Tuesday, April 27, 2010


Not so common to see this participial adjective turned into an adverb, but here it is in Christine Mulke's latest Field Report, "Fresh Direction," in this past Sunday's New York Times Magazine (the April 25th issue):

Today their sustainable farm operates at a befittingly high level, generating enough heritage-breed meat and heirloom vegetables for 300 C.S.A. members and four farmers' markets in the Raleigh-Durham area, as well as the Raleigh restaurant Zely & Ritz, which Holcomb owns with its chef, Sarig Agasi (who is also partner in Eno).

I realize: Arguably not a -y word but an -ly word.

Monday, April 26, 2010


From the BBC's interview with mobile phone creator Martin (Marty) Cooper, last updated on its website on Friday, April 23, 2010.

"The future of cellular telephony is to make people's lives better - the most important way, in my view, will be the opportunity to revolutionise healthcare," he added.

Simply seeing the word telephony brings back the children's poem "Eletelephony":

Once there was an elephant,
Who tried to use the telephant—
No! no! I mean an elephone
Who tried to use the telephone—
(Dear me! I am not certain quite
That even now I've got it right.)
Howe'er it was, he got his trunk
Entangled in the telephunk;
The more he tried to get it free,
The louder buzzed the telephee—
(I fear I'd better drop the song
Of elephop and telephong!)

But then, there is the quotation that follows, in the article: "We could not have predicted the annoyance that people have when the phone rings at the opera, but it doesn't take a cellular phone to make people be rude."

This raises the question: How, then, do cellular phones figure into daily acts of rudeness? (How does the availability of guns figure into daily acts of violence?)

Oprah Winfrey wrote an Op-Ed in yesterday's Times asking people to please switch off their phones while driving, lest they inconveniently run down a teenager biking home, or collide with another car. Distracted drivers, she asserts, are the new drunks on the road.

Duly noted. Are distracting audience members the new drunks in the red velvet seats?

Jason Alexander told a story during a Channel 13 broadcast of the "The Women," about the time he was performing in a play, and, mere feet away, a phone rang. An audience member in the front row took the call. I don't know if this really did happen or not--it seemed farfetched--but I and everybody I know has had at least one night at the theater/ballet/modern dance performance/opera marred (ruined?) by the buzz or the "ring" of the mobile phone. Why the performance-attending public has to put up with this is beyond me. Sure, it makes a funny story. Would the offender like to treat the entire place to a new round of tickets?

The article says it was on a New York street that Mr Cooper stood "and made the first phone call from a prototype cellular phone." Would that Mr Cooper would now invent 1) A cradle-to-cradle plan for manufacturing these little devils, and/or an acceptable way of disposing of them, and 2) A wormhole to the days and nights of ring-free performances in New York.

It doesn't take a cellular phone to make people rude, but it certainly helps things along. Maybe an expanded definition of health care is in order.

Sunday, April 25, 2010


From Scott Hudson's LAByrinth Theater weekend workshop (Hudson wrote a truly good play called Sweet Storm), he said, by way of discussing a scene from the play Proof , that Hal's failure to take the notebook was botchy:

"It's botchy."

Botched (my word) suggests that the gesture is un-charming, whereas botchy finds it endearing.

Of course a University of Chicago math professor who happens to also be a drummer and a runner perhaps receives the benefit of the botchy simply because he is so appealing.

Hal is certainly more likable than Catherine's sister, who either refuses to know Catherine or is incapable (tone-deafness? self-absorption? older-sister condescension complex?) of doing so. Personally I don't trust Hal until the very end of the play, when he wants to discuss Catherine's hip proof.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


From a conversation about Shel Silverstein's poem "The Phizzint," (which first appeared in Playboy magazine), below (lines 3-4 and 6-7 should be indented):

You’ll never know an animal
more considerate of human feelings
than the Soft-Shelled Phizzint.
Someone has mistaken this one
for a pincushion
and he’s too polite to say he isn’t.

Sunday, April 18, 2010


After Charles Boyle, the fourth Earl of Orrery, a word that arose during casual conversation, and which brings to mind houri and possibly the image of an owly bird.

I have a feeling that the city is not lacking in orreries, though a good one (worth the time?) may well be hard to find.

Thursday, April 15, 2010


Not so common any more, this word. It does make me think of the one tattoo in my life I have truly liked: an English alphabet ringing an upper thigh. I thought, Well, if I ever get a tattoo, that's the one I'm getting.

From Tachyon Publications' online catalogue copy for The Kosher Guide to Imaginary Animals, a book that must be for children:

As featured on Boing Boing and Jewcy.com and brought to you by the same creative team that gave you The Thackery T. Lambshead Pocket Guide to Eccentric and Discredited Diseases, this irreverent abecedary is the must-have present for anyone seeking to broaden their imaginary culinary experiences guilt-free.

Is Jewish guilt to be perennially in fashion? I suppose so.

Lest I stray too far from the OED: 1685 COTTON Montaigne I. 606 There is an abecedarian ignorance that precedes knowledge, and a doctoral ignorance that comes after it.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


From the website of the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, one of those nice places that one would like to believe all the digitization in the pixelsphere could not best; excerpting from volume 1 of A catalogue of the Cary Collection of Playing Cards in the Yale University Library by William B. Keller. (New Haven: Yale University Library, 1981). The Cary is Melbert B. Cary, Jr.

While the types imported by Continental Typefounders were, in the main, striking faces meant for advertisement purposes, this did not prevent American printing and publishing houses from using them for books; in fact, Cary's Press of the Woolly Whale permitted him to experiment with paper and with new applications of his imported types in book design.

The Press of the Woolly Whale is a different sort of firm than Woolly Whale Press, no? Yes.

And here are three cards for the evening.

Thursday, April 8, 2010


From Sex-Lexis.com (am I glad I grew up without the Internet? . . . ), defined (second definition) as "In love with someone who does not reciprocate."

Used in a sentence, then: The unbaptized woman spent several years hot and torchy over a Catholic man set on mating with a Catholic woman with whom he would sire Catholic children and live out a Catholic existence on a large patch of questionably secular ground located between Catholic heaven and Catholic hell.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010


From the title of a poem by John Ciardi, "Elegy for a Sweet Sharpy."

Monday, April 5, 2010


Not Quogue-y, but quag + the suffix y (OED: "the one descending from the OE. adj. suffix -i{asg}, which represents under a common form two OTeut. suffixes *-{imacbreve}{asg}a-, -a{asg}a-, still distinguishable in OE. by the presence or absence respectively of mutation of the stem vowel of the n. to which it is added . . .").

Let's see if the old letters came through. My guess is No.

Thursday, April 1, 2010


A new term for me, from a recent conversation about a welcome crackdown on drunk drivers in Southampton, New York. Good news for cyclists who ride in fear of being sideswiped, especially at night.

Now if the City of New York could enlist a small lawyerly bike squad to ride the streets and take note of treacherous potholes and cracks.....


A different view of the perhaps horsy set? From Frederick Seidel's poem "A Gallop to Farewell," from his collection Going Fast:

Flawless leather luxury made for horses out of cows
Is what the horsy cows grazing daily in the Faubourg St-
Honoré store
Want to buy. . . .
[note: "Honoré store" should be indented four spaces]