Tag Archives: word


If you’ve never had the pleasure of sharing a four hour car trip with an owl suffering from a basher of a head-cold, consider yourself an extraordinarily lucky person.

It seems that whilst exploring the Palladian Circle in Congress Park, I caught a nasty cold. It also seems that, whilst exploring a vast and confusing maze of tunnels beneath the hills of this same Congress Park, Bubo caught my cold. I blame the stale air in the tunnels. And Bubo’s refusal to cease her habitual nips from my hip flask of whiskey. Sharing does tend to extend to germs, my dears.

Palladian Circle Sculpture, Congress Park, Saratoga Springs, New York

These tunnels beneath the hills might, at one time, have led to the basements of the various Victorian mansions surrounding the park. I can only imagine what nefarious and prohibition-based escapades occurred below the seemingly proper streets of Saratoga Springs.

This delightful creation is part of the Presbyterian Church now:

This is not my house

The tunnels spider-webbed in all directions, and I was so thoroughly turned around when we extricated ourselves that I nearly toppled into one of the springs the town is so well-known for. I might have taken “taking the waters” a bit too far at that point. You might say that this underground system was rather crinkum-krankum.

Crinkum-krankum (some might spell it crinkum-crankum and we are all correct) is an archaic noun which means something full of twists and turns; a thing fancifully or excessively intricate and elaborate. It was often used to describe something that was much ornamented and could refer to artwork, carved chests, and even music. Herman Melville even had one of his mariners use it in reference to whales that looked rather different than the whales he was used to: “I tell ye, men, them’s crinkum-crankum whales.”

According to the esteemed Michael Quinion on his delightful website World Wide Words: The word has a confused origin. It’s related to the older crinkle-crankle and cringle-crangle, which are both based on crankle, meaning a bend, twist or curve. In turn this derives from crank, something winding or crooked or a cranny or inaccessible hole or crevice, a sense that had been borrowed from that of a handle.

In the interest of full etymological disclosure, crinkum-krankum was also used as terribly vulgar slang term for what Francis Grose explained as “a woman’s commodity: the private parts of a modest woman, and the public parts of a prostitute.

Naturally, I will have none of that in this house, though I am quite aware that Mordecai and Silas enjoy extreme bawdiness and I admit to blushing often when those two are in their cups and having open discussions. I am the more modest of the relations, I am quite aware. Crinkum-krankum, as far as I’m concerned, is the perfect word to dub a winding and confusing garden wall or an overly elaborate vase.

Speaking of vases, Bubo was particularly fond of this urn, also on display in Congress Park. A pair of painted iron urns, titled Night and Day, were created by Danish neoclassical sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen and were placed in the park in 1830. This photo shows the night side of the urns. Can you guess why Bubo particularly likes these?

Night and Day Urn, Congress Park, Saratoga Springs, New York


While some folks are preparing feverishly for the Chinese New Year (it’s the Year of the Dragon, darlings, so prepare yourselves), many are speaking publicly about censorship.

Today, Wednesday, January 18th, thousands of websites have gone “dark” to protest SOPA & PIPA, two US bills racing through Congress that threaten prosperity, online security, and freedom of expression. (http://americancensorship.org/)

I thought, then, that today’s Word should be censorship.

Censorship is defined as the institution, system, or practice of censoring or the actions or practices of censors.

Censoring is a transitive verb that means to examine in order to suppress or delete anything considered objectionable <censor the news>. Also to suppress or delete as objectionable <censor out indecent passages>.

According to the Encyclopedia Britannica’s online article on the history of censorship,

Censorship, as a term in English, goes back to the office of censor established in Rome in 443 bce. That officer, who conducted the census, regulated the morals of the citizens counted and classified. But, however honourable the origins of its name, censorship itself is today generally regarded as a relic of an unenlightened and much more oppressive age.

Illustrative of this change in opinion is how a community responds to such a sentiment as that with which Protagoras (c. 485–410 bce) opened his work Concerning the Gods:

“About the gods I am not able to know either that they are, or that they are not, or what they are like in shape, the things preventing knowledge being many, such as the obscurity of the subject and that the life of man is short.”

To learn more about SOPA and PIPA and what these bills could mean, please visit websites like:

Stop American Censorship

SOPA Countdown


Here is a video from website fightforthefuture.org:

PROTECT IP / SOPA Breaks The Internet from Fight for the Future on Vimeo.


Use the internet to read all you can about censorship, SOPA, PIPA, and piracy, oddlings. To quote a cartoon Bubo is fond of: “Knowledge is Power”.



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Brooklyn has been enjoying a few rainy days this week. With December, the precipitation has increased and the house smells like wet owl feathers, cinnamon sticks and coffee.

While each morning brings us Brooklynites the smell of wet earth, we do not get petrichor.

Petrichor is a noun for the scent of fresh rain on dry earth. While we in the Northeast are enjoying the smell of rain on earth, our earth is already wet, so it is not petrichor.

This term was coined by researchers I.J. Bear and R.G. Thomas and is derived from the Greek petros (stone) plus ichor (the fluid that supposedly flows through the veins of the Greek mythological gods).

When I discover which word means the scent of water on feathers in a musty room I will be sure to let you know.

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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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