The writing diary of a well-mellowed science writer who cares about the public understanding of science and knows the ropes. This blog bounces between my curiosity, the daily realities of professional writing, the joy of pursuing nature, and my recycling of ideas that won't be in some book or other as far as I can see, but still needed sharing. I welcome comments and suggestions! Spam will be blocked and reported. For my books, see http://members.ozemail.com.au/~macinnis/writing/index.htm
food groups. An
invention of dietitians. Several sets are known, among them Karloff's groups:
sugar, starch, grease, gin and sausage, the Masai groups: blood, milk, milk and
blood and blood and milk, and the Fenton groups: oils, starches, sugars, burnt
crunchy bits and chili sauce. Other food groups are commissioned from time to
time by various food marketing organisations.
football. It is
an amazing but true fact that, in an age when we have the technology to make a
perfectly spherical ball, many people prefer to play with a warped one. It is
open to speculation whether there is any deeper causal link here. See Rugby, Rugby League.
exercising of power, as in moving a golf
ball. Golfers wishing to improve the look of their game often invest in plus force.
foreign aid. A
means of ensuring that undeveloped countries increase their debt loads faster
than their GDPs.
forest. A place
where trees may fall in peace, secure in the knowledge that they will make no
sound. Wherever possible, they try to fall on any passing Bishop Berkeley, in order to soften the blow. This has the
fortunate side effect of causing the bishop to scream with terror, drowning any
residual noise the tree may make.
act of soaking in formic acid, or adding formic acid (for example, to red wine,
to improve its clarity and palate).
wildly random rushing around, practised by ants and which, when discussed,
often causes hard-of-hearing aunts to behave similarly.
fossil. As a general
rule, the only good fossil is a dead fossil.
four colour map
theorem. A mathematical problem, now solved, showing that maps need no more
than four colours to mark all neighbouring regions with different colours. The
more complex problem of showing that there exists at least one correct way to
fold each map remains to be established.
Two competing and equally valid meanings have created a great deal of public
confusion in the past. 1. A fourier (with a lower case f) is an indicator mammal
from the tundras of Arctic Canada. The biochemical analysis of its droppings
can predict how good a season the fur-trappers can expect to have. 2. Alain
Fourier (with a capital F) was an American psychiatrist who found that patients
responded well to being fed large amounts of chocolate cake, and then being
told that they were cured. Sadly for Fourier, most of his patients deserted him
for a nearby coffee shop, and he died in Penury, North Carolina.
fractal. 1. A
complex network woven from superstring, and only available by satellite with
the use of a special decoder. 2. A kick delivered by a pregnant mule.
distillation. Producing spirits in small amounts.
free. Any person
is free to believe that there is such a thing as a free lunch, but this will
not, in general, save them from starvation.
An organisation which is funded, and so able to avoid any membership fees.
football player who specialises in penalty kicks.
liberty to impinge on the freedom of others without let or hindrance.
free fall. Any
free trade. Any
system of sale, barter, or exchange, where the parties are completely free to
rip each other off, or as an alternative, band together to rip innocent third
free verse. A
form of poetry which should, in all fairness, lead to the authors being
charged, preferably by elephants. The verse is free mainly because nobody in
their right mind would buy it.
freeway. A means
of transferring traffic jams from one place to another.
painting on a wall. Dining al fresco
involves eating while sitting on top of the painted wall. Unless the painting
is an Escher, this can be an extremely hazardous experience.
Freudian slip. A
source of gilt for psychiatrists.
Freudian wilt. Any
detumescence caused by the sufferer recognising what it is that he is doing.
friar. 1. A
totally inedible missionary if cooked in a pot in the traditional way. If they
were intended to be boiled, they would hardly be called friars. See cannibal. 2. In religious
establishments, the fish friar is often assisted by the chip monk.
Nature's way of telling us to slow down. 2. A mathematical term describing a
‘fictional fraction’, the third dimension in number space. The ‘number line’
consists of integers. Complex numbers (involving the sum of an integer and a
multiple of i, the square root of -1) make up the second dimension, creating
the number plane. When a complex number is divided by i, this produces a
fictional fraction, or friction. Most of the universe's missing dark matter is probably in frictional
fringe benefits. The
advantages of being a hairdresser.
Many are cult, but few are chosen. Tonsured orders of monks favour these.
full employment. The
most reliable description of the workers at the end of the staff Christmas
pejorative expression used by designers to signify a total failure by another
designer. The term is usually used with body language which conveys the message
that the speaker would never be caught dead designing such a piece.
compound word, derived from fund (send money), and amental (without thinking).
A variant name for the funnelweb spider, only applied to the spider after it
has preyed upon a blotfly which has
been drinking the liquid trapped in the centre of a rotting toadstool. The web
woven by the spider under these conditions has been described as ‘a Moiré
pattern seen sideways’.
impolite term to describe pubic hair.
A clever trick by the authorities to lead those who have left school without an
education into believing that they have already had one.
art of explaining, in terms of what has already happened, what might have
happened in the future, all things being sequel.
Spanish sailing vessel with square fore-and-aft sails.
divided into three parts: the bitter, the biter, and the bit. There was a St
Gall, who appears not to have been divided at any stage. Why?
gallows humour. Full-throttle
comedy, often containing an element of suspense. Not suitable for the highly strung.
term for any fool who engages in activities that lead to overpopulation, as in
the rare and environmentally damaging 21-son galoot.
practice, much in vogue in 19th century France, of electroplating corpses in a
one millimetre thick copper ‘skin’, prior to burial.
game theory. Applied
by hunters, this is fairly basic (possibly to match their intellects). In
essence, the theory says: if it moves, it's game.
inhabitants of the island of Gar in the central Pacific, who wear outrageously
colourful clothing, and tell even more outrageously colourful stories about
themselves, their life and times. Some experts believe that the Garish do not
really exist outside of their own myths and legends, that they are a pigment of
the imagination. One recent theory is that they are really the Invisigoths in clever disguise.
A seamy business.
