Archive for the ‘Wordplay’ Category

Somebody bring me some water…

Monday, June 27th, 2016

Noted for the record (though I don’t think I ever did a full-blown “you’re going down in flames, you tax-fattened hyena” on this one):

The Supreme Court on Monday unanimously overturned former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell’s public corruption conviction and made it harder to prosecute public officials for alleged wrongdoing.

…Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. described the former governor’s actions as “tawdry” in announcing the decision from the bench.

“tawdry”. A great word. And much like “gargantuan”, the opportunity rarely comes up to use it in a sentence.

Words have meanings.

Thursday, December 26th, 2013

This is how Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary on Project Gutenberg defines the word “infamous”:

In”fa*mous, a. Etym: [Pref. in- not + famous: cf. L. infamis. See

1. Of very bad report; having a reputation of the worst kind; held in abhorrence; guilty of something that exposes to infamy; base; notoriously vile; detestable; as, an infamous traitor; an infamous perjurer. False errant knight, infamous, and forsworn. Spenser.

2. Causing or producing infamy; deserving detestation; scandalous to the last degree; as, an infamous act; infamous vices; infamous corruption. Macaulay.

3. (Law)

Defn: Branded with infamy by conviction of a crime; as, at common law, an infamous person can not be a witness.

4. Having a bad name as being the place where an odious crime was committed, or as being associated with something detestable; hence, unlucky; perilous; dangerous. “Infamous woods.” P. Fletcher. Infamous hills, and sandy perilous wilds. Milton. The piny shade More infamous by cursed Lycaon made. Dryden.

Syn. — Detestable; odious; scandalous; disgraceful; base; vile; shameful; ignominious.

I quote this here because it is in the public domain. More modern sources, such as the online Merriam-Webster dictionary, agree with the definition, especially the “having a reputation of the worst kind”.

So what?


That’s part of the front page of today’s HouChron. The 1993 Houston Oilers had “a reputation of the worst kind”? They were “held in abhorrence”? They were “base; notoriously vile; detestable”? That’s really not how I remember things.

After a 28-3 halftime lead against the Buffalo Bills, the Oilers eventually lost 41-38 in one of the most infamous comebacks in NFL history.

Same thing here. Guys, “inflammable” and “flammable” mean the same thing, yes. But “infamous” and “famous” do not.

They may have been “dysfunctional”. But they went 12-4. I’d be more inclined to refer to the 2013 Houston Texans as “infamous” instead of the 1993 Oilers.

That is, if I was going to use the word to refer to a football team. Which I’m not, because I feel like I have a grasp of what the word means, unlike the HouChron headline writers. (Brian T. Smith, the author of the linked article, avoids using “infamous”. Kudos to him; I’d like to read the piece that’s coming on Sunday, but it looks like it will be behind the paywall.)

Verbing weirds language.

Sunday, March 31st, 2013

“Theismanned”? (That guy in question.)

(Subject line hattip, more or less. If you put “verbing weirds language” into Google, you can find the original C&H strip.)

Listen all y’all, it’s an arbitrage…

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012

Nothing to see here, just me being silly. And yes, it is true that I do my own stunts.

With apologies to Solomon Linda and The Evening Birds, The Tokens, and Ladysmith Black Mambazo.

Tuesday, July 19th, 2011

In the App Store,
the Apple App Store,
the Lion ships tonight.

(I actually don’t care that much. I’m planning to wait on Lion.1 at least, maybe Lion.2. But Lawrence and I were chatting earlier today and that riff came to me; it’s the kind of thing you only get to use maybe once in a lifetime.)

(This is kind of interesting. Especially for $5.99. I haven’t had a chance to listen to it yet, but I have downloaded it: this BBC documentary sounds like it could be worthwhile. Download link.)

I have no joke here, I just like saying…

Tuesday, June 8th, 2010


The NYT has at least two things going for it:

  1. The “Time Topics” blog.
  2. The ability for readers to get word definitions by double-clicking on a word within an article.

Put those things together, and what do you get? A list of 50 words most looked up by NYT readers.

Number one on the list? “inchoate”. “baldenfreude”, which is actually a MoDo coinage, comes in at #6. “Kristallnacht” ranks 13th. Heretically, “Manichean” comes in at #28.

The takeaway from this?

Still, we should remember that this is journalism, not philology.