Posts Tagged ‘wordsmithing’

In the last few days I’ve been waxing semantical.  No, “waxing semantical” does not mean hair removal in the groin region.

What came to me was the evolution of “acceptable” words, e.g., negro —> black —> african american, or deaf —> hearing impaired, or even dwarf/midget —> little people —> vertically challenged (Cruel Wife is a gnome in D&D but not quite that tall in real life so that one is a fun example).

Out of that arose the notion of “semantical hysteresis”, that is, the notion that as soon as you use a different word to reverse a perceived (real or not) connotation associated with a word describing some subset of society, the new word will still refer to the same thing, but the new construct will temporarily have a connotation that is [more] palatable to the group in question.  In spite of being differently named, the new term or expression will come to mean the same thing and take on the same perceived negatives (perceived by the subset of society in question) because the intrinsic nature of the group being named has not actually changed.   Shakespeare had it – a rose by any other name.   Semanteresis.

Or alternatively, “plasto-semantic deformation” as a term to describe that process by which politically correct speech ultimately fails to change anything at all.


Medical update…  Did the pre-op interview today so it sounds like the plan to cut on me is still in place.  Good thing, too, as I am ready to just do it already.

What’s new?  Not a lot.  Read Garfield cartoons with Girlhead.  Ate some chinese food.  Sitting here now and typing.  Life is pretty much Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas without any of the excitement, booze, drugs, lounge lizards, or giant bats.  Well, drugs… yeah… but not that kind.

Here is a bridge I saw on Gizmodo.  It’s twisty.  And I guess it works as a bridge, too.   A commenter named (aptly) IAMDEFECTIVE said:

Lovely bridge… but honestly, at this point in human civilization, don’t you think we should have already built all the bridges we need?

Really?  Seriously?  Built all the bridges we need?  You have to elect to be that stupid.


Fair warning, as I am about to rant.  Here it comes…

This is a girl I read about days ago and I haven’t been able to write in words what kind of disgust I have.

An 18-year-old student, she and her class took a field trip to Topeka, Kansas to see a speech by the governor. At some point during the trip, she sent the following message to Twitter: “Just made mean comments at gov brownback and told him he sucked, in person #heblowsalot.” According to Sullivan, it was the result of simply joking around with her friends. And she would have gotten away with it too, had it not been for those meddling… social media monitors?

The guv’nor’s handler got a bit pissy about what an 18 year old girl said because obviously there’s no more pressing matters to be handled.  The article rambles on and ends on this:

Governor Brownback. Sherriene Jones-Sontag, as well as Sullivan’s principal, would do well to remember that freedom of speech may occasionally involve things that are not glowing with positive reinforcement and sunshine, and that they may occasionally hurt some feelings. That this even needs reiterating is a sign that the United States’ freedoms are apparently not as well-studied as they need to be. Public figures especially need to realize that they will be criticized, and anyone who does so is completely within their rights to. In this situation, one student stood up for her right to speak her mind, and a governor learned that free speech is not a beast that can be tamed.

Okay.  (takes deep breath)  Here goes…

Yep, public figures need to realize they’ll be criticized.  Fine.  But we get to the end where the author says “one student stood up her her right to speak her mind, and a governor learned that free speech is not a beast that can be tamed.”  Her school also got a bit upset after the governor’s office called them to complain.

Emma Sullivan, the high school student now infamous for her tweet mentioning Kansas Governor Sam Brownback, has refused to apologize for her message, stating that she did not believe her apology would be sincere.

But here is what is chafing my nads – yes, the governor should grow some, and yes, the country is built on free speech – but the real matter at hand is that the kid was on a field trip representing her school and mouthed off and behaved like a rude little brat.  The school has every right to expect it’s students to be on good behavior, and tweeting to your friends that you told the governor that he sucked is not good behavior.

Perhaps most important, however, was her decision to refuse the apology that her principal demanded of her. She expressed that she was not sorry, that she would leave the tweet on her profile, and that any apology she gave would not be sincere as a result. However, she did extend an offer to the governor for the two of them to talk and discuss her legitimate concerns, which involve her disapproval of Brownback’s decision to veto the Kansas Arts Commission’s entire budget.

