Thursday, December 24, 2015

Freaky Thursday: geoduck

Geoduck sounds like the animated, waterfowl hero of a National Geographic children's show about environmentalism, or geology, or geography, or something.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Caroling + Warm Alcohol = Wassailing

I've been racking my brain for the last few days trying to think up some words that only pop up around Christmastime so that I can build a blog post around them. Caroling and wassailing came to mind, and I wrote a bit about them over at

Turns out that, in many cases, the only real difference between caroling and wassailing is how much alcohol the revelers imbibe.

But I still seem to be stuck. What other seasonal words am I forgetting? What Christmas words make you stop and think?

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Ten Homophones You Didn't Know Existed

If you rely too much on those little squiggly red lines in Microsoft Word to correct your spelling for you, you've probably found yourself wondering how spellcheck missed a seemingly obvious error (and subsequently lowered your grade on a paper, caused you to get passed over for a promotion, or gave millions of Twitterers something to tease you about).

The problem may have been that your misspelling was actually a perfectly normal homophone, just one you didn't know existed. The following ten uncommon homophones might have caused a crack in your otherwise rock-solid plan for letting spellcheck be your proofreader.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

And the Word of the Year Is(m)...

The lexicographers at Merriam-Webster dictionaries have named their 2015 Word of the Year, and it's not an entire word. It's the suffix -ism.

M-W's WOTY choices are driven by data about what people look up on the Merriam-Webster website and in their dictionary app. This year, seven of the top lookups end in -ism, leading them to bestow WOTY status on this little suffix.

Read more about it at

Thursday, December 10, 2015

New Word Thursday: conurbation

It really hit me the other day just how cynical and filthy-minded I am when I saw the word conurbation and immediately thought it was a portmanteau for congressional masturbation.

I am so disappointed in myself.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Friday Flash: The Hannibal Lecter of Cone-Heads

The new owners called it an international interchange program, where employees were chosen to work for a week at one of the company's foreign outlets.

"But I'm only a saleswoman," Denise whined. "How am I supposed to sell anything to someone who speaks a different language than me?"

"But it will be a great honor to journey to our new flagship France store," said the new manager in his high-pitched, foreign monotone.

"France, huh?" Denise said. "Is it in Paris, or somewhere else?"

The manager remained silent, staring at the ceiling in thought, his noticeably high and completely bald head shining under the fluorescent lights. Just when the moment began to feel awkward, he blurted out, "Paris. Yes. That is in France. You will go to Paris for ... a week."

"I've always wanted to see Paris," Denise said. "What else can you tell me about the program?"

"You will travel to Paris, France, where you will be cooked ... I mean booked into a luxury hotel. You will spend your days in our warehouse being fattened up, I mean fattening up our, er, profit margin. At the end of your week, you will be caramelized ... I mean recognized. On a plate."

"A plate?"

"A...commemorative plate, which we will the kitchen." He pointed toward the break room.

"Oh, well that sounds really nice." Denise was already picturing herself in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower, noshing on pastries and coffee at some sidewalk patisserie. "How did I get chosen for such an honor?"

"Because you are the fattest saleswoman at this location."

"Fattest?!" Denise had been overweight her entire life, but suddenly she felt very small.

"Please to pardon," the manager said. "My English is not perfect. I mean to say ... that ... your sales numbers are the fattest in the sales department. You look delicious to management."


"Is that not a compliment in your language? Many pardons."

"Oh, that's okay." Denise blushed and looked away. "This all sounds so amazing. What do I need to do?"

"Just go through that door, there." He gestured toward a door she somehow had never noticed before. "Our colleague will prepare you for your trip."

She walked to the door and placed her hand on the doorknob. "What's this mean?" she asked, pointing to the single word printed on the door. "Abattoir? Is that French?"

The new manager grinned widely and nodded his large, egg-shaped head vigorously.

Denise shrugged and pushed through door.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

New Word Thursday: poikilotherm

A quick multiple-choice quiz:

A poikilotherm is
  1. A unit of measure of the temperature of ocean water based on the water's effects on a fermented Hawaiian snack paste.
  2. A cold-blooded animal.
  3. A unit of measure for the heat-retention properties of wool.
  4. A word I totally made up from some plausible word parts.