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.