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September 13, 2020
Today  is Hug Your Hound Day.
    Big deal!  Isn’t EVERY day Hug Your Hound Day?  Nevertheless . . .
    Here’s a line from Edward (“It was a dark and stormy night”) George Bulwer-Lytton:
                               “Call me only by those pretty pet words by which I know you will never call any one else.”
    I took his advice and wrote to my own huggable hound, Sammy.

    O Sammy, mi corazón, pup,
    my sweet holy terrier, what’s up? –
    I toss you the ball.  It just drops;
    you cannot – or will not – play catch.
    Retrieving sports, too, are big flops;
    you’ll chase what I throw, but won’t fetch.
    And tug-o-war? Gets a blank stare.
    Don’t all dogs love playing that game?
    You seem to be so unaware
    of normal dog things.  All the same,
    though, your loving?  Your cuddling? First class!
    Your snuggling’s a thing to behold.
    At nuzzling, no dog can surpass
    you. You’re Sammy, my “pet of gold.”
    But canine play?  We can forget,
    mi corazón, cur-azón pet.    SAJones 11/2017

Often used as a term of address, mi corazón (my dear, my love) E.g., She's... gone. Wake up mi corazón. It's me... your Popi. Speak
to me.   (From Beverly Hills Chihuahua, a 2008 movie.)
AND, when a favorite pooch (cur) is involved, it makes a good pun.  (Is “good pun” an oxymoron?)March

July 14, 2020
A Class Act?
    Are you a Facebook user?  Then, you've probably seen it, too.  Many have shared it.
    A photograph.  A man seated at a teeny, (like his hands) little white (OY!) baby grand piano.
    A woman seductively sprawled on top, whose own top is mostly exposed.
    The background shows a tackily decorated room, such as a Madam might covet for her whorehouse.
    The caption states, "What people with no class view as classy."
    It brings home a fact we all know:  money can't buy taste.  Money can't buy class. And it gives me a chance to share another appropriate, timely term - this time borrowed from
    the French:

                  Life Lessons for Donald
    Your hands and your breeding are smallish.
    Those pesos of yours?  Worthless!  Polish
    cannot be procured with your pelf.
    Oh, Donnie, just look at yourself –
    and that gaudily garish salon.
    It’s gilded to Hades and gone.
    That wampum and wealth?  What a waste!
    (So sorry!)  They can’t buy you … taste.
    Bon ton can be donned, like a mask,
    but your assets aren’t up to the task,
    though, of turning you into a gent.
    A soul search would be time well spent.
    All the gold in the cosmos – alas –
    won’t buy you a smidgen of class.  SAJones 9/2016

bon ton,  n.  (bän tän’)  French.  
Literally, good tone. Sophisticated or fashionable style or manner.  (Not necessarily tasteful, however.)
The elite society or the fashionable world.

April 29, 2020
Today, April 29, is the birthday of Lonnie Donegan (4/29/1931 – 11/3/2002).
“Who was he?” you ask.
He was a British
skiffle singer, songwriter, and musician, perhaps best known for his song “Does Your Chewing Gum Lose its Flavor on the Bedpost Overnight,”

For some strange reason, this title popped into my head recently, and I’m afraid it prompted one of my inevitable “Re-Verses” –

Oh me, oh my, oh oh, I’d really like to know
the answer to my question: Is it “yes”?  Or is it “no”?

    Does your pinot lose its sapor
    on the nightstand overnight?
    Is that morning sip’s sour flavor
    more than somewhat less delight-
      ful than last evening’s sweet imbibe?

    You just can’t bear its morning taste –  
    that’s a fact – but even more,
    you don’t want it to go to waste.
    My suggestion is, therefore:
      Just drink it all the night before!

      Oh me, let’s reassess.  Oh my, I’d have to guess
      that based on all of the above, the answer’s surely, “Yes!”  
                            SAJones 4/2020

    sapor, n.
    The quality or property that affects the taste of something; flavor.
    skiffle, n.
    According to,  “a derivative form of music formerly popular in Great Britain featuring vocals with a simple instrumental accompaniment.”  That is to say, derivative of
    “American jazz or folk music played entirely or in part on nonstandard instruments (such as jugs, washboards, or Jew’s harps.”

    January 27, 2020
    Donnie’s Donnybrook?  (And Whelping?)
    Six years ago today – on January 27, 2014 – Pete Seeger died.  Remember him?
    Pete Seeger, folk singer, social activist, and songwriter (“If I Had a Hammer,” “Little Boxes,” “Where Did All the Flowers Go?”).
    Just last week, I happened to run across some lines from one of his songs, “No Irish Need Apply.” –
    It jumped out at me for three reasons:
    1)        it uses two words (see above and below) which amused me; and
    2)        when I substituted a certain “him” for “it” I couldn’t help thinking of – well see if you can guess! and
    3)        because of the above two reasons, it gave me a chance to RE-VERSE – to respond to Seeger’s verse.

    Well I couldn’t stand it longer,
    so ahold of him I took
    And I gave him such a whelping
    as he’d get at Donnybrook –
    Pete Seeger
    (5/3/1919 – 1/27/2014)
    No, we can’t – just can’t abide him anymore:
    His bright and balanced, brilliant brainy bean;
     stability – like none we’ve ever seen;
       and his fidelity to truth and facts.
         Our tolerance is tested to the max.

    And though we haven’t said so heretofore:
    May he get a drubbing and a whelping,
     plus an ample second, … third, … fourth … helping.
       Yes, we’re jealous of that weird persimmon coif,
         and his “winning” every single game of golf.

    It’s an understatement saying we deplore:
    The constant self-aggrandizement and boasts
     of this narcissist (as he’s been diagnosed).
       His garbled syntax – ‘cuz such gobbledygook
         should trigger an impassioned “Donnie-brook.”

    Bring it on!  We cannot stand him anymore!        
             SAJones 1/2020

    donnybrook, n.
    A free-for-all, brawl, melee.  An inordinately wild fight or contentious (usually public) quarrel or dispute.
    Often capitalized, since it originates from Donnybrook Fair, an annual event (13th through 19th centuries) near Dublin, Ireland.  It was known for great consumption of liquor
    and resulting brawls and other debaucheries.

    whelping, n.
    Is a definition really necessary?

