Tagged: word of the day

All is not what it seams

Answering a random call for SEO help – actually it turned out to be canonical URL help – I happened to notice that the site in question referred so something as a “seemless way” to do something. My inner autocorrect went, “hmm” and narrowed its (inner) eyes. Yep, should be “seamless” for sure.

Yes, we’ve been down this road together before, dear reader, with peek vs peak (vs pique vs peke) and also breaches vs breeches. But something’s different this time. All of the foregoing are real words, just misplaced or misused. Seem is a word. Unseemly is a [fun to use] word. Maybe seemless is too, even if it doesn’t mean the same as seamless.

None of the usual online dictionaries carries seemless, and neither does my paper American Heritage Second College Edition dictionary. My Third Edition Official Scrabble Player’s Dictionary doesn’t have it, and that has a ton of dubious words. The MacOS dictionary app was entertainingly unhelpful.


Do you suppose the band really meant seamless? Well, it turns out there is – or should I say was – a real meaning of seemless. Wiktionary claims to have dredged it from a now public domain 1913 edition of Webster’s, and defines it thusly:

(obsolete) Unseemly; unfit; indecorous.
(Can we find and add a quotation of Spenser to this entry?)

So after all that, seemless is pretty much good old unseemly. Maybe it’s what the band had in mind, but it’s probably not what the website that started me on this track was thinking.  Note that the 1913 Webster already called it obsolete, and implied that Spenser coined it or at least used it in print – and that would date it back at least to around the turn of the 17th Century. Go figure.

Word of the Day: Cattywampus

When I first heard this word used – just last month – I thought it was spelled “kattywompous” perhaps in adjectival rhyme with “pompous.”  Alternate spellings are many but catawampus appears to be a close second. As words of the days go, cattywampus was pretty elusive.


Cattywampus is not the activity that your cat engages in between 3:30 and 4:15 every morning, nor is it the name of the sound the cat makes while doing it.

Persistent poking around got Urban Dictionary and Dicitonary.com to agree that cattywampus means askew, awry, not centered or out of balance. I’m definitely going to start using this word whenever things are out of alignment or in need of knolling. There’s also a secondary meaning of something like “not directly across from” in contrast to catty-corner aka catercorner. Seems like a not very useful way to give directions, “it’s cattywampus from the Dunkin Donuts, you can’t miss it.”

As appealing as the idea seems, cattywampus is also probably not related, at least not linguistically, to koyaanisqatsi, which means “life out of balance” in Hopi.

Bonus round: in a literally Sophomoric move, a Wisconsin college basketball player last March used the word cattywampus in an effort to foil the stenographer transcribing his interview.

The Callipygian Explosion of 1835

Let’s not dwell on why I was looking up the word callipygian,

Callipygian: adj., having well-shaped buttocks

or, for that matter, why I checked the Google books ngram graph for it.

The Callipygian Explosion of 1835

Let us instead wonder, who, or maybe what, a century and change before Minaj, before Kardashian, even before Mix-a-Lot, inspired such intense, short-lived, and concentrated use of the word callipygian in 1818 and 1835. The ngram only goes up to 2008 so we may well have once again achieved peak booty, though I doubt it.

Were there just two books published in 1818 and 1835 that were truly, madly, deeply bum obsessed, or were those years periods of bloom and ferment in the study and discussion of well-formed bottoms across a range of media? Surely an historian in dire need of a dissertation topic can help us out here?

Statisticians with sober, reasonable, non-ass-related explanations for the shape of this graph are kindly asked to butt out.

For Some, Software Engineering is a Matter of Principle

I’ve long been irritated when people mix up “principal” and “principle” in job titles and elsewhere. If you’re unsure about this yourself, please read Grammar Girl’s estimable explainer on the subject. Recently, while doing some prospecting on LinkedIn – and learning the ins and outs of advanced and Boolean searches – I thought to check how widespread the error is…

Screenshot 2014-09-14 15.52.34 Screenshot 2014-09-14 15.52.55
I’m happy to report that nine out of ten software engineers got it right. Alas, searching the totality of titles for “principal” pulled 603,243 results vs 26,630 for “principle” giving an error rate of only 4%, so software engineers appear more prone to this error than others.  Assuming, of course, that all of the “principle” titles really should be “principal” titles.

To the four thousand plus principle software engineers who probably should be principal software engineers, I’d suggest either fixing it, or really committing to the principle and becoming principled software engineers, like these two:

Screenshot 2014-09-14 15.53.13
After all, who would want to hire any other kind?

A gob in search of a smacking

From Welcome to Germany comes today’s word of the day, Backpfeifengesicht. And what a welcome it would be:

The word Backpfeife means “punch/slap” (on the cheek/face) and Gesicht means “face”

So a Backpfeifengesicht is pretty much a face in search of a fist. I’m sure we all know such a face. I recommend restraint. Try repeating “Backpfeifengesicht” under your breath over and over again until the urge passes. Pronunciation guide and other trivia here:


This weekend the moon was full and in perigee and therefore appeared bigger and brighter than usual, a so-called supermoon.


