Thursday, July 21, 2011


Have you ever wondered what happens to words that the OED has officially retired? They eventually disappear unless dedicated wordaholics continue to use them, saving them from extinction. Admittedly, some words may not be worth keeping around except for their sheer novelty. Language adapts as a culture evolves and some words are simply no longer meaningful. A word's definition can change dramatically, too, affecting its usage.

I found a website that has a pretty clear mission: Save the Words. You'll find a lot of humor there, especially in the "Spread The Word" section. You can formally adopt a word, print a certificate of adoption, and dedicate yourself to the word's use. There are words so archaic that they seem suspect. For instance, several look like words invented for a sci-fi novel. Phasianic is one, clearly pertaining to Star Trek weaponry rather than, um, pheasants. (Yes, pheasants.) I haven't yet adopted a word but I'm leaning heavily toward latibule. I might actually be able to use it in a sentence. An eccentric sentence, but still. It could happen.

If you're a writer (or would like to be), there's The Daily Mayo ("The best filling for the writer's sandwich") which offers writing prompts and exercises, book reviews, quotes, and (my favorite section) definitions for uncommon words. This is where I found agroof, which means to fall on your face. I particularly like it as a past-tense verb, i.e. I missed the stepping stone and agroofed.

Speaking of writing, there's a lot of discussion out there about emoticons, aka smileys, and the proper grammatical use of parenthesis with those smileys. To address the uncertainty, Grammar Girl has developed an easy-to-follow flowchart which you may find helpful and which I think will also make you smile.

Finally, something not related to words at all. The Dutch know how to include playfulness in everyday things, clearly demonstrated by the occasional improvements they make to their mass transit stations. This is the country that turned a public stairway into a keyboard, each step a note, for commuters' enjoyment. The newest addition is a slide, as reported by the Huffington Post. I doubt this would be allowed in U.S. transit stations given how injury-conscious we are, and isn't that a terribly sad state of affairs? Look what we're missing!

Overheard on Twitter: Google just helped me do basic math. It's come to this.

Stay tuned.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

101 in 1001

If you've surfed around the Web for awhile, you may have noticed a trend in BlogLand: challenges. They come in many forms and are intended to help participants step up and do something. For example, there's a challenge that requires posting a photo every week, joined by folk who want to improve their photo skills. Another helps people declutter their homes. The best thing about these challenges is the informality. You can "join" one at any time. There's no formal membership or set of rules, just some structure and an invitation to jump in. And, really, "challenges" may not be the best word for it. They are invitations, kindling inspiration and action.

One that recently caught my eye is called "101 in 1001", via Day Zero Project. In this project, people create a list of 101 things they want to do in 1001 days. I've read a few lists over the last week; some are posted on blogs that were created specifically for tracking the goals. The lists reflect the variety of humankind - some are organized by subject (Personal, Professional, Art, Health) while other lists have no organization at all. One list is filled with whimsey, contrasting with several that are deeply serious. I'm pondering my own list. "Update my blog once a week" will probably be on it.

Overheard on Twitter: I'm collecting pretentious/cheesy source-plus-noun descriptions - creamery butter, garden vegetables, smokehouse barbeque. Others?

Stay tuned.

Friday, July 8, 2011

We finally saw it. . .

. . . we saw True Grit, the Coen Brothers film, and I've been humming part of the soundtrack all day. I love how they wove old hymns into the music, especially "Talk About Suffering". I first heard that song on a well-worn Doc Watson record and hearing it in True Grit inspired me to listen to him again. The LPs are long gone but I found him on myspace, of all places, and you can listen to all of his recordings there, if you're interested. Click on See All to get the whole list if the link doesn't take you there.

I also found "Down in the Valley to Pray" in the list, a hymn that the Coens used in O Brother, Where Art Thou (it was sung as "Down in the River to Pray".) O Brother is one of my favorites, both film and soundtrack. The Coen Brothers know how to make great movies. I wasn't sure how they'd insert their signature quirkiness into a Western without messing up the story but they managed it well. It was much more subtle than usual. Well, subtle except for the dentist wearing a bear. That scene was classic Coen.

Netflix has revolutionized our movie-viewing. We're currently alternating movies with The West Wing, a series that we didn't watch when it was on television. We miss a lot of stuff while it's current and end up catching it in reruns or through Netflix. We didn't watch more than a couple of episodes of Seinfeld, despite its popularity, until the last two shows. We started watching Whose Line Is It Anyway? just as it finished its final season. It's too bad of us, but there it is.

Overheard on Twitter: If you think you're too small to have an impact, try going to sleep with a mosquito in the room.

Ha! Small but mighty. Stay tuned...


Following librarians on twitter guarantees at least one good smile every day. This tweet was too good to save for a future post:

I think more adults would sign up for summer reading if it were actually ADULT summer reading (if you know what I mean and I think you do).

Stay tuned.

A Milestone

We're a foreign-car family, preferring Toyota and Honda to Chrysler and Ford, so our purchase of a used Ford Escort Wagon in 1996 was an aberration. We were planning a long August road trip, Port Orchard to Colorado Springs. Our travel would take us through Montana, Wyoming, Utah, and Nevada. We knew we'd be encountering blazingly hot weather. We wilt in 80 degrees so air conditioning was a big deal. The Escort presented itself. It had just 29,000 miles on it. We dithered for a couple of days. The price was good, the mileage was great, it had air conditioning (but it's a Ford...)

We bought it. It's been a good car, mostly. It took us on our 3500-mile road trip and kept us cool, even in 104-degree Moab. But the reasons for our Ford Aversion have proved to be valid over the ensuing years. The transmission has had recurring problems. The clutch was really nasty until a wizard of a mechanic fixed it. We've learned all the acronyms for Ford - "Friend Of Repair Department" is the most apt. But here we are, at a milestone.

Yesterday, the odometer rolled over to 200,000 miles.

Will we buy another Ford when this one finally gasps its last? No.

In Adapted Signage news, this crosswalk sign was sighted by our friend Ryan on Pacific Avenue.
The image for the right-hand button is from "Portal", a popular single-player video game.

Pacific Avenue didn't used to have crosswalk lights. If you wanted to get from one side to the other, you had to sprint across six lanes of non-stop traffic. Years ago, Alden and I were at the Washington State Museum for a grade school field trip. After the museum tour, we wanted to find a place for lunch. We were on the north side of Pacific Avenue. All of the eateries were on the south side. Alden took one look at those six lanes and said, "Wow. Frogger." I laughed. He was referring to a video game in which you had to navigate your frog across multiple traffic lanes. If you lacked skill, your frog got squished. His comment described our situation perfectly. I'm happy to see that Pacific Avenue now has crosswalk lights.

By the way, we have a new favorite No Parking sign. We so want to change it to No Barking in Median.

Overheard on Twitter (posted by a librarian while on the desk): Kid signed up for a computer. He said to his friend: "I have 30 minutes to wait. I'm going to go read." MY GOD, IT'S A MIRACLE.

And that is that. Stay tuned.