Monday, July 16, 2018

Weekly Basho Haiku #29

by a window
a nap on the bed
of a bamboo mat

madonari ni
hirume no dai ya
take mushiro


Translated by Jane Reichhold

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Sounds Catholic, but it's not

Though the word (phrase, really) and the definition would lead one to think of it as a result of the traditional Catholic prohibition against eating meat on Fridays, it's more prosaic. Just a surfeit of the item in question in a particular place. Though I do like the idea that beef is far preferable to fish that is implied by the nickname.

Albany beef n.

Etymology: < Albany, the name of the capital city of New York State + BEEF n., in reference to the abundance of the fish in the waters of the Hudson River near Albany

U.S. Now hist.

The flesh of the sturgeon, used as food.

Monday, July 09, 2018

Weekly Basho Haiku #28

even a long day
is not enough for the singing
of a skylark

nagaki hi mo
saezuri taranu
hibari kana


Translated by Jane Reichhold

Friday, July 06, 2018

Vengeance pursues! They are heating the cauldrons!

This is a word that Gene Wolfe would use to describe some fantastical monster. You could tell someone that it was a minor part of the Book of the New Sun, and they'd believe you without hesitation. Alzabo, destrier,... alastor. Yep.

alastor, n.

Usually with capital initial. An avenging demon or god. More generally: any avenger of wrongs committed; an agent of retribution. Cf. NEMESIS n. 1.

Wednesday, July 04, 2018

Excuse me, do you have four quarters for a dollar?

This wasn't entirely an excuse to link to something humorous from my youth. Turns out that "Alaskan" to describe something or someone from Alaska was not the original word. Thankfully, however, it was the one that caught on and this malformation was, by and large, forgotten.

Alaskian, adj.

= ALASKAN adj.
   Some later examples may represent a typographical error for ALASKAN adj.

Monday, July 02, 2018

Weekly Basho Haiku #27

already sad
now make me lonely too
mountain cuckoo

uki ware o
sabishigara seyo


Translated by Jane Reichhold

Saturday, June 30, 2018

The Unremembered Greatness of A-Rod

Maybe it's just me. I don't consume a lot of baseball media, but it doesn't seem like he enters conversations about great home run hitters very often. This impression of mine might also result from the fact I'm not a fan of his. I have called him Pay-Rod and Pay-Roid. I've booed him in Seattle and NY. I wouldn't vote for him to be in the Hall of Fame because of the PED mess he was caught up in though I've mellowed over time about him abandoning Seattle for a divisional rival and an enormous paycheck.

But what can get lost in all the weirdness and oddity that was his career, including a girlish slap at a glove attempting to avoid being tagged out, shouting to distract infielders going after a pop-up while running the bases, and ending his career feuding with the team that employed him and the MLB, is how insanely he could mash a baseball.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Words of power

Interesting that this and abracadabra both have uncertain origins. This word seems to have more of a faux-Arabic sound to my ear, as if the original coinage was attempting to play upon the mysterious and mystic perception of the Middle East. The tendency to have people vary the end of the word while retaining the beginning also seems to argue in support of such an idea.

alakazam, int.

Used as an exclamation imparting supposed magical power, as when performing a trick. Hence in extended use, connoting any sudden transformation or happening. Cf. ABRACADABRA int.

In quot. 1902   as part of an extended magical formula.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Measured stone

Who knew it was also a unit of measure? The only citation for sense 3 of the noun form is... another dictionary. Also, I own a (much more recent) copy of this dictionary. Old dictionaries tend to be veritable fonts of old and interesting, though not always useful, information. One of my favorite things.

alabaster, n. and adj.

A. n.

1. An ornamental stone consisting of a fine-grained, compact, translucent form of gypsum or (esp. with reference to ancient artefacts) calcite, typically white or tinted or clouded with yellow, red, and other colours, and suitable for carving into vases, figures, etc.

In modern use the term alabaster generally refers to a form of gypsum, but ancient alabaster statuary is often calcitic.

burnt, oriental alabaster: see the first element.

2. Ancient History. A vessel for holding perfume, unguents, or ointments; = ALABASTRUM n. 1, ALABASTRON n.

3. A unit of capacity for liquids equal to half a sextary (approx. 0.6 pint, 0.3 litre). Obsolete. rare.

B. adj.

1. Made out of alabaster.

2. fig. Esp. of skin: like alabaster in whiteness or smoothness.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Weekly Basho Haiku #26

wrapping dumplings
with one hand brushing back
her bangs

chimaki ya
katate ni hasamu
hitai gami


Translated by Jane Reichhold

Friday, June 22, 2018

Tikki Tikki Tembo

It has a clear enough meaning and the history of the word goes back nearly 600 years with little change, yet the etymology is uncertain. The OED has several guesses listed, but none is quite satisfactory. Delightfully, the original word appears to have been used in conjunction with the word "in" or "on" preceding it and only gradually shifted into the attached prefix "a-".

Well, I think it's delightful.

akimbo, adv. and adj.

A. adv.


a. With hands on hips and elbows turned outwards.

b. With reference to (other) limbs, esp. the legs: spread or flung out widely or haphazardly.

2. More generally: askew, awry; in disorder.

B. adj.

Crooked, bent, or askew; that is in disorder, awry.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Roll those bones

There's a bizarre range of meanings for this word. According to the etymology it apparently started with a Sanskrit word for a place to play dice (and, as we all know, the, *ahem*, ladies love Sanskrit). The only consistent part of the meaning appears to be the fact that it is for a place where people gather.

akhara, n.

1. In India: a wrestling ring or pit; a gymnasium or outdoor exercise area.

2. Also with capital initial. In India: a convent or monastery, esp. of ascetics. Also: an order of ascetics or monks; spec. such a group forming a militant or armed regiment (now chiefly hist.).

Monday, June 18, 2018

Weekly Basho Haiku #25

falling to the ground
a flower closer to the root
bidding farewell

chi ni taore
ne ni yori hana no
wakare kana


Translated by Jane Reichhold

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Stream? More like a trickle.

Sometimes people say to me, "Bob". "Bob", they say to me. "Bob, why do you get DVDs from Netflix instead of streaming movies?" The short and simple answer is that Netflix doesn't, by and large, stream the movies I want to see. My DVD queue tends to hover around the maximum number of 500, and rarely does it have more than a handful which are marked as being able to stream as well. In fact, at the moment, it has none. Zero of 492 movies available to stream. Hit the jump for the longer answer.