Perigee is the point at which the earth is closest to some object that orbits it in an elliptical path. Apogee is the point of greatest distance between the Earth and a satellite. For stuff orbiting the sun (such as the earth) the analogous points are called perihelion and aphelion.

The Sad Paucity of Nope

Do you know what my favorite word is? No? That’s right! Huge amounts of time, money, and emotional energy are wasted because some people can’t or won’t just say NO when they really should.


NO is critical to good time management and avoiding spending your valuable time on Other Peoples Problems. It’s not a free pass to avoid what you ought to do, but it is the best way to decline doing what just isn’t in your wheelhouse.

I know, it sounds harsh and makes you feel like a meanie, but when you agree to something you really shouldn’t you’re just setting everybody up for disappointment at a later date.  Let’s get the disappointment over with now and move on to getting something valuable done.

Word of the day: Disclude

I was minding my own business, trying to sleep during a presentation at a marketing conference, and was abruptly awakened when the presenter said something like, “to prevent those people from receiving this email, you would disclude them on this screen.” The meaning was pretty clear by the context, but it was a word I’d never heard before, and one that just didn’t sound quite right. I tried to look it up to confirm.

Disclude denied

Dictionary.com? Nope. Apple’s dictionary app? Nope. Urbandictionary? Yes, but not so helpful (and more than a bit rude) Wictionary? Bingo. Disclude, as you might guess, means “exclude” and also, as you might not guess, “disclose, make known.” Both are listed as “nonstandard” with no “standard” definitions available.

Maybe it was a typo or random error. Maybe I witnessed the birth of a new word or at least of a new meaning. Such is the beauty of English, the language that gives us pairs of synonyms like flammable and inflammable. Feel free to disclude your thoughts in the comments below.

Word of the day: Festoon

I’d been using the word festooned for some time – this is the third blog post using it – probably because it’s fun to say, but I recently discovered there’s a noun, festoon, lurking behind that fun verb. So sayeth wikipedia:

A Festoon (from French feston, Italian festone, from a Late Latin festo, originally a festal garland, Latin festum, feast), is a wreath or garland, and in architecture typically a carved ornament depicting conventional arrangement of flowers, foliage or fruit bound together and suspended by ribbons.

It’s still fun to say, and once you know about architectural festoons, you start to see them all around.

Architectural festoons on Mass ave

The limepocalypse is here, but it's not what you think

You may have heard that there’s a shortage of and increase in the price of limes going on here in the USA where we get most of our limes from Mexico. Haymarket limes, 2 for a buck I can verify that limes at Haymarket, which could be had six or eight for a buck last year, are going for 50 cents each if you can find them at all. You may also have heard or read of this referred to as #limepocalypse or #limeageddon.  For one, the Mother Nature Network reports,

Bad weather and a tree disease in Michoacán, Mexico, have wreaked havoc on the lime supply, further exacerbated by the mind-boggling influence of drug cartels. (Because apparently when making billions of dollars on cocaine isn’t enough, it’s time to begin shaking down lime farmers.) At this point, the Knights Templar Cartel controls the wholesale distribution center where growers sell limes to the global market, making limes an even hotter commodity.
But we digress; back to more important things like margaritas.

Indeed, let’s get back to cocktails before we learn too much about where our fruit comes from and what’s driving the price up. First world problems anybody? Here’s another take on what’s happening in Mexico and how it affects our precious cocktails. So what about limepocalpypse – what is an apocalypse anyway, and just how overblown (or not) is it to link this lime situation to one?

Via good old wikipedia,

An apocalypse (Ancient Greekἀποκάλυψις apocálypsis, from ἀπό and καλύπτω meaning ‘un-covering’), translated literally from Greek, is a disclosure of knowledge, i.e., a lifting of the veil or revelation, although this sense did not enter English until the 14th century.[1] In religious contexts it is usually a disclosure of something hidden. In the Book of Revelation (Greek Ἀποκάλυψις Ἰωάννου, Apocalypsis Ioannou), the last book of the New Testament, the revelation which John receives is that of the ultimate victory of good over evil and the end of the present age, and that is the primary meaning of the term, one that dates to 1175.[1] Today, it is commonly used in reference to any prophetic revelation or so-called End Time scenario, or to the end of the world in general.

Square glass, round limeSo an apocalypse is a revelation, or more recently, any old end-of-the-world scenario. Well, a lime shortage is hardly the end of the world, even for a dedicated gin and tonic drinker, but drug cartels violently hijacking your livelihood is a sure sign of the end of days for a lime farmer. For those of us closer to the poolside tippling end of the lime food chain, perhaps this event will be an actual revelation, in the sense of disclosure, teaching us a bit about where these limes come from and what life is like for those that grow them.

Food for thought to go with your cocktail.