WOTD: cynical

Dictionary.com defines the adjective cynical as “bitterly or sneeringly distrustful, contemptuous or pessimistic.” Haha, I’m totally impressed by their use of the word, “sneeringly.” Well done.

Anyway, we’re so bloody cynical at work. Not only has it gotten to the point where we assume that everything will be shit (that’s a given) we actually place bets on just how shit it will be. Right now three colleagues and myself have an office sweepstakes going on about how many people will bother showing up for tonight’s open house. The lowest bet is zero, followed by two, three, and my rather optimistic five. The winner will get a bottle of cheap wine.

We’re teachers, okay? We don’t get paid enough to buy anything decent or expensive.

Update: The person who guessed that zero people would attend is the winner. She’ll get a plastic container of Great White Aussie Chardonnay.

WOTD: pretty

Pretty is a funny word. By funny I don’t mean ‘haha’ funny but ‘weird’ funny. Come to think of it, funny is a funny word too and thus it may appear in a future WOTD post. But pretty is a funny word because it has more than one rhetorical meaning.

It’s primarily defined as an adjective that describes something aesthetically pleasing in appearance.For example: Those flowers are pretty. See how the word pretty as an adjective clearly modifies the plural noun flowers.

However, today’s word has a secondary rhetorical function as an adverb, which has much the same meaning as the words: very, really, quite and other similar words.

(This is where the funny part comes in.)

Since the word pretty can be used as an adverbial modifier, this means that the phrasal adjective “pretty ugly” makes perfect rhetorical sense and it is not at all an oxymoron. Even though it definitely looks like one.

WOTD: mollycoddle

Dictionary.com defines a mollycoddle as a noun meaning: “a man or boy who is used to being coddled; a milksop.”  Alternatively it can also be a verb used with an object, thereby meaning, “to coddle; pamper.”  The World English Dictionary further states, “to treat with indulgent care…”

“Patrick Mercer, the Tory MP and former Army officer, hit out and told the Telegraph that tougher policing should be used in mainland Britain for the first time.

He said: ‘I find it strange that we are willing to use these sort of measures against the Irish yet when Englishmen step out of line and behave in this atrocious and appalling way, we are happy to mollycoddle them.'”

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2023874/London-riots-Cameron-orders-16k-officers-regain-control-police-use-plastic-bullets.html#ixzz1UYcLQ0Wc



WOTD: smörgåstårta

Today’s word literally means “sandwich cake” in Swedish. I have seen it translated as “savory tart” though, which to me sounds like a naughty woman.

This cake-like concoction, popular throughout Scandinavia, is comprised of layers of white sandwich bread, mayonnaise or some other spread, ham or shrimp and cucumber slices. It’s a popular fika dish here in Sweden. It’s difficult to overstate the importance of fika for Swedes. The word means coffee but it’s much more than just coffee. It’s like tea in the UK: a big deal and a whole meal.

Anyway, we were served this after today’s conference at work. Even though I’ve lived in Sweden for more than five years, this was actually the first time I’d ever had the opportunity to try this delicacy. Despite the popularity of the dish, I must say that it’s definitely not one of my favorite things to eat. Well, it’s not exactly awful, but the idea of a savory “cake” made out of white bread and mayonnaise just seems somehow wrong.

The one I tried had smoked salmon and shrimp and there was crushed pineapple between the slices of bread. I thought it was a bit weird.

Here's a picture of one made with shrimp, egg and caviar.

WOTD: priggish

After a looooooong pause, here at last is a Word of the Day. I’ll see if I can get back into the normal routine of posting one word per day. Mostly. I took a break during summer vacation.

Anyway, today’s word was inspired by Shark’s previous post about the fallacy-ridden letter to the editor. He sent me the link to a previous letter he thought was particularly amusing. Someone writes about how offended they were after seeing a photo of a “half-naked” woman used to publicize a local stage production. Well, it turns out that the woman in the photo can hardly be described as naked or even “half-naked” since all of her offensive parts are covered up. She might be considered scantily clad, though, as she is pictured wearing shorts and a bikini top.

There were a few comments submitted by readers advising the writer of the letter to lighten up, but the following comment is by far the best:

This priggish prude should crawl back into her convent. This is 2011, for *****sake!

This brings us to our word, priggish. It’s the adjective form of the word prig, which is defined as, “a person who displays or demands of others pointlessly precise conformity, fussiness about trivialities, or exaggerated propriety, especially in a self-righteous or irritating manner.”

The word itself seems to have come straight out of a Jane Austen novel. Maybe that’s because it describes so many Jane Austen characters. Mr. Collins from Pride and Prejudice is the perfect example.

