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Words I would die to use in Conversations…..

October 3, 2013 Leave a comment

WordsThe dictionary is filled with strange and wonderful words that are scandalously underused. Open at any page and you’re likely to find a gem glistening in the corner, whether it’s gongoozle (to stare idly at a watercourse and do nothing) or zwodder (a feeling of drowsiness). We see it, and think to ourselves that we absolutely must use it in conversation. But by the time that you actually see someone staring idly at a watercourse and doing nothing, you can’t quite remember what the word was, and of course you’ll never be able to find it again. It’s lost, hidden away among the much more boring words. Why do dictionaries insist on defining words like “and”. And why do they have to be arranged alphabetically?

We all have moments when we’re lost for words, or when we struggle to describe the-little-plastic-bits-on-the-end-of-your-shoelaces (anglets), but it’s usually too much of a hassle to run off and read through all 18 volumes of “the Oxford English Dictionary” searching for just the right term. There was a guy recently who read the whole thing cover to eighteenth cover, but it took him a whole year, and if you did that every time you were looking for the right word, you might come back to find that the conversation had moved on.

That’s why I decided to pick out all the best and most useful unused words in the dictionary and put them in a book. But I wasn’t going to arrange it alphabetically. I decided to arrange them by the hour of the day when they might be useful. So antejentacular (before breakfast) is in the chapter for 7 AM, and curtain lecture (a telling-off given by a wife to her husband in bed) is saved until midnight. Ultracrepidarian (giving opinions on a subject you know nothing about) is saved for office hours, and gymnologising (having an argument in the nude) isn’t.

In the end, I found myself describing a complete day, but a day based around the finest words in the dictionary. That was my rule: they all had to have been recorded in at least one English dictionary. These words are beautiful. They remind us of why English is the greatest language on earth. They tell us stories about lost worlds. They make us laugh and sometimes shock us. But most importantly, they deserve to be brought back. They’re all still usable. Some of them are nearly new, with just a few citations on the clock. So come on, expand your word power. Here are ten beauties to get you going.

Quomodocunquize
Quomodocunquizing is “making money in any way that you can”. It’s almost the same as the modern word “hustling” except without any of the gangster-ish overtones. It’s listed in the Oxford English Dictionary, but they only have one recorded use of it from 1652 where the Scotsman Thomas Urquhart complained about “Those quomodocunquizing clusterfists and rapacious varlets.”

Whiffler
A whiffler is somebody who walks in front of you through a crowd, waving a chain or an axe in order to clear your path. Back in Medieval times kings and aristocrats would have whifflers to walk through the town square in front of them pushing away any peasants who might have got in the Royal Way. However, I think that whifflers could make a comeback. They could hire themselves out in busy airports and shopping malls and blast your way through.

Mind you, whiffler can also mean “a smoker of tobacco”.

Smicker
Though the words in “The Horologicon” are all old or strange, it’s amazing how easy they are to use, and how people understand you straight away. To smicker is to “look amorously after somebody.” It’s one of those wonderful words whose meaning is obvious the second you use it in the right context. “Stop smickering at that woman! It’s so embarrassing.” Or “Why is Brad ignoring me? I spent hours on this hair-do and not even a smicker.”

It’s a lovely little detail of anatomy that the muscles used to move your eyes sideways are called the amatorial muscles, because they’re the ones that you use to give amorous glances.

Deipnophobia
Deipnophobia is “a morbid fear of dinner parties.” We all have it occasionally, especially when the in-laws are involved. The Oxford English Dictionary lists it alongside deipnodiplomatic, which means “inviting people round to dinner in order to patch up an argument.” They both come from the Ancient Greek deipnon, which just meant dinner. But one of the joys of the hidden corners of the dictionary is all the words that English has constructed from ancient languages. The next entry is for deipnosophist, which is “somebody who talks wisely over dinner.”

Uhtceare
Uhtceare is an Old English word for “waking up before dawn and not being able to get back to sleep because you’re worried about something.” Uht (pronounced oot) was the hour before sunrise and ceare is the same as the modern English care. Sometimes the joy of discovering a strange word is the realisation that other people have experienced that. It’s not just me who lies there waiting for the alarm clock. People have been suffering from uhtceare for over a thousand years.

Sprunt
Sometimes a word tells you about a time and a place that’s gone forever. Sprunt is an old Scottish word meaning “to chase girls around among the haystacks after dark.” It’s recorded in an old dictionary of the dialect of the Roxburgh, but it tells you so much about what Roxburgh must have been like. Imagine a time and a place where chasing girls around among the haystacks after dark was such a common activity that people said “We need a single-syllable word for this.” It beats staycationing any day.

