Friday, December 31, 2010


So it's goodbye!

A word about goodbyes, especially now that I've just come from La Traviata, at the Met (my first Traviata). I'm all for goodbyes. You know how Sylvia Plath wrote about the telephone being "off at the root"? No good-bye.

No good-bye is unsatisfying the way a ticket that's scanned with a light beam and not ripped in half with two hands is unsatisfying. The ticket is "used" but somehow has entered ticket limbo; it's passing for a materially whole ticket.

No goodbye is the marriage that shouldn't have taken place yet is not headed for divorce court. Like the scanned, unripped ticket, it's in limbo.

A friend asked why I'm ending this blog. I'm ending it because I feel it's time to do something as fun but perhaps more meaningful and mentally challenging and that will give rise to conversations with people (preferably beyond elementary-school age) who want to discuss something other than words that happen to end in the letter y. Should I discover otherwise, I will have no choice but to say hello again.

It's possible that this coming year my processed words will appear on, a hyperlocal New York City news site, although whether my prose would qualify as news I could not begin to say.

Back to La Traviata, which was a visual feast. Excellent use of color, and the ending was marked by sound taste in metaphor. I almost was going to have this last y word be slutty, in honor of Violetta who died of pneumonia brought on by bougie values.

Also I considered higglety pigglety, from the title of a CD I saw in the opera shop (browsing there made me want to see Orpheus and Eurydice and Samson and Deliliah). However, higgledy-piggledy was already a post, from December 2008.

And, so, with the clock ticking towards midnight, it made sense to end at the beginning, with surfy. I can't even remember what body of water he was describing, but my friend James, who has a British accent, pronounced surfy in a way that perhaps recalled a radio broadcast by Virginia Woolf titled (if I remember correctly) "Why words fail". The way Woolf pronounced words and the way James pronounced surfy, there was a connection there. Her o was related to his u, something like that. James has a little smile of his own, so there was that visual element, too, which made his surfy memorable.

There it is. Thank you, James, wherever you are (probably England).

My thanks, too, to Ari, who encouraged me to write this blog when the few people to whom I mentioned it were indifferent or said it was a waste of time. Even if I have written to but five readers, it turns out it was worth the time because it was worth the process. This commitment, I discovered, has yielded invisible dividends.

Good night, and good-b'wy.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Y Word of 2010: Clowdy

After much thought, I have selected clowdy as the Y word of the year. Showoffy is the runner-up, mainly because its double-f visually reifies its meaning (think of that poem about the giraffes and their necks and the fs).

Clowdy doesn't do performance art, but it is pleasing to the eye and the ear (I'm a softy for cl words), and I might consider having a New Year's Eve dinner party in its honor, down in Atlantis, and inviting all the mythical beasts, some of whom would be wearing their softest cardigans.

So: that's the word of the year, and this is the next-to-last day of this blog. It's been trivial, yes, but, bizarrely, it's been a joy in the idiosyncratic way blogs written by ordinary people and ostensibly devoted to suffixes are a joy.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

2010 Finalists

Ah, the triviality of this blog. I wonder if I shall miss it. I believe it's time to type toward something with a bit more ballast.

Meanwhile, I must say that taken in context the words pineappley and Band-Aidy are more appealing than they would be all alone.

Showoffy, clowdy, and dropsy are perhaps better as stand-alone words--especially clowdy.


From the recipe for Electuary of 'Ud Qimâri, from An Anonymous Andalusian Cookbook of the 13th Century, translated* by Charles Perry and at the URL

Its benefits: it strengthens the heart and lightens the spirit, digests foods, lightens the body gently, strengthens the liver, dissolves phlegm in various parts of the body, and aids in dropsy.

[* Apparently the "original project was to retranslate into English Ambrosio Huici-Miranda's Spanish translation of the Arabic original of the Manuscrito anónimo".]

In my old Winston dictionary, the next word (N+1 players would care) is droshky, a light four-wheeled carriage used in Russia. Not nearly as entertaining as dropsy.

Please note that the word of this post is not electuary.


From the boldface names-studded article "The Forbes 2010 All-Star Eateries" in the December 20, 2010 issue of Forbes, a magazine I haven't picked up in many, many years, and which has an interesting profile of Mr. Wikileaks, among other good pieces:

With its exquisite, hip-vibe decor [sic] and its opulent and baroque architecture, Gilt is a gilty pleasure, a memorable fine-dining experience.

Somehow, somebody neglected to mention that Gilt is located within what's left of the old (Renaissance Revival-style) Villard Houses on Madison Avenue--part of the Palace Hotel. The private dining room seems nice enough, although: were the chairs (at least in photographs) delivered to the wrong dining room?

What is there to say about gilty except What was wrong with the delete key?

Friday, December 24, 2010


From an unbylined New York Mirror article about the anticipated demolition of Carnegie Hall:

HOWEVER, ITS principal tenant, the N.Y. Philharmonic-Sympohny Society, has four months in which to buy the building from the new purchaser, the Glickman Corp., which promised the society all the profits made on the present transaction.

Of all the typographical errors I've passed this year, this one is the sweetest.

At times I've wondered if newspaper editors these days deliberately retain typos in order to draw attention to a sentence or its topic.

I read the Mirror article tonight in the history room at Carnegie Hall. It was among other clippings and was hand-dated 7/25/56. Just before I read it, I was surprised to discover that the three noted "intermission is over" sequence is actually played by a man (tonight anyway) walking around with a xylophone.

Repeat: with a xylophone.

Good thing the Music Hall was not demolished. Apparently the Kaplan Rehearsal Space is slated to be demolished, but I have not confirmed that. My fact-checkers are on holiday.

Goodnight (good morning?) to all five of my readers. I hope one of you is wearing the soft sleeping hat I so covet.

Thursday, December 23, 2010


During a conversation about church wedding music, I learned that voluntary is also a noun.

Sunday, December 19, 2010


A word with more meanings than one would guess. From a friend's email note this evening:

You know how sappy I am.

Saturday, December 18, 2010


This has nothing to do with LASER (Light Amplification by the Stimulated Emission of Radiation), nor a concerto by a composer whose work I like, nor the word flerd.

From the online OED (the new website of which, despite its many charms, places the word scroll list on the right and in a smaller, less legible form that includes a somewhat bouncy and rather irritating automatic scroll function; the previous site's colors and text bits were more pleasing to the peepers--not as many trips to the online OED for me this coming year):

Flerry: to split slate.

1865 J. T. F. Turner Familiar Descr. Old Delabole Slate Quarries 13 The better the quality of the slate, the easier will it flerry, and also cleave.

2010 Semi-Finalists

Words posted from now until the end of the year also will be in the running.

The semi-finalists are:


Thursday, December 16, 2010


From Barovier & Toso's list of glassmaking terms, this as part of the description of "a torcélo, a torséllo".

Using the tongs called BORSELLE DA PISSEGAR, the glass is wound around the punty and mixed together to obtain a homogeneous colouring.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


Nothing much to do with Phong Bui.

From Leslie Allen's short piece "Drifting in Static", in the January 2011 issue (print and online) of National Geographic:

The ten listening buoys now bobbing in Massachusetts Bay could actually help the animals.

Which speakers who come to English as a second language have the easiest or most difficult time with this word? What's it like for somebody who has spent a childhood deep in French or Catalan or Malayalam?

As for Allen's piece, it is interesting to think about how sea creatures fared when all the ships had sails. I wonder if Melville ever thought about the effects of man-made sounds.


Not what Lisa Loopner called Todd when she was trying to be flirty but a concoction served last night at Landmark West!'s 25th anniversary party, at the Kaplan Penthouse at Lincoln Center.

It was toddy weather yesterday and is toddy weather again today.

After many sips of the aforementioned beverage, I slipped into the many windowed party room to listen to hear what honoree Tom Wolfe had to say about the state of the city. With a nimbus of snowy gray hair about his head, the author spoke briefly about Mayor Bloomberg.

Mr. Wolfe said that he and his wife like the mayor. He also said, "I don't think he's ever met a developer whose mattress he didn't like."

In his finale, before the benediction, the author said, "Landmark West is saving this city."

Mr. Wolfe said nothing about minor modifications and major modifications or the LPC's budget or air rights or big box stores or pop-up stores or people who buy everything they can online. He did not compare the Upper East and Upper West Sides, nor did he compare segments of the Upper East Side to Shanghai.

Here's a question: Why is so much of the Upper West Side so pretty? Ask Arlene Simon, the woman who was wearing the béret.

Monday, December 13, 2010


Spoken by a friend tonight at dinner, and sounding to my ears as flemmy.

Note: Soon the year's finalists will be revealed.

Thursday, December 9, 2010


This word is hardly out of the ordinary; however, I was surprised to come across it in my Playbill from West Side Story.

From a note from the "fire commissioner".

