Three Toed Sloth

Some two-letter words are ordinary and banal, while others are obscure but ultimately aggravating, and finally there are those that are both obscure and gratifying. In this last category we find ai, a variety of three-toed sloth native to South America. When it comes to three-toed sloths there are only four kinds. You’ve got your pygmies, your pale-throats and your brown-throats, and your maned sloths. That’s what an ai is. File it away for future reference; it is in knowing such things that we find the gratification previously mentioned.

Also of note: ai takes no letter in front to form a three-letter word, the first such word we’ve encountered in this listing.

From the rear it takes seven: aid, ail, aim, ain, air, ais and ait. Most of these are familiar, and I assume ais is the plural of ai. As for ain, that looks like Scots to me, meaning “own.” That leaves ait, which refers to an island in a river. It’s obscure and chiefly British and used mostly for islands in the Thames, but this seems like a word that deserves to be more widely deployed. Anyone who’s enjoyed a riparian island knows they have a special character all their own; it only stands to reason they should have a name.

Three Toed Sloth / Pierre Pouliquin / CC BY-NC 2.0

Extra Money

Got my check for working as an extra for HBO’s Treme. It seems the going rate for this kind of work around here is $7.25/hour for a non-union extra like me. Eight hours of that plus four hours at time and a half equals $101.50; after taxes, I got $95.77.


I say we all meet here on the second Friday in November at 49 minutes before noon…


Who’s with me?


logo Albert Heijn Emerald Delfgauw

Ah, yes, so now we come to one of my favorite words: ah. I like this word because it’s so dramatic yet also so subtle and ambiguous. It can mean almost anything — or almost nothing — depending on how it’s inflected.

  • “Ah, this bath feels great.”
  • “Ah, say what now?”
  • “Ah, what a beautiful painting.”
  • “Ah, you’re full of baloney.”
  • “Ah, now I get it.”
  • “Ah ah ah, don’t touch!”

It takes eight different letters up front, but only one on the rear. The word aah I already mentioned, and bah should be familiar to anyone who knows their humbug, but what does dah mean exactly? Answer: That’s how you say a “dash” when speaking Morse code. “Dit dit dit, dah dah dah, dit dit dit.” Sound familiar? That’s S.O.S.

I don’t suppose that hah or nah need much introduction, but pah might. It’s an exclamation of disgust, as in, “Pah! I hate the taste of ground earthworm.” Not much to say about rah or yah except to note I’ve always preferred “yeah” as the spelling for the slang form of “yes” — but that’s just me.

On the other end, the only three-letter word to be formed is aha, which is a close relative of ah and aah, but with more of an implicitly revelatory connotation. A revelatory relative, so to speak.

logo Albert Heijn Emerald Delfgauw / Gerard Stolk /

No Number

Glowing Blue Numbers

I took Persephone to the doctor yesterday for her three-year checkup. I was going to ask the doctor about getting a lead test, even though it was my understanding that standard protocol doesn’t call for it.

A brief recapitulation of her numbers might be in order. These are all expressed in µg/dL (micrograms per deciliter of blood).

The supposed level of concern is ten, but that’s a fairly arbitrary threshold, and there’s plenty of reason to suppose it should be lowered. Since she scored below that level at her second birthday, I didn’t think the doctor would recommend another test. I was going to ask for one anyway, but I was not looking forward to it. I agonized so much over those numbers in the past. I didn’t look forward to waiting for results to come back from the lab again. Also there’s the whole insurance issue; our pediatrician is on our health plan but the lab she used was not, which led me to write an angry letter to Humana last September.

So, I was pleasantly surprised when the doctor suggested the test herself and revealed they were now able to do it in-house. No lab, no waiting. Persephone didn’t enjoy having her finger pricked, of course, but she took it like a champ and I was very proud of her.