Going to Siege
People can never say what they mean, especially when it comes to the bathroom. The English language is full of strange ways of telling people that you’re off to fulfill the needs of nature. In the eighteenth century people talked of “taking a voyage to the Spice Islands,” in the nineteenth century gentlemen would “ease themselves.” but back in Medieval times a knight would tell people that he was “Going to siege.” There’s something so poetic about it, so military and noble! But it also firmly implies a dose of constipation.

Fudgel
To fudgel is an eighteenth-century term meaning “Pretending to work when you’re not actually doing anything at all.” Modern offices are full of it, largely because when somebody is staring intently at a computer screen and typing it’s hard to tell whether they’re busily putting together this year’s accounts or busily updating their Facebook status or buying something on eBay. “Stop fudgelling” should be the catchphrase of every efficient office manager.

A Wheady Mile
The wheady mile is the last mile or so of a journey that, for some reason, seems to take much longer than it should. It’s an old dialect term from rural Shropshire, but it still applies to modern journeys. It feels as though you’re about to walk through your own front door and collapse into a chair, but instead there’s still the twists and turns and then, even when the wheady mile is complete, you’ve got to find somewhere to park the car. Mind you, a wheady mile is better than a Pisgah sight, which is when, like Moses on Mount Pisgah looking at the Promised Land, you can see something whilst knowing that you’ll never get there.

Groke
To groke is an old Scots term meaning “to look at somebody while they’re eating in the hope that they’ll give you some of their food.” Originally, the term was only applied to dogs, and any dog owner will know that look of plaintive groking that comes whenever you’re eating sausages. But groking can be applied to humans as well. Just try opening a box of chocolates in any modern workplace and watch as your co-workers come by to groke and ask you how you are.

Finifugal
If you’re finifugal you’re afraid of finishing anything and… Oh God… I can’t… I can’t.

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It was just Another Night…(Short Story)

August 13, 2013 Leave a comment

balconyHazy charcoal silhouettes painted the view from my tiny balcony as I gazed deep into nothingness. It was just any other night; cold, dark and silent. It was way past bedtime; just about time the nocturnal bingers considered returning home. I have been standing here, struggling, for a long time. Days whizzed past like lights on a speeding metro; I could only gaze and watch them flow: hazy, opaque and in trammel. Nights were a burden that I could not avoid. I feel old, really old and this is going to be a long bitter night.

I miss the time when Vienna made me feel young. It was like those impish high-school days when hope and smile never seem leave an arms distance. Long barefoot walks in the Stadtpark, the lazy swirl of Riesenrad, those unceasing discussions on art and music at the café Demel near Hofburg place or just being lost in the silence of a moonlit Danube.

How can I not miss them?
How do I let it go, the feeling of being alive, the feeling of being in love? It made me feel young; she ensured I stayed that way all along.

The hot end of Marlboro made me jump as it traded my dream with the dark canvas of night, devoid of color and life. I fiddled my pockets for another one. Was it the fifth? The ashtray suggests it is ninth; I have to give up smoking; do I really need to… and I lit it.

It has been more than two years since I met Eva and I am drawn to her every time with the same passion as I felt the first time I saw her at the gallery. Like a painting etched in dull canvas she was a stark contrast to the white plastered walls of the gallery. My eyes could not savor enough of her tawny hair curled to unruly perfection. She was clad in blue denim and a white tee and was intensely gazing at one my wares on the wall. She was an artist, a student; embroidered in red was the symbol ] a [ resting unambiguously on her sleeve, a  logo of akademie der bildenden künste, a prestigious fine arts academy in Vienna,  and then she turned. Her dark brown eyes, sparking through the clear glasses caught me off guard; she smiled; I shivered.

The night was getting colder; I can feel the numbness of my fingers as I held on to the glass of scotch. I watched some teens singing in the street…, something in German which I could not pick. One of them looked at me standing like a ghost on the first floor balcony and lifted his hand in a friendly salute and I returned the gesture unconsciously. My hand twitched on the glass as I woke them from their icy stupor as I watched them waddle away into the night. Why do all good things come to an end..?

Eva was twenty four when I first met her and I was lugging myself into my forties and waltzing around Europe trying to sell my wares. I have a studio in Weiden in Vienna given to me by an old friend who would rent it to me for a canvas a year. He would not take money from me and I would not want to rent free, so that was our middle path. It was big enough for me to double up as a working studio and a cozy residence. I enjoyed its loneliness, its silence, but that was before she came into my life.

In the beginning we discussed art, she loved talking and I loved watching her talk. It was perfect. Later her conversations were more discursive and would wander all around. Impressionism, Fauvism, existentialism and then suddenly we would be talking of Bavarian beers. We were indefatigable in talking and days never seemed enough hours to finish a discussion. There was a certain pleasure in accepting defeat to her cogent reasoning. We would walk the first district watching tourists and their awed expressions or just go to the hills in the north for a quieter Sundays. We did nothing special in particular, but whatever we did together felt special. We were not defined by love, love defined us; it made life look simpler, easier and worth the effort to drag it through the chores of existence. A sense of good feeling prevailed. I wanted to grow with her, as Dag once said, firmer, simpler, quieter, warmer.

