Friday, November 7, 2014

Jian Ghomeshi, serial gropist

Right now, this is about all I can say about that narcissistic self-proclaimed Persian Prince, Jian Ghomeshi, a. k. a. the serial gropist and head-puncher who is now relegated to disgraced exile in - where IS he now, anyway? Whose bed is he hiding under - or in? And an even bigger dilemma: who'll host the Gillers this year? Find somebody stubbly and full of faux-hipster self-importance, quick!

Dear God - they've cancelled his new book, Why I Punch Women's Heads and Other Hobbies of the Hippest Man in Canada! What to do?

And they've cancelled this too, I'd imagine. Bad week for him. Jianny get angry, Jianny get mad! But that's not all. Somebody took a crowbar to his star on the very small and insignificant Canadian Sort-of Walk of Fame (But We're Sorry). They couldn't get it up, I mean out, so somebody had to use a jackhammer. His jilted ex-girlfriend was quoted as saying, "I wish they'd use it on his head."

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Mentally flossed

It should be plain I didn't write this. It was an item in that magnificent compendium of knowledge. Mental Floss. (Did you think I was going to say Wikipedia?) I have credited it properly, because there is no way in the world I could have come up with these. Some of them resemble words that still kick around in the junk drawer of English ('higgledy-piggledy", "pell-mell" "razzle-dazzle", and a few others). Some of them have the flavour of Cockney rhyming slang: "trouble and strife" for "wife", "ginger beer" for "queer", "Charley Dilk" for "milk" (and don't ask how I know these, but I didn't have to look them up).

Paul Anthony Jones

filed under: language, Words

In 1905, the Oxford University Press published the sixth and final volume of The English Dialect Dictionary, a compilation of local British words and phrases dating from the 18th and 19th centuries. The EDD set out to record all those words used too sparsely and too locally to make the cut in the Oxford English Dictionary, and by 1905, more than 70,000 entries from right across the British Isles had been compiled, defined, and explained. The entire enterprise was personally overseen (and, in its early stages at least, partly funded) by Joseph Wright, a self-taught linguist and etymologist who went from attending French and Latin night classes while working in a textiles factory to becoming Professor of Philology at Oxford University. Although Wright published a number of other works during his lifetime, The English Dialect Dictionary is by far his greatest achievement, and is still regarded as one of the finest dictionaries of its type.

The 50 words listed here are all genuine entries taken from Wright’s English Dialect Dictionaryas well as a number of other equally fantastic local British glossaries, including John Jamieson’s Etymological Dictionary of the Scottish Language (1808), Francis Grose’sGlossary of Provincial and Local Words Used in England (1787), and John Ray’s Collection of South and East-Country Words (1691). Ranging from the bizarre to the useful, they all would make a brilliant addition to anyone’s vocabulary.

1. APTYCOCK: A quick-witted or intelligent young man. (SW England)

2. BANG-A-BONK: It might not look like it, but this is a verb meaning “to sit lazily on a riverbank.” (Gloucestershire)

3. BAUCHLE: A name for an old worn out shoe, and in particular one that no longer has a heel—although it was also used figuratively to refer to a pointless or useless person. (Ireland)

4. CLIMB-TACK: A cat that likes to walk along high shelves or picture rails is a climb-tack. (Yorkshire)

5. CLOMPH: To walk in shoes which are too large for your feet. (Central England)

6. CRAMBO-CLINK: Also known as crambo-jink, this is a word for poor quality poetry—or, figuratively, a long-winded and ultimately pointless conversation. (Scots)

7. CRINKIE-WINKIE: A groundless misgiving, or a poor reason for not doing something. (Scots)

8. CRUM-A-GRACKLE: Any awkward or difficult situation. (SW England)

9. CRUMPSY: Short-tempered and irritable. Probably a local variation of “grumpy.” (Central England)

10. CUDDLE-ME-BUFF: Why call it beer when you can call it cuddle-me-buff? (Yorkshire)

11. CULF: The loose feathers that come out of a mattress or cushion—and which “adhere to the clothes of any one who has lain upon it,” according to Wright. (Cornwall)

12. CURECKITYCOO: To coo like a dove—or, figuratively, to flirt and canoodle with someone. (Scots)

13. DAUNCY: If someone looks noticeably unwell, then they’re dauncy. Originally an Irish and northern English word, this eventually spread into colloquial American English in the 19th century. (Ireland)

14. DOUP-SCUD: Defined by Wright as “a heavy fall on the buttocks.” (NE Scots)

15. EEDLE-DODDLE: A person who shows no initiative in a crisis. Also used as an adjective to mean “negligent,” or “muddle-headed.” (Scots)

