Our Post-Modern-ish Calendar Reform


Odd how the seven day week came from the Bible while the names of the days are all pagan. It does make us wonder, when did non Jewish/ Christian/Muslim countries fall in with this seven day week business? Was there a seven day week in the Han Dynasty? Did ancient Hindus or Aztecs have a seven day week? Or a week of any length, for that matter? Did pre-Christian Romans only divide months in halves, were the Ides their version of a weekend?

Anyway, the day names are not even consistently anything. Four Norse gods, one Roman god and the sun and the moon. Maybe they should all be modernized to be more relavent for today. Wednesday could be Humpday for instance. Saturday might be called Funday. Sunday, which starts the week, could be dubbed Oneday. Which turns Monday into Twoday. Though if one day Oneday were today, Twoday would be tomorrow. That won’t work.

Maybe we could go Alphabetical. Aday, Bday, Cday, etc. That’s pretty bland, so maybe we could use the Greek alphabet, Alphaday, Betaday… uh… who knows the Greek alphabet besides the Greeks? Perhaps the days shouldn’t be named after anything or anyone but be totally contrived, like modern brand names that vaguely sound like something meaningful. Beginning on Sunday the week might become Rilaxday, Bactwirkday, Blazzāday… Hm-m, reckon we can forget about that lucrative career concocting novel names for the Big Three.

On the other hand, if we were radical about separation of church and state we should get rid of the seven day week altogether. It’s from the Bible after all. People shouldn’t be paid extra for working Sunday, that’s a Christian Sabbath thing, right? We could possibly decimalize the week, ten days. But that makes an eight day work week. Too long.

Perhaps we could take our cue from the calendar, base twelve, a twelve day week. Nah, a ten day work week sucks more than an eight day one. What if we divide a month by twelve? That renders a 2.5 day week, which is ridiculous. Let’s try base six instead. A five day week with a two day weekend. Other than national production sinking like a stone from working only three days a week, we can go for that. Plus, we only need five day names. Rilaxday, Betaday, Humpday, Enday, Funday. There, problem solved. You’ll thank us Oneday.

Filed 12/13/16

Sometimes a Cigar Just Isn’t a Cigar


futilize (fū′ tĭl īz) verb. To inad­vertently do, or start to do, something with the wrong implement or item; i.e., picking up the wrong tool and starting using it before noticing it’s the wrong tool. [As per Clyde Crashcup, that’s futi as in futile plus lize as in utilize: futilize]

In my case, futilize is like trying to draw with the X-acto knife I grabbed instead of the pencil. Or flicking my cigarette ashes in the coffee cup instead of the ashtray. In the movies this would be someone trying to light something they stuck in their mouth thinking it were a cigar, but it wasn’t. (Hilarity ensues.)

For Curly Howard that would be making pancakes out of plaster instead of flour then pouring glue instead of syrup over them. Though why anyone would keep plaster and glue with the foodstuffs is something of a mystery. But then, thinking and watching the Stooges don’t really go together.

Futilize is basically a typo for everything else in life away from the keyboard. You simply hit the wrong button, grabbed the wrong thing, or whatnot. It’s an un-d’oh moment. Hey, we’ve all done it. Now you have a word to describe it.

Filed 12/9/16

Our Two-bit Money Guru Adds His Two Cents Worth


Top Ten Will Get You Twenty Money Sayings

  1. If you don’t have two dimes to rub together, rubbing dimes together isn’t all that fun anyway.
  2. A penny saved is a penny earned. And a lousy income.
  3. A fool and his money laugh all the way to the bank.
  4. Nobody actually knows the betting odds of dollars to donuts.
  5. A plugged nickle ain’t worth a dime.
  6. Money won’t buy happiness. Though it will cure poverty.
  7. You can’t have too much money. Inflation will see that doesn’t happen.
  8. Don’t take any wooden nickels. Heck, nickel nickels aren’t worth much these days.
  9. Put your money where your mouth is because money talks. Or something.
  10. It takes money to make money. So how did money ever get started in the first place?

It’s our year-end clearance of over­stocked weak gags. Dredged from the bottom of the barrel and foisted on the unsuspecting public. Let that be a lesson to you not to be so easily taken in. Beware, fake news and fake jokes are everywhere.

