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In honor of Havre-Hill County Library’s annual four-day used book sale, aka book nerd Christmas, and just because I found it immensely delightful and artistically fascinating, I give you this link to a library/art/literature mystery from Scotland that I linked to from a WordPress sister site.

Art comes in many forms, and I can’t find the words to express how delighted I get when I see incredibly cool art in forms and media, like this paper/book art, that I never would’ve imagined. If the artist were my friend, I would punch him/her in the arm inappropriately hard, say “Oh. My. Gawd! That is so totally awesome!” and then hug him/her. Inappropriately hard. While bouncing up and down on the balls of my feet. And then continually reaching toward them to get a sense of their tactile nature.

Yes, I want to touchy, touch, touch them with my grubby hands. They’re a precious.

From the photos alone, I want terribly to feel their texture, see how they’re constructed, see if some of the parts move and flutter, check out their sturdiness, hold them to my nose to see if they smell like Elmer’s or rubber cement. Or that paste from grade school.

The bobbies would arrest me for sure at pam[at]viewfromthenorth40.com

 

You just never know what you’re capable of until your back is against the wall, the chips are down and … I’m out of cliches.

(BTW, my unhelpful spell checker doesn’t recognize “cliche.” It keeps saying “do you mean ‘chicle’?” Which is, according to my Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate, a type of gum used in chewing gum … and, omg, now we know where the name Chiclets comes from. My other word option is “cloche,” which the dictionary says is a transparent plant cover to protect from frost. Who knew it had a name other than clear plastic thingy? No, dear spell checker, neither option is viable, but if you could tell me how to put that pretentious French accent mark on the word I do want, that would be useful. kthnx.)

Meanwhile, back to the mundane part of my story. I needed to move where I feed horses this winter because some of my hay is dusty from the alfalfa leaves crumbling when it was baled, and I wanted to be near a water source in case I had to drag a hose out and water the hay a bit. However, this meant feeding two of the horses at a tight spot in their pen where I had an electric fence around this scraggly old willow tree. This would not do — horses being horses and prone to crabbing about who has the best bite of hay or the nicest place to stand or if somebody’s looking at someone else funny or getting their cooties on somebody else. Horses are like that.

I didn’t want the horses to get into this bind. Plus, the new attitude in the humans around here as we work to clean up the place is: screw it, get rid of it.

So after 21 years of this pitiful tree being in the way in the horse pen and despite my love of all things tree out here on the prairie, I ripped the poor sucker out of the ground.

I know, right? It was older than me, like a little grandmother of trees, and I just went for the throat. Unconscionable. I still can’t believe I did it. I am a horrible person, an evil force of destruction.

It’s been 10 days, and I still feel guilty. I wrote an homage to the dearly departed tree, had it published out in the world, and then put it in the Write On folder linked at the top of this page. It didn’t really make me feel better. I’m guessing it didn’t make little willow tree feel any more alive either.

Is there a twelv-step program for the chronically guilty? at: pam(at)viewfromthenorth40.com

I was reading a funny news bite last week about Sarah Palin’s newly coined word: refudiate (refute+repudiate=refudiate). The Associated Press reported that Merriam-Webster’s website has declared it the summer’s most-searched word, even though it’s a non-word, or dis-word, or un-word … whatever the case may be.

So then at work today I used the un-word “lastitude” and then paused to say, “Did I use that correctly? Is that even the right word? Lastitude? Or lassitude? Lastitude? Lassitude? Las— how do you say that? …”

The head reporter’s all, like, smart-assy smart, not saying that I meant lassitude because that would, maybe, relieve me from where my brain was wallowing around in the dead-connection zone in my nugget of gray matter. He just told me, “Lastitude isn’t a word.”

To which I replied, while digging through the dictionary, “Did I just go all Sarah Palin on your wise-ass? Don’t make me do it again.”

Turns out, I had the correct usage, just not the correct spelling/pronunciation … which makes it the not-right word unless you count that I knew what I meant to say, thus in a way, I did have the right word but in a wrong kind of sense. Very minor kind.

Of course, I couldn’t admit to being — whadya call it? — stupid? So I told him: “Oh, I was pulling a Palin and combined lassitude with attitude. See? Yeah, totally makes sense, so don’t refudiate me on this, man.” He didn’t buy it.

Since I had the ol’ word-combinator fired up in my thought machine, I came up with this doozie little humdinger:

Lackatude = the word combination of lackadaisical and attitude which, by virtue of combonition (that would be combo of definitions), means I am intellectually and emotionally positioned not to give a damn about much of anything. In the parlance of the common man, my peeps: My give-a-shit is broke-down and busted.

Feel free to use my new word, embrace it as if it were your own. You’re welcome.

