Wednesday, April 30, 2008

My Poem for National Poetry Month

Today ends National Poetry Month, so I have written a poem as a tribute. This isn’t a DD or a limerick, which I think I am passable at writing. Instead, it's a regular "poem," and I don’t have a basic understanding of other types of verses. Therefore, this is just off the cuff, so to speak.

Simpler Times

Oh for the simpler times;
No worries of meter or rhymes.
I just wrote as I pleased
And never got teased.

But now all I write is workshopped
“You need a line here and this dropped.”
“Your rhyme is amiss!”
I don’t understand this.

Oh for the fun I once had;
Whatever I did was not bad.
I rhymed “girl” once with “word.*
“Not bad”’s what I heard.

So don’t give them this poem to workshop
Or they'll call it one great big old flop!
“Your meter’s all off!”
“At your wording, I scoff!”

But this Blog is my own;
I can write and not hone.
My poems won't pay all my debts,
But this is as good as it gets!

*I wrote the following limerick on Wordcraft, but got an “incomplete” from the King of Workshoppers, CJ. Granted, I was a bit clueless at the time about writing limericks, but I’ve found that innocence begets happiness.

Logomaniacal Asa
Boasts an amazing cabeza.
He peppers with words,
Is dapper with girls.
But, he loathes all the talk of cerveza.

Compare "Simpler Times" to "The Rabbit," written by Gary Snyder, who has just won the 2008 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize. [Apologies to Gary, as I couldn't get the indents to work on this Blog. The above link is how it should look.]

The Rabbit

A grizzled black-eyed rabbit showed me

irrigation ditches, open paved highway,
white line
to the hill.
bell chill blue jewel sky
Banner clouds flying,
The mountains all gathered,
juniper trees on the flanks
cone buds,
the snug bark scale
in thin powder snow
over rock scrabble, pricklers, boulders,
pines and junipers,
The trees all singing.

The mountains are singing
To gather the sky and the mist
to bring it down snow-breath
and gather it water
Sent from the singing peaks
flanks and folds
Down arroyos and ditches by highways the water
The people to use it, the
mountains and juniper
Do it for men,

Said the rabbit.

First published in Poetry, March 1968. (C) Gary Snyder

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

What is art?

Bob Hale has an excellent Blog , which I've mentioned before. In today's discussion, he talks about "what is art." We've talked about this on Wordcraft, too. It really is hard to define. Bob thinks if the alleged artist calls it art, then it is. Richard English from Wordcraft thinks that's balderdash and that it must be beautiful to look at, as well as worth something. I suppose I lie somewhere in between. However, I just can't think this is art, do you?

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Maya Angelou

On NPR I heard Maya Angelou being interviewed by Tavis Smiley, and, as a tribute to National Poetry Month, she recited the following poem:

On Aging
When you see me sitting quietly,
Like a sack left on the shelf,
Don't think I need your chattering.
I'm listing to myself.
Hold! Stop! Don't pity me!
Hold! Stop your sympathy!
Understanding if you got it,
Otherwise I'll so without it!

When my bones are stiff and aching,
and my feet won't climb the stair,
I will only ask one favor:
Don't bring me no rocking chair.

When you see me walking, stumbling,
Don't study and get it wrong.
'Cause tired don't mean lazy
And every goodbye ain't gone.
I'm the same person I was back then,
A little less hair, a little less chin,
A lot less lungs and much less wind.
But ain't I lucky I can still breathe in.

_Maya Angelou

Tavis also interviewed an up and coming poet, Evan Brown. You can listen here. He made the point that this generation seems be more connected to poetry with all the poetry slams in coffee houses.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Republican Words

Yesterday's post made me wonder if there really are "Republican words," so I looked in Google. The very first article that came up was from the 1887 NY Times. How fun to see how they wrote back then. They actually called the "women" in the audience "ladies." How refreshing! Can you imagine hearing now about the "ladies" who are supporting Hillary? The first sentence uses the word "benighted," which is new to me. It means "unenlightened" or "intellectually or morally ignorant." Great word! (Hmm, what political party might those types be from?) The use of words and the sentence structure were entertaining. For example, talking about the introduction of the speakers the author said, "They were given with tremendous vim, so heartily, in fact, that Col. Grant blushed with pleasure and bowed his thanks repeatedly." The audience also applauded "ironically" and "grew cheerfully sarcastic."

