Category Archives: words

talking tomatoes

We’re in the kitchen eating breakfast. Phoebe gets up to use the bathroom.

Phoebe: Don’t eat all the pear while I’m gone!
Me: I won’t. What if I eat all the oatmeal?
Phoebe: Don’t eat all the oatmeal! I want some.
Me: What if I eat all the sassafrass?
Phoebe: I don’t think we have any sassafrass.
Me: What if I eat all the… tomatillos?
Phoebe: I don’t think he would like that.
Me: [?] Tomatillo is a kind of tomato.
Phoebe: …that they eat in Spain?
Me: Does it sound like a Spanish word to you?
Phoebe: Yes.
Me: You’re right. It is a Spanish word.
Phoebe: Then they must be in Spain!
Me: I’m not actually sure. You know, there are other places in the world where they speak Spanish.
Phoebe: Tomatoes don’t speak!

Phoebe enjoys her breakfast with pears, oatmeal and reference-resolution adventures.

the penultimate post

Oof. It’s 11:00 p.m., and I have yet to post anything. It would be kinda silly to make it this far into NaBloPoMo and blow it on the penultimate day.

I’m quite fond of the word penultimate. It’s one of those words that gets misused frequently, often in a way suggesting that the user thinks it means something like “more ultimate that ultimate.” But ultimate is just that: final, unique. The end all. Penultimate? It’s the second to last. It’s not quite the be-all and end-all of ultimate.

I suppose that’s much of the appeal. It’s the not-quite. Most of us never achieve the level of ultimate for most things. Who among us will get to be the ultimate authority on some subject? Will we ever achieve ultimate happiness? Ultimate calm? Bake the ultimate chocolate cake? I, for one, am not sure I’d want to. Because wouldn’t that mean I’d reached the end?

Penultimate is a word that gets used frequently in phonology. We talk a lot about the penultimate syllable of word. For example, in a given language it might be the penultimate syllable, or the penult (as many like to call it, skipping the formality of the polysyllabic phrase) that bears the word-level stress. Or you might talk about the antepenultimate syllable. Or even the preantepenultimate. It really amuses me that there is a word that means “4th from the end.” (Mind you, when talking “ultimate” syllables, phonologists tend to say “final.” It’s seems somewhat anticlimactic.)

As usual, there is a backlog of posts I’d like to write, but clearly I’m not going to manage anything of them now. (Have I mentioned that I am a very slow writer? I type, I delete, I re-type, I edit. And often I delete and re-type once more.) So rather than write about something that might take some thinking, I’m apparently going to just ramble on for a bit just for the sake of rambling. Because ultimately, that’s what’s blogging is often about.

Oh, and one last thing, since I like to have at least one picture in a post. Can anyone identify this?

a chance for pants

    Every time I have the chance
    While some may think it’s whack
    I’ll write a post involving pants

    Let the kitchen swarm with ants
    Leave the laundry on the rack
    Every time I have the chance

    I give my work a sideways glance
    I may catch a lot of flak
    I’ll write a post involving pants

    Humming lines from Safety Dance
    I’ll type away upon my Mac
    Every time I have the chance

    I’ll not read a bad romance
    Nor journal papers in their stack
    I’ll write a post involving pants

    Though others look at me askance
    I swear I’m not on crack
    Every time I have the chance
    I’ll write a post involving pants


These pants are dedicated, in loving memory, to my friend Elizabeth, whose claim that pants was the funniest word in the English language first introduced me to the humorous powers of pants. Your pants will never be forgotten, dear friend.

The form of this post is a villanelle, a style of poetry, and the assignment of today’s Monday Mission. Please pay a visit to Painted Maypole to see who else has chosen to accept this mission. Painted herself has told me that she has a poem up, also with the theme of pants. (Painted penned a poem of pants.)

Today also marks the third anniversary of this blog. It seemed only fitting that it should wear plenty of pants today.


remember, remember

four lobes of the cerebral cortexIt’s the 5th of November. Which makes me remember some things about remembering.

