Category Archives: Language

E c s t a p h o b i a

Noun: A word that describes the feeling that something is about to go miraculously well or so terribly wrong that it might scar you forever.

You can’t step away from the moment, nor would you want to.

Whatever happens, you know it is inevitable, necessary, and life-changing.

You’ll either be fulfilled or left vacantly discontented.

There are words that approximate the feeling, but none capture the personal essence of that infinite certainty that what is about to happen will be a liquid miracle or massive catastrophe. A liquid miracle is one that seeps into everything in your life and finds its way into everything about you: love, an epiphany, the motivation to suddenly just “do” the thing that you couldn’t do before.

The risk of love, the birth of a child, surgery, or the moment when all your reasoning collapses and your course of action becomes a decision rendered as involuntary action and certainty. It is a surrender to the idea that you don’t have control of the outcome.

You’ll be changed forever.

You want it and fear it.

Because our language is entirely invented and arbitrary, I have as much ability to create new words as anyone. Words are what we say they are, just as love and happiness are. I’ve always been fascinated by words and language – and especially the absence of any controlling factor to create and use them. The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows made me realize just how ridiculous our defense of grammar and etymology is. I will put a link in the comments to a TED talk by the creator of that fascinating idea.

PS If you find yourself in a crux moment, one in which life will either reward or bash you for having the audacity, please remember that you might as well fall or jump into the opportunity. Ask.

“Life is exactly like wanting to go for a ride and jumping on a bicycle with square wheels.” – X

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https://www.youtube.com/c/obscuresorrows

Things You Probably Didn’t Know – Dr. Seuss

Think of the name “Dr. Seuss.” Pronounce it in your head.

You’re wrong. Almost everyone pronounces it wrong.

He took the pseudonym from his mother’s maiden name.

All his close friends and family pronounced it to rhyme with “Joyce” or “Zoice.” If you are saying it like “Soose” or to rhyme with “Zeus,” you’re wrong.

There are multiple reasons why Dr. Seuss went along with the mispronunciation. You can look it up if you’re interested.

You’ll also discover the heart-breaking suicide of his first wife. She knew that Dr. Seuss was having an affair with one of her best friends, while significant health problems were affecting her.

Not that I ever get writer’s block, but he’d sit in a room of hats and try one on to stimulate his creativity.

Depending on whom you ask, he might have coined the word “Nerd” in his book, “If I Ran To The Zoo.” That book is no longer printed, among several others, for reasons based on perceived prejudice. He also wrote and illustrated a book for adults about seven naked ladies.

“Green Eggs And Ham” was written on a dare that he couldn’t write a book with fewer than fifty words.

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Sabah Kind Of Morning

I talked to an Arabic clerk at an inconvenience store very early this morning. He works at one that has a history of trouble. Of course, that’s true of many such stores when the sun has set. When I entered, he was busy mopping the floor. Don’t worry, it wasn’t blood he was cleaning. I assume. There wasn’t a chalk outline on the floor at least. (Although if I owned the place I’d put one there as a prank.)

He asked me if I was possibly Arabic. Surprisingly, we looked a lot alike.

We started discussing languages and he became very animated. He lit up because he could see how fascinating I found the conversation.

I don’t know many Arabic words but he was tickled that I already knew about some of the guttural sounds required to speak it fluently. I confessed that despite speaking Spanish, I still had trouble pronouncing the rolling “rr” letter in Spanish. He trilled it like a songbird! He took a moment to have me say “Good morning” in Arabic: “sabah alkhayr.” I like that they say “morning good,” which is odd for English speakers but normal for many other languages. I already knew that one, but my pronunciation sounded like a drunken sailor. Yes, I speak drunken sailor, all thanks to my dad Bobby Dean.

I don’t list it on my résumé though. For some reason, it doesn’t impress anyone; I find that odd, given that most managers seem to be alien and well-practiced at indistinct communication.

As I left, just for fun, I shouted “Au revoir!”

“Auf Widersehen,” he replied. We both laughed.

In another life, I know that I would speak ten languages. I wouldn’t speak any of them well and that’s okay. Enthusiasm is enough. Remember that if you’re on the journey to learn a new one. We all have beginner’s minds, even if we are 55.

Love, X
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I Can Work With That

I love this phrase.

It belies humor, deprecation, affection, and in the right context, a bit of risque.

It’s going to be harder to use it so freely for a while.

You can use it exactly like “That’s what she said.” Or you can use it to circumspectly say something under the radar of the obvious conversation.

“I need five minutes.” Yes. “I can work with that.”

“I’m getting dressed.” Yes! “I can work with that.”

“I need someone to tell me it’s going to be okay.” Definitely. “I can work with that.”

Words and context continuously morph in life. Sometimes, they take on a tinge of remorse. Sometimes, happiness.

I need a minute.

I can work with that.

Love, X

The Fire Inside

When I came home, I let the cat prowl the deck as I painted two metal birds. The sky darkened and the wind grew a bit chillier. As the traffic increased due to the hour, I could hear the approaching train as its horn crescendoed. It was the Arkansas & Missouri excursion train, its middle cars dotted with observing faces. I waved like Forrest Gump. This time, several people returned my wave.

