Dear Persephone, You are four years old today. So: Happy Birthday! But also: Happy Mardi Gras! The last time Mardi Gras fell on the 21st of February was in 1950, which was not only before you were born but well before I was born. These dates will line up again in eleven years, for your [...]
Archive for the 'Words & Numbers' Category
On November 11, 2011, eleven of us gathered at The 1111 Building, in parking space #11, and at precisely eleven minutes and eleven seconds after eleven o’clock a.m., we raised a toast — the No. 11 Cup. That’s eleven elevens, in case you weren’t keeping track.
I’ll take this article with a grain of salt, but I did find the parenthetical explanation of the racial politics of capitalization helpful. Readers frequently write to ask why I capitalize “Black” but not “white”. Often the question comes with racial resentment attached: there is a feeling that the use of the capital letter reveals [...]
It’s been a while, but I’m still aiming to catalog all the two-letter words in the English language. That brings us to am, which is a simple and common word. I’m sure you can use it in a sentence. But can you define it? According to the Wiktionary, it’s the “first-person singular simple present indicative [...]
Aj is not a word, so we come to al, an Indian mulberry. Wait, that sounds awfully familiar. Aha, that’s because I wrote about the variant spelling aal already. It’s an evergreen shrub, Morinda tinctoria, commonly known as the Indian mulberry. The root bark of the young plant is used to make red, brown or [...]
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 [...]
I say we all meet here on the second Friday in November at 49 minutes before noon… Who’s with me?
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 [...]
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 [...]
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 [...]
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 [...]
After aa and ab one might expect ac to be next, but alas ac is not a word. Oddly enough, there are no two-letter words in the English language containing the letter c. Every other letter is represented — except v. Thus the next word to consider is ad, a banal word if ever there [...]
I believe the word ab is a fairly recent addition to the mainstream lexicon. I guess it stems from our fetishization of the muscular midriff. It’s most often seen in plural form, as in “six-pack abs.” (That’s surely an ironic phrase since drinking six-packs would seem to be at odds with getting a six pack.) [...]
Consider the word aa. It is surely worthy of consideration, as it is one of the first words in most dictionaries — the very first possible word of two letters, in fact. There are only 101 two-letter words in the English language, according to the authoritative source. That’s a small enough number that any person [...]
Just noticed I have exactly 666 “friends” on Facebook. Damnation. Now I can’t add anymore friends unless someone unfriends me. Because, of course, I am an ardent hexakosioihexekontahexaphile. Update: It took me a while to figure out how to save an image showing all 666 “friends.” (Abduction by Rowan Lewis proved to be the key.) [...]
Property tax bills are coming out in New Orleans right now. But this is not about that. I finally beat my father-in-law at Scrabble. The key play for me: MILLAGES, a triple triple bingo for 158 points. This is a word I only learned upon living in New Orleans; it’s another word for property tax. [...]
This might be a good year to reflect on the virtues of the number eleven. It is surely one of the coolest numbers. Sandwiched between the completeness of ten and the abundance of twelve, the number eleven just kind of hangs out there and plays it casual. It’s an odd number, of course, but it’s [...]
In addition to Xy’s birthday, we’re also celebrating Persephone’s 25,000th hour of life today; but how to explain this number to a toddler?
Persephone is a thousand today. It’s her thousandth day of life. It seems like the sort of thing that should be celebrated, and I’ve had it marked on my calendar for a while. But time got away from me, and now it’s here, and I haven’t a clue what to do. How do you celebrate [...]
I’m quoted in this Gambit article by Sarah Eddington. I use big words like “maximal” and “expeditiously” and “stuff.”