GATT. Alleged to
stand for the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, it is neither general nor
an agreement. Those applying a literal interpretation to the effect of double negatives retain their hopes for
gaucho. In the
USA, almost all adult male cowboys are right-handed, and this makes it harder
for them to turn a herd which is breaking to the right. This skill, however,
comes naturally to the riders from Argentina who are brought up to ride
left-handed, even when they are right-handed. For this reason, most American
ranches employ one or two ‘gauchos’ (Spanish for ‘lefties’) to ride on the
right-hand side of a travelling herd. In reality, they are often as
right-handed as we are. The most famous was Gaucho Marx.
glove which is known by this name today was in fact named after the gauntlet
hunting dog of the Ardennes Forest. As the name implies, it was a small lean
dog, but its hide was as tough as tanned leather, and it was totally fearless
in the hunt, where just two of these fox terrier-sized dogs would often bring
down a wild boar between them. If a single dog did not make an immediate kill,
the boar would become enraged, which is why running the gauntlet (in the singular) was dangerous,
and most hunters preferred to run three or four gauntlets together.
geiger counter. A
device designed to count large numbers of radioactive events. Geiger is the
German version of ‘giga-’. In Bavaria, these devices are used in beer-halls
when physics students engage in a stylised form of duelling, although this is
frowned upon, because of the dangers of the counter-lunge.
theory. As a general rule, when you start gossiping about somebody in any
country town, the person you are talking about is related to your listener.
procedure which involved crossing fruit fly with all manner of other animals. Where
large animals are involved, special machinery may need to be designed and built
by specialist genetic engineers.
geodesy. The art
of designing complete worlds.
only known kind of human able to disprove the four-colour map theorem with nothing more than a sheet of paper and
a few coloured pencils.
ultimate in reductionism, having reduced the environment and all its
interactions to a few marks on a sheet of paper. Sometimes in less than four
colours, at that, but not often.
it is a matter of some shame to scientists everywhere, there is a great deal of
politics in their interactions, but nowhere so seriously as in the earth
sciences, possibly because mud-slinging comes more easily to that group.
things which make us very sick. Of course, now we are civilised, we no longer
believe in them.
study and criticism of The Dream of Gerontius.
This activity was popular in the early part of last century.
A famous composer who got his start writing commercials, many of which were
later recycled into serious music. His early motion picture music for a film on
‘do-it-yourself’ wallpapering, Wrapsody
in Glue, was later recycled in a variety of other works.
German expression of goodwill, uttered after somebody sneezes. It literally
means ‘may your ears (gesunden) remain warm (heit)’, that is, attached to your
Gibbon, Edward. An
author well-known for writing extremely heavy books. Once when he placed a
newly printed edition on top of a wicker bird cage, it collapsed the cage and
crushed two budgerigars to death, a case of killing two birds with one's tome.
gigolo. This is a
word which is full of danger. In Italy, the word is now used to refer to a
brand of tea bag, while in Spain it mostly means a post-jump bungy jumper.
who marches to the beat of a different drumlin.
glass bottles. Now
largely displaced by the vinyl solution.
gleam in the eye.
That which generally denotes a glimmer of intelligence. Sadly, it often turns
out to be no more than a bovine glaze.
medieval war game, played on what is now the border between Germany and the Netherlands. The aim of the game (spiel)
was to place three paint marks (glocken)
on your opponent, by fair means or foul. Foul means usually predominated, and
this was an effective check on population growth in an otherwise healthy,
fertile and disease-free area.
glow worm. An
obligate thrower of light in dark places. When you gotta glow, you gotta glow.
A composer who struggled long and hard over his work. His wife tells us in her
memoirs of the many times he stumbled home, worn out after a hard day at his
gnomon. 1. A
small and wizened Scotsman, according to Burns. 2. A person who is in Ireland,
according to John Donne.
gnus. 1. One of
the animals included in the ark's manifest list, apparently over strong
objections from Noah's sons about their likely behaviour. It seems that Noah
over-ruled his sons because he claimed that Noah's gnus was good gnus. 2. A
class of water-craft, used to shoot the rabids.
bird which was, for good and valid reasons, little discussed in print in the
early 18th century.
Gödel. A sash
worn by a Lutheran pastor. A ‘Kurt Gödel’ is an incomplete form of the same
style of sash. There is also a form which has the ends joined in a twisted Möbius
form, known as the Vienna Circle. (This is a Wiener Köchel in German. Most of the designs feature excerpts from
the scores of musical works by Mozart, and have been numbered to prevent
confusion.) Note: in several of the words used in this entry, there are two
dots over the letter o. This was a ploy used by the twisted genius Johann
Möbius to confuse pedants who wanted only to dot their i's and cross their t's.
gold. A precious
metal, often used in high-powered computers which have been designed to operate
on the principles of bullion logic.
The proposal that 2 + 2 = 5, for sufficiently large values of 2. This is a
prime example of how odd mathematicians can be when they try to get even with
golden fleece. An
item sought by Jason during a long search in which he met many people. Among
these was Medea (the subject of the traditional song, ‘Have some Madeira,
Medea’). The journey also gave rise to the popular saying ‘when I hear the word
Colchis, I reach for my Hun’.
golf. A game
which involves striking a sitting ball, which may explain why it is mainly
played by Americans and Japanese.
gorilla. Not to
be confused with a friar, which
requires entirely different cookery methods.
German phrase closely equivalent to the English expression 'God damn it', but
with a few extra overtones. It has been applied to one of Wagner's 'Ring
Cycle', based on the possibly apocryphal story that a maid took Wagner's
newly-completed score of the last part of the cycle, and used it to set a fire,
so that he had to re-write it from scratch. See Sieglinde Society.
goulash. The end
product from the total combustion of a ghoul, preferably a mature one, as there
is no ghoul like an old ghoul. Any ghoul which survives this treatment should
be taken to a wise woman, and given over to her as her own property in
perpetuity. She then needs to be given enough time to heal her ghouls.
non-existent town, fabled to lie on the road between Sydney and Canberra. Goulburn
was the product of an unknown diseased mind, seeking to frighten small children
and trainee town planners with tales of Gothic horror. One has only to read the
extant descriptions of Goulburn to realise that it could not possibly exist,
but a whole satirical literature on ‘Goulburn’ has sprung up, featuring such
grotesque inventions as ‘the Big Merino’. Joke shops around Australia carry
ranges of ‘Goulburn souvenirs’, and most tourist guides feature a
straight-faced entry on the town.
art of persuading a majority that they are jointly in receipt of an equal or
beneficial share of a majority of the national revenues.
graben. A horst
of a different colour. As a general rule, it is not a good idea to jump over a
Spanish phrase meaning 'fundamentally green'. See Déjeuner sur l'herbe.
not to be taken for.
scientific instrument used to assess the specific gravity of gravy in large
small stringed musical instrument, rarely used to play light music , but
commonly used in masses.
way of telling us to keep our feet on the ground.
status accorded to dead nonconformists, or to living upholders of the existing
order, provided they are not too much
greater than those doing the according.
green. A term of
expense, rather like ergonomic or organic. Anything which can conceivably
be called green costs at least 50% more than other similar items.
green movement. 1.
