Saturday, January 07, 2006

He died happy

I decided to teach the oldest the game of Hangman today, wherein Person A thinks of a word and draws a space for each letter. Person B tries to guess the letters in the word and, ultimately, the word itself. For each incorrect letter guessed, a part of a man's body is drawn hanging from a noose on a gallows. If the hanging man is completed before the word is completely revealed or correctly guessed, Person A wins.

Usually, I only draw a head, a torso, two arms, and two legs, meaning 6 incorrect guesses end the game. But since it was his first time, and the strategy behind it is therefore new to him, I added in two eyes, two ears, a nose, and a mouth, effectively upping his incorrect guess threshhold to 11 before the game would end on the twelth incorrect guess.

After a few rounds, he looked at me, very puzzled.

"What part is confusing you, honey?"

"Mom, wouldn't that make the man, you know, dead?"

"Um, yes. We don't do that anymore. But in the Old West especially, hangings happened."

"I know. I know. But, Mom?"


"Why do you make him smiling?"

His argument is nothing if not

Appealing to the intellect or powers of reasoning; convincing.
[Latin cōgēns, cōgent-, present participle of cōgere, to force : co-, co- + agere, to drive.]
"cogent." The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004. 08 . 2006.

Summer in the South

Back a couple of decades ago, few people anchored their swing sets into the ground. This would result in the legs of the swing set actually leaving the ground if you swung too high. These days parents are more aware of the dangers of unanchored swing sets; so you are no longer likely to hear somebody say, “Don’t swing too high or you’ll

tump over."

v. Chiefly Southern U.S., tumped, tump·ing, tumps. To overturn. Often used with over: You're about to tump that thing over.

v.intr. To fall over. Often used with over: Is that wheelbarrow going to tump over?
[Probably akin to

"tump." The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004. 08 . 2006.

To my daughter, I bequeath my gift bags...

I am possibly the cheapest woman alive when it comes to giftwrap. This explains why I am using a dead woman's cache of secondhand giftbags. When my mother died, and I found her collection of recycled giftbags in the bottom drawer of her dresser, I not only took the dresser, I took the giftbags.

Life may be fleeting, but giftbags, when folded properly, are

1. Without beginning or end.
2. Existing or occurring without interruption or end.
3. Existing unchanged forever.
4. Enduring for all time.
"eternal." Roget's II: The New Thesaurus, Third Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 1995. 07 . 2006.

Ditto tissue paper.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Goodnight, goodbye

Letter released by the Toler family on Thursday in Flatwoods, WV, written by Martin Toler Jr who died in the Sago Mine. It reads, "Tell all I see them on the other side JR I love you It wasn't bad just went to sleep."
For Christmas, I gave my father a book about the US Civil War, based upon letters written during that time. The book had pockets nearly every other page with copies of the actual letters inside. There was one in particular that was stained with blood. It was written to his family by a soldier who lay mortally wounded, announcing his own death.
I find Martin Toler Jr's letter equally
Exciting a deep, usually somber response.
"affecting." Roget's II: The New Thesaurus, Third Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 1995. 07 . 2006.

Wolof now?

A week or so ago, he stunned me by counting to ten in Spanish. Now the youngest is singing along with Youssou N'Dour. I had no idea he spoke

1. A member of a West African people primarily inhabiting coastal Senegal.
2. The West Atlantic language of this people, widely used as a lingua franca in Senegal.
"Wolof." The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004. 06 . 2006.

(In truth, I know he doesn't, that he's just imitating the sounds.)

A word of advice

A third sibling in a Turkish family has now died of avian influenza. A fourth sibling is ill and breathing with the help of a respirator. From an AP article on the Washington Post website:

The doctor said the youngsters most likely contracted the virus while playing with the heads of dead chickens infected with the disease, which explains why the parents were not affected. The Turkish newspaper Sabah said the children had tossed the chicken heads like balls inside their house in Dogubayazit, near the Iranian border.

In light of this, I recommend ceasing using the heads of dead chickens as balls for play immediately. And if someone tries to encourage you to become the next poultry Pelé,

Just Say No
advertising campaign
A television advertising campaign, part of the War on Drugs and prevalent during the 1980s and early 1990s, to discourage children from drug abuse by offering various ways of saying "no." Eventually, this also expanded into the realm of "Just say no" to violence, premarital sex, and any other condemnable idea/entity that one group supposed it was plausible to "say no" to. The slogan was championed by Nancy Reagan.
"Just Say No." Wikipedia. Wikipedia, 2005. 06 . 2006.

No Jumping On the Bed Either

When I was a young girl, I would spend the summers with my grandmother. It was a rule that once the beds were made, there would be no “wallering” on the beds. When my grandmother makes a bed it is a work of art. The top sheet is put on upside down so that when you turn it down for the night the pretty print can be seen. And there is never one wrinkle on any of her beds. But I didn’t know anyone else who used the word ‘waller’. Then I realized that for my West Virginia born grandmother, ‘waller’ is how she pronounces


intr.v., -lowed, -low·ing, -lows.