Those days must have been fun!

However, I found no lists of "Republican words," though I did find a number of rather sickening articles, excluding the above article.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

A Republican word?

Oh. My. God.

I may have to rename this place.

Is "epicaricacy" a Republican word??

Oy, vey...

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Happy Birthday, Hubs!

A poet I'm not, though I do like writing limericks and double dactyls. Happy Birthday to my husband!

Tonight we will have a good brew, Shu,
Along with delectable moo-Shu.
And many more too!
Oh, how all the years really flew, Shu!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Making Mistakes

Recently, either here or on Wordcraft (, I have made some pretty big mistakes. Besides the "misocainea" disaster, on Wordcraft I accused Jonah Goldberg (not one of my favorite conservative columnists) of making an error in etymology that he really hadn't made (, and I had thought a poster had misspelled "challot":

The fact is, in a matter of 1 week I had made each of those errors. Fortunately, most of my Internet friends are forgiving and therefore let me know of my mistakes gently. However, that's not always the case. Even I was quite enthused about telling Jonah Goldberg of the error I'd thought he'd made. I've seen how Bloggers, all over the world, enjoy putting down others for making errors.

Perhaps we should all sit back and realize that we are human and we make mistakes. Even the most erudite make mistakes. From now on I will be more forgiving, that's for sure.

Sunday, April 20, 2008


Okay...I am a bit of a dunce, I admit it. This is the problem with being an "amateur" at writing about words and language. Apparently the spelling of "misocainia," since 1908, has changed to "misocainea," and it is a lot more known than I had thought. I suppose I should have heard of it, though one can't be expected to know every, single word, can one?

At any rate, when I read the dictionary entries, they only say, "hatred of new ideas," or the like, and don't include any of the nuances that were included in that 1908 text. Even Anu Garg, from AWAD, didn't have much about it, though he at least included this quote, "'Although I agree with the majority that no appellate court has yet held an insurer liable absent a premium payment, it may be nothing more than appellate judges suffering from a case of misocainea!' Hill v. Chubb Life American Insurance Co., Arizona Business Gazette (Phoenix), Nov 11, 1993.", as well as a little about the Greek etymology: "miso" means "hate" and "caino" means "new." So we'll give him the highest score on that word discussion.

Friday, April 18, 2008


I posted about "misocainia" on Wordcraft, a new word I found today here:,M1
According to this 1908 text, it means a "deep rooted inclination to combat new ideas." Luciferous Logolepsy was the only dictionary I could find it in, and it defines it as "hatred of anything new or strange, such as new ideas." "Misocainia" only has 152 hits on Google, though it is posted on the Wordie Web site as meaning, "hatred of anything new or strange."

Interestingly, the author of the 1908 text said that "misocainia," as long as it is not manifested in a dishonorable manner, is natural. It would seem that way as people are often skeptical of new ideas, which isn't all bad. However, the author goes on to say that "misocainia" expressed in malevolent misrepresentations is "phrenitis," which is defined by Onelook as "madness" or violent and temporary derangement of mental faculties."

It's always nice to find a new that even seems rarer than "epicaricacy."

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Poem for National Poetry Month

I found this poem in a nursing journal. It was written by Ellen Bihler, who says, "I was haunted by this patient's doomed struggle to maintain her independence. I struggled with guilt, knowing my assessment might land her in an institution. Then, when the police intervened before I could, I realized I wasn't that powerful after all." This was printed in the American Journal of Nursing:

Wound Care

She reaches,
overshoots, lists into the wall.
Pinned against peeling wallpaper,
she finds the light switch, then her breath.
The refrigerator motor vibrates
the slumped room to quivers.
A child's orange handprints on construction paper -
six years since she's seen this grandchild.
She tunes the radio to all talk.
The host humiliates another caller.

The first time I made a visit,
she's all pride and wariness.
Her leg wound's wrapped in half
a roll of toilet paper,
"Clean, right from the store."
The last time, she falls through the gauze
curtain into dementia.