    September 4, 2019
    Cut ... what?
    To the word-aholic/phrase-aholic, certain niggling distinctions can assume great importance.
    The main bête noire I'm talking about here is the use of the phrase “cut the muster.”  Folks, expunge that phrase from your mind, from your mouth, from your thoughts.  
    The phrase is “cut the mustard.”  Period.
    Of course the confusion arises because of the phrases “up to muster” and/or “passing muster.”  Sigh.

    Some irate Ann Landers reader felt strongly enough that this letter was the result:
    Dear Ann Landers:
    I was amazed at the way you caved in to Frances P. of Washington, who stridently denounced your use of the term "to cut the mustard.”  She pontificated that the term
    should be "to cut the muster” and then went on with some nonsense about "passing muster,” a military term that is totally unrelated.
    Both the Morris Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins and the New Dictionary of American Slang support you, Ann. As my wonderful English teacher Miss Crate used to say
    to her students, "Go look it up.' – Terrytown  from “Ann Landers,” (Los Angeles Times Syndicate; Creators Syndicate), April 1, 1988, The Dallas Morning News

    Terrytown (and I) are not the only nit-pickers.  Here’s a columnist who weighs in about this misuse from a popular author who should have known better:
    His sea-going sagas are noted for authenticity so Patrick O'Brian's use of "cut the muster" made one reader double-take. Was this the source of today's "cut the mustard"?
    The expression means to come up to expectations -- and it does have a history of apologists alleging it is a corrupted version of the O'Brian usage, possibly linked to the
    military muster, possibly from the American Civil War.
    But while the analogous "to pass muster" has earned its linguistic spurs, there's no convincing evidence on cutting the muster anywhere. In fact reference books that once
    had this as unequivocal fact have in recent editions quietly eliminated the same.
    “That’s Language,” Murray Waldren, The Weekend Australian, January 3, 2004.
    As explained opposite, debatable theories about the strange (but correct!) term “cutting the mustard” abound. British etymologist, Michael Quinion theorizes that perhaps O
    Henry should be given credit.  (Or blame!)  He writes that “It is likely that the expression developed from the long-established use of mustard as a superlative, due to the
    pungency of the spice, as in “keen as mustard,” which goes back to the 17th century. “
    He goes on to say that stories by O Henry have used the phrase “cut the mustard” as well as “the proper mustard,” and “all to the mustard,” and declared himself the “the
    mustard in the salad dressing.”
    So cut the mustard to your heart’s content.  Be up to muster.  Pass muster.
    Just don’t – PLEASE –  do NOT cut the muster.

    pass muster (to be up to muster)
    To succeed; to meet requirements or expectations.
    From muster (noun or verb) an assembling or gathering together, as with troops, for inspection or roll call.
    cut the mustard
    To be “up to snuff,” to be at the required standard.
    The origins of this phrase, dating from the turn of the twentieth century, are debated.  Theories abound, from that of “cutting” mustard powder with water or vinegar to make a
    sauce, to the difficulty of cutting the very hard, very tiny mustard seed.  None are convincing.

    Am I, I wonder, up to muster?
    I wonder, have I passed it?
    Is my performance lacking luster?
    Or is my act first class?  It’s
    Got me musing, and I’m flustered;
    Am I misconstruing?
    Can I really cut the mustard?
    Just how am I doing?
        SAJones 7/2008

January 26, 2019
    So happy that the "Shutdown" is shut down.  I make no secret of where I place the blame, and I've written him a little verse:
    Dear Don,
    Just who is redoubtable? –  Your opponent might be –  
     (one who’s especially awesome, formidably
        so.)  She’s not one to flout-able, or thumb your snout-able
             at.  Better proceed carefully!        SAJones 1/2019

    Who is that redoubtable opponent?  Here are two suggestions from the past year’s newspapers, both pointing to the same person:
    Or as the redoubtable Nancy Pelosi, the happily former speaker of the House explained . . .
    Democrats, led by California’s redoubtable former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, can either sit back and watch the messy proceedings . . .  
    redoubtable, adj.
    Commanding or worthy of respect or honor, or even reverence.
    formidable; to be feared.
    Syn:  awesome, awe-inspiring, formidable, brave, courageous, fearful, fearsome, frightening, illustrious, imminent, valiant, unnerving.  Consider
    redoubt, n.  A protected place of refuge or defense.  A reinforced refuge; a fort.  Or consider
    redoubt, v.  To dread.

    December 22, 2018

    In anticipation of the beginning of a new year - 2019 - I offer these lines from a Sonnet by John Moultrie (1799-1874):

    Not with solemnities of festal mirth, -
    The well-spread board, the wine-cup sparkling clear,
    The laugh of neighbours o'er their Christmas cheer,
    The gibe and gambol round the blazing hearth, -
    Not with such rites we celebrate thy birth, -
    And bid thee blithe God-speed!  O infant year:
    Nor yet, in thoughtful mood, with brow severe
    Mourning thine elder sisters lost on earth;,

    September 23, 2018

    What a couple of weeks we've had. (Well, actually, it's been “what-a-far-too-many-months!”) But what I'm specifically referring to are the two recent revelations - in close
    succession – by individuals preferring not to identify themselves,
    One, the accuser of SCOTUS nominee Kavanaugh, has since come forward and identified herself. (And has had to go into hiding). The first one, however, continues to be called
    . . . by the name of that all too familiar and too prolific writer, Anonymous. How over-used!
    I'm proposing a different name - and a good word to get familiar with:

    innominate, adj. (i nähm I nət) - Nameless, having no name. Anonymous.

    I am part of “The Resistance.”
    Who am I?  At my insistence,
    my real name shall remain Unknown . . .
    (unless, of course, my cover’s blown).
    AND I’m that source synonymous
    (and overused), Anonymous,
    called You-Know-Who, OR So-And-So
    by those who think they’re “in the know.”
    But here’s the skinny.  You know what?
    The truth is, I’m Innominate.   SAJones 9/2018

    May 21, 2018
    A close second to Shakespeare as the most-quoted author in the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations is a man whose birthday we observe this week.
    Alexander Pope was born in London on May 21, 1688 and was one of the most celebrated poets of the eighteenth century.   Known for his satirical verse (e.g. “The Rape of the
    Lock”), his translation of Homer, and his essays, he is also given credit for one of the most widely known of quotations. From “An Essay on Criticism” is the sentence

    To err is human; to forgive divine.