But then, don’t we all have some half-baked ideas floating around in the back of the head, on the back burner, filed under “this might come in handy someday”? You know, like that loose-armed task chair with the missing caster in the attic. At some point you just duck tape thing and use it or toss it and be done with it.

We’re sort-of doing both. Consider the new toon opener the duck tape and the Internet the dumping ground. There, that’s that then. We feel relieved anyway.

Filed 12/1/16

If It’s Not Big and Not Little, What Is It?


Do we really need so many adjectives for size? On the one hand we have big, colossal, enormous, gargantuan, giant, gigantic, ginormous, great, huge, humongous, immense, jumbo, large, mammoth, mega, monumental, massive, titanic, and whopping. Not to mention economy-sized, family-sized, king-sized, man-sized, and Brobding­nagian.

On the other hand we have half-pint, itsy-bitsy, itty-bitty, little, little-bitty, micro, mini, miniature, minuscule, minute, nano, peewee, pint-sized, small, teensy-weensy, teeny-tiny, teeny-weeny, tiny, and wee. Not to mention dwarfish, midget, pygmy, puny, and Lilliputian.

Note how we double up words to make things even smaller or bigger. Itty-bitty, teeny-tiny, or, going the other way, great big, big huge, or even great big huge jumbo jet.

Still, we don’t seem to have a specific word for something that’s not big or little. Words like average, medium, middling, moderate, normal, and standard don’t specifically refer to size. All we get are hyphenated terms, average-sized, medium-sized, and middle-sized. Hm-m-m.

In clothing we have small, medium, large, extra large, extra-extra large, and extra-extra-extra large. With all the words we have for big couldn’t we do better than extra-extra-extra large? We could take a page out of the olive sellers book and go with small, medium, large, jumbo, giant, and colossal.

For cars we get full-sized, mid-sized, compact, and sub-compact. There just doesn’t seem to be any big cars. At least not that they admit to. Have you seen the size of some of the SUVs on the road? They seem to be something more than full-sized to us. Compact means close-packed, tightly packed, condensed. Maybe these trucks masquerading as cars could be called the antonym of compact. How about expansive or sprawling? Or our choice, call them bloats. Just a thought.

Filed 11/25/16

A Bit of Quote Dissecting


Film fans as a rule have favorite memorable movie lines. A goodly number of these scripted quips enter pop culture generally to be repeated ad nauseam, become clichés or punch­lines. Going back through film history we have: “Life is like a box of chocolates.” “I’ll be back.” “What we have here is failure to communicate.” “Round up the usual suspects.”

The last one is so well ensconced in the American vernacular it lent itself to becoming a movie title, The Usual Suspects. This film in turn renders us a memorable line spoken by the Keyser Söze character…

“The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.”

This is not a truly original line from the pen of screenwriter Christopher McQuarrie, but a rehash of one from Jim Carroll…

“The Devil’s greatest accomplishment was convincing the world he didn’t exist.”

Even so, that’s not the original original line. For that you have to go back to French writer Charles Baudelaire…

“My dear brothers, never forget, when you hear the progress of enlightenment vaunted, that the devil’s best trick is to persuade you that he doesn’t exist.”

For my money M. Baudelaire’s original version is the best. It’s often the way with quotes that get altered over the years, they lose something. For instance, unlike the rehashes, Baudelaire personalized it. It’s not the world that is tricked, it is you, the individual. Couched that way offers more of a punch.

Plus, Baudelaire’s caution is present tense, trick is rather than trick was. It didn’t just happen in the past which you can’t do anything about, it can happen today. Again, more punch.

It’s like how the passive voice is weaker than the active voice. The world was fooled by the devil, passive. The devil fooled the world, active. It’s just better dialog. Imagine Inspector Renault’s line from Casablanca in passive voice, “The usual suspects are to be rounded up.” How memorable is that?

Filed 11/12/16

What the ‽‽‽

marks man leftbrow rightbrow

interrobang (ĭn tër′-ə băng) noun, A punctuation mark (‽), designed to combine the question mark (?) and the exclamation point (!), indicating a mixture of query and interjection, as after a rhetorical question.