I bring the narrowing of the world.
I'm the messenger of lasts:
The last time she scrambles an egg,
draws a bath, hears her own telephone ring.

My Social Services referral arrives too late.
The cops pick her up that weekend, staggering
down Railroad Avenue in her slip.
My carefully wrapped wound dressing
unravels behind,
bloody like a crime scene.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Back to earth...

Okay. I had my moment where I actually defended the prescriptivits. Well, it's over!

Just today my editor became all prescriptive with "too many commas," "not enough commas," etc. But this one reallly killed me. I used too many surelys and certainlys, which in itself was nonsense because I didn't. However, he said that surely and certainly are just too subjective. And on it went down hill from there. The arrogance was palpable. "I am better than you because I know how to use commas."

All I can say is that I have (as have others) read some of his work, and let's say that it is far from stellar and leave it at that. Not that everyone has to be a good writer, but if you are going to criticize others, you'd better at least be a role model in what you complain about!

I am back in the saddle again with the descriptivists. Sorry for the deter!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Bloggers Beware!

If you recall, I've been wondering how on earth I'm going to think of a topic to write about every day. Zmj had suggested writing about "writer's block," but that would only take care of one day. There are 364 others to worry about!

Come to find out, I am not the only one. There was an editorial in the Chicago Tribune today about two well-known Bloggers who have recently died of heart attacks that were apparently linked to the stress of updating their 24/7 Blogs to keep their readers happy. Here is the article:,0,2289122.story

Before you decide to give it all up, let me say, from my medical background, that there was more to these heart attacks than their Blogging. I suppose the stress of continually updating their Blogs, lack of sleep, and probably neglect of their diet, exercise and routine medical exams, all could have contributed. However, the causes of heart attacks are complex, and the pathology associated with heart disease is a progressive process that is associated with a lot of risk factors, including heredity.

Still, as the Trib says, "Lighten Up, Bloggers!"

Monday, April 14, 2008

Prescriptivism Revisited...

I have been confronted, privately, about my comments that descriptivists are just as prescriptive as prescriptivists. I very much respect the person who put me on the spot, and he definitely doesn't think I made much sense. I will explain my position, with the caveat that I am probably wrong.

I have received feedback, ad nauseum, from prescriptive editors when I write articles, books, chapters, or the like. "You NEED a semi-colon here." Does one ever need a semi-colon? I think not! We have discussed prescriptivists, such as Lynne Truss, on Wordcraft, and many of us have been more than a little judgmental in our discussions about prescriptivists.

What is it we don't like about prescriptivists? Isn't it that they refer to rules they believe in and then make judgments about those who don't use them? If so, what is the difference between that and descriptivists who refer to the non-rules they believe in and make judgments about those who insist on the rules?

To me, there is a thin line between the prescriptivists who make fun of the those who don't use their stupid rules and the descriptivists who make fun of those who insist on stupid rules.

Am I all wet? Goofy thinks I am. Do you?

BTW, my daughter sent me this interesting political article, just in case you are enjoying America's inane political scene. There is never a dull moment:

Sunday, April 13, 2008

What is the definition of "Middle Class?"

There was an interesting article in the Chicago Tribune about what middle class, in the U.S., is:,2,3115883.story+%22The+middle+Class:+It%27s+a+state+of+mind%22&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=1&gl=us . Is it a state of assets? A status? Or a state of mind? They report that the Pew Research Center found that no matter where Americans find themselves on the economic spectrum, they consider themselves "middle class." For example, they reported on 3 different families, all of whom thought they were middle class. One is a family of 5 that gets by on less than $30,000 per year in Evanston. The next is a single woman who has doubled her salary in the last few years and just paid off her car. The third family is from a far suburb of Chicago (Geneva), and they have no money worries, making $350,000 annually. I think they are right that "middle class" is a state of mind and not a social status.