16. FAUCHLE: Fumbling things and making mistakes at work because you’re so tired? That’sfauchling. (Scots)

17. FLENCH: When the weather looks like it’s going to improve but it never does, then it’sflenched. (Scots)

18. FLOBY-MOBLY: The perfect word for describing the feeling of not being unwell, but still not quite feeling your best. A Scots equivalent was atweesh-an-atween. (Central England)

19. HANSPER: Pain and stiffness felt in the legs after a long walk. (Scots)

20. INISITIJITTY: A worthless, ridiculous looking person. (Central England)

21. JEDDARTY-JIDDARTY: Also spelled jiggerdy-jaggardy. Either way it means entwined or tangled. (NW England)

22. LENNOCHMORE: A larger-than-average baby. Comes from the Gaelic leanabh mor, meaning “big child.” (Scots)

23. LIMPSEY: Limp and flaccid, often used in reference to someone just before they faint. Originally from the easternmost counties of England, but borrowed into the United States in the 1800s—Walt Whitman and Harriet Beecher Stowe both used it in their writing. (East England)

24. MUNDLE: As a verb, mundle means to do something clumsily, or to be hampered or interrupted while trying to work. As a noun, a mundle is a cake slice or a wooden spatula—to lick the mundle but burn your tongue means to do something enjoyable, regardless of the consequences. (Central England)

25. NAWPY: A new pen. (Lincolnshire)

26. NIPPERKIN: A small gulp or draught of a drink, said to be roughly equal to one-eighth of a pint. (SW England)

27. OMPERLODGE: To disagree with or contradict someone. (Bedfordshire)

28. OUTSPECKLE: A laughing stock. (Scots)

29. PADDY-NODDY: A long and tedious story. (Lincolnshire)

30. PARWHOBBLE: To monopolize a conversation. (SW England)

31. PEG-PUFF: Defined as “a young woman with the manners of an old one.” (Northern England)

32. POLRUMPTIOUS: Raucous. Rude. Disruptive. Polrumptious. (Kent)

33. QUAALTAGH: The first person you see after you leave your house. Comes from an old Celtic New Year tradition in which the first person you see or speak to on the morning of January 1, the quaaltagh, was interpreted as a sign of what was to come in the year ahead. (Isle of Man)

34. RAZZLE: To cook something so that the outside of it burns, but the inside of it stays raw. You can also razzle yourself by warming yourself by a fire. (Yorkshire/East England)

35. SHACKBAGGERLY: An adjective describing anything left “in a loose, disorderly manner.” (Lincolnshire)

36. SHIVVINESS: The uncomfortable feeling of wearing new underwear. Shiv is an old word for thick, coarse wool or linen. (Yorkshire)

37. SILLERLESS: Literally “silverless”—or, in other words, completely broke. (Scots)

38. SLITHERUM: A dawdling, slow-moving person. (East England)

39. SLIVING: A thin slice of bread or meat, or a splinter of wood. (Yorkshire)

40. SLOCHET: To walk with your shoes nearly coming off your feet. Or to walk with your shoelaces untied. Or to walk slowly because your shoes are too big. (SW England)

41. SPINKIE-DEN: A woodland clearing full of flowers. (Scots)

42. TEWLY-STOMACHED: On its own, tewly means weak or sickly, or overly sensitive or delicate. Someone who is tewly-stomached has a weak stomach, or a poor constitution. (East England)

43. THALTHAN: Also spelled tholthan, a thalthan is a part-derelict building. (Isle of Man)

44. TITTY-TOIT: To spruce or tidy up. (Yorkshire)

45. UNCHANCY: Sometimes used to mean mischievous or unlucky, but also used to describe something potentially dangerous, or, according to Wright, “not safe to meddle with.” (Northern England)

46. VARGLE: Means either to work in a messy or untidy way, or to perform an unpleasant task. (Scots)

47. VARTIWELL: The little metal loop that the latch of a gate hooks into? That’s the vartiwell. According to the OED, it probably takes its name from an old French word for the bottom hinge of a gate, vervelle. (Eastern England)

48. WEATHER-MOUTH: A bright, sunny patch of sky on the horizon flanked by two dense banks of cloud is the weather-mouth. (Scots)

49. YAWMAGORP: A yawm is a yawn, and a gorp is a mouth. So a yawmagorp is a lounger or idler, or someone who seems constantly to be yawning and stretching wearily. (Yorkshire)

50. ZWODDER: The last entry in the English Dialect Dictionary describes “a drowsy, stupid state of body or mind.” It’s probably related to another word, swadder, used to mean “to grow weary with drinking.” (SW England)

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If there are no mistakes, then why am I such a screwup?

