Sunday, August 28, 2011


From Anthony Lane's review of "One Day," in the August 29, 2011, issue of The New Yorker:

They have just graduated from the University of Edinburgh; he is the high-born smoothy, dripping with confidence, and she is the scholarly mouse, as indicated by her large round spectacles.

The word applies just a sprinkle, a dusting, of disdain to the man described. Had Mr Lane/his editors rendered the character a smoothie, it's likely too many readers would associate him with the fruit shake, which, of course, would be the wrong connotation.

Below, all wrong.

[photo: Cassie of the blog Veda House, a February posting.]

Saturday, August 27, 2011


Not from Lord of the Flies.

From the website of Jason Shelowitz, which features his Subway Etiquette signs. For contemplation while living through this, New York City's historic pocket of no-subway time:

Don't be a piggy.

Discovered while passing through the site of Jeremiah, possibly still hunkered down in the East Village (as opposed to another location).

Better than "Don't Be a Litterer."

Thursday, August 25, 2011


I'm not in Brooklyn enough to hear whether "blabbity blah" is a common expression.

From the mouth of Brooklyn resident Alex Basek, as quoted in the July 26 New York Observer article "A Twee Grows in Brooklyn":

“There’s Glass Shop, a fancy coffee spot, like single roaster blabbity blah, all the way on Classon Avenue."

It certainly doesn't make me think of Babbitty or even blabber. Possibly blubber. And maybe the verb blab.

Winningly, it has summoned from the depths of memory a phrase I once liked very much, viz., "blather blather."

Blabbity blah has more kick.

Mostly it makes me think about how seldom I hear people say this. Could be that the emphases work out well, though--a little like dickory dock. Blabbity wouldn't be the same if it were flying solo.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


Tonight I was watching the CUNY TV channel. The Aspen Ideas Festival gave way to jellyfish and oceanographers, then Shanghai (city of ever-widening streets, though not on that program).

Who are CUNY's trustees these days?

One of them, Judah Gribetz, graduated (so says the website; I'd feel better if a New Yorker checker could verify) in 1946 from Boys High School of Brooklyn, of all local places. Were I to pass Mr. Gribetz at a philanthropic world, I would be tempted to ask him why Mount Sinai Medical Center (he's a trustee there, too) must erect so tall a building, it will throw a shadow across Central Park (check with Civitas about this.)

Back to the y path.

There is also a CUNY trustee named Wellington Z. Chen, whose bio states:

He is conversant in several languages, including Chinese (Amoy, Cantonese, Mandarin), and Brazilian-Portuguese. [My italics.]

All those children out there learning Chinese have likely heard of Amoy; I had not. Do they watch Amoy dialect films made in Hong Kong in the 1950s?

Meanwhile, in September, CUNY TV (which has quite a few arts shows) will be airing episodes of "Bouillon de Culture."

Saturday, August 20, 2011


NOFA-NY's organic food guide led me to this word.

From Cornell University's College of Agriculture Bulletin of the Agricultural Experiment Station (November, 1888), by entomology professor, Station Council member, and uncommon husband J. H. Comstock:

As this, so far we know, is the first building of its kind, we were forced to coin a word; and have proposed the name Insectary for buildings arranged for keeping or raising living insects.

Thursday, August 11, 2011


From Heraldry, a slender book written by Julian Franklyn, with drawings by Alan Keith-Hill.

I began reading the book in earnest while waiting on line to get into the (small and overrated) Alexander McQueen exhibit. Fittingly, I began the book while standing across the way from a 15th-century statue of Saint Bavo, a Norwegian man carrying a book bag.

The author remarks in his introductory material how appealing the language of heraldry is, how musical. I found this out myself before turning from the back matter to the introductory note where he writes, "each term in its turn is a glittering gem, every sentence a poem. The auditory pleasure of Heraldry is as great as the visual." Indeed reading aloud the Blazon of Illustration portion of the book brings to mind Dylan Thomas and e.e. cummings.

By "visual," Franklyn means the shields; there are also the words themselves.

Argent, a saltire engrailed sable charged with another invected of the field, debruised by an orle azure guttée d'eau: on a chief of the third, three leopards [sic] heads erazed proper.

Gules, a chevron vairy Or and azure, cotised argent, between three roses of the last barbed and seeded proper.

Argent, crusily-fitchy sable . . .

Gyronny of eight ermine and gules . . .

Sable, two bendlets raguly between as many hawks argent . . .

Gules, three bendlets dancetty Or.

Sable, a cross parted and fretty between . . .

Barry-nebuly of six argent and vert . . .

Argent, on a bend sable, four crosses clechy voided and pommetty of the first . . .

Per fess dancetty argent and sable . . .

Per fess nebuly; in chief checky azure and Or . . .

Azure, in base barry wavy of four argent and of the first
. . .

The thing to remember about dancetty is how many times people with little or no knowledge of heraldry have almost seen it, on the front of Charlie Brown's shirt (truly in the early 1950s, when the line of zigzags had no more than three peaks).

Of course there is more to say about the profusion of y words and the migration from French to English, but I'm not going to address that in this post.

Thursday, August 4, 2011


Etymologically rooted not in sorrow, but in sore. Bodily pain enters the mental arena.