors: style guides. For you non-editors, style guides are "the rules" when it comes to writing and editing something that your customers will see. Should you use a serial comma? Is it a tenth floor office, a tenth-floor office, or a 10th-floor office? Did Lincoln deliver "The Gettysburg Address," The Gettysburg Address, or The Gettysburg Address?

All these questions and more are answered in a company's (or a publication's) style guide. House style guides usually begin with one of the standard style publications (Jonathon mentions the two most popular below), which are supplemented as needed for specific situations that those guides don't cover.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A Trip to the Video Store

A late-night three-word Wednesday post. Better late than never!

Usually.

Today's words are bloody, kinky, and tender, which may also be the title of the next Red Hot Chili Peppers album. Here, though, we visit a couple who are having trouble seeing eye-to-eye.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Seven Lesser-Known Dystopian Novels

I've been a big fan of dystopian fiction since high school, when I read Nineteen Eighty-four and Brave New World back-to-back (and then searched for and found Brave New World Revisited). Discussions of dystopian fiction always start with these two novels and Fahrenheit 451 before moving to the more recent A Handmaid's Tale, The Giver, and now the Hunger Games trilogy. But there are certainly more dystopian societies out there to discover.

Here are seven lesser known dystopian novels that I have read and what I think of them. They aren't all good. I rank them on a scale of one to five boots stamping on my face forever — five being "You must read this book" and one being "meh."

Instead of summarizing the plot of each novel, I outline the characteristics of the setting that make it a dystopian novel.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Today's word: vade mecum

Many priests keep their Bibles or encyclicals with them nearly all the time. It was noted by Abraham Lincoln's contemporaries that he always kept a copy of some Shakespearean play close to hand. And during China's Cultural Revolution from the mid-60s to the mid-70s, Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-tung, otherwise known as The Little Red Book, was printed in small versions just so Chinese people could carry it with them at all times.

So what do religious texts, Shakespearean dramas, and political collections have in common? In these examples, they are each a vade mecum.

Friday, April 20, 2012

The Day of Reckoning

or,
Revenge Is a Dish Best Served Cold on a Sandwich the Next Day

This is the second half of the short story I posted last Friday, "The Day of Sacrifice." Feel free to read the first half. This story will make sense without it, but it'll make more sense with it.

So here it is:

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Kory Stamper's Proof of the Dictionary

Today you get a wonderful post by my favorite lexicographer, Kory Stamper, who since 1998 has spent her days at Merriam-Webster telling people she'll never meet what things really mean. Most recently, she’s gained some notoriety for being one of three editors who write, edit, and appear in the “Ask the Editor” video series. She also travels around the country as a representative for Merriam-Webster, occasionally giving talks and lectures on things that only other word nerds would be interested in.

She's the Tina Fey of lexicography.

You might see her professional work every day you open a dictionary, but for a more personal look at who she is, what she does, and how much she hates particular letters of the alphabet, you need to read her blog, harm•less drudg•ery and/or follower her on Twitter at @KoryStamper.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A Lawyer Leaves the Nest

It's three-word Wednesday. Today's words are dependence, rumple, and kept.

The lawyer gave up his dependence
On the love of his rich, aging parents.
In his rumpled old shirt
He kept trying to flirt,
But the best girls were always defendants.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Monday, April 16, 2012

Today's Word: strabismic

As Marty Feldman knows, having strabismus can give you abysmal vision — but it won't necessarily make you lazy. In fact, he and his strabismic cohorts have worked their notable and noticeable disorder to their advantage in Hollywood. Sometimes, a strabismic character provides just the right mixture of visual humor and human shortcomings to make him memorable.

Friday, April 13, 2012

The Day of Sacrifice

I die today.

Albert woke to this thought. For a while, he just laid there in the dim room, listening to his own breathing and dwelling on the fact that today was his last day on Planet Earth.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Tony Noland Talks Funny

It's guest-post Thursday!* Today, Tony Noland drops in to talk about humor writing, something Tony has a lot of experience with. (He's been trying to do it for years.) Tony blogs over at Landless, where you'll find his thoughts on language and writing, a mess of limericks, long short stories, short short stories, and really short short stories. He also shows up at the blog Write Anything from time to time.

Please note: Tony doesn't use the serial comma. But he's also not a serial killer, so we'll just call it even.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Searching for Serenity

It's three-word Wednesday time. Today, a limerick based on the words draft, locate, and serenity.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

La Guerre de la Balle Jaune Floue

A sonnet inspired by suggestions from two people, and it's easily relatable to Infinite Jest. So, three birds with one stone and that sort of thing.

