MEANINGS FOR ONE WORD

Like many of the words posted in this challenge, there are a bunch of meanings to “assay.” Typically, it mean testing the content or weight of a type of metal — how much gold is in that gold for example. There is also another meaning and that is the one for which I’ve used it.

Assay means “attempt.” When you say “I’m going to assay that climb,” you’re going to try to do it. There is, within the context of the word, a sense of insecurity. That you will try but not necessarily succeed. Subjunctive, sort of. English is not a subjunctive language. We don’t have the tenses to get it right.

Everything feels a been subjunctive these days. Getting up from a chair … can I do it without pushing is one hand? When I get up, will I fall back down? I still tend to load up my hands with whatever I think I need to take with me only to realize I have to put at least half of it down because I need one hand to push me out of the sofa. Oh those joys of aging!

One tiny patch of snow

It was supposed to snow today. So far, it hasn’t done anything at all, though the sky is a leaden gray that says more about rain than snow. But it’s definitely getting colder as the day goes on. Usually, days get warmer. This isn’t on of those days. So maybe we will get something, though sleet, snow, rain — or a delicious mix of all three is yet to be decided.

Regardless, in 48 hours, spring will come back. Or so the weather guys promised.

CONJURING MAGIC WORDS – TURNING LATIN TO SORT OF ENGLISH

I WOULD CONJURE MAGIC, BUT …
NO LATIN ALLOWED


I hadn’t thought about it. To be honest, my eyes have seen it. My brain has skimmed over it. Whoosh. Away it went with no thought given to its meaning. I do know what a couple of “Latin as part of English” shortcuts supposedly mean.

“Illegitimi non carborumdum” — which I believed (and lots of other people also believe) translates to: “Don’t let the bastards grind you down,” from the mock-Latin word, illegitimatus, or bastard, and carborundum, an ancient brand of abrasive stone. But apparently, it’s not “real” Latin. Who speaks “real Latin” anyway? Whatever Latin you speak, it ain’t the real deal. Whoever speaks Latin speaks a reconstruction of it based on what we know from old writings. No native speakers hanging around in this century.

But QED? From this morning’s Boston Globe’s Theresa Hanafin, comes this bright light for the day:


The Question of the Day from The Old Farmer’s Almanac is: What does the abbreviation “QED” stand for? It’s Latin — quod erat demonstrandum — and means “that which was to be demonstrated.” It’s often used at the end of math proofs or philosophical treatises where the writer reaches a conclusion. Sort of a “ta-da!” I always thought it stood for “Quick, eat the doughnuts,” which has been very helpful over the years.”


What does this have to do with anything?

Well, since I cannot find any conjurable magic (is that a word?), the closest I’ve got are those little Latin sayings we drop into our English language. When I was first working as a tech writer in the U.S., having been working in Israel as a tech writer for five or six years, I encountered an actual English-language editor. My editors in Israel had been a lovely French woman who had excellent English, but sometimes her editorial decisions were a bit … continental. I had a great Russian guy and some of his editorial decisions were … unique.

This was the first time I got to fight over my words in my native tongue with another New York native.

ARTWORK: Evil Squirrel’s Nest

She was fixated on never using a Latin expression if there was an equivalent English word for the same thing. Should she come upon “etcetera” she would always change it to “and so on.”

“We do not speak Latin in this department,” she would announce. To this day, when I’m editing anyone else’s work — Garry or one of the other writers on our “team” and I see an etcetera looming, I can hear her voice carrying over the television or audiobook:


WE DO NOT SPEAK LATIN IN THIS DEPARTMENT.


I am forced to change it to “and so on” and occasionally, to something more obscure like “moreover.” Can’t use “ad infinitum” either … a sad waste of clever language skills.


Ad infinitum is a Latin phrase meaning “to infinity” or “forevermore”. Description: In context, it usually means “continue forever, without limit” and this can be used to describe a non-terminating process, a non-terminating repeating process, or a set of instructions to be repeated “forever,” among other uses.


It’s amazing how a single determined editor can fix something in your brain forever, even when you have long since passed a point where you need instructions.