Thoughtless persons annoy patrons and endanger the safety of others by lighting matches or smoking in prohibited areas during the performance and intermissions.

True enough, though I must say that after attending the ballet, the theater, the concert, the reading, and the puppet show: I find thoughtless persons endangering/marring/ruining my theatrical experience by lighting their screens during the performance.

I would like to believe that if Gerry Schoenfeld were still around, he would be the chair of a Broadway theaters committee that would set a precedent for the problem (not “issue”) of screen and ring plague.

There would be at least one attorney on this committee who would deem the act of, let's say, a cell phone ringing just after Anita says, "I got a message for your American buddy" to be more than annoying. She would argue that the person whose ringtone played "Never Can Say Goodbye" altered the experience for the entire audience, an audience listening for words and music as spoken and played by the performers.

This attorney would suggest that theater owners take matters into their own hands and fine the offending parties. This attorney would say something like, "We’ve had enough polite announcements. This is no longer about etiquette. 'Please turn off your cell phone and other electronic devices'—it's not working. People think that 'vibrate' means 'off'. People are positive they have turned off their phones and don’t check. People think they're so important they actually answer their phones in the middle of the second act—they actually scroll text messages after the lights have gone down! They behave as if they're watching television in their living rooms. They think little to nothing of the people behind them, nothing of the person on either side.

Somebody needs to take back the theater. The conditions of live performance presupposes a tacit agreement between the performers and audience members and between and among each and every audience member. If a member of the audience violates that agreement, he or she should get a ticket and pay $500, end of story. At worst, we'll make $5,000 a week in fines, and the show will get a cut. We should take this on a pilot run and see if it can be the end of anything goes. And then we can actually enjoy all of Anything Goes."

A supporter would say, "Should we also fine people who eat bags of potato chips and bring water bottles full of ice cubes?"

A skeptic would say, "C'mon, this isn’t the same as lighting matches."

The attorney would say, "Look, does the actor, does the tenor, does the conductor, does the ballerina—do these people perform with their cell phones? Not unless they're playing Osage County."

What would the fire commissioner say?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


Does this make a pair with happy-clappy? Or recall the feelies (not capitalized, not the music group)?

From an interview with John Bradshaw in the article "Those Who Felt Differently," by Ian Jack and Peter Marlow, in the Winter 1997 volume of Granta magazine:

Then the touchy-feely fascists got to work and it began to seem that not to feel unqualified grief was somehow a heresy.

Some time ago I knew a man one of whose parents was a child when the Third Reich was on the rise. The parent's family left Germany before the worst. "How did the family know to leave?" I asked. The man said he didn't know. I wonder if he found out. I wonder how that family closed off one life to begin another.

Friday, December 3, 2010

New Yorky

The thing is, after the attacks on the World Trade Center, the country began to experience what I call the Mid-Westernization of New York. I proposed an article to Harper's with this title. I said the aftermath of the attacks bookended the arrival of the first McDonald's, at the start of the '70s (notes unavailable and surf patience at low tide).

A line from a show Mark Crispin Miller put on about George Bush, "Operation American Freedom", talked about Bush disliking New York because, among other things, it was "too Jewish".

[Note: being Jewish in New York ≠ (let's say) being Jewish in Ohio or even in Montana.]

The Times website does not state that Elaine was New Yorky, but she was; and so she is the absentee host of tonight's word.

“I’ve lived just about the most perfect life,” Ms. Kaufman said in 1998. “I’ve had the best time. If I wanted to do something, I did it. Designers designed my clothes and did my apartment. I had house seats for the theater. I was invited to screenings and book parties. I’ve had fun. What else can you ask in life?”

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


A close runner-up for tonight was vy, from Nora Ephron's latest book, but visual matters prevail.

Today I met a little girl named Eleanor. She was both feisty and subdued, and my guess is that she is going to turn six this year. I don't know what kind of art projects Eleanor's school offers, but I often think how nice it would be if schools taught children color (the way they teach math and English).

As recently as 1897 the Brooklyn Board of Education kept a book called Suggestions for a Course of Instruction in Color for Public Schools, by Louis Prang, Mary Dana Hicks, and John S. Clark. It was published by the Prang Education Company in 1893. Granted, Prang had a commercial interest in encouraging color education. I can live with that.



The colors refer to:

Red Gray or Russet
Orange Gray or Brown
Yellow Gray or Citrine
Green Gray or Olive
Blue Gray or Slate
Violet Gray or Heliotrope

Personally I prefer grey.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


From "Braypins: musical and organological questions", the English translation of "Les harpions – questions organologiques et musicales: quel(s) réglage(s) pour quel usage sur les harpes anciennes aujourd’hui?", by Charles Besnainou and Véronique Musson-Gonneaud. This was a presentation delivered at the fifth Conference on Interdisciplinary Musicology, held last year in Paris.

Then tangent brays are very interesting for the interpretation of music which is now played on the harp, all the more so since the harp is one of the rare medieval instruments which can play down to the Gamma Ut.

It's refreshing to see bray in a context that doesn't feature a donkey.

Tonight on New Sounds, in the middle of the show, before we arrived in Spain, John Schaefer said something like, "the kora is the tinkly harp you heard there."

Were koras plucked in Medieval Africa?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Groovy II


I like kinetic art, so this past week at the Museum of Modern Art, when I saw Zilvinas Kempinas' fan installation by the garden windows, I said, "That's cool."

"Yeah, it's groovy,"

my friend said.

I thought: She's right. Groovy is the better word here. There were two industrial fans air-hooping two loops of magnetic tape (one is 20 feet, the other 26). My friend added it was like watching a fire. I added that it would be nice to have in a large loft.

It's called "Double O".

Apparently the museum's art handlers attend to the set piece, watching for malfunctions (such as when the doors to the sculpture garden are held open just long enough to accidentally demonstrate what happens when the tape hits the fan).

I like to think that the ever-vigilant art handlers indulge in a little treat every now and then, in whatever form. On a recent Monday, they were expecting (because they had ordered and paid for) a special delivery of eight dozen oysters brought down by an oysterman from Charlestown, Rhode Island. No doubt they were anticipating the brine, the gelid yum, the New England East Coastiness of it all.

Unfortunately, something happened (what did happen?) on the way to West 53rd Street: most of the oysters wound up at a gathering on the roof of 1000 Fifth Avenue. As told by The New Yorker in the magazine's November 29 issue, the Met's art handlers happily snacked on sixteen dozen bivalves plucked from pearly shells. Five dozen of those, apparently, were MoMA's intendeds.

Three dozen oysters actually landed at MoMA. After finishing an installation at 9 p.m., the Midtown gang consumed their molluscs in a basement break room known as "the mezzanine". The oysters were declared fantastic. The handlers stanched their indignation with champagne and beer.

That week, apparently, the oyster farmer mailed eight dozen oysters (heavy shipping charges included) to MoMA's handlers. They never arrived.

E-said one art handler, "They are probably right now sitting on a shelf in some postal hub, unclaimed — and stinky."

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


When I was very small, Nanette Fabray was on a television commercial of some sort. I remember her enunciation, the way she pronounced her last name.

Too bad I never saw this when I was young.

Monday, November 22, 2010




Meaning: deep sorrow.

This emotion does not appear in I Can Fly! or "Monsters, Inc."

Sunday, November 21, 2010


When the Times Book Review killed my review of Dog on the Cross several years ago, I was irritated mostly because I found the fictional stories of Pentecostals in Oklahoma enlightening. Perhaps the Times took issue with the absence of the term happy-clappy.

About the same time of Dog on the Cross's publication, Mike Davis told me that Pentecostalism was the fastest growing religion in the world. I wondered if the Landmark Forum--the program whose leaders tell participants "hope is for suckers"--counts as a new religion. Happy-clappy, again, did not surface during that time.

This past week at the Church of St. Ignatius Loyola, happy-clappy came up during a brief conversation about liturgical music. The speaker was expressing her preference for music that is not happy-clappy, and, thus, for the kind of music regularly performed at Ignatius Loyola.

A recent concert there included a U.S. premiere of Canticum Canticorum (Song of Songs), a cantata by Viktor Kalabis composed in 1986. I missed this part of the concert but could still look over the texts, half of which were in Latin.

Maybe in a play, a woman who believes in almost nothing and a man who has all but given up on the unpixelated world joke around with the Song of Songs, reading to each other:

Behold thou art fair, my beloved, and comely.
Our bed is flourishing.

. . .

Stay me up with flowers, compass me about with apples:
because I languish with love.

. . .

Arise, make haste, my love, my dove, my beautiful one, and come.
For winter is now past, the rain is over and gone.

dilectus meus mihi et ego illi qui pascitur inter lilia
donec adspiret dies et inclinentur umbrae
revertere similis esto dilecte mi capreae aut
hinulo cervorum super montes Bether

"Shouldn't it be 'mountains of 'spices'?" the man says.