There are only two mistakes one can make along the road to truth: not going all the way, and not starting.

Experience is simply the name we give our mistakes.
Oscar Wilde

Do not fear mistakes. You will know failure. Continue to reach out.
Benjamin Franklin

Mistakes are always forgivable, if one has the courage to admit them.
Bruce Lee

There are no mistakes, no coincidences. All events are blessings given to us to learn from.
Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

If you’re not making mistakes, then you’re not doing anything. I’m positive that a doer makes mistakes.
John Wooden

Making mistakes is the privilege of the active. . . Only those who are asleep make no mistakes.
Ingvar Kamprad

OK THEN! I've been wanting to write about all this for some time now, and it seems even more relevant in light of some recent events.

I am constantly coming across quotes about how desirable it is to make mistakes. We should make lots and lots of them, or else it proves we aren't doing anything. These quotes can come from business wizards like Steve Jobs, or spiritual bigwigs like Buddha, or meatball-eating furniture magnates like Ikea founder Ingvar Kamprad (whom I always thought was an actor in one of those . . . movies . . .  you know the ones I mean).

The reality is somewhat different.

I think people say these things to try to alleviate the excruciating embarrassment and even humiliation that can arise from a single mistake. They're trying to make themselves feel better, not just you, and not just for past or present-day mistakes but as a sort of immunization against the humiliation of mistakes as yet unmade.

People are fired because of a single mistake, and their careers and self-esteem sometimes never recover. People lose their spouses because of a mistake (an affair? It happens, believe it or not), changing not just the course of their lives, but the lives of children and grandchildren and all their friends, who may not know on which side their loyalties should fall. (It's always one way or another, folks.)

One mistake, even one clumsy social error, can lodge itself in people's memory like one of those sticky-burr things. If you are kind and gracious 99% of the time, and fuck up 1% of the time, guess what people will remember?

I won't mention any names here, because I can't, but I once worked with an agent who ran into some problems approaching a publisher. The managing editor said, "I hate Margaret Gunning!" When asked why, he said, "Because she panned one of our authors." Something like ten years earlier, I had written a "negative" review of one of their books (I had certainly not trashed the book but felt it didn't cohere, which matched the opinion of the majority of other reviewers).

Was it a "mistake"? I was just doing my job, which is NOT to write synopses or dishwater generic non-reviews providing no critical analysis whatsoever. But even if it wasn't a mistake, it seemed to have created a rancor which would live forever. To that particular publisher, no matter what else I did to redeem myself,  my name would always be mud.

So imagine what would have happened if I HAD made a mistake, even a little one!

I've misfired on emails before, sent them the wrong way.  Doesn't everyone do this? I thought so, until I did it myself. Again, it was a publisher, and it was a mistake, and no one said "it's OK to make a mistake, it's the way we learn" or anything like that. Instead I got an email back saying, "Do you realize what you've just done?" You could hear their gasp of horror.  According to them at least, I had done so much damage with a single click that it turned out to be irreparable. Those people will never forget. And there was nothing vindictive in my email, nothing abusive, just information they should not have received.

I goofed. I clicked. I was dead.

Is it just me? If it's just me, I might as well commit suicide right here and now. If I am to believe all these wonderful quotes and the people who insist you should make as many mistakes as you possibly can in the course of a day (and maybe they mean "mistakes" like borrowing someone's pen and forgetting to give it back), then perhaps it's true. Perhaps I'm the only one who suffers massive repercussions from a mistake, hostility, rancour, and the feeling that what I've done is totally and permanently unforgiveable.

So OK. Let's take a look at these quotes that everyone finds so comforting:  Kubler-Ross for a start.

There are no mistakes, no coincidences. All events are blessings given to us to learn from.

Kubler-Ross became world-famous for her "stages of grief" theory, which automatically found near-universal acceptance with therapists and clergy and every other type of counselor until someone decided, many decades later, to do some research on the subject. They discovered that there are no stages of grief, and that everyone processes grief differently. The original premise was "stages of dying", so Kubler-Ross was not entirely responsible for this misinformation. Her theory applied to people who were terminally ill and trying to come to terms with approaching death.

I don't think she ever intended these stages to be lodged in neat compartments, to be worked through sequentially over a set period of time, but that's what happened. Therapists began to require patients to "go through the stages", and if they didn't, they were pushed to do so. Come on, it's time for the anger stage now! Why aren't you angry? And how about some bargaining? You can't go on to acceptance until you do.

