Apologia – March 3, 2016

This Week: Apologia


At the risk of offending my dedicated fan base, I depart from my usual format today to offer some insights into and an apology for the infrequency of my much-awaited TheGlottalStop.org postings here. Many of you have asked why it isn’t updated more often. So here’s the story, and I’m sticking to it.

As anyone who’s held the position of Editor-In-Chief of a prestigious major periodical can tell you, it’s no “bowl of cherries”. Financial pressures and ever-looming deadlines make for a frenzied pace. Advertisers, printers, writers and would-be writers, graphic artists, copyeditors, not to mention subscribers—the list of those needing attention right away goes on and on. The phone rings nonstop, voicemails pile up, the mailbox fills with bills, new subscriptions, and letters to the editor, there’s a chorus of tweets, emails important and un overflow my inbox constantly, and people rush into and out of my office (not all of them mistaking it for the Men’s Room next door). Keeping it all in motion demands a truly masterful ability to juggle priorities, and leaves me with next-to-no time for other activities, even the one nearest and dearest to my heart, blogging for TheGlottalStop.org.

This is what life has been like for me since I became Editor-in-Chief of Catbox Treasures Magazine, where “We don’t just scratch the surface” isn’t just our motto; it’s our way of life. Not long ago a particularly worrisome problem cropped up that demanded a lot of time and attention. An upstart (there’s a favorite word) competitor dared to challenge the statement we printed on the cover of every issue, “Largest Circulation of Any Catbox Magazine” and threatened us with legal action.  This left us with no recourse but to change our statement to “Largest Circulation of Any Bimonthly Catbox Magazine”.

That worked for a while, but—would you believe it?—more trouble erupted with the publishers of Pet Refuse Reclamation Review (PRRR, which doesn’t even bother to mention the word “catbox” in their title!) now disputing our modified claim. Charges and counter-charges appeared on our editorial pages. When these had reached the boiling point, the legal eagles (or is it vultures? I have their bills sitting on my desk) swooped down and we were forced into arbitration. In the end, justice somehow prevailed and the final outcome vindicated our claim with but slight modifications to our original wording. We now hold title to the “Largest Circulation of Any Bimonthly Catbox Magazine West of the Rockies to the Best of Our Knowledge”. Take that, PRRR!

So now that things have settled down a bit, next time it will be back to the “favorite words” format. Unless, of course, you readers are curious about how I managed to land this plum job in the first place.


The Glottal Stop Feb 17 2016

Jollification – Let’s start out with a cheerful one today. Here we’re talking party or celebration. This word seemed to get a lot more usage in the 19th and early 20th centuries, having fallen into disuse since then. I first remember running across it in Edward Everett Hale’s The Man Without A Country. I definitely recommend that you memorize this word as part of your course in 30 Days to a More Weird Vocabulary. Try and use it at least once today; it’s sure to make you more popular.

Cavort – Always implies an unsavory association. You can cavort with sinners, sure, but not saints.

Scofflaw – Yes, you can cavort with these too. I hear that this one came out of prohibition, which turned most Americans into scofflaws. Maybe for that reason it generally refers to offenses not much more serious than jaywalking.

Dilapidated – This one gets a lot of use from real estate developers and their paid agents when describing existing dwellings that should be razed.

Ratfink – This word, meaning squealer, was definitely more popular when I was a kid. I don’t think there are fewer of them now; they just call them something else.

Hangdog – While we’re on the subject of two-syllable animal words, there’s also this one. We need to find more ways to use it, so next time anyone asks you a question, just answer “hangdog”. It’s sure to get you more notice.

No-goodnik – Nikita Khrushchev and Boris Badenov come to mind. Or were they really the same person? Hmm… come to think of it, did you ever see them together at the same time? There was a time when the –nik words were popular, probably starting with Sputnik. Then there were beatniks, peaceniks, refuseniks, etc. I haven’t heard any of these terms used in the last 20 years, so they’re due for a comeback.

Bunkum – An old-timer, used when a more profane B-word would have created a scandal.