Thus if you are doing any conjuring today, please do it without Latin. We don’t speak Latin here.

BUT MADAME I MUST INSIST!

“But Madame, I must insist!”

How many times have I heard that line in a movie or a book. Inevitably, it’s either a man talking to a woman — dominant to less dominant — or a “queen” dowager speaking to her underlings. There’s such a quality of superiority in that expression, the ultimate “I know so you have to listen to me because I KNOW.”

Photo: Garry Armstrong

With #METOO in progress — and with Our Elected Master deciding the one thing America has never needed except after winning a war — the last time was 1991 after George Bush purportedly won the Gulf War. Whether we “won” that is a moot point, but at least it was supposedly a  “victory.” I know there hasn’t been one since then because I would remember it. One of the great things about this country is that we have never needed to display our military might that way.


If a gigantic asteroid were barreling toward impact with our planet, you can bet there would be at least a few members of Congress who would insist on leaving it alone, either because they would see it as a warning shot from the Almighty or because a mining company with a savvy team of lobbyists had laid claim to the big rock.

David Horsey


We do display our military might in other ways of course — like invasions, engulfing, stealing natural resources — not to mention sometimes killing off entire populations. Mostly, though, we’ve skipped marching our soldiers and our tanks and rockets around for entertainment. We’ve never needed to do that.

“But, ” says that man who somehow, and I swear I will never understand how, became our elected president, “I insist. I want to see all my soldiers marching in neat lines. I want to see tanks and rockets and missiles all shiny. And I’m going to have a special uniform with lots of gold braid and maybe a really fancy hat and I insist that everyone salute me. Do you think I could insist everyone call me ‘Your Majesty’?”

He looks around and does not see how everyone’s face is red and hidden in their hands. Our national shame is blustering again.

And then, there’s  … “I don’t want to go to a fancy restaurant. There’s never any place to park and I have to wear heels and stockings. The waiter acts like Lord of the Manor where I don’t live,” I say.

“But I insist,” says my date. Not my guy. I already know this before the date begins. I’ve never been involved with anyone who used those words in a conversation with me. I come from a family with a big mean daddy who always insisted. He insisted when he was completely wrong and had no idea what he was talking — but just to confuse us, he also insisted when he was right. It was remarkably difficult to tell the difference.

I’m pretty sure where at least one chunk of my cynicism comes from. Erratic parents are the worst. When they are knowledgeable sometimes and completely ass-backward the rest of the time. You don’t know what to believe. If you are me, ultimately, you don’t believe anything without three kinds of proof.

The harder they insist, the more I am inclined to resist.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

You can reason with me. You can prove your point with facts and if you also make me laugh, I will not only agree with you, but I will love you for it. I will listen to your point of view as long as you aren’t stuffing it up my nose, calling me names, or behaving like an asshole.

Just don’t insist.

Unless the house is burning down and you know the only way out. Then, feel free to insist.

ENROLL TRUMP FOR TREASON – A STUNNING COMMENTARY BY RICH WILSON

I think I’m pretty good with words, but compared to this guy, I’m a first-grader writing with blunt crayons. In this piece titled:


Donald Trump Cracks the Seal on Talk of Treason


Written — or should I say composed — by conservative author Rich Wilson, the words flow like music. This is a symphony of the English language describing our so-called president. I should let the author speak for himself. I don’t think anyone could say it better. This was so good, I read the first half out loud to Garry. 


You may have noticed by now, but I’m not one to pull any punches on Donald Trump. As a conservative, I see him as a statist abomination, a plump, be-wattled authoritarian-wannabe man-baby with the intellectual horsepower of a toaster oven.

One thing we’ve learned in the last two years is that no legal, moral or cultural strictures bind Trump and that he is immune to the better angels of human nature. The moral event horizon around him consumes the good in anyone who becomes one of his vassals. There is no better version of Trump, ever. He can only degrade and destroy everything he touches, but today was remarkable, even for him.

Monday’s simpering, prissy, self-indulgent performance in Ohio was just another raree-show with our Kentucky Fried Nero fiddling while the stock market burned. Then came the moment where he broke another seal, and cracked another seam in the foundation of our Republic.