Un-word and upward at: pam(at)viewfromthenorth40.com

So the other day Baby Brother calls to tell me that he’s packing up his wife, the dogs, his fly-tying gear and my favorite toddler namesake and moving to North Dakota. I was trying to keep it together as he rattled off a detailed list of all the benefits to this move. Farther away from me. To a foreign land.

“Cool,” “Oh, that’s cool,” “That’ll be cool,” was all I could say.

But inside I was dying — wailing like a spoiled brat, “This is a tragedy!! Oh my gaaaawd! He’s taking my little girl away! And he’s raising her to be a North Dakotan!! This is tragic, truly tragic!!”

When I couldn’t take his perky prattling any longer, I interrupted him.

“Bro, I’m happy for you guys, really, but this is a personal tragedy for me. I just have to say that. Cool for you maybe, but tragic for me. OK, it’s somehow both tragic and cool, like, ‘tragicool.'”

At this point, not that I was any less devastated, I became enamored with and a little distracted by my new word. “Tragicool,” I’d say to every positive point he made — to help mask my pain and, well, because I’m shallow.

Better paying job? Tragicool. Nice schools? Tragicool. Cheaper house prices? Tragicool. Maybe be able to buy some acreage to get a pony? (Which he said just to make me happy, but still … .) Tragicool, man.

The two things that I got from our conversation were: 1) He doesn’t care if he breaks my Aunty heart, and 2) He was more annoyed than impressed with my new word.

Whatever, but I did follow his instinct on the second part — Baby Brother knows funny — and I shelveded my new word without dragging it out into public … until about a week later when I saw spectacular photos online of some guy’s house being engulfed by lava.

“Ooooh, dude,” I told my computer screen, “tragicool.”

What a perfect word! Now I’m all about tragicool and spreading the word on the word.

So here are a few examples of appropriate usage:

The guy with the house in a bed of lava in beautiful Hawaii had spent the last three years watching lava push doom closer and closer to the home. In the last hours of the night on July 23, he watched the lava, glowing red in the night through cracks in the black hot-melt as it finally ooze around his home, heating it with primordial fire until it burst flame. Tragicool.

The guy sat at a picnic table watching his beloved home burn to the ground and his property become a lava-flow wasteland, sharing the moment with a friend, a handful of photographers and a bottle of aged wine. You are tragicool, dude.

I like a solid marriage of the heart wrenching and the glorious.

A few days before the January earthquake that destroyed Port-au-Prince, Haiti, an infant girl was badly burned and sent to the hospital where her mother was told the prognosis was not good. After the earthquake leveled the hospital, the infant was thought to have died along with the other hundreds of thousands of quake victims. Unknown to her mother, the baby was found alive in the rubble two days later with an arm so badly injured doctors at the emergency medical facility had to amputate it despite her weakened condition.

Everything about this story, aside from the not dying part, was tragic, no doubt. But don’t fear, there is coolness to be found.

The doctors realized the baby needed a special surgery to save her from her original burn wound that was leaving her at high risk for a brain infection. The surgery was only available at a specialized hospital, so they helped arrange for a charitable organization to fly her to London where she received the care she needed.

This month the organization helped reunite the infant with her mother who was astonished to find her now 8-month-old daughter alive and well. Tragicool.

It’s everywhere.

We are foursquare in favor of comicool, too, at: pam(at)viewfromthenorth40.com

According to my Webster’s 9th New Collegiate Dictionary

A newsreader is a person who broadcasts the news, not a member of the news audience who literally reads the day’s news in, like, the den or the bathroom or something to get information, rather than give it.

A newsdealer is a person who sells at a stand newspapers, magazines and paperback books (the last item being the media in which we regularly look for the latest news). A newsdealer is not some nefarious seller of news tips in a dark back alley, lurking two doors down from the crack dealer who keeps saying: Don’t get hooked on the news, kids, ink will blacken your soul.

And, just so you know, a newsmonger is a gossip, which is, by definition, a person who collects and spreads news for the thrill not the money, even though a monger is most commonly defined as a dealer or a peddler of goods.

Words are weird at: pam(at)viewfromthenorth40.com

Wow, I almost went to bed without posting my word!

I give you:

pooh-pooh: v. belittle or dismiss with contempt [e.g. Don’t pooh-pooh my ideas.] It must be spelled with the hyphen and the Hs in use as any part of speech.

The best part about this word is not that it’s in virtually every dictionary of modern English. No, the best part is that it’s in The Associated Press’ official style guide for newspaper publications. Even the New York Times and the Washington Post.

AP has an opinion on pooh-pooh — I’m just childish enough that I enjoy saying that, and even if I do so without make any other noises than are needed to form the words in the sentence, I’m laughing on the inside. Guaranteed.