So what was the mistake here? The biggie was universally embracing an untried idea just because it sounded good. Her theory was appealing because those neat stages helped to regulate and contain something that most people find overwhelming, a force of nature that seldom shows any mercy.

I'd like to believe - OK, I wouldn't like to believe, because it's too out of touch with reality - that "all events are blessings given to us to learn from". I know New Age people who believe this, but I can't. I can't because I have known people who have lost infants to disease and children to horrific accidents and had to try to pick up the pieces. I can't because I watch the news every day and see with what horrifying regularity people are casually slaughtered by crazed gunmen who one day decide they'd like to spill a little blood.

These are the extremes, but there are plenty of them. I can't believe "all events are blessings" when I watch a documentary about Auschwitz or Dachau. (Calling the Third Reich a "mistake" is the understatement of all time, but with neo-Nazism thriving and even considered "cool" by some young people, did we really learn from it?)  I am still trying to figure out how an intelligent person can embrace this obvious fallacy. If your son commits suicide, is it a blessing? If you lose all your money and become homeless? I won't go on.

I can't compare events in my own life with tragedies of this magnitude. But I have experienced the alarming ways in which technology makes it even more costly to make a mistake.

I recently experienced one of those examples of the hellfire the internet can put you through. Because of something I wrote, I wasn't just roasted: I was mocked, excoriated, ridiculed, called nasty names, and made to look thoroughly stupid on someone's blog.

Obviously I had made a mistake. It was a bad one, I saw it quickly, deleted it and did what I could to make amends for it. I'd posted something that should never have been posted. Since I could not turn back the hands of time and un-write it, I could only do what I could do, and keep it brief, because over-apologizing is the biggest mistake anyone can make.

But I don't think it did one iota of good, and at best I was probably seen as covering my ass in a  gesture of self-preservation. I realize now that this was a mistake that might just live forever. "Delete" doesn't do anything to erase people's memory.

It doesn't matter if I did 99 things right. That hundredth thing may spell the end of my perceived integrity and worth as a writer, and even as a human being. And now that we are in the age of blogging and internet and social media, one mistake can explode massively in a matter of seconds. It can go viral, reaching hundreds, thousands, and even millions of people in the blink of an eye.

Blessings given for us to learn from? By the time we get around to learning from them, we may be ruined. Human brains always retain the negative, we seem to have evolved that way, while positive and neutral events just sort of wash away with the tide. Combine that with the supernova-level, instantaneous communication that exists today, and you could have a recipe for disaster.

I approach Facebook and other such systems with leeriness now. If I try to "friend" someone and it turns out they are the friend of someone whose book I panned in 1998, might they diss me on Facebook, their blog or elsewhere for being an opportunist, rude or just plain stupid? Do I "friend" more than one publisher, or will that be a conflict of interest? If I ONLY friend one publisher, what sort of idiot am I who can't do business with social media, which is in large part what it is set up to do?

But if you admit that, oh boy. Embarrasment! Everyone looks away. Everybody knows Facebook is just a friendly chat over the back fence, and anyone who even thinks it might be a form of making business contacts is either gauche or completely mercenary.  An elephant has suddenly appeared in the room and deposited 50 pounds of shit, and nobody knows where to look.

Maybe I was just behind the barn door when the rules were passed out. But it seems to me we'd all better watch our step. Making mistakes is a luxury which I think is the province of those alpha personalities who end up founding Ikea and changing therapeutic practice forever. The rest of us poor schlubs had better beware.

P. S.  The Alex Colville painting Horse and Train remains one of my all-time favorites, speaking with no words about forces which are about to collide with catastrophic impact. It strikes me as strange that artists get to make these kinds of statements to near-universal acclaim, praised for their profound and powerful reflection of reality, but when writers do it they're being "negative" and going against the tide of a happy-face philosophy that - as far as I am concerned - collides with reality.


Dear Sir or Madam, will you read my book
    It took me years to write, will you take a look

Young Frankenstein: let's do it again, Zipperneck

One of a hundred or so fave moments from Young Frankenstein. I want one of those wigs, not for Halloween but just for everyday wear.

Gene Wilder, Gene Wilder. . . Gene Wilder (no I'm not gay, I take it back)

        Who's this? "Abbie Normal."

Even sexier in mascara.

Madeline Kahn, Madeline Kahn. . . I changed my mind, I guess I am gay.

(and, funniest movie line ever, even without seeing the movie)

"IT!. . . COULD! . . . WORK!!"