Thursday, November 18, 2010


One local kickball (kickball/drinking) team here in the city called Saved By the Balls.

In a mutant PG non-drinking movie version, the team is called Saved By the Balls but the movie title is "Saved By the Bells". The story: a heartwarming tale of what happens when a man who is a ball-keeper and master kicker meets a woman who is a bell-ringer at a church on Park Avenue. Starring Charlie Hofheimer and a young Debra Winger. No dogs, no Beaujolais. Lots of balls.


Whose fear is more realized at this moment in time, Huxley's or Orwell's?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


An obsolete form of survey, apparently, from about 200 years before the window tax.

One could think of it as the vey in the expression vey iz mir, but this is not the vey I have in mind. (By the way, some people seem to think that this is what Jewish people say, vey iz mir. I'm afraid I have news for you: Jewish people do not say this as a matter of course, nor do people who consider themselves Jewish necessarily include the word oy in their personal lexicons.)

On another note, today marks the day that this site has registered 1,000 unique visitors.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


I've often passed over this one and neglected to look it up.

From "Some Notes on the Stolberg Library," by Hilmar H. Weber, Ph.D., in Harvard Alumni Bulletin of 27 April 1934:

After negotiations and repeated treaties in the course of several centuries, the Kings of Prussia, as Margaraves of Brandenburg, finally established their suzerainty, but not their sovereignty.

When I lived in Boston, I had reading privileges at Harvard's libraries. Every now and then, I would daydream about the Harvard Libraries Vacation: a two-week pass with reading privileges to every one of the university's libraries, from Loeb to the botany archives.

Some know Harvard as the Stanford of the East.


As for so many people, Harvard Business School figures into my life. Six Degrees of Harvard Business School, right? ("Oh, you know/dated/are related to/had dinner with somebody who attended/teaches at/works at HBS? How about that? Me, too.") What do they teach there? Well, among other things--such as the place to order flowers from when you are completely clueless about such things and have never been to Eli's Flowers--they teach negotiation.

Ah, negotiation.

Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In, that handy little book, states, The purpose of negotiating is to serve your interests. The chance of that happening increases when you communicate them. . . How do you discuss interests constructively without getting locked into rigid positions?

From the section "Invent Options for Mutual Gain": If the first impediment to creative thinking is premature criticism, the second is premature closure. By looking from the outset for the single best answer, you are likely to short-circuit a wiser decision-making process in which you select from a large number of possible answers. [Ed. note: Nice energy metaphor in there.]

Is this considered wonky? Or hooey (because people are mammals)? Do people in the real world really go around considering themselves problem solvers, as opposed to either friends or adversaries? Do people really separate the people from the problem not just once but over and over until it's a new habit? Not on their own, I don't think. Maybe if they learn negotiation skills at HBS.

Sunday, November 14, 2010


From the reprint edition of A Field Guide to the Birds, by Roger Tory Peterson:

Juvenile Swamp Sparrows are buffy below with fine breast-streakings.

A Bird Book on a New Plan is one of the subtitles.

Peterson's book was published in April of 1934, miles of years before "problems" became "issues". I picked it up at Mast Books last night (after the party, the book shop) along with a little book of Cole Porter lyrics. Somebody really knew how to order the songs: "Begin the Beguine" and "Just One of Those Things" are on facing pages.

Thursday, November 11, 2010


Music to read by . . .

From Newspoem's 18 March 1999 Items From Our Catalog (among Hemp Condoms and Rainforest Cigarettes):

Tie-Dyed Cat

The latest in our line of alternative pets. Check out the psychedelic patterns on these groovy kittens.

I arrived at Newspoem via Spineless Books, a subject much on my mind today.

Monday, November 8, 2010


An oak grove.

Cosimo was in the holm oak. The branches spread out--high bridges over the earth. A slight breeze blew; the sun shone. It shone through the leaves, so that we had to shade our eyes with our hands to see Cosimo. From the tree Cosimo looked at the world; everything seen from up there was different, which was fun in itself. The alley took on a new aspect, and so did the flower beds, the hortensias, the camellias, the iron table for coffee in the garden.

Thursday, November 4, 2010


Admittedly, I am that person shower-shouting songs from "A Chorus Line" or "My Aim is True" or some other relic. Sometimes I hum a Howard Fishman song I like, or a song Kurt Andersen featured one day on Studio 360.

This week I visited the eye doctor and wanted to play "Faraway Eyes" while my pupils were dilating. Alas, all I had was "Sweet Virginia", "Tumbling Dice" and "Satisfaction"--not even "Loving Cup", although it was too early in the day for "Loving Cup", and, besides, I couldn't dance in the waiting room.

Partly because I do some work for a professional choral music group (it sings Messiah at Carnegie Hall), I am listening for more and more older music forms.

A couple of days ago I stumbled into the y-laden field of old French music.

So, then, from the title of a work by Guillaume Dufay:

Missa Se la face ay pale

A little different from the sea-captain ay.


Before c. 2000, likely pronounced with an emphasis on the second syllable.

When craving the Pleiades or the Majestic Sombrero Galaxy, there is this.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


Folly is vocab word #71 in a journal from when I was 16 years old. It's defined as "the quality or state of being foolish or deficient in understanding."

I wrote a fair amount about food, clothes, boys, and nail biting, and was prone to quoting from "Fanny and Alexander", songs, and F. Scott Fitzgerald books. There are also the requisite bad poems and short fictional pieces, diagrams, and lists.

Random jotting: It's so dumb to say Jesus/God is everywhere. Does that mean that he is, at this moment, residing within my tube of Neosporin?

On babies: I love their firm little patties of feet and their cute little detachable noses which dribble though the winter....My kid will probably look like a molded roll of charmin.

On riding home from Macy's without underwear: It was like air-skinnydipping. Nudist camps must be fun once you get over the initial shock.

The beginning of an entry composed while my parents were having a horrible fight: I wish I could just walk out the front door like some selfish rebellious kid, but I can't. I wouldn't. Maybe this is why [a friend] likes drugs so much.

The end of that entry: At least I'm not a giraffe.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


From the Shetland Times website, Tuesday, 02 November 2010 at 10:58:


Windy today, with squally showers and some brighter spells. Strong to gale SW’ly winds veering W’ly.

Radioed weather is very useful, of course, and so is Webbed weather, but there's nothing like the weather ear on a newspaper.

Appropos of nothing, I add only that some people like weather systems, some people are weather systems--and, sometimes (not often) people actually like people who are weather systems. Needless to say, they often get caught in sudden storms and are seldom dressed properly.

Monday, November 1, 2010


Asked in 1949 to design a set of playground equipment for Honolulu’s Ala Moana Park System, Isamu Noguchi (he of the Radio Nurse) delivered designs that were never realized. In the October 1940 issue of Architectural Forum (according to Shaina Devorah Larrivee's 2008 Master's Thesis, "Proposed Space: Isamu Noguchi’s Five Playground Designs For New York City"--the photo is also from her Stony Brook thesis, Fig. 7b), Noguchi described the "learning value" of the pieces:

A multiple length swing teaches that the rate of swing is determined by the length of the pendulum not by its weight or width of arc…The spiral slide will develop instinct regarding the bank necessary to overcome the centrifugal force developed by the rate of the slide. The climbing plaything supplies a variety of climbable forms and textures: upright rungs, corrugated post, a series of rings to climb in and out of, a series of beads like oversize fishnet buoys and a rope with a ball on the end.

Personally, I would head straight for the climbing arrangement, but, metaphorically speaking, the swing set brings to mind a passage from Donald Antrim's The Verificationist--you know, with the pancake suppers.

Relationships are like powerful moods that people share. We can go a little mad in our love relationships. Jane and I have always had what I would call a good love, in that it has been possible to go mad, but never too mad; in other words, we do not, when falling in and out of love, fall too far away from, or too profoundly into, the world.

Typographically speaking, Noguchi's and Antrim's words overtly offer nothing furred or furry, yet, the word--especially as a homophone--seems suited, somehow, to swings sets and chemical affinity.

Friday, October 29, 2010


Did I already post this one? I hope not.

A rare word, from Professor Katie LeBesco's post on the ASFS listerv:

Does anyone have any idea when the popular ways of thinking of baking as overly prescribed and uncreative vs. cooking as artful and creative entered the public imaginary?

More, were this word to be posted on Overheard in New York, which venue would have been its most likely auditorium?:

1.) John Barrett Salon
2.) The bar at the Four Seasons
3.) Bathroom at BAM
4.) Regis School library
5.) Elevator at 345 Park Avenue
6.) McCarren Park Pool

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


I bet many people keep a running list of art they'd like to have in their very own dream home of art and music ("DHoAM"). My list includes works by Gonzalo Fonseca and Irving Petlin, among others.

