Category Archives: Uncategorized

Chautauqua

Chautauqua. The ideal combination of chat and aqua (no, no, say it like “sha talk wa”). A landscape of ideas and memories, words and images, trees and water, kitchens and roads.

Hear me out. Continue reading

This fragile earth, our island home

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I wrote this as a guest post for my dad’s column in the Cochrane Eagle.

I can see it out my window, but it’s another world. Continue reading

nyctinasty

Nyctinasties, according to John Ben Hill (in 1936), “are the most common nasties.” Like all nasties, they don’t care where what they’re reacting to comes from – that’s what sets them apart from tropics.

Ah, tropics! Who – or what – doesn’t love following the sun? I’ll tell you: these nasties don’t. They don’t care which direction the sun goes, as long as it goes away. That’s why they’re nyctinasty. During the day, everything’s lain flat, basking in the sun, but when night comes, the blades flip up. As Peter V. Minorsky said (just last year), “the vertical orientation of the blades … would be especially beneficial to flying nocturnal predators … whose modus operandi is death from above.” Continue reading

nesh

What would you do if you looked down on your page and saw hnecxian looking back up at you?

Would you sneeze? Would you flinch? Would you soften and fade back? Or would you be fascinated by this ink-insect?

You needn’t fear. Although you have just seen it looking back at you, snuffing and snorting and crisp and vexing, whether or not you softened, it has. Hnecxian is the Old English version of the word – in its infinitive verb form. The modern English form, verb, adjective, noun, and adverb, is nesh.

Which is more reminiscent of a bug after it has been squished. Or any other soft and perhaps unwelcome thing. Continue reading

Sweat & Soda

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Not sure where they keep the soda

The only thing in the name of this place that doesn’t practically scream NOT A COFFEE JOINT is the &. And yet. Continue reading

murgeon

It’s the muddy season, and when you trudge on streets and paths the soles of your shoes and the margins of your pants may not emerge in good condition – may not, in fact, emerge intact. A shoe stuck in the wrong mud may be sucked from your foot, leaving you with naught but sock or stocking, and even that covered in murgeon.

Don’t get the idea that murgeon is a synonym for mud, though. It’s an old word for dirt and dregs and an only slightly newer one for mortar or peaty soil. It likely does come from the same source as mud, as reflected by the alternate form mudgeon (and is a curmudgeon like a cur in mudgeon? Perhaps, but there’s no evidence that that’s the origin).

But there is some sort of phonaesthetic urge in this word. It clings at the margins and thickens in the midgen, if only a smidgen. (Midgen, by the way, is the fat around an animal’s entrails.) It has a murky murmur or a grumbling hum to begin, and then you are mired in a midden with a burgeoning virgin sturgeon surgeon. Which, by the by, is a sequence of words that sounds like someone imitating an American on a military radio, a festival of retroflex and affricate.

Ah, frick it. This word begins and ends with nasals, so it’s not just dirty but soft. But listen carefully and take it to heart – or, I should say, take it as the heart of your two options when your shoe is mired in the murgeon: emergence or emergency.

The rest of the subtitle

Movie subtitles are often missing something important.

I was reminded of this recently when I saw Ai Weiwei’s The Rest. It’s an excellent documentary, and I feel a little bad criticizing it about anything, but its subtitles really needed one more thing – though, to be fair, very few movies include it. Continue reading