I’m fascinated by memory, and clearly I’m not alone, judging from the large number of movies, stories, songs and such that feature themes of memory. Or loss of memory. Here’s a ThThTh list of some things I can remember:

    Some memory-related things that come to mind

  • The poem about Guy Fawkes day:

    Remember, remember the fifth of November,
    The gunpowder treason and plot,
    I know of no reason
    Why the gunpowder treason
    Should ever be forgot.

  • remember the Alamo!
  • mnemonic devices: phrases, poems or other sayings used to aid the memory for specific facts, such as:
    • Roy G. Biv (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet: the order of colors in the rainbow)
    • homes (Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, and Superior: i.e. the Great Lakes)

    (more mnemonic devices here)

  • string on finger

  • string tied around a finger: if you need to remember something, you can tie a string around your finger as a reminder that there was something you were supposed to remember. This relies on you being able to remember what it was that you hoped to remember.
  • souvenir: a keepsake or memento, typically from a visit to a place to which one has travelled. From the French verb souvenir, “to remember”
  • memento: an object kept to remember a time, place or event. From the latin remember:

    L. memento “remember,” imperative of meminisse “to remember,” a reduplicated form, related to mens “mind.” Meaning “reminder, warning” is from 1582; sense of “keepsake” is first recorded 1768. (from etymology online)

  • Memento (2000): a movie about a man who loses his ability to form new memories.
  • The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004): a movie in which people can undergo a process of selective memory erasure.
  • Chester Tate: A character on the 70s TV show Soap who spends several episodes with amnesia.
  • “Tabula Rasa,” a Buffy episode: A spell gone awry causes the main characters to forget who they are. Hilarity ensues. (Seriously, it’s a really fun, funny episode.)
  • “The Forget me Knot,” an episode of The Avengers in which Emma Peel forgets who she is. (This was Diana Rigg’s last episode on the series.)
  • Forget Me Not,” an amnesia episode of Gilligan’s Island (Okay, I didn’t actually remember this one, guessed that there was an amnesia episode.)
  • For that matter, there are probably plenty of episodes from sci-fi shows like those in the Star Trek and Star Gate universes.
  • The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996): Geena Davis plays an amnesiac ex-spy
  • The Bourne Identity (2002): Matt Damon plays an amnesiac ex-spy
  • Who am I?/Wo shi shei (1998): Jackie Chan plays an amnesiac spy.
  • Total Recall (1990) Arnold Schwarzenegger plays a spy whose memories were re-written
  • lots more movies and shows with a memory (or loss of memory) theme can be found here:
  • “I Don’t Remember,” a song by Peter Gabriel

    I don’t remember, I don’t recall
    I got no memory of anything at all

  • “I can’t forget,” a song by Leonard Cohen. I can’t forget, but I don’t remember what.
  • “Only a Memory,” a song by the Smithereens
  • The Persistence of Memory: famous Salvador Dalí painting with melting watches
  • memory: a card game also known by the name “concentration”
  • memory: a computer component for storing data
  • ddr ram

  • Remember when Chris Farley interviewed people? Remember how he interviewed Paul McCartney? That was awesome.

    Chris Farley: You remember when you were with the Beatles?
    Paul McCartney: Yes.
    Chris Farley: That was awesome.

A Panthropology 101 Vocabulary Primer

For those of you new to the study of pants, it may be helpful to learn a few key terms commonly used by the field’s top panthropologists. As an exercise, please use one of the following words in a sentence.

    pantipathy: a strong aversion to pants
    pantiquity: bloomers of old
    pantithesis: the opposite of pants
    pantidote: a remedy for really ugly pants
    pantidisestablishmentarianism: a fierce opposition to going shopping for pants
    pantagonize: to cause annoyance by mocking someone’s ugly pants
    pantepenultimate: the pants you wear when you are almost, but not quite, down to your last pair of clean pants.
    pantecedent: the pants you wore yesterday
    pantennae: trouser-shaped appendages atop the head (see also pantlers)
    panterior: the front side of one’s pants
    pantathema: really, really ugly pants
    panthem: a song of pants celebration. PANTS!
    panthology: a collection of short pants
    panthrax: an infectious disease that makes one’s pants fit poorly
    panthropormorphism: ascribing properties of pants to objects or creatures
    pantlers: the horns atop the head of a pantelope
    pantomime: the trousers of a mime
A pair of pantennae.

