Archive for the 'Words' Category

21
Dec
13

A gambler, a pool supplier, and a fashionista walk into a bar …

I am keen to feature a guest post on you blog as it would do wonders for my portfolio. I realized it was time I stopped ghost-writing for others and built an online reputation for myself.

I have received three emails at work pitching stories using this exact (misspelled) phrasing. They are a scam. Or something. Some computer somewhere is churning out these emails and sending them to publishers, or a coach has given scores of would-be writers—fed up with a life of obscurity behind the ghost-writing curtain, desperate for the rush of fresh air in their lungs and the warmth of sunlight on their pale, damp skin—some very bad advice and a poorly written form letter. Continue reading ‘A gambler, a pool supplier, and a fashionista walk into a bar …’

01
Mar
11

The Sole of Wit

As we settle into the on-ramp to middle age, my husband and I find ourselves utterly captivated by the lamest of intellectual parries and thrusts. One of our favorites is the synonym game. “Eat,” one of us will say. “Devour,” the other will say. “Chew,” comes the reply, followed by “masticate,” “digest,” and so on and so forth.

Last night, inspired by a piscine pun a friend of ours wrote as a Facebook status update, Jeff asked me to name species of fish.

“Uh… trout?” I said. “Pike. Flounder. Why?”

He showed me the picture on our friend Marc’s Facebook wall, a folk-art plate with a fish skeleton painted on it, accompanied by the words “Tuna Half Men. Sole Train.”

Ah. I was beginning to understand.

“I’ve already got ‘Carp 54, Where Are You?'” Jeff said. I need another one.

I gave it a long, hard think. Before long I had one. Perfect.

“Who’s the Bass?” I said.

And we were off.

Continue reading ‘The Sole of Wit’

24
Sep
10

Wonder Wall

It’s already a well-worn internet cliché to receive a deluge of “Happy birthday!!!” wishes once a year on Facebook. I don’t care. I’m absolutely delighted by it.

I used to think it was too simple. It seemed almost insulting or phony to simply post “happy birthday” to someone’s wall. If you really cared, you’d send a card and pay for a damn stamp! And maybe, individually, it is a little cheap and easy, especially when Facebook is probably the only reason you knew it was the person’s birthday in the first place. But seen in broader strokes, taken as a whole, getting a “happy birthday!” from hundreds of people at a time, whether or not they really remembered, is actually pretty awesome. A little bit of love from each of those friends and acquaintances adds up pretty quickly to a big lump of good will.

Just do your friends a favor and pay attention. It can be easy to dismiss those greetings. There can be so many that individuals get lost in the shuffle. So this year on my birthday I made it a point to respond to every single one of them.

My “Thanks!” or “Thank you!” may be even less thoughtful than many of the multiple-exclamation-point birthday greetings, but I think there’s some value in it. It guarantees that I have read everyone’s post, acknowledged everyone individually, taken a moment to remember something about each person and to think about how I’m connected to them — assuming I actually know who they are!

I’ve been paying much closer attention to people’s birthdays in the last year. I don’t remember phone numbers because my phone does it for me. And I don’t bother to remember birthdays anymore because Facebook tells me every day who I forgot to send a card to. But I do what I can to build up my birthday karma. Tell your friends, and even some strangers, happy birthday. It’ll come back to you when it’s your turn. And it’s so easy these days to show you care enough to do the very least, so there’s no excuse.

24
Apr
09

Distance Over Time

On a bus between here and there, a lot passes you by. Cars, buses, trucks, a lot of gray. Most of it goes without notice, but sometimes something sticks out.

I saw an ad for a brand of running shoe once on the side of a truck. I can’t remember the substance of the ad, but the words were simple: “Distance over time.”

Speed, I thought.

In 10th grade physics, it’s simple and basic. But it struck me for the first time how, in another context, that phrase might mean something entirely different.

Distance over time. Two meanings: mathematics vs. poetry.

In terms of running shoes, speed is measured in the distance traveled divided by the time it took to get there. But to a more poetic heart, distance is something that can be achieved over time, with patience.

19
Mar
09

The Right Looks Up ‘Marriage’ and Finds ‘Revolution’

A right-wing Web site is fuming over their recent discovery that Merriam-Webster has added a secondary definition of marriage to its pages.