Not a punctuation mark you run across every day. If ever. All the same, as you can see there’s even html code for the thing (‽). Could be useful if you run a nice family friendly site that eschews profanity. Instead of WTF you can use WT‽

Or not. Frankly, as text it looks rather a mess. Could be why it never caught on. Not that these will either:

13 Little-Known Punctuation Marks We Should Be Using

Filed 10/1/16

Accent, Argot, Dialect, Jargon, or Patois?


America doesn’t have an official dialect, or even language, which isn’t the case elsewhere. Many countries have a standard version of their particular language for official communication. In Germany, which has a dozen different dialects, they have Dachsprache, based on the Hannover dialect. In England, the unofficial official accent is Received Pronunciation, or RP. Some call it the mid-Atlantic accent, a sort-of mix of English and American someone living on an imaginary island halfway between the two might sound like.

Some professions also have their own way of speaking. For instance there’s what you might call media-speak. Newscasters, documentary narrators, and advertising voiceover artists speak in ways that don’t really match up to any regional, natural, conversational way of speaking. As Jack Lemmon said about Tony Curtis’ Cary Grant imitation in Some Like it Hot, “Where did you come up with that phony accent? Nobody talks like that.”

Another example is a speech pattern many airline pilots have informally adopted when speaking on the inter­com to passengers during flight. It has a relaxed, folksy, confident feel to it based on the West Virginia accent. Why West Virginia? Because that’s where Chuck Yeager hails from. You want to sound like a top pilot, talk like Chuck Yeager.

Are these dialects or accents? Or something else?

argot (är′ gō; är′ gət) noun, A specialized vocabulary or set of idioms used by a particular group or class; especially the jargon of the underworld.

jargon (jär′ gən) noun, 1. Nonsensical, incoherent, or meaningless utterance; gibberish. 2. A hybrid language or dialect. 3. The specialized or technical language of a trade, profession, class or fellowship.

patois (păt′ wä; pă twä′) noun, 1. Any subliterate regional French dialect. 2. Any regional dialect. 3. The special jargon of a group; cant.

So, we seem to have a number of synonyms, some with multiple meanings. None of which hit the bullseye. English, what a language.

Filed 8/17/16

We Peer into the Future and See…


The other day I noticed the neighbor across the way struggling to do a bit of yard/home work one-handed. Not that she was handicapped or anything, she just was constantly using her cell phone device thingy with her left hand. Which leads me to speculate that perhaps the next big money-making idea is kitchen gadgets and household tools to allow people to do everything one-handed. Maybe everything could be motorized and controlled with a joystick or something.

Or perhaps you could have an attachable mechanical third arm. I haven’t really thought it about it all that thoroughly. Then again, perhaps it’s not really worth thinking about. Like they say…

“Million dollar ideas are a dime a dozen.”

OK, they don’t actually say that, I made it up. Feel free to quote me on that. You can even reuse the old Suck.com spot I reused.

Filed 6/1/16

Left Hanging up In the Air on Tender Hooks?


Ever been “left on tender hooks,” as they say? (Not that folks say it that much these days, the phrase has pretty much been replaced with left hanging. Though the two are more or less the same, both figuratively and literally.) Anyway, how can a hook be tender? It seems ridiculous.

Well, it is ridiculous because tender hooks is not the real term. It’s tenter hooks. Maybe it got mixed up because of the way a lot of people pronounce tees in the middle of words. Especially Americans. You may not have noticed, since most of us do it, but we Yanks pronounce little bottle as “liddle boddle.”

In days of yore tenter hooks were a series of small hooks fabric would be hung on for stretching. So, to be left on tenter hooks was to be left hanging. Need we say more?

Think of it with this connection, tent and tenter. A tent is a shelter of stretched fabric, a tenter is a frame for stretching fabric. Both derive from the Old Latin tendere, to stretch. Hm-m, the Romans had it with a D and not a T. Maybe it should be tender hooks after all.

Filed 5/18/16

Why Can’t Jack Sprat Eat Fat?


Some people zealously advocate a low-fat diet as the ideal for health and weight loss. On the flip side, others vociferously champion a low-carb diet for the same reasons. Could they both be wrong? Could they both be right? Remember this from childhood?