By the way, I used their choice of language by saying that the families thought they were "middle class." However, I wondered if it should be "middle classed." Or if there should be a hypen. But those are other discussions for other days!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Pulled Up Short

I will be a participant on a Blue Ribbon Panel next week, and they sent us some reading materials. I was struck by a chapter in some book (they only sent us the copy of the chapter, and I don't know the book) by Deborah Kerdeman on "Pulled Up Short: Challenging Self-Understanding as a Focus of Teaching and Learning." What a moving piece of writing! I looked her up on Google, and apparently she has published parts of this in another book: , as well as in some articles. I highly recommend it. She writes about Hans-Georg Gadamer's idea of "being pulled up short," which emphasises not proficiency and power, but proclivity for self-questioning and doubt. As part of this excellent chapter, she gives the example how King Lear pulled Professor Denby up short, during his sabbatical year at Columbia. Denby decided to re-read texts he'd encountered 30 years earlier and was attending a class by Professor Edward Tayler on King Lear.

The description of this marvelous teacher was so moving. Until reading this, I don't think I really and truly understood how to transform education, which we often talk about in nursing. However, now I am beginning to see the light.

Kerdeman quoted the following from Denby's (1996) Great Books:

"When we got to King Lear, Professor Tayler begain by analysing metaphor and structure, recounting the play's bounty of negatives - the many 'nos' and 'nothings.' But suddenly he said: 'Nobody can lay a glove on this play. this is the greatest thing written by anyone, anytime, anywhere, and I don't know what to do with it.' In a case like this, no one else knows what to do with it either."

"He had never made a remark remotely like that one, and my wife, who had accompanied me to class that day, looked at me oddly, as if to say, Who is this guy?' for Tayler, the hipster wit, nomally imperturbable and allusive, was now on the verge of tears. Quickly, he returned to a notion he had developed back in the fall, when we were discussing the Odyssey: the difference between surface, or nominal, recognition, and deep, or substance, recognition..."

"Lear was similarly about deep recognition - an experience accompanied by pain as well as pleasure. 'The play starts out bad, and gets worse and worse,' Tayler said in his baritone murmer. 'What we've got here is delay, protraction, until moments of supreme recognition.' And we read through the scenes of the shattered Lear at the end of the play encountering his old friend, Gloucester, now blinded, and soon after, Cordelia. Tayler, following Harvard philosopher and critic Stanley Cavell, focused on a plangent exchange between Gloucester and Lear. Gloucester says, 'O, let me kiss that hand,' and Lear replies, 'Let me wipe it first; it smells of mortality.'

'I'm sorry, this stuff gets to me,' Talyer said haltingly, looking down for an instant. 'Lear feels shame. Shame is one of the biggest emotions.' He paused for a second, and then glared at some of the men in the class. 'You're breaking out in pimples; your girlfriend comes upon you when you're masturbating. It's shame!' The men looked up, electrified but silent. 'Shame, the most basic emotion. Lear wants to be loved. Lear says, "Which of you shall we say doth love us the most?" But what won't he give? In order to receive love, you have to be seen through and not just seen. You have to let people see your murderous impulses as well as your benevolent ones. En route to recognising Gloucester and Cordelia, Lear has to go through a process' (Denby, 1996, pp. 305-306)."

It was that class that pulled Professor Denby up short. He had read Lear before, but deconstructed it like other works, piece by piece, analyzing the metaphors, etc. However, after Tayler's class, he now felt a "peculiar, unsought intimacy with this play." Now...that was a teacher!

Has anyone read Denby's book? I bought it tonight and intend to read it. What about the philosophy of Gadamer? Or has anyone read some of Kerdeman's work? Does anyone by any chance know this Professor Tayler at Columbia? I'd love to read more about this concept of being pulled up short.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Do you like Blogs?

As I've said, I started this Blog to see if Seanahan was really right...that it would only take 10 minutes to start a Blog. He was right. Now I must build it.

A few of my friends from Wordcraft have been nice enough to stop by every so often. But that's about it. So I find that I mostly talk to myself. Is that how others feel? What do people find rewarding about this? I'd rather post on a forum, where I people respond, and there are interesting exchanges. I find this isolating. Maybe I'm just not interesting enough to attract others.


Wednesday, April 9, 2008

National Poetry Month

Happy National Poetry Month!

