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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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.

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Hey Look! An Infographic!

No real intro here...I just wanted to make an infographic. Here it is:


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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.

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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.

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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.

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Searching for Serenity

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!"

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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.

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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.

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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:

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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!

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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.

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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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The opinions expressed on this blog are solely mine. None of the opinions necessarily reflect the beliefs of my friends, family, or employers, past, present, or future. I reserve the right to be wrong.

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