    His philosophy was that all people commit sins and make mistakes. God forgives us, and we in turn act in a Godlike (divine) way when we also forgive.  Here are my musings on
    this quotation we know so well:

    “To err is human,” so they say.
    Mankind backslides and goes astray.
     So – here’s our question for the day:

    Do we “air”? Or do we “ur”?
    Respected sources still concur
     the second, “ur,” is de rigueur

    We “ur” when we say “air.”  Some days!*
    So now we know.  To paraphrase:
     We’ve learned the “urror” of our ways!**
    Forgive such errors – yours and mine,
    and join the ranks of the divine.

    My main source is Charles Harrington Elster’s classic (c1988) There Is No Zoo in Zoology: and Other Beastly Mispronunciations. However . . .
     * I say, “Some days,” because in all fairness, it must be noted that,, and give “air” as the second, therefore
    acceptable, pronunciation.
    And ahdictionary gives “air” as the first, preferred pronunciation! Still others (e.g. Collins, and Macmillan, give only the “ur.”

    **And no (for the literalists among you) the noun error is not pronounced “urror.” Just my little joke! It is “airor.”  Go figure.

    March 21, 2018

      It's a snow day - NO SCHOOL!. - an excellent time to post another blah blah blahg.
      Almost eleven months ago, I blahg'd about a letter I had sent to the editor of our local newspaper, The Star Democrat. (Scroll down to April 2017.)
      I was “piqued” that my letter was not responded to in any way, shape, or form.
    I recently wrote a second letter to the editor.  This second letter met with the same deafening silence.
    So, . . .Once again, I'll share my thoughts with you through this pseudo-blahg.  Will the third letter be the charm?

    March 11, 2018
    To the Editor:
      Today's column by Cokie and Steve Roberts, “Trump's tariff tantrum,” - reiterating as it does Trump’s assertion that “Trade wars are good and easy to win” - got me to
      Trump seems to want to ignore economists' advice, even from such traditionally conservative publications as The Wall Street Journal.
      Here's what I'd add to what they have to say:

    How can I leave my stamp?  My mark?. . .
    I’ll start a war!  O, what a lark –
    A good trade war – yuuuge piece of cake –
    a cinch to bigly win.  Just take
    some tariffs.  Slap ‘em on.  Impose
    some quotas, too.  And then, suppose
    those countries howl?  Well, what the hell, I’ll
    be a famous casus belli.
    I’ll “Don” my (small-ish) boxing glove.
    We won’t be tak’n advantage of!

    casus belli, noun phrase, kah (or kay) sus  bell eye (or ee)
    Latin phrase literally meaning “occurrence of war.”
    An act, event, or occurrence (or in this case, person) that brings about a war, or is used to provoke or justify war.

    But would Trump even know what the term means? Not likely!
    Susan Jones

January 5, 2018
    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

      Before January gets too far advanced, I (again this year!) apologize for being so reactive in my holiday greetings.
    My card was written over a year ago, but when the magic time came for formatting and sending,, I was busy with other things.

      First, a short explanation of this year's Christmas word.
      It has always seemed a bit strange to me that so many “Christian” celebrations reflect such a mixture of influences. Easter, for example, the holiest day of the Christian year,
    borrows its very name from a Germanic goddess Eostre, whose feast was celebrated at the spring equinox.
      And the Christmas holiday, too, is an amalgam. In fact, Christmas was not celebrated by the early Christians.  It was not until the third and fourth centuries that the practice
    got its start and took hold.
                                          (Thank you, Emperor Constantine the Great!)
      Then, in order to conciliate, attract, and convert non-Christians, the festival was combined with familiar pagan practices, an assimilation and melding that could be called . . .
    syncretism, n. A co-option, adoption, or assimilation of differing or opposing principles or practices, such as in religion or philosophy.  An attempted reconciliation or union of
    such opposing or differing practices. An appropriation or preemption as one’s own.
    Related forms: syncretic, syncretistic, adjective; syncretist, noun
    From New Latin syncrētismus, and Greek sunkrētismos, to join forces

    As you probably already know,
    those reindeer, wreaths, mistletoe,
    twinkling lights, holly, glittering tree,
    the wassail, gifts, Yule bonhomie,
    jolly Santa, elves, Christmas parade . . .
    all a fusion.  A pagan charade!
    Winter’s solstice, the Cult of Sun,
    Saturnalia.  Babylonian,
    Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Mithraic,
    mish-mashed in a motley mosaic
    of customs preempted, adopted,
    assimilated, and coopted.
    We’ve embraced and employed syncretism,
    ignored theological schism,
    met the pagan, the heathen halfway,
    and centuries later, this day
    has become the best day of the year.
    Merry Christmas! With peace and good cheer.
        SAJones 12/2016

    November 26, 2017
    To “An” or Not to “An”

      Bulldog tenacity prompts this screed – an unwavering adherence to what is “right” – right, according to my unbending prescriptivist sense of grammar and usage. I still try to
    put on the “descriptivist” label, but frequently it just doesn’t fit. So . . .
      What am I fuming about?
      Something that is more than a usage pet peeve, or a bête noir, or even abomination, and something that might seem petty and trivial to most. In the larger scheme of things, it
    certainly does rank low in importance.
      To me, however, it is an anathema.
      Yes – it is an anathema that so many writers use this lovely noun (meaning a detested thing or person) without an article.
      Anathema is a noun, folks. Some descriptivist apologists mealy-mouth that it is an “uncountable noun” and/or is used as a predicate nominative (what my generation was
    taught to call a predicate noun). They posit that it can therefore be used without a determiner – (that’s spelled “article!”). I maintain that it still requires an article –
    (“determiner”). Predicate nouns (nominatives) still need an “article. Do we say, “Mary is nurse,” or “Mary is acrobat”? No. And “uncountable” nouns, too, are not necessarily
    exempt. I don’t recommend saying, “Mary is pleasure to be with.”  Certain nouns that are qualities would be spared from requiring the article: “Mary is sweetness itself.”  
    However, anathema is not a quality. By definition, it is a thing or person. Use the article. Use an.
      It seems, though, that I’m fighting a losing battle. In fact – let’s face it – I’ve lost!
      When I search, I bring up 42 general and specialized dictionaries that list anathema. Out of the first twelve I checked, all of them classify it as a noun. Yet, only
    two give examples using the indefinite article. An anathema!
      A search for recent articles in the Washington Post similarly brings up example after example of writers omitting the “an.”
      Of the first twenty usages, only two were “right” Thank you, thank you, Jennifer Rubin, for being a beacon of correctness.
      One of the most inane excuses for the omission of “an” that I found came from one website inviting anyone/everyone to chime in on the issue. This opinion: “An anathema”
    makes one sound as if one is stuttering so one should avoid it all costs. By that argument, one should also avoid speaking of an anachronism, an anaconda, an analogy, an
    anthology, an Anabaptist, an anesthetist, lest one be taken for a stutterer. Perhaps this person wants to be anarchist when (s)he grows up. The point is that today’s writers are
    using the word anathema as an adjective and not as a noun. Why don’t we just call it an adjective and have done with it?
    I realize that I’m outnumbered
    by writers/speakers unencumbered
    (as I am) by grammar's laws.
    Please say, it’s an anathema,
    and spare the righteous wrath of moi.
    You’ll win, instead, prescriptivist applause.
        SAJones 11/2017