Popcorn

I attended the first Indy WordLab meeting last night, something I recommend to any Indianapolis writers who want to meet others of their ilk. What came out of it was the following poem. I'll share the poem first; commentary will follow.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Today's Word: oubliette

French words like this always sound mysterious and classy. Oubliette in particular just rolls out of my mouth. It sounds like a word you'd hear at a ballet rehearsal: "Pas de deux. Then plie and pirouette. And finish with a grand oubliette." It sounds sweet, and delicate, and intricate.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Six-Sentence Sunday: The Central Library

(Well, actually five for me. That's enough.) In my work-in-progress, the main characters visit the Central Library of the Indianapolis-Marion Count Public Library. This is what they see out front:

On the walk back, they got a good, long view of the library. The front was a classically imposing limestone structure about two stories high. A long slope of concrete steps led up to a front archway adorned with all sorts of architectural embellishments. Behind this century-old building was the “new” part of the library: a physically imposing six-story structure of reflective glass and steel. The connection of the two parts was an interesting juxtaposition of the old and the new that had, when the addition was completed, elicited both praise and derision.

I Think That I Shall Never See . . .

National Poetry Month isn't just about creating new poetry. It's about lampooning appreciating the poets of the past, too.

Friday, April 6, 2012

The Legal Pad, a Sonnet

Today's sonnet stems from another suggestion from @CollinsMandy.

A Legal Pad
A legal pad, the writer's greatest friend,
With each blue line a possibility
When blank, and then the writer starts to rend
His soul's attire, and shouts his misery

Unto the gods, the universe, and man,
In anger, pain, frustration, sadness, rage.
He might not have a preconceivéd plan
Yet cleaves his heart and bleeds upon the page.

He spills it all, in paper, blood, and ink.
The yellow pages fill in disarray.
And when he's spent, he'll stop. And read. And think.
And ferret out just what he wants to say.

He'll take his pen to yellow page and cull
And hone it into something beautiful.

Carl

[A short story. 1,646 words.]

It's dark. Why is it so . . . oh. My eyes are closed.

I open my eyes. A dirty ceiling fan spins slowly behind the faces of two wizened old men and a young woman who are bent over, staring at me.

"Are y'all okay?" the woman asks me.

"I don't know," I say. My voice sounds strange — distant. "What happened?"

"Ah don' know," she says. "You was carryin' mah lunch tuh mah table, and then yer aahs just went, way-ell, blank. Then yuh jis keeled over. You been out fer almost a whole minute!"

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Purple Turnip

Turnips (Brassica rapa) Français : Navets Espa...
They were buried for a reason, no? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Another National Poetry Month suggestion from Mandy Collins about a subject that needed a poem written about it. The turnip.

The purple turnip's not a fruit.
It grows below; it is a root.

It's from the family crucipher,
This favorite food of Lucipher.

It can be cooked or just used raw,
Sauteed, grated, used in slaw.
You can bake it, boil it, beat it,
But, for Pete's sake, don't ever eat it!
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Guest Post: James Harbeck Tastes Ascapartic

James Harbeck is the logophile behind the blog Sesquiotica, which, even more so that Logophilius, is devoted to words, words, words. James is a lexical sommelier who explores not only what a word means and where it comes from, but how a word feels when you say it — in short, how a word tastes.

Today, he's dipped into the linguistic smorgasbord that is Infinite Jest and has come up with a taste of ascapartic.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

About Blogging

It's three-word Wednesday time. This week's words are growl, hype, and justify.

I usually try to stay on the lighter side with these things, but this poem is what grew out of today's words. It's about this blog, and it's honest.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Floorboards, A Poem

Because it's National Poetry Month, I thought I should write some poems. But not just any poems — I wanted to write something that fulfilled a need.

So I turned to Twitter and Facebook and asked for subjects that were underrepresented in poetry, promising to see what I could do.

I got some interesting responses. Mandy Collins (@CollinsMandy) suggested, among other things, floorboards. So here goes:

Monday, April 2, 2012

National Poetry Month 2012

It's National Poetry Month!
So write poems at breakfast and lunth!
They don't cost a dime
And they don't have to rhyme,
But they can if that's just what you wanth.

April is National Poetry Month, which means I'll be turning up the dials on rhyme, rhythm, and meter in the coming weeks.

The Absurdity dial, as always, is cranked up to 11. Happy wordsmithing!

Today's word: ort

What a short word ort is, like a fragment of a word left behind after some snorting, logophagic ogre has sloppily eaten all the other letters. It sounds like a line from a Swedish Chef script as he makes a sport of destorying the kitchen.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Most Amazing David Foster Wallace Resource Since David Foster Wallace

And no, I’m not talking about this blog. (What do you take me for?)