People who believe in leaving geraniums in the ground. 2. Something rather
unthinkable concerning vegans'
bowels, into which we shall not go.
grey mass. A
cross between a Black Mass and the ordinary mass, this requires a great deal of
compromise, ingenuity and dexterity, but never more so than in the challenging
requirement to recite the Lord's Prayer sideways.
grey nurse. A
nurse of a different colour.
gross. See gross ignorance.
gross ignorance. 1.
an aeroplane carrying 144 footballers. 2. a lack of knowledge of the meaning of
ground bass. 1. Minced
fish. Note: the scales of a tuna may sometimes be added, but the effect can be
staved off by the judicious use of a clef stick. 2. An instruction given to
members of the rhythm sections of military marching string orchestras when they
are on parade. Easy to carry out with this instrument, but less so with the harpoon.
ground water. Rather
similar to crushed ice, only warmer, and produced in a water mill.
Nepalese person who is much addicted to giving people kukri classes.
The inventor of a bicycle at the start of the Renaissance. Gutenberg wanted to
invent the printing of books, but was thwarted by bureaucrats who said that he
should do no such thing until there was a Dewey classification system, an approved
and ratified European standard for book cases, and until there was an
appropriate style manual. Realising that this would be a book itself, Gutenberg
invented the bicycle instead, revolutionising Europe by extending people's
normal social circles from ten kilometres to about fifty kilometres.
The son of the preceding, he invented the manuscript reproducing machine that
we still use today. His father's bicycle so stimulated a demand for learning
that the son was able to store popular works on punched leather cards which
guided a writing machine. The main differences from modern machines include the
linking of the ‘cards’ by a gut thread, the use of water power, and only using
six quills in tandem. Nonetheless, Gutenberg's primitive polyscriber was the
start of today's Age of Information.
To be continued
Look for the link ‘Alternative dictionary’
just below this. Click on it to find the rest
of the collection.
equity. A level
of stock or property holding. Originally, the amount involved had to be
sufficient to allow one to maintain a horse in accoutrements and fodder, but
now it can refer to any amount at all, since economists have established that
nobody can actually afford a car.
portmanteau word, created by merging ergot
(a fungus which causes hideous madness) and economics,
it is intended to convey the notion of the economics of madness. In general
practice, the term has dropped from use, as no sane person could distinguish between
ergonomics and economics. It is now mainly used to refer to extremely expensive
furniture which one would have to be mad to want to pay for.
related term to ergonomics, which
now is usually taken to mean ‘the price just doubled’.
a form of pornography, but not prosecuted as such as it is all too technical to
either understand or enjoy.
produced by scratching.
ether. Early this
century, radio waves used to travel through the ether. The ether has since been
shown not to exist, which is why you can no longer hear old radio programs.
ethical. There is
a considerable body of evidence to support the view that this is fast becoming
synonymous with mythical.
A highly successful demonstration of the inherent dirtiness of war.
study of how diseases are spread by the things people eat, as in the case of
kuru, the ‘laughing sickness’ of New Guinea, said to be contracted from the
ritual eating of the brains of earlier victims of the disease. The alleged link
between this disease and Julius Caesar's dying words seems to have no basis in
fact, as Brutus was still alive when Julius died.
name given to the people who were later replaced by the ancient Romans, so
called because they ate rural foods. They are also called Etruscans, and their
relics are still to be found in many parts of Italy. A complete suit of armour,
once the property of Lars Porsena, was found recently near Rome, and a wax
tablet containing rental details, found in a pocket, seemed at first to
indicate that the armour was not his personal possession. As the tablet has now
been shown to refer to a chariot rental, we can now safely assert that the suit
of armour was Lars' but not leased.
events, thoughts and notions which, while bringing pleasure to others, are
unable to be shared or controlled by the ruling hierarchy of the day.
evil eye. A
terminally boring egotist.
process of gathering the information to establish what is already known by
everybody, or known to be wanted by senior management, or wanted to be known by
the more productive members of staff.
which Creationists say never happened to them. By a happy coincidence, this is
the one point on which evolutionists can agree with the creationists, leading
some radical evolutionists to suggest that the two may in fact be just one
species, although both sides seem to hope not.
collapsed portion of a bridge or other structure, a romantic ruin.
excise. A verb
meaning to cut it out, a meaning which is rigorously applied at a country's
borders. They seize what they can, and tax what they can't. See customs duty.
execution. A hard
axe to follow.
executive toy. Any
toy which can be sold for so high a price that nobody in their right mind would
risk letting children play with it.
act of taking a leaf from somebody's book.
is a great deal of uncertainty about whether or not this exists.
point of view which could be discussed in more detail if there were any
evidence for its reality. In the absence of this evidence, it is commonly
discussed by people with no concern for reality.
ex libris. No
longer free. Said of books which have been placed in a library, referring to
the old pre-Gutenberg habit of chaining books to library shelves.
comparative study of the external genitalia of crinoids for the purposes of
better identification. See endocrinology.
The method actually works better on cave-spiders.
smallest known unit of smut. Materials stored in electronic form must now be
assessed in terms of their smut content, and anything exceeding three exons is
required by law to carry a warning sticker. The fact that stickers do not
attach very well to bytes is yet to be reckoned with, although lawyers who
understand such things say it is just a matter of using bigger chips with a
greater bandwidth, so long as they can find a way of making the wider band stay
on the chip.
expansion of the
universe. While many cosmologists consider that the universe is expanding,
others say that it is just a simple matter of the days getting shorter as
cosmic winter approaches, so that the distances seem further. The universe is
shortly, they add, to be wrapped in a large scarf which will keep it warm until
spring. A small subgroup suggest that it is a giant rubber band, rather than a
scarf, but the big band theory is generally in disrepute these days.
longer able to walk.
act of walking up into hills or mountains. This commonly gives the explainer an
A phrase made popular in the aftermath of the Watergate affair, when many of
the ‘players’ preferred to be obscene and not heard.
ex post facto. 1.
