Thursday, December 30, 2010

Last night made Pasta with Tender Greens from Mark Bittman's The Food Matters Cookbook.

8 oz pasta, preferable whole wheat (I used whole wheat linguine)
1.5 lbs tender greens, such as spinach, pea shoots, arugula, shredded napa cabbage, etc. (I used shredded napa cabbage)
1/4 cup olive oil, butter, or a combination of both (I used olive oil)
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan (optional) (I used pre-grated Kraft sprinkle cheese)
Freshly ground black pepper

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it.  Add pasta; cook until tender but not mushy.  Add greens and cook until tender (this may take just ten seconds).  Reserve some of the pasta water and drain.  Toss the pasta and greens with the olive oil, then toss in the garlic, cheese, and plenty of black pepper, adding the reserved pasta water if necessary to keep it moist.

Very fast.  Pretty easy.  Appropriate vegetable:starch ratio.

But I thought the raw garlic was too harsh.  Also, I don't think I cooked the cabbage long enough.  The green parts turned bright green, which is when I drained it, but the yellow parts were still quite crunchy.  Probably should have added the yellow parts a few minutes before the green parts.

In conclusion: not a keeper.  If I were to try this recipe again, I would probably do it with a different mix of flavors: spinach instead of cabbage, and back off on the raw garlic.  Maybe toss the garlic in the boiling water to mellow it out.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Made pizza last night, following the instructions on the back of the Fleischmann's Pizza Crust Yeast package.  I was (mostly) in charge of the dough; Morgan topped it with jarred tomato sauce and grated cheese (mostly cheddar).  Also had microwaved frozen broccoli.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The word of the day is integument:

 Latin integument-um covering, integĕre to cover.
  That with which anything is covered, enclosed, or clothed; a covering, investment, coating. 
a. In general sense.
b. spec. The natural covering or investment of the body, or of some part or organ, of an animal or plant; a skin, shell, husk, rind, etc. (OED)

"In the eighteen-hundreds, people called men's underwear 'nether integuments'."

 - Lauren Collins, Dept. of Foundations, "Skivvies 101", 13 December 2010 The New Yorker

Saturday, December 25, 2010

The word of the day is ersatz:

German, = compensation, replacement.
  A substitute or imitation (usually, an inferior article instead of the real thing). Also attrib. or adj., and fig. (OED)
"'Black Swan' turns Freud's uncanny into shtick; the sinister elements are overloaded and overdetermined.  After a while, you realize that the film is a case of ersatz formalism disguising chaos."

 - David Denby, "Fancy Footwork: 'Black Swan' and 'Love and Other Drugs'", 6 December 2010 The New Yorker

Friday, December 24, 2010

The word of the day is cachet:

French; cacher to conceal: in 18th cent. treated as English.
1. A seal. letter of cachet (French lettre de cachet): a letter under the private seal of the French king, containing an order, often of exile or imprisonment.
2. fig. Stamp, distinguishing mark, ‘sign manual’.
3. attrib. Done under letter of cachet; privy, secret.
4. A covering of paste, gelatine, or other digestible material, enclosing (nauseous) medicine; = capsule n. 5
Draft additions September 2006 
 Prestige, high status; the quality of being respected or admired.  (OED)

"'We used their brand as a signifier of luxury and they got free advertising and credibility every time we mentioned it,' he writes.  'We were trading cachet.'  (Actually, the book, not free of typos, says 'cache.')"

 - Kelefa Sanneh, "Word: Jay-Z's 'Decoded' and the language of hip-hop", 6 December 2010 The New Yorker

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The word of the day is hermeneutics:

< hermeneutic adj.: see -ics at -ic suffix 2. Also in form hermeneutic. Compare Greek ἑρμηνευτική (sc. τέχνη), Latin hermēneutica, French l'herméneutique.
The art or science of interpretation, esp. of Scripture. Commonly distinguished from exegesis or practical exposition. (OED)

"Throughout 'Decoded,' Jay-Z offers readers a large dose of hermeneutics and a small dose of biography, in keeping with his deserved reputation for brilliance and chilliness."