    August 8, 2017

    Have you ever stopped to wonder how a word can just seem to appear in your life? Suddenly, you see it everywhere, and everyone (except you) appears to use it and know its
    meaning, while you’re still wondering where it came from and what exactly it means.

    One such word has been annoying me much of this past year. The word is meme. How could it have crept up on me? Am I the only one who cannot define “meme”?
    A little looking reveals that the word has been around for just over forty years. It was coined in 1976 by a British scientist, Richard Dawkins, who was looking to find a word that,
    as he put it, meant “a unit of cultural transmission.”

    He first considered the word mimeme, from a Greek root, but he wanted a monosyllable that “sounded a bit like ‘gene’.” He came up with meme.
    It was Mike Godwin (of Godwin’s Law and Internet Meme “fame”) who first applied the word to Internet behavior.
    A simple definition might be an image macro.
    But, then maybe we don't even know what a macro is!
    Or, how about a billboard, writ small . . . (and put online).
    Consider this definition from “a cultural item that is transmitted by repetition and replication in a manner analogous to the biological transmission of genes.

    Do I hear a ”Huuhh?

    In their defense, however, they do give a slightly more user-friendly description:
    a cultural item in the form of an image, video, phrase, etc., that is spread via the Internet and then altered in a creative or humorous way.
    Way back in the seventeenth century, the poet John Dryden wrote, “Words are but pictures of our thoughts.” Had he been able to experience memes, he might have said,
    “Pictures are but pictures of our thoughts.” Here’s how I (finally!) – and in verse (of course!) – define “meme.”

    It’s an insight, a slogan, a fact,
    a reflection – white print upon black(?)
    and it sums up the meme-ing of life.

    Someone’s brainstorm – most likely all caps.
    Clear. Succinct. (Facebook posting, perhaps?)
    -clarifyng the meme-ing of life.

    Photos, ‘toons – quotes superimposed.
    Timely. Funny, maybe, and supposed
    to interpret the meme-ing of life.

    Then, the video clips – short, wry, cute,
    entertaining, instructive to boot,
    shedding light on the meme-ing of life.

    It’s the web’s basic unit for sharing
    your gems – a device for declaring
    your thoughts on the meme-ing of life.

    I’m bombarded with memes. (They’re in style!)
    And the tacit assumption is . . . I’ll
    say, “Amen.” And share. Not on your life!       SAJones 8/2017

    July 1, 2017
    What ARE the News?

    QUICK!! What is a word that is singular, but that looks plural?
    Kinda like – well – news. OR politics, mumps, mathematics, physics, ethics, or kudos (sometimes!).
    AND not only does it look deceptively plural, it has two acceptable pronunciations.
    Have you guessed it yet?
    I’ll let (newspaper columnist, author, humorist, and political satirist) Russell Baker introduce the word.
    A couple of years ago, I read Lewis Burke Frumkes’s The Logophile’s Orgy: Favorite Words of Famous People. I highly recommend it, by the way. Here is the contribution from
    Russell Baker:

    ``Melancholy'' is one of my favorite words, but if proper nouns may be considered, no word satisfies me more utterly than ``Pushtunistan.'' Can you bear a fardel? The funniest
    word in English is ``fardel,'' the most pompous is ``obloquy,'' the most unnecessary is ``congeries,'' and the hardest to pronounce without sounding like a twit is ``prescient.''

    The answer is word number five: congeries.
    Yes, it looks plural, but it is singular.
    It means a jumble, a heap, a disorderly collection, “a sum total of many heterogenous things taken together.” shows the first, preferred, pronunciation as
    However, other sources (e.g., Wordsmyth, Oxford Dictionaries) show
    I love this next quote:

    Our politicians are voids or spreading zones of emptiness,
    a set of focus-grouped phrases and nice outfits, a congeries of cliches, representations of which there is no reality. In the terms of the late theoretician Jean Baudrillard, our
    politics is a precession of simulacra.(Crispin Sartwell, Los Angeles Times)

    A congeries of clichés. Wonderful. I think I feel a verse coming on:


    At the drop of a hat, and right off the bat,
    and for better or worse, I’m composing a verse.
    I’m avoiding clichés like the plague.
    A conger’ies; or, if you please, con’geries –
    of my words, random thoughts, pithy mots, and whatnots
    (no banalities!) makes this mixed bag
    of a rhyme “top chapeau,” if I may say so.
    In a (singular!) word, simply put and unblurred,
    It’s a masterpiece. Don’t mean to brag!
    SAJones 6/2017

    Now that I look back at it, I think Baker was right. Congeries may just be a “most unnecessary” word. What do you think?
    (As for the word simulacra in the Crispin Sartwell quote, send me an e-mail; I’ll send you a verse!)

    April 27, 2017
    At the Peak of my Pique

    Earlier this month, on the 5th of April, to be exact, I saw the following sentence on the front page of Easton’s (MD) Star Democrat:

    “Any time you have a positive rating like this one, it peaks people’s interest,” Silverstein said.
    (Italics and underline mine!)