A pair of pantennae.

This load of pants was for a Monday Mission, hosted by Painted Maypants. This week’s assignment was to write a post in the form of a vocabulary list.

Channel V

Dee of On The Curb has posted a playlist of some of her favorite “vagina music,” with her post entitled exceeding my bandwith on the word vagina.¹ (You should go check out Dee’s blog, by the way. In case you haven’t guessed it, she’s freakin’ hilarious.)

Dee doesn’t quite give a definition of “vagina music,” but she gives quite a few examples. If I had to summarize, I’d say that the songs are ones that move her down to her…um…core, and tap into her emotions. And perhaps also those that remind her that she is biologically female.

Further, Dee has requested comparable lists from others. In her words, “I show you mine, you show me yours.”

Okay, Dee. I’ll show you mine. While I’ve never thought of this music in quite those terms², this is my response playlist:

  1. Save Me – Aimee Mann (listen)
  2. Thief – Belly (listen)
  3. Lucky – Bif Naked (listen)
  4. Bulimic Beats – Catatonia (listen)
  5. No Need To Argue – The Cranberries (listen)
  6. Virgin State Of Mind – K’s Choice (listen)
  7. Autumngirlsoup – Kirsty MacColl (listen)
  8. Your Ghost – Kristin Hersh (listen)
  9. Famous Blue Raincoat – Leonard Cohen (listen)
  10. De Cara A La Pared – Lhasa (listen)
  11. Wild Is The Wind – Nina Simone (listen)
  12. Down By The Water – P J Harvey (listen)
  13. Dancing Barefoot – Patti Smith Group (listen)
  14. Haunted – Poe (listen)
  15. Glory Box – Portishead (listen)
  16. Possession- Sarah McLachlan (listen)
  17. i am stretched on your grave – Sinéad O’Connor (listen)
  18. Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me – The Smiths (listen)
  19. Anchor – Trespassers William (listen)

How about you. Wanna show me yours?


¹ Dee is not shy about using the word vagina. In fact, in her post, she uses the word vagina no fewer than 38 times. (Yes, I counted. One vagina, two vagina, three vagina, four. Five vagina, six vagina, seven vagina, more…) And that, my friends, is a most impressive feat.

² The thing is, though, I’m not a big fan of the word vagina. In fact, this post here marks the first time I’m using the word on my blog. (Yes, I did a search.) Also the 2nd through 15th times. (Yes, I counted.) Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against vaginas. Or vaginae, if you prefer. I’m glad I have one of my own, and all. I just find the word vagina awkward.

Now spleen, on the other hand, there’s a word I like. Spleen. It’s a word that amuses me. I also appreciate its range of meanings. Some of you may know the spleen as an organ in the lymphatic system. But it was once esteemed as “the seat of spirit and courage or of such emotions as mirth, ill humor, melancholy, etc.” Me, I’m all about the mirth, the ill humor and the melancholy. Then there’s the whole archaic meaning of splenetic to mean “melancholy.” And my playlist is pretty darned melancholy.

So maybe you can consider this my spleen music.


We have some foam letters that Phoebe plays with at bath time. We’ll often talk about and name letters, and sometimes spell a few words on the tub walls.

A couple of nights ago, Phoebe picked up a D.

“What words start with a D,” John asked.

“Dog,” says Phoebe, quite quickly. We are impressed, and feel quite pleased with our parenting.

“Right! What else?”

Phoebe thought a bit. “Um…”

“Door,” I suggest.

“Dandelion,” says John.

“Daddy,” I say.

“Damn!” Phoebe suggests. John and I pause. Crap, we do swear too much in front of her.

“Oh…dam! Right! Like the dam where we go for walks sometimes!” I say, gladly remembering the dam where we go for walks sometimes.

“And dammit!” Phoebe says proudly.

Phoebe on the dam where we go for walks sometimes.

Phoebe on the dam where we go for walks sometimes.

Photo by John.