 - Kelefa Sanneh, "Word: Jay-Z's 'Decoded' and the language of hip-hop", 6 December 2010 The New Yorker

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The word of the day is étude:

étude,  (French: “study”) in music, originally a study or technical exercise, later a complete and musically intelligible composition exploring a particular technical problem in an esthetically satisfying manner. (Encyclopedia Britannica)

"Early recordings of Jay-Z reveal a nimble but mild-mannered virtuoso, delivering rat-a-tat syllables (he liked to rap in double-time triplets, delivering six syllables per beat) that often amounted to études rather than songs."

 - Kelefa Sanneh, "Word: Jay-Z's 'Decoded' and the language of hip-hop", 6 December 2010 The New Yorker

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The word of the day is apocope:

< Greek ἀποκοπή a cutting off, < ἀποκόπτειν to cut off.
The cutting off or omission of the last letter or syllable of a word. (OED)

"Bradley also celebrated some lesser-known hip-hop lyrics, including this dense, percussive couple by Pharaohe Monch, a cult favorite from Queens:

The last batter to hit, blast shattered your hip
Smash any splitter or fastball - that'll be it

Picking through this ticket, Bradley paused to appreciate Monch's use of apocopated rhyme, as when a one-syllable word is rhymed with the penultimate syllable of a multisyllabic word (last/blast/fastball)."

 - Kelefa Sanneh, "Word: Jay-Z's 'Decoded' and the language of hip-hop", 6 December 2010 The New Yorker

Monday, December 20, 2010

The word of the day is foxed:

Of the leaves of books, also of timber; Discoloured by decay; stained with brownish-yellow spots. (OED)

"News of the world lay in the rain.
Maple leaves fell, pre-foxed,
as if stored for decades on library shelves."

 - William Logan, "Mysteries of the Armchair", 6 December 2010 The New Yorker

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The word of the day is abecedarian:

< medieval Latin abecedāri-us (see abecedary n.2) + -an suffix.
1. Of or pertaining to the alphabet; marked with the alphabet; arranged in alphabetical order, as abecedarian psalms, like the 119th. 
2. Occupied in learning the alphabet, or pertaining to one so occupied.  (OED)

"In 1693, the philosopher John Locke suggested that learning to read could be a more enjoyable experience if there were 'Dice and Play-things with the Letters on them, to teach Children the Alphabet by playing.'  The father of liberalism and blocks would have loved Dinosaur Hill, where abecedarian wooden blocks come in fifteen languages, including Hebrew, Korean, Arabic, Norwegian, Braille, and American Sign Language ($39-$43)."

 - Patricia Marx, "Toy Stories: Rating this year's playthings", 6 December 2010 The New Yorker

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The word of the day is burnish:

< Old French burniss- stem of burnir, variant of brunir; compare Provençal bornir; see burn v.2
a. trans. To make (metal) shining by friction; to furbish; to polish (a surface) by rubbing with a hard and smooth tool. .
  a. transf. To make bright and glossy; to overspread with lustre.
3. Of a stag: To rub the dead ‘velvet’ or skin from his horns  [compare French brunir in same sense] ; applied loosely to the annual renewal of the horns, perhaps by confusion with burnish v.2 
4. intr. To become bright or glossy; to shine, gleam. Also fig. (OED)

"Over the past month, I visited most of the toy stores around town and combed through dozens of catalogues and Web sites, encountering dolls that drink and wet (the Children's General Store, 168 East 91st Street; $50.75), pirate ships that can be put together with Velcro (; $29.99), Teddy bears dressed more stylishly than I am (Dinosaur Hill, 306 East 9th Street; $80-$200), cherrywood baby rattles so burnished they could be handles on a George Nakashima bureau (Dinosaur Hill; $20), and a boy who threw a half-hour-long tantrum in the Lego Store after his mother refused to buy him the Tantive IV Star Wars set (620 Fifth Avenue, at Rockefeller Center; $179).  'A hundred dollars is not a lot of money!' he wailed."