Charlatan – These used to be more popular. Now we have advertisers of nutritional supplements and infomercials.

Abscond – If you cavort with scofflaws and charlatans, you’re liable to do this.

The family of words ending in “umble” – These have a sort of a dopey sound and generally imply a big, clumsy incompetent… Bumble, Stumble, Fumble, even Grumble. It’s enough to make one humble.

The family of words ending in “igan” – Have a sort of a drunk-and-disorderly sound to them: Shenanigan, and Hooligan


More next time…

The Glottal Stop: Words About Words


I know what you’re asking. Yeah, I had to look it up too. Wikipedia explains it better than I could. So why in the world am I using this obscure term as the name of my new blog, which is really about some favorite words? Good question.

Well, for one thing, I like the sound of the syllable “glot” in words (polyglot, monoglot, glottal). It sounds comical. And the concept of an article (or is it particle?) of speech that can’t even be expressed in a letter of the alphabet is cool. But the main reason is that EVERYTHING ELSE IS TAKEN.

Go ahead and try to come up with a name for a blog about favorite words. “Favorite Words” was taken back when people walked around with clubs and you had to know Unix to use the internet. Ditto for “(Your Name Here)’s Favorite Words”. Let’s see if we can think of something clever… How about “Lexicon Likes”. Sorry, it’s taken. Maybe “Units of Thought: Some Words About Words”? The first part is taken. “Words-A-Go-Go?”? “Verboten Verbiage”? “Sonorous Syllables”? Taken, taken, taken. They’re all taken. The people who want to use these are writers; leave it to them to leave no stone unturned in cranking out clever titles.

What’s in a name anyway? For those of you who dare to look beyond a title (and maybe the first four paragraphs) I hereby present to you, in no particular order and totally without rhyme or reason some thoughts on the symbols and sounds that make life possible.

Language Is a Virus

I find the Burroughs/Anderson/Dawkins (can we abbreviate this as BAD?) theory totally believable. Okay, so you can’t see one under an electron microscope, but think about it—it has no life of its own, can only reproduce in the presence of a host (us), and is mostly specific to one species (us) where it is highly contagious, usually striking, like polio, in early childhood. In a few cases it can be fatal (“What did you call me?” BANG) but the vast majority of the time its relationship with the host is symbiotic, possibly even being necessary for human survival. Like any normal virus, it has evolved into various subtypes (clades, languages). In some victims, like bloggers, viral proliferation is so massive it results in viral shedding (which you’re reading). But hey, let’s not badmouth this invader. Without it there are just nameless grunts, rocks, sticks, and creatures bigger and more predatory than us.

So in celebration of the language virus I hereby dedicate this blog. Now for the champagne bottle to my computer… You wish!

Smithereens—Was this what became of Smither? Or did he invent it? Or both?

Scree—To those of us who suffered through high school Latin this will sound like a word we had to memorize declensions of: scree, scrae, scrum, scrujus, scrujus, scrujus… But since people no longer take Latin, I guess a decline in declensions is declared. Take that, Spiro T. Agnew!

Foist—Most instances of the word refer to unsuccessful attempts to do so: “tried to foist” being more common than “foisted”. But then again, these are generally written or spoken by the potential foistee rather than the would-be foister. Don’t you just love italics?

Hobgoblin—I think this is something you tend to see at Halloween. Although it seems like a cross between Tolkien’s hobbit and goblin, the word predates JRR by quite a bit… Don’t you just love ellipses?

Estoppel—Sounds like a cross between “epistle” and “gospel”. Or am I just too religious? Would a lawyer who uses this a lot be called “The Apostle of Estoppel”? Why don’t they just call it “stoppage” like they do at a hockey game?

Malefactor—       When broken by a hyphen at the end of a line it becomes a “male-factor”. Like the arrow in the FedEx logo, once you’ve seen it that way it’s impossible not to see that every time.

Indisposed—A genteel way of saying hungover, although by rights it should mean “not thrown away”.

More later.