    The schoolmarm-verbivore in me just could not let it pass. I created a new verse. Then, the next day, I sent it and the following to the paper’s executive editor, John Griep:

    The word you want is pique. Thus, you
      have made a “peak-a-boo-boo.”
    Yes, interests can reach a peak,
      Or lessen,  and grow dim and weak.
    But . . . the verb that means to rouse, excite,
      and whet one’s mental appetite,
    And curiosity . . . is pique.
      (Hope you’ll pardon my critique.)
             SAJones 4/2017

    Pique is one of those words that – if not exactly a contranym (a word that within itself has opposite meanings, such as sanction or cleave) – has very widely differing
    meanings. Of course, as the verse states, it means to arouse or stimulate, especially the curiosity. But the verb can also mean to trigger feelings of wounded vanity, and the
    related noun means those resulting feelings of resentment (e.g. a fit of pique).

    I hope that Mr. Silverstein was not piqued by the solecism you attributed to him.

    Susan Jones

    (Guess whether I received a reply!)

    March 27, 2017
    No philosophical musings today.
    Simply an acknowledgment of this being Sammy's birthday.
    Sammy is our rescue dog, our adopted “holy terrier.” (OR, is he an “avant-guard” dog?)
    We have had him eight of his eleven years, and we continually remind ourselves how fortunate we are to have him - and, of course, we have to keep telling him how lucky he,
    in turn, is to have us.

    O cosseted cur, if canines could purr,
    prodigious the rumbling you’d raise,
    expressing contentment and praise.

    O spoiled, pampered pup, if you could speak up,
    how forceful and fervent your screed
    (reflecting the sweet life you lead).

    O doted-on dog, if you had a blog,
    your musings, with each word you’d write,
    would witness your canine delight

    that we, dear mute mutt, are more than somewhat
    like putty, mere clay, in your paws -
    a fact which empowers – overawes.

    O hugged, humored hound, let us but expound,
    our abject and total surprise:
    that we’re slaves, once we look in your eyes.  
        SAJones 3/2015

    December 26, 2013

    Imagine a bright red background to mark Christmas just past.
    This year's holiday greetings have been almost totally reactive. We receive a card; we send a card.
    For many years, I have written a special word verse to share at Christmas time. This year's verse I actually wrote almost a year ago, anticipating the usual holiday
    commitments and wanting to be prepared.
    Yesterday I posted it for my Facebook friends, and today I will share it with any intrepid souls who might happen upon this blahg. The word - pinguefy - is archaic, so you
    probably won't encounter it; however one of its related words, pinguid, is still in use.

    Are you getting ye olde Christmas

    Christmas is coming. The geese are getting fat.
    Please put a penny in the old man’s hat.
    (Nineteenth century British carol)

    I’ve saved some pennies, shared a few – helped fill deserving hats;
    but times and habits change. Mine have for sure, and that’s
    why I’m not likely to be found downtown or at the mall.
    I’m home, curled up with catalogs. Rejoicing. Tra L’
    a La. With fireplace going, glass of wine. Again, this year,
    I’ll shop online, enjoying comfy Christmas cheer.
    The shopping malls are begging for our bustle and our dough;
    while I’m at home, and spending snugly. Ho Ho Ho!
    I’m feeling somewhat smug and sassy, pinguid (that means fat),
    complacent in my comfort; justified in knowing that
    I’m not alone. The stores, alas, are being overlooked.
    Those brick-and-mortar merchants – well, their geese are getting cooked.
    SAJones 1/2016

    pinguid, (pin’  gwid), adj.
    Fat. Fatty, oily, greasy, rich.
    Related to ye olde word for this Christmas:
    pinguefy, verb (pin’  gwǝ fī)
    Archaic. To fatten; to make or become greasy, fat, or rich.
    Fatty, greasy. That’s what geese are – compared, say, to the more currently traditional turkey.
    Thus, many chefs recommend slightly different ways of preparation. I’ve spared you the rhymed recipe.
    But, even when these geese are cooked – roasted – it’s not (except for the geese!) like the more idiomatic expression of cooking someone’s goose, or of having one’s goose
    cooked, which as we all know too well, means:
    Upset, finished, ruined.
    (Like many brick-and-mortar merchants!)

    November 9, 2016

    I encountered a new word just last week. Widdershins. Somehow how I’d missed it – although it’s been used as/in book,play, and musical composition titles. I put it to verse,
    using it in the metaphor of writing, although “current events” are a fitting example of its use, too.
    Today, particularly, I find it appropriate.

    widdershins adj. (widr’ shins)
    Also, withershins.
    In a wrong, contrary, or counterclockwise direction.
    Counterclockwise, as contrasted to clockwise, or deasil.
    Often described as “against the sun,” and considered unlucky.
    From German, wider (back, or against) and sinnes (in the direction of)
    God help us.

    Our plot’s proceeding well – but then,
    the slightest slip-up of the pen,
    brings dotted t’s and criss-crossed i’s.
    Subplots turn counter – not clockwise.
    We’re upside down and in tailspins,
    we're veering, going widdershins.
    We’ve somehow zigged instead of zagged.
    Contrary motion has us plagued.
    Against the norm, the crowds, the hordes
    We’re topsy-turvy. Bass-ackwards.
       SAJones 11/2016

October, 2016
    Swallowing Lies

    Will November 9th ever get here?
    There's a Norwegian saying, “The word that lies nearest the heart comes first in the mouth.”
    That, plus being re-introduced to the “old lady who swallowed a fly” (and a spider, etc.) –  I've been substitute teaching in the local school district - combined to “inspire” this

    So . . . what’s with this chap
    in the red baseball cap . . . ,
    out of whose yap spews spurious crap,
    (“trumped-up,” mayhap)?

    And . . . how 'bout those guys
    who swallow his lies?
    I don't know why they swallow his lies,
    but I surmise,

    that they LIKE this dude,
    his behavior crude,
    AND his multitude of insults rude.. . .
    Perhaps we're screwed!
          SAJones 10-2016

    September 22, 2016
    May I Take Your Order?

