Our New Puppy Ethan

Backyard Brief, January 2017

January 18, 2017 – Titmice, chickadees, house finches, and the ubiquitous house sparrow have been competing with squirrels for our backyard fodder. Hubby watched two squirrels crowd the suet feeder, one impatiently waiting for the other to get the bushy tail off.

Of sparrows, mice, chicks, houses, tufts, finches, caps, food, tits and a squirrel-proof feeder –

Happy backyard birding and squirrelling, and remember, brevity is the soul of tit.


P.S. To All Scots, Scotch Descendants, and Lovers of Scotland and Poetry, Happy January 25th. Have an excellent Burns Night supper!

ICYMI: Here’s my post about Burns’ “To a Mouse” poem.

Weeping Cherry Bee Photos

Photos: Our weeping cherry tree with bees on a breezy day – March 30, 2016

 

Bumblebees and weeping cherry tree, 2012–same tree, same camera, different bees, different touch-ups:

All images by C L Tangenberg, used by permission only

Five-Phrase (Freaky!) Friday (11): Band Mash-ups

You have now entered the fun house that is Five-Phrase (Freaky!) Friday, Number 11. Proceed with bug eyes and funny bones as we explore the world of shape shifting, mutant hybrids, and murderous intentions–in words and phrases, that is.

Last week, I foretold of a unique linguistic phenomenon exemplified by the word “readaholic.” Like “shopaholic” and “workaholic”–but not like “alcoholic”–this type of word is known as a portmanteau. Pronounced PORT – man – TOE.

French for “(it) carries (the) cloak,” the word portmanteau’s original use was to describe a type of suitcase that opens into two halves. In linguistic terms, a portmanteau is the joining of two words to make a completely new word from only part of each of the original two.

The compound noun, by contrast, contains two words that have remained intact from their original states. An example would be the word “doghouse.” The two words in a standard compound noun are like buddies joined at the hip, whereas a portmanteau is that set of conjoined twins who share vital organs. Freaky. . . .

Designer dog breeds are a place where we often see this happen: Labradoodle (Labrador + poodle) and puggle (pug + beagle), for instance. Although not conjoined twins, designer dogs are genuine animal hybrids, assuming they come from a reputable breeder.

The Internet, cell phones, and social networking have spawned other creatures such as sexting (sex + texting) and, of course, blog (web + log) and vlog (video + log).

Food-related examples of portmanteaus further illustrate this melding effect:

cheeseburger = cheese + hamburger

spork = spoon + fork

the kids’ breakfast cereal (Count) Chocula = chocolate + Dracula

zombilicious = zombie + delicious

A portmanteau can be a delightful outcome of linguistic invention and creative word play–or a source of great annoyance to language purists, and confusing to people just trying to keep up with regular English.

So that’s the world of portmanteaus in a . . . suitcase.

Now, for our feature freak show, . . .

This week’s five phrases are gerund-based names of music bands with a Halloween feel. Each band name’s first word is a gerund (pron. JAIR – und), an -ing ending verb form that acts as a noun, specifically an action:

Counting Crows

Flogging Molly

(The) Smashing Pumpkins *

Stabbing Westward

Talking Heads

What are some other gerund-y band names you’re familiar with?

Can you think of movie, TV show, book, or song titles that begin with or contain gerunds?

Beware of the overuse of gerunds (a habit of mine), running into vampire worlds, butterfly-winged bullets, Mr. Jones’ strange luggage, sharp cutlery, jack-o’-lantern vandals, devilish dance floors, psycho killers, weapon-toting trick-or-treaters, green knights, headless horsemen, portmanteau experiments gone awry, bad music, and bad grammar–but not witches; witches are okay–while you have a . . .

. . . Happy Halloween!

Protect the great pumpkins and phrases.

And I’ll see you in November–National Novel Writing Month!


  • Number 3 has been known as both “The Smashing Pumpkins” and “Smashing Pumpkins.” When presented along with the article “the,” the word “smashing” becomes an adjective modifying the noun “pumpkins.” As in, they were a “smashing success,” which they were.

