Prescriptivism

http://www.metafilter.com/96961/When-words-are-scarce-they-are-seldom-spent-in-vain

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Profligate

Draconian

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brutal.

Bad Actor

“Bad actor” is one of those

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terms so vague in its meaning that it can be applied seemingly anywhere.

Apophthegm

This word is a total fucking clown. Look at all those silent consonants, just begging to confuse foreigners vainly attempting to understand this ridiculous language. It is pronounced “AP-uh-them” and is the preferred British English spelling to the more common apothegm, which isn’t at all common, except in GRE study guides. In fact, it is possible this word was invented by ETS just to make sure you don’t get into Harvard.

An apophthegm is a short, witty saying. It comes from the Greek apophthengesthai, “to speak one’s opinion frankly” which is from the Greek phthengesthai which means “to speak”, which in turn is from the caveman phthgmsthgmithththph, which means “mountain bear ate heap many cavechildren today, Tonk must shag for survival of cavefamily”, the antecedent, of course, being the coelecanth pptplptltl,  which has no direct English translation, although scholars believe it can be translated as “the actual sinking feeling you get when it dawns on you that you have tiny parasites living on your adipose lobe-fin right before your big fish date with the captain of the fishfootball team, but then you’re eaten by a shark so it doesn’t matter anyway”. Contrary to what you hear on the 24-hour news cycle, coelecanths have a very complex language.

Extemporaneously

Whoever invented this word, he didn’t do it extemporaneously, because this word is totally ridiculous and that’s why I love it. It’s too long, it’s cumbersome, too complicated, and when you use it you’re pretty much guaranteed to end all conversation. You may get your shins kicked and your throat slashed. But your options are limited if you want to describe an action as “spoken or performed without preparation”. There’s “ad hoc” and “impromptu”, but those words sound like they were built with matchsticks and rubber paste, and you can’t turn them into robust, meaty adverbs. And cousin “spontaneously” doesn’t have quite the same meaning. So if somebody says something extemporaneously, you have no choice but to form all seven syllables, turn your whole body into the point of an asshole, and say it in order to describe it. And now everybody hates you and you TOTALLY deserve it.

What really surprised me is that this word is OLD. A word that long and cumbersome surely was invented yesterday by some cheese-eating Frenchman in a turtleneck and tiny round spectacles, when in fact this word came straight to English from Medieval Latin, which got it from the Latin ex tempore. So the asshole pedigree has never been apart from this word since its

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creation by Roman pedophiles in the year negative whatever.

Bunny Rabbit

The other night I was walking home from work, which is after midnight, through the peaceful streets of Cambridge, when I saw a bunny rabbit up ahead in somebody’s yard. And I yelled out “BUNNY RABBIT!” I then proceeded gingerly forward until I was able to address the bunny rabbit on the other side of the fence, asking him/her various questions I thought would be interesting to a bunny rabbit, such as “do you live under someone’s porch?” and “find any nice garbage to gobble up lately?” and “do bunny rabbits have their own states? or do they call them provinces? and their own state capitals with burrows named after great bunny rabbits of history such as that one Belgian rabbit who successfully colonized sub-Saharan Africa? Do you know who I’m talking about?” at which point he bounded away, offended by my cultural insensitivity. Or perhaps he saw a snow leopard. Probably that one. Cambridge is crawling with snow leopards. They’re like rats to us. I hate them.

Anyway, the reason I love the term “bunny rabbit” is because it’s one of the few animals so cute we have to refer to it redundantly, to hyperemphasize its cuteness. We don’t, for example, say “pony horse” or “ape monkey” or  ”dolphin whale”. We certainly wouldn’t say “human lady” or even “virus baby”. We do sometimes say ”puppy dog” and “kitty cat”. But those are for spinsters and four-year-olds. “Bunny rabbit” is the best. “Bunny rabbit” is adult. It just is. Trust me, I am the expert on completely pointless and made-up opinions about facts I found on the internet. That’s what it means to be a blogger.

Some interesting facts I just learned on the internet: the major difference between rabbits and hares is that rabbits live underground, in warrens, while hares live in bedded grass nests above the ground, called “forms”. Hares tend to be larger, with longer ears. Also, there are no rabbits native to North America. They’re all hares. So perhaps the “bunny rabbit” I spoke with was only offended because I didn’t call him a “hare”, just like a Canadian gets offended when you call him an American, or a New Zealander gets offended when you call him a cunt.

Garret

“Garret” is not the prettiest word that ever caught my eyes. There are words that sound similar which are more mellifluous, such as gannet (a beautiful oceangoing bird), and garotte (a lovely word for a method of execution by strangulation; you may have also heard the term “garrote wire”).

In the fine words of Dictionary.com:

noun: an attic, usually a small, wretched one.