It’s no secret that the vocabulary David Foster Wallace used in Infinite Jest is at a level few authors, and perhaps fewer readers, would ever hope (or want) to achieve. I don’t care who you are — and this includes well-weathered lexicographers — you’ll find words you’ve never seen before in Infinite Jest.

Which is how we ended up with a theme for many of this month’s posts.

In the annals of cliché history, the phrase “wouldn’t it be great if someone” has preceded thousands of great ideas that, for one reason or another, were abandoned and either lost to time or picked up for profit by someone else. (e.g., “Wouldn’t it be great if someone put sleeves in this blanket?”) And certainly someone — probably multiple someones — got about a quarter of the way through the literary jungle that is Infinite Jest and said, “Wouldn’t it be great if someone collected all of David Foster Wallace’s unusual and off-kilter words in one place and defined them?”

Many have thought that, I’m sure. And someone actually did it!

While I was researching online for the upcoming IJ posts, I stumbled upon the David Foster Wallace Wiki, a crowdsourced compendium that offers spoiler-free, page-by-page definitions of some of the more or less esoteric vocabulary found in IJ.

Twelfth century headache This headachy charact...
Twelfth-century facepalm. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
So in short, you can find all the definitions to all the IJ words at this wiki any time you want instead of spending your time here at Logophilius.

But then you’d miss my clever word play, unexpected connections, and overall sparkling personality.

And my humility.

Tomorrow, then, we begin with the shortest word on my Infinite Jest vocabulary list.
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Saturday, March 31, 2012

April Expectations and Resolutions

Three months later means that I’m now three months behind on my twelve New Year’s resolutions. I’m a miserable failure.

But this month is going to be different. Yes, I wrote that last month, too, but April is going to be different different. April’s resolution is to post here on this blog at least five times a week for the entire month. How am I going to do it? Three things are different this month:

Thursday, March 29, 2012

I Love Language Video

Many thanks to the blog A Walk in the WoRds for finding this video of Simon Taylor's "I Love Language." It's a two-minutes-and-forty-five-second-long monologue of logophilia. It's a moving video of the love of a vibrant, evolving vocabulary, from the vapid and vogue to the venially vulgar. It shows, once again, that words are the best toys.

And thanks, of course, to Simon Taylor himself for creating this.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Three-Word Meta-Wednesday

Three-word Wednesday rolls around once again. This week's words are fragrant, jostle, and remnant.I started tinkering with these words a little, and then I found a thread. That thread led to larger short story idea that I plan to further explore.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Today's word: battology

Anyone who has slogged through Genesis chapter 11 (especially in the King James version) understands battology. A large chunk of that chapter looks something like this:

10 These are the generations of Shem: Shem was an hundred years old, and begat Arphaxad two years after the flood: 11 And Shem lived after he begat Arphaxad five hundred years, and begat sons and daughters. 12 And Arphaxad lived five and thirty years, and begat Salah: 13 And Arphaxad lived after he begat Salah four hundred and three years, and begat sons and daughters. 14 And Salah lived thirty years, and begat Eber: 15 And Salah lived after he begat Eber four hundred and three years, and begat sons and daughters. 16 And Eber lived four and thirty years, and begat Unicron: 17 And Eber lived after he begat Unicron four hundred and thirty years, and begat sons and daughters and robots in disguise. 18 And Unicron lived eight hundred years, and begat Optimus Prime and Megatron. 19 And Unicron lived after he begat Optimus Prime two hundred and nine years, and begat other transformers, including the Gobots. 20 And the Gobots begat nothing worthwhile. 21 And the sixties begat Michael Bay, who lived twenty years before discovering the offspring of Hasbro. 22 And Michael Bay lived after discovering the offspring of Hasbro three and twenty years, and begata horrible monster of a film. 23 And that horrible monster of a film begat a seemingly endless string of explosive, gratuitous sequels with enormous plot holes.
Optimus Prime
Evangelists often quickly gloss over Bible verses that mention Optimus Prime. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
All those begats, and living so-and-so years and begetting other sons and daughters, over and over again. It's difficult to read because it's so repetitive. And that's battology.

Battology is the repeated (and often annoying) repetition of particular words or phrases in speech or writing. It comes from the Greek battos ("stammerer") + logia ("oral or written expression").

Not all instances of battology are ugly or unwanted. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s famous "I Have a Dream" speech is certainly battological. As is Elizabeth Barrett Browning's sonnet "How do I love thee?"

But on the whole, we usually notice battologies only when they become intolerably bland.
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