But the best thing of all, the best news I’ve had in a good long while, was the result. Her lead levels are “below anything detectable.” No little number to fixate upon and agonize over. No number to keep me awake and haunt my dreams. I was so happy I just about cried. Even now, a day later, I can’t hardly think about it without choking up, which is making this a surprising difficult entry to write.

Pardon me while I collect myself.
Continue reading “No Number”

Pothole Story

Yeah, I mentioned this already, but I’ve got a couple new photos that really round this out. Let’s see if I can shut up and tell this story pictorially.

Thee Broadmoor Sinkhole Warning Sign #2

A Pothole in Broadmoor

New Orleans Pothole Migrates to California

Me Love U Long Time

Leslie & Jenny

Any questions?

Profiles in Bloggage, Part 2

In April, I’ll be making a presentation to a special interest group of the AERA titled “The Role of Blogs in the Rebuilding of New Orleans.” My plan is to tell five separate stories that have emerged in, around, through or about the local blogosphere since the flooding of the city in 2005. I thought I would share my notes here as I complete them. So this is the second of the five stories. I welcome any feedback.


The American Zombie blog began on July 5, 2006, with a strident assertion.

I believe that as a patriot and one who loves this country, the best way I can honor it is to exercise the 1st [amendment] as much as possible. And perhaps to recognize that what we really have to fear, is those who would spread fear and manipulate it to their own end. The truth will set us free…I would like to find it.

To that end…I start this blog to help myself wake-up.

From that day on, the blogger known as Ashe Dambala has been waking up a whole bunch of people in the Greater New Orleans area. He didn’t waste any time getting down to business either. In his third post, just three weeks after the blog was launched, he dropped his first big bombshell, accusing Greg Meffert, former Chief Technology Officer for the City of New Orleans of influence peddling and other shenanigans.

I missed out on this first round of intrigue, because my wife and I were caught up in our own personal trauma. And, to tell you the truth, I’ve always found the American Zombie tough to follow. It’s a dark blog, scary and worrisome, full of dark allusions, full of esoteric knowledge and insider information, attributed to anonymous sources. I think a certain level of familiarity with the subject matter (which I don’t have) is a prerequisite to actually understanding the intimations and accusations on offer. Most of it is simply over my head. But it’s clear that plenty of savvy people understand exactly what’s being posted, and they are often alarmed by it. Sometimes they even want to sue.

For three years Dambala was a figure shrouded in mystery, known only by his net moniker. In case you don’t know, let me quote Wikipedia: “In Vodou… Damballah is the Sky God and considered the creator of all life…. In New Orleans and Haiti he is often depicted as a serpent and is closely associated with snakes.” See how it all fits together? New Orleans, Vodou, Zombies — one might expect the subject matter of this blog to be magic or religious experience. Au contraire. The Zombie’s stock-in-trade has been and remains dirty politics, or more specifically, public corruption.

In some ways Dambala provides a stark contrast to my previous subject, Karen Gadbois. He is (or was) anonymous and obscure; Karen was always transparent. Yet at their heart I believe Ashe Dambala and Karen Gadbois share certain core values. They both exemplify the idea of the citizen journalist. Both have drawn attention to corruption. Both have both invigorated the local journalistic milieu. And that’s why they’ve both been recognized with the highest award of the NOLA blogosphere, the Ashley Morris Award.

I hope to write more about Ashley, and Rising Tide, later. At this juncture, it’s just worth recounting the circumstances surrounding Dambala’s recognition at Rising Tide IV. Many were curious to see his true identity revealed, but they were disappointed, or perhaps amused, when Jacques Morial accepted the award on Dambala’s behalf. There were some who were more irritated than amused, in particular a couple of attorneys who’d attended the event specifically to confront Dambala. They said they wanted to bring suit for libel regarding some information he posted on the American Zombie. They had several “large and beefy individuals” in tow, a move which was generally perceived as an intimidation tactic by those in attendance.

And so it came to pass that Dambala gave it up in the pages of the Times-Picayune, to short-circuit the accusation that he was hiding behind his anonymity. His real name? Jason Berry. I did a double take, as did many readers, I’m sure. I knew that name. Berry co-directed the important and ambitious documentary film, Left Behind, which Xy and I saw in 2006.

