Thursday, October 29, 2015

New Word Thursday: absquatulate

With that -ate at the end, it's a good guess that absquatulate is a verb. And with squat right there in the middle, you might think it has something to do with sitting down and staying there.

But there's that negating ab- at the beginning — the same one that's at the beginning of abnormal.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

A Bullshit Review

If you've ever wondered about the difference between hogwash and bellywash...

If you've ever wondered whether balderdash was something you ate, drank, or shoveled...

If you've ever wondered what the future of bloviation and obfuscation might sound like...

Or if you've just grown tired of calling bullshit and want to call something else for a change (like bavardage, crapspackle, or horsefeathers), Mark Peters has written the book for you.

It's called Bullshit: A Lexicon. Check out my review of it at

Thursday, October 22, 2015

New Word Thursday: borstal

By the end of the nineteenth century, many people were beginning to take a closer look at the ethics and repercussions of child labor. They started to think that maybe children shouldn't be expected work like grown-ups.

The recognition that children and adults should be treated differently extended to other areas, too, including the prison system. At the end of the 1800s in the United Kingdom, authorities in Her Majesty's Prison Service thought that perhaps juvenile delinquents ought to be separated from the adult prison population and given a better chance to rehabilitate.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Writing Prompt: Your Basic Flash

 This week, write some flash fiction: Write the shortest story you think you can write, BUT it must include the following things:
  • At least two characters.
  • A setting.
  • A conflict.
  • A resolution of the conflict.
This is your basic flash fiction — a super-short but otherwise complete story. Can you do it with less than 100 words? Less than 50?

To get some ideas and see what others have done with this style of story, check out Flash Fiction Magazine, UW Flash Fiction, Flash Fiction Friday, and other sites. You might even want to submit your story for publication!

Bonus points for writing flash fiction about The Flash.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

How McDonald's Marketing Made Us Grimace

McDonald's has contributed a lot to the world. Although we can't lay all the blame for rampant obesity, high cholesterol, and love handles on the Golden Arches, we certainly can blame them for giving us Grimace and the change he wrought on English pronunciation.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Writing Prompt: Inside the Game

Write a scene from the point of view of someone inside your favorite video game.

Ulterior motive

No ulterior motive here. Just a little something to get you writing and thinking about something from a different perspective.

Writing from inside a game like Grand Theft Auto or Tomb Raider should be pretty simple because there's already a story laid out there. For a greater challenge, try writing from inside a game like Candy Crush, Asteroids, or Tetris.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

New Word Thursday: rodomontade

I have transformed New Word Wednesday into New Word Thursday (a more alliterative name might be on the way) in part so I could use Wednesday's slot to direct you, dear reader, to my new weekly column at, and in part to give myself some breathing room so I don't have to have two posts ready every Wednesday.

If you didn't catch the column yesterday, you really ought to go read it. I'm generally a humble guy, but yesterday's "Death, Destruction, and Word Choice" really is the best blog post about decimate, annihilate, obliterate, and devastate that ever was or ever shall be. Amen. My mother really loved it. Yours did, too.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

New Word When Again? A Change in Programming

New Word Wednesday will now move to (New Word) Thursday so that, on Wednesdays, I can direct you all to my new weekly vocabulary and usage column at

My first post is about the word decimate and its siblings annihilate, obliterate, and devastate.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Who Bans Books? Concerned Parents

Over the past three days, I've written about some large, powerful groups that have flexed and sometimes continue to flex their muscles to keep people from reading certain books. In the United States, though, the most common group seeking to ban books is described by the name "Concerned Parents." That's the subject of my final Banned Books Week post.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Who Bans Books? Governments

In Tuesday's post, I mentioned how the development of the printing press and the growth of the printing industry helped spread both literacy and, to the chagrin of the papacy, the ideas of the Protest Reformation. Part of the Church's response to the wider dissemination of ideas antithetical to Church doctrine was to create the Index Librorum Prohibitorum, a list of dangerous authors and works that good, pious people should stay away from and that local authorities should bar and destroy.

The Church wasn't the only institution threatened by the burgeoning printing industry. Thanks to printing presses, writers who were critical of government could easily and cheaply distribute their gripes to waiting minds around the world.