Jack Sprat could eat no fat
His wife could eat no lean
And so betwixt the two of them
They licked the platter clean

While this bit of old doggerel wasn’t dietary advice, it may have stumbled upon the truth. Some people do well on low-fat, others on low-carb. Hunter-gatherers and ruralists thrive on diets from 60% carbs to 10% carbs. Which seems to imply the fat/carb content is not the be all end all of eating well.

There are three basic nutrients, fat, carbs, and protein. Why is protein seemingly overlooked by all? People everywhere on most every diet are getting about the same amount of calories from protein, around 15%. Since this varies so little folks tend to ignore it, figuring if it’s pretty much the same for everyone it can’t be making a difference.

On the other hand, if every diet comes in around 15% protein, maybe that content is the most important factor. Maybe there is a minimum amount of protein everyone needs and the fat/carb ratio is secondary. Maybe a protein poor diet makes you overeat either carbs or fat, or both, to get the needed protein. Which would mean a small change in protein percentage could make all the difference.

The Protein Leverage Hypothesis

Under this hypothesis the bandied about term “empty calories” has a different implication, food without protein.

Filed 4/20/16

Not Seeing Is Believing


“It is startling to realize how much unbelief is necessary to make belief possible. Ardent belief manifests itself not in moving mountains, but in not seeing mountains to move.”
–Eric Hoffer

“The most costly of all follies is to believe passionately in the palpably not true. It is the chief occupation of mankind.”
–H.L. Mencken

“It’s easier to fool people than to convince them that they’ve been fooled.”
–Mark Twain

Filed 4/21/16

Fresh Clichés by the Dozen


Alas, poor Yorick. Wherefore art thou Romeo. To be, or not to be. It’s easy to spot many a quote from old Willie Shakespeare. Other coinages have worked their way into the language to the point we aren’t aware they came from the Bard of Avon. All the same, who knows if he made them up or was simply glomming ye olde slang of the day?

William Shakespeare 400th anniversary: 60 everyday words and phrases you never knew came from the Bard

Filed 4/13/16

Computer Fauxcabulary That Might Be Useful


A few fauxcabulary (made up) words from the world of computers:

iconundrum: A strange or confusing symbol or icon nobody but the designer of the thing knows the meaning of.

incorrection: A typo created by auto spellcheck that doesn’t understand you were using slang, jargon or coining a gag word.

qwert dirt: The filth that builds up between the keys on your computer keyboard.

tyupio: A typo resulting from your fat fingers hitting more than one key at a time.

Iconundrums often use that blocky, stick figure generic human doing something, with something, in some­thing, or whatever. You know the dude I mean, the one identifying the men’s room. In graphic design circles its called Helvetica Man.

Now that computers and online self-publishing have conquered the world and everyone knows about typefaces, or fonts, the Helvetica reference is probably understood by all and sundry. Not so back when I started in the business a few decades ago. Anyway, I suppose folks think Helvetica is boring, plain, humdrum, or whatever, which was sort-of the original intent.

Helvetica comes from the Swiss school of typeface design, along with Univers. It was designed without quirks or embellishments to color up well at any size and so be easy to read. It was supposed to be the universal, standard, highly legible sans-serif font. Which it pretty much is.

Filed 3/24/16

Ass Back and Forthward Sayings

backear asscar frontear asseyes

Click pic to replay animation

Why are some common English phrases mixed up, as it were? For instance, why do we say back and forth? You can’t go back before you’ve gone forth. Shouldn’t it be forth and back? After all, you don’t say I went back and there, you say I went there and back, right?

How about ass-backward? Isn’t the ass properly at the back and not forward? Wouldn’t ass-backward be the right way round? Who wants their ass in the front? Then we have half-assed and half-baked, which kinda mean similar things. I get half-baked, but why half-assed? Would fully-assed be better?

Next, though this is hardly original, why head over heels? Isn’t that the normal state of things? It’s heels over head that would put us upside down. Speaking of which, why isn’t the opposite of upside down downside down or upside up instead of right side up? Oh well. At least we have go up and down right. After all, what goes up must come down.

