Love is a fickle thing

For the last month, the blog has weighed heavily on my mind. I go on break at work, and my first thought is, “I need to update the blog. Lord, do I need to update the blog.” Lunchtime hits, and I think, “Before I have some food, I should update the blog.” At the end of the workday, as I make dinner, I think “Man, I have ABSOLUTELY GOT to update the blog.” And when I begin the freelance job after the dishes are done, I think, “This is pathetic.”

And yet, the pathos–or, rather, my patent patheticness–continues apace. Every time I sit down to start our Word of the Year post, I say “meh” or “feh” or somesuch monosyllable denoting ennui, disgust, boredom, or despair, and log out.

To be perfectly honest, I’m really not enjoying lexicography much these days.

I will give you time to pick yourself up off the floor and stop sobbing.

My life at AL has been very slowly leading me away from actual editing work and toward ancillary work. I really enjoy some of this work and I really dislike the rest of it–but I can’t talk about the enjoyable parts of work publicly, and how much longer can you possibly stand me whining about the correspondence? (Though there is a veritable treasure trove of whining to be had). All this means that a) I’m sick of work, and b) I’m not doing much editing, so I don’t have any witty precis on lexicography to share with you.

I will say, though, that a correspondent called me a “mongrel” the other day. This may even top the “hobo” story. Mongrel–new all-purpose slur for 2010? (I did see a surge in the use of “hobo” last year, and if I had more time, I would let the world know that I TOTALLY CALLED THAT.)

So. Am I going to stop blogging (if you call a post every 6 months “blogging”)? No, I’ll keep blogging. I may even try to post more often than every six months! In the meantime, if you want more badly-spell whining about the correspondence, you can always follow me at Twitter, where I am currently helping a friend come up with food-based puns on the Oscar nominees a la “The Blind Side of Fries” and “The Milk of Sorrow, Steamed and With an Extra Shot of Vanilla Syrup, Yes I Know That Will Cost Extra.”

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Get those doggies movin’

We’re still settling in over here at the new place (for instance, I just noticed that all my internal links still link to the old house, and for some reason, one of these posts is in ENORMOUS TYPE), so forgive our e-dust and all that.  Remodeling takes a while.

Why move at all?  Well, Harmless has been doing more publicity-type stuff for AL, which means that more people have been googling her and finding the blog.  I realize that anonymity on the ‘net only goes so far, but I want to keep as much of it as I can (or, at least, I want to maintain a convincing simulacrum of privacy).   So welcome to the new AbGod Kinglish, which is not attached to my real name so far as I can tell.

But I have not forgotten you, bloglings, in the midst of the renovations!  Already in the works: a post detailing all the knitting/spinning, and the annual Word of the Year rundown.  Because the Words of the Year, they happened again this year!

Look for more next week.  In the meantime, Harmless will be wandering the archives, cleaning things up.  It’s a mess in here.


Filed under inedita


Hey, Harmless has a new home!  It’s here!  If you are seeing this, then you are home!

More posts soon–blog migration can be a bear.

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The Nature of Time, or, Why I Am a Bad Blogger

Oh. My. Would you look at the…month? It’s past summer already! And what do I have to say for myself, hmmm?

I have only this to say: physics.

Did you know that some physicists have posited that time is not, in fact, linear? This goes against our most basic experience of time; notably, that time has a flow or a direction that moves in a linear fashion. This is called the “arrow of time.” Stephen Hawking identifies three arrows of time: the psychological arrow of time (in which we perceive “an inexorable flow” in time); the thermodynamic arrow of time (which is characterized by the growth of entropy); and the cosmological arrow of time (which is characterized by the unending expansion of the universe).

Now, here back on earth in a time frame we will call “this summer,” Harmless took on a freelance job that seemed interesting: proofreading a book on particle physics. Longtime readers know that she has some weird little fascination with higher-level physics (though she barely passed the lower-level physics she was required to take in high school), and so she thought the job offered a unique opportunity to see particle physics–a thing as foreign as outer space to her–up close, personal, and applied.

Once the freelance job began, Harmless quickly gained a new appreciation of Hawking’s three arrows of time. She began to perceive the inexorable flow of unending e-mails and bad grammar that issued forth from the authors; her life was characterized by the growth of entropy in the areas including but not limited to housework, cooking, blogging, knitting, spinning, and sleeping; and, like the universe, the end date of the project raced out past the horizon, expanding infinitely until the end of matter and time itself.

In other words, I’m reaaaaaalllly busy and sick unto death of being at the computer any longer than I have to be.

Hold fast, little bloglings: Harmless may have some exciting word-related news in the next few weeks.


Filed under inedita

Things I Wish I Could Say

Dear Correspondent:

Your e-mail about secular eschatology has been forwarded to me for reply as I am our resident expert on religion (because I happen to have one). Your question made me go “Whaaaa?” and then “WTF.” I’m going to have another cup of coffee and then tell you I haven’t the foggiest idea what you are talking about.

Oh wait–I see you are writing from a university e-mail address. In that case, I will tell you I haven’t the foggiest idea what you are talking about while throwing around some fanshay terms I vaguely remember from my theology classes. Otherwise, you will write back and demand to speak to the religion expert, and we’ll have to go through this again. I can only do so many “WTF”s in one day.

