Thursday, February 25, 2010


From Needlework and Crafts: Every Woman's Book on the Arts of Plain Sewing, Embroidery, Dressmaking, and Home Crafts, by Irene Davison, Agnes M. Miall, and R. K. and M. I. R. Polkinghorne:

But sea-grass has many advantages over rush: (I) It is much tougher and easier to use than rush, as it is already twisted in a two-ply manner.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


From an article titled "Fatal Attraction," by writer Carl Zimmer and photographer Helene Schmitz, in the March 2010 issue of National Geographic:

Carnivory is not the most efficient way for a plant to secure nutrients, but it is certainly among the most exotic.

The plants on this page spread are an Australian pitcher plant (Cephalotus follicularis) and what is labeled a North American hybrid (Sarracenia).

To me, carnivory is closer to caravansary than it is to carnival.

Thursday, February 18, 2010


Some misspellings are endearing.

From "Experimental cure of Esca in the Loire," a July 16, 2009 post by Parisian blogger/photographer Bertrand Celce, on his on

This particular plot is organicly farmed for 18 years now, but previous treatments still take their toll on the subsoil life, as Didier considers that there's a direct link between Monsanto's Roundup for example and the depletement of mycorhize activity on the vine roots.

In another post, he refers to hunters who wear "a bright jacquet and leave their gun behind." Again, charming. Reminds me a little of the time when a Russian woman in the subway asked me if the train went to "The Yankee Station."

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


From a 1991 Catholic Update by Thomas Richstatter, O.F.M., S.T.D., titled "A Tour of a Catholic Church":

Also in this baptismal area of the narthex or vestibule of the church, you will see a niche in the wall or a little chest, the ambry, which contains three vessels of oil: the oil of catechumens which is used to bless and strengthen those preparing for baptism; the oil of the sick with which the priest brings Jesus' strength and healing to those who are joined with the suffering Christ in serious illness; and the sacred chrism which is used in celebrating the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Orders.

According to the OED, the phonetic development went like so: armarium, almarium, almary, almery, aumery, aumry, aumbry.

Outside of a church setting, an ambry is defined (in the OED) as "A repository or place for keeping things; a storehouse, a treasury; a cupboard (either in the recess of a wall or as a separate article of furniture); a safe; a locker, a press."

If "Cristabel" could provide an appropriate citation, it might look like:

Her gentle hair she soaked with tea
Kept safe and dry in the oak ambry.

Unfortunately, Coleridge penned otherwise:

Her gentle limbs did she undress
And lay down in her loveliness.

The next Update in the series, by the way, was to be titled "Catholic-Jewish Relations: 'We've Come a Long Way!'"

Monday, February 15, 2010


From the July 13, 2009, article "Is there Bisphenol A In Your Home Canning?", by Lloyd Alter, on

It's time for the Jarden Company to get rid of the Bisphenol A and to revise their weasely words -- hiding behind the FDA standards won't work any more.

Weasley is one of those words just north of wussy and weenie, and south of, oh, oily--tonally south, not semantically south.

Friday, February 12, 2010


From the friendly neighborhood D'Agostino delivery man this evening, in response to my telling him where to set the bags:

"Surely, surely."

Is it just me, or does hearing this word make anybody else think of the movie "Airplane"? I find it quite difficult not to think of the movie--although I don't then fall into the whole thing, the way Willy Wonka tumbles into his flashbacks in Tim Burton's rendition. I don't end up replaying the red zone and white zone bit (my favorite at the time) or the jive talk subtitles or the generally annoying man's description of a plane as "a big Tylenol."

Very few people use this word these days.

In other news, for every French word or expression I forget, I remember two in Italian. I cannot explain this. Surely somebody else cannot as well.


From Dan Klein's biography blurb on Kasper Hauser's website:

Houston, we have a probletunity.

Thursday, February 11, 2010


A visual lagniappe (a mandolin note) in the recipe for "Composta bona e perfetta" in the Istorio di Phileto Veronese, by Lodovico Corfino.

Se tu voy fare bona composta, toy sumac o uva fassa e anixi, e fenochio, e coriandoly, e trizee e un pocho de senavra, e aceto, e maxena ogni cossa insiema, e mitige zafarano assay; poy toy rave o pere et herbe e pastenaye gentile, e fale bolire un pocho, po' getali quel savore di sovra.

Monday, February 8, 2010


What a pretty word.

From a January 1, 2010 article, "Gundalow Company gets $30K grant," on

The Piscataqua watershed encompasses a 120-square-mile area from York, Maine, in the north, down each riverway and water basin that leads to the Piscataqua coast: York River and Brave Boat Harbor, the Squamscott, Lamprey, and Oyster rivers, the Bellamy, Cocheco and Salmon Falls rivers, Great Bay, Little Bay and the Piscataqua River, to Rye and the Hamptons in the south.

I spent several minutes yesterday and today attempting to say the word Piscataqua (not really close enough to Chappaqua) correctly. If the q were a c--if things were a little more Italian (of course, I'd still be mispronouncing the word, but after an auditory turn with cua, I would take a visual one)--the word would announce itself, but the q makes me want to insert an invisible w before it, and then the whole thing slides into the water. America (New York? I? My unborn children?) could certainly use a little more Italian.

(P.S. Where is the most beautiful wisteria in Italy?)

Friday, February 5, 2010


A good word, if a little on the British side.

From the summary of Pelleas and Melisande in Opera Guyed, by Newman Levy:

The maiden started with a cry,
Exclaiming "Pray don't harm me."
Said Golo "Be my bride, for I
Am also slightly barmy.
I think you'll like my folks. In fact
My whole damned family is cracked.

I have not been to the opera lately. It's comforting to see people stretch out, lay the trench coat, and nap to great music. The first time I fell asleep (well, probably the only time I fell asleep) at the Philharmonic, I was sitting next to the composer. My friend told me that it was a compliment. I think she was being kind.

A few years ago I saw Romeo and Juliet at The Met. Instead of the classic ending, Rome and Jules were both alive (if entombed), and were able to kiss one last time. To me, this was a much sadder ending. When I was younger and catching bouquets at friends' weddings, I often used to marvel at how mating for life meant accepting the possibility that my mate might die first--and then I would have to live in a world without him.

This brings to mind Sarah Ruhl's spin on Orpheus and Eurydice.

Monday, February 1, 2010


Did Morgan Spector really say, "It's a little chafe-y!" when asked (by New York magazine--or by somebody who works somewhere and is in touch with New York magazine) What was it like being forcibly kissed by Liev Schreiber eight performances a week?

I can't say I like the word. Liev Schreiber, yes. The word, no.