 - Patricia Marx, "Toy Stories: Rating this year's playthings", 6 December 2010 The New Yorker

Friday, December 17, 2010

 The word of the day is catamount:

Shortened < catamountain n., apparently of English formation: it does not appear that the Middle English ‘cat of the mountain’ was a translation from another language.
1. = catamountain n.; a pard or panther. Obs.  
2. A common name in U.S. of the puma or cougar ( Felis concolor), also called Panther, Painter, and Mountain (or American) Lion.  (OED)

"serving the larger brain the cows eat so we will eat we guarantee
digestion is the only work they do heads down tails up
for the maximum yield they won't have sex
they get some grain some salt they get their shots no catamounts
no wolves we fertilize the fields we put up bales of hay"

 - Ellen Bryant Voigt, "Cow", 6 December 2010 The New Yorker

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The word of the day is stanchion:

estanchon, estançon (modern French étançon), < estance prop < popular Latin *stantia: see stance n.2 
An upright bar, stay, prop or support.  (OED)

"end of the day daylight subsiding into the trees lights coming on
in the milking barns as somewhere out in the yard some ants
are tucking in their aphids for the night behind
hydrangea leaves or in their stanchions underground
they have been bred for it the smaller brain"

 - Ellen Bryant Voigt, "Cow", 6 December 2010 The New Yorker

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

The word of the day is serif:

Typogr.  One of the fine cross-strokes at the top and bottom of a letter.  (OED)

Morgan was describing to me a logo that included the letter A, but it only had serifs pointing in one direction, so that one might interpret them to look like little feet.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Last night I made Spaghetti with Walnuts and Anchovies, because we seemed to have all the ingredients (except the parsley, of course, and the pecorino (but we did have parmesan), and I used angel hair instead of spaghetti).

It was very fast, but didn't taste like much.  Next time I'll add more garlic, maybe some crushed red pepper, or, better yet, just make Spaghetti Aglio e Olio.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

The word of the day is anosmia:

modern Latin, < Greek ἀν priv. + ὀσμή smell.

Loss of the sense of smell.  (OED)

[Some proteins, mutations in which are linked to a certain kind of disease,] are also expressed in the nose, and mutations in them can cause anosmia.

 - a seminar I went to

(I'm being deliberately vague here because the seminar was on unpublished work, and I would hate to be responsible for someone getting scooped on account of my blog.)

Friday, December 03, 2010

The word of the day is publican:

< Anglo-Norman pupplican, Anglo-Norman and Old French publican, Old French, Middle French publicain (French publicain) tax-gatherer (end of the 12th cent. in Old French) and its etymon classical Latin pūblicānus contractor for the collection of taxes and dues, tax-gatherer
1.a. Roman Hist. A person who farms the public taxes; a tax-gatherer, esp. any of those in Judaea and Galilee in the New Testament period, who were generally regarded as traitorous and impious on account of their service of Rome and their extortion.The word is freq. in biblical quotations or allusions, esp. with reference to the parable of the Pharisee and the publican (Luke 18:10–11).

 b. gen. Any collector of toll, tribute, customs, etc. Also fig. Now rare.
  2. A person regarded as a heathen; a person cut off from the Church, an excommunicated person. Also in extended use.With reference to Jesus's injunction to treat an excommunicated person as ‘a heathen and publican’ (Matthew 18:17).
  3. A person who owns or manages a public house or tavern.  (OED)

"If Bloomfield and Friedman wanted to be taken seriously as businesspeople, the oyster bar had to be a hit. Its success is critical to establishing their credibility as big-time restaurateurs, rather than twice-lucky publicans."

