Pretty scary, huh? Why is the word boo frightening? Who knows? But it’s spookier if the letter forms are all wiggly-wobbly. Somehow. Though if you say the word twice it isn’t doubly scary, it’s silly talk for error. Boo-boo. That’s all we got. Happy Booday. Tomorrow.

Filed 10/30/17

English as It Coulda Been


Let’s play counterfactuals, you know, historical what-ifs. What if the Greeks had lost the Battle of Marathon? What if Julius Caesar had been killed in the Gallic Wars? What if William the Conqueror had lost the Battle of Hastings? Would we much remember the Greeks? Would Gaius Julius be just an historical footnote? Would anyone talk about William the Loser?

Those are some pretty big what-ifs. Let’s narrow the focus, what if the English language never got Greeked up, Latinized, and Frenchified? What would a purely Anglo-Saxon-Briton language be like? That’s a question nobody but Englishman William Barnes seemed to want answered. Which he did in the 1800s. Here are some of his Englisher English replacements for the Greco-Latin-Franco bastard words we all use instead.

Want to know more? Read Mr. Barnes’ book at the Gutenberg Project:

An Outline of English Speech-Craft

Filed 10/27/17

The Casual Sportsman

Who Came up with Polish Spelling? Sheesh!


Poland has qualified for the World Cup. Know what that means? It means there’ll be a lot of impossible to pronounce and/or spell names. At least for the Casual Sportsman. We’re sure it all makes sense to the Poles, but we find it all a bit of a tongue twisting nightmare. We don’t have much problem with star striker Robert Lewandowski, we simply swap V for W, “Levandovski.” But when it comes to Wojciech Szczesny… we don’t know what to say.

Below is the Poland national team roster. How many of those can you pronounce? Keep in mind Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski is said as “Shashevski.” If you can explain that one you’re our hero ‘cause we can’t figure it. So, you want to be a soccer play-by-play announcer? Good luck.

You may have noticed half the names end with -ski. It’s no wonder that’s such a cliché. Stereotypes come from some­where, eh? Anyway, the -ski suffix is a sign of nobility, or once was. It means “estate of.”

Not in the lineup is anyone with the surname Szczyz. Not a typo, not the result of a monkey banging on a keyboard, a real Polish name. One guess as to how to say that. OK, take two or three stabs at it, you probably won’t come up with it. They tell us Szczyz is said as “Sscheesh.” Uh, OK.

For the explanation of the pic, see:

Winged Hussars: Facts and History

Filed 10/25/17

Coywolf –a New Species, Subspecies, Dog Breed, or What?


Ten percent dog, quarter wolf and the rest coyote and coming to a town near you soon? The combo-canine coywolf, alive and well in the northeastern U.S. and Ontario, Canada. Millions of them. An animal big enough to take down deer and eat a cat whole. Country, town, suburb, city; it’s all good for the crafty coywolf. Brings a new meaning to, “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.”


Filed 10/23/17

Argh, Wilderness!


Top eight comments and suggestions received by the U.S. Forest Service from park visitors

  1. Need more signs to keep area pristine.
  2. A small deer came into my camp and ate my bag of pickles. Is there a way I can get reimbursed?
  3. Found a smoldering cigarette left by a horse.
  4. The coyotes made too much noise last night and kept me awake. Please eradicate these annoying animals.
  5. Too many rocks in the mountains.
  6. Trails need to be wider so people can walk while holding hands.
  7. Trails need to be reconstructed. Please avoid building trails that go uphill.
  8. A McDonald’s would be nice at the trailhead.

We might suggest all trails only go downhill. An outdoors with less dirt all over the place would be nice. And could they arrange it so there’s no rain while we’re there?

Filed 10/21/17

Say What?

carback eyesback carfront eyesbot eyesdog
fish eyesfish
sign waves

Signs and instructions seen around the world. We understand what they mean. Or do we?

Filed 10/19/17

Ships Aho-Ho-Hoy Fjor

And now, the second of our wacky naval vesels as it appeared under “Humor in Uniform” in Reader’s Digest a few months ago. Only semi-fully animated this time around.

U-cloud U-cloud2

The Viking tall ship, created in 50AD, was one reason the Viking Age didn’t begin until several centuries later.

Filed 10/16/17

Ships Aho-Ho-Hoy Drei

And now, the first of our wacky naval vesels as it appeared under “Humor in Uniform” in Reader’s Digest a few months back. Only semi-fully animated for your amusement.

U-cloud U-cloud2 U-boat

Despite legendary German engineering, their U-boats in the age of sail were, frankly, not very stealthy.