1. To roll the body about indolently or clumsily in or as if in water, snow, or mud.
2. To luxuriate; revel: wallow in self-righteousness.

"wallow." The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004. 06 . 2006.

In other words, do not ruin Grandma’s work of art.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Green Eggs and Spam

Tonight, while on my gmail account, something caught my eye.

It was awful.
It was hideous.
It was... the RSS adfeed?


Such featured a recipe for French Fry Spam Casserole, which calls for the following ingredients:

- Frozen french fry potatoes
- Shredded Cheddar cheese
- Sour cream
- Condensed cream of chicken
- red bell pepper
- green onion
- corn flakes

I can think of nothing good to come out of such a

An often jumbled assortment; a mixture.
[Middle English medlee, from Anglo-Norman medlee, meddling, from past participle of medler, to meddle.]
"medley." The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004. 06 . 2006.

Actually, now that I think of it, I can think of nothing good that can come out of

trademark name
A trademark used for a canned meat product consisting primarily of chopped pork pressed into a loaf.
"Spam." The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004. 06 . 2006.


¿Qué pasa?

The youngest is sick. Quite sick. When the doctor asks us to sit down, my husband's reaction is one of defense. He stands against a wall instead.

When we leave, our questions have been exhausted, appointments have been made, direct lines have been exchanged, and the youngest has fallen fast asleep. In the parking garage, my husband notes a good omen in the doctor's surname, which is Spanish for

One venerated for experience, judgment, and wisdom.
"sage." The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004. 05 . 2006.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

"Is your dustpan smiling at me?"

Why, yes. Yes, it is.

I love my smiling dustpan. I show my love on a daily basis by sweeping into it fluffy bits of dog hair, sand and dried clay from the backyard, leaves carried in on people's shoes, and tiny bits of discarded

A thin, flexible, transparent cellulose material made from wood pulp and used as a moistureproof wrapping.
[Originally a trademark.]
"cellophane." The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004. 04 . 2006.

Cellophane is an example of a

genericized trademark
also generic trade mark, generic descriptor or proprietary eponym
A trademark or brand name which has become synonymous with the general or formal term for a particular type of product or service, to the extent that it often replaces this term in colloquial usage.
"genericized trademark." Wikipedia. Wikipedia, 2005. 04 . 2006.

Others Used in This House
Hula hoop
Magic Marker
Scotch Tape

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

"I'm going to let my car do the talking"

Many local car owners favor faux European stickers, with BURR (Congressman Richard Burr is local), OIB (Ocean Isle Beach, NC), or some other destination, person, or organization in the black-edged oval. Also popular are circular magnets with the names of local schools, public and private. Wake Forest stickers are all the rage. American flags, yellow ribbons, and other patriotica have a firm foothold. Medical organizations are in the mix. And churches are into the action now, too. Country clubs, peewee to varsity sports teams, political bents...

I sat in the pickup line at the oldest's school yesterday and watched cars exiting the parking lot. The average at my son's school seems to be about three decals/magnets/stickers per vehicle, with about 95% on the back of the vehicle.

With their riotous colors, seemingly random placement and big bold letters, the stickers make any vehicle with five or more (and I counted six such vehicles yesterday in line) look, from the back, a bit like the cover of a

A newspaper of small format giving the news in condensed form, usually with illustrated, often sensational material.
[From tabloid journalism, from Tabloid, trademark for a drug or chemical in condensed form.]
"tabloid." The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004. 03 . 2006.

Monday, January 02, 2006

It's a bird! It's a plane! No, it's a bird!

The barking in the backyard is sudden and fierce. I glance out the front windows but see no pedestrian, no dog walking past, no reason for such a vehement show. So I go to the backdoor and call for the dogs to come in. Salsa and Pinochet come right away, but reluctantly. Pep, aka The Naughty Dog, refuses to move. She's standing at the corner of the fence looking at something on the roof.

I go outside and look up, expecting to see a squirrel. What I see is an enormous grey bird take off, legs like sticks extending, long neck folded into an S, wings that are so large they cast shadows on the roof.

I'm too stunned to move, but when I do, it's to the telephone to call my father, now going slowly blind, but once a seasoned, well-regarded birdwatcher. He asks a few questions (flat grey, light grey like dove grey, no radiating crown), and determines I have seen a Great Blue Heron.

Length: 38 inches Wingspan: 70 inches
Sexes similar
Huge long-legged long-necked wader
Usually holds neck in an "S" curve at rest and in flight
Long, thick, yellow bill

For the record, I am 62ish inches tall. That bird's wingspan had about 8 inches on me. No wonder I felt like a

A very small person or being.
[After Lilliput, a country in Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift, where everything was diminutive.]
"Lilliputian." The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004. 03 . 2006.