 - Lauren Collins, "Burger Queen: April Bloomfield's gastropub revolution", The New Yorker, 22 November 2010

Thursday, December 02, 2010

The word of the day is crudo:

"Crudo" actually doesn't appear in the Oxford English Dictionary, so I had to turn to NPR: "The dish consists of raw fish dressed with olive oil, sea salt, acidic juices such as lemon or lime and sometimes vinegar."

Sounds like ceviche to me (i.e., fish that has been cured with acid), but I guess that while ceviche is likely to have Latin American seasonings (chili, cilantro), crudo is more likely to have Italian seasonings (olive oil, basil).

"In the fall of 2008, Friedman and Bloomfield decided to add fish to the meat-and-veg rotation, opening an ambitious seafood restaurant called the John Dory... There were five types of crudo...  When a small space became available in the Ace Hotel, this spring, Bloomfield and Friedman decided to open an oyster bar there... Bloomfield could revive some of her crudo recipes."

 - Lauren Collins, "Burger Queen: April Bloomfield's gastropub revolution", The New Yorker, 22 November 2010

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

I've a nasty headache just about every day since Thursday.  Two days ago I noticed it set in immediately after I ate a Hershey's kiss (yes, we're still working through the bag of Halloween candy that everyone brought to lab because they didn't want their kids eating it), and yesterday, I noticed it set in right during seminar (immediately before which, I, of course, ate a chocolate-containing Pepperidge Farm cookie, out of principle.  Out of principle because the department briefly suspended cookies as a cost-saving measure earlier during the economic downturn, so now that they've been reinstated I need to show my appreciation).

Testing the hypothesis that chocolate may be setting off my headaches, I refrained from eating a cookie at journal club today, and I didn't get a headache, consistent with my hypothesis.  (Which of course reminds me of that xkcd cartoon.)  On the other hand, eating a stack of chocolate-containing Hanukkah cookies Monday night didn't make the headache I already had any worse.  Will perhaps try a controlled experiment, but it's tricky because I have only one head.

Other hypotheses include:

1.  Eye strain.  I haven't had a new glasses prescription for three years, and because the glasses I got 3+ years ago have disintegrated, I'm actually using my slightly different prescription from 2003.  Once again, I'm having trouble resolving slides from the back of the room (I normally like to sit up front, but while I was TAing I sat in the back row because I thought it best to save the front seats for actual students), and resolving the names of streets until I'm practically on top of them.  Furthermore, I discovered during the seminar yesterday that vision out of my left eye is much, much blurrier than vision out of my right eye, which assuredly isn't helping.

2.  Scalp strain.  I hear that many headaches are actually caused by scalp pain (as opposed to, say, brain pain).  I haven't had a haircut in about 18 months (my last one was right before Caroline's wedding, in order to look presentable), so the bun that I wad into my hair clip has been getting steadily larger and, therefore, heavier.  Perhaps the tug of the hair in my hair clip is causing headaches.  Letting my hair down after the headache starts isn't enough to cure the headache.  I will get a haircut...sometime when I get around to it.  (Trying to remember how I managed to get regular haircuts when I had short hair.  I guess I just did them when I visited Wisconsin.)
Monday night I made a variation on the stir-fried sweet potatoes that I've made a number of times since Mark Bittman wrote it up in The Minimalist in September (you must remember, Mark Bittman has high standards, so "a better-than-average little meal" for him is probably a much-better-than-average meal for me).

But I had the leftover sage that I had gotten from Whole Foods for the White Beans, Tuscan Style, so instead of grapeseed oil, garlic, and ginger (I usually leave the scallions out anyway, because I rarely have them on hand, and I'm not a huge fan), I melted two tablespoons of butter and then added the sage, and sauteed (fried?) until the sage leaves started to wilt, and then added the shredded sweet potatoes (six little ones plus one big one: I like enough for both supper and leftovers for lunch the next day) and proceeded as usual.

