Archive for July, 2010

Reading the Oxford English Dictionary: One Man, One Year, 21730 Pages (book #77)

18 July 2010

Ammon Shea, 2009.

My favourite words from the ones he quotes:

Antisocordist – an opponent of laziness or idiocy [because it suggests that one can be _for_ these things]
Antithalian – opposed to fun or merriment [my father, in other words]
Futilitarian – one who is devoted to futility
Bouffage – an enjoyable meal; “cheeke-puffing meat” [Cotgrave – see below]
Deteriorism – the attitude that things will usually get worse
Elucubration – studying or writing by candlelight
Exfamiliate – to exclude from one’s family
Fard – to paint the face with cosmetics
Latibulate – to hide oneself in a corner
Materteral – having the characteristics of an aunt
Peristeronic – suggestive of pigeons
Yepsen – the amount that can be held in two cupped hands; the cupped hands themselves

The reaction to this books seems to be to list one’s favourites like this. Someone else’s. And another.

Interview with Ammon Shea. His first article on the OED site.

Having had the fun of listing the words, however, it’s worth being cynical about whether they’ve actually ever been in use, or whether they are ink-horn terms. Shea quotes “bouffage” (see above) and the OED’s citation of Cotgrave’s 1611 dictionary. Having looked this up, though, it looks as if Cotgrave thinks bouffage is a French word – see the facsmile (the word is towards the end of the second column). I suspect no-one’s ever said “I exfamiliate you!” but that some pedant has thought if one were to want to say it, what would be the appropriate Latin-derived term.

Sadly, I haven’t been able to find online the research by Sarah Ogilvie he mentions (“World English and the OED Supplements: the mysterious case of the vanishing tramlines”).

Two more word links:

Most frequently looked up words on the NYT, 2010, and notes on this.

Article on the Dictionary of American Regional English. Some of the words sound like things J’s mother might say.

Remember When (book #76)

18 July 2010

Nora Roberts, 2003.

This was the first book I borrowed from the library after re-activating my membership. I had wanted to read it because it’s two novels in one; the first a standard Nora suspense/thriller, set round about now, and in the second Eve (who is fifty years in the future) investigates the mystery of the first book.

I kept renewing it because there were bits I wanted to blog about – I listed six page numbers but looking at them now I have no idea why. Except for this quot:

The everydayers, as her father had dubbed normal people with normal lives, were about their business.

(The narrator’s father is a conman.)

I’ll read it again, or at least the Eve part, and get back to you.

Fan Fiction and Fan Communities in the Age of the Internet (book #75)

5 July 2010

Interesting link to The Media Report to Women (see also blog).

From the statistics page:

During the 2007-2008 primetime television season:

On screen, females accounted for 43% of all characters last season, up one percentage point from the 2006-07 season. This figure represents a historical high. However, female characters continued to be significantly younger than their male counterparts. For example, 70% of all characters in their 50s and 61% of all characters in their 60s were male. Females 40 and older comprised 11% of all characters. In contrast, males 40 and older accounted for 21% of all characters.

This is also interesting:

Google Search Prompts: Perpetuating Sex Stereotyping?

What prompts complete your search when you google “How can I get my boyfriend to….?”

According to Dan Ariely, author of Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions (expanded edition, Harper, 2009), who typed those words in to see what options Google would present to the searcher, the results were mostly about emotional aspects of the relationship:

To propose
To love me again
To be more romantic
To be more affectionate
To stop drinking

When the question is, “How can I get my girlfriend to….?”, the prompts are less about emotion and more about sex and sexiness, i.e.,

To give me head
To sleep with me
To lose weight
To kiss me

With Google saying it organizes these suggested prompts by how often computer users actually ask these questions, we can see that men are still from Mars and women from Venus – and Google’s search engine, in its own arbitrary way, underscores differences in male and female attitudes toward their romantic relationships, and now exhibits those differences prominently as a search tool convenience.

Having searched for this myself just now, I didn’t see the pattern in the autocompletes that’s suggested here. Several of the “how can I get my boyfriend to … ” were about sex, and the “how can I get my girlfriend to … ” included “trust me,” “love me again,” “forgive me”. The ones for “how can I get my mom / dad to … ” are also interesting (mother – “shut up,” “love me,” “get me a dog,” “let me dye my hair”; father – “stop drinking,” “stop smoking”).

Interesting that one of the contributors includes Barker’s Regeneration as an “intimatopic” text – I’ve always thought it emotionally icky in the access it appears to give us into its characters’ minds, revealing too much even though they don’t exist. She also mentions Susan Hill, Poppy Brite and Lackey in this context.

I also followed a reference to “It’s a queer world after all”: Studying the Sims and Sexuality. Here’s the author’s comment on low-income Sims:

The situation raises interesting questions that parallel those raised by Barbara Ehrenreich in her book Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By In America. When you’re stuck at the bottom, it’s hard to rise up. My low-income Sims weren’t encumbered by illness, racism, sexism or homophobia, and it was still difficult for them to climb out of the hole. And even if they eventually could, the game’s (quiet) statement remains — that poverty or being poor will wear you down, that it is materially harder to be happy and get ahead when you have less money and fewer resources.