By the by, I remembered to get the citation info from the work dictionary which I quoted Monday: Webster’s New World College Dictionary, 4th Edition.

I’m square with the world now.

And I can sleep in peace at: pam(at)viewfromthenorth40(dot)com

mobocracy: n. 1. rule by the mob, 2. the mob as a ruling class (Webster’s 9th New Collegiate).

I get the first definition in its very literal sense, but the second one is the definition rank with possibilities.

Ten-thousand-and-one in number, the mob riots, bringing mayhem, death and destruction to the streets. The 10,001 mob members overthrow their rulers, declare themselves king (all 10,001 of them) and set up shop in the castle (well, only 10,000 of them because one guy is claustrophobic and sleeps in a tent on the royal lawn).

They rule.

They demand a seat on the U.N. Council, find a dealer who can hook them up with some weapons grade plutonium to prove they’re players of some importance and start competing at polo on the weekends.

Because they are king they wish to refer to themselves as “we,” as in the royal “we,” but they don’t want to emulate their former rulers whom they prefer to mock, so they call themselves the royal “I.” They adopt the motto: “An I for an I.” They think they’re clever.

But this is not a happy story; it’s ironic, so their language usage brings about their downfall.

All 10,001 mob rulers run around making declarations, such as “I am in charge here, so do what I want, when I want!” Which should suit the royal “I” mobocrats just fine in principle, but they can’t get beyond their upbringing. Eventually, as they say “I,” they each secretly begin to think of themselves singularly rather than collectively.

Literally, “I” becomes about “I” or “me,” but not “we” as in we the mob in order to form a more perfect ruling class … . Each of the 10,001 mobocrats hears his or her co-kings making “I-filled” declarations and knows that each of them thinking of him- or herself singularly also.

Rioting, mayhem, death and destruction ensue as each of the 10,001 royal “I’s” fights to become the one great and dreadful “I” who can, in the darkness, bind the others — and, once in charge, become the royal “we” ruling in singular peace. (Are you still with me?)

As the rioting depletes the I’s numbers and weakens their resources, a lost and long-forgotten royal of little standing from the former ruling class shows up, whups the mobocrats into submission and declares herself ruler, high-muckety-muck of all the land, if you will.

In her crown acceptance speech she doesn’t want to say “we” and risk causing another riot by sounding uppity, and she doesn’t want to say “I” and risk associating herself with the last pack of dumb-asses trying to take charge.

Her solution, because she is gifted in the language arts, is to use second person pronoun in reference to herself: “You are so very pleased to reclaim this throne. You shall wear this crown with pride and rule the country with justice and dignity. You hereby declare that ‘you,’ the people, shall partake in your coronation festivities while you exit to the loo, because you really have to nervous pee, right now. You thank ‘you’ very much.”

The people accepted and loved, well, liked her as their ruler because, despite her oddness, she was better than the mob — which is about as good of an endorsement as most rulers get, really.

And the queen ruled happily ever after on the average, to the end of your days at: pam(at)viewfromthenorth40.com

Foudroyant: adj. (foo droi’ ent) [Rare] dazzling or stunning (and I’ll have to add the citation tomorrow because the book title isn’t legible on the copy I made at work. I know, fan-friggin’-tastic).

I swear that the dictionary at work has the awesomest words. My dictionary, which is technically bigger, doesn’t have this word. It has fou which means drunk (good word in its own right) and Foucault pendulum, but then skips to fought, foul, etc.

In some ways I find it distressing that two seemingly equivalent dictionaries will provide a list of different words. I feel like I need to suffer the hassle of having several tomes to cover the same language, my language, my only language. Am I the only one who finds this distressing? It’s like being duped out of invaluable knowledge put at risk by other people’s lack of thoroughness.

What if I were CIA and someone, a heretofore trusted operative, withheld complete and valid intell. That could queer my deal, blow my cover. People have died for less.

Guess I’ll just have to save my money to buy the holy grail of words, 20-volume Oxford English Dictionary and the addition to my house which I will need to have room to store it.

But it could save my life at: pam(at)viewfromthenorth40(dot)com

In honor of the death-themed news which will follow, I give you:

cremains: n. pl. [blend of cremated and remains] (1947) ashes of a cremated human body (Webster’s 9th New Collegiate).

I think it’s funny, in our modern emoticon, netiquette, fugly, televangelist, ebonics, stagflation, Brangelina, Californication, spork world, to find that blended words are not new to this generation.

Can you imagine the conversation between the mortician and the bereaved family in which the word cremains was first used back in the 1940s? The family members were weeping into tissues or staring stoically at some point on the wall just over the mortician’s shoulder. When he said, “This brass urn is the standard vessel for the dearly departed’s cremains,” everybody’s teary, bloodshot and no-longer-distant eyes zeroed in on the guy, and they were all, like, “Huh?”