If my kid talked like this I’d expect him/her to give an apology.  That’s pretty damned arrogant “an offer to the governor for the two of them to talk and discuss her legitimate concerns, which involve her disapproval”.

Here’s a House M.D. quote that I love… *italicized emphasis mine*

Arrogance has to be earned.  Tell me what you did to earn yours.  – House, M.D.

She’s not even out of high school – she’s got no basis for arrogance.  A sympathetic commenter, who has missed the point continues:

It’s not that serious. The student is entitled opinion. When communicating on soical meida networks you open yourself up for public scrutiny. The speech probably was boring and full of political crap. Also, consider the student’s age.  – dana s.

What?  What in the hell is wrong with people when they confuse a kid’s embarrassingly bad manners with free speech?  We should note her age and give her a free pass to be an obnoxious brat?  Is this where are expectations lie?  No, instead we have a kid who has just been transformed by the event into a smarmy attention-whore who, if she/we are lucky, won’t walk away forevermore thinking her behavior makes her a hot item in the developed world.   Another commentor:

> I’m glad that somebody realizes that it’s not what she said. It was an immature thing to say.


It’s an 18 year old’s equivalent of a baby who is so very proud of it’s latest poopy diaper, and I’m sure her head is all full of lots of great warm fuzzy self-congratulatory thoughts, but when you represent your school’s Youth in Government group you agree to curtail some of your free speech.  Yes, you’d be perfectly free to jump up and down and scream that all politicians are pig-f***ers, but you don’t actually get to say whatever you want w/o consequences.

The kids may not be mature adults yet but there is nothing wrong with setting some minimum expectations that they be mature teenagers if they’re going to represent the school.   Used to be if you couldn’t play baseball you didn’t make the team.  We should go back to that model – it encourages higher standards and it works.


A day or so ago, the former chief of schools in Philadelphia was let go with a punishing severance package of only $905K.  She turned around and filed for unemployment immediately after, because she could.

Ackerman has been under pressure for much of her tenure in Philadelphia, over several issues: racial violence at South Philadelphia High School, a no-bid contract awarded to a minority firm, and the whopping budget deficit.  – Ackerman out…

I’ve formulated another concept lately and perhaps it’s my ignorance of the english language, but do we have a word to describe a behavior that is totally BS, that we should call someone on, but only via a technicality we let them get away with it, even though everyone knows it is absolutely wrong?

Here is just one example:

Senate defeats bills extending tax cut holiday, citing need to reduce deficit.

That is the topic for tomorrow’s post – we need to coin a new word as insightful as schadenfreude and as caustic as lye which can capture the disdain for those who work the system and lie through their teeth even though we all know it.  The word also should imply that their teeth need to be knocked out as we carry them out of town on a rail while we wave our pitchforks and torches.  It should capture the disdain we deserve for not doing so.

Said word (or expression) must capture:

  • That what the person or group is saying is complete bullshit
  • That the acceptance of such bullshit is in itself complete bullshit
  • That it is incredible that no one has spoken up and called bullshit on all this bullshit

Yes, I’m a bit of a mood here.

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That’s the new word…  Gasptronomique.

Gasptronomique Adj.  Pertaining to all foods that can theoretically be eaten but never should have been invented, being disgusting enough to make maggots throw up in their mouths repeatedly.  From Middle-Earth gaspen, meaning “sharp intake of breath” and -tronomique, meaning “bad enough to make maggots throw up in their mouths repeatedly”.

A fine example is the food Surströmming.  Or Hákarl.

Makes Lutefisk seem like a perfectly executed Salade Niçoise.

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Coining of Words

Through the course of today’s work, a word has emerged.

If it is not already  a word, I submit for your approval

dou·ché  (dyoo-shay’)


Used to acknowledge, to an asshole who may or may not be a total idiot, a successful criticism or an effective point in argument.
[derived from French, from past participle of toucher, to hit or wound in fencing, from Old French touchier & the noun douchebag]
Note:  h/t to co-workers Black Lab on Amphetamines and ByteGobbler on the word coinage
While statements that use words like “may be as big” are horribly vague and nearly impossible to verify when used in a context/article like this, certainly a certain sentiment is captured.
In his new book, Scott Rasmussen says, “The gap between Americans who want to govern themselves and politicians who want to rule over them may be as big today as the gap between the colonies and England during the 18th century.”

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