Monthly Archives: July 2012

Shemozzle

The heat in Brooklyn (and much of the Eastern US) has not broken. Meteorologists are predicting some heavy thunderstorms in the area and these should bring a cold front, lowering the temperatures from the punishing 90s to the more-palatable 80s. I will tell you that this extreme heat is causing quite an uproar in the house. Many of the cryptids do not flourish in the heat, and I’ve had to move most of these creatures into the cellar and the grotto, where the temperatures are cooler. Unfortunately, I am unable to separate everyone, so the noise and the confusion coming from the cellar is quite a distraction.

Which brings me to today’s word.

Shemozzle is a noun meaning a state of chaos or confusion; a muddle; a quarrel or rumpus; an uproar.

The word might be Yiddish in origin, though Leo Rosten says in The Joys of Yiddish that shemozzle has no connections with the Yiddish language at all. Some postulate that the word was created to sound Yiddish, since words like schlimeil, schmuck, schmaltz, and schlimazel have enjoyed popularity in American English through the Yiddish-immigrant influence. (Go ahead, dears, sing the opening of the Laverne and Shirley theme song.) Still others tenuously suggest that shemozzle comes from schlimazel.

Schlimazel itself (meaning a habitual failure; a born loser) comes from slim mazel, an excellent example of Yiddish being a combination of Hebrew and German. Slim is an Old German word meaning crooked and mazel is a Hebrew word meaning luck. Therefore, slim mazel is literally crooked luck. Now, whether and how this evolved into the word shemozzle in America might be grasping at straws. Many, in fact, scoff at this association and might even call you a schmuck for believing the theory.

Whatever the origin, the shemozzel in my cellar is grating on my last, over-heated nerve which one might say is indeed schlimazel.

 

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A Brooklyn Sunset Time Lapse

The indomitable and talented Luci Westphal shot this gorgeous time lapse of the Brooklyn sunset. The music, by musician Jason Matherne, is rather groovy as well.

Enjoy.

If you love this piece, do visit Luci’s website and youtube page to enjoy more of her films. She most recently released the documentary All’s Well and Fair, a transmedia experience about punk rock mothers that explores ideas on government, money, creativity, and family.

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Pestilent

I might have mentioned that my half-cousins arrived suddenly and unexpectedly early yesterday morning. Hiram and Lida are, naturally, different than your average relations. Of course, if we’re being absolutely honest, not a single being in my family is average, but Hiram and Lida are different even for us. Of course, they’re half-cousins and no one is completely certain of their full lineage.

Hiram, you see, is part henbane. Henbane is an Old World plant (formally known as Hysocyamus niger) that is part of the nightshade family. It (and thus, Hiram) has sticky, hairy, fetid foliage and greenish-yellow flowers. The plant possesses narcotic and poisonous properties that are especially destructive to domestic fowls. (Get it? Hen-bane?) So that’s Hiram. And Lida is, obviously, a mermaid. It surprises me that she visits family so much, considering that not everyone has a water feature large enough to accommodate her. Of course, Hiram and Lida travel the country in a specialized motor vehicle that looks like a cross between a camper van and a small tanker trunk, so she is able to keep hydrated there.

What makes them horrid house guests is not just Lida’s need for water, not Hiram’s ability to kill domestic fowls whilst he sleeps, nor their surprisingly powerful fetidness (imagine a malodorous plant and a slightly-over-heated fish). It is all of these things combined: their pestilence.

Pestilent is an adjective with a number of different meanings (all of which fit Hiram and Lida to a T):

1. Highly injurious or destructive to life; deadly.

2. Likely to cause an epidemic disease.

3. Morally, socially, or politically harmful; pernicious.

4. Infected or contaminated with a contagious disease.

5. Causing displeasure, annoyance, or disapproval.

Pestilent originated in the mid-15th century from the Latin pestilens, which originated from pestilis meaning of the nature of a plague, which comes from pestis meaning deadly contagious disease.

At any given moment during the day, Hiram and Lida could destroy a poor chicken’s life, are socially destructive (people who smell like they do are not good at a party), and both cause annoyance. They are rather pestilent, wouldn’t you agree?

Perhaps you would describe YOUR half-cousins as pestilent, as well.

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Pop-Ins Un-Welcome

I don’t mean to sound unkind, but I do detest surprise visitors. Especially when they’re family.

Look who showed up at 6 am this morning with nary a warning shot nor a note to herald their impending arrival.

I could have then pretended to not be home. Or mentally prepared myself.

Or moved.

Oh, family. Can’t live with ’em, wouldn’t exist without ’em.

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