Sunday, February 1, 2009

Still more good words and phrases

Here's some more of the Good Stuff of writing, gleaned from the Web in the last week. [Italics are mine.]

"The state-mandated moment of classroom silence the Illinois Legislature inflicted upon us was always idiotic, proof positive that the bowl haircuts down in Springfield would happily add another straw to the crushing burden on the backs of our already overwhelmed teachers if it meant a symbolic victory for their faith."

Neil Steinberg, Chicago Sun-Times, Jan. 23, 2009

"And it's scary that [Chicago Tribune boss] Sam Zell's company bugler [Lee Abrams], assigned to stir legions of old-school journalists out of their sloth, doesn't bother with fact-checking . . . "

Mike Miner, Chicago Reader blog, Jan, 27, 2009

"Watching the Illinois State Senate judge Gov. Nosferatu at his impeachment trial is like watching a swarm of flies condemn a brother fly for having dirty feet."

John Kass, Chicago Tribune, Jan. 28, 2009

" . . .Writing about air travel, especially after the mass media gets hold of an issue, has a way of drawing out one's inner crank."

Patrick Smith, Ask the Pilot,, Jan. 30, 2009

"What other writers, young and old, prized most about Mr. Updike was his prose — that amazing instrument, like a jeweler’s loupe; so precise, exquisitely attentive and seemingly effortless. If there were a pill you could take to write like that, who wouldn’t swallow a handful?"

Charles McGrath, New York Times, Feb. 1, 2009

As [Republican congressman Phil] Gingrey abjectly apologized to talk radio’s commandant [Rush Limbaugh] for his “stupid comments” and “foot-in-mouth disease,” he sounded like the inmate in a B-prison-movie cowering before the warden after a failed jailbreak."

Frank Rich, New York Times, Feb. 1, 2009

Meanwhile, the last-minute bonus depredations of John Thain and his ilk spurred Harold Evans in the BBC News online magazine to revive that good old word from the 1930s, "bankster" (banker plus gangster).

Finally, the speustic nature of this blog seems to have spurred a fellow named Anonymous to send in a tip about, a Web site created by the Malaysian subsidiary of Oxford University Press to preserve words that have run low on rubber but deserve retreading for further generations.

What wants us to do is pick a word, any word, from its commodious lexical hat and use it as much as possible online. Webcrawling software will take note of it and keep its parent dictionaries from dumping it from lack of use. Brilliant!

You can "adopt" a word, promising to use it as much as possible, and savethewords will email you a formal certificate like the one below. There is also a T-shirt offer, but enough is enough.

(Speustic, by the way, is not how Inspector Clouseau would describe someone prone to pratfalls. It means half-done, half-baked, incomplete. Look it up on

Can you spot the syntactical blooper on the certificate? Chalk it up to speustic proofreading.

1 comment:

  1. We have the Oxford Dictionary Word game which is a lot of fun. Three levels- easy, intermediate and very very hard. We learn lots of very strange words from that game :)