Poles produced under conditions of mass production. 2. Lost mail.
expunge. The act
of removing the holes from an object, making it less porous than before.
extinction. As a
general rule, demeaning of life.
release, as from a snare or pitfall.
extreme. A former
rivulet. When the Henley-on-Todd regatta of Alice Springs is held at a new
venue, this is going from one extreme to another.
factory farming. One
of the bright hopes of genetic engineering is that we will be able to develop
plants and animals which can ‘grow’ the components we need in industry. For
example, the transistor effect can now be detected in about 20% of all carrots
grown for the market. It remains intermittent and unpredictable, but this knowledge
may help to account for certain otherwise inexplicable observations. Clever people say the carrots are lying low.
facts. All of
those observations, data and opinions which support the case I am making, and
The only temperature scale based on the average rectal temperature of five
cockerels (fahren is cockerel in Old
High German, and heit meaning ‘heat’)
under different conditions. A secondary set of standards has now been applied,
and this accounts for the odd numbers found in the Fahrenheit scale today.
fairy. A pejorative
term used to denote a homosexual, popular with Rugby players who are generally rabidly homophobic. They are
particularly nervous about oriental homosexuals, arguing that there is no need
for fairy Asians on the team.
fairy chess. Nothing
at all to do with fairies in any sense, but a form of chess in which there are usually
several different boards operating at the same time, and pieces which move on
one board are usually transferred to one of the other boards, generally without
warning, and according to complex rules. According to some experienced
observers, rather like ecclesiastical preferment, but more sporting.
faith healer. A
person who, while totally devoid of any healing powers, compensates for this
with a highly-developed faith in the gullibility of a large portion of the
human population. This faith is usually handsomely repaid.
fame. Similar to
infamy, except that the subject in question is able to convince a simple
majority of the public, no matter how narrow, of their good intentions, no
matter how insincere.
Famish. A small
and emaciated tribe living in the Horn of Africa. Their main fear in life was
high winds, until a recent UNHNR airlift of beans into the area.
force-ventilated upper-storey room.
One of the basic assumptions made at the Royal Institution during the 19th
century. Luckily for them, they were right, although he did begin to slow down
a bit, towards the end.
transform. A computing term, referring to a standard graphics/artificial
intelligence challenge, involving the conversion of a GIF file of Baron Jean
Baptiste Joseph Fourier into a word processing file which contains a
significant proportion of real words. Originally conceived as a ‘thought
experiment’, this has led to significant developments in the understanding of
theoretical evolution, and experiments are now being carried out on an infinite
number of GIF files of monkeys, with a view to finding some of the lost plays
after les fauves, literally ‘the wild
beasts’, a group of artists who named themselves after Matisse's hairy
overcoat, or so it is claimed. It is wild stories like this that bring the art
of art criticism into disrepute. The truth of the matter is that van Gogh's
ear, having been badly preserved, began to grow a fungus in about 1905, and it
was this which gave fauvisme its name and its start.
fecund. When you
consult another gynaecologist, this is usually referred to, at least
technically, as a fecund opinion.
people get when they swim at a beach near a sewer outfall.
entrepreneur who lacked the wit to secure the services of a sufficiently
fen. An extremely
wet area, as exemplified by the proverb ‘the fen is muddier than the sward’.
fencing. The art
of fighting with swords, usually with ‘buttons’ placed on the sword tips to
prevent injury. The movement known as the parry comes in four forms, from high
to low, while lunges are only found in two forms: the type one lunge, which is
high, and the type two lunge, which is low. There is no such thing as a three
festina lente. When the Mardi Gras celebration is not enough,
some people lacking a religious commitment and wanting to kick on, may utter this cry, meaning by it
‘Let's get rotten during Lent’.
fete. A means of
raising money for a charitable cause, often by selling people's junk back to
them. These are usually painful experiences for the people who visit them, and
may often be classed as a fete worse than debt.
fetish. 1. In New
Zealand, tending to be plump. 2. A small rough vegetable. There is no truth in
the legend that it emits an agonising shriek when it is pulled from the ground,
although it is rather inclined to groan.
technical term used to describe a white lie, or tall story. Excessive
leg-pulling often leads to a broken fibula.
fickle. Used to
describe undesired changes made by a third party.
opposite of fact. In fiction, the meek inherit the earth, the good flourish,
and the bad live unhappily ever after.
The act of digging up old fields to see what is buried underneath. In many
respects, hard to distinguish from farming, except in the sizes of the words
field theory. Any
set of beliefs in physics developed from intuition, from the famous statement
by Oswald Einbahnstrasse, who said ‘I field it in my bones’.
figure and ground.
A Zen-like approach to linguistic analysis, which involves asking impossible
questions like ‘What English word both begins and ends in 'he'?’ or ‘What
English word has 'adac' in the middle?’. It is wise to avoid this sort of
linguistic conundrum, as it will only end up giving you a headache.
file server. A
clerical employee of low status in the public service.
filial respect. See
Thomson, G. P.
film studio. A
place where films are made, but also part of a massive operation, involving
many things other than the actual making of films. Perhaps the most serious
problem for any studio is feeding the actors, since their morale depends on
this. If the players start to worry about their food, a severe bout of cast
ration anxiety can be set off.
fin de siècle. A
form of shark harvesting used in the French-speaking Moto-Moto Islands of the
Central Pacific. Only the fin is harvested, for sale to Chinese traders. The
hunters cruise close behind the sharks and cut off the dorsal fin with a sickle
(siècle), allowing the startled
sharks (in theory) to escape and grow another fin for later harvesting. In
reality, the sharks perish, so the practice will die out by the end of the
fire damp. Otherwise
known as methane. While it is common in coal mines, many authorities assert
that it is harder to smell in some mines than in others. In reality, it is only
the small mines which are quite variable, while great mines stink alike.
firm. The first
person form of the irregular verb conjugated thusly: ‘I am firm, you are
stubborn, he is a pig-headed fool . . .’ The fact that so many commercial
businesses are called ‘firms’ is not without significance.
complicated social support and income maintenance plan for people who catch or
grow bait species. See rational
economics. While it is occasionally confused with nuclear fission, fishing
is a great deal more socially useful, and provides the anglers with an adequate
excuse to drink during daylight.
fish wife. A
person who knows her plaice.
person in the habit of striking his (or her) body with flags. This is more
severe than may appear to be the case, since the ‘flags’ referred to here are
actually flag stones.
small pennant, suitable for attaching to a musical instrument, and for this
reason, often used to refer to the decorated instrument itself. People do not
normally beat themselves with flageolets, as these instruments are easily bent.