WOTD: hoarding

Well, that’s it. Another year over and done with. I mean another school year, natch. Today was my last day at work before summer vacation. Yippee! Now I have four days to prepare mentally and, indeed, environmentally for the arrival of my mother, grandmother and cousin. They’ll be arriving on the 6th next week and will say in Gothenburg until the 11th, when we’ll all journey to Stockholm. I’ll celebrate my 36th birthday in style in Sweden’s beautiful capital city.

But I digress from today’s very serious topic: hoarding. Actually, I’ve never personally known a hoarder. Until now I think. There are several types of hoarding, one of which is the result of hardship. For example, many Japanese have begun hoarding rice and other foodstuffs because of the disasters that occurred earlier this year. Animals hoard food for the winter. Then there is the type of compulsive hoarding with which this post is concerned. Wikipedia defines it as, “the excessive acquisition of possessions (and failure to use or discard them), even if the items are worthless, hazardous, or unsanitary. Compulsive hoarding impairs mobility and interferes with basic activities, including cooking, cleaning, hygiene, sanitation, and sleeping.”

There was a lot that needed to be done at work today to finish up the year. I did some administrative work, scrubbed the kitchen area, and threw away piles of old uneaten food from the fridge. Yeah, it was pretty gross but not nearly as disgusting as having to gather up the suspected hoarder’s multiple piles of accumulated stuff and moving them into her office. I don’t know if this person is at the compulsive stage yet, but could very well be on the way there.

Normally I wouldn’t have bothered, but we have cleaners coming next week who will mop and wax the floors and who had requested that all personal belongings be picked up off the floor. So, since my pack rat colleague is already on vacation, the task fell to me to remove her stuff from the faculty computer room. This room is supposed to be at the disposal of all members of the faculty. However, it had gotten to the point where every surface: every desk, table, shelf, and window sill was stacked with her papers and belongings. I found lists of contact information for students who graduated years ago, and boxes full of old homework assignments, which for some strange reason she insists on keeping. I doubt if she even remembers she has this stuff.

She’s done the same thing in the exam marking room, and don’t even get me started on her office. Yeah, she has an office, but she never uses it. Actually she has part of a shared office that also happens to be my office. She has two desks, a couple of book trolleys, at least four of the large IKEA Billy bookshelves, and several paper shopping bags on the floor, all stacked and stuffed and crammed with books and papers. It’s even worse now because I just brought everything she’d spread out in the computer room and shoved as much as I could on her bookshelves and dumped the rest of it on her desk.

Man, she’s going to be pissed off when she sees that. Still, that’s her problem. This is certainly not the first time her stuff has been gathered up and removed. One of the assistant principals did it last year and told her that she must work at her desk and cannot take over various communal faculty rooms at the school. Well, it took about a year for the boxes and piles to build up again.

Anyway, here’s a couple of pictures. You be the judge:

Miss Kitten's desk with colleague Pink Lady's desk on the left. See the origami garden on the window sill?

I should point out that our desks don’t normally look this clean and neat. We spent several hours organising and discarding last year’s papers. I’m very pleased with the results. Our desks can get pretty messy when we get busy and don’t have the time to tidy up. However…

Here is Pack Rat's corner of the office. This is only one part of it. It wraps around to the right.

No wonder she doesn’t like to work at her desk. I mean, look at it? Who would? Most of the stuff shown in the picture was there before I moved more stuff from the faculty computer room.

It is not my intention to come off sounding like a holier-than-thou bitch. I can certainly be messy at times and I don’t mind messes. Most of them, anyway. Life is often messy and I enjoy cleaning it up. No really, I do enjoy cleaning. What I can’t stand is clutter. Particularly, pointless clutter on this scale. I’m concerned for my colleague’s mental health. She’s making working conditions for herself and colleagues unpleasant.

I can only imagine what her house must look like.

WOTD: whom

Okay, I admit it. I love the word whom. I’m an English teacher so I’d better goddamn love that word. It’s a pronoun, innit. It’s also one of those words that isn’t used very often anymore because it tends to make the user sound like a pretentious twat, or like an English teacher, which amounts to the same thing, really…

Many people find the usage of whom to be confusing, so they tend to replace it with the subjective pronoun, who. Whom should always be used with a preposition, such as: about, for, to, etc., and everyone knows the commandment of English grammar usage which states that Thou Shalt Not End a Sentence With a Preposition, right? Well, perhaps not, but ignorance of this rule leads to a lot of incorrect usage.

Example 1: Who are you talking about? This should be written, “About whom are you speaking?”

See? Now isn’t that as lovely and civilised as a Jane Austen novel?