But back to that TP article from August, 2009. Molly Reid sums up Dambala’s importance nicely:

In New Orleans, perhaps fittingly, the battle between blogger and subject comes in the arena of alleged City Hall corruption, which Berry says he hopes to help expose. His blog American Zombie has focused on City Hall contracts, especially the technology contracts, such as those for the city’s crime camera program, along with the Mayor Ray Nagin free trips to such exotic locales as Hawaii. He has repeatedly scrutinized former city technology chief Greg Meffert — now under investigation by the feds — and the array of companies he is connected with.

A couple months later, Greg Meffert (and Linda Meffert and Mark St Pierre) were indicted on 63 counts by the U.S. Attorney’s office. A year after that, Meffert pleaded guilty to a fraud and bribery conspiracy charge. The Times-Picayune credited itself for breaking the Meffert story in an article from September of 2006 about a certain yacht. But that came out a couple months after the Zombie’s first Meffert story — which also mentioned the yacht. Not to split hairs, but It seems to me that’s where Meffert “first came under scrutiny.”

Update #1: According to Dambala himself, “the TP was actually reporting on the yacht before me, I was the one who broke the credit card, trips, interoperability system and I was writing about the crime cameras a month before it reached da paper.”

As for the attorneys who were threatening to sue Dambala? I don’t know what happened to them.

Update #2: According to Dambala, “On the lawsuit, I met with the city attorney and his wife who were threatening the suit at my lawyer’s office. They decided to drop the suit and I agreed to publish whatever letter they wanted on my site….” For more details see the comments section.

I have to thank local blogger Liprap, aka Leigh Checkman, for pointing me to some key resources to help me construct this account, such as it is. For example there’s this panel, sponsored by the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities. Jason Berry shares the dais with Kevin Allman (Gambit) and Campbell Robertson (New York Times); ironically enough the blogger is the only guy who went to journalism school. The video is worth watching if you’re interested in journalism generally and in New Orleans in particular. In it we learn that the American Zombie functions as a sort of “reporter’s notebook,” a way of sharing both original documents and (sometimes) unverified gossip for comment and scrutiny.

We also get this choice quote from Berry/Dambala:

There are writers that write for the paper and then there are journalists which I think are investigative journalists. And I think that those guys are a little off, and I’m one of them. Because they become completely obsessed with getting to the truth, and you have to be that way.

As well as this gem:

I’m pretty much a professional a-hole, in my blog.

See? He’s a professional.

Liprap thinks “he’s definitely become more sophisticated with his writing and storytelling as time has gone on, especially with regards to the recent City Hall real estate records series he’s been publishing in serialized form on Humid Beings.” I have to agree. If you haven’t read this, it starts here.

No Thanks but Lemme Ask My Roommate

I was alarmed to see this report because the location is not far from our house, but the details are kind of interesting.

Armed Robbery, 3900 Block of Banks Street

On February 21, 2011 at approximately 10:15 AM, First District Officers responded to an armed robbery in the 3900 Block of Banks Street. The victim reported an unknown black female wearing a purple shirt and blue jeans knocked on the back door to the residence and asked the subject if he wanted to have sex for money. The subject told her no but stated he would ask his roommate who was asleep.

The subject woke the victim and went back into the kitchen. The witness stated when he came back into the room, the black female had a small black revolver in her hand and the victim’s wallet. The subject stated the female left the residence with the wallet.

A spanish speaking officer arrived on scene and spoke with the victim. The victim relayed the same information received from the subject # 1 including his wallet had been sitting on a small table near the door at the time the female grabbed it.

A neighbor stated the female left in a blue minivan, possibly a Dodge. Both the witness and victim stated they had not seen this female before. The victim stated he had approximately $600 in his wallet.

Sent by Officer Melody Young -1st District NOPD.