Five-Phrase Friday (9): “Slings and Arrows…”

“. . . of outrageous fortune!” (Hamlet, the “To be, or not to be” speech): These we suffer.

First, let me say this week’s English phrase celebration covers all of my blog’s major focus areas: language play, animals, Outlander, free speech, reading, comedy, poetry, grammar, creativity, education, TV, and even Shakespeare! This post has it all–something for each reader. So enjoy!

Ordinarily I don’t condone name-calling, even in jest (unless you really know that the person can take it). But since it’s William Shakespeare we’re talking about, and since many words he used in his insults have fallen into disuse lately, what the heck! Let’s have some fun.

This week’s phrase-praising post deals in threes by looking at (1) bawdy insults featured in Shakespeare’s plays, (2) Outlander TV show insults identified by episode, and (3) a review of Five-Phrase Friday grammar lessons–your favorite!

Several online sources deal with Shakespearean insult creation, but MIT provides a succinct set of lists in three columns for your three-step, mix-and-match pleasure. They call it the Shakespearean Insult Kit.

How it works: Take an adjective from column 1, one from column 2, and a noun from column 3, put them together, and ‘zounds! Your own tailor-made Shakespearean insult.

This week’s collection of phrases comprise some of my favorite bawdy-leaning combinations from the kit.

Grammar Alert! Hey, look at that. Did you notice in that sentence the omnipresent type of word highlighted in previous Five-Phrase Friday (FPF) posts? FPF 4 and FPF 6 use or mention it, and FPF 8 uses it in one of the featured phrases. I’ve mentioned before that I tend to use a lot of these in my writing, especially my poetry. Final hint: This grammatical element shows up every week in another way as well.

Now, as for these insults, delivery is key. Each line must be shouted or growled aloud, convey real or mock anger/disgust at the target (be it animate or not), and follow the word “Thou” or “You,” just as one might with modern-day provoked and provocative name-calling. Relish the triumvirate of insulting results:

1. “Thou beslubbering reeling-ripe strumpet!”

2. “Thou mewling rump-fed codpiece!”

3. “Thou ruttish swag-bellied lewdster!”

4. “Thou frothy guts-griping pignut!”

5. “Thou gleeking knotty-pated canker-blossom!”

Bonus #1: “You cockered sheep-biting moldwarp!”

Bonus #2: “You spongy pox-marked nut-hook!”

Okay, now shake it off if you felt any of that being directed at you, go to the MIT kit, and fire back with gusto! (I can take it, I promise.)

With a nod to wild(and domesticated)life, other words I like in the kit use animals in part or whole:

bat-fowling, goatish, barnacle, beetle-headed, boar-pig, bugbear, currish, coxcomb, flap-dragon, flirt-gill, fly-bitten, harpy, hedge-pig, horn-beast, maggot-pie, malt-worm, pigeon-egg, ratsbane, venomed, toad-spotted, wagtail

Oooh, I like that last combo: “You venomed toad-spotted wagtail!” Or how about “Thou currish beetle-headed ratsbane!”? Now that’s a hybrid mutant!

Grammar Note: You may notice in some of these a type of word similar to the one hinted at above in the “Grammar Alert!” These words from column or group 3 fall distinctly into the noun category. What is the name for this type of noun?

And how are these insults typically used? Some high schools and colleges use exercises with these examples in English class units on Shakespeare to help students read the Bard’s works with greater awareness of the comedy, more fun, and, thus, more positive motivation. I divided one of my classes into two teams for a shouting match once–very funny! (I wonder what our extreme PC college culture has done to this tradition.)

Also, my favorite TV show Outlander demonstrates the use of similar insulting words, sampled here in tripartite order for your experimental three-step dance:

clarty (ep105)
mendacious (ep109)
muckle (ep112/ep114)
rutting (ep108, ep109)

ill-formed (ep115)
foul-mouthed (ep109)
stripe-backed (ep109)
whey-faced (ep105)

bugger (ep107)
coof (ep107)
scold (ep109)
welp (ep110)

For an invented example, the melange “You muckle whey-faced coof!” samples one word each in order from ep112 “Lallybroch”/ep114 “The Search,” ep105 “Rent,” and ep107 “The Wedding.”