World Net Daily sarcastically reported Tuesday:

“One of the nation’s most prominent dictionary companies has resolved the argument over whether the term ‘marriage’ should apply to same-sex duos or be reserved for the institution that has held families together for millennia: by simply writing a new definition.”

The change occurred years before any states legalized gay marriage. It went unnoticed until now, apparently because writers at World Net Daily do not make frequent use of dictionaries.

(Personally, any publication that accepts written work from Ann Coulter, and that hawks “Where’s the birth certificate?” bumper stickers (attempting to call into question Barack Obama’s citizenship), doesn’t have much of value to say to the more thoughtful readers of the world. But I digress.)

Merriam-Webster editors are mystified by the fuss. From the story:

“Its inclusion was a simple matter of providing dictionary users with accurate information about all of the word’s current uses,” the company said, adding that it was surprised by the recent attention because it was “neither news nor unusual.”

“We were one of the last ones among the major dictionary publishers to do this,” said Merriam-Webster spokesman Arthur Bicknell.

Someone who commented on a YouTube video complaining about the definition says, “The word ‘marriage’ has never been synonymous with same sex relationships,” said the forum participant. “What is happening is the meaning is being changed to trigger it becoming synonymous, not the other way round.”

If he’d take his bible out of his ass long enough to concentrate, he’d realize that the definition does not make heterosexual marriage and same-sex marriage synonymous. What it signifies is merely that the term is used in that way. It is a figurative meaning.

Dictionaries include figurative and idiomatic meanings for a great many words. Note definition No. 6 of dig and definition No. 5 of bird.

The World Net Daily writer goes on to cite a 1913 dictionary definition that not only doesn’t mention same-sex marriage, but in fact adds biblical references to the traditional definition. In fact they are citations, meant to show context, not that Matthew, Mark, Luke, John or God himself are editors of dictionaries. It could have just as easily referenced a Jane Austen novel.

More importantly, should we be shocked that a word’s usage should change between 1913 and the year the Merriam-Webster change was apparently made? Of course not. Why would a 1913 publication of any sort refer to “same-sex marriage” when that concept wasn’t even part of the public consciousness? It would be like expecting Oscar Wilde to identify as “gay.” He never would have done so. Does it mean he wasn’t a big flaming queen? Certainly not.

Completely outside of the argument for or against gay marriage, consider the idiocy of World Net Daily’s complaint. I’m not thrilled that “ain’t” is in the dictionary, and that school students gleefully point to it to justify poor grammar. However, its legitimacy is determined not by whether you or I like it, but by whether or not it is used — and useful — by speakers of English. Whatever you think “ain’t” implies about its user, we all know its meaning. Ergo: ain’t.

Same-sex couples in long-term relationships have long thought of themselves — and referred to themselves — as being “married.” It’s a matter of convenience, being far less wordy than “partnered with a member of the same sex.” And until very recently on the scale of human history, we didn’t have a choice but to be figurative.

15
Mar
09

Logophilia

The other night, in a fit of ebullient drunkenness I declared the Oxford English Dictionary the single greatest achievement of mankind. For whatever reason, all Anglo guilt aside, English is the language of record. So, to my mind, the most comprehensive and respected volumes that record its meaning and history are a treasure for humanity. “Its more important than buildings, … fire,” I said, “and makeup.”

My friend Joey has become somewhat obsessed with this statement. I’m sure it’s because of my inclusion of makeup. And I’m sure that is the influence of RuPaul’s Drag Race. My geek-out moment is apparently one of the gayest things he’s heard in a while. It’s doesn’t rise to the level of Wildean wit, exactly, but it does my ego marvelous good to get such attention.

29
Apr
08

This sentence is worth 38 points.

In a city as big and old and famous as New York, there’s a landmark on nearly every corner. Someone was born here. Someone died here. Some drag queens started a social movement here. Someone recorded a watershed album here in the ’60s. Here’s a cafe from Sex in the City. Everyone’s got a story about some point of pride in their neighborhood.

Just recently, I learned that the birthplace of Scrabble is the Community Methodist Church in my neighborhood. To commemorate the fact, the street sign on the corner of 35th Avenue and 81st Street, where the church is located, has been made to look like it’s composed of Scrabble tiles. It’s a bit esoteric, like nerd humor, but I think a subtle nod to a great invention is more clever than a boring old plaque.

Scrabble




the untallied hours