As I read this a second time, I kind’ve gotta wonder if the subject #1 or the victim can be trusted in this case. It kind of reminds me of an incident at our old homestead.

Three Years


Dear Persephone,

You are three years old today.

I just realized that your birthday is exactly five weeks after mine. That means when my birthday falls on Martin Luther King Day, yours falls on Presidents’ Day. I guess that will occur about every seven years or so.

One year ago, I was impressed by your emergent abstract thinking. That development has continued apace. The most recent manifestation has shown up just before you drift off to dreamland. While you’re in your crib, under your blankets, I tell you a story and then sing you some songs. I usually try to work the songs in to be a part of the story, a natural conclusion, but sometimes it functions more as a separate sequence entirely. You’re aware of the structure, and over the last month you’ve started to ask, when the singing starts: “Is the song a part of the story?” Doesn’t sound like much, perhaps, but I was thrilled because it represents a new level of conceptual sophistication.

You’ve also continued to assert yourself with greater vigor, demonstrating why this age is known as the “first adolescence.” I thought you could be obstinate and defiant at two and a half, but wow. I had no idea. You can and will disagree about anything, as the mood strikes you. The best example I can think of lately came just this past week. You woke up and, as per usual, asked me what day it was. I told you it was Tuesday. You replied with an emphatic, “No! It’s Friday!” That led to an interesting discussion on things we can change and things we can’t.

But you’re also very helpful, at least sometimes. You often help me empty the dishwasher. You help me cook, and I find involving you in that process improves your reception of the dish at the table. When we celebrated Candlemas you helped by shining a light on the candles.

After showing little interest in them for months, you recently got interested in your Madeline books again. Therefore I took particular notice when I saw John Bemelmans Marciano was slated to make an appearance at Octavia Books yesterday. He is the grandson of the original author, who has done a number of follow-up books. You were very excited. You got dressed up in a fancy dress worthy of Madeline herself, and you set off with your copy of Madeline and the Cats of Rome for John to sign.

But just as you pulled up around the corner from the bookstore, you barfed all over yourself. And that was the end of that. We were afraid you’d come down with the stomach virus that’s going around — and maybe you did, but it’s hard to say. You didn’t barf again, and this morning you woke up feeling better than you have in a week. Still I felt pretty bad that your big literary adventure ended in such a disaster.

You talk funny. You have particularly hard time with the hard “c” sound. Your crib is your “trib,” for example. It’s pretty cute. And speaking of cute, here are some cute things you’ve said over the past month:

  • Brandishing a marker and a map of the USA: “Can I color the statements?”
  • “Hey you got a fleur de lis on your hat. That means you’re the Saints game.”
  • Speaking of sports, a couple weeks ago you kept saying, “Black and gold to the superbowl!” I tried explaining that the black & gold didn’t make it this year, but you weren’t havin’ it.
  • “We’re in the country of New Orleans.”
  • You seem convinced that anything “spooky” is also “beautiful.”
  • One night you said you wanted to read a book with “pictures and conversations.” That’s a quote from Alice in Wonderland but I don’t know where you picked it up.

And finally I should say some words about your birthday party. We deliberately tried to keep it low key. We invited as few people as we felt we could get away with (sorry if we snubbed anyone) and we asked everyone to refrain from bringing presents. Nevertheless we had over a dozen people here for cake and ice cream and a ton of presents. Xy made a moon cake for you — round and white, not too hard. I bought you a moon globe and — surprise! — so did Michael Homan. The same exact damn moon globe. Pretty funny, right? And of course the reason for the moon theme is your inordinate love for “Sister Moon” which I hope will never die.

Continue reading “Three Years”


Chinese Ag

There is no af, so the next word I will consider is ag, which is short for agriculture. Like ab, it would seem to be most natural as an adjective. “I’m auditing a couple of ag classes down at the community college.” But it’s also, apparently, an expression of annoyance that comes to us from South Africa. “Ag, those ag courses are awful.”