I was led to this good bit of Richardson’s letters, about women’s letter-writing:

And shall the modest lady have nothing but her silence to commend her ? Silence indeed to me is a commendation, when worthy subjects offer not, and nothing but goose-like gabble is going forward; for air and attention will shew meaning, beyond what words can, to the observing: but the pen will shew soul and meaning too.-. -Retired, the modest lady, happy in herself; happy in the choice she makes of the dear correspondent of her own sex (for ours are too generally designers), un-interupted, her closet her paradise, her company herself, and ideally the beloved Absent; there she can distinguish herself: by this means she can assert and vindicate her claim to sense and meaning.

Since You Asked (book #74)

2 July 2010

Cary Tennis, 2008.

This is a collection of 94 letters to’s advice columnist, Cary Tennis, and his responses. The online column continues.

What I find interesting is CT’s constant suggestion of reimagining our lives – solving problems by writing new narratives for ourselves (my paraphrase). Here’s an example. Someone wrote to him saying that he/she feels “stuck” by the suicides of both his/her parents in the last ten years – doesn’t feel able to “move past the sadness and anger and shame”. CT writes

… No, that metaphor is not going to lead us very far. Here is another one: The world of inner reference points we have is quite solid. Your reference points are the suicides. They are like fenceposts that define the yard; you can’tgo much beyond them; you don’t know what is out there. When you begin to cross between two fence-posts – the suicide of one, the suicide of the other – there os a pain and a fear of what is on the other side. It could be death, who knows. It could be unimaginable confusion and pain. We are bounded by these events; they circumscribe our lives. But how then can we change? …

But maybe sometimes we boldly walk right by them. We walk right through the fenceposts. There on the right is the suicide of my mother; there on the left is the suicide of my dad. I walk by into the night unafraid, not looking either way. And then maybe one night I walk out and I stare right at the fenceposts: There is the suicide. I stare right at it, unblinking, unflinching. There it is, that’s what happened. There is the other suicide. I stand in the night sky under the stars and the moon, staring at the fenceposts and as I do the skulls of my mother and father appear at the top of the posts.

Maybe at that point I run inside.

Or maybe I don’t run inside. I stand and stare. I contemplate the skulls. I contemplate the deaths. I contemplate the stars. I contemplate the night’s immensity and our brief stay here. I summon courage. They are after all phantoms, these things. They did take many things from you. But they are phantoms. They cannot detach from the fenceposts and come and get you. They cannot sing or yell. They are forever on the other side of time.

This is me attempting to use spatial and temporal metaphors to get at an idea of our relationship to past trauma. It has its drawbacks. But perhaps it will be useful inasmuch as visualization can be useful.

To back away a little from the impressionistic style, however, and try to speak in more direct language, I am trying to say that the first step in dealing with such great tragedies in life is to recognize that they do indeed circumscribe our emotional lives. They are not simply going to go away. They are there, as rooted in the ground as old fenceposts. I say that as a corrective to the expectation that we should be able to easily overcome these things. We cannot. They are powerfully rooted markers, or totems, in our emotional landscape (or seascape, as I now find myself envisioning these markers on lodge poles in the sand at the edge of the sea, perhaps only because that is where I live, at the edge of the sea).

Here’s another of his re-tellings, in response to a woman who had a relationship with an alcoholic (Cary Tennis himself being a recovering alcoholic – see this article) and wants to “figure out how to cope with the fact that I’ll never really know what happened”.

It might help to conceive of this not as a relationship at all, but instead as a gruesome accident, a hit-and-run. You were blindsided. This man was drunk and should never have been given the keys to your heart.

And a last example. This is in reply to a woman who is pregnant, has a small child already and whose husband is too tired (works long hours, and the child is hard work) to have sex with her. She has a woman friend who wants to sleep with her and she’s tempted because the pregnancy hormones are making her desperate for sex. CT says

Here are some questions to consider:

What is my purpose in life? Am I working toward that purpose in this marriage? In living as a heterosexual married woman, am I living a lie? Is the self I present to my husband not my true self? What are my obligations to my children? Who comes first, me or them? To whom or what do I owe ultimate allegiance? To myself? To God? To my children? To ideas? To art? To my country? Are the conditions that are causing my dissatisfaction permanent or temporary? If they are temporary, how can I change them? Or will they change by themselves in time? If I were to end my marriage, how would I justify it to an impartial observer? If I believed I had a soul, what would it be telling me to do?

Those are, as I said, rather sweeping and grand questions. But then you are contemplating some sweeping and grand decisions. That one ought to live one’s life as though it were a work of art has a certain relevance here, in that a work of art requires an overall design or idea in order to stand as a solitary thing in the immensity of time. So does your life.

I understand CT to be saying that one can tell oneself a story about one’s life, and that this can change what one does / how one feels.


2 July 2010

70 books in the local library under the classification “Single women – fiction”. 5 under the classification “Single men – fiction”.

Crochet: A history of the craft since 1850 (book #73)

2 July 2010

Pauline Turner, 1984.

There’s a good clunker here. “With the coming of peace [after the First WW] people were being forced to change their attitudes and some of their habits. Crochet was no longer an expected and routine part of the day.”

And here is a picture of Queen Victoria crocheting. Worlds colliding.

Queen Victoria crocheting