Monday, November 21, 2011

Today's Word: nightmare

The Moon is the most common object viewed in t...
Image via Wikipedia
Last night I had a horrible dream.

I dreamed that I was lying in a cool, open field of dewy grass, staring up at the stars in the night sky. Light began seeping in around the edges of the horizon — not just in the east, like a sunrise, but all the way around. The light at the edges grew inward, creating a hazy, undulating edge with star-filled night on the inside and blue sky on the outside. Brighter and brighter the sky grew as the night shrank toward the zenith, until only a small patch of dark sky remained.

The wavering edge separating day from night hardened, and I could see that the last remnants of night had taken the shape of a magnificent dark horse, and it was galloping toward me, the steam from its breath casting off nebulae and galaxies into infinite space.

And then I woke up.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Complaints Department

It's three-word Wednesday time! This week's words are impetus, solace, and vindication.

The Complaints Department
Her impetus for communication
Was to get some retail vindication,
But she found no solace
When she tried to call us
'Cause we were all out on vacation.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Today's word: loophole

All politicians claim to hate loopholes. Tax loopholes, regulatory loopholes, legal loopholes. But you know who really hates loopholes?

Medieval infantry.

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Bucket List

The Bucket ListThe Bucket List (Image via was surprised to learn recently that the phrase bucket list doesn’t have a history before the 2007 movie starring Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson. Experience has taught me to be wary of the Recency Illusion, so I was sure that the phrase had existed for some time — especially considering how often and easily it is used today — but that it had just existed outside my local vocabulary.

But I started poking around, and it looked like bucket list didn’t exist at all in the previous century. I posed the question to Twitter, and @KoryStamper, associate editor at Merriam-Webster, verified that their etymologists point to the movie as the first appearance of the phrase.

A bucket list, of course, is a list of things one would like to do before one “kicks the bucket,” or dies. The phrase kick the bucket has a more nebulous history. The Facts on File Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins, 4th Edition, points out two distinct possible etymologies:

The first comes from suicides. To hang oneself, one might flip a bucket over, climb the bucket, secure the noose, and then kick the bucket out from under oneself. Kicking the bucket becomes the suicide’s last act.

This story makes perfect sense and ties up the etymology in a nice, neat little package, which probably means it isn't true.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Three-Word Wednesday, Plus a Bonus Limerick!

This week's words are carnage, jerk, and puncture. If you want to read more three-word Wednesday submissions, click here.

He drifts into the night to do his work.
In the darkest alleyways he'll lurk.
He punctures people's necks,
Lives on carnage, pain, and sex.
A vampire? No, just some neurotic jerk.

About the bonus limerick

On Tuesday, I was poking around trying to answer the question, "Who discovered oxygen?" In my searches I came across the wonderful word dephlogisticated. And what do I always do when I find a neat new word? I tweet it.

Almost immediately, @kemullholland challenged me to use the word in the sentence. I like a challenge, especially a word challenge, but just a sentence wasn't challenging enough. I told her I'd do her one better and use it in a limerick.

And here is that (historically accurate) limerick:

"The stuff that burns," the chemists used to say,
"Is inessential stuff that burns away."
Then Priestley laid it bare:
"Dephlogisticated air!"
"It's oxygen!" said Doc Lavoisier.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Where I've Been and What I've Been Doing, Because You Asked

The last week has been rather hectic and busy so that I've had a difficult time trying to find more than a couple minutes to write about something. I have a number of posts started, but none finished.

So instead, I'll just update you on some of the wordly things that have happened in recent days.
  • On September 12, I entered a limerick contest over on Stan Carey's blog, Sentence First. The challenge was to write a limerick about language, and the prizes were awesome enough to bring in a lot of creative entries. My (non-winning) entry was this:
If you say you’re a big verbivore,
But you don’t know your you’re from your your,
And you’re not sure just when
To use than or use then,
Then I think you should be reading more.
  • On September 22 (it couldn't possibly have been that long ago!) my "A to Z of Editorial Peeves" was favorably mentioned on That was accompanied by a wonderful spike in the number of visits to this blog. Unfortunately, you can no longer read their entire article unless you're a member of Ragan Select.
  • On October 20, my brief e-mail interview was featured on the blog.
  • On October 28, I entered a six-word horror story contest at Darkside Publishing. The winner (not me) was chosen at random, which is obvious considering how inarguably awesome my entry was:
"Thought you were dead."
"We are."

I do so enjoy writing nanofiction.

Speaking of contests, I've been thinking about having a bit of a contest myself. But what prizes might a poor guy like me offer to you, my readers?