Ag takes a bunch of letters on the front end, to derive such commonplace words as bag, fag, gag, hag, jag, lag, mag, rag, sag, tag, wag and zag. (Yes, zag is a word. Opposite of zig.)

I left off dag only because it bears special mention. Though I was not entirely sure this was a legitimate word, it seems to have no less than six etymologically distinct definitions. The most amusing of these is “a clump of feces stuck to the wool of a sheep, also used in Australia as a term of friendly abuse” (via Wikipedia) which has apparently given rise to an Australian subculture.

On the other end, ag generates only three words, the familiar age and ago, as well as the less well-known aga.

What’s an aga? Why, it’s an alternate form of agha, natch. Ah, yes, “an honorific for high officials used in Turkey and certain Muslim countries” (via Wiktionary). For example, it seems that in the Ottoman Empire the Sultan’s harem was run by the Kizlar Agha and the Kapi Agha — the Chief Black Eunuch and the Chief White Eunuch, respectively. But I wouldn’t want to give the impression that (aga or agha) means eunuch; I think it derives from the Turkish ağa meaning “lord, master, chief, boss, landowner.” As strange as it may seem, the Kizlar Agha was the third most power official in the entire empire, subordinate only to the Sultan himself and the Grand Vizier.

Chinese Ag / Alex and Stacy / CC BY 2.0

EZ Facebook Hack

My friend James called me this afternoon and asked if “the iPad thing” was for real. I had no idea what he was talking about. He quickly informed me of my latest Facebook status update, and when I got home I saw it with my own two eyes:

Finally got my iPad from that site! 5 days ago I signed up at [link redacted] as a tester and today I got my iPad. All you need to do is to tell them your opinion about iPad and you can keep it forever. You should hurry since i highly doubt this is gonna last forever

Was my account hacked? Not exactly. That is, I don’t think my password was compromised. It seems this status update was sent via Facebook mobile, which I’d set up a week or two ago. That allows me to update my Facebook status via text message, as with Twitter. The fatal flaw? My mobile phone number is readily available via my Facebook profile. Anyone who can fake a text message from that number can update my status. Seems like a big and obvious security hole, so I expect to see plenty more of this exploit.

I deleted the status update, and I’ve taken the rudimentary step of setting my mobile phone to be visible to “Only Me” in my Facebook privacy options. Previously it had been available to “Friends and Networks.”

As for the link included in the bogus status update, it takes you to a site called Your Reward Inside which tries to collect personal information from prospective iPad “testers.” The site is listed on Scam Checker Report. The site is dissected a bit more on Mea Vita.

Don’t fall for this, friends.


Having a toddler on your shoulders kind of precludes taking photos. Nevertheless I was able to pop this one off. Here’s Seph and me watching Krewe du Vieux, the best parade of Carnival in New Orleans.


KdV is known for its satirical themes, which are often given the raunchiest treatment imaginable. I still remember the Comatose “Licks the Habit” float from a few (nine? eight?) years ago. I thought, if I had a child, how could I explain that? And yet — now that she’s here, it seems silly satirical sexual stuff is the least of our worries. So, it’s all good. I thought twice before taking her, but took her. In fact, I don’t think she’s ever missed a KdV. This was her third.

Hail Brid

No matter how much king cake I eat, it never truly feels like Carnival until I see a parade.


That time is here again. Last night we saw the Krewe of Brid in Lakeview. It was so much fun I can’t believe we’d never done it before. They are a relatively new group, still small, all female. Persephone knows about triple goddesses so she was excited and we all had a blast.

Tonight we’ll be checking out Krewe du Vieux in the Marigny.

The madness is upon us.

The Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name

I was just coming home from the first real parade of the carnival season, fired up and aglow with the love, and I get online and I check my e-mail and I find myself on Facebook, looking at a kindly invitation to enjoy the next night’s diversions, looking at the profile of a friend, and I can’t help but notice his significant other is not listed — and the reason is fairly obvious. Even in our present day and age, homosexual relationships are not acknowledged and accepted in many circles. So I go to the kitchen for a late snack, and skim the paper’s entertainment supplement, and read of a documentary about how gay carnival krewes pioneered gay rights in this country well before Stonewall. And ultimately I can’t help feeling a deep sense of outrage: What is wrong with people? I remain forever committed to the idea that all is permitted, so long as we’re not hurting anyone.

Grocery Revelations

Cart on Grass

On the subject of our household finances, a consensus has emerged both in the comments of my recent post and elsewhere: Our grocery bill is out of whack, off the chain, out of control.

I agree. I’m not sure why I didn’t notice it myself earlier. In part, it might be an example of not seeing the tree for the forest. But mostly I attribute it to my general financial stupidity. I can think about numbers all day long, but put a dollar sign in front and I start getting sleepy.

In any case, I’m thankful to all those who brought this to my attention.

I’d reported spending over a grand on groceries over the last thirty days. That seemed a bit anomalous to me, but a weekly tab of $150-200 is not unusual. (Still high, I know. I’m getting to that, so bear with me.) If I had to guess I’d peg our monthly grocery expenses around $800.

But why guess? I checked my bank records and tabulated the numbers for the last six months.

August: $710.68
September: 617.94
October: $911.27
November: $976.98
December: $538.53
January: $1008.06

December was low because we spent a full week away from home, mostly living on my in-laws dime. January is actually under-reported, believe it or not, as I’m pretty sure I unloaded $100 worth of gift cards at the grocery.

The total comes to $4,763.46 for half a year. That averages to $793.91 per month, so it seems my above-cited guess was quite accurate.

I understand the average American household spends 9% on groceries. We are way over that. So, what’s going on? How is it possible that we spend so much on food? Do we have extravagant tastes? I don’t think so. We don’t buy a great deal of convenience foods or expensive meats or big ticket items. Occasionally I have splurged on booze, but I don’t think that accounts for the high receipts in this case. For the most part I don’t buy liquor at the grocery.

I’m tempted to blame the grocery. As a rule we shop at the nearest supermarket, which is the Rouse’s on Carrollton in Mid-City. (The totals above are exclusively from Rouse’s except for one visit to Dorginac’s in October and one visit to Winn-Dixie and another to Dorginac’s in November.) I’ve always felt good about shopping there because they are a regionally-based chain, and I’m generally happy with the quality and selection. But Xy’s often said their prices run high compared to other stores.

So, last Friday, Xy stopped at a Save a Lot on the West Bank of Jefferson Parish. She spent $81.82 and I was knocked out by the sheer quantity of groceries she brought home. It looked like 50% more than we’d bring home from a big trip to Rouse’s — at half the price.

We realized there were some key items she missed, so on Sunday we made a joint venture to a Save a Center here in Orleans Parish. That ran us $67.76, but we are now pretty well stocked for the next couple of weeks. I anticipate we’ll only need to get a few perishables over the coming weekend. If I’m right about this, we might expect to spend less than $400 per month on groceries just by changing the store where we buy most of our stuff. Obviously that would be a significant reduction, cutting our monthly grocery expense in half.

Maybe I’m wrong to blame Rouse’s. Maybe our shopping habits are really to blame. If so, shopping at Save a Lot would appear to effectively constrain our behavior. That could solve our budgetary problems in one fell swoop, and we might even learn something in the process.

Unfortunately it seems this is a timely issue. Rising food prices fueled the unrest in Egypt, and that will be hitting home soon. American food prices are expected to rise as much as 29% this year. I hope that doesn’t erase the savings outlined above. I think we’ll be staying active with our community garden.

10K Classroom

This photo just turned over 10,000 views on Flickr.

New Classroom

This is the fourth such photo of mine to achieve such popularity — and thus far all of them feature Xy. Only two are sort of vaguely cheesecakey. One you can’t even tell if it’s a man or a woman or what. And in none of them can you see her face. So I tell her not to get a swelled head.

