Mediocre [mee-dee-oh-ker]

1. of only ordinary or moderate quality; neither good nor bad; barely adequate:
The car gets only mediocre mileage, but it’s fun to drive.
Synonyms: undistinguished, commonplace, pedestrian, everyday; run-of-the-mill.
Antonyms: extraordinary, superior, uncommon, incomparable.

2. not satisfactory; poor; inferior:
Mediocre construction makes that building dangerous.
Synonyms: meager, low-quality, second-rate; so-so.
Antonyms: excellent, superior.

Look, I’m really trying not to allow myself to fall into the pattern of simply whining for its own sake. It’s easy to say, “oh, woe is me,” and expect everyone to shower you with kindness and sympathy. No one appreciates a drama queen, which is perhaps why I took so long to admit that I was having serious problems with stress management at work, to the point where I just physically broke down and mentally burned out. Even now, I hesitate writing this down because I don’t want to be seen as a whiner.

After all, it’s only stress, right? It’s an occupational hazard of being a teacher. You learn to handle it, channel it, and make it driving force in your working life. In my case, everything starting falling apart when I could not stop worrying and obsessing about work, about wanting it to be productive and positive and knowing that all my efforts at making it such were completely futile. Then I tried to achieve a Zen-like state of simply not giving a shit, but that didn’t work at all. My colleagues are really good at maintaining that balance of caring just enough, but not to the point of obsessing over it. It’s a very typically Swedish lagom  (meaning:”just enough”) mentality. And while the principle behind it is admirable, in my experience it often leads to a state of complacency that justifies expending the least amount of effort possible, which leads to substandard work, which leads to mediocre at best and often poor results. But I just care too damn much.

My Swedish colleagues have no idea what its like out there. I’ve worked in schools in America and in schools in Sweden founded by Americans. They expect results. Real positive results. Mediocrity should not be the goal. Mediocrity is not acceptable.


WOTD: invigilate

It’s a verb innit, and it’s what I’m doing right now.

Its root word is the noun “vigil” which is defined as 1. “a watch kept during normal sleeping hours” or 2. “the act or period of observing; surveillance.”

Therefore, to invigilate someone or something is to keep an watchful eye on it. The word is used particularly to describe the act of observing people taking exams.

Several interesting words rhyme with invigilate, thusly:

Is is necessary,
To invigilate.
Though it does not,
Really stimulate.
So be wary,
And do concentrate.

A trip down memory lane…

It’s pingback time on Random Misanthrope. Be prepared.

Amazingly, the one year anniversary of RM came and went without anyone noticing. Back then it was called Project Mayhem, which was the name of a previous multi-blog writing project started up by High Priestess Kang, myself, and the marvelous Ming. (Whatever happened to her?) That project was abandoned after about six weeks, so keeping this current blog going for over a year has been quite a feat, and therefore a little nostalgia is called for.

After a month or so we realised that there are several intentities on teh intarwebz called “Project Mayhem,” which meant that we had to change the name to something totally original. Eventually we settled on Random Misanthrope. Before then however, on the 6th of April, 2011, the first ever Project Mayhem/Random Misanthrope post was posted by High Priestess Kang. It was called, appropriately, “…and she’s back!”

There have been a few changes since then. We have lost one founding member and there was a lot of drama associated with that, none of which ended being shared here (thank goodness). We had a lot of great ideas but very few of them were carried through to the present date. For example, in the beginning I took it upon myself to write a Word of the Day post every single day, but only managed to keep it up for about three months. One thing I’ve learned about keeping a blog is to not make any promises to the reader. I “promised” several times to get back to posting regular WOTD updates, but I never actually did.

The Month of April 2011 was the busiest month on RM, with a total of 129 posts. And no wonder. It was our first month and we were all so full of energy and enthusiasm for the project. Exactly one year ago today, on the 19th of April 2011, we posted three updates:

Word of the Day: Hopefully
<–by Miss Kitten

…fuck Time Warner Cable <–a great rant by High Priestess Kang

McJobs: The Road to Recovery
<–by Shark

Where does the time go…


Today’s word is inspired by a cheating incident we encountered today at work. A number of students were assigned an essay on a health-related topic, and most of them pillaged other writers’ work rather than writing down any thoughts of their own. This is a case of straight-forward plagiarism.

In my day, students knew how to cheat properly, which is to say they knew how to get away with it and minimize their chances of getting caught. These students’ efforts at plagiarism were pitiful and amateurish. They just copied and pasted directly from various websites without bothering to paraphrase anything, which is just plain stupid. They were practically begging to get caught.

Not only that, they also cheated off each other. One student actually copied and pasted another student’s copied and pasted off the internet essay. I think we need a new word or phrase to describe this phenomenon, like supercheating or supreme cheating.

Any ideas?

