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All You Create » Definition

Archive for the ‘Definition’ Category

What’s on your toast? The difference between jelly, jam, preserves and marmalade

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

My 5-year-old asked me a question the other morning about a subject that I have often wondered about but have not taken the time to find the answer — until now:

What’s the difference between jelly and jam [and preserves and marmalade]?

Well, sweet pea, here’s a short blog post to answer your question (never mind that you can’t read well enough yet to understand what I write).

Jelly — made from fruit juice (most popular is grape)
Jam — made from pureed fruit (most popular is strawberry)
Preserves — made from whole fruit (most popular — in our house, anyway — is blackberry)
Marmalade — made from a fruit’s zest and pulp (most popular is orange)

Howie got lucky — grapefruit marmalade in a keeper jar! (photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/wapster/5366804239/)
Howie got lucky — grapefruit marmalade in a keeper jar! (photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/wapster/5366804239/)

Other popular flavors of jelly and jam include cranberry, mint and jalepeño pepper. Preserves come in a wide variety, including apple, plum and orange. While marmalade is almost exclusively made with citrus, its most popular flavor by a long shot is orange; count yourself lucky if you get your sticky hands on grapfruit, lemon or lime marmalade.

Happy trails!


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Musical manualism

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

I was researching something on the Net the other day and my eye caught the word manualism. It had absolutely nothing to do with what I was looking up, but I thought it sounded like it could be interesting (and thus a Bloody Well Write topic), so I wrote the word down to check out a bit later. Now, here I am.

As with just about everything else in life, manualism is proving to be a bit more complicated than I was hoping for. But since it’s Friday, I’m going to try to keep this as simple as possible. You see, manualism has two distinct definitions:

  1. It’s a method of educating deaf students (as opposed to oralism or a combination of the two methods).
  2. It’s a form of music that’s played by squeezing air through the hands. Well, not through the hands, but in between the hands.

This second definition is the first definition I read, which sounded like great fun. The second definition, while ultimately much more important in the grand scheme of things, is not my focus today. So, here we go!

The musical performer who attempts (nay, masters!) manualism is called a manualist. According the Wikipedia, manualism is performed thusly:

The hands are held together, trapping a pocket of air between the two palms. Using the fingers of one hand, the air is squeezed out the top, between the base of the thumb and the opposite hand, to form a musical note. The pitch is determined by the force used to hold the hands together. The tighter the grip, the higher the note.

Wikipedia also notes that the lowest notes are made by forcing the air pocket out near the pinky.

Manualism may, indeed, date back to prehistoric times, but evidence only proves its existence as far back as 1933. A newsreel shows a Michigan farmer performing “Yankee Doodle,” which he claimed to have learned back in ‘14.

As it can take years or decades to truly master the art, only a handful have tried, with success. (I’m here all day, folks!). Among them was attorney-by-day John Twomey, who in 1974 performed “Stars and Stripes Forever” on the “Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.”

Happy trails!


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Oxford, Harvard, serial — the pesky last comma

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

A Bloody Well Write reader sent in a request for a blog entry about one of the most-argued points in the history of grammar (perhaps I amplify just a smidge): the serial comma.


But not just any serial comma — this reader called out the Oxford comma. The Oxford comma, people, was news to me. I had never heard of this thing. Or if I had, it was in grad school and I must have been staring into space, dreaming of just about anything else that wasn’t grammar-related. So I had to look the bloody thing up. Yay — research!

What I found out was this: The Oxford comma is the same thing as the serial comma, which is also the same thing as the Harvard comma:

Oxford = serial = Harvard

The serial comma (think generic when you hear serial) is sometimes called the Oxford comma because it is in the style guide of the Oxford University Press and has been for more than a century. Those who are less enamored with the grammatical styles from across the pond may refer to the serial comma as the Harvard comma. Since I went to KU, maybe I should coin it the Jayhawk comma. How ’bout them beans‽

So — back to the serial-Oxford-Harvard comma. It’s the comma that follows the penultimate word or group of words in a series. Look at these two sentences:

  1. I had grapefruit juice, pears, and ham and eggs for breakfast.
  2. I had grapefruit juice, pears and ham and eggs for breakfast.

No. 1 has the serial comma, which classifies ham and eggs as an integral thing (which, in North America anyway, it typically is) rather than two separate entries.

No. 2 does not have the serial comma, which just looks sloppy. If I had to edit this sentence, I would slap a serial comma after slices, no question, even though the AP Stylebook prefers no serial comma. How could I get away with it? Because the AP Stylebook also takes into consideration just such constructions that have an integral element of the series requiring a conjunction (i.e., and).