What about an open and shut case? Which is it, open or shut? How can it be both? OK, this one isn’t mixed up, it’s self contradictory. How about in and out? Can you… isn’t it… I guess there’s no problem with in and out. And on that note, I’m out.

Filed 3/9/16

I Is Two Letters in One


There are words which seem to have more syllables than we admit to. How many syllables are in dire? Dire sounds just like dyer, and isn’t dyer two syllables? A long I is actually two vowel sounds shmushed together: a short A, as in bah, and a long E. In effect dire and dyer are said, dä-ē-ər. (The R even adds another bit of vowel sound. You might even say there’s a Y sound in there, dä-ē-yər, but we’ll not get carried away with all that.) Such a combination vowel sound is a…

diphthong (dĭf′ thông) noun. A speech sound beginning with one vowel sound and moving to another vowel sound within a syllable.

This explains why I, aye, and eye all sound the same. In aye and eye the diphthong is spelled out. Latin had a special character for the long I sound diphthong: the digraph, grapheme or ligature, Æ or æ, you see from time to time. In English it’s called an aesc or ash. It’s not a true long I sound, but close enough.

So, according to the definition of diphthong, dire is one syllable. Still, what about dyer, one syllable or two?

Filed 3/3/16

English According to Foreigners

English, being Germanic at its core, has many words of German origin. Oxen, the plural of ox, retains the Germanic plural form, the EN suffix. Still, most of these Germanic words are so old they aren’t really German. We also have more recent arrivals we’ve glommed onto, and some we haven’t. Yet.

One that has gained recent currency is schadenfreude, happiness at the misfortune of others. Though maybe glee or pleasure is more apt. On the flip side we have unhappiness at the good fortune of others, gluckschmerz. English has something of a rough equivalent, envy. Which might be why gluckschmerz has never caught on like a house afire. There’s also this peculiar word, backpfeifengesicht, which roughly translates to “a face badly in need of a fist.”

What exactly Germans mean by backpfeifengesicht, I couldn’t say. Idioms of speech are not always meant to be taken at face value and often get lost in translation. One can imagine when stumbling through some foreign language you’re not all that fluent in, words and phrases would often be “on the tip of your tongue” as we say. If you employed that phrase translated verbatim to German, what would a German make of it?

If English were your second language and the English word or phrase you were looking for eluded you, you might be tempted to use a rough equivalent from your native tongue translated to English words you did know. Like the German teacher operating a VCR who couldn’t find the “fast backwards button,” you know, rewind. Or another who spoke of “hand shoes,” which is to say gloves. Then there was the Russian who said, “The train has sailed.” Next is the Italian who couldn’t remember the word veal and so called it “son of beef” instead. My favorite was the foreigner who described an air horn as a can of “spray scream.”

Finding the right foreign language word is only part of the problem, when speaking you also have to pronounce it correctly. Another pretty good reason backpfeifengesicht will likely not soon be found in the O.E.D. or Webster’s.

Filed 3/1/16

We Know the Phrase if Not the Words


Have you ever pondered: Which direction is fro in “to and fro”? Who or what is the kith in “kith and kin”? What is the color of the hue in “hue and cry”?

Fro is nothing more that an old Scottish and northern English way of saying from. To and fro simply means to and from.

In England of yore kith was used to mean country. So, kith and kin was country and family. Though back in the day country wasn’t a political entity but an area of like people or culture, your native land. In the 18th century a Briton might say his country was Northumbria or Sussex.

Hue doesn’t refer to color, it’s onomatopoeia, a sound effect. This comes from the French, hu or heu, the sound from a crowd. Sort-of like hubbub.

That’s it. Not all that intriguing, maybe even slightly disappointing, but now you know if you ever wondered. Now then, what about “hither, thither and yon”? Also pretty simple, and archaic: Hither, toward here; thither, toward there; yon, toward yonder or beyond.

Filed 2/19/16

Death Be Not Proud, It Be Mortifyin’

mortify (môr′ tə fī) verb. 1. Cause (someone) to feel embarrassed, ashamed, or humiliated. 2. Subdue (the body or its needs and desires) by self-denial or discipline. 3. Archaic, (of flesh) be affected by gangrene or necrosis.

