Tag Archives: Florida


It appears that the two weeks I spent hunting the skunk ape in Florida made me rather sensitive to the sounds of Brooklyn. Perhaps it was the nights I kept my ears trained for tell-tale sounds of bipedal shuffling, or the days I spent communing with lowing alligators and mourning doves. Blame it on the skunk ape or blame it on Florida, the result is that I have spent the last few days jumping at the normal sounds of New York: blaring sirens, explosive horns, the thundering subway, hordes of children screeching down the streets.

Which brings us, naturally, to today’s word.

Klaxon (pronounced klak-suhn) is a noun meaning a loud electric horn or alarm. First used in the early 1900s, a klaxon was specifically found on motor cars and the word came from the name of the manufacturing company. Nowadays, a klaxon is a loud warning signal and can be used to describe any horn or alarm sound.

And it’s fun to say, isn’t it?

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If you’ve never met a skunk ape, count yourself lucky. Considered the southeastern US’s bigfoot, a skunk ape is a bipedal hominid that emits a most ungodly odor. Floridians have reported skunk ape sightings for decades, and many believe the state’s swamplands are the creature’s preferred habitat. Some say the skunk ape is homicidal, some say it is just misunderstood. Everyone agrees that it smells rotten.

Thus, we are in Florida, investigating some sightings in the Three Forks Marsh Marsh Conservation Area, at the headlands of the St. John’s River. The marsh has a decidedly rancid odor and locals insist that usually the area smells like wildflowers and sunlight. Skunk ape?

Effluvium is a noun defined as an invisible emanation; an offensive gas or exhalation and also an impalpable emanation; an aura. From the Latin effluviuma flowing out – from effluere. The plural is effluvia.

I am writing this sitting on one of the old trestles from when the Union Cypress Railroad crossed the area and the St. John’s. There is a definite effluvium blanketing the marsh. If it’s not from a skunk ape, there’s something else wandering these lands. If it’s not homicidal, the stench is turning Bubo homicidal.

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Well it is nearly Thanksgiving, and I’m sure many of you have turkeys thawing in the refrigerator, beans ready for snapping and pies begging for the oven. I am in a quonset hut in Sebastian, Florida, listening to pelicans mumble in their sleep while my cousins Eulalia and Willis do a little night fishing. Mordecai, back from the North Country, is quietly smoking his pipe and Bubo is off gallivanting in the balmy southern skies. We are preparing for a quiet and subdued Thanksgiving, hoping that Silas returns from his boar hunting in the Everglades refreshed and reinvigorated and less morose about the loss of his toe. Surprising that he’s so delicate, isn’t it?

Tomorrow we shall eat and give thanks.

Which brings me to today’s word.

Gallimaufry is a noun with two meanings: both a hodgepodge, miscellaneous jumble or medley and a ragout or hash; a dish made of leftovers.

First used in the mid-1500s (sometime after 1545 but sometime before 1555), gallimaufry comes from the Middle French galimafree, which is a kind of sauce or stew. It is most likely an amalgamation of galer (to amuse oneself) and mafrer (to gorge oneself).

Incidentally, mafrer is from the Middle Dutch moffelen, which means to eat or nosh.

So whilst enjoying your holiday – which is sure to be a gallimaufry in all senses of the word – try to take a moment to give thanks for the people in your life, not just the things.

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