Today I stepped into the Century Club to take a look at Paul Resika's Blue Wave, the postcard of which sits on a desk where I work. The painting is of a lighthouse, a circled sun, and triangles. There is also a prow. I don't know . . . I might like my postcard image more than the actual painting. Maybe the white frame threw things off for me.

Other paintings caught my eye.

Tony Bechara's Self-Portrait turned out to be the first work to add to my DHoAM--although, in truth, I would bestow it upon a friend, ideally for his DHoAM.

Richard Anuszkiewicz's Red Edged Gordian I would keep for myself and likely hang and rehang depending on the season. I like the painting, the title, and, in particular, the absence of a hyphen.

Morton Kaish's New Day I would place over the sofa, immediately.

Louise Peabody's Long Distance Swimmer I I'd probably deliver to Michael's so it could hang out with that painting of the seated man from the back. Kim Somebody is the painter. If I remember correctly.

I was told that there is no Frankenthaler on the walls at the Century Club.

Afterwards I walked over to the Public Library in search of a yellow warbler who's been making news, so said a club member, on invitation-only birder lists. Apparently somebody tried to feed the bird bread, not knowing that one should serve worm, and at some point, the bird dined on a slug taking exercise somewhere between Patience and Virtue.

When I arrived, early afternoon, the little bird was nowhere to be found. "Excuse me," I said to man with a sizable camera. "Are you here to take a picture of the bird?"

He replied, "No, but you're the second person who's asked me."

We laughed and I stood for a moment scanning the lions and the trees, vaguely thrilled to know that the bird had been there at all and also excited to be on such a daffy, pointless treasure hunt merely to make myself happy.

This came after the Century Club.

Pre-Century Club--before the no bird and the mate for the man at Michael's and the Gordian knot I didn't know I was looking for--there was this exhibit on East 53rd Street, at the Arts & Business Council, put on by Studio in a School.

So, then, from the caption on Brooklyn first grader Concheta L.'s collage (mostly paper and raffia, I'd say):

My goat is hery.

Naturally, after smiling at the creative spelling, I thought of the way hedgehog is pronounced in French.

[Note: the hedgehog photo is uncredited because I could not find a credit.]

Monday, October 25, 2010


From a menu for the children's table at a wedding.

No pony.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


From David Quammen's article (Joel Sartore photographer) "Great Migrations", in the November 2010 issue of National Geographic:

They are prolonged movements that carry animals outside familiar habitats; they tend to be linear, not zigzaggy; they involve special behaviors of preparation (such as overfeeding) and arrival; they demand special allocations of energy.

It almost brings to mind Ziggy, who played guitar--not really, though. The word is more attractive hyphenated. I wouldn't have guessed it was a mid-19th century word.

In another magazine the above excerpt might begin: They are prolonged movements that carry animals beyond their comfort zones . . .

Monday, October 18, 2010


From a listing on the Textile Society of America's website:

The Center for Traditional Textiles of Cusco (CTTC) invites you to participate in a tinkuy, or coming together, of weavers and spinners in the Sacred Valley of the Peruvian Highlands near Cusco on November 5-6.

Sunday, October 17, 2010


Apropos of my next blog--it's likely this one will go dark on December 31 (why? because.)--the newest country to visit this site is "Unknown--Satellite provider". I can't say that I'm sanguine being visited by a newest country that is a satellite provider.

Back to the y word.

From Joan Richter's challah class at the JCC, which I completed on Friday:

It should feel like a baby's tushy.

She was referring to the way the dough should feel at a particular point in the process.

The OED has an entry only for tush, and its first citation reads: "1962 Amer. Speech XXXVII. 205 Another bilingual children's diminutive, tushie from Yiddish toches or tuches ‘rump’has appeared in phrases like tushie slide ‘a slide down a slope on one's bottom’, the delights of which a group of Midwestern Jewish children have, I am told, expressed to their Gentile social workers." Tushy makes an appearance in the next citation, viz., "1969 P. ROTH Portnoy's Complaint 47 You'd think I was a twenty-one-year-old girl; you'd think I hadn't wiped your backside and kissed your little tushy for you all those years."

(Remember when so many of us used to read "The Conversion of the Jews" and and Goodbye, Columbus? . . .)

Dear Joan (I almost wanted to write, not exactly the way Herzog wrote),

It was funny having hand in dough and hearing you refer to a baby's tushy. Personally I don't know that I would tell a baby or a young tiny that his or her bottom is called a tushy, but, then, I don't know what I would say until I saw his or her bottom. It might be a behind. It might be a backside or a hiney. Probably definitely wouldn't be a booty. Certainly would not be an ass or an arse. The name could well change given the small being and the situation at hand. I think it's nice people have different names for it.

Meanwhile, your class was delightful, and I am going to go to Broadway Panhandler for that stirrer (unless Zabar's decides to stock it).

All the best,


Apropos of my next blog--it's likely this one will go dark on December 31 (why? because.)--the newest country to visit this site is "Unknown--Satellite provider". I can't say that I'm sanguine being visited by a newest country that is a satellite provider.

Back to the y word.

From Joan Richter's challah class at the JCC, which I completed on Friday:

It should feel like a baby's tushy.

She was referring to the way the dough should feel at a particular point in the process.

The OED has an entry only for tush, and its first citation reads: "1962 Amer. Speech XXXVII. 205 Another bilingual children's diminutive, tushie from Yiddish toches or tuches ‘rump’has appeared in phrases like tushie slide ‘a slide down a slope on one's bottom’, the delights of which a group of Midwestern Jewish children have, I am told, expressed to their Gentile social workers." Tushy makes an appearance in the next citation, viz., "1969 P. ROTH Portnoy's Complaint 47 You'd think I was a twenty-one-year-old girl; you'd think I hadn't wiped your backside and kissed your little tushy for you all those years."

(Remember when so many of us used to read "The Conversion of the Jews" and and Goodbye, Columbus? . . .)

Dear Joan (I almost wanted to write, not exactly the way Herzog wrote),

It was funny having dough in hand and hearing you refer to a baby's tushy. Personally I don't know that I would tell a baby or a young tiny that his or her bottom is called a tushy, but, then, I don't know what I would say until I saw his or her bottom. It might be a behind. It might be a backside or a hiney. Probably definitely wouldn't be a booty. Certainly would not be an ass or an arse. The name could well change given the small being and the situation at hand. I think it's nice people have different names for it.

Meanwhile, your class was delightful, and I am going to go to Broadway Panhandler for that stirrer (unless Zabar's decides to stock it).

All the best,

Thursday, October 14, 2010


Meaning: That of which no judgment is passed, or choice made . . .

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


This is not a striking word but I seldom see words on popcorn bags. Okay, I seldom come across popcorn bags.

Popped at a Collectors Night event tonight at the Knitting Factory (Brooklyn), hosted by the one and only City Reliquary, the popcorn could be had in paper bags emboldened in blue and orange (Collegiate School colors?) and reading


, affiliated with the Snappy Popcorn Co. of Breda, Iowa.

Apparently in Breda, the Breda Savings Bank (which does have a 24-hour ATM) is closed on Saturdays, which is nice, but, then again, Breda does not have Carnegie Hall.

Saturday, October 9, 2010


From my friend Steve Cuiffo's email, in response to my e-telling him how exciting it is that he'll be performing his "Lenny Bruce at Carnegie Hall", viz.,

EM: Very exciting! It's nice you're so obsessed.
SC: Totallly!

He's even correspondentially obsessed. Note how the y throws the triplicity of the ls into greater relief.

I haven't seen Steve channel Lenny Bruce since 2008. He told me then that he wanted to take Lenny to college campuses.

Maybe there will be one person at the end of the show who does not immediately turn to the mobile phone but walks away, self-possessed, maybe conversing or maybe silent, maybe letting something settle down or bubble up, the way people did before decamping the veldt for the telecommunication industry's unstrung maze. (Personally speaking, I prefer a phone booth to be a few feet square--not the size of the planet.)

If Bruce were alive today, would he even own a mobile phone? Would he deploy it as a microphone and do ambulatory street shows? What will Steve channel when the ringtone in Box 25 begins to play "I Made It Through the Rain"?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


(Obviously) meaning schoolmarmy/schoolmarmish, it rhymes with screechy, not beachy.

Thursday, September 30, 2010


From the Fall 2010 issue of National Design Journal:

TM [Ted Muehling]: I was introduced to the Rath family, owners of Lobmeyr, through the Nymphenburg Porcelain Manufactory.

You see, even if the manufactory produces supersonic jets, the y puts a wide-eyed Seussian spin on the word. ("Do you make ergonomic lollipops and whistling sweets?" "No, we make giant polluting things that Charles Lindbergh would not like.")