If you are a Bushite...please don't read today. I don't want to offend you!

Higgledy Piggledy
President Georgie Bush
Leading our country in
War by decree.

Seeing the polls descend,
Makes me feel lots: epi-

Not good, but "epicaricacy" is not an easy word.

While I am at it, happy birthday to my good friend, Bob, who does like his beer (he's from the U.K., after all, where the beer is wonderful).

Hey, Bob! It's that time of year
For getting your liver in gear.
For breakfast, lunch, dinner
It's beer, you old sinner!
Happy Birthday, dear friend, and "Hear! Hear!"

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Are linguists really descriptive?

First, one must decide whether the opposite of a prescriptivist, in language, is a descriptivist. For the sake of this discussion, let's say they are opposites. But that's another discussion because I really doubt it. Don't linguists, steeped in their own vernacular, look down their noses at the rest of us, just as they complain about the perscriptivists? Don't get me wrong, I so much admire many of the linguists or linguists types (I still don't know the real definition of a linguist), but sometimes I feel a little like they are acting much like the prescriptivists, whom I very much don't like. Lynne Truss, for example? Drek! Here is the post on Wordcraft that made me begin to think like this:

Oh, and speaking of linguists, tonight the Language Log link works; they said they'd been having problems: I did enjoy this link on their site: And, (prescriptivists on OEDILF tell me that you are NEVER allowed to place a comma after a sentence starting with "and"...which shouldn't be done either!) the Wordcraft link reminded me of another great linguist site: Mr. Verb

Monday, April 7, 2008

Where do I go from here?

As Bob has said, I started this Blog because Seanahan, on Wordcraft, had said you could start a Blog in 10 minutes. I didn't believe him. I thought it would take weeks. Months maybe. Or most likely, not being computer savvy, I'd never be able to do it. Amazingly, Sean was right! So I started this Blog on a rather protracted subject. So what to do?

Well "epicaricacy" is a rare word. I love words and language. In fact, I am an administrator on a fairly active language site, Wordcraft. So I will use this opportunity to talk about word and language questions, thoughts, etc.

As I've said, I'm far from a linguist, though I don't know what that is, and I tend to disagree with Goofy's definition. I do have great respect for linguist types, though, such as Goofy or zmj and, heck, on zmj's old Blog, he talked about "epicaricacy": However, one of my favorite language Blogs is Language Log, and I'd be so honored if they ever entered my humble abode (they won't!). Their site is apparently not working now. However, another site I admire is Language Hat, and I can link to theirs:

One question? Is the point of a Blog to someday be famous?

Sunday, April 6, 2008


As I have said, I am not a linguist, English major, literature major, lexicographer, etc., so please forgive my lack of advanced knowledge in those areas.

Pronunciations have often befuddled me. For example, I've always had trouble with the pronunciation of "turret," and I found learning French very hard only because of the pronunciatons, while learning Spanish came easy for me. When teaching students about medications, I'd often see the drugs in print before I'd hear about them in the hospital, and sure enough, I'd always pronounce them wrong. And, for the record, I did take HS Latin. So I am hardly the person to discuss pronunications.

But how do you know how to pronounce a word that you've never heard used? I don't know that answer. Does anyone? Consequently, I am probably completely wrong about my pronunciation of "epicaricacy," but I say: ep-i-CARE-ick-uh-see. Yet, there are those on Wordcraft who say: ep-i-care-ICK-a-see. Those are very different. What do you think?

Cat, whose Blog is here: , reminds me that April is National Poetry Month. I hope to come up with a few more "epicaricacy" verses.

Bob Hale, whose Blog is here: , thinks my Blog will fail. I take that as a challenge, and I'll talk more about that later.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Fun with epicaricacy

Another day, another mindset. It's Saturday, and even though I have to work all weekend, it's great not to have to commute to my office. It's much better to work from home. And the day is beautiful here today...sunny & warm. It's a perfect April day in Chicago.