    A posting about three weeks ago on Facebook’s “A Way with Words” caught my attention, and I thought I’d share. I also remembered that it had been some time (more than
    two months, as it turns out) since I’ve “blahged.” Hence, this (with the help of Facebook) sharing.
    The posting I saw had been copied from what I believe is Mark Forsyth’s The Elements of Eloquency and is from the chapter on hyperbaton, or the use, especially for emphasis,
    of a word order other than the expected or usual one. Mr. Forsyth writes:
    Adjectives in English absolutely have to be in this order:
    opinion – size - age – shape – colour – origin - material – purpose - NOUN.
    So you can have a lovely little old rectangular green French silver whittling knife. But if you mess with that word order in the slightest you’ll sound like a maniac. It’s an odd
    thing that every English speaker uses that list, but almost none of us could write it out. And as size comes before colour, green great dragons can’t exist.

    I guess polka-dot, yellow, teeny-weeny bikinis can’t exist, either. You cannot have a green, great dragon? Or can you? Now, I’m going to be looking for exceptions to the rule.
    The rule that we know without either knowing it, or being able to write it out.

    Btw, The Cambridge Dictionary lists a slightly different order: opinion- size-physical quality- shape-age -colour – origin – material-type - purpose.

    So – don’t forget to order my wonderfully amusing, little, rectangular, colorful, newly-published, paperback, vocabulary-verse book.

    A wonderful word is the adjective.
    Grouped together, these modifiers give
    notion, size, age, shape, and hue,
    origin, make-up, and use. BUT, you
    must make them line up just so.
    (A fact you instinctively know!)
        SAJones 9/2016

    July 12, 2016
    Posted and Quartered

    Or is it hung and quartered?
    Three months - a quarter of a year - have passed since the last posting.
    No outcry, no clamoring from the masses of admirers that they miss these insights.
    The world, it seems, does not need another blog, hence this blahg - this “anti-blog” or “pseudo-blog.”
    Did you ever notice how the first-person pronoun permeates most blogs you read? Take a look the next time your friend, neighbor, or cousin posts his/her latest musings.
    How far into the first sentence do you have to read before encountering that initial “I”?
    When are blogs a welcome and refreshing addition to our reading lives?
    When are they merely an exercise in solipsism?

    That certain “I.”  
    The bigger “We.”
    The all-inclusive “Us.”
    They fill the lines of bloggery;
    (Ego - ubiquitous!)
        SAJones 7/2016

    April 12, 2016
    A Word on (and for) Aging
     One of my favorite times of day is the early evening. Almost twilight. It’s still daylight, but as I look eastward, out over the swale towards the Choptank River, the sky is
    beginning to turn slightly pink. The water responds with a delicate, indefinable turquoise.
     Perhaps a motorboat or a sailboat will be visible off in the distance. Or a workboat. Or, in the very best of scenarios, the skipjack Rebecca Ruark will sail by.
     It’s a beautiful time. It’s a special time. It’s a magical time. Somewhere between daylight and evening.
     Perhaps it’s all the more meaningful and precious to me because it relates to my own stage of life – somewhere between daylight and evening.  It’s a special and magical time
    of life, too: no longer young, but not yet old, either.
     It’s a time when the successes and failures, the fulfillments and disappointments, the joys and sorrows of the past merge and resolve. It’s a time when I can come to accept
    what my life has and has not been; when I can relax and take in the beauty of the departing day, and come to peace with myself. Best of all, it’s a time when I am able to see
    both a certain melancholy and humor in my life, in myself, in my condition.  And I can still look forward to what I hope will be a beautiful sunset.
     Ivan Turgenev, in Fathers and Sons, called this time of life crepuscular. Crepuscular, meaning dimming and indistinct and resembling twilight. He wrote of
    That vague, crepuscular time,
    the time of regrets that resemble hopes,
    of hopes that resemble regrets,
    when youth has passed,
    but old age has not yet arrived.
     Yes, my youth has indeed passed. My hopes and regrets mirror and intertwine. But I refuse to accept that old age is just around the corner, either.
     Still, though, I’m ready to accept an inevitable slowing of pace, a certain decline of the body and the senses with grace and especially with humor. Here’s how I’d describe it in
    I’m in my crepuscular years;
    My hopes now resemble my fears;
    An indistinct time,
    Just a mite past my prime,
    And words fall on weakening ears.
    I’m at a crepuscular stage
    Somewhere between youth and old age:
    Life’s light bulbs are fading,
    My mind’s retrograding,
    And my intellect’s slow to engage.
    I’m in a crepuscular phase,
    With twilight’s dim, lengthening rays,
    And sunsets symbolic,
    Regrets melancholic,
    And precious –  yes dwindling – days.   SAJones 4/2009

    Yes, it’s a precious time of life. Like that almost-twilight time on the Choptank.

    January 18, 2016
    Bah, Bah, Blahg?

     Not long ago, I overheard a conversation between two fellow writers. Both bloggers.

     They were agreeing with each other in extolling their practice of posting their blogs at regular intervals. Just the discipline of cranking out weekly columns, they concurred,
    made them better writers. It made them practice. It made them produce. Essentially, they were saying, it had made them into the wonderful writers they had now become.    
    They were self-congratulatorily convinced of it.

     I have to wonder. Apart from the primary question of whether anyone at all is interested in what we have to say (more on that later), there is the secondary question of
    whether this self-imposed output routine – this repetitive process – truly guarantees increased quality. Certainly many – most – of my favorite columnists have deadlines to
    meet. But they also have accountability and editorial oversight. And a critical readership of non-friends/relatives/co-workers.

     But deadlines for the sake of deadlines? Does repeatedly practicing uneven scales improve the pianist? I think not. Does having to produce daily meals for the brood make
    one a better cook? Maybe in some cases. More frequently not. Repetition can smooth things out, or it can iron in wrinkles. It depends. If at first you don’t succeed, doing it over
    and over again the same (perhaps wrong!) way is not a proven path to success. One of my best music teachers/mentors advised that when practicing, I would accomplish
    much more if I practiced as though my teacher were in the next room, or sitting next to me. Perhaps the blogger likewise should pretend that every column is being graded or
    red-penciled. (Or being read critically by a dispassionate, non-captive audience.)

     But the primary question I have of blogging, including this rambling example, is simply: Who cares?
     The recent proliferation of blogs is mind-boggling. (Mind- “bloggling”?) Are our literary lives the richer for it?
     Do these two fellow writers – Do you –  Do I –  have something worthwhile to say? Is that even the critical question? I wish I knew.