Back to the Design Journal, only to add that the Cooper-Hewitt was my first museum love. I discovered it sometime in my early 20s. My Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler-style fantasy of an overnight stay at a museum immediately transferred from the Met to the Cooper-Hewitt. I really liked the conservatory (almost as much as I liked the kitchen at Hyde Park--although, I must say, now having seen Amanda Hesser and Tad Friend's kitchen in that video on Food52 . . . ). The Cooper-Hewitt also made me daydream of designing my own library and my own bathroom.

Probably high time for a visit.

Monday, September 27, 2010


Plainly this is not a word ending in the letter y, but, it stopped me in my tracks because I felt that within it was a y word trying to get out. Somehow (whoever's teaching that upcoming class at Poet's House could explain this, no doubt) it has all the behavioral signs of a y word. Something about the double l.

I cannot explain it.

So, then: From Alex Ross's piece about John Cage, "Searching for Silence," in the October 4, 2010 issue of The New Yorker:

At the Armory, for a piece titled "Variations VII," Cage and his collaborators manipulated two long tablefuls of devices and dialled up sonic feeds from locations around the city, including the kitchen of Lüchow's Restaurant, the Times printing presses, the aviary at the Zoo, a dog pound, a Con Ed plant, a Sanitation Department depot, and Terry Riley's turtle tank.

I have no idea who Terry Riley is but wonder for a moment if he or she was friends with Billy Name (yes: this piece, with its pre-Facebook microclimate, brings on such questions).

(Am I glad I went to that Varèse concert in July . . . .)

Thursday, September 23, 2010


A friend described a small hotel in town as


but I heard-saw it as having eaux and pincushion softness, which brought to mind


and along with it the marble quiet of an art gallery I visited one afternoon many, many years ago in Rome. Everybody else was tromping from one famous site to the next. I had no interest whatsoever in seeing the Colosseum. It was a lot of rocks.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


Few Americans use this word, no?

Tonight I spoke with a man in (so he said) Canada. He did not mention anything about its boreal forest or its songbirds.

The man was helping me to purchase a new mobile telephone. Somewhere along the way, he dropped the phrase

expiry date

. I was sorry an iPhone does not come with the plan I purchased. However, my phone-to-be happens to have an SAR rating that surpasses the iPhone's by a mile. I figure if I run across a child who wants to use my phone, I can hand it over and worry not.

Meanwhile, the harvest (or singing) moon is almost upon us. About 24 more hours and then: amplitude. At the risk of sounding Verlyn Klinkenborgian, I wonder: When the autumnal equinox kisses the world hello, what expires upon its lips?

(In the morning, how will I feel about this last sentence? My guess: wretchedly.)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


As defined in Paul McFedries' blog Word Spy:

(fuh.sawd.EK.tuh.mee) n. The removal of the facade of a building to use as the front of a new or reconstructed building. Also: facade-ectomy.

Neither popsical nor Manilow Method ended in y.

Sunday, September 19, 2010


From "John Aubrey and the roots of the Royal Society", a review by Ruth Scurr in the September 1 issue of the TLS (the illustration of a chambered nautilus drew me in):

His original contributions include a drawing of the “Clowdy Starr” he observed in 1668 between Cancer and Hydra, papers on springs and winds, and experiments on Wiltshire water and clay.

A pleasing cl word (clew is another).

Thursday, September 16, 2010


Just add an i and a t, and voilà: otiatry.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


Not from the OED but "The Summer Man", Sunday night's episode of "Mad Men".

Stan: Peggy Olson, pioneering the science of wet blanketry.

This coinage shows off Stan's way with words and his relatively restrained demeanor, or what passes for it at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. Maybe in a future episode he'll discover the concept of Vagina dentata. Then he can draw a picture.

Meanwhile, does Joan's proto-feminism qualify as misogyny?

Housekeeping matters:
1. I'm skeptical that Peggy's family owned a television when she was a child ("The Suitcase").
2. The exterior shot of the street outside the Barbizon Hotel is all wrong ("The Summer Man").
3. The (I'm guessing) melamine mixing bowl Francine nests inside the Pyrex one looks fake. Is that rim really an early-1960s one? And those specks look very large. ("The Summer Man")
4. Swimmers at the New York Athletic Club are more likely than not to be executing flip turns ("The Summer Man").

Monday, September 13, 2010


Supposedly юродивый in Russian, and explained (in an excerpt from Ernst G. Benkert's 623 Titles Without Paintings, printed on a postcard offered at the Proteotypes table at the Brooklyn Book Fair yesterday--I was one of the people handing it out) by Solomon Volkov:

There is no word in any other language that can precisely convey the meaning of the Russian word yurodivy, . . . . .The yurodivy has the gift to see and hear what others know nothing about.

I don't know if David the Dendrite, who apparently took up residence in an almond tree, qualifies as a yurodivy, as he was Greek.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


An obsolete word whose second meaning is:

A love-token, keepsake, gift, present.

I don't know how Sir William Drury's family happened into the word.

Monday, August 30, 2010


Rhymes with apiary.

In a sentence: "Is that a shortcoming lodged in your medullary substance, or is it simply a long-time bad habit formed along a well-trampled neural pathway?"

Saturday, August 28, 2010


I could note typos from page 1 of Our Town ("Brearly") or from page 3 of The Jewish Week ("Sympnony Space"), because they are endearing. But last night I saw "Groundhog Day" for the first time in a long time, and discovered that Harold Ramis (or whoever wrote this line) is a man after my own heart.

Rita: . . . and he'll change poopy diapers.

Phil: Does he have to use the word poopy? [raises his eyebrows]

N.B. Murray places emphasis on the word word, not the word poopy.

::UPDATE/CORRECTION:: Murray emphasizes poopy (mainly poop) more than the word word.

Thursday, August 26, 2010


Sometimes I think about the open outcry system. I've no idea if it was a visit many years ago to the Chicago Merc or seeing the movie "Trading Places" or what, but it's a good show. For non-spectators, for traders, well: I suppose you'd have to ask them.

"Trading Places" is probably the easiest way people can receive an impression of the theatricality of the open outcry system. It does seem that it could be the basis of a hyper-geeky Wii game, complete with bonus tracks of interviews with researchers discussing the temporal expressivity parameter of some gestures and the speed expressivity parameter of others (and just bypassing motion vectors altogether).

The CME has a little illustrated guide to hand signals, via PBS's site. Here's the page with the expiration months.

Some signals remind me of letters of the ASL Manual Alphabet.

Back to the y.

Recently, after the subject of hand signals came up in conversation, I revisited a site I'd discovered in July,, created by an independent trader at the CME named Ryan Carlson. Carlson's site has photographs of him wearing his red trading jacket and using the various signals. This time, after noticing his badge acronym


I sent him an e-mail. Carlson e-said he chose PNOY because it's "short for pinoy which just means Filipino because my mom is from the Philippines."

I hadn't heard or read the word Pinoy until yesterday, but apparently it is one of those controversial words that some consider a pejorative and others affectionate or ironic or neutral--a rather connotative word.

:: Update :: A Filipino friend writes: "Pinoy is not really controversial. It’s the word for “Filipino-American” or even “Filipino” in Tagalog, the national language. I can’t say that there’s a situation where I’d ever call myself pinay, but I also don’t speak the language. I’m sure it can be used in a derogatory way, but that would really depend on the tone. For example, if someone said to me, “Hoy, pinoy!”, meaning “Hey, Filipino!” in Tagalog, then yes, I’d take offense."

Carlson e-said that "most people would read it as PONY and jokingly call me that."

When I finally noticed it, I thought, What is that? Now I look at it and think, It would really be something if it were spelled PNIN.

Carlson e-said that he wears the jacket only when he goes down to the trading floor, adding, "If I wanted to, I could still trade in the pit as a member, but once the market started to go electronic I've preferred to trade via computer."


At St. Mark's Bookshop tonight (where I discovered Hamster Man), I read in a book of poems by Eileen Myles the line

Wickety morning

It's from a poem titled "The Sky."

I don't know that I've seen or heard the word before.

St. Mark's had a book of "Oulipoems" in its poetry section. One was a two-liner about an opera singer (performer of some kind), something like

Eggs hit

Friday, August 20, 2010


Scouse for electricity.


From J. Kenji Lopez-Alt's recipe for Creamy Gazpacho Andaluz, in the July & August issue of Cook's Illustrated (I've also liked the magazine's podcasts, especially the one for no-knead bread).

Cook's Illustrated
is proof that the subscription model can and does work.

(Meanwhile: Is anyone besides me tired of seeing the word garlicky?)


Compare to tomatoey. Which is more childlike?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


A message I received recently:

I left the thingy for you in the thingy.