Example 2: Who does this pen belong to? Well, this should really be, “To whom does this pen belong?”

Yeah, that sounds really stuffy. A little too stuffy. I say go ahead and use the first version, though it is technically incorrect. Who cares? The corrected version is approaching pretentious twat territory.

According to the Urban Dictionary, people who use the word whom do so because they are knowingly trying to sound smarter than they really are. When this happens, one should issue a whom alert:

Jim: So Rob, how’s that advanced calculus class going? 
Rob: I’m not certain for whom the curriculum was written, but I am definitely far too brilliant to be wasting my time on this tripe. 
Jim: That’s it, buddy! I’m calling a whom alert on you!

People who use whom are generally the same people who say, “It is I” instead of “It’s me.” Even I think that sounds self-satisfied and pedantic. Therefore, as an expert in such matters, my advice is to avoid using the word whom and other stuffy words and phrases in normal conversation unless one is an English teacher and/or a pretentious twat that keeps the company of likewise.

Also, one should avoid using the pronoun one in conversation because this also tends to lead one down the path of pretentiousness.

Then again, using one does make one sound like royalty. One agrees.

WOTD: Spam

When I was little I sometimes went to stay with my great-grandmother for a day or two. She was in her 80s but she was a lot of fun. Everything in her house was old, but she came from a time when things were built to last. Her refrigerator was an ancient propane gas Servel from the 1950s, which still worked prefectly. She had held on to a lot of stuff from days gone by: boxes full of fascinating old clothing such as arm-length satin gloves, shoe boxes of old photographs, and even a few old magazines full of pictures of women in Christian Dior New Look dresses. Eventually all this ended up being given to my mother. I loved looking through the magazines and at the old pictures, mezmerized by the faces of people who were long dead.

Anyway, one day I was flipping through one of my great-grandmother’s old Harper’s Bazaar magazines from the 50s. In the midst of all the advertisements for cigarettes and liquor was an ad for Spam. I clearly recall what was written on the ad and will probably remember it forever:

Spam: The Ham that Didn’t Pass its Physical.

Isn’t that great?

Back in those days Spam was a canned meat product. Its name is a combination of the words “spiced” and “ham.” To me it’s always been one of those foods that older people eat. In fact, the only occasions on which I ever ate Spam was during those visits to my great-grandmother’s house. She always seemed to have some and she used to make us fried Spam, which was actally pretty good. It didn’t taste anything like ham, though.

Today, lower-case spam is something completely different. Wikipedia defines it as “unsolicited or undesired electronic messages.” These can come in many forms including emails and comments on blogs. We at Random Misanthrope use an application called Akismet which politely and discreetly moves comments which smell like spam to their own special folder. Today I saw that we had six comments sitting in our spam queue, so I thought I’d take a look. This one comment caught my eye because it reads like it was written by a Nigerian prince:

You have certainly antecedently been exceptionally strenuous publication pointing up all of this well weblog, Completely rather interesting to be able to read. Can’t time to wait to find out everything you articles about in the up coming last seven days. New for your huge positive aspects, choose to I do not very nurturing such a web site , and after that intend this guidance, too since the great evaluations some other rather folks wrote, ought to aid loved ones decide in the case when it is some of the ripe alternative for you in person. May be the idealfact Hydraulic.

All this was apparently the introduction to the last word, hydraulic, which was a (now broken) link. As you can see the comment is written in the all-too-familiar awkward style associated with Nigerian spam emails. Most of the language is sort of correct but definitely not standard English, “completely rather interesting”  being a key example. One wonders if this was generated by a spambot programmed to make the comments or emails read like that.

If so, then why?

Oh why?

WOTD: delightful

After yesterday’s WOTD post I couldn’t resist featuring this word. It deserves further discussion.

As I was saying, the word delightful is not normally used to qualify the word “orgasm.” Not that orgasms aren’t delightful…well sort of. The dictionary defines today’s word as: “giving great pleasure or delight;  highly pleasing.”

In the soft-porn romance novels normally offered for sale at supermarket check-out lanes, the orgasms that occur frequently therein are usually described as, “earth-shattering” and other cliched phrases. They’re not even called orgasms. Instead one might see something like “toe-curling climax.”

Something that can be appropriately described as “delightful” is that which one finds mildly but definitely non-orgasmically pleasurable. A colleague sent me a message asking if I’d like to get together for coffee next week and I replied that, “coffee on Tuesday would be delightful.” However, this would be quite different if my colleague and I were conducting an illicit affair and “coffee on Tuesday” was our little code for sex.

But rest assured we are not and “coffee on Tuesday” means nothing beyond just that. It will be a delightful afternoon but not an afternoon delight.