As it turns out, Mark Bittman had previously published a stir-fried sweet potatoes with brown butter and sage recipe, which I didn't follow (no garlic), but it was nice to get some validation on the flavor combinations.

Last night I got home late-ish (after rehearsal, I had to briefly return to lab to take something out of the autoclave (I suppose I could have left it overnight and saved myself fifteen minutes, but that seemed inconsiderate)), and it turned out there was a condo association meeting.  The power was going on and off (which did make for a harrowing experience crossing Conway on the way home: the streetlights were out), and as I was going upstairs to drop off my stuff before coming back down for the condo meeting, I thought about making a quick dinner of scrambled eggs and toast to take down with me, but then the power went out again and I was stoveless.  I thus went down to the meeting without any supper (Morgan was working on his candidacy talk for today, so we needed a representative), but after an hour and half, when he was done with his talk, Morgan came down and brought me a scrambled egg sandwich, on toast.  It was perfect.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The word of the day is ancillary:

< Latin ancillāri-us (more correctly ancillār-is) of or pertaining to a handmaid, < ancilla: see ancilla n.
 A. adj.

 1. Subservient, subordinate, ministering (to).

 2. lit. (after Latin.) Of or pertaining to maid-servants. rare and affected.

 3. Designating activities and services that provide essential support to the functioning of a central service or industry; also, of staff employed in these supporting roles. Now used esp. of non-medical staff and services in hospitals.

 B. n.
 1.a. One who acts as an assistant or servant. Obs.—1

 b. An ancillary worker. See sense A. 3.

 2. Something which is ancillary; an auxiliary or accessory.


Robert Frederick:  And why are researchers so interested in this?

David Grimm: Well, Rob, one of the things was just to really settle this debate about where the moms came from. But, sort of an ancillary finding here is this whole idea that we’re actually learning a lot about human culture by studying these horses.

 - 8 October 2010 Science podcast

Not quite sure if "ancillary" is really the word he wanted there: "auxiliary" probably would have been better, or even "additional".

Monday, November 29, 2010

We stopped at Spro in Hampden before going to see Harry Potter at the Senator yesterday afternoon.

We had actually been to Spro last weekend, where we first noticed its existence after having lunch at Little Grano (#38 on the Baltimore Sun's list of best restaurants).  I'm pretty sure it wasn't there in October when I took my parents to Hampden.  That day, I glanced at the menu, saw the first item (Santa Barabara Estate, $9.00), and thought, "Oh, that must be the coffee by the pound", and then just ordered a latte because that seemed simpler.

It wasn't until after I sat down that I realized that, no, that wasn't $9.00 per pound, that was $9.00 per cup.

So we came back, determined to experience Spro as it was meant to be experienced: high end coffee.  (To be fair, the barista was very nice even in the face of my ignorance, and did not in fact sneeringly direct me to a Starbucks, as I might have been tempted to do, had I been in her situation.)

Unfortunately, their Vac Pot was broken, so I couldn't get the Santa Barabara Estate.  So I tried the Finca La Tinta (Honduras, "Another powerhouse from Fabio Caballero and Moises Herrera starting off with aromas of licorice, violets, and cherry vanilla ice cream followed by notes of cooked apple and caramel.  Medium bodied finishes off with lingering spice on the palate.  Roasted by Ecco Caffe, Santa Rosa, CA - Aeropress"), whereupon I learned that I cannot distinguish $4.25 coffee from $2 coffee.  I could tell that it was better than the coffee at school, but beyond that, it just...tasted like coffee.  It certainly wasn't bad, and I was happy to drink it, but no, I could not detect any cherry vanilla ice cream.  I undoubtedly would have been just as happy with the $2.00 Yirgacheffe Natural.

Morgan got the Mexican Chocolate, which was very good (and the perfect temperature), but unfortunately cannot live up to the nostalgia of the Med or Moonstruck.