Flagellants are also easily bent, but this does not seem to worry them.
drunken but impassioned speech in favour of maintaining the present Australian
flat rate. A
schedule of charges displayed in a tyre repair establishment.
result of excessive rolling of a damp wicket.
float tank. A
A procedure commonly used in gaining promotion in a bureaucracy. The aim is to
create as much stir as possible, while doing as little as possible, since
stirring a stagnant pool always causes the scum to rise to the top.
flower power. Art
depicting Australian trees and plants, particularly gums, as featured in the
paintings of Hans Hyacinth.
Fluke, Benjamin. The
American inventor of what we know today as the anchor fluke, he has been almost forgotten in this context, due to
his championing of Henry David Thoreau, since without Fluke's support,
Thoreau's work would never have been published. This story has been told so
often, usually under the trite heading ‘Literary Fluke’, that we would have to
concede that his name lives on today, more in Thoreau than in anchors.
In Medieval times, the money to build the great Gothic cathedrals of Europe was
raised by street fairs and other activities. A popular money-raising activity
involved a group of monks, disguised as nanny-goats (‘buttresses’) performing
on a trapeze slung on the outer walls of the incomplete building. From this,
the stone outer supports came to carry the name of the performers who had
raised the money to build them.
flying shuttle. A
failed form of heavier-than-air machine. The name of which owes more to wishful
thinking and hope springing eternal, but the shuttle never sprang at all: it
just loomed and fell away.
flywire. Used in
doors and windows to keep flies and other insects out of the house, a clear-cut
example of gauze and effect.
folk art. Anything
which would not sell under a more pretentious name. Or under a less pretentious
name, for that matter.
food chain. 1. A
group of retail stores, either under the same ownership or owned under
franchises, all selling similar and allegedly edible products. The stores are
uniform, the owners uniformly boring, especially at breakfast, when they insist
on reading all of the packets aloud. 2. A set of interlinked donuts created by
extruding the dough from a Klein bottle's mouth.
To be continued
Look for the link ‘Alternative dictionary’
just below this. Click on it to find the rest
of the collection.
Diesel Irae. A
work by John Cage, in the form of a
tone poem which tells the story of a transcontinental (USA) race between
seventy three large trucks, but rarely performed as the work is intended to be
a ‘real time’ piece, and players and audience alike usually succumb to exhaust
fumes after about the eighth hour. Cage also wrote an abbreviated chamber piece
from the same score for three motor scooters racing across a football field.
device used by orators wishing to sound technical. At night, all differentials
are grey, according to the well-tested differential equation.
calculus. The small pebbles and gravel which, when placed in a
differential, serve to quieten temporarily the fatal noises being made by that
part of a used car which is being
offered for sale.
digital. The name
applied to any electronic device which does, usually at great expense,
something that used to be done by hand. See manual.
digital model. A
remarkably well-dressed finger puppet.
compass. Most Boy Scouts learn how to tell north from the sun, using an
analogue watch, but this can also be done with a digital watch. Stand still,
whirl the watch around your head, and let it go. If you hear a tinkle, your
watch has gone west. Face that way, turn 90oto the right, and you will be facing north.
With the change from foolscap to A4 paper some years ago, taxation returns are
now smaller than they used to be. Watchful tax officials realised that this
caused the print to be smaller, which seemed useful to them. Each year, the
taxation return diminishes a little more.
Ding an sich. An
American term used colloquially to describe seriously uncontrolled tintinnabulation.
variety of knife offered to customers in cheap steakhouses.
diode. A clever
piece of poetry, generally short, which can be read, word by word, in either
direction, having a clear meaning in each case. If the lines rhyme in both
directions, it is generally referred to as a diverse.
art of saying one thing and meaning another, from the Greek diplos, ‘double’. The ideal result is
that you let somebody else have your way.
diptych. A Welsh
mining device, used to measure the dip of strata in coal-mining districts. The
pronunciation is impossible, but the effects are remarkably useful, so it is
usually called a ‘Welsh stick’.
a Greek funeral barge, from which has stemmed the modern and mistaken belief
that the term has to do with music of a funereal nature.
term use to describe the outlook of somebody with a good sense of humus.
applied on the grounds of choler or greed.
act of bag-snatching.
distaff. The act
of making somebody redundant.
djinn. A spirit,
normally kept in a bottle.
doctor. 1. A
professional who buries his mistakes, and who usually does not have a doctoral
degree. 2. Any other professional person who takes money for looking at sick
things, and whose professional body has decided that they may call themselves
doctor, e.g., a dentist or a
veterinary surgeon. It can only be a matter of time before lawyers decide to
style themselves ‘Doctor’, since their clients are usually left looking ill
after the final accounting. See also surgeon.
Lutwidge. The pen-name under which Lewis Carroll wrote mathematics, being
too embarrassed, as a successful writer, to admit that he was also engaged in
such frivolous pursuits as symbolic logic.
doggerel.Poetry written by an enemy.
dog Latin. The
term used to describe such phrases as cave
fast moving people. They travel so fast that their Doppler shifts ride up,
exposing their nether regions. This usually rouses sufficient ire in the person
suffering this indignity to cause it to be beside itself.
dot matrix printer.
An electrically powered computer peripheral, originally designed as a
paper-shredder. While it is sometimes a failure in that role, it has since
found a variety of other uses.
experiment. A study wherein neither the experimenter nor the experimentee
knows what is happening. This of course presupposes rather foolishly that it is
otherwise in other kinds of experiments.
double negative. Not
unusual, according to unusually unreliable sources.
dowse. In the
early 18th century, criminals used this word when they meant to take down, in the sense of taking
down a pendant. Present-day water dowsers use the word with the same meaning
study of music performed on strumpets.
adult male who dresses in female clothing. These people often engage in drag
races with each other, but we decline to say anything at all about drag strips,
not knowing what tender hands this book may fall into.
Drake, Sir Francis.