Some language innovations are inherently harder to introduce to the general public.

On that somber note, I give you my “History of the Dead” with 1984 Olympic shot put bronze medalist David Laut.

Mr. Laut, it seems, was shot dead at the scene last summer, and his wife, Jane, was arrested this week on a charge for his murder. She had originally told police that he had gone out to the backyard to investigate noise and was shot. Her lawyer is now saying that it was self-defense because Mr. Laut had threatened to use the handgun to kill their child and dogs and then her. She wrestled the gun away from the former shot putter and, well, shot put several bullets into his head.

So I was reading the article and thinking, wow, poor guy. And, wow, he was either really drunk or Janey baby is one bad ass chick to wrestle a gun away from a strong guy. And then I got to the little blurb about David Laut’s life, and I thought, wow, Irony is such a bitch, and I just can’t let it go without comment.

Mr. Laut won two NCAA titles at UCLA and a gold medal at the 1979 Pan American Games. He went on to win the bronze medal in the 1984 Olympics, and in 1985, he was still ranked the No. 7 shot-putter in the world and the No. 1 American. Then Irony delivered a low blow well south of the belt. He tore tendons in both knees during an agility test to become a fireman and thusly ended his shot-putting career trying to apply for a practical career for which his body would’ve seemed to be well-suited.

That’s just mean.

On that harsh note, we must move on to a more psychotic one as we examine my “Dead History of the Living” with Amy Bishop, disgruntled University of Alabama biology professor, rampaging gunner of innocent people and, possibly, sibling murderer.

Really, it’s kind of extraordinary that a woman opened fire on a crowd of co-workers in a fit of vengeful rage. That’s more of a guy thing. I’m just saying, it’s a statistical truth.

Her lawyer, however, might take a note from Jane Laut’s attorney and claim justifiable homicide for killing her three colleagues and wounding three others. She was, after all, being denied tenure — a clear threat to the life of her career.

Tenure doler-outers might’ve voted the other way had they known she owned a gun, and that she had killed her brother with one 20 years earlier. Therein lies the story behind the story.

Seems there’s shady history surrounding the dead-brother incident because of conflicting reports between whether Ms. Bishop’s actions were a result of a shotgun misfire or a shooting rampage. Hard to tell sometimes, I know.

On one hand, there’s bang, oops, omigawd, you’re hit!! Let’s get to the hospital!. And on the other hand there’s bang, bang, bang, shotgun pointed at a motorist, running through town and an arrest of the suspect behind a local business.

Statistically, witnesses don’t report seeing the same details in high-stress incidents, but no further assembly of facts or deliberation was required because the police chief took charge of the case and declared the shooting death an accident. And then all the records were lost.

Yeah, that’s not suspicious at all. Can we assume that the paper cremains were filed at the local landfill?

Bloody Irony at play on Valentine’s Day at: pam(at)viewfromthenorth40(dot)com

Before the word of the day, this day, I would like to add some points about yesterday’s word and the resulting conversation (which I am so excited that we can have now!).

First, the muck-a-muck form of our new word is still comical to me. It sounds like the ridiculous, fake Indian-speak we did as kids or from the early “talkie” movies. I always say muckety-muck, but some Readers pointed out that they use mucky muck — which my dictionary doesn’t have, but which I can imagine appearing as a variation in a dictionary somewhere. I can imagine that more than muck-a-muck.

Second, while searching my dictionary for muckety-muck (which, in full disclosure, only appears in the dictionary in its full, high-muckety-muck, glory), I found a few muck-related words that had the expected manure/dirt/negativity connotations, but then there was:
muckluck: n. var. mukluk, boot worn by Eskimos (Webster’s 9th New Collegiate).

Now, how disappointing is that? I should petition Webster’s to have the definition changed to something like “n. var. bad luck, or ill luck” because doesn’t it just make sense that the word-marriage of muck and luck should be crappy luck?

Third, the fact that I woke up pondering these heady matters at 3 a.m. officially means, I believe, I’m a no-life dork. Whatever. Moving on.

contumacious: adj. stubbornly disobedient : rebellious (Webster’s 9th New Collegiate).

I’m having that put on a name tag. Maybe a few of the related words, too: contumacy, contumelious, contumely, even controvert.

Not to detract from the lovely contumacious itself, but I really find it funny that right after this bunch of word entries, about being stubborn, willful, insolent, is the entry “contusion” as if one naturally resulted from the other.

I wonder at the luck of that …

and if Webster was a man of profound irony at pam(at)viewfromthenorth40(dot)com