So we didn't find out whether I can distinguish $9.00 coffee from $2.00 coffee (the goal of the outing), but the preliminary results aren't promising.
Saturday morning I made for breakfast the Baked Sweet Omelet from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything.  I didn't bother to separate the eggs (because in my experience, the product after folding in the beaten egg whites is indistinguishable from the product made from whole beaten eggs), but mine was not nearly as poofy as the ones pictured, so maybe it's time to try separating eggs again.

Then we walked to Whole Foods and picked up some dried white beans, kale, mild Italian sausage (it was on sale, so even better), heavy cream (there was only organic, not conventional, so that more than offset any savings we might have had from the sausage), gingersnaps (they only had gluten-free, but they were really quite good), and ricemellow creme (since that was all they had, no marshmallow creme: but this was just as well, because it turned out there were vegetarians at the potluck after all).

When we got home, I made the sausage and kale variation of White Beans, Tuscan Style from How to Cook Everything (because it was on his list of 100 Make-Ahead Recipes, which I figured would be good candidates for a potluck), which is slightly different from described there in the following ways:

Add six cloves garlic with the sage.
While the beans are cooking, cut the Italian sausage into one-inch slices and brown well in a skillet (in its own fat).  When the beans are starting to get tender, add the sausage and one cup finely chopped kale.
My recipe also called for four cloves minced garlic (instead of two tsps), and two tablespoons olive oil (instead of one).

While the beans were cooking, I made Spiced Pumpkin Mousse Trifle from Every Day with Rachael Ray.  I've made it a couple of times before, once for Thanksgiving, and once for Christmas Eve, and it always goes over well, although it never looks quite like the picture (maybe I chop the gingersnaps too finely?).

While I was folding together the mousse, I took my eye off the beans for perhaps five minutes, and whereas they had been cooking for about two hours without changing at all, in those five minutes they turned to mush.  I don't think it was a disaster; it was just quite unexpected.

Morgan said he liked the beans, but I'm not sure I'd make them again.  They weren't difficult, but did take a lot of time (if I could adapt the recipe to a slow-cooker that would be less of a deal-breaker), and just weren't terribly impressive.  If I were to make them again, I might ease off the garlic (the ten cloves were enormous), and cut the sausage into smaller pieces.  Or just leave out the sausage.

The pumpkin mousse was appreciated (possibly because it was the only dessert there), but I would say the hits of the potluck were Rachel's chili and Amanda's quesadillas.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The word of the day is pukka:

[< Panjabi pakk{amac}, Hindi pakk{amac} cooked, ripe, mature, thorough, substantial, permanent < Sanskrit pakva cooked, ripe, fully developed. Compare CUTCHA adj. in the opposing sense.]      A. adj.
    1. Esp. in South Asian contexts: (of a weight or measure) full, good; the largest possible; (in extended use) complete, in full measure. Now rare.
  Often applied to the larger of two units or weights of the same name. With reference to coins, H. Yule and A. C. Burnell Hobson-Jobson (1886) s.v. pice says: ‘The distinction was sometimes between the regularly minted copper of the Government and certain amorphous pieces of copper which did duty for small change (e.g. in the N.W. Provinces within memory), or between single and double pice, i.e. {oneon4} anna-pieces and {half} anna-pieces.’
    {dag}2. S. Asian. Of a fever: severe; malignant. Also in extended use. Obs.
    3. a. orig. S. Asian or in South Asian context: sure, certain, reliable; genuine, bona fide, correct. Hence more generally: real, not sham; (of information) factually correct; (of persons) authentic, not pretended; proper or correct in behaviour, socially acceptable (cf. ECHT adj.).
    b. Brit. slang. Excellent, superb; ‘cool’.
    4. S. Asian. Of a building or other construction: permanent, solidly-built, esp. made of stone or brick and mortar (opposed to CUTCHA adj.); (of a building material) high-quality.
    5. Reliable, persistent, perennial; (of a position or appointment in South Asia) permanent. Now rare.
    {dag}B. n.
    1. A building material of a permanent nature, esp. a type of solid mortar. Obs.
    2. A copper coin (short for pukka pice: see quot. c1816 at sense A. 1). Obs. rare.  (OED)