That was when Trump, in his typical sneering, sniggling, purse-lipped way said of the Democrats watching his State of the Union speech: “They were like death. And un-American. Un-American. Somebody said ‘treasonous.’ I mean, yeah, I guess, why not? Can we call that treason? Why not? I mean they certainly didn’t seem to love our country very much.”

Even for Trump, on an endless quest to define American decency down, this was a new low. His followers and Congressional cheering section will love it, of course. A few Republicans in Congress may furrow a brow or intone some anodyne statement like, “I wouldn’t have put it that way, but…”

Trump lacks the mental capacity to see where this very slippery slope leads, but the political arsonists around him do. With that, prepare to reap the whirlwind.

See the rest of the story at: DONALD TRUMP CRACKS THE SEAL ON TREASON


And thus the man himself has slipped the word into the national conversation. This is the one crime that has never been trivialized or minimized. “Our Founders viewed treason as the most severe crime against the Republic. Treason was an act without shades of gray, without gradiations, without rationalization. It is the one crime we punish by stripping those found guilty of it of their citizenship, or even their lives.”

You hear the expression “Let slip the dogs of war.” I think, as words go, these may well be our dogs of war. Casual talk of treason? Casual? Treason?

Remember this in days to come. The day the stock market crashed, Trump talked casually and humorously of himself as a man accused of treason. A light-hearted jest tossed at the heart of the nation he supposedly serves.

WORDS CAN NEVER HURT YOU – GARRY ARMSTRONG

A while back, Marilyn wrote a piece using the word chutzpah. This is a word I’ve always badly mangled when I try to say it. It’s just a word, what the heck? That was my take for many years until Robin Williams and Billy Crystal gave me a proper public whupping for butchering the pronunciation of chutzpah.  I don’t try to say it in public anymore. It’s a word. I respect it because it carries its own meanings and images.

These days, people often use words or phrases without understanding their origin or meaning. I hear political aspirants, celebrities, athletes and civic leaders say things that make me scratch my head and run back to my dictionary.  Words!  They can be powerful tools used correctly. They can be dangerous used in ignorance.

I grew up in a home full of books. Including dictionaries. Big ones and pocket dictionaries. My parents insisted on using proper language and crisp diction.  Street slang guaranteed a head slap or a smack. My two brothers and I were warned about using prejudicial clichés. Since my head has never been properly wrapped, I’ve been guilty of violating those warnings because of my warped sense of humor.

Marilyn warns people that I have toys in the attic.  True.  Some of the toys are very old.

A friend and I were trading insults the other day. I snapped at him with, “That’s white of you”.  His smile said everything. Words!  You gotta know who, when, and where to use them.

Way back in olden times, I was 19 years old and worked in a department Store in Hempstead, New York. I was the only goy working in the children’s shoe department. I was waiting on a customer who drove me bonkers. I couldn’t take it anymore and told the parent he was a schmuck.

The manager quietly called me into the stockroom, explained what schmuck meant and asked me never to use it again — even if the customers were jerks. I think he was smiling although reprimanding me.  It was a word I’d often heard used in friendly banter, but I didn’t know its origin or meaning. It was just a word. What was the big deal?  I was 19 and knew everything!  I used big words, “20 dollar” words to impress people. People often complimented me, saying I spoke very well.  I didn’t understand the veiled insult behind many of those compliments.

After all, they were just words.

John Wayne, of all people, once commented on words and ethics.  It was movie dialogue but still reverberates a half century later. In the 1961 film, “The Comancheros,”  Texas Ranger “Big Jake” Cutter (John Wayne) is lecturing his younger sidekick, Monsieur Paul Regret (Stuart Whitman). Regret asks Big Jake to spin a lie to his superiors to alleviate a problem. Big Jake refuses. Regret doesn’t understand, saying they are just “words.”

