Posted by: Mark | October 22, 2014

Pat Who?

Today in class, students started laughing in the scene in Patton where he slapped the soldier with combat fatigue (aka shell shock aka Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome).

They thought that even if there had been a person named Patton, he certainly wouldn’t have slapped anyone.

In a sense, Patton was a cartoon character come to life, albeit with an adult rating, but I’d think halfway through my comments, they’d get the message that this guy was real.


Posted by: Mark | October 21, 2014


Here’s a selection of words introduced to the language by specific writers, found in Paul Dickson’s Authorisms: Words Wrought by Writers (2014). If you enjoy words and language, it’s a fun read.


Alogotransiphobia – “fear of being caught on public transportation with nothing to read.” George V. Higgins, 1992

Aptronym – created by Franklin P. Adams. When someone’s name is apt for their occupation. William Rumhole, a London tavern owner or Mr. Goodbody, an undertaker. Plenty of comic book characters are examples of this, especially Edward Nigma the Riddler.

Inaptronym – created by Gene Weingarten, people with names opposite of what they should be, Cardinal James Sin. Mr. Goode for a villain.

Chug-a-lug – Zane Grey in 1903

Droodle (a riddle in the form of a simple line drawing) and Mad lib both created by Roger Price in 1953, neither of which is in the OED.

Eucatastrophe – J.R.R. Tolkien for the opposite of catastrophe

Gotham – Washington Irving, 1807 (From the Anglo-Saxon “Goat Town, it was first the name of Gotham, a town in Lincolnshire, England (pronounced “GOAT-um), before being associated with NYC

Incompossible – Ambrose Bierce, meaning “unable to exist if something else exists; not mutually possible.” Isaac Asimov described an unmoveable object and irresistible force as being this but not with Bierce’s word

Knock, Knock, Who’s There? – Dorothy Parker is credited in 1920 within the Algonquin Round Table, but Shakespeare’s Hamlet starts out the same way.

Lame-Brained – P.G. Wodehouse in 1929 in Mr. Mulliner Speaking

Master of the universe – John Dryden in 1690 in Amphitryon

Mental Masturbation – Lord Byron as a metaphor for John Keats’ writing

Momism – Philip Wylie in 1942 in Generations of Vipers. Not a cute term as commonly used today but vicious and dead-seriously misogynistic.

Monologophobe – Theodore M. Bernstein in 1965’s The Careful Writer meaning “a writer who would rather walk naked in front of Saks Fifth Avenue than be caught using the same word more than once in three lines.”

Ninja – introduced into English by Ian Fleming in You Only Live Twice (When I read the book, I thought Fleming was being over-bearing explaining the term. I should have known better.)

Ombibulous – H.L. Mencken’s term for someone who drinks everything

Pedestrian – William Wordsworth in 1791

Plutography – Tom Wolfe’s term for writing about the rich

Scientist – Rev. William Whewell in 1840’s book The Philosophy of the Inductive Sciences. In the same work, he coined “physicist.”

Semordnilap – a word that spells another word when reversed (“god” to “dog”), created by Willard R. Espy

Space (in the context of “outer space”) – John Milton in Paradise Lost

Stud Muffin – Dave Barry in 1986


Posted by: Mark | October 20, 2014

Don’t Encourage the Lizards

Apparently I’ve unwittingly spread un-Ohioian philosophy with my posts about lizards. The lizards I’ve been seeing are European Wall Lizards and were smuggled to the area in 1951. According to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources: Division of Wildlife, “[i]t is unknown what effects the common wall lizard will have on native species, but their spread should be discouraged.”

And here I’ve been cheerleading them along for months on end.

Posted by: Mark | October 18, 2014


After 9.3 miles on the elliptical machine, I’ve passed my annual goal of 1,825 miles two months early. I’m hoping to hit 1,900 miles by October 28.

Anybody could run 1,825 miles in a year but only I could do it and stay this fat.

Posted by: Mark | October 17, 2014

Why Was I Even Surprised?

It was 73 degrees this afternoon and what did I see? Not one but two lizards sunning themselves on the wall next to the parking lot. I didn’t have my phone so I couldn’t take another picture (they looked just like the last one).

I ought to change the blog’s name to “Ongoing shock over lizards.”

They’ll be building snowmen soon.

Posted by: Mark | October 17, 2014

Sins and Punishments

A few weeks before Devil Night, here’s info about what happens to you if you act devilish.

According to Amelia Wilson’s The Devil (2002), your fate for violating the seven deadly sins is as follows:


Sin                   Punishment

 Pride                Broken on a wheel

Envy                Put in freezing water

Anger              Dismemberment

Sloth                Thrown in a snake pit

Greed              Boiled in a cauldron of oil

Gluttony          Force-fed rats, toads, and snakes

Lust                 Smothered in fire and brimstone


Nothing about driving slow in the fast lane but I hope it’s a combination of all of them.

Posted by: Mark | October 16, 2014

Fur Reality

For the last couple of years, I’ve been helping with a documentary about local fandoms. This weekend we filmed at Fur Reality. Prior to this project, I had no real understanding of furries and what I thought I knew about them was negative. After the first interview it was clear that furries were not like the common media portrayals.

The definition of a furry is broad enough to include anyone who is a fan of cartoon anthropomorphized animals which would make anyone born after the introduction of Scooby Doo a furry by default.

Compared to most conventions I’ve visited or filmed, Fur Reality was well run and the guests were friendly. One individual out of the 300 or so guests acted like a jerk in front of the camera which is 20 times better than how things usually go. Every other guest was cooperative and considerate even in cases when they had no real reason to be. It’s sad that furries are often defined by that one jerk out of 300.

Posted by: Mark | October 15, 2014


With 9.4 miles on the elliptical machine, I reached 1,801.8 miles for the year, 23.2 miles short of my goal for the whole of 2014. I’m pushing my luck and trying for 1,825 by Saturday.

Posted by: Mark | October 15, 2014

Joys of Grading

In the same batch of papers, I had a student use “Moor” for “more,” and another use “lunch” for “launch.”

It’s George Constanza and the Far Out Space Nuts!

Posted by: Mark | October 14, 2014

Once More…With Pictures


Here’s the lizard that we caught yesterday. I let it go after taking the picture. As cool as it got overnight, I imagine the little guy would rather be in a warm non-reptile-eating mammal’s paw.

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