Dear Correspondent:

Thank you for your e-mail which misspells this company’s name several times. It is not Promulgated Language. It is Amalgamated Language. For your convenience, we have helpfully spelled our company’s name correctly everywhere. Please refer to the giant frickin’ logo and the copious use of our name all over our dictionaries, our websites, and the contact form through which you e-mailed us should you have any questions about how to spell this company’s name.

Dear Correspondent:

Thanks for writing in and threatening to call the press if I don’t delete this word from the dictionary. I refuse to even engage you, since the only words you have spelled right in your e-mail are the profanities you call me. You have even misspelled the word you want taken out of the dictionary. However, let me congratulate you on fulfilling Godwin’s Law in one e-mail. That takes reductio ad Hiterlum to a whole new level.

In any event, please forward your e-mail along to the press. Newspapers are dead.

Dear Correspondent:

Thanks for taking the time to write and point out an error in a dictionary that has been out of print for 50 years. We can’t correct this because the dictionary is out of print, and out of print means that we no longer print it. We also cannot give you a new dictionary in exchange for the old one with the error in it. This would be like giving you a brand new sports car in exchange for a pair of rusty ice skates–in other words, totally stupid. I do thank you, however, for disclosing that the old dictionary was chewed on by your puppy and is missing both its covers along with half of the front matter (which is what I’m hoping you mean when you refer to the “junk in the front”). I would be happy to replace your dictionary with an identical one, though the teeth marks will have to be human as I do not own a dog.

Dear Correspondent:

Your request to have us determine the price of your old dictionary–a dictionary we didn’t publish, even way back then–has been forwarded to me for reply. This is too bad for you. I can’t tell you what it’s worth because I’m not a rare or used book dealer and the value of these old things fluctuates with market demand and other stuff I don’t understand because I just read words all day.

Before you even ask, I will also tell you that we aren’t going to buy it off you. We have rooms full of old dictionaries. One more and the building may collapse under their collective weight.

Dear Correspondent:

Your request to be given detailed descriptions of the “meanings” of various sex acts one only finds in the Urban Dictionary has been forwarded to me for “WTF”ing. WTF?

Dear Correspondent:

Thanks for your very lengthy, very argumentative reply. I am not going to read it, because I already said everything I need to say on why we define “acronym” that way. Seriously, why are you so worked up over the “abbreviation” meaning of “acronym”? You can’t find something else that’s a little more worthy of your time and attention? There are lots of things in the wider world over which you are welcome to knot your knickers. Fortunately for you, and unlike world hunger or poverty, there is an easy solution to your problem: don’t use “acronym” to mean “abbreviation.”

By the way, your unvoiced yet clearly communicated suspicions are correct: I sit in my office all day long looking for ways to make you and only you mad. They don’t pay me unless I find a way to cheese you off at least once every fifteen minutes.

Dear Correspondent:

Thanks for writing. Unfortunately, you did in in French, and while I can read French, I can’t speak it at all. Bitte, können Sie etwas zum Deutsch fragen? Dabei gibt mir die Gelegenheit zu prahlen!

Dear Correspondent:

Thank you for writing and asking for a dictionary of Old English, “like what Shakespeare used.” Unfortunately, you have asked a question that touches on my field of study, so you will have to endure a lot of blathering about what Old English is and how Shakespeare didn’t speak it and why you aren’t going to find a dictionary of it anywhere unless you are a scholar. I’m very, very sorry–but not really, because I love Old English and will talk about it endlessly. You also have had the misfortune of writing a lexicographer, and because I am so socially awkward, I will miss all the subtle social cues that tell me you are not really interested in hearing me talk about kennings and the poetic structure of Beowulf. I may even make some jokes in Old English. I will send you a very long e-mail that you won’t read because it is boring and goes way beyond what you actually wanted to know.

In truth, I am hoping that you read the e-mail to the end, that you fall in love with Old English, and then fall in love with me. Because I am a lexicographer, I am desperately lonely. I am the crazy cat lady of the editing world. Please be my friend.


Filed under Amalgamated Language, LMB

Dispatch from the Center of the Earth

I’m typing this from a bunker 2 miles under Amalgamated Language’s headquarters, where I have been holed up for–what, a few weeks? Months? I am fortified with packaged Indian food and grapefruit juice.

Yes, friends, I’ve gone into hiding because there has been another write-in campaign. These normally don’t bother me at all (as you may remember), but this one took “crazy” to a new level. The rhetoric was very nasty, and then it was very personal. This is par for the course, and a seasoned veteran of write-in campaigns such as myself merely mocks your poorly-spelled denigration of my morals and hygiene.

But then something new happened. The angry people began stalking me off-AL. I got weird comments here; I got weird friend requests on FuhBook; my Twitter feed was suddenly being followed by a bunch of people I didn’t know, many of whom were reporters.

(NB to the reporters who have found my blog and Twitter feed: I blocked you. Use the press inquiry e-mail address like everyone else who wants a comment or interview. You are not a special and unique snowflake and I will not treat you like one. Lord).