Before I say something about this, however, I would just like to list the ingredients of a popular snack food recently left within my reach (with apologies to Sally Fallon):

Enriched flour (I leave out all the sub-ingredients)
palm oil [read: orangutan habitat]
soybean oil
defatted soy flour
rye flour
egg yolk
mono- and diglycerides
milk protein concentrate
sodium propionate
guar gum
sodium stearoyl lactylate
polysorbate 60
natural and artificial flavor

Glaze ingredients
syrup solids
palm oil
soy lecithin [from what I know, made by soaking soy in hexane, a neurotoxic substance produced as a byproduct of gasoline refining]
calcium carbonate
calcium sulfate
locust bean gum
sodium hexametaphosphate
titanium dioxide [supposedly in all white food coloring]

What has Granny's Kitchens (aptly situated on a street named Industrial Park Drive) created with this list? A doughnut-like . . . thingy.

It's difficult to hear or see the word thingy without thinking of Deborah Garrison's book of poems A Working Girl Can't Win. Years ago I reviewed it. In her poem "Superior", she capitalizes the word.

Listening to a superior talk about "the Big Picture",

She agreed, she agreed, she seconded his thesis,
and with each murmured yes her certainty mounted:
she would never be one of them--a Director, a Manager,
an Executive Thingy. She didn't have the ambition

Garrison's Thingy is distantly related to my personal message thingy. Both are buoyant. Hers of course comes with a tiny lance.

Sunday, August 15, 2010


From Jan Whitaker's post "Building a tea room empire" on her blog Restaurant-ing Through History:

So, while “empire” may be a bit grandiose, it’s hard not be impressed by the tea rooms enterprise Ida Frese and her cousin, Ada Mae Luckey, built in New York City in the early 20th century.

When real luck does descend, I think it feels the way the word Luckey looks: both hokey and plump, as if real luck always has a e in between the k and the y--ignore the key.

The point is: Full-grown luck does not skimp on letters.

Ms. Luckey contributed to the rise of what--along with prune danishes, sour milk, lime rickeys (alcoholic and non-) and great takeout Chinese food--used to be easy enough to find on Manhattan Island.

I never ate at one of her tea rooms, but my first job was working the reception desk at a publishing house on lower Park Avenue. It published The Guinness Book of World Records. Several times a week I'd hear somebody surrounded by a small group of people say-shouting something like, "We're calling long distance from Georgia and we have the biggest tomato on Earth!" Then I would tell them how to go about validating their tomato.

Towards the end of that summer, I discovered Mary Elizabeth's tea room. I liked its tuna salad and its iced tea, which came with a mint sprig. I would sit at the counter and notice women who wore drip-dry polyester dresses and carried sensible pocketbooks. They reminded me a little of the grandmother of mine who wore hats (and hat pins) and dusted herself with talcum powder. She also abhorred refined sugar; with her it was honey or nothing.

To me, Mary Elizabeth's was a bustling, no-nonsense kind of vast meal-providing oasis, industrious and leisurely at the same time. Working nearby was the best fringe benefit of the job.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


How many people believe this should be pronounced the one way would say psychopanicky?

Wednesday, August 4, 2010


People will notice that the above word ends in v. This is because somebody put masking tape over the descender of the y in the sign on the BQ platform at the Dekalb Avenue stop (and imagine the words in Helvetica):

Brighton Beach &
Conev Island
via Local

Readers of the material city could read a lot into the missing descender, given the coming makeover of Coney Island. I know some who will miss the freaky circus shows. When I wrote about food for Metro, I went out to see about the hot dogs in the little ballpark. Don't remember the food but it was appealingly weird to see a ball game with the sea in the distance. I didn't ride the Cyclone that time. Once (years ago) was enough. Comparing Space Mountain and the Cyclone (on the National Register of Historic Places) is a comparison worth making.

Childs is going to reopen on the Boardwalk. Should be interesting to see how that works out.

I think it would be just as well to figure out how to make the Parachute Jump work again. That's a ride I would take.

Saturday, July 31, 2010


From a June 11, 2010 posting by Terry Castle in the Forum for PEN America 12: Correspondences, on PEN's website, in response to the following:

1 Write the first paragraph of a letter you’d like to send either to another writer, living or dead, or to a fictional character.


2 Describe your experience with the new technology of correspondence: Twitter, e-mail, Facebook, etc.

The end of the Castle posting reads: Whereas, my sweetest doily, I am terse forever.

Doily is such a darling word, eye-wise especially.

My favorite sentences from farther up in the post include

Infarction it: you have only to endow your head, or cock a snood at me, and I will pull off all your pretty crinklings and creosote, remove your glittering earwigs, and radish you on the spot.

I must say: radishing on the spot! Then there's

Yes, librarians everywhere are coming out of the quonset. It’s a hut!

(slantwise Canadian, there), and

So let me bisque in your charms.

I post all this at the end of a week during which I am considering closing down my Facebook account. On a related note, reading over a journal entry from years ago, I passed a short conversation I had with a man who tried out a cell phone while walking on the street. He said he realized that he had missed everything but everything occurring over the course of four blocks. He told me he was not going to be buying a cell phone. I wonder if he has one now.

Sometimes I also wonder if there are any otherwise regular parents in the city who do not have and use cell phones deliberately (as parents) and whose children also don't have and use them.

I half-expect technology to figure heavily in the next Austen parody, something like Mansfield Cell-Phone-Tower Park.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


This is not such an interesting word, granted. The Times recently ran a run-down of the language used in "Mad Men," how authentic it is or not. For example, in one episode--would I could remember it at the moment--Peggy uses the phrase "I'm in a good place right now," a misplaced expression. How this got on-air I'll never know. One of the best expressions (which isn't really an expression expression) is "I am sorry about that," which Roger says to Don after he lets slip about Henry Francis.

In the meantime, there is the new season. The premiere opened with a line so silly, I thought I was watching the wrong program.

Slate and the Wall Street Journal (sorry, but bring on the pillows for the Journal) have been commenting on the premiere. There was a little something about the slapping prostitute but nothing that nips at Don's self-loathing. Somebody mentioned that Don has no self; that's not so. Go back to his conversations with Anna, for starters.

But I digress. The word is grabby, from Roger's comment to Don: "Jane's friend found you to be charming, although a little grabby in the car."

John Slattery delivers the line in a way that makes grabby sound, well, grabby.

Please note: If the woman is Jane's friend, it's hardly likely she would be surprised.

At the Brooklyn Flea this weekend, I was thumbing through cards of Manhattan cafeterias (personally I miss Mary Elizabeth Tea Room) and wondering when Mr Weiner's crew was going to get around to using one for a set. Some nice bentwood chairs to be shown off.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


From John Comloquoy's photograph titled "Canada."

His caption: An old croft house on the lower slopes of Greeny Hill.

I like the idea of Canada where Canada is not.


From Nigel Slater's June 6, 2010 column originally published in The Observer (on Sunday) magazine:

I made a little rabbit dish this weekend, wild British bunny from the supermarket cut into neat portions, its pale, lean meat browned lightly in hot butter then cooked slowly with tarragon, as you might a young chicken.

It seems to me that the phrase "wild British bunny" could be pressed into service any number of ways. I think John Lithgow would put a good spin on it, with the right line.

Meanwhile, the Brits (and, apparently, Catalans) are much more comfortable eating rabbit than are Americans. What kind of supermarket, though, is Slater talking about--a Tesco or a shop like David Lidgate's? (Although . . . Lidgate puts rabbit and hare season at August to March.)

Post-post note: I think I wrote about bunny in the past, wondering about the origin of the word.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


You don't know who Pietro Yantorny is? Neither did I, until 5 o'clock this afternoon at the Metropolitan Museum's "American Woman" exhibit. He is an Italian shoemaker (b. 1874; d. 1936), and he made some shoes that looked straight out of the court of Louis the Sun King. At least, that's what the shoes displayed at this exhibit reminded me of.

Essentially a costume exhibit about the world of the American woman as described by Condé Nast, the idea is to show off beautiful dresses, skirts, capes, blouses, and shoes (and, okay, tables and lamps) as worn and arranged by the people Veblen wrote about. We know these people well.

Yet: I spot so very few Italian words ending in y that I had to take this one down. It was close enough, an Italian instead of Italian. Among fashion people Yantorny is well known. The Bata Shoe Museum featured him in its shoe of the month podcast last May.

The Met had placed a muster of his creations in a viewing box near the entryway of its Bohemian Room ("Afternoon of a Faun" was playing, and the walls bore a Tiffany motif). The shoes, filled with wooden trees, were sitting pretty on wheat-gold velvet in a case that might have gone on to a second life as a home for a silver service. It's really too bad that shoe trees are so rare these days. They are handy.

The shoes themselves were made of "silk satin, silk velvet, cream Venetian gros-point lace, metallic sequins, and glass beads." Cream Venetian gros-point lace? What is that, exactly?