Big Jake, with that iconic Wayne frown, says softly, “Just words??  Words, MON-soor, are what men live by. You musta had a poor upbringing.”  Regret looks puzzled, not fully grasping the ethical code of this rough and ready Texas Ranger.  It’s a sublime moment and perfect for the young 1960’s when youth was defying the older generation’s moral code.

I recalled the scene years later in an interview with John Wayne. He smiled, shaking his head because he was in the middle of on-going national dissent against the Vietnam War.  Wayne was one of the most visible and vocal “hawks” in the Vietnam controversy. He had been ridiculed by strident protesters at a Harvard University gathering earlier that day.

“Words, dammit,”  Wayne looked at me, angry and sad. “My words! No damn Hollywood script. I have as much right as those damn college kids.”  Wayne was fuming. The Hollywood legend collected himself as I redirected the conversation to my time as a Marine. I had enlisted in 1959, fired up by the “Sands of Iwo Jima.

“Words. Good words,” I said to Wayne who smiled broadly.

Today, words are often tossed around loosely on social media with little regard to truth or the repercussions of ill-advised words. We have a president who uses words without thought in a daily barrage of tweets. Our media is engaged in a daily war of words, ignoring crucial issues facing our nation and world. Those of us of a certain age shake our heads as we watch young people immersed in tweets rather than direct conversation with friends in the same room. Words have become an endangered species.

I remember the good old days when me and friends went face to face with verbal jousts like “Your Mother wears combat boots!”

Words!  I love’em.

A SHITTY LEGACY – TOM CURLEY  

Every president leaves a legacy. It’s a big deal. How will history remember the president? How will history remember his administration? For Lincoln, it was the Civil War and ending slavery.

For Herbert Hoover, it was the Depression.

For FDR, it was The New Deal.

You get the point. So, what will the legacy of the current occupant of the Oval Office be? Will it be that an ignorant, moronic, racist, misogynistic, narcissistic, senile asshole should probably not be the President?

Well, sure, that’s a given. But I think his legacy will be even more than just the obvious. He will be remembered for something far more profound.

The President of The United States gave the mainstream media a great gift. A gift they never could have gotten on their own. Newspapers, cable news, network news — especially network news — finally got something they could never have gotten any other way!

This is the best gift ever!

What was it?


The President made it OK to say shit on national TV. Watching it happen was a wondrous event.


The story was that SCROTUS described countries like Haiti and African countries as “Shitholes” in front of a bunch of Congressmen. The story exploded, like every other stupid thing he does. But this story was different. Something new happened. I was wandering thru the news channels as it happened.  And it was awesome. It was adorable. It was like watching a child speak for the first time.

Haiti is a shithole!

Initially, everyone was hesitant. They all didn’t say shithole, they said “The S-word”. And all the chyrons, the lower thirds, all said “S#@THOLES”.

All the cable news anchors fell all over each other saying how much it disturbed them to have to say a word they don’t want to say because it’s so vile. So they said “The S-Word” And they said The “S-Word” as often as they could.

And then, as the evening wore on, I noticed something. The lower thirds suddenly said “SHITHOLE”.

Wow, I thought. And then like a puppy opening his or her eyes for the first time and seeing a new world, it happened.

Wow, this place is a shithole

Suddenly Rachel Maddow and all the others on TV took the leap. “The President said Shithole!” they all declared! And the flood gates opened up.

By the next day everybody was on the ‘shit-bandwagon’. Every headline had some play on the word shit.

There was not a “S##THOLE” anywhere to be found!

I realize at this point that many of you might not understand why I think this is so important. It has to do with the media. I know what I’m talking about because I’ve been in the media for over 40 years.

There are a lot of things the media can and can’t do, or should or shouldn’t do. But there is one thing that they absolutely can’t do. And that is they can’t say dirty words. To be more specific “The Seven Dirty Words”.

The seven dirty words? What’s that? Well, the words are from a George Carlin routine from around 1972.

The bit was about words you can’t say on radio or TV and the words were: “Shit, piss, fuck, cunt, cocksucker, motherfucker and tits.”

The record was played on a Pacifica radio station in NYC, WBAI. That lead to the FCC fining the station.