Once I alerted AL to the security breach between my personal and professional life, they whisked me down here into the bunker for my protection. (After all, if the angry mobs get me, who will answer their e-mail and continue to produce dictionaries for them to burn?) There is all manner of weird stuff down here, like the 2nd-grade diorama of our office building and an overstock of one of our dictionaries printed in Urdu.

The sequestration hasn’t been all bad. I did some of this:

SW Merino from Kangaroo Dyer
organic Merino in 'Twilight' colorway from Spunky Eclectic
Polwarth in 'Fields of Gold' colorway from Southern Cross Fibre

Since my alt text tags are EPIC FAIL, that would be, starting at the top, superwash Merino in various blues from the Kangaroo Dyer at Webs; organic 22-micron Merino in the “Twilight” colorway from Spunky Eclectic; and delicious Polwarth in the “Fields of Gold” colorway from Southern Cross Fibre formerly Come In Spinner.

And I made some spinning batts with some of the gray Romney that came home with me from last year’s Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival:

gray Romney batt

BATT A’SPLODE, Eldest Drudge included for scale

And I even did a little knitting:

On the top we have a test spin and knit from this weird Corrie/Rambo fleece I also picked up at last year’s MDS&W. The fiber is pretty short, and it has all the spring of Rambouillet with the hairiness of Corriedale. It’s not quite soft enough to wear next to the skin, but it’s much softer than it actually looks. It is destined, I think, to be a new lining for my hobo coat.

On the bottom is a shawl knit from my handspun, a Revontuli (“revontuli” means “Northern lights” in Finnish, in case anyone cared. I sure did). The fiber was from Spunky Eclectic’s monthly fiber club, and it’s super-soft organic merino. The shawl is cuddly, though a weird size for me. Just big enough to be a pain wrapped scarf-style, too small to be a big ol’ blanket of a shawl. I think, however, that I will survive.

That is, if the abridging doesn’t kill me. In between the fiber arts and answering hundreds upon hundreds of e-mails from my new BFFs, I have been working on Son Of, assiduously editing entries down to reach the book’s target size. And then whittling away some more. And some more. Then I start shaving off individual words, individual letters. And still the batch needs to be cut. It is at this point that I begin to wonder if we really need the letter M at all, and how common is “mine” anyway?

Once they let me out of the bunker–I hear it’s “spring” up there now, is that right?–we’ll resume our normal craziness.


Filed under Amalgamated Language, knitting, spinning

An Open Letter to Parents of Spelling Bee Contestants

Dear Parent:

I realize this is a big day for you your child. It is the school spelling bee! A hallmark of the strides we’ve made in education! A rite of passage! This is an exciting time to celebrate literacy by making our children stand in front of a room full of their peers and some adults and recite letters in a particular order.

As a maker, writer, and editor of dictionaries (and participant in a school spelling bee once, sometime during the Cretaceous Period), I applaud your children’s efforts. Spelling, as anyone who reads the tubal interwebz can tell you, is not a big focus anymore. English spelling, as anyone who has ever tried to master those completely pointless “rules” of English spelling will tell you, is REALLY HAAAAARD.

Words are fantastic, and spelling is great, and I wish more people (including yours truly) did more of it correctly. However, this sentiment does not give you carte blanche to make your child into a Speak-And-Spell. I do not care that Little Bobby can spell “profiterole.” Has he ever, in fact, had a profiterole? More the point–can he make fart sounds with his armpits? A successful childhood begins with armpit farts.

Yes, yes, I know, this is all so radical and non-education-based, and if I am not careful all our children will end up being HOBO MORANS because I advocated your child get some time to play. Let me remind you Einstein failed math, but very few people remark on what a HOBO MORAN he was. This is not the Superbowl, or the Oscars, or the Nobel Peace Prize–it is the school spelling bee. Some real-life perspective is needed here. To your child, this is a big deal. Getting up in front of your peers (who are all able to do armpit farts) and a bunch of adults who will be judging every single thing that comes out of your mouth is terrifying when you are 8. It is a Very Big Deal that may require the invocation of the Ice Cream for Dinner clause in the contract. But you and I, we are reasonable adults. We know that statistics show that there are more people who lose spelling bees than win them. We also know that people who lose spelling bees are still able to grow up to be brilliant, well-adjusted, happy members of society.1

So, please–when it is all said and done and you are going to comfort you poor child who could not spell “special,” do not ask them what happened up there (the English flippin’ language happened up there, man). Do not tell them it is okay, better luck next time (what about the luck that got them to the spelling bee in the first place?). Do not smile sadly and say, “Well, you tried your best and that’s all that matters,” (kids smell lies like dogs smell fear). Just give them a hug and tell them you are proud of them. And pick up some chocolate-chip ice cream on the way home.

A Lexicographer Who Has Seen Way, WAY Too Many School Spelling Bees

1 One of those school spelling bee failures is now writing the dictionaries your child is forced to pore over every night in an effort to learn the spelling of “contumacious.” I still can’t spell aloud, not even simple baby words, and I continue to be amazed by people that can.


Filed under Amalgamated Language, inedita