"But the play is broadest and best when it parodies the different styles of repertory drama: the Confederacy play (John misses his cue); the French Revolution play (an offstage fan blows the tricolor in Robert’s face); the Russian play (John parks Robert in a wheelchair upstage, away from the inevitable samovar); and the British drawing-room drama (in which the actors, mustachioed and with dreadful pukka accents, face two problems—claiming the paternity of a child and dealing with a malfunctioning cigarette lighter that makes the smoking of a ritual cigar an impossibility)."

 - John Lahr, "Screaming Me-Mes: David Hirson and David Mamet on life in the theatre", 25 October 2010 The New Yorker

I'm going with "proper or correct in behaviour", here, unless anyone has any better ideas.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The word of the day is orotund:

[Shortened < classical Latin {omac}re rotund{omac} ORE ROTUNDO adv., perhaps after ROTUND adj.
  N.E.D. (1903) states that ‘This some have essayed to alter to ororotund, for ore- or orirotund’, apparently to reflect more closely its etymology. Evidence for these forms appears to be lacking except in the compounds OROROTUNDITY n. and OROROTUNDOISM n., the latter suggesting an altered form ororotundo.
    A. adj.    Originally (of a voice, speaker, or utterance): imposing, clear, resonant; such as is suited to public speaking, reading, or recitation. Now freq. in contemptuous use: inflated, bombastic; pompous, magniloquent.  (OED)

"Robert (Patrick Stewart), an orotund veteran, swaps tales and advice with John (T. R. Knight), his up-and-coming, youthful cohort."

 - John Lahr, "Screaming Me-Mes: David Hirson and David Mamet on life in the theatre", 25 October 2010 The New Yorker

Friday, November 26, 2010

The word of the day is panjandrum:

[Apparently <PAN- comb. form + an arbitrary second element. (Any deliberate echo of PANGERAN n. seems unlikely.)
  The word is supposed to have been coined in 1754 or 1755 as part of a farrago of nonsense composed by Samuel Foote (1720-77), actor and dramatist, to test the memory of his fellow actor Charles Macklin, who had asserted that he could repeat anything after hearing it once. In the first published version the relevant passage (attributed to Foote) reads as follows:
  1825 M. EDGEWORTH Harry & Lucy Concl. II. 153 And there were present the Picninnies, and the Joblillies, and the Garyulies, and the Grand Panjandrum himself, with the little round button at top.
  The composition of the passage has also been attributed to the actor James Quin (1693-1766): see N. & Q. (1850) 16 Nov. 405.

    1. (A mock title for) a mysterious (freq. imaginary) personage of great power or authority; a pompous or pretentious official; a self-important person in authority. Also Grand Panjandrum, Great Panjandrum.
  In quot. 1825 in extended use, of a particularly showy flower.
  Quot. 18252 follows shortly after the passage quoted in the etymological note above, of which some quotations are extended echoes.

    2. Ceremonial fuss or formality; rigmarole. Now rare.  (OED)

"Swiftness is part of his triumph and of his character’s blinkered, annihilating aggression. As Elomire, on the other hand, Hyde Pierce is a master of the slow burn, a sort of panjandrum of pique. His suffering is terrific to watch; it lends oxygen to Rylance’s astonishing linguistic pinwheeling. Dazed by Valere’s marathon of conceit—it runs to about four hundred and fifty lines—Elomire sinks beyond boredom, into a deep and infuriating loneliness. He twists his handkerchief into knots, slugs wine from a decanter, and briefly leaves the stage to bang his head against the wall, in the sure knowledge that Valere won’t notice."

