Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Three Word Wednesday: Bulls in a China Shop

fragile, rampant, tremor

It's just going to be a limerick today. Either that, or I waste more time writing a really depressing sonnet. I don't need that right now. Seriously, I started a sonnet and got as far as "Am I so fragile that this week alone / Will break my spirit?..." and decided it was a good idea to change course. Here's the course I took:

The bulls running rampant won't stop
Causing tremors -- they jump and they hop.
Though they seem pretty agile
These things are quite fragile:
Two toddlers in this china shop.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Storm Before the Calm, a Sonnet

This morning's storm seemed to be in a big hurry to get to Ohio, so it didn't last horribly long. But still, to people who don't like storms (I'm not one of them), this must have been a tense time.

Beneath a gray and dark'ning autumn sky
The Midwest tempest blows an angry rain
As chirping squirrels scramble to stay dry
And flailing branches wave in silent pain.

The warning sirens sound tornado's call,
And people scurry down like frightened mice
To safety — so they hope — from this great squall,
Heeding television's scant advice.

They cower there with worry and in fear,
Just hoping for the twister to abate.
In deaf'ning darkness — wind is all they hear —
They sit and wait. And wait. And wait. And wait.

Thoughts of sunny days prove little balm,
Surviving through the storm before the calm.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Today's Word: mammock

mammock: No, Lady Gaga, a mammock is not a "meat hammock." As a noun, a mammock is bit, shred, or scrap of something. As a verb, to mammock means to shred or tear to shreds. (I'm feeling a bit mammocked myself right now.)

I have no idea where the word came from, but I'm in good company: Webster's New World has a big question mark where the word's derivation ought to go. Still, it's a wonderfully useful word.

In "Of Reformation in England," (1641) John Milton railed against the current state of the Church with this:
...the table of communion, now become a table of separation, stands like an exalted platform upon the brow of the quire, fortified with bulwark and barricado, to keep off the profane touch of the laics, whilst the obscene and surfeited priest scruples not to paw and mammock the sacramental bread, as familiarly as his tavern biscuit.

Which just goes to show that I need to read more Milton.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Three Word Wednesday: Tony Noland and Robert Schuller

effect, immense, shimmer

Last week, @TonyNoland -- one of the Twitterers I follow -- commented about some people taking Three Word Wednesday too seriously and spending too much time on it. He only ever threw together a quick limerick that used the three words.

I off-handedly tweeted that this week, in his honor, my Three Word Wednesday submission would be a limerick about him. And I'm true to my word. (Did I let the fact that I've never actually met Tony Noland hold me back? Of course not. He seems like a level-headed enough gentleman not to get too upset -- or to sue me for libel -- for the following limerick.)

Though he shimmers with Twitter renown,
Tony's pate's not adorned with a crown.
It's a diff'rent effect
Makes him stand half-erect:
His immense head is weighing him down.

If you're on Twitter and you like writing, you could do worse than following Tony.

But this week's words were too well-aligned with something in the news, so here's my "real" Three Word Wednesday submission:

Crimson Tithe, or, Orange County Whoppers

The Rev'rend Robert Schuller hoped to get
A congregation that was so immense
That his cathedral'd never go in debt
(That's in a secular financial sense).
His crystal church, a shimm'ring bit of heaven,
God's California home and shining tower,
Is now reduced to filing Chap. Eleven
And limiting broadcasts of "Hour of Power."
But I say good, 'cause somewhere in this plan
The Christian purpose of a church grew cold.
A church is glorifying only man,
When tithing only pays for glass and gold.
Th'effect? Will we still find a church inside?
Or will we soon find "God's Great Waterslide"?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Today's Word: galligaskins

galligaskins: Originally loose-fitting breeches worn in the 16th and 17th century, but now applied humorously to any loose-fitting breeches. Jodhpurs (the pants, not the boots) are galligaskins.

I considered going back into MC Hammer's repertoire to see whether he ever managed to work galligaskins into a rap, but then I remembered that I had some old chalkboards that needed fingernails scraped across them.

Monday, October 18, 2010

An Ode to Monday

You could bring clear and warming light,
Or gray skies chilling to the bone,
Or brightest moon or cloudy night --
It matters not how you atone.
Surprising treasures you could mete,
A thousand coffers quickly fill,
Promotions, raises, checks, and yet
The people loathe and scorn you still.
Some time off work -- a holiday --
May be your act of last resort.
But though we rest the day away
You always seem to come up short.
I know you try, but 'tis your luck
That you, oh Monday, simply suck.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Miso Hateful Today

On of my favorite combining forms for English words is miso-, indicating hatred of some sort. The form is great for describing people by what they don't like instead of what they do and gives us the wonderful words misogamy (hatred of marriage, from -gamy, referring to marriage or sexual union), misogyny (hatred of women), misology (hatred of debate or reason, which children normally -- but not always -- grow out of), and misoneism (hatred of change or innovation, from neo- for new).