Filed 10/13/17

Solar System Road Trip


Which is closest to Earth? Select your answer from menu:

What’s the best car take on a driving tour of the solar system? Select your answer from menu:

The correct answer to question one, Venus is closest to Earth. That’s because they’re both towns in Texas. Some joke, huh? There is no correct answer to the second question. That’s because it’s all a matter of personal choice. Or maybe it’s just not possible to take a road trip to them all since Uranus is on Kodiak Island, Alaska, and you can’t drive there directly.

Mouseover to enlarge


OK, this is all pretty silly, but if you want to take a tour of the solar system on a budget, above is where you’ll find everything. You’ll have to figure out your own route. Which shouldn’t be too hard. It ain’t rocket science.

Filed 10/11/17

It’s a Holiday Twofer Monday


In the U.S. today it’s observed Columbus Day. In Canada it’s Thanksgiving Day. Or so it says on our page-a-day calendar. If you really need the word “Day” after “Thanksgiving” to denote said holiday is something only Canadians would know. Or Canadiens if they’re French talkers. Though maybe they have an entirely different Frenchy phrase for it. “Jour de Donner Merci”?

Anyway, we think it means the banks are closed and so you can’t go cash a check. Or, in the great white north, a cheque. It also means, being a holiday, we’re not going to extend ourselves with any great effort in this post. In fact, that’s all she wrote. In Canada, all she, elle, he, il, xe, sne, qui, twe, or your own personal pronoun of choice by law, wrote.

Filed 10/9/17

Glass Eyes, Wooden Legs, and False Teeth Will Be Returned upon Landing


We resuscitate one more forgotten but not gone art spot from the Reason magazine “Brickbats” archives.

The Transportation Security Administration gave flight attendant Cathy Bossi a pat-down search at Charlotte-Douglas International Airport. When one of the screeners felt up her right breast, the agent asked, “What is this?” Bossi explained that she had a breast removed because of cancer and wears a prosthesis. The agent demanded that she remove the prosthesis and show it before she could board the plane for work.

Filed 10/6/17

Wild Card Wednesday


Milton Corrêa stadium in Macapá, Brazil is situated so the midfield line runs along the equator. Meaning each team defends in one hemisphere and attacks in the other.

Daddy Longlegs: not poisonous, not a web spinner, not a spider, not an insect. It’s an arachnid, a distant relative of scorpions.

Lincoln Logs (remember them?) were invented by John Lloyd Wright, son of the famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Like they say, the acorn doesn’t fall far from the tree. And then grows in its shadow. Is cut down and made into teeny-weeny houses. Or something.

There are more museums in the United States than McDonald’s and Starbucks combined. Still, don’t get carried away with the idea the country is overflowing with culture and history. While every McDonald’s is pretty much like every other one, not so much with museums which can run from highfalutin to pretty crass. For every Tate and Smithsonian there’s any number of Lawn Art and History of Bumpkinville museums.

Filed 10/4/17

Ox Is to Oxen as Beef Is to ?


Some Singular Plurals

Opus means a creative work. As such opera would mean multiple creative works, a collection of works. So then, what’s the plural of opera? You can’t pluralize a plural, can you? Well, yes and no. Opera has come to mean one of those highbrow musicals that ain’t over ‘til the fat lady sings, and so the plural of opera is operas. Anyway, a collection means many of something and is pluralized as collections.

To be honest, we only know of the one sphinx, the Great Sphinx at Giza. So we haven’t had the need to pluralize it. If we ran a gift shop selling miniature sphinx replicas perhaps we might, but trinkets and trash isn’t our stock in trade. As for the last on the list, we’ve had even less call to pluralize beef. We don’t even know how to use beeves in a sentence.

Filed 10/2/17

Coining Words Like the Dickens


We like to invent brand spanking newish words, as on our Fauxcabulary page. Ours don’t get much traction however. After all, who are we? If we were as famous or widely read and respected as Charles Dickens it might be different. We’ve not had nearly as many books published as he did. As in we’ve had none. (We mean authored, not illustrated.) All the same we’ve got a globe spanning blog whereas Mr. Dickens doesn’t. So there.

Top Ten Words Coined by Charles Dickens

  1. catawumpus—fierce, as in the catawumpus storm hit Miami
  2. comfoozled—exhausted
  3. heeltap—sip of liquor left in a glass (with or without backwash we guess)
  4. marplot—meddler
  5. plenipotentiary—diplomatic agent
  6. rantipole—ill-behaved person
  7. sassigassity—cheeky attitude
  8. sawbones—a doctor, as in Leonard McCoy
  9. slangular—using street talk (we wish we’d come up with that)
  10. toadeater—fawning person (shorter version you all know: toady)

Filed 9/29/17

“Books? We Don’t Need no Stinking Books!”