The silence of the night was eerie; it made my thoughts sound louder…as if coming out of an unruly megaphone. I walked in to my studio and dribbled to a mounted canvas; it stared at me blank, devoid of life. I want to draw to distract, to stop my head screaming to do something, I have no clue what but wait for the sun to raise and wash away the darkness. I started to wash the canvas with paint but the brush seems to have a mind of its own and why is it so heavy?

It was last summer when Eve moved into the studio. It was always too big for me, and way too lonely. She hardly changed anything in the studio, except a closet changing it ownership, but everything seemed different. Like a freshly painted canvas coming alive after the last swash of paint. The candles, were a nice touch, so was her presence. I needed no reason to smile other than watch her cuddle in my arms. Everything was suddenly warm even those cold Austrian winters and wines gave life a new meaning.

The colors were growing darker than I want them to be on the canvas, I was painting without a reason, without an outcome. The darkness was receding in the background and the warm light of the sun tried to wrap the distant skies. It is beautiful. But I hated it. It made me irritable, made me angry. I was helpless and it made me clinch deep inside.

We should have been married. It would have made her happy. I think so. She never mentioned it, we never talked about it. It was unnecessary. But it seems so right…today, when I see her draped in wires, trying to hold on to a life that would never be the same

She loved to cycle and spring made it ever more pleasant thing to do. Vienna was a cyclists dream. It was designed for the enthusiast. She made the morning breakfast and left a note that she will be back in time for the evening plans. I slept as she left the flat.

She never kept her promise and I have not slept ever since.

A call from the hospital went unanswered as I kept my phone on silent mode, lest it should disturb my precious tranquility. Late evening I answered the door to the call of an officer who came to tell that she met an accident and is at the hospital. I was disturbed by his imperturbable calmness of manner, but not worried; the cops told me she fell of her cycle… how bad can that be?

They did not mention that she hurt her head and will never recover from her induced coma and she never did. It’s been eight years since I read her note on the table, I see her every day with the hope that she will return home. An occasional twitch sends a spasm of hope but it passes away as spasms always do…ever so quickly.

I have to say my final good bye one morning, and let her sleep. Wires can only keep you alive but they do not bless you with life. All wires have to stop one day and tomorrow morning…is it today. They are going to stop those wires from fueling a life that has long gone away and another which will never be the same again. I wish this was an endless night.

Understanding the Semicolon

April 1, 2013 Leave a comment

semi colon joke

 

“Semicolon: {n}. the punctuation mark (;) used to indicate a major division in a sentence where a more distinct separation is felt between Clauses or items of a list than is indicated by a comma.”

The Random House College Dictionary

 

 

Two Main Uses of the Semicolon

1. Semicolons connect two complete and completely related sentences:

When you do not have a complete sentence (containing both a noun/subject and a verb/predicate) on each side of a semicolon, then you cannot use a semicolon. Another way of looking at this is to remember that any place you can put a period, you can put a semicolon.

But…

A semicolon is chosen over a period only when the sentences are related in thought. When you use a semicolon to join two related sentences no connecting words are used (i.e., coordinating conjunctions or FANBOYS: for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so).

Instead of a semicolon, you may choose to use a comma—along with a coordinating conjunction—to join two related sentences.

Examples of a semicolon used to join two related sentences: I am going home; I intend to stay there. It rained during the afternoon; we managed to have our picnic anyway.

NOTE: Long connecting words, or conjunctive adverbs (however, moreover, therefore, consequently, otherwise, nevertheless, thus), can be used after a semicolon to place emphasis on the clause following the semicolon. When used in this manner, these connecting words are followed by a comma.

Examples:
I am going home; moreover, I intend to stay there.
It rained during the afternoon; however , we managed to have our picnic anyway.

2. To separate elements in a series:

A comma is ordinarily placed after every item in a series.semi colon joke

Example:
The song seemed simultaneously sardonic, satirical, and sweet.
But…a semicolon is used in place of the comma in certain instances for clarity, particularly if the sentence is long and complex.

Example:
For our party, we ordered food from Las Margaritas, a restaurant that serves Mexican food; Johnny’s Wok, which serves Chinese food; and Café Fresco, a gourmet restaurant that, offers Northwest cuisine with some vegetarian items.

Summary

[ . ] A period is used to show independence of sentences.

[ ; ] A semicolon is used to show sentences are related in thought.

[ , ] A comma may also be used—along with a coordinating conjunction—to show sentences are related in thought

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