(There's a Rush Limbaugh joke in there somewhere.)

If miso- comes before a vowel, then the o is dropped, and we get misandry and misanthropy (hatred of man and of mankind, respectively).

Although miso- and mis- are similar and serve similar uses, don't get them mixed up. Miso- comes from Greek and indicates hatred; mis- comes from Old English and Old French and indicates either wrongness or a negation. Misinterpretation, for example, uses the mis- form, not miso-, and indicates a wrong or bad interpretation, not the overall hatred of interpretation (although a word like that would be useful for describing religious fundamentalism).

On final warning: If you hate soup (I'm with you there), telling a waitress at a Japanese restaurant "miso-soup" won't get your point across; she'll just end up bringing you bowl of warm, salty, brown broth with bits of green onions in it.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

A Halloween Sonnet

I mentioned in a recent post that I've taken to writing sonnets in my spare moments. Here's another, timely one:

The dusky shadows lengthen and then fade
As evening brings a silver-crescent light.
The witches strut their ev'ning promenade
That signals to world the start of night.
The ghosts from long-forgotten graves arise
As hounds of heaven howl unto the moon.
Then, as the werewolves' wailing slowly dies,
A band of bogies plays a dancing tune.
Behind the grins of vampires: naught but glee
As skeletons mazurka by the wall,
The ogres polka dance, and ghouls bourée
In this, the joyous graveyard creatures' ball.
So do not fear the creatures you find dancing in the glen.
The monsters drifting through the night that you should fear are men.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Three Word Wednesday: To Priests Who Abuse Their Power

I was so busy that I missed last week's Three Word Wednesday. :(

This week's words are absolve, hiss, and ridicule. There is no comedy in this week's submission.

Your righteousness is ridiculed.
The damage you have done
Has scarred a boy's entire life,
His innocence undone.

You think you have immunity,
A sacerdotal pact
That shields you from all consequence
Of any evil act.

But victims now are hissing and
The masses wish you ill.
The Church may have absolved you, but
The people never will.

The Smashing Pumpkins Sonnet

Recently, my doodling has waned, and I've taken to writing sonnets (or bits of them) in empty moments. Last night, over a fast food dinner, I started writing one sonnet and then ended up with this one inspired by the music I had been listening to in the car, The Smashing Pumpkins' Melon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. It's rather dark.
My work is done; I'm driving home again.
The highway hums beneath my lonely car
As speakers sing of Billy Corgan's pain
And rage. If God is empty, then we are
Alone together in a universe
Of randomness, connections made ad hoc,
Attractions biological, and worse:
The meaninglessness of the ticking clock.
If God is empty, do we have a soul?
Or do we live and die and rise and set
Like planets always spinning, with no goal.
Is this the best that life can ever get?

They often say the truth can set you free,
But sometimes I wish truth would leave me be.

Not exactly the most romantic subject matter for a sonnet, but I was feeling a little depressed at the time. I did, however, start another sonnet about how love grows in the head (from reason and logic) instead of from the heart. Perhaps that will show up on this blog soon.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

What Not to Do with Extra Quotation Marks

A Horrible Punctuation Fail from FailBlog

No witty comments from me here. I'm simply dumbstruck, as well as dumbstricken.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Today's Word: synaloepha

synaloepha or synalepha: The reduction of two adjacent vowel syllables into a single syllable. You see it often enough in sonnets and other poetic forms that follow a specific rhythmic pattern, as in Shakespeare's 124th sonnet:

If my dear love were but the child of state,
It might for Fortune's bastard be unfather'd,
As subject to Time's love or to Time's hate,
Weeds among weeds, or flowers with flowers gather'd.
No, it was builded far from accident;
It suffers not in smiling pomp, nor falls
Under the blow of thralled discontent,
Whereto th' inviting time our fashion calls:
It fears not policy, that heretic,
Which works on leases of short-number'd hours,
But all alone stands hugely politic,
That it nor grows with heat, nor drowns with showers.
  To this I witness call the fools of time,
  Which die for goodness, who have lived for crime.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Today's word: acierate

acierate: To turn into steel.

I supposed acieration is in common use in smelting circles, but it probably doesn't get much play among laypeople. In fact, I found acierate in Webster's New World Dictionary, but it's absent from Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, negating the zombify advantage that I thought MW had over WNW.

I wonder, though, if (and how many times) some form of acierate has appeared in an X-Men comic in a description of Colossus, the Russian weightlifter who can turn his flesh into "organic steel."

Monday, October 4, 2010

Vocabulary Missed

This would be funnier if it weren't the vocabulary missed list that my son brought home. Can you find the three errors?

A typo I could live with. A stray, unexpected capitalization is iffy. But to have a word misspelled on a spelling list is just too much.

I contacted the teacher and found out that she had asked one of her parent helpers to type up the list, but then hadn't checked the work.