It is little-known that he was actually playing cricket when the Spanish Armada
was sighted. He was in the middle of a fiendishly contrived pun about the
Spaniel Armada and sea-dogs, when the female bowler let fly, and Drake was
bowled for a duck. This information was suppressed at the time, as women were
forbidden to play cricket, and it seemed to imply a dangerous precedent. The
bowler completed a maiden ova.
drogue. A device
like a parachute, often used to slow vessels at sea, or drag-racing cars. With
the introduction of new and colourful synthetic materials, many drogues are now
colourful and artistic, and may be exhibited in the Drogues Gallery, recently
established at Coolangatta. Green groups, concerned at the damage caused to
dolphins by the marine use of drogues to slow super-tankers, have mounted a
strong ‘say no to drogues’ campaign.
carnivorous Australian marsupial which kills its prey by dropping on them from
gum trees as they pass beneath. The last urban population died of food
poisoning in the 1980s, after attacking and eating a Disney film crew who were
filming them. At least we have the comfort of knowing they did not die in vain.
drove. A 19th
century sailing vessel, used to transport emigrants to America and Australia. Most
of the Scots and Irish who departed Europe at that time left in droves. Sadly,
Disney film crews only seem to arrive in such vessels, and never to leave.
addictive substance which cannot be taxed. See boon.
dry rot. Any of
the written works of F. R. Leavis.
duck. A bird
which usually flies right-way-up. If it flies upside-down, it will soon begin
to quack up.
ducking stool. Generally
thought today only to have been used for common scolds and disorderly women. If
people had only realised that it was also common to use the ducking stool on
dishonest tradesmen, it would not have fallen out of use in the 18th century.
ceramic shelter devices used to keep the water off ducks which have lost their
normal water-proofing due to pollution. These objects are placed strategically
near polluted water for the ducks to use when rain begins.
dum spiro spero. A Latin phrase meaning ‘while there's life,
there's hope’. The literal translation is ‘while I breathe, I will keep on
spearing’. This may be taken in more than one way.
dyke. A Scots
word, which can mean either a wall or a ditch. The word was passed into the
English language by the Scots as a partial revenge for Culloden, explaining why
the English have a predilection for hahas.
problem which can warn at any time without striking.
that the meek are due to inherit, which is fine by the rest of us, as we will
be moving to the upgrade at about that time.
ear to the ground.
The position normally adopted by a dead wombat or a drunken journalist. Unaccountably
held to be an honourable position for at least one of these.
early to bed, early
to rise. Not necessarily a good precept to follow, especially if you are a
worm. It is better to wait until the early bird has caught somebody else.
rarely worn in Australia, the earwig has been of great use to our Antarctic
research scientists, helping to ward off frostbite. The Australian earwig is
generally made from decrimped and scarified Merino wool.
The reverse of rational economics.
subject which is very easy to set examination papers for, rather like mathematics, except that in economics,
you keep the same questions from year to year, but you change the answers. Economics
has the special value that you can blame anything at all on it, and nobody is
going to be able to contradict you, though they will.
economies of scale.
Budget-priced mountain-climbing holidays.
student of a dismal and gloomy science. Economics is generally favoured by
those lacking the practical skills and charisma needed to be a good accountant.
electronic device for measuring the depth of the sea, relying on bouncing
signals off the ocean floor.
this has been known to happen in schools in historic times, many observers
believe that this is of no greater causal significance than people in schools
being attacked by escaped lions, an event which is approximately as common.
eggplant. A food
that looks, tastes, smells, feels and sounds nothing like an egg or a plant,
but which has certain resemblances to both in its aura.
egotism. 1. All
my I. 2. A case of mistaken nonentity.
term used in the German movie industry in the 1920s and 1930s, when money was
in short supply, so that any given production could only afford to have one
star. It was later found that this created more problems than it solved,
especially after the start of the ‘talkies’, when the plot required dialogue.
older of a pair of ostriches.
electric field. A
paddock in which solar or wind generators have been set up.
permittivity. Licensing requirements applied to a wide range of appliances
of a certain kind which cannot be set down here, although this should not be
confused with electrical permissivity, which involves the use of certain
intimate objects which are electrically powered. They also will not be set down
which flows out of power points at night, unless something has been carefully
plugged into the point, subtly preventing a massive increase in a household's electricity charges.
Clear evidence of the deviousness of the suppliers and the supineness of the
consumers. Electricity supplies are actually provided as alternating current,
so the electrons do not really go anywhere: they simply slosh back and forth,
while the consumer pays for the same electrons, time and again, and often in
electoral roll. An
intricate acrobatic manoeuvre, performed by politicians who have won
government, in order to escape from the promises that they made while seeking
acolyte who gets a charge out of life.
electron gun. A
small but lethal device, used to fire electron shells at the enemy. Every
cathode ray tube contains at least one electron gun, and this probably helps to
explain the emphasis on violence found in television today.
A precision-engineered device which is made from a single very small electron.
main observations from any time and motion study on electricians who are on
euphemism employed by those engaged in genocidal activities. Curiously, even
people such as these will show occasional signs of mercy. In Beijing, while the
tank drivers were showing students how to play squash, several mendicants in
Tiananmen Square were carefully removed, on the ground that beggars can't be
Empire of the Sun.
Film about a boy's experiences in China under the Japanese. Each time he sees
planes, a theme is played, apparently on violins. In fact, each instrument was
an over-tightened cello, the first appearance on celluloid of those famous
Australian musical instruments, aeroplane celli.
art of using flaming emus in a manner similar to the way in which fireships
were used in the age of sail. This works quite well on land, but less well on
study of the digestive and other internal systems of crinoids. This is a task
that varies from the messy to the disgusting, but a necessary one, if these
animals are to be correctly identified, although exocrinology offers some prospects of success as an alternative.
end of the world.
While people would generally claim not to know what this will look like, they
are generally very good at recognising counter-examples, hence the common
expression ‘it's not the end of the world, you know!’.
lesser-known machine of Dr Joseph Ignace Guillotin, designed to painlessly
snuff out the lives of very young aristocrats, just after their parents had
been decapitated on his more famous device.
enema. A means of
clearing access. One of the more efficacious alternatives is to sit naked on a
pile of freshly-cut fern shoots. Horsehair fern is better than bracken, as
there is a small risk of injury with bracken: there are several cases reported
of people being wounded on the other fern. Further, bracken has a definite
aphrodisiac effect, so that some who escape injury are wanton on the other fern,
which can bracken their reputation.
enemy. The plural
of enema, at least in effect.
After the British discovered that German intelligence was using a musical code to encipher their
despatches, they had Sir Edward Elgar write this piece of music. It was while
attempting to decode this piece, which they believed to be the British order of
battle, that the Germans developed the Enigma machine.
ennui. Henri III
of France suffered from terminal boredom for most of his life, while his courtiers
were kept constantly amused by his speech impediments. It was during this
period that this term was first used to denote Henri's form of ‘ennui’, and it
apparently stems from one of his impediments. Sadly, Henri III died just before
his funeral, which was such a comedy of errors that most contemporary sources
feel that even he would have been amused.
word derived from ‘enter-’ meaning ‘in’ and ‘-prise’, meaning ‘take’. Those
taken in generally include both customers and staff (see next entry).
bargaining. A process by which an enterprise finds itself a bargain.
entropy. The rule
which says that selectively applied pesticides and poisons will be liberally
spread right across the environment, no matter how carefully and selectively
they are applied.
wheeled vehicle with five or more wheels, all in contact with the ground, and
driven by pedals.