Went I went inside, someone wrote me a message through my blog: “I hope you don’t mind. I made a poster out of your picture after you posted it the second time. There’s something about it that just hits me and reminds me to stop worrying about being so weird.” I smiled as I read the message. What a small world it is, where I can make a picture and have it resurface periodically on the internet. They went on to mention another picture, similar in composition, that they have printed in a smaller frame. I’ll put it below the sign-off.

I’m going to go back to the landing with Güino and watch the slow rain dampen the October air. And I’ll think about the importance of not hiding my light under a bushel, even as time pours increasingly fast into an invisible funnel.

Love, X

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“It’s not just about language; it’s about the futility of not expressing your thoughts.” – X

Heretoforward March

“Lymph, v.:  to walk with a lisp.”

One of my favorite people asked me half-jokingly if “heretoforward” was a word. When she used it, I understood it in context.

My short answer to the question? Yes, because it conveyed meaning.

Is it proper? Who cares?

I added it to my dictionaries to ensure I use it in the future without being reminded of some arbitrary rule.

“Heretofore” is a ‘real’ word. It supposedly means ‘before now,’ or ‘previously.’

If that stupid word is a ‘real’ word, then so too is ‘heretoforward.’ English is stuffed with ridiculous words, thousands of them, most of them orphans.

It reminds me of the word ‘overmorrow,’ which means ‘the day after tomorrow.’ It’s a good word, one that shouldn’t have fallen out of favor. If we’re going to use logic, let’s take a hard look at some of the rules we take for granted, especially those which make it hard for regular people to immediately understand how our language can be used. I didn’t put the word ‘properly’ in that last sentence because ‘proper’ is a unicorn.

Regarding language, I am not a perfectionist and certainly not a purist. I like language that breaks things and evolves rapidly. If you search the ‘language’ or ‘grammar’ tags of my blog, I’ll probably irritate you with my consistent message: language exists in its present form because we politely agree that it does. It really is that simple.

You can accuse me of laziness all you want. Heretoforward, it won’t bother me. I’ll be over here doing whatever I want with the language. I won’t stray too far because I’m not writing “A Clockwork Orange.” The point is to convey meaning. If I can do that while causing the purists’ hair to stand on end, even better.

Since I’m helping someone new learn a bit of Spanish, I find myself reminding her that English is a bastard language and trying to impose its arbitrary rules on other languages is a recipe for disgust.

P.S. Commenting to tell me how stupid I am wastes your time, not mine. Ha!

Language Belongs To All Of Us

“If we have to guess or spell words phonetically in order to be able to say them properly, why don’t we just change the spelling to be phonetic in the first place?”

I’m a better-than-average speller, but I despise the way our language makes people uncomfortable when using it. Most peoole use only 800 or so distinct words in a day. And most communication is verbal. One of my biggest pleasures is trashing the expectations of those who disagree. We all abuse the language in our own way. It belongs to all of us, to use and misuse as we wish.

Earlier, I witnessed a needless haranguing over language. I intervened jokingly. The self-appointed expert asked me something to exert dominance. I replied in Spanish. “I wasn’t talking in Spanish and I don’t understand it.” I laughed. “No, but he does, so who is the asshole now?”

I intended to write more, but I slipped and fell off my soapbox.

Don’t Forget Your Staplefortis!

Thanks to my friend Marilyn, I had to add the word ‘staplefortis’ to my editors and dictionaries.

Y’all better hope my dictionary isn’t the only one that survives as a repository for the English language after the next catastrophe. Since I disrespect the alleged sanctity and correctness of language, my dictionaries aren’t standard. I laugh when I scan through some of my nonsense: today, ‘dicktionary’ made me laugh. I also recall laughing when the popup, “Dicktionary added to Dictionary” occurred.

Marilyn’s mirthful dad often implied that a ‘staplefortis’ was a difficult-to-find part of the car under the hood (because imaginary is indeed hard to get your hands on), but I’ve managed to sneak it into several work-related things – and to also use it to connote, “Comedy through mundane goofiness.” When Marilyn first told me about her dad telling people to check the staplefortis under the hood, it evokes some of the madness my own dad enjoyed. His brand wasn’t safe, though. I’ve taken that sense of humor myself, except in my case I would undoubtedly send someone an invoice and bill them for a new staplefortis. If you can get people to buy milk and drink it, anything is possible. (Except buying an actual extended car warranty. If you don’t believe me, call someone and ask if you can buy one. 50-50% change your call will end if you do.)

It was Marilyn’s dad who also popularized ‘keg of buttholes,’ so I’m still waiting to see if the Dept. of The Interior might construct a statue of him to commemorate this fine phrase. I’m impressed how often ‘keg of buttholes’ can dispense both levity and clarity to a description. Especially in official work documents. Did it produce an odor? Yes, like a keg of buttholes might. No one leaves that sentence without a striking mental image.

I hope you keep your staplefortis maintained.

Mundane goofiness can be the most sublime because we can experience it in incremental bits throughout the day. Most of our lives are lived in the in-between moments anyway.

A Keg Of Buttholes

Marilyn asked me to memorialize one of her beloved Dad’s favorite sayings.

I told her I was making supper and she said she was about to go shower.

“I smell like a keg of buttholes,” she wrote, citing her dad, who was a poet in the truest sense of the word.

It is impossible to imagine what a keg of buttholes might smell like without immediately arriving at a conclusion.

Though he’s now departed, let’s remember his contribution to the English language by incorporating, “Smells like a keg of buttholes” into our vocabulary.