It's difficult in an era when flip-flops are considered shoes--and fashionable shoes at that--to walk through the exhibit and not become just a bit wistful. American women have so little left of what might be termed Kimono Culture. True, it's nice to pull on jeans and a t-shirt and slouch across the city, but there is also something worthwhile, I think, in devoting time and attention to assemble and layer and juxtapose in order to create something fine. We can't all be Garanimals. We can't all be Lady Gaga. I like putting on a cocktail dress every once in a while. (I watch "Mad Men" to see people wearing actual clothing on any given day. "The Light in the Piazza" was satisfying this way, as well.)

For dress-dreaming purposes, the exhibit had some excellent candidates. There were two Charles James dresses that appealed to my penchant for gathers, fluting, pleats, and ruching. There was also two Madame Grès (née Germaine Emilie Krebs) gowns along these lines.

The dress I had trouble stepping away from seemed appropriate for a night on Gramercy Park c. 1910, or a celebratory feast in a deep green forest in Russia or Sweden--possibly Germany. Musicians, oysters, a long table, and a bowl of punch would figure in somehow.

When looking at dresses, I imagine most women (and some men) tend to try them on. Oh, I could wear that. I'd like to wear that. I would wear that. (A woman looking at the Yantorny shoes said this last.)

The feast dress was so pretty, though, it seemed to me that one doesn't put it on or wear it. At the risk of sounding like a Patek Philippe ad, I would say that the dress calls for a word like array or bedeck. It's the kind of dress Lady Godiva wore invisibly as she rode.

Friday, July 16, 2010


Looks like a suffix, but in regional speech it means seaweedy.

I came across it while rummaging around in a site and finding out about the marteloio.

Thursday, July 15, 2010


From an excerpt of Patrick Leigh Fermor's A Time of Gifts in an old Knopf guide to Vienna (Fermor dilating upon the Turkish influence):

There were quivers and arrows and quarrels and bow-cases and tartar bows; scimitars, khanjars, yataghans, lances, bucklers, drums; helmets damascened and spiked and fitted with arrowy nasal-pieces; the turbans of janissaries, a pasha's tent, cannon and flags and horsetail banners with their bright brass crescents.

The guide says that Fermor "journeyed on foot to Constantinople from the Hook of Holland in 1993 and passed through Vienna on the way."

I know nothing about Fermor. Did he wear out his knee cartilage the way Thesiger did? Note: I know little about Thesiger, but he is entrancing.

Of course, the unknown has dropped off the face of the world map since his death. At this point, I would think that the best travel "destinations" are ones where there is no cell-phone service, no television, and no surveillance cameras. I imagine that people visiting such places would relax--truly, interiorly (word?)--exponentially more than they would by going to places wired and screened to the hilt. Maybe one day a nature preserve will be just this--plus some trees, flora, and shubbery, and small creatures.

Monday, July 12, 2010


From "A watershed moment," by Gaynor Aaltonen, in the July 10/July 11 2010 issue of the Financial Times:

Legends seep through the area and one maintains that Kerr's house stands on ley lines and therefore has the "right energy"

The article is about a man who has installed a personal power plant at his family home in Alhampton (in Somerset) using the technology of the Archimedes screw. Apparently the British government's Environment Agency calls the screws "pescalators", because they are "fish-friendly". I wonder how, exactly.

I don't know that I would set ley near key.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010


A funny old spelling of the word mighty.

What it might mean if it didn't mean mighty:

A.) The kind of smudge one of those grime bugs makes when you kill it on your arm
B.) Common phlegm
C.) A nonsense word having to do with the way a knish is eaten

Friday, July 2, 2010


From the post One Year Gone, on Rebecca Moore's blog What would the Wertis say?

The dark bathrooms stank of Dettol disinfectant, an unkind, Band-Aidy (Elastoplast) smell.

It's just a charming, ponytail swing of a y word.

Rebecca also happens to be the author of a passage I copied into the front of my 2009 datebook (the passage is from a short story she published some time ago):

We must be in Mercury retrograde, I thought. It was an astrological condition my Mom's boyfriend, Wayne, told me about, a reversal of luck, good or bad. Wayne explained it like you're on a train and when another train is passing, going in the same direction, it looks like it's going backward. He says Mercury retrograde is a time when it's impossible to judge distances. If you know when it's going to happen, you can get yourself in the right mindframe and it doesn't totally screw you up. That's how, when the trains start sliding backward, you know which way they're really going.

A fine passage, I say.

Even if I hadn't copied down that passage, I wouldn't have forgotten Rebecca. Many years ago, when I was living in my first Brooklyn apartment and having a ball teaching small, very bright, and sophisticated children, she came to a birthday party of mine bearing those bright-colored candy "fruit" slices. Nobody had ever given me those fruit slices before, and, somehow, it seemed a very Rebecca thing to do.

Monday, June 28, 2010


From the book The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains, by Nicholas Carr. The reader is describing the experience of reading, for a directed study, Elizabeth Bowen's short story "The Demon Lover" not in "a traditional linear-text format" but in "a version with links, as you'd find on a Web page" (unfortunately, Carr does not indicate whether those reading the story in the un-linked format did so while looking at a screen):

One hypertext reader complained, "The story was very jumpy." Continuing: "I don't know if that was caused by the hypertext, but I made choices and all of a sudden it wasn't flowing properly, it just kind of jumped to a new idea I didn't really follow."

What's nice here is that jumpy sounds the way it means. I can't quite tell what the reader of the linked "Demon Lover" was reading but of course if one clicks in and out, leap-linking within a traditionally conceived story, the experience does become a jumpy affair.

It also makes me recall how in the very late '80s or early '90s, I clicked around in a hypertext version of Ulysses for a company then testing a beta version of sorts. It was interesting but it wasn't attractive. I imagine my undermind was thinking something along the lines of "Yes, some of these links are interesting for a minute--or maybe five," but, ultimately, they're not as interesting as my own "links," my own accretive annotations and marginalia. Why would I want to follow a path I didn't create? That would be like watching a television program simply because it was on and not because I actually wanted to see it.

Somewhere in the Netosphere there are contemporary stories with links that perform particular narrative functions. For two old-media examples, the marginalia in Marianne Wiggins' novel John Dollar and the footnotes--most deftly ff. 4--in David Foster Wallace's story "The Depressed Person," gloss those texts in ways that hyperlinks should gloss current or future ones. The online narrative and its electronic medium should relate symbiotically.

Carr's book, which has only a few drawbacks, raises a number of interesting points.

One is the general idea of the Great Reading Divide and which group will wind up being the ruling "class." Will those who develop and nurture a capacity to think deeply and contemplate and ruminate--and remember--will they coagulate into a tiny coterie practicing a quaint, outmoded, and supposedly useless activity? Will power go to the scanners, the skimmers, the clickety-clickers?

Another: the value of "spending time in a quiet rural setting, close to nature." Carr states (in his characteristically sweeping fashion) that when people do this, "[t]heir brains become both calmer and sharper. The reason, according to attention restoration therapy, or ART, is that when people aren't being bombarded by external stimuli, their brains can, in effect, relax. They no longer have to tax their working memories by processing a stream of bottom-up distractions. The resulting state of contemplativeness strengthens their ability to control their mind." [I think he meant minds.] I believe this is true: Time spent away from one's BlackBerry (iPhone, iPod, television, or computer screen) and in nature actually works, even better than Google. For Homo sapiens, time + nature "deliver" a superior algorithm.

Imagine that AT&T commercial, rewritten: Where does your brain want to go today?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


I wonder how often this word is misused. Can't possibly be as often as comprised.

From the Reuters Style Guide:

Autarchy means absolute power and autarky is self-sufficiency. Use plain words instead to remove the confusion.

(Seemingly related is the word autexousy, which at first glance looks anxious, and means free will.)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


From Allen Ginsburg's "Howl," a poem that's too Whitmanian for my taste, though I can bring myself to admire it. It has that wordmashup thing going, the way Kerouac has in the The Subterraneans.

yacketayakking screaming vomiting whispering facts and memories and
[two-space indentation] anecdotes and eyeball kicks and shocks of hospitals and jails and wars,

An exceptional y word because the end y is a starter y. Also, instead of yackety (as in yackety-yak), Ginsberg gives us the caricatural yacketay.

Friday, June 18, 2010


1697 DRYDEN Virg. Georg. II. 431 The fainty Root can take no steady hold.

I interpret this as: Be stout of heart.


I was looking up qubit and came across quey, which is charming when viewed alongside quay.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


From "Jabberwocky," in Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There:

And, as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!

In Tim Burton's (wonderful, except for the too kewt bit at the end when Alice futterwackes, or however it's spelled) "Alice in Wonderland," the Hatter (is Johnny Depp the Jack Nicholson of our generation?) recites the first two stanzas of the poem (in a Scottish brogue), which is to say, he never gets to tulgey.