Ham and eggs with a side of toast (photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jeffreyww/5533239258/)
Ham and eggs with a side of toast (photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jeffreyww/5533239258/)

Now, being raised in an MLA environment, it took me a little while to get used to the usual elimination of the serial comma (except in cases similar to the above-mentioned sentence). And to this day, I think that the serial comma should be reinstated (did you hear that, AP folks?). But if that happens, we’ll still live in a gray world, b/c there’s an exception to the serial comma rule, as well.


But it’s true. Look at these two sentences:

  1. I had a dream about a chef, Tommy Flibberdygibbit, and Sierra Rock.
  2. I had a dream about a chef, Tommy Flibberdygibbit and Sierra Rock.

In No. 1, tell me: Did I dream about two people (Chef Tommy + Sierra) or three people (a chef + Tommy + Sierra)?

In No. 2, it seems pretty obvious that I had a dream about three people. So No. 1 makes the argument that a serial comma (in No. 1) doesn’t always clear up the meaning, whereas a lack of one does (or may). Poo.

So there it is — clear as mud.

Happy trails!


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Kindergarten defined

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011


I took my oldest child to kindergarten today. And yes, I ended up a little wistful, thinking that my little girl is growing up much too fast for my liking. But you know me — why not turn this experience into a Bloody Well Write entry?

I decided to look up the word kindergarten and see what I came up with. According to Webster’s New World College Dictionary:

“A school or class for young children, usually four to six years old, that prepares them for first grade and that develops basic skills and social behavior by games, exercises, music, simple handicrafts, etc.”

Excellent! That sounds like just what she needs at her age. The daycare she’s attended for the past several years has provided, in my mind, just such instruction and stimulation, so I think that she should be ahead of the game. Although nowadays it seems that all the kids have had similar experiences, so maybe it would be more accurate to say that she’s on par for where she should be. Either way, she’s thoroughly enjoyed her time at the daycare and is quite prepared for what’s directly ahead, and that is a good thing.

Merriam-Webster dates the word kindergarten to 1852 and breaks it down as a German word, from Kinder (meaning children) + Garten (meaning garden). That, too, makes me feel all warm and cuddly inside, knowing that my kiddo is growing much like a perennial in a garden, blooming and multiplying all those brain cells.

Which bus should my kindergartner take? NOT A ONE! (photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/picken/5927466817/)
Which bus should my kindergartner take? NOT A ONE! (photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/picken/5927466817/)

Warm and fuzzy got interrupted when I received a call from the school, telling me that she took a good, long ride on the bus today. The thing is, she’s not supposed to be on the bus list, much less the bus. Argh!

I suppose all’s well that ends well, but her name is definitely off of that bus list, thank you very much. And so goes the first day of kindergarten.

Happy trails!


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Odd words

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

Found a quirky little site today when I decided to Google the phrase “odd words.” It has a ton of words that have fallen out of favor for one reason or another. I think that the entire site would make for a fun read on a Friday afternoon, but if you don’t have time to check it out right now, at least you can catch these few words and their meanings, which I found particularly peculiar. Let me know if you’ve ever heard of any of these words or — even cooler — if you’ve ever used ‘em:

Ananym — a name that is formed by reversing the letters of another name (e.g., Oprah, Harpo; Gnip Gnop, Ping Pong)

Curwhibble — same thing as a thing-a-ma-jig

Expergefaction — waking up

Gallnipper — a large mosquito (I have a different name for it)

Illeist — a person who refers to himself or herself in the third person (check out “The Jimmy” on “Seinfeld,” below)

Knackatory — a place to buy knick-knacks (What a great name for a store!)

Malist — someone who feels that this world is just bad, not the worst or terrible place but, nevertheless, still pretty bad

Oxter — armpit (although this word is probably still used in Scotland and Ireland, it’s new to me, so here it is)

Quaintrelle — a well-dressed woman (not to be confused with William Quantrill, Confederate guerrilla leader who led the attack on the people of Lawrence, Kan., in 1863)

Sitooterie — a summerhouse or gazebo; or an out-of-the-way corner to sit with your partner at a dance (fun word that hails from Scotland)

Ultracrepidarian — to give opinions on topics beyond one’s own knowledge

Widdiful — one who deserves to be hanged

Zoilist — one who takes joy in finding fault

Happy trails!


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‘Scuse me while I kiss this guy: The mondegreen

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011


It’s one of the great joys of being a human. Doesn’t matter if you sing on or off key. Doesn’t matter if you sing only in cars with rolled-up windows, stopping to wait for the next green light, or in shower stalls with warm water cleansing your body as your favorite lyrics soothe your soul.

Assuming you actually know the lyrics.