     It’s one thing to be driven to write – for any variety of reasons: scholarship; self enlightenment; self discipline; amusement; obsession; soul searching; finding one’s voice;
    sharing. Our libraries give testament to this enriching drive to write. And we thank the scholars and storytellers who have yielded to their obsession to write.

     But to make the enormous leap of assuming that anyone would look for my weekly postings? Where does egocentrism leave off and blogging begin? Or vice versa? I wish I
     And if you have the answer, please share!

    I had a fleeting thought the other day –
    Somewhere between the whimsical, the trite,
    the droll, ingenious – it’s hard to say.
    At any rate, I knew I had to write
    it down. And write it down I did. And then,
    these musings having made it into writing,
    assumed a lofty sheen. Somehow, my pen
    had been a magic wand, my words delighting
    and delightful. And I knew I had to share
    “I’ll write a blog,” I said. And then, alas,
    I had to wonder, “Who on earth would care?
    Just why would people give a rat’s . . . patootie?
        SAJones 1/2016

    December 10, 2015

    People and circumstances have been getting themselves tied up in knots as long as people and circumstances have existed. Seneca the Elder (54 BC-39 AD) wrote in a letter to
    Lucillum, “We tie knots and bind up words in double meanings, and then try to untie them.”
    It’s in the untying – of the knots themselves – that our phrase takes its meaning and owes its existence.

    What is a Gordian knot?
    It is a matter of extreme difficulty; a complicated, convoluted intricate, twisted problem. Historically defined:

    Resembling in intricacy or insolubility the mythical knot tied by Gordius, the king of Phrygia. It was cut, rather than untied, by Alexander the Great after an oracle declared that
    whoever undid it would become ruler of Asia.

    To cut the Gordian knot means to act quickly and decisively, usually by bypassing the obvious or normal means of solution; to solve a problem boldly.

    So how do we deal with a Gordian knot?
    I found a quote from the August 3, 2006 Financial Advisor expressing such puzzlement over the dilemma:
    . . . everyone wrings their hands in frustration while staring at the Gordian knot. Let us face it then - there is neither a magic salve nor an Alexandrian sword which can cleave
    the knot with a single blow.

    Yes, we can despair, or we can adopt the advice of the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822) in ‘Ode to Liberty,”

    Lift the victory-flashing sword,
    And cut the snaky knots of this foul gordian word.

    First, find that flashing sword. Then, just take it from my alter-ego, Word’sWorth:

    Stymied. (That’s you!) And distraught;
    In a difficult, intricate spot.
    Insoluble! You’re overwrought,
    Confronting this Gordian knot.

    Unravel it? Don’t be a nut!
    It isn’t worth busting your gut.
    Think out of the box, and guess what?
    You’ll see it’s much simpler to cut . . .
          SAJones 10/2006

    October 6, 2015

    I thought I'd mention the visit to the United States of Pope Francis before it loses its cachet as “recent history.” I had the good fortune of listening to his speech to Congress.
    It was an exercise in concentration, due to his belabored English pronunciation. However, it was a labor richly rewarded.
    I couldn't help but notice, though, his repeated reference to talking. To communication. In fact, I counted. He used the word dialogue twelve times in the course of his speech!
    Perhaps his writing/translating team could have looked up a few synonyms, if only for the sake of variety. So, for their use in future trips to English-speaking countries, I offer
    them this verse, and it doesn't use the word “dialogue” even once:

    A fabulous word is confabulate:
    To chatter, converse, chew the rag, or prate;
    Commune, interface, have a tete-a-tete;
    Palaver, engage in small talk. ... But wait –
    There's more! Shoot the breeze, rap, chin, captivate;
    Talk pleasantries, verbalize, and relate;
    To pow-wow, to chit-chat, to promulgate
    The news of the day, and get up to date;
    Recount, and riposte, and communicate.
    And ere I digress (i.e. divagate)
    Just let me emphatically iterate:
    The foregoing sums up confabulate.
             SAJones 1999

    May 18, 2015

    My husband and I recently discovered, on a routine trip to the St. Michaels branch library, that a book sale was in progress.
    We did NOT leave empty-handed. One of my finds was a biography of Ogden Nash. I have a great appreciation for his verse and his humor, and am always flattered when
    people tell me that my verses remind them of Nash. In the foreword (by Dana Gioia) I was pleasantly surprised by finding the following Nashian example:

    I would live all my life in nonchalance
    and insouciance
    Were it not for making a living, which
    is rather a nouciance.

    It was a pleasant surprise, since it showed me that we - Ogden and I - have sometimes latched on to the same words to highlight - to be amused by. In this case, the word - the
    tie that binds - is insouciance. And its “rhyme.”
    Here's a vocabulary verse I had written way back in 1999:

    Nothing’s a nuisance for those with insouciance.
    (Lightheartedness. Blithe nonchalance.)

    Bad luck never daunts those bright insouciants.
    All of life is just par excellence.

    They’re breezy, go-easy, untroubled, carefree-sy
    And happy-go-lucky, to boot.

    They’;re buoyant, sans souci, almost loosey-goosey;
    Capricious, and don’t-give-a-hoot! SAJones, 1999

    May nothing be a “nouciance” for you. Wishing you a generous dose of insouciance – lightheartedness, and nonchalance. May your life be carefree, easygoing, happy-go-
    lucky, buoyant, untroubled, whimsical, and capricious.

    February 24, 2015
    Every Month?

    Another two months have passed, and my initial skepticism is validated. I'm simply not a blogger.
    However, I do have a poem I'd like to share, and soon, before another week (and February) are past.
    At one point, when trying to decide on a theme for my next book compilation, I toyed with the idea of an almanac.
    I would start with January, of course, and include words such as Janus-faced, and brumal and other wintry gems.
    But what about February?
    In looking for examples, I found this Longfellow poem, which also supplied another vocabulary word to build one of my own verses on. As it happens, February comes from the
    Latin Februa – feast of purification.  Our weather this month has given us our own “feast of purification” – our lustration.

    I am lustration, and the sea is mine!
    I wash the sands and headlands with my tide
    My brow is crowned with branches of the pine;
    Before my chariot-wheels the fishes glide.
    By me all things unclean are purified,
    By me the souls of men washed white again;
    E’en the unlovely tombs of those who died
    Without a dirge, I cleanse from every stain.
    Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882),
             ”The Poet’s Corner”

    December 23, 2014
    The Story of Ose

    So much for good intentions. A monthly blog, indeed! I see that it's been three months since I last “blahged.”
    It's not entirely my fault, though. Here's why:
    After writing “The Story of O” for September, I had an idea for this very entry.
    For many years I subscribed to the quarterly publication Word Ways. (Subtitled “The Journal of Recreational Linguistics.”)