 - John Lahr, "Screaming Me-Mes: David Hirson and David Mamet on life in the theatre", 25 October 2010 The New Yorker

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The word of the day is tatterdemalion:

[f. TATTER n.1, or more prob. TATTERED a., with a factitious element suggesting an ethnic or descriptive derivative. The earlier pronunciation rimes with battalion, Italian, stallion, as shown by the frequent doubling of l.] 
    A person in tattered clothing; a ragged or beggarly fellow; a ragamuffin.  (OED)

"Valere is a fabulous creation, and Rylance—in bohemian tatterdemalion and pheasant-plumed cap, and sporting a set of false choppers that give him a scary smile—inhabits him to the limits of wonderful."

 - John Lahr, "Screaming Me-Mes: David Hirson and David Mamet on life in the theatre", 25 October 2010 The New Yorker

Still not entirely sure what he means here, since the definition's for an adjective, and he's using it as a noun.  In the kind of clothing that a tatterdemalion would wear?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The word of the day is moue:

[< French moue (see MOW n.2).  Not fully naturalized in English. Compare MOW n.2 for earlier borrowing of the corresponding Middle French word.
    A pouting expression, often conveying (mock) annoyance or distaste, or used flirtatiously. (OED)

"Nothing he says nourishes or illuminates, but the very speaking of words gives him confirmation that he exists.  (Silence represents an existential terror for him, a vacuum that Rylance immediately fills with Jerry Lewis-like spasms and tongue-wagging moues.)"

 - John Lahr, "Screaming Me-Mes: David Hirson and David Mamet on life in the theatre", 25 October 2010 The New Yorker

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The word of the day is deracinate:

[f. F. déracine-r (in OF. desr-), f. dé-, des-, L.
DIS- + racine root; see -ATE3 7.] 
    trans. To pluck or tear up by the roots; to uproot, eradicate, exterminate. lit. and fig.  (OED)

"On the surface, the setup seems the predictable folderol of a comedy of manners; by degrees, however, the characterizations become an extraordinary metaphor that resonates with our own noisy, deracinating moment."

 - John Lahr, "Screaming Me-Mes: David Hirson and David Mamet on life in the theatre", 25 October 2010 The New Yorker

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The word of the day is prolix:

[< Middle French prolixe (French prolixe) (of a discourse, text, etc.) longwinded, lengthy (c1224 in Old French as prolipse), (of an illness) of long duration (1480), (of a writer) characterized by longwindedness (1493), physically long (1495) and its etymon classical Latin pr{omac}lixus extended, long, lengthy, copious, probably < pr{omac}-PRO- prefix1 + the same Indo-European base as classical Latin liqu{emac}re to flow, to be liquid (see LIQUID adj.)] 

    2. a. spec. Of speech, writing, vocal music, etc.: tediously lengthy; using or containing too many words; long-winded, wordy, verbose.
    b. Of a person: given to or characterized by tedious lengthiness in speech or writing.  (OED)

"Civil discourse is strained; understanding is regularly trumped by hectoring - a folly that has a hilarious correlative in the prolix clown August Valere, the main character in David Hirson's jeu d'esprit "La Bete" (in revival at the Music Box, directed by Matthew Warchus)."

 - John Lahr, "Screaming Me-Mes: David Hirson and David Mamet on life in the theatre", 25 October 2010 The New Yorker

Friday, November 19, 2010

The word of the day is bosky:

[after It. boscoso.]

Consisting of or covered with bushes or underwood; full of thickets, bushy. (Also transf.) (OED)

"If further pressed, they may acknowledge that the area's boskiness is largely the result of city planning. The stands of live oaks, valley oaks, pines, redwoods, and mulberries are all as artificial as Lake Cascade, which was created in the nineteen-twenties to irrigate the local golf course. The trees in this former grassland arrived with the houses, and kept on arriving."

- Tad Friend, "Blowback: The great suburban leaf war", 25 October 2010 The New Yorker