Derivation: from late Middle English (in the senses ‘put to death,’ ‘deaden,’ and ‘subdue by self-denial’); from Old French mortifier, from ecclesiastical Latin mortificare ‘kill, subdue,’ from mors, mort- ‘death.’

So, death-ify to mortify. As in embarrassed to death, humiliated to no end, ashamed as hell. Or in the toon, mortified to death to no end in Hell with a capital H, which rhymes with… uh… does H rhyme with anything? Never mind. To return to the word under scrutiny, when you know the derivation you’ll see that old bit of art from the Suck archives fits to a nicety.

Filed 1/30/16

Words That Mean the Opposite of Themselves


Click pic to play animation

contronym (kŏn′ trə nĭm) noun. A word with two opposite meanings.

A contronym is an antonym of itself, as for instance cleave (divide) and cleave (adhere) or left (went) and left (remaining). Left seems some kind of Schrödinger’s word conveying both being there and not being there. Then you can cleave a chicken into left and right, eat the left and have the right left, right? One imagines contronyms are words someone of George Carlin’s bent would have plenty of fun with. (Probably better fun than we’ve been having with them.)

Then we have the contronyms: trim, oversight, sanction… Rather than my retreading the wheel, I’ll just redirect you to the source:

25 Words That Are Their Own Opposites

Filed 1/20/16

One Language Separated by the Atlantic


And now, a link to a short video about how Brits and Yanks talk differently in a way you might not have realized. Well, I didn’t, anyway. Americans might find the presenter’s American accent a bit off. Still, better than many a Hollywood actor’s tin-eared attempt at an English accent which, often it seems, amounts to various regional British dialects, misheard, misspoken and jumbled together.

Heck, we can’t even seem to get the right next door Canadian accent right. I mean, what’s all this guff about Canadians saying “aboot” for about? Sounds more like “aboat” to my ear, though not quite. At least we all write the same, apart from the spellings Americans changed because they were too French. Like taking the U out of colour or swapping the C for an S in offence, which Canadians pronounce oh-fense with a long O, by the way.

Anyway, I’m getting off the track. Though actually, I’ve hit the end of the line. That link:

A Difference between English and American Speech – Lindybeige

Filed 1/22/16

That Uncomfortable Return Engagement


Click pic to play animation

gawkward (gawk′ wərd) adj. Causing when-the-stranger-you’re-looking-at-looks-back-at-you-then-you-look-away-briefly-and-look-again-and-they-notice-that-too embarrassment.

When a gawkward moment crops up invariably, one guesses, the looker imagines what the lookee supposes the looker is thinking about the lookee. Depending on the looker and lookee this could be real or imagined ogling, morbid curiosity, wonder, or, as the case seems often enough, just plain absence of mind. Whatever the case one hardly knows whether to smile meekly, nod slightly, or pretend you were actually peering at some end­lessly fascinating whatever just over the lookee’s shoulder. All in all it’s a bit of an ‘oops-err-heh-heh moment’ society has neglected to provide a clear rule of etiquette for.

Filed 1/17/16

Je Ne Sais Quoi


If I said “swashbuckler” you’d likely as not conger up images of those dashing French swordsmen, the Three Musketeers. Though why musketeers are renowned for prowess with the blade and not musketry is another question. Still, in every Hollywood extravaganza featuring the trio none have ever buckled a swash or swashed a buckle. Where did the term come from, anyway? I hear myself ask.

The buckler bit has nothing to do with our swaggering heroes being festooned with buckles on fancy belts, tall boots, jaunty plumed hats or what­ever. The first part of the word refers to pretty much what you might expect, a sound effect; as in swish, swoosh, swash. Like the sound of a metal disc swung through the air. Which is what a buckler was; a small, round, metal dueling shield popular in the 1500s. A sort-of steel, self-defense Frisbee.

So a swashbuckler was someone who wielded a buckler, with some panache we assume. Though panache more aptly applies to their rakish hats. Panache, as a noun, is a plume of feathers.

A buckler, like many shields, had a single central handle with a round protuberance covering the hand. This bulge was called a boss. Thus, such a shield with this raised surface bump was… embossed. If you’re not sure what a buckler is or how it was used, check out the video:

A Discussion on Swords, Bucklers and Shields in Historical Fencing

Filed 1/7/16

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