...wherein I find lots of excuses to think about words.



When used as a unit of measure, it's equal to four inches -- making it a nice way to compare two people whose heights differ by just more than that. Plus, isn't it Derby time about now?


I didn't quite mean "bitchy," and this seemed a pretty good substitute, although there's still a little too much of a malicious connotation.


Someone in my PBeM used this word neither in its geometric sense nor to mean "a relative by marriage" but rather to mean "sworn armsman." It led to a fun exchange (between two characters who, as it turns out, are both played by Ph.D. electrical engineers):

Brita mutters to someone nearby, "What's an affine?"

Folly mutters back, "I think that means that if it was straight in Chaos, it's straight here, too."



I was pretty sure it meant what I thought it meant, but not totally. I'm far more likely to write this one than I am to say it.


So, one can say that someone is "in good stead," that is, they have some sort of advantage. I tried to write a sentence suggesting someone might be in bad stead, and it just didn't flow right. Too much of an oxymoron, I guess.

canned, ham

One of the guys in my PBeM hasn't watched enough "Star Trek" to know who Riker is. So when one of the GMs suggested his character was acting the part of Riker to another (warlike) character's Worf (female, FWIW, and the Riker-like character kept hitting on her), he asked for clarification. I suggested that Riker is a canned ham masquerading as a first officer.

It's a beautiful analogy, really: "canned," meaning "lacking originality or individuality, as if mass-produced," and "ham," meaning "an actor performing in an exaggerated theatrical style," used together, really convey the smarmy Shatner factor inherent in Riker. And it's an unappealing meat product, to boot!



In suggesting that my HoC character's attention to a situation might make the (possible) baddies think twice about starting trouble, I considered the phrase "might quell the violence". I'm still not certain it's the exact word I want -- it has too much of a connotation of definitively nipping something in the bud, whereas I'd really prefer a word for turning something down a notch or two -- but I think it's better than, for example, "allay," which implies a certain degree of soothing, or "assuage," which likewise seems too connected with feelings. The scientist in me is tempted to use "attenuate," which is almost exactly what I mean, but it's stylistically awkward. Bummer. Or maybe the precision I need isn't in the verb, but rather in what's being attenuated: it's not violence per se -- we haven't seen any yet -- but rather the possibility of violence.


Y'know, I would've pronounced it PORE-seen, but m-w swears it's PORE-sine. Go figure. Maybe I hang around too many Canadians.


I was editing my "omelet" write-up, and suddenly I wasn't totally sure whether "ovum" was really the word I wanted to use, or whether there's a better, similar word. (Sound is almost as important as meaning here, since it had to sound good with "jones".) But having looked it up, I'm even happier with it, mostly because of the groovy synonym m-w.com offers: "macrogamete". If I ran my own IHOP- or Denny's-style diner, all the menu items would have geeky names, biological or otherwise evocative. "Macrogamete" would be, like, the supreme omelet.


Again, I wanted to double-check spelling before sending an email. In discussing possible inbreeding experiments with my HoC character, I suggested she'd make a beeline for the character with purple hair -- only I wasn't totally sure that "beeline" isn't hyphenated. Maybe it just looks to me like it ought to be pronounced differently when it's written as one word like that.



I've never been a big egg-eater, but a couple times a year I get a strong craving for an omelet. Today was one of those days. In emailing my spouse to ask whether he wanted to walk to IHOP with me (in sub-zero windchill!) so I could satisfy my ovum jones (that's a character name if ever I saw one), I couldn't decide whether to write "omelet" (my first instinct) or "omelette". As it turns out, they're both right: "omelette" is the primary spelling, but "omelet" is an accepted variation. (I forgot to pay attention to which way IHOP spells it. I also forgot to ask for low-cholesterol egg substitute. I was just too damn distracted by all that numbness in my face from walking fifteen blocks in sub-zero windchill!)

Last modified: 1 Mar 2002