So how in the world can we have fun with "epicaricacy?" To be honest, there aren't many ways. However, if you saw my profile, I love limericks. In fact, I have been a part of the OEDILF project from its beginnings on Wordcraft. You can join that wonderful project here: . Recently I've been far too busy to do much over there, but if you have a moment, you might want to see it. They are trying to define every word there is by limericks; in other words, they are writing a limerictionary. Therefore, I am very interested in "epicaricacy" limericks. Here is one that very talented Hic et ubique, from Wordcraft, wrote on our site. I like it:

Want a word which we wish were deployed?
We all would be quite overjoyed
Someday to see
Replacing that beast, 'schadenfreude'.

Love it! Of course it all depends on how you pronounce "epicaricacy," and we'll talk about that tomorrow.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Off Topic

I am new to Blogging and thought I should keep this only about the "e" word, as we call it on Wordcraft. boring! Cat informed me, though, that I can talk about anything I want to, so tonight I'm going off-topic. Sorry to all you linguistic sorts (Language Log, Language Hat, etc.) who are just dying to read my next entry!

What a crummy day I had. Everything went wrong, and because of it, I have a second weekend in a row where I'll be putting in 12-hour days. Geez! I suppose those things happen, from time to time, and I do hope that epicaricacy isn't in any of your minds!

See you tomorrow, Mr. Language Log, for a more intense post.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

I don't get it

I don't understand why "epicaricacy" isn't an accepted English alternative to "Schadenfreude." It first appeared in Nathaniel Bailey's Universal Etymological English Dictionary; the first edition was published in 1727 and it went through 20 or 22 subsequent editions. I don't own that dictionary, but I've seen it, and indeed the word is there, though spelled differently (it was the 1700s for heaven's sake; lots of words were spelled differently!): Epicharikaky - A joy at the misfortunes of others. The etymology is from the Greek epi (upon) + chara (joy) + kakon (evil).

Ammon Shea, a co-author of "Depraved and Insulting English" writes on Wordcraft: "I have seen it in a number of other books with what appears to be the modernized spelling. I can't remember all of these sources off the top of my head but aside of Mrs. Byrnes it also appears in a book of obscure words by Paul Dickson. I think Joseph Shipley may have it in his Dictionary of Early English. I'm hardly a scholar in such matters but I would say that the words in Bailey's Dictionary are rarely hapax, imaginary or inkhorns. Although he compiled his dictionary shortly after the inkhorn craze of Phillips, Blount and Bullokar he seems to have taken a somewhat more grounded approach to compiling his word list and would see no reason to doubt the authenticity of the word."

Currently, there are 6,230 Google hits for "epicaricacy," and it is cited in the following online dictionaries, cited by Onelook: Wikipedia, Worthless Word for the Day, and Luciferous Logolepsy. Funnily, it is entered into Wiktionary every so often, and then removed. On Wordcraft alone we've mentioned it 291 times, and it's mentioned countless times on Blogs. I couldn't even name my Blog "Epicaricacy" because the name was taken.

So what's up with the OED, and other dictionaries, refusing to cite it? There are lots of words (over 5,000, I am told) listed in the OED that have only been cited in dictionaries. So what's the problem with "epicaricacy?" Is this some grand scheme against a perfectly good word?

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Welcome to my abode!

To begin, let me say that I am far...far...from linguistics. I have always been more a scientist, with a background in conducting quantitative research in nursing. I have researched energy expenditure in critically ill patients on ventilators, the use of nebulized morphine to improve dyspnea in terminally ill patients, and conducted a systematic review of nursing education outcomes, so I am hardly the one to start a Blog on epicaricacy.

Yet...since learning about the word on wordcraft, I have been intrigued: Take a look at the rest of those words in that thread on Wordcraft. There are some of my favorites there! I really like the German language.

Later on Wordcraft Ammon Shea, the one who introduced me to the word, explains it. Here is his post:

More on the word latter (or I'll be finished with this whole Blog in one post!). By the way, I see that Seanahan has talked about epicaricacy on his Blog here: How exciting is that! Thanks, Sean!

If anybody finds a legitimate use of epicaricacy, please let me know. We are trying to convince John Simpson, of the OED, to include the word in his fine dictionary. I am afraid it will take a lot of convincing though. The last time we asked him, he just smiled and looked amused. That's the Brits for you!