Tulgey means "thick, dense and dark." Possibly the author tossed turgid , bulging, bulgy, and ugly into a Mixmaster prototype, but the thing to keep in mind is that the word plays off whiffling.

He also never gets to galumphing, a word my mother has used all my life. My mother, who, it must be said, has made-up words for lots of things, uses galumphing in the later, non-exultant sense.

I was never taken with "Jabberwocky," but, this winter somebody recited it aloud to me and put a meta spin on the whole thing; so delivered as it was I liked the poem much more.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Goky and Gawney

Centuries apart (goky from the 14th century, gawney from the 19th, if the OED is to be reliable), and both meaning "simpleton" or "fool."

Strange words.

("Gimpel the Goky"? Clearly: No.)

Sunday, June 13, 2010


Not appropriate for describing the newspaper, and from the short piece "Fermented Surf for Your Turf," by Patrick di Justo, in Wired 18.06 (June 2010). The piece is about Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce.

The raw stuff stinks like rotting garlic, but when cooked the taste is oniony.

Interesting because of the wispy kite string of an ending. Also, in a way, the word can be read as onioni or onyony.

This issue of Wired , which I was reading on a plane heading to Asia, has an excerpt of Nicholas Carr's book The Shallows, a book I want to read.

Do you remember when every airline installed TV screens? Once they had, the assumption was that everybody would prefer to pull down the window shades; however, I wanted to read by sunlight. I didn't understand why the people who wanted to watch television were to be taken more seriously than those who preferred to not watch television, and I resented being held captive by hundreds of blue screens blinking and distracting me (at least my plane on this trip had privacy screens, which, tilted at the right angle, shielded passengers from one another's viewing choice). I also resented the way there was no escaping giant screens within the airports, a/k/a petri dishes for cultivating screen plague and blabbery.

First came the airports, then elevators (in the first part of the decade, in an elevator, a woman once pointed to a TV screen and turned to me, remarking, "Weapon of mass destruction.")

An English teacher I knew limited her son's exposure to television. She said she didn't realize until it was too late that she should also have been limiting his exposure to computer screens and the Net. I don't know what she meant by "too late," but maybe Mr. Carr's book will give me some idea.

On my trip, a woman told a story about her daughter. The daughter and her boyfriend were heavy texters. Then came a breakup. The daughter was distraught. Her mother suggested she and the boy get together and talk things over. "Talk?" the daughter said. "But that's so awkward!"

Thursday, May 27, 2010


Meaning metamorphosis, viz. 1969 F. E. ROUND Introd. Lower Plants ii. 13 A characteristic of Euglena is the spirally striate pellicle which is pliable and allows the cell to assume a variety of shapes--metaboly--an unfortunate term.

Doesn't strike me as unfortunate (maybe the author thought it evoked roly-poly).

For one thing, via Greek, it's related to metabole, which in music means "A change in tjavascript:void(0)he pitch of a musical note or melody," viz. 1957 New Oxf. Hist. Music I. 373 The writer dubiously named ‘Cleonides’... first defines metabole as change from one tonos or systema or genus to another.


From a comment by one CK posted on the Tablet magazine website, in response to Ron Rosenbaum's May 25th article "Mistaken Identity?", which in part concerns the Lower East Side:

I love stories by and about old-timey Jews. Thanks, this was a fun look at a part of New York that existed before (!!!) CBGBs.

Does old-timey sound right alongside WASPs or Catholics or C of Eers? Not really. This is similar to the example of cockeyed Westport-y. Now: Are old-timey Jews in New York different than old-timey Jews in Hartford, or Buffalo, or New Orleans?

Rosenbaum refers to New York as "a Jewish city." Makes me wonder about commonalities among, say, Christians who like making New York their home. Are their perceptions of Jews or knowledge about Judaism different than those of Christians in "non-Jewish" cities?

For some time, I kept a fiction blog called the W.A.S.H. Chronicles, W.A.S.H. standing for White Anglo-Saxon Hebrew. The Jews in that world, brought up mostly secular, might or might not go to temple on high holy days, and it's likely they attend church (usually Episcopal, Presbyterian, or Quaker meetings) now and then. For the most part they are non-believers in their own faith, secular humanists, yet they are happy enough being members of the tribe and refuse to deactivate.

Rosenbaum's phrase brings to mind:

A recent Overheard in New York-worthy moment. A woman telling friends about women she met either working at or shopping at Bloomingdale's: "They were the Jewish-ist!"

The word JAP.

Last, the "30 Rock" joke:

Liz: Relax, I'm also setting up auditions in Toronto.

Jack: Canada? Why not just go to Iraq? The television audience doesn't want your elitist East Coast alternative intellectual left wing . . .

Liz: Jack, just say Jewish, this is taking forever.

Sunday, May 23, 2010


From Annemarie Colbin's introduction to her book The Book of Whole Meals, quoting Medical World News (apparently then-) editor Hara Marano as quoted in a March 5, 1979 article in New York magazine:

'On the average, we consume twice as much [protein] as the recommended amount, which itself is figured with a plushy excess. . . . The obligatory daily need of the average 154-pound male is actually no more than 23.8 grams of protein--a peanut butter sandwich.'

How about that? Plushy in the context of food and sound health, air-lifted from the world of shelter magazines.

Monday, May 17, 2010


From a recipe on the website Simply Gourmand, debatably funnier in French:

Pinky Cooler (sans alcool)
Sirop de grenadine + Schweppes + jus de pamplemousse

Noticeable, this pinky, because of its association with Tracy (Pinky) and Hepburn (Pinkie).

On a hot day, is a Pinky Cooler preferable to, say, a glass of Moroccan Lemonade (blend: juice of six lemons squozen, handfuls of fresh mint snipped fine, a quarter-to-half cup of good maple syrup, and strain: over ice)?

Thursday, May 13, 2010


This one wound up by mistake in another blog. Re-placed from 2009.

Looking through my Italian dictionary (Cambridge), I wish I knew how a translator would choose (or have chosen--comparisons are nice, such as those side-by-side ones of Rilke in William Gass's book).

shaggy adj. di pelo lungo, ispido, irsuto; incolto, arruffato; peloso, ruvido; incolto, coperto di sterpi; folto, intonso; (bot.) vellutato, peloso.

Difficult to get through this without Koren's cartoons coming to mind.

Monday, May 10, 2010


From a postcard dated December 22, 1990 (15 cent stamp with image of a beach umbrella), written by J.D. Salinger to the artist Michael Mitchell, whose art work appeared on the dust jacket of The Catcher in the Rye (wouldn't it be fun to create art for a dust jacket? I believe it would. the creation would be the easy part and securing approval from "Marketing", the B&N brigade, and the Amazon people, and so forth would be the difficult part):

So many thoughts of old years, this cockeyed Westport-y time.

Jerry Salinger meets Franny Glass? As with so many words, context makes the difference. Without cockeyed, Westport-y would be twee.

On Sunday I read this card in the library (room) of the Morgan Library, a small group behind me speaking in low-toned Spanish arpeggios. It was the final day for viewing the Salinger letters (note to the Morgan: did anybody consider propping them up?), and I wished Mitchell's letters had been on hand to round out the conversation.

At one point, parents with small children entered; the toddler in the stroller went on and on (pre-lingually) about the ceiling. I thought of Morgan and his friends and Salinger and his friends, and wondered how friendships figured for both. Also, what would Salinger and Morgan have to say if they met? How would two men of such different strengths pronounce upon each other?
I imagine Salinger would have something to say about Morgan. Certainly he has much to say about John Wayne (he recommends "The Shootist").

In April 1985, he writes to Mitchell that he's not sure the result of his efforts "is any of my business." Also: "I don't know really that the kind of life I live is tellable in any of the normal ways t hat friends tell each other how things are going." And: "I don't think I've ever had any discernable real talent for being a friend to anyone." (If Henry Darger had been articulate and wordy, perhaps he might have written something similar.)

Do friends sign books for people they call friends? Can a genuine friendship be sustained in epistolary fashion over years and years? Supposedly Mitchell (now dead) sold his Salinger letters to a book dealer out of anger, after Salinger declined to sign a copy of a book ("I don't think I can sign a book anymore. . . . Most stuff that is genuine, anyway, is better left unsaid.")

Clearly Salinger cherished his Westport days with Mitchell and his wife, but so many references to them makes a reader wonder if he loved even more the act of turning the memories over and over. A.S. Byatt's novel Possession speaks eloquently to the guessing games that inevitably come into play when people begin to make literary investigations. As with any piece of reportage, a reader can venture only as far as the printed word.

"The attractive assignment or task alone is what I wanted," Salinger tells Mitchell. I couldn't help noticing how the title almost writes itself: The Attractive Assignment: An Attempted Biography of J.D. Salinger.