    In the intervening years, due to moves back and forth across the country, my subscription lapsed, and my back issues got lost in the shuffle. I am once more a subscriber.
    After my last (September) entry, my idea was to do an entry that included a reference to a piece that was in an old issue of Word Ways. (I'm fairly sure it was the April, 1997
    issue.) In the process of resuming a subscription, I tried valiantly to procure a copy of that issue. I must be an extremely poor communicator. I simply couldn't seem to make
    my wishes clear enough, and now three months later, I still cannot make the quotes I had hoped to lift from “The Story of Ose.” All I can say with any confidence is that it had
    inspired me to write the following verse, which its (then) editor, Ross Eckler, included in the subsequent issue. So, you see, I've spent three months hoping that the Farrells (who
    now edit the magazine) might supply me with a copy. I've given up. But, here's the verse that “The Story of Ose” inspired:

    Have you met Rose, the adipose?
    Predisposed to cellulose?
    Well, Rose just chose to say adios
    To sucrose, glucose, and dextrose;
    Fries, cakes, gravy – toutes les choses
    Et tous non-nons)
    Responsible for outgrown clothes.
    Now she'll be eating Cheerios,
    With just a dose of skim lactose –
             (I suppose).      SAJones 1999

    September 22, 2014
    The Story of O

    After giving my webpage a facelift about a month ago … and adding a “blahg” page … (and subsequently mirroring that redesign into my Whimsy Publishing webpage as well)
    I made a commitment to be much more regular in updating this page.
    So, when I proceeded to do just that, I had to select a new idea or word to feature. The latter is not easy, since there are close to five hundred word verses in my inventory.
    However, that choice was narrowed dramatically simply by my predilection for orderliness.
    Order. One would never guess from the condition of my desk and its surrounding area that this is a priority for me. It’s more obvious from the title (and resulting organization)
    of my (first) book, WORDS’WORTH’S Vocabulary Verse A to Z and Back Again, that a simple way of selecting words is to let the alphabet assist.
    The same is true for my featured word selection on this webpage. Since I began that process alphabetically, I was able to pick – not from five hundred choices – but from
    thirteen. I had just posted an “n” word. Now it was time for “o.” Hence, “The Story of 'O'” and my search for an “o” word.
    Yes, in spite of my cluttered workspace, my approach to certain matters can frequently be described as abecedarian.
    (Having to do with the alphabet. Being arranged alphabetically. Elementary or rudimentary.)
    William Blake wrote, “And here he lays his words in order above the mortal brain.”
    I, too, lay my words in order. Sometimes.
    I found an amusing quote from a newspaper search some time ago:

    Ertner, … could DooLittle more than share some undoctored wan liners from his award-winning routine of 26 abecedarian animal puns. “Some may say it’s a harebrained attempt, but, iguana
    tell you, I’m no jackass – and I kid you not,” quietly recites Ertner, … “I’m not doing this for a lark (although maybe just a mite). So don’t nag me. In fact, you otter try to parrot me. But
    don’t quail from the challenge …”
          The Boston Globe, “New Paean to Punny Guy,” May 26, 2002 (by Ron Fletcher).

    Relax. I’ll not try to add to the puns. But the emphasis on animals, plus the fact that abecedarian rhymes with … Well, it resulted in this verse.

    Care for their sick in an ordered design:
    Aardvark, bird, caribou,
    Dog, goose, horse, kangaroo,
    Leopard, lynx, marabou, owl, porcupine.

    Vets alphabetical
    Practice a medical
    A-to-Z style, patients lined up by kind:
    Quail, rooster, serpent, snail,
    Tortoise, then wasp, and whale;
    Yak next. And zebras trail not far behind.
        SusanAJones 2003

    August 21, 2014
    Waiting for an Afflatus

    I’m not a fan of blogs, and I never thought I’d be writing one.
    However, in the process of updating my current Webpage, and continuing to look for designs for a new one, I had this sudden impulse to add a “blahg” page.
    This immediately created a problem:
    What on earth do I say?
    What do I write about?
    Shouldn’t the impulse that drove me to create this new page also provide the content?
    A sudden impulse.
    During my childhood, I frequently heard (in church settings) of people having been “called by God.” Visiting missionaries almost always testified that they were in their line of
    work in response to a definite “call from God”; likewise, guest ministers and people testifying about some miraculous change of life.
    I always wondered at the expression; at the sheer mystery of it. What did this call sound like? What did it feel like? Were my own faith and spirituality somehow lacking and
    substandard, in that I was never privy to such a call?
    As I grew older and (even more) cynical, I put the whole concept of a summons from God (other than in the Tennysonian sense) somewhere on a continuum from self-
    deception to arrogance.
    Inspiration? Now, that is something entirely different. A sudden impulse. A crazy idea. A brainstorm. Divine? Who can really tell? Is it the work of God, or one of the Muses, or
    is it simply indigestion?
    Peter Bowler in, The Superior Person’s Book of Words, has an entry for a word describing such a scenario. He writes,

    While dining with your beloved, you might suddenly put down your knife and fork, gasp, stroke your forehead with your hand, lean forward tensely, and say, in unconcealed
    agitation: “Jennifer, I think I’ve just had an afflatus!

    An afflatus  (uh flay' tuss) -- a creative impulse, or a sudden rush of divine or poetic inspiration.

    Now, that kind of call I can relate to. And I was inspired to write the verse to the below. Please don’t blame God, though.

    Sometimes the sound a word imparts can give the wrong idea.
    So many words, like buzz and hiss and pop, hint at their meanings,
    We oftentimes infer too much, just based on sounds. And leanings.
    Just think what startled, disapproving looks might be the status
    To hear some guy declare with glee he’s just had an afflatus.
    Relax. He only means he’s had a breath of inspiration;
    A sudden, strong, creative gust of pure imagination;
    An impulse, strong and stimulating, almost Herculean;
    A brainstorm; insight; fancy. Nothing more. I’m guaranteein’
      SusanAJones 1999