This particular photo, “New Classroom,” I took in December of 2005. I was helping Xy set up her new classroom at Eisenhower Elementary. She felt fortunate to have landed that job so shortly after all public school teachers here were fired. I didn’t have anything better to do than help her get set up, since the University where I work was still closed for repairs. Actually this photo was taken on a Saturday afternoon, but the point’s still relevant. I’d spent several days pilfering her old school for supplies to bring to the new school.

At the time, I was more excited about getting our generator hooked up, and so I never posted this photo here. But it’s been posted plenty of other places.

See for example:

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. As of this moment, it’s my 25th most “interesting” photo, my 4th most viewed and 3rd most favorited. As one might discern from that final link, the photo is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license, allowing people to use it for whatever they like at no cost.

Sometimes Creative Commons is not enough. Flickr partnered with Getty Images some time ago, and I’ve had at least one request to license this image commercially. However, I found the paperwork to be onerous. A “model release” is easy enough; Xy will sign anything I stick under her nose. But a “location release”? Are you kidding me? Let’s see, this is a public school run by the Algiers Charter Schools Association. Xy no longer works there and the principal has moved on as well. Who would I even ask? Why would I even bother?

As for explaining the popularity of this image, I think it has to do with the motion blur. Not only does it lend a sense of energy to the photo, it anonymizes and generalizes. Xy becomes every teacher in this picture.

I wish I could say I planned it that way, but in reality I just hate taking flash photos. I knew if I turned off the flash and braced the camera on a solid surface I’d get a decent shot. It kind of bugs me that the desk legs are out of frame at the very bottom. But, all in all, I’m happy with this photo, and I’m curious to see if its popularity will continue.


Statue of Robert Burn

And so now we come to ae, the most controversial word we’ve yet seen. Or so it seems to me. The controversy springs from a fundamental linguistic question: Is Scots a dialect or a language? If a dialect, than sure fine, ae is a word in the English language. It means simply “one,” and is perhaps most famously deployed in the great poem by Robert Burns, “Ae Fond Kiss”:

Ae fond kiss, and then we sever!
Ae fareweel, alas, for ever!

But, if Scots is not a dialect, if Scots is its own language, then ae is a foreign word — not English — and thus would have no place on this list.

Pride and politics makes the question even stickier. The notion of a language generally commands greater respect than the notion of a dialect. I’d expect that passionate advocates of the Scots revival think of it as a language and want others to regard it as such.

For what it’s worth, my spellchecker doesn’t recognize it.

Of course, this is a question that has been debated for ages, and my very conceptions of dialect and language are hopelessly naïve. Suffice to say, ae is on the official two-letter word lists that count, for people who care about such things, which is to say players of Scrabble and Words with Friends.

Can you make words from ae? Yes you can, but most of them look strange to me: gae, hae, kae, mae, nae, sae, tae and wae. My first hunch was these were all Scots as well, and perhaps they are.

  • gae = go
  • hae = have
  • kae = jackdaw
  • mae = may?
  • nae = no, not
  • sae = so
  • tae = to
  • wae = woe

I found all these words in The Scots Tongue by Girvan McKay. Some may have other meanings that are not Scots-related, but if so they are pretty obscure. Which is what makes them such good words to know.

Strangely enough, ae doesn’t take a letters on the rear, not even s. I call this strange because it’s the first such word in this list, but more so because I have long considered aes a valid English word. Gene Wolfe uses it for a denomination of coin in The Book of the New Sun. Turns out it’s the Latin word for bronze, and isn’t generally listed in English dictionaries.

Statue of Robert Burn / Victhor Viking /

Triumph of the Shin

Last Mardi Gras, a dog bit me on the calf. The marks are still visible today, one full year after the fact. I was recently informed that the dog has died. A friend joked that I had come out on top, which I thought was funny, but I do feel sorry for the dog and offer my condolences to the owner, should he ever read this.