Word of the Day: pareidolia

Pareidolia is something that’s very common. So common, in fact, that you’ve probably seen countless examples of it. You knew what it was even if you didn’t know what it was called. Pareidolia is a type of false perception that helps us make sense of the world. It happens when our brains organise the completely random patterns seen by our eyes into things we can identify. This is why and indeed, how we “see” dragons in clouds, a man’s face on the Moon, and why the random burn marks on a grilled-cheese sandwich or a tortilla seem to resemble the Virgin Mary.

This is not something over which we have any control. Our brains are wired for it. Personally, I think it’s kind of weird and wonderful that we “see” human faces and familiar forms everywhere, but I’m left guessing as to the biological or evolutionary purpose of this ability. I’d like to think that there’s a reason for it but maybe it’s just a fluke. Still, it does provide a lot of entertainment value, particularly when people associate the things they think they see with the religious or the sacred. And it happens all the time. Here is a page from teh intarwebz with tons of examples. Some of them are pretty convincing, but others are really stretching it.

Finally here’s a very old photograph with some of the best pareidolia I’ve ever seen. The image of a Jesus-like face can clearly be seen next to the figure of the man in the middle left of the photograph. Look again and you’ll see that it’s actually a little girl sitting in her father’s lap.

Neat, huh?

WOTD: interesting and/or funny words beginning with the letter C.

One must tread very carefully with this one. There are certain words that start with the letter C that…well, perhaps it’s best to not go there..

Personally, I’m fond of the word cocophany. It’s defined as a harsh discordance or dissonance of sound. Airports are usually cocophanous places. I also like how the word has the word “cough” in it, sort of. The phrase “cocophany of coughs” occured to me during an exam in one of my English lessons the other day. There’s a cold bug going around the school and several students and teachers have been out sick. At the time, the  otherwise quiet classroom sounded like a tuberculosis isolation ward.


WOTD: interesting and/or funny words beginning with the letter B


Stop it. Just stop it right now. I know, I know. I’m awful. But it’s not what you think, dammit! You’re the one with filthy mind. Shame on you. A ballcock is actually the most mundane object you can imagine. It’s a piece of plumbing equipment, a floating ball that controls the water level in a tank. So there.

The problem is that this perfectly innocent little word sounds very, very naughty, which is of course due to all the well known ribald associations of the words that make up this compound noun. Just reading this word causes the corners of one’s mouth to curl up in a smile.

And I think that’s wonderful. This word makes people happy.

WOTD: harlot

Today’s word is one of those words that should be used more often. It’s basically an old fashioned word for prostitute or whore. I used it recently in a poem and now my fellow RM members are using it.

And why shouldn’t they? It’s a delightful word that describes so many people, not just the whores, prostitutes, hookers, call girls, escorts, courtesans and other assorted naughty ladies of the night.

For example: “I’d like a word with the harlots responsible for the latest Facebook layout. It’s truly dreadful.” See, you could substitute the word “cunts” or similar, but I think using the word harlots makes it much more colorful and interesting.

The word harlot for me conjures up an image of a slightly chubby flame-haired prostitute bulging out of black and red lingerie and with a black feather boa draped around her shoulders. There’s also tinny old-timey piano music playing in the background and a bunch of cowboys standing around a bar drinking corn liquor.

Yes, them. Those Wild West harlots are responsible for the latest Facebook layout disaster.

WOTD: interesting and/or funny words beginning with the letter A

I love dictionaries. I really do. They’re almost porn to total word nerds such as myself. All those lovely words. I used to read them (along with the encyclopedias) when I was a kid. An excessively weird kid. As I’ve discussed previously.

Anyway, today I was flipping through the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) to pass the time while my students were working on an in-class writing assignment. Eventually I intend to read the definition of every single word in the OED. I know, how very Malcolm X of me. Yet, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to achieve this feat since the unabridged version of the OED is comprised of several thick volumes that are revised and updated regularly. This is because the English language is the most dynamic language in the world, and new words are being added to it all the time.

There are several words in the A section that I feel are particularly noteworthy. Aardvark is worth mentioning because it’s the first actual word in the OED. It’s apparently a large nocturnal burrowing animal that lives in South Africa. The word itself is in Afrikaans, which is a South African dialect derived from the Dutch language.

The next word that I was a bit taken aback to see in the OED is “Aargh!” You know, the sound people make when they are frightened, angry or frustrated. This is an example of an onomatopoeia, a word which is the spelling of a sound. Other examples include: meow, beep and plop.

Finally, there is the word abreast . It’s normally associated with walking side by side, as in, “The stroller pushers were walking three abreast on the sidewalk, so I was forced to walk into oncoming traffic to get around them.” (Yes, this actually happened.)

Despite its pedestrian definition, this word is the subject of oh so many bad puns and jokes for obvious reasons. It’s one of those old-fashioned words that nobody ever uses anymore because speaking it aloud would cause everyone in the area to titter like teenagers in a sex-ed class. Now that I think about it, the word titter also causes people to titter in the same way.