For some of us (ahem), that’s a big assumption. Take me, for instance. I’ve been a singer my entire life. I remember singing at the top of my lungs in my room when I was around 8 years old. Imagine my horror when I twirled around in ecstasy of performance, only to find my parents standing in the doorway, watching. The horror! How long had they been standing there? If I had known there’s an audience, well, that would have been something different.

But I digress.

I sang in junior high, then in the high school madrigal group and in every musical that would have me. I sang my way through college (although I started to realize the small-fish-in-big-pond concept around that time). I continued singing on my own as a full-fledged adult and into my married life. Hey, I married a guy who loves to sing, as well, and we can holler out tunes in our automobile, the likes which you have never heard. Seriously!

So one fine day, we’re tooling down the road and the 1981 version of “Bette Davis Eyes” made popular by Kim Carnes (but written in 1974 by Donna Weiss and Jackie DeShannon) came on the radio. We’re singing along, sometimes he louder, sometimes I. Then came the line, “All the boys think she’s a spaz, she’s got Bette Davis eyes.” I belted it out — with feeling. And then I commented about how amazing it is that someone actually got the word “spaz” into a song.

My husband looked at me sideways. He asked me to repeat the line. I obliged. Then the heckling began.

I suppose at some point in my 40+ years I could’ve looked up the words to the song, but why? I knew them. I did, truly. But apparently, not really.

(It all made sense to me — sort of still does, really, because I never thought Bette Davis was much of a looker and thought, well, yes, the boys think she’s a spaz. Her eyes weren’t the eyes of a “regular” gal, so “spaz” sounded right on, if not very nice.)

My loving husband informed me that “spaz” was not cutting it. The line is: “All the boys think she’s a spy.” OK, fine. “Spy” does rhyme with “eyes” slightly better than “spaz” does. And now all my friends and readers now know my dirty little lyrics secret. Ugh.

Let it be known, though, that I am not alone in my affinity for the mondegreen (which, btw, refers to screwing up the lyrics; it got its name from Sylvia Wright mishearing a Scottish ballad of laid him on the green as Lady Mondegreen” in the 1950s).

Someone (name unmentioned here, but if you can guess, go for it) was tooling along in the car with me one fine day several years ago and was belting out Elton John’s “Goodbye, Yellow Brick Road.” I was singing along, too, as usual. Then came the phrase “Back to the howling old owl in the woods, hunting the horny back toad.” 

This person beside me doubted me as I sang those exact words, and this person doubted me but good. Swore on eight graves that I was wrong. That there was no way in hell or anywhere else that someone would write a song — and a successful one, at that — about a horny back toad. That it didn’t remotely sound like “horny back toad.” I had to pull the lyrics up on the Internet (and not just one site, but several) to prove to this person that Sir Elton John had written those very words.
The real shame is that I don’t remember what words this person in the driver’s seat actually said in place of “horny back toad,” but let me assure you that it was far from what it should have been. It was, though, a mondegreen. Definitely a mondegreen.
Elton John's horny back toad is probably a short horned lizard (photo: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/ce/Short_Horned_Lizard.jpg)
Elton John’s horny back toad is probably a short horned lizard (photo: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/ce/Short_Horned_Lizard.jpg)
The classic mondegreen is, of course, the bastardization of Jimi Hendrix’s “Purple Haze,” changing the accurate “‘Scuse me while I kiss the sky” to “‘Scuse me while I kiss this guy.” I admit that I was one of the masses who botched that one. A few additional mondegreens of note:
  • Iron Butterfly’s 1968 song “In-a-Gadda-da-Vida” (multiple stories abound about how the title actually came about, but the idea is that it is a goof of “In the Garden of Eden”).
  • Led Zeppelin’s “D’yer Mak’er” gets its influence from “Jamaica” but many fans believe it could be a contraction of “Did You Make Her” (as in “get lucky”).
  • Manfred Mann’s Earth Band cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Blinded by the Light” should be “revved up like a deuce” but is often shouted to the rafters as “wrapped up like a douche.”
  • Steve Miller Band’s “Jet Airliner” has the phrase “big old jet airliner” — not “big old Jed had a light on.”
  • AC/DC’s 1976 album “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap” inspired yours truly to sing “Dirty deeds and the thunder chief,” sending my true love into a fit of giggles each and every time he thinks of it.
What other mondegreens are floating out there? Send ‘em to me. Of course, I may not get any responses, since everyone thinks that they know all the words already.
Happy trails!
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Phrase of the day: Text purgatory

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

Urban Dictionary is a fun resource for über-current lingo, so here’s one that I came across today — it may or may not be applicable to all you text-crazed readers:

Text purgatory: The time period one waits for a response to a flirtatious text.

