Thursday, July 30, 2009

Today's word: anthropoglot

anthropoglot: An animal capable of mimicking human speech, like some parrots, some cockatoos, and Paula Abdul.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Today’s Word: cocksmanship

cocksmanship: Surely this word has been around for a while, but I just heard it today in the 1976 movie Network. If swordsmanship is how well a man handles his sword, and penmanship is how well a man manipulates his pen, then cocksmanship is, well, you get the idea. It's a perfectly usable and fun word for a topic that one probably shouldn't be talking about anyway.

Joey "Three Legs" Manolo had long hoped for career in the adult entertainment industry, but his cocksmanship just wasn't strong enough to land him a lead role.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye

The Bluest Eye is a powerful book. It's a beautiful book, in the way that Picasso's La Guernica is a beautiful painting. It doesn't have a happy ending; it has a real ending.

The story proper begins like this: Quiet as it's kept, there were no marigolds in the fall of 1941. We thought, at the time, that it was because Pecola was having her father's baby that the marigolds did not grow. It only gets worse from there.

I think the reason Toni Morrison has been so successful, the reason she earned her Pulitzer and Nobel Prizes, is because her writing somehow manages to combine polar opposites without collapsing into itself. She writes about the worst of us, the vilest acts, the evilest desires, the proverbial underbelly of humanity, but she does it with so much beauty and eloquence that we don't realize what we've swallowed until it's down. It's crême brulée and Drano. It's road kill martinis. It's the Mona Lisa painted in poop.

I know that there's a CliffsNotes for this book, but I certainly hope no one tries to teach this in high school. Not because of the language, or because of the descriptions of sex, or for anything like that. I just don't think that someone in high school would know how to react to it. Frankly, and I know this sounds strange, I don't think a virgin should read this novel. Unless you understand what sex can do to you, how it can change you, you can't really understand some of the reactions. You can't really understand what the worst parts of this story are, or understand why they're so horrible.

This is a book for adults. This is a book for a parent, or a parent-to-be. Especially if you have a daughter.

There is an interesting typographical tool in The Bluest Eye. To be honest, I didn't even notice it until I was halfway through the book: some of the text is fully justified, but some of it is left justified with a ragged right. I haven't taken the time to go back and study it closer, but I imagine that the more descriptive text is justified, while the narrative text if ragged right. If you pick up The Bluest Eye, keep an eye out for the typography. Also notice when Morrison switches between first and third person, another useful device to focus the storyline.

And if you get a copy that includes an afterword that Toni Morrison wrote in 1993, read the afterword first.

[Almost?] Onomatapoeia: cracking knuckles

It occurred to me today, while I was thinking about alliteration, that the phrase "cracking knuckles" is wonderfully onomatapoeic. All those wonderful K sounds mimic the actual sounds of the cracking knuckles themselves.

Of course, crack (the sound, not the splittage or the illicit drug) is already a bonafide onomatapoeia, so "cracking knuckles" is, I guess, just an extension of that characteristic. Saying it in a steady, accented rhythm really brings out the sounds, too: KRAK-KING-NUK-KULLS

This is all just simply observation. Language is fun.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

In the Words of JK Rowling

In honor today’s release of the movie version of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince:

harry: To force to move along by constant harassing, or generally to constantly harass or torment.

potter: Someone who makes pots and pottery.

Hermione: The only daughter of Menelaus and Helen. While they were, uh, busy with the Trojan War, Hermione was raised by her aunt Clytemnestra.

Granger: A member of the national fraternal organization, the Grange, made up primarily of farmers.

Ron: Okay, so Ron and Ronald are both just boys names. I couldn’t just leave him out!

weasely: Resembling a weasel in some characteristic(s).(All right, you got me: It’s Ron Weasley, not Ron Weasely...)

And, just for kicks,

mundungus: Bad-smelling tobacco.

fletcher: A person who makes arrows.

  "For the love of Hermione!" shouted Ron, getting a snootful of the mundungus emanating from the clay pipe held in the teeth of his roommate George, a weasely, out-of-work potter with a habit of smoking so-called "antique tobacco" while working at his potter's wheel. "What is that horrible smell?!"

  "That, my friend, is 150-year-old, home-grown tobacco from the farm of an old Granger out of Iowa," replied Geroge, "and I do believe you've harried me quite enough about my most noble of cardiovascular pursuits.”

  "You’re mental, you are!"

Monday, July 13, 2009

Today's Word: verbigerate

verbigerate: To repeat a word or phrase, often unconsciously, over and over again. The word like is a common (and annoying) source of verbigeration. There are two known treatments for chronic verbigeration: (1) intense introspection, by which one actually listens to what one says and actively attempts to curb one's verbigeratorial shortcomings; and (2) glossectomy, the surgical removal of the tongue.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

A New Site for Logophilius

This morning, I moved my Web site off of Geocities and onto my new domain,

I registered the domain and bought some space on GoDaddy's servers. They advertised a nice monthly price for Web hosting and gave me a discount on the domain registration for getting it and the hosting at the same time. Unexpectedly, even though GoDaddy shows you a monthly rate, they don't take monthly payments — I had to pay it all up front. Not exactly a bait and switch, but, as I said, unexpected.

Still, I'm excited about the new site!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

About Toni Morrison

After finishing Cormc McCarthy's All the Pretty Horses (a review is on its way), I picked up Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye. This is my first adventure into Toni Morrison's work, but already I see that her veneration as a great writer — as well as her Nobel Prize in Literature — is well-deserved. Toni Morrison's writing is just like the perfect woman: the perfect balance of eloquence and profanity, of femininity and grit. When I came across the following text, the opening of the "Winter" section, I just had to read it twice, and thought it worthy to share as an example of great writing. I wish I could write like this:

My daddy's face is a study. Winter moves into it and presides there. His eyes become a cliff of snow threatening to avalanche; his eyebrows bend like black limbs of leafless trees. His skin takes on the pale, cheerless yellow of winter sun; for a jaw he has the edges of a snowbound field dotted with stubble; his high forehead is the frozen sweep of the Erie, hiding currents of gelid thoughts that eddy in darkness. Wolf killer turned hawk fighter, he worked night and day to keep one from the door and the other from under the windowsills. A Vulcan guarding the flames, he gives us instructions about which doors to keep closed or opened for proper distribution of heat, lays kindling by, discusses qualities of coal, and teaches us how to rake, feed, and bank the fire. And he will not unrazor his lips until spring.

When it comes to reading literature, I've been somewhat of a serial monogamist since the sixth grade, latching on to an author and swallowing whole whatever parts of his library I could get my teeth on. First, there was John Bellairs, then Robin Cook, a relatively brief tryst with Stephen King, then Douglas Adams, Clive Barker, Kurt Vonnegut, Ayn Rand, William Burroughs, and most recently Neal Stephenson and Neil Gaiman. Toni Morrison may be my next long-term literary relationship.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Today’s Word: xylophagous/xylophage

xylophagous/xylophage: No, it doesn't mean someone who eats xylophones; a xylophage is something that feeds on or in wood, such as termites. No porn jokes, please.