Category Archives: word tasting notes


“At the end of the day, this is, you know – and it’s important to have, it’s important to understand these things – but in the final analysis, we’re going to make sure that the people who work hard for their families, that when it comes down to it, there’s an opportunity, and I want, and I think you all understand and respect, but there are priorities, and we need to make sure we take action on what matters.”

That is what is often called a “word salad.” But I’m not so sure the term is apt. Salad is good for you, at least some of the time. And salad is, usually, fresh. And crisp. I have enjoyed many salads.

No, that filler mélange (anglorum ispum?) is better described with a word pulled out of the musty basement of our language: it is a wordcess.

We know –cess as the second part of several words: success, recess, excess… That cess comes, via a long process, from Latin cedo, a verb used for a wide variety of movements and changes (its simplest translation is ‘I go’); it is also the root of concede, recede, and quite a few other words. So is wordcess words… just going?

No. This cess is not that cess, so bad cess to it. Wordcess does not mean a process of words, a recess in words, an excess of words, or anything like that. It is, as I said, from the musty basement of our language… by which I mean Anglo-Saxon. We have a word cess, now generally disused on its own, that developed somewhere in the mingled humus of our ancient roots, and it means ‘bog’.

Which may remind you that if you go to “the bog,” what you leave there may end up in a cesspool (or, in more rustic circumstances, a cesspit). Now, it’s not entirely certain that cesspool traces back directly to cess ‘bog’; it is even possible that cesspit does and cesspool not so much. But I can’t get bogged down here in the various etymological speculations on cesspool – you can get a short rundown on Wiktionary.

So you may think, then, of a wordcess as a sort of septic tank for words. But that could lead to the idea that it would be vulgar, full of swearwords and such like. That is not what a wordcess is. After all, like or dislike manure, it is good fertilizer, and like or dislike coarse language, it has a certain vitality and vigour to it and provokes lively reactions. Compare that with a bog, which is a place where plant matter goes to just plain old rot. Certainly you can cut peat and dry it and burn it, but otherwise a cess is a place of decay; there is no vitality in it. It is just decaying castoffs, and if you make a misstep you may sink in it and meet your end.

And so that is why a wordcess is a conglomeration of words that have nothing fresh or alive; they just decay and bog down and lie there as a trap. A collection of clichés, old turns of phrase, vague half-ideas, deflections, the once-glorious foliage of past years now a damp sludge.

Indeed, the only thing fresh about wordcess is the word itself. Word is old and cess is old, and wordcesses are old, but the word wordcess is a new old word: it arrives on the planet first here, now, today. And long overdue.


The other day, while playing Scrabble, I saw that I could play the word RANTICLE… if only it were a word. Well, I want it to be a word. And obviously it’s a canticle that’s a rant, or a rant that’s a canticle. Or maybe it’s just a little rant. Whatever. Here is a ranticle for you! (Click on the audio above to hear me sing it.)

Here’s to the people you see every day
Who stop on the sidewalk, ignoring the fray,
In ones, twos, and sixes, and get in the way:
Watch what you do! What’s wrong with you!

Here’s to the chuckers of trash on the street,
Of wrappers and cigarettes under your feet,
Who think it’s for others to keep the world neat:
Watch what you do! What’s wrong with you!

Here’s to the grammar creeps stuck on correct
Who pounce on each error they chance to detect
But treat fellow humans with zero respect:
Watch what you do! What’s wrong with you!

Here’s to the journalists, eager for story,
Who haunt the bereaved any time it turns gory,
And zoom in on tears of the upset and sorry:
Watch what you do! What’s wrong with you!

Here’s to the drivers, lead foot on the gas,
Who hang on your bumper, so eager to pass
That if you slowed down they’d ram right up your… tailpipe:
Watch what you do! What’s wrong with you!

Here’s to the whiners who always protest
When some inequality might be redressed
And by “common sense” mean they get to be best:
Watch what you do! What’s wrong with you!

Here’s to the thoughtless, whatever their station,
In things of the neighbourhood and of the nation,
Who can’t spare two seconds for consideration:
Watch what you do! What’s wrong with you!


“Forelsket” by Ele Davis

I can’t help falling in love. With words. With art. With artful words. With wordful art. So, with Ele Davis’s permission, I’m sharing with you one more of her paintings and word choices that I saw at The Gentry in Cochrane. It is a particularly enamored, smitten word, and a subject painted lovingly, with all the red and blue shades of the heart. All of which says forelsket. Continue reading


“Solivagant” by Ele Davis

Do you go alone? Do you step out the door – of your home, your hotel, your hostel, your hospital – driven by some vague motive, and put foot ahead of foot, seeing the street or the trail stretch ahead of you, the buildings or trees bleeding past in perspective, wanting to move and keep moving, to be the river through life? To see people and other creatures and walk through the waves of their breath and feel the hum of their bodies and minds as they move past? To wonder as you wander out under the sky? Are you thirsty for everything and nothing to be significant? Are you solivagant? Continue reading


Illecebrous, a head-and-shoulders painting of a woman on a multicoloured striped background

“Illecebrous” by Ele Davis

Beauty is useful but not necessary for a good artistic effect. There are many works of art that are beautiful, of course, but there are others that are not. What they all have in common, if they are effective, is that they make us stop and look, and look again: they draw us in, entice us to explore further, to see how deep our minds can get into them. It is like a glass of a well-made wine, or an interesting look on a person’s face, or a word that just charms us: there is more, and more, and more, and we follow it as it lures us onward.

Effective art, in short, is illecebrous. Continue reading


My friend Don, in gay apparel.

This time of year, don shows up a lot in a popular Christmas carol. I’m sure you know which one I mean. Continue reading


This is Jaggie, the gumbie cat

A couple of nights ago, I saw the musical Cats for the first time. That may seem rather late, given how long it’s been around, and given that my wife even had a nickname among some of her skater friends based on it. But so it goes. Continue reading