Memorial to Epimenides in Athens.
philosopher from Crete who claimed that all Cretans are liars. All the lies
told about him are true. His main concern in life was to do something about the
appallingly polluted state of the rivers in Crete, as Heraclitus had been
trying to bathe in any one of them twice. Epimenides took the leadership in a
movement called the Cretans' clear water revival.
person skilled in operating an episcope, a device used for examining some of
the darker aspects of human nature.
close study of invertebrates, commonly insects, which live on the epistems of
plants, that is, on the stems and leaf bases.
epithet. An iron
object, hurled by athletes in much the same manner as the hammer, but with the
added interest that its shape is modelled on the boomerang, and it has razor
sharp edges. The epithet has to be released very carefully, and watched even
more carefully once it is in flight. As a spectator sport, epithet hurling
often leaves a lasting impression.
curious cause of unidirectional desire, insofar as we always wish equality with
our superiors, and not with our inferiors.
cross between a cow and a horse is an early example of genetic engineering.
To be continued
Look for the link ‘Alternative dictionary’
just below this. Click on it to find the rest
of the collection.
cosmic surgery. Similar
to cosmetic surgery, but on a more heroic scale, and even more profitable.
cotton gin. A
beverage used to make high fibre cocktails.
couloir. A French
device for keeping wine cool during picnics. The couloir can also be used to carry
hors d'oeuvres, but the hors must,
of course, be of a different couloir.
Originally a piece of satirical verse, aimed at the clergy, but also used to
describe works such as ‘The Charge of the Light Brigade’. It was later applied
by misattribution to the work of a group of writers who were opposed to war in
coup de grace. A
sweeping cut which leaves one the Victa.
conventionally accepted excuse for the actions under danger of those entirely
lacking in imagination. See conscience.
cowrie. A high
resting point, generally with a wide view, where Andorran cattle chew the cud.
Crab nebula. One
of the high points of Cajun cookery, this consists of mud crab meat, bleached
and steamed, laid out on a bed of mashed potato and finely chopped white onion.
credit. See debt.
in structure to the brain of a lexicographer.
continuation of business by other means.
Crimean War. This
war is often dismissed as the least useful of all wars. In fact, it was this
war which gave the world the first edible condom, the Baklava helmet. This fact has been lost from sight mainly because
Queen Victoria asked what it was, and a quick-thinking courtier avoided
embarrassment by telling her it was a Balalaika helmet. This was an entirely
different device, used to fend off the music played by the Russian troops,
night and day. After that time, the Balalaika helmet was always called a
Balaclava. The Baklava helmet was quietly forgotten.
criminal lawyer. A
cripple. A person
with an injury or deformity which can successfully be patronised.
critic. 1. A
person who pans for money. 2. An insect which burrows in dirt or dung, and
makes a very loud noise. While some may argue that this is a ‘cricket’, a critic
is not cricket at all.
regarded by outsiders as one of the origins of cricket, croquet is in reality
part of the Zen school of martial arts, combining as it does the ruthlessness
of germ warfare with the cerebration of fairy
cross. Over the
centuries, philologists have wondered why such an inappropriately named object
should be the symbol of the Christian church. A minority complain that this
should be recognised as one of the great unanswered
cross my palm with silver.
A demand made in the past by Gipsy fortune tellers as a precursor to an act of
fortune telling. In Romany circles, it is generally considered inadvisable to
make this demand of the Lone Ranger.
cross reference. See
cross section. Usually,
that part of the audience in a theatre who are so placed as to miss some
important part of the action.
fossil fish whose eyes appear to have been permanently crossed. This has long
been a source of confusion to taphonomists.
crow. A black
bird which is correctly called a raven in Australia. These birds are
territorial, and will make their calls at other birds of the same species,
which invariably fail to react to these calls. In fact, detailed studies have
been unable to instance any case of caws and effect in this set of
crows, stone the.
An Australian expression of annoyance, suggesting a pointless act, since crows
are well able to avoid rocks thrown in their direction. Terns, on the other hand, are less able to dodge the rocks thrown
at them, and any persistent person can usually succeed in leaving no tern
‘capable of being crossed’, a crucible is normally small.
crystal. A source
of cosmic power to those New Agers who have learned how to sell
them to more gullible New Agers. Beginners in New Aging should note that green
crystals are best avoided, as their auras are not yet ripe.
cuadrilla. The five assistants of a bull-fighter. The word is
derived from the old Spanish word for ‘four’, but the men of the cuadrilla have never noticed this, and
as they cannot count above four, they remain unalarmed when one of their number
is maimed or killed, although two deaths will usually lead to dismay and panic.
cui bono. 1. A forensic pathologist, often called in to
investigate murder scenes. (From the Latin for ‘whose bones?’.) 2. In
palaeontology, a vertebra from the thoracic region of a large quadruped,
playing the same role as a keystone in an arch. It should be noted that these
two competing meanings have caused a great deal of confusion in the past, but
not usually at the same time.
cul de sac. A form of coal delivery, little used in Australia,
but popular in Paris: the alternative is a
The means by which the uncultured show just how revolting they are. See Savonarola, elimination.
culture vulture. A
person who can listen to the entire William
Tell Overture without thinking of the Lone Ranger. See also vulture. In passing, William Tell was
extremely fast as a runner, and in the Tyrol, whenever somebody is praised for
running fast, they will say, self-deprecatingly, ‘If you think I'm fast, time
Will Tell!’. Herbert von Carrion was a well-known culture vulture in his time.
Cupid. The God of
Love. Strictly, the name should be Eros, but this was changed in 1929, as
song-writers of the Depression era could find no convincing rhymes for that
name. The decision was officially backdated, leading to the widely held belief
that the name is actually much more ancient. It is unlikely that the name will
ever revert, as the International Rules of Pantheistic Nomenclature (Prague,
1934) preclude such a move, even when it is justified.
emotion is said to have once killed a cat. If this claim is true, it offers
clear evidence that there is a continuing serious need for curiosity in the
current bedding. 1.