We recall to action yet another old “Brickbats” spot from the Reason magazine archives for the reader’s edification.

Andrew Buck, principal of Brooklyn’s Middle School for Art and Philosophy, sent an email message to teachers who had complained about a lack of textbooks. In the letter, which was riddled with misspellings, run-on sentences, improper word use, and incorrect punctuation, Buck claimed that textbooks –or “text books,” as he repeatedly called them– aren’t necessary for learning, that they put him to sleep when he was in college, and that some of the school’s students can’t read them anyway.

OK, we admit we have paraphrased a common misquote of the famous line from The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. What the bandito actually said was, “Badges? We don’t have no stinking badges.” But the misquote fits better, so what the heck.

Filed 9/27/17

Don’t Order the Chef’s Surprise or the Catch of the Day


Actual Offerings from Real Restaurant Menus from around the World

Typos, spellcheck gone awry, bad translations or what? We don’t know. Still, we’ll go for the convolutions veal, it sounds like the least unappetizing item on the menu. We have no idea how to convolute food, but it might be tasty. Who can tell?

Filed 9/25/17



A-a-h-h utumn? Does that work? Sounds like some bad Latin. Never mind the silent N at the end, either. What’s that letter for anyway? Who put that there? We could have gone with A-a-h-h-fall! Sound too much like awful? We’re probably over thinking it. Skip it. Let’s get on with the post.

Fall is many folks favorite time of year. Not ours, other folks. This is one of those things people agree to disagree on. Without heated arguments. Fall people aren’t upset by spring people. Summer folk don’t find winter folk offensive. Peculiar, maybe, but not irksome. Unless they’re married to each other, maybe. But there might be something more to it in that case.

Fall people like it when the leaves turn, get their color. Well, their color other than green. Their true color, so they say. The underlying color minus the chlorophyl. Yellow, orange, red, maroon. We rather like that, too. Though we’d like it more if we lived in the woods and didn’t have to rake them up and stuff them in paper sacks.

Not like the old days when we’d rake them into a huge pile and set them ablaze. Hard to believe? In which case you’re obviously too young to remember that everyone disposed of fallen leaves that way. And the police and fire department were good with it. Back then when you said fall was in the air you meant that literally, as in the smell of burning leaves. And flying embers. Still, we never burnt down the house or the garage. Whether everyone could say as much we don’t know.

Do we miss those good old days? Not really. It was time consuming tending those fires. Worse if it was a rainy fall. Ever try to burn a pile of wet leaves? Don’t. That was then and now is now. Heck, these days folks don’t rake, they use leaf blowers or vacuum their yard. Or simply hire a lawn service and let them deal with it. And then go to the gym to burn off the excess calories they saved from those labor saving devices. Such is modern life.

Filed 9/22/17

Degeneration Gap


“Youth is wasted on the young.”
–George Bernard Shaw

“Age is a high price to pay for maturity.” –Tom Stoppard

If the young didn’t have the blush of youth, what would they have? Certainly not knowledge, experience, wisdom and good judgement. Young and dumb isn’t a repeatable cliché for nothing. Strong bodies is what one needs to survive the stupid things young people do.

At the opposite end, experience, knowledge and wisdom undoubtedly helps one to endure the vicissitudes of aging. Anyway, having gone through the peak earning years of their fifties, older folks also have more money than the young. Possibly the only saving grace for those who grew old but never grew up. While it’s said experience is a great teacher, some folks never learn. Which recalls to mind a quote from some military leader or other we can’t remember exactly and so will paraphrase:

“They say experience is a great teacher, but my horse has been on every campaign with me and he’s no smarter than he ever was.”

Speaking of horse sense, more or less, one last quote:

“Horse sense is the thing a horse has which keeps it from betting on people.”
–W.C. Fields

Another thing you have more of as you get older, if you’re an artist, is a stockpile of used art. Which explains the old spot repurposed for this bit. Don’t know that means we’re wise or just old and lazy.

Filed 9/20/17

See Dick Write. Write, Dick, Write.


Could you write a book with a vocabulary of fifty words? Let us qualify that, a popular book, with a story. With pictures. For kids. Responding to a challenge, Dr. Seuss did just that. His Green Eggs and Ham has only the fifty different words listed below.

A, am, and, anywhere, are, be, boat, box, car, could, dark, do, eat, eggs, fox, goat, good, green, ham, here, house, I, if, in, let, like, may, me, mouse, not, on, or, rain, Sam, say, see, so, thank, that, the, them, there, they, train, tree, try, will, with, would, you.

Could you write a book using only those fifty words? Possibly so. But consider, this post, short as it is, minus the list, contains fifty-three different words.