My love of this word is its specificity. It isn’t just an attic, but a specific kind of attic, with dry floorboards, a pitched roof, probably one tiny round window, a shitty mattress on the floor, an old crumbling desk and chair to the side, possibly covered in candlewax because the place has no electric. It’s the place you live in when you’re abysmally poor and want to write poetry and go slowly insane. It’s also the best place, as a friend points out, to stash your crazy wife. That’s her shouting at you on the lawn from that tiny window, pulling her hair out one fistful at a time. You might even stuff your deformed or unpresentable child up there, pushing him table scraps under the door, until he one day escapes and eats your neighbors. He

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might go by the name “Mungo”.

It’s as if the garret were the subconscious of your house, storing memories and repressed family members waiting to explode in a nightmare of embarrassments, and vomiting, vengeful stabbings.

Lush, and Other Words for Alcoholics

Lush is my favorite word to describe an alcoholic, mainly because it sounds like a person bathing themselves in liquor, as if lush were a portmanteau of liquor and wash. But the more I’ve thought about this word, and thinking is all you do on death row (which I so am on. I murdered, like, a lot of people, and told the judge that I had FUN) the more I realized that lush is not perfectly interchangeable with alcoholic. In fact, all the so-called synonyms for alcoholic carry their own connotations. And with probably more work than I’ve ever put into any post, I found that it takes a minimum of four criteria to delineate the most common words.

The criteria are tolerance, control, admission, and employment.

Tolerance: Does the drinker require a great deal of alcohol to reach inebriation, or a relatively small amount?
Control: Does the drinker have control over when and how much they drink?
Admission: Will the drinker admit to how much or how often they drink, or even whether the alcohol negatively impacts their life?
Employment: Is the drinker gainfully employed?

The handy chart below paints a nice picture of each class. Click on the image for a printable version.

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who doesn’t drink much at all, every one of these people is an alcoholic. Even the Social Drinkers, who may need alcohol in order to have fun, are a type of alcoholics. But in a classical sense, that is, to the ancient Greeks and Romans, an alcoholic is someone who can drink a lot, is probably able to hold down a job, but cannot control themselves and will never admit to how much or how often they drink. They hide it from everyone, especially themselves.

A lush is a special type of alcoholic, one who bears all the trappings of an alcoholic, but while the alcoholic can drink and function, mostly, the lush is always drunk. The lush gets drunk on their own boozal imaginings. You go to pick up your friend the lush to go out, and the girl is already drunk before leaving the house. She might be fun, but usually gets out of control. Lushes are usually women or gay men. Lady Brett Ashley in The Sun Also Rises is a lush.

A drunk is an alcoholic who fully admits to his drinking, is probably miserable most of the time, gets into fights, or beats his wife. Drunks are usually men but can be women. Ernest Hemingway was a drunk.

A wino is an alcoholic who can’t even hold down a job. He just drinks all the time and denies that he’s drunk.

Shitloafs are people who don’t really have much of a life, no real job, no hobbies, no hopes, and no dates, so they just go out drinking all the time. They don’t deny it, and if circumstances change they could give it up. But for now, they’ve got nothing but booze to make them happy.

Contrast this with the Social Drinker, who also goes out drinking a lot, but probably has a decent job and doesn’t drink to excess.

College Freshmen are shitloafs without a tolerance.

Your average Roommate drinks impossibly gargantuan volumes of Simple Times Lager and Franzia Box Wine, could stop doing this if they wanted to but are strangely comfortable being bastards, and are usually too hungover to look for a job.

Ukranians are mostly unemployed people who drink even more than Roommates, but could get jobs if there were any.

Bartenders are professional alcoholics.

Asinine

As we mentioned over at WordsIHate, these days everything from boogie boarding to buttholes can be called “awesome” (especially buttholes). And correspondingly, everything can also be called “stupid”. “Stupid” no longer means “stupid”, it just means bad. So now we don’t yell out “BAD BABY!” we shout, “STUPID BABY!” but the baby isn’t really dumb, she’s just a piece of crap. It might actually be a highly intelligent baby, but we call her stupid because she’s shitty. Like maybe she’s kind of fat or something. So we call her “stupid” so people will know she’s not a very good baby. Normally, this is distasteful — for words to lose their edge. But fortunately for land-owning literati like myself (who say “aquaria” rather than “aquariums” because we’re not high on paint like you are, ALL THE TIME) there is still a word that has retained its meaning of “stupid”. That word is asinine, and I love it.

If you want to get on someone’s bad side, call them stupid. “You’re stupid” or “your ideas are stupid” or “your baby is stupid because you fucked your wife high on paint. We told you not to but you did that anyway”.  But if you want to see somebody renounce their pacifism and beat the testicles out of your scrotum (like Gandhi did during his second coming), fold your arms and say “that is a completely asinine idea.” There is simply no comeback for this that doesn’t involve uppercuts and genocide. There is no word you can use that undercuts asinine. This the molten core, the deepest point,  the southern pole. Move in any direction and you move away from hatred and ignorance toward love and intelligence. Even puerile, which is an almost pubic word, isn’t far from just calling someone childish.

Asinine is the king of literary insults. Use it sparingly, but devastatingly.