“Cosseted like rare orchids”

April 24, 2015

Very briefly noted: in a book review by Christine Smallwood in the May Harper’s,

Reality wasn’t directly relevant,” one character thinks, all too relevantly, in Nell Zink’s manic new novel MISLAID … The fun begins in the hazy 1960s at the all-female Stillwater College, a former plantation decked out with Virginia creeper: “A mecca for lesbians, with girls in shorts standing in the reeds to smoke, popping little black leeches with their fingers, risking expulsion for cigarettes and going in the lake.” One of these lesbians is a would-be playwright named Peggy, and before you can say “freshman orientation,” she’s shacked up with the resident campus queen, a gay male poet and professor named Lee Fleming who lives down the lake and paddles to class in a canoe. Their eventual marriage isn’t exactly a sham — “vestiges of heterosexuality . . . cosseted like rare orchids” produce two children — but neither does it provide what you might term fulfillment.

A wonderful turn of phrase.

The mammoth genome

April 24, 2015

From Sim Aberson on Facebook, from BBC Science, “Mammoth genome sequence completed” by Pallab Ghosh, beginning:

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth.

A US team is already attempting to study the animals’ characteristics by inserting mammoth genes into elephant stem cells.

They want to find out what made the mammoths different from their modern relatives and how their adaptations helped them survive the ice ages.

The new genome study has been published in the journal Current Biology.

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Conversation with the Muffman

April 23, 2015

Today’s Zippy, with another roadside fiberglass icon:


There’s a Wikipedia article on Muffler Men, roadside fiberglass figures originally serving as commercial icons, usually holding a sample of whatever is advertised — a muffler in the case of the canonical Muffler Man. Muffler Men take many forms: images of Paul Bunyan, for instance, and the very popular cowboy figure, as above. Zippy fairly often engages Muffler Men (and other fiberglass figures) in conversation.

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Dinosaur connoisseur

April 23, 2015

Today’s Bizarro, with a portmanteau:

Dinosaur + Connoisseur. With some entertaining play on the style of wine writing.

Poem for hot February day

April 22, 2015

The illustration: today’s offering from the Daily Jocks people, with a poem.

The doomed hustler

Mid-February eruption of heat,
Everyone on the street, stripped
For the weather.
A near-naked vision, no
Shirt, no shoes, no
Underwear, just low-slung
Blue shorts: lounging expectantly
Under an awning, offering
A hustler’s name, no name,
Changed for each john. But
No johns come: he’s
Hombre sin hombre.


April 22, 2015

Two recent items about alternative expressions: an occurrence of whimsiness (where you might have expected whimsicality), and one of the count noun mistruth (where you might have expected untruth).

Both are in the OED and both are in the Collins online (and count as legitimate words in Scrabble), but neither is in NOAD2 or most other one-volume dictionaries.

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Mind the Gap

April 22, 2015

The title of a piece on “mindfulness” by Virginia Heffernan in the New York Times Magazine on the 19th. Well, that was the title in the print version, using a conventionalized expression for warning about a (specific) danger; in the on-line version, the title is the more straightforward (but alliterative) “The Muddied Meaning of ‘Mindfulness’”.

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Verbatim letter

April 21, 2015

A while back, in a comment on my word entertainment posting, I referred to a note I posted in Verbatim magazine — a letter in #1.4.6 (1975) — with (among other things) observations on –oon words in English. Now I have unearthed it:

A notable headline

April 21, 2015

From Chris Waigl, this headline in the Alaska Dispatch News politics section:

No gas-line veto override vote in sight

The headline is entirely accurate and grammatically impeccable, but the combination of three negative-tinged elements in it — veto, override, syntactic negation with no — makes it hard to understand.

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Rocky Road

April 21, 2015

At breakfast on Saturday, my grand-daughter noticed the list of ice cream flavors available at the Peninsula Creamery, and was delighted to see Rocky Road as one of the choices. (Not that any of us ordered ice cream for breakfast.) That made me wonder about the name and its history.

The story starts in Oakland CA and eventually finds its way to the UK and on to Australia.

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