What about you?

I am a stay at home mother to two children: Eter-pay is two and three quarters years and Ucy-lay is eleven months. My life is fraught with chaos and high emotion.


  1. Filled with a specified element or elements; charged: an incident fraught with danger; an evening fraught with high drama.
  2. Marked by or causing distress; emotional: “an account of a fraught mother-daughter relationship” (Francesca Simon).
Dictionary definition of fraught
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition Copyright © 2004, 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

It's not jade

"I love your bracelet! The green one?"

She's speaking of the slender light grey-green bangle encircling my right wrist. I wear another bracelet on that wrist as well, a gold charm bracelet. On my left wrist, I wear my watch, face on the inside of my arm, plain black leather band. I wear my wedding and engagement rings everyday. I also wear a necklace with a pendant featuring a sapphire I handselected in India for my mother. The youngest plays with the pendant when he lies in my arms.

But back to the bracelet. It's not jade. It's plastic. It was originally a luminous green.

The oldest gave it to me. He "won" it. In truth, every single child won one that day, but he doesn't know that. In his mind, it is important. And he gave it to me, his face full of pride intermingled with love. And so I wear his bracelet everyday, everywhere.

The green has mellowed and taken on a grey tinge over the months. It's getting harder, too, as the plastic loses its give.

"Is it jade?" she asks when I thank her for the compliment on my bracelet.
"No, " I reply. "It's

1. Accumulated or stored wealth in the form of money, jewels, or other valuables.
2. Valuable or precious possessions of any kind.
3. One considered especially precious or valuable.
[Middle English tresure, from Old French tresor, from Latin thēsaurus, from Greek thēsauros.]
"treasure." The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004. 02 . 2006.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

You mean, right now?

About an hour and 20 minutes ago, I came back home. I was out cheering our economy up before that. Anyway, after I settled in a bit and had folded a laundry basket full of teeny boxer briefs, undershirts, and jeans, I came upstairs to my computer and happened to find it on I browsed around a bit, found a laptop that struck my fancy, and looked it up on Consumer Reports. It checked out great, so I bought it for myself. I just had that feeling like right then was the time to buy it. Why wait? That's right... no reason to. So... it'll be here next week.

Carpe Diem: Enjoy the present and don't worry about the future, as in It's a beautiful day, so forget tomorrow's test—carpe diem! Latin for “seize the day,” an aphorism found in the Roman writer Horace's Odes, this phrase has been used in English since the early 1800s.

Idioms information about carpe diemThe American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. Copyright © 1997 by The Christine Ammer 1992 Trust. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved. More from Idioms


From an AP article on about the rising popularity of hookah bars:

But this is Roosevelt Way in Seattle, cater-corner from University Mazda and down the street from Mamma Melina's restaurant.

also cater-cornered or catty-cornered or catty-corner or kitty-cornered or kitty-corner
In a diagonal position.
[From obsolete cater, four at dice, from Middle English, from Old French catre, four, from Latin quattuor.]
"cater-corner." The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004. 01 . 2006.

I'd never heard it called that. We're strict catty-corner people.

Nappy Yew Hear!

I transpose the initial sounds of words from time to time. My mother did, too, especially with names. I was standing next to her once when she accidentally introduced someone whose first name was Christophe but whose last name started with P as "Pistophe Cr_____". I have to say, given his reaction, it was an accurate moniker.

Transposition of initial consonants in a pair of words.
"spoonerism." WordNet 1.7.1. Princeton University, 2001. 01 . 2006.

A Spoonerism is a play on words in which corresponding consonants or vowels are switched, named after the Reverend William Archibald Spooner (1844–1930), Warden of New College, Oxford, who was notoriously prone to this tendency. Some of his famous (and possibly apocryphal) quotes from the chapel include "The Lord is a shoving leopard," "It is kisstomary to cuss the bride," and "Mardon me padam, this pie is occupewed. Can I sew you to another sheet?." (Pardon me, madam, this pew is occupied. Can I show you to another seat?) The spoonerism is a now legendary 'slip of the tongue.'...

...Spoonerisms are prolific in a few other languages. For example, the quirks of the Finnish language (such as vowel harmony and a relatively narrow selectio of phonemes) lend themselves well to this purpose, and Finnish sanankäännökset ('word-turnings') a.k.a. sananmuunnokset ('word transformations'), mainly used in jokes, in all likelihood predate Rev. Spooner. Unfortunately, some Finnish names work as spoonerism. For example ordinary name "Pentti Hirvonen" turns into "hintti pervonen" (which means something like "Gay McPervert").
"spoonerism." Wikipedia. Wikipedia, 2005. 01 . 2006.