Filed 9/18/17

On Not Filling the Odd Request


As professionals in the art biz we like to deal with other professionals in the art biz. They just understand how things work. They know what’s possible to depict and what’s not. They won’t, for instance, ask you to draw a generic “multicultural” person, someone without some indication of age, sex, and ethnicity. That’s hardly possible, with the possible exception of Helvetica Man or maybe Michael Jackson.

Still, we’ve been lucky and haven’t had the actual client requests other artists have had:

Of course, many a deadbeat client is not so upfront about not paying the poor independent artist struggling to eke out a living. Happens all too often. The worst offenders of the lot? Politicians running for election. Once the campaign is over the election organization goes poof. Then just try finding someone who’ll pay you. Or even answers the now disconnected phone.

Filed 9/15/17

Fishy Voting in the Windy City


Another old and unimproved art spot from the Reason magazine “Brickbats” archives of 2008, reproduced for the first time anywhere.

In Chicago voter registration materials were sent to “Princess Nudelman.” Beth Nudelman wrote back to say that Princess would not be voting in 2008 because she is a) dead and b) a goldfish.

We doubt that, even if alive, Princess was eighteen years old anyway. Still, while you don’t have to be dead or have the intelligence of a goldfish to vote in Chicago, it’s not a barrier. Had she voted we are confident Princess would have followed that old Chicago tradition and voted early and often.

Filed 9/13/17

How Many Hungarians Does It Take to Build a Bomb?


In The Right Stuff there’s a line about how the U.S. would win the race to the moon because, “Our Germans were better than their Germans.” How about building an atomic bomb? Forget Germans, you want better Hungarians.

The Manhattan Project was led by a packet of Hungarian geniuses born between 1890 and 1920. The group included project founder Leo Szilard, H-bomb creator Edward Teller, quantum physicist Eugene Wigner, and polymath John von Neumann. The Manhattan Project was so top heavy with Hungarians that some high level meetings were conducted in Hungarian rather than English.

What’s more, Wigner, Von Neumann, and possibly Teller all attended the same Budapest high school at about the same time, leading a friend to joke that the atomic bomb was basically a Hungarian high school science fair project. Which would put to shame our baking soda generated volcano and Alka-Seltzer powered geyser in a bottle.

Filed 9/11/17

Maybe Our Eating over the Sink Ain’t Such a Good Idea after All


Do you go by the three second rule? That is, if it falls on the floor and you pick it up within three seconds it’s OK to eat. So, what’s the time rule for something that falls in the sink? After all, there averages 830 bacteria per square inch on the floor and 18,000 per square inch in the sink. We have no information about the amount of bacteria on a cutting board. Oh yeah, flies are twice as germy (if that’s a word) as cockroaches.

All the same, you’re more likely to get grit and hair and such on your food from the floor. Which, while not dangerous bacteria, is just plain unpleasant to chew on. As are flies and cockroaches for that matter. Anyway, we suggest rather than worrying about any of that you consider the following from French author Nicholas Chamfort…

Swallow a toad in the morning and you will encounter nothing more disgusting the rest of the day.

Filed 9/8/17

Dreamed up Excuse


A 2011 art spot from the Fortean Times “Strange Deaths” file. Though perhaps we should refile it under “Strange Alibis.”

A husband said he shot his wife in his sleep while dreaming she had an affair. The unfortunately named Salvatore Scandale, 51, killed Mariella, 46, in bed, then called police. “I woke up with the sound of the gun,” he told them. Police in Turin, Italy, said they “don’t believe a word” of the claim.

Filed 9/7/17

Could You Power a Car with Aluminum?


Rather than waiting hours for that car battery pack to recharge, what if you could stop at an aluminum station, fill up and go in five minutes? Possible? We don’t know. Just imagining based on the article linked. Don’t know what it would cost either.

US Army creates powder that recharges equipment in the field

Excerpt from New Atlas dot com:

The unexpected discovery came when researchers mixed a nanogalvanic aluminum-based powder with water, and noticed that the water began bubbling away. On closer inspection, they soon realized the reaction was the product of hydrolysis, meaning the material was splitting the water into its composite molecules of oxygen and hydrogen.

“There are other researchers who have been searching their whole lives and their optimized product takes many hours to achieve, say 50 percent efficiency,” says Scott Grendahl, team leader on the project. “Ours does it to nearly 100 percent efficiency in less than three minutes.”

Remember at the end of Back to the Future where Professor Brown tossed an empty beer can in the Mr. Fusion™ to fuel up? Maybe they got that wrong. Maybe it should have been a Mr. Hydrolysis™.

Filed 9/1/17