And that lead to a Supreme Court case. “FCC vs Pacifica Foundation.” It was a big first amendment case and what came out if it was a decision that the FCC couldn’t limit your first amendment rights, but they were OK banning the seven dirty words on mainstream media.

And that is a big thing if you work in the mainstream media. Many anchors have been fired for accidentally saying “fuck” on the air. It was instant death, you were gone. Period. And you have no idea how media people talk, especially  off the air.

I worked for the ABC Radio Network in the early 1970’s, WCBS FM in the late 1970’s and CBS News until today and I always marveled at how some news announcers could go thru an entire newscast hitting the mute button on their mike to yell at someone in between doing the actual newscast.

ANCHOR: In the news today, Vietnam peace talks have stalled, more after this.
MUTED ANCHOR: What the fuck??! Who ate my fucking Goddamn yogurt! You all know that’s my motherfucking yogurt!
ME: (talking in announcer’s ear) We’re back in 3,2,1, cue.
ANCHOR: Moving on to sports, here’s Howard Cosell.
MUTED ANCHOR: God fucking damn it! This is the third time this month my motherfucking yogurt is gone! I will find you, you cocksucker  and I will FUCK YOU UP!!

I know you think I’m making this up. And I also know for a fact that as Garry is reading this, he is rolling on the floor laughing.

My point is, this is a milestone. On January 11th, the year of our lord 2018, a miraculous thing happened. Trump overturned FCC vs Pacifica. The mainstream media got to say one of the Sacred Seven Dirty Words.

Broadcasters are loving it! Now that the precedent is broken, where can we all go next? Oh right — there are still six more dirty words!

So, to sum up this president’s legacy:

  • A shithead decided to run for president.
  • A bunch of shitheads decided to vote for him.
  • A bunch of other shitheads decided that there was no difference between him and the other shithead running for president, so they voted for a third shithead.
  • And half the country didn’t give enough of a shit to vote at all.

You can’t make this shit up. But at least we can say shit now! Thank God, because the president is doing his damnedest to turn this country into a real shithole.

We are all in such deep shit. On top of everything else,  we’re going to need 7 new dirty words.

WINSOME IS AS WINSOME DOES

Winsome. When I was editor of the Doubleday Romance Library … oh so long ago! … this was a great word especially when describing the attributes of a young woman in one of the Gothic romances.

Winsome, implying lovely, gracious, charming, and possibly attractive in a non-gaudy, un-flashy way.

So I was trying to think of what in my world might be winsome these days. Bonnie? Maybe? Dogs are always a bit winsome, at least by personality if not by visage. All those adorable things they do are kind of winsome-ish. Okay, not when Duke drags a tree branch in through the dog door and proceeds to imitate a wood-chipper … but when he plays peek-a-boo with his paws, that’s ridiculously adorable.

Photo: Garry Armstrong – At home with dogs

Less adorable when he take those same paws and whacks them hard on my keyboard. I had to pry up a key this morning and one of these days, he’s going to take the ship down with him. Forgive the digression.

I read the beginning of “Fire and Fury: Inside the White House” by Michael Fuller last night. I couldn’t help myself. After Tom Curley’s review of it today on Serendipity, my curiosity went into overdrive. One of the brilliant things about electronic books — audio and other — is that you get them instantly.

Want the book?Before you take your finger off the “buy” button, it’s in your library. It may absorb my time today. Just a warning. I’m in the middle of James Lee Burke’s (last?) book about Dave Robicheaux titled “Robicheaux,” and I want to read this one … and this is the month I’m getting a bunch of audiobooks for review, so it will be my “not-so-available” month.

My winsome dogs will smile at you, though.

FYI for anyone who is following the snow, the cold, and the bank: the bank gave us all the money back. The issue isn’t settled, but they gave us the money anyway. Nice! Thank you BOA. You done good.

The plow was here this morning, so we have a driveway. Paying the guy is going to be an interesting tale because as I have previously observed, free is not the way to go in the snow in New England. Unless YOU own the plow, you have to pay someone. Let us hope for less snow.

Unless there’s such as thing as “self-shoveling” snow? Is there an app for that?