Use it in a sentence, you say? Happy to oblige:

“Jack spent an agonizing three hours in text purgatory after sending Sophie a “Cocktails after work?” message.

Text purgatory is filled elbow to elbow with clock-watchers (photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/29254399@N08/3187186308/)
Text purgatory is filled elbow to elbow with clock-watchers (photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/29254399@N08/3187186308/)

Yeah, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
Happy trails!


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Contraction action: Ain’t gonna learn them rules no more

Saturday, July 30th, 2011

I very well may be making an assumption here, but it seems to me that most education systems teach that the poorly constructed contraction ain’t isn’t appropriate to use in either its oral or written form. And yet ain’t has somehow managed to flourish in the English language. Ain’t is a contraction of not just two words, but any of — at minimum — eight combinations of words:

  • Am not
  • Are not
  • Is not
  • Have not
  • Has not
  • Do not
  • Does not
  • Did not

Ain’t is also entrenched in certain phrases that have become part of the modern-day lexicon:

  • If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it
  • Say it ain’t so
  • Two out of three ain’t bad
  • You ain’t seen nothing yet
  • This ain’t no disco

Stemming from the mid-1700s, ain’t has made its way into popular songs (”Ain’t She Sweet,” Ain’t Misbehavin’” and “Ain’t No Sunshine”), books (”If Mama Ain’t Happy, Ain’t Nobody Happy!” and “Telling Ain’t Training”) and movies (”Love Ain’t Supposed to Hurt” and “A Hero Ain’t Nothing But a Sandwich”). It’s used in journalistic prose as an indicator of casual tone. And it’s used by yours truly on occasion — partly in rebellion, partly to show devil-may-care attitude.

My mother would be horrified.

But there it is. My suggestion would be to use it sparingly, rather than as part of every third sentence — and that ain’t no baloney.

Happy trails!


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Word of the day: Beardo

Saturday, July 30th, 2011

So I was looking for something to write about for this bloody word blog and I decided to check out Urban Dictionary. It has a long list of words and when you hover your mouse over a word, its definition (urban definition, that is) comes up in a cute, little box. So I kept thinking that I had found a word to write about, but you know how it goes: “Hey, I’ll just look at one more word, in case it’s better/more memorable/less caustic. Just one more word. OK, just one more. This is the last one. Really.

And then I found my word for today. It made me giggle.


Really, the word didn’t make me giggle as much as the definition did. And now that I’ve put myself out there, you probably won’t find it nearly as funny as I did, but here it is, anyway.

Beardo = a weirdo with a beard

Several beardos in a row (photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/goincase/5241096531/)
Several self-proclaimed beardos in a row (photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/goincase/5241096531/)

Yes, yes, yes — I know that the term “weirdo” isn’t very PC and all that, but the whole concept jammed my funny bone. And besides that, I’ve known several folks who aim to grow the strangest beard you ever did see; it’s a point of pride with them. So that’s it for this post. Hope you at least smirked a bit.

Happy trails!


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Chow time: How to spell ‘hors d’oeuvres’

Saturday, July 30th, 2011
Everyone seems to know everything about hors d’oeuvres until it’s time to whip up a party invitation.

How the heck is it supposed to be spelled?

Webster’s New World College Dictionary defines the singular hors d’oeuvre as “a small portion of a tasty food served as an appetizer before a meal or as at a cocktail party.” Offering more than one delectable nibble? Then it’s hors d’oeuvres.

The French term originated sometime in the early 1700s, with the literal translation being “outside of the work.” Today, it’s virtually interchangeable with the word appetizer(s). Merriam-Webster defines appetizer as “a food or drink that stimulates the appetite and is usually served before a meal.”

Whatever it’s called, I think that it’s usually the very best part of the entire eating experience.
Bruschetta — made with crusty bread, olive oil, garlic, tomatoes and herbs — is a delicious hors d'oeuvre (photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/purdman1/3092767445/)
Bruschetta — made with crusty bread, olive oil, garlic, tomatoes and herbs — is a welcome hors d’oeuvre (photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/purdman1/3092767445/)
I’ll pass along a couple of my favorites:
  • The first is called Italian butter, and this recipe is based on the Kansas City Italian eatery’s version. Although not a transportable finger food — it’s more of a sit-down-and-sop-your-bread sort of hors d’oeuvre — there is no better version of the traditional dipping oil.
  • A second hors d’oeuvre to try is homemade hummus. It’s über-healthy, extraordinarily tasty and quite simple to make. This version is initially served slightly warm but, if (and that’s a big “if”) you have leftovers, you can serve it chilled. It’s lemony, garlicky and beyond fabulous.
Get cooking, then get hors doeuvre-ing.
Happy trails!
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