Of course, our protagonist Claire prefers her own 20th-century insults not fit for general consumption, and then there’s all that Scottish Gaelic stuff. . . . All in good time.

Do you Outlander fans know which character(s) spoke each word in the insult? Quiz next week.

No, really. Next Friday I’ll (1) confirm the character and scene for each word in the above insult, (2) present select lines from Outlander for my phrases, and (3) unveil the answers to today’s 2 word-type questions.

For those who just can’t get enough 18th-century Scottish/English epithets and lewdness, curse your way over to either of these Outlander-related posts on my blog:

By the way, you can vote for your favorite movies, music, TV shows, and players for the People’s Choice Awards 2016 starting this week.

Cheers, you itinerant pretty-minded logophiles!

Five-Phrase Friday (8): Simile, Metaphor and Mood

Welcome to Five-Phrase Friday, a weekly spotlight on English phrases I enjoy. This week we revisit poetic turns of phrase with a random selection of gems that demonstrate ways to write about birds, the sea, and sex, and how to group unexpected ideas together.

From these passages alone, can you detect the mood of each poem?

Do you recall the difference between simile and metaphor? Can you spot one of each?

1. "in profuse strains of unpremeditated art"
     - "To a Skylark" by Percy Shelley

2. "wine-dark sea"
     - The Iliad of Homer 
       (his legendary status merits the change in preposition)

3. "and be simple to myself as the bird is to the bird"
     - "Birds" by Judith Wright

4. "sailing toward the iceberg of her nakedness"
     - "Taking Off Emily Dickinson's Clothes" by Billy Collins

5. "hair, glacier, flashlight"
     - "A Valediction Forbidding Mourning" by Adrienne Rich

Great phrases often point to great larger works. I encourage you to read the whole poems–and poetry collections–whence these snippets arise. Hmm… Seems I’m feeling a little Elizabethan, or at least archaic (surprise, surprise). Maybe next time I’ll feature bawdy Shakespearean insults. What do you think?

For passages of poetry from previous posts (hey, that’s how it came out), see Five-Phrase Friday (1) and Five-Phrase Friday (2).

Free your phrases this week. Word.

Five-Phrase Friday (7): Small Town, Big Britches

This Friday’s phrasal fun takes a look at the slogans of small-town USA. I was trying to find town names that are phrases, but my initial search didn’t yield quick enough results for my new, busier schedule. Maybe next time. Know of any in the U.S.? Feel free to share.

Borrowed from Brad Herzog’s article “100 Best Small-Town Slogans,” these five are my picks for Best of the Best:

  • Number 3: Linesville, Pennsylvania: “Where the ducks walk on the fish”
  • Number 6: Peculiar, Missouri: “Where the odds are with you”
  • Number 12: Moscow, Maine: “Best town by a dam site”
  • Number 22: San Andreas, California: “It’s not our fault”
  • Number 27: Gas, Kansas: “Don’t pass Gas, stop and enjoy it”

To see the other 95, go to “100 Best Small-Town Slogans.”

I don’t even know my own town’s slogan. . . . Akron, Ohio, used to be called “The Rubber Capital of the World,” and the smell certainly gave us away. Now, according to the Akron city website, they’ve added “City of Invention” to our seal, as we are the home of the National Inventors Hall of Fame and were declared by Newsweek to be a “high-tech haven”–in 2001.

If I were to invent our slogan, it might be “Stress on the first syllable as in the word ‘actor,’ second syllable unstressed” or “Hey, we finally got a new mayor!” or, simply, “Akron Akron Akron Akron Akron Akron Akron Akron.”

What’s your town’s motto, slogan, or claim to fame?

Happy October, Friends of Phrase!

ducks_on_fish

Ducks on Fish 1, image by free-stationery.info found via Duckduckgo.com