Sleeping with a Sultana. 2. A leaky waterbed 3. An electric blanket. 4. One's
small circular course, around which horses were required to run. The modern
curriculum is also open to asses, both as competitors and in an officiating
capacity, but remains in most other respects, true to the original definition.
cursor. Part of a
computer. A small blinking indicator to tell you where on the screen you will
find the fault that is causing you to use language such as a polite person like
yourself should not know.
customs duty. A
device for ensuring that as few foreign customs as possible gain access to our
fair nation. See excise.
cutlery. In times
gone by, knives, forks and spoons have been used in lieu of money in some
circumstances. This practice is now being vigorously stamped out by the
government. While some say this is because the government could not easily get
people to fork out with its cut, others just say that the old and new policies
are as like as forks and fees.
atom smashing machine, invented by E. O. Lawrence after he read (and
disastrously mistranslated) a German research report. Those arguing for better
foreign language education would do well to recall that with a better grounding
in German, Lawrence would not have succeeded, and the advance of physics would
have been held up by many years.
cynic. A person
whose only reason for not looking a gift horse in the mouth is that the prices
paid at the knacker's yard are common knowledge.
decorated lower part of the wall of a room. Decorators need to be very careful
to distinguish between a dado and a dodo.
form of photography deriving its name from its intended use in warfare.
Dame aux Camellias, La. A thrilling autobiographical tale of
the travels of a lone woman (calling herself ‘Georges Sand’) with ten camels
across the Sahara Desert in the nineteenth century. It was later adapted as a Busby Berkeley musical extravaganza, in
which the most memorable production number was the finale, ‘The Camels are Coming’.
fairly drastic form of population control used by the Anglo-Saxons against the
Dark Ages. An era
dominated by knights.
dark horse. Not
to be confused with a horse of a different colour, since that would be a red
herring, which is a different kettle of fish. A dark horse is in fact a horse
disguised as a black cat, though this is seldom successful. In most cases, the
horse will neigh through the pose.
dark matter. Contrary
to popular belief, nothing at all to do with the Black Mass. The dark matter of
the universe is generally believed to be missing, but see friction for its whereabouts. An alternative explanation says that
the missing dark matter is tied up in time tunnels being used by sensitive time
travellers to by-pass the present era, and that it will turn up again in the
future. Another theory says that it is to be found in the tortoises on which
the Earth rests, but the carefully written proof of this theory was eaten by a
tortoise, proving that it is probably true.
davit. A device
for lowering boats into the water. The boats are not raised by this device,
however, as this is best done with an affidavit.
death. We are all
prone to die, but it should not be taken lying down. Benjamin Franklin asserted
that only death and taxis are inevitable, which suggests that he was never out
and about on a rainy Friday evening in winter. On the other hand, Benjamin
Franklin is undeniably dead.
death wish. A
natural response on the part of a music lover putting a new CD of a Beethoven
symphony in the player, only to discover that it is really Shostakovich
surgically remove the bile duct. As this is usually closely attached to and
surrounded by a variety of vital organs, the overall effect is generally
declinable noun, not on the usual basis of case, but on account of class. The
lower orders have debt, their social betters have a line of credit, which feels
and sounds much better in polite company. The actual debt, however, can only
rarely be declined.
de Broglie wave
length. The wave length that would be characteristic of a wave equivalent
to the mass of Prince Louis de Broglie. In recent times, it has grown much
Debussy. A French
composer for orchestra and piano, generally not given due credit for his finest
piece of work, Kitten on the Keys,
which he used to perform as a duo with Darius Meow, giving them both great
pleasure, as neither of them was remotely interested in contrapuntalism.
from the name of Alexander Graham Bell, a unit of sound intensity. One decibel
is one tenth of the noise your portable phone makes when it goes off during a
quiet interlude in a concerto.
true statement, but made about somebody who is better connected than the person
general, something to do with windows and oftens. The defenestration of Prague
was a particularly useful example, except that the defenestree landed in a dung
cart. He was later mildly wounded when a peasant jabbed him in the buttocks
with a dung-covered pitch fork, a case of forking dung in cheek.
Déjeuner sur l'herbe. A famous painting depicting the original
form of the now popular phrase, ‘green and bare it’. See also gracias.
delegate. As a
verb, the act of surgically removing one leg during the rites of passage of
young people in sesquipedalian
a township in Attica (Greece). Since then, there have been many variations on
the deme. In Greece, the sesquipedalian
demes were the source of the first hoplites.
demon. A spirit
which is said, in myth and fable, to be able to take control of a person's body
and mind. While demons may also have certain other powers, these may be safely
ignored, since possession is nine points of the lore. We note in passing that sesquipedalian demons have one joint
off the paw.
characteristic property of much of the writing of literary critics, but also a
characteristic of all natural substances. The densest known natural substances
used to be the Leavisite, but it is now widely held that the Leavisites are
professional whose name derives from the effect of his bills upon the wallet. See
means of removing a smell by replacing it with an even stronger smell while
polluting the environment, causing irritation, cancer, and the mutation of the
common cold virus into a ravening and ruthless killer. No deodorant has yet
been discovered which will remove the smell of a wet dog, a dead rat in the
ceiling, or certain cheap perfumes much favoured by young girls who travel on
particularly ruthless treatment for haemorrhoids, involving sitting on a red
hot piece of iron. This often left the patient feeling no more than 25%, giving
rise to the alternative name of quarterising iron.
medical practitioner who is obliged to build his or her practice up from
scratch, a very hard task indeed. Still, to itch his own . . .
walled cities, the small portal through which smelly and scruffy derelicts
could be ejected, usually into the moat. Similar in object and design to the
tuba door (which is described here under its modern name of troubadour).
lifting device, named after an English hangman who worked around 1608.
Descartes, René. A
philosopher who was in the habit of paying prostitutes to walk in front of him
in the hope that somebody would say, ‘Look, the whores before Descartes’, but
nobody ever did. In later life, depressed by his failure, he investigated a
variety of meat products. Not to be confused with a knight cart. See Spam.
de-sign, ‘to remove the significance from’. The act of designing usually
involves taking a relatively innocuous idea, and straining it until the idea is
relatively noxious, the look is great, and the utility factor is negative. This explains why the phrase "poor
design" is generally regarded as a tautology, except by designers.
release of formerly strained relations, at which times troops are returned from
living under canvas in the field to more pleasant accommodation in their
art of so placing explosive mines as to deter any potential intruder from
intruding any further.
technical term to describe the sort of person whose brain is entirely composed
of detritus. The detrimental person can usually be recognised by the habit of
shouting into a microphone outside a ‘bargain shop’ about all the great
specials they have on offer, but some of the milder cases of detrimentia can
aspire to appearing in late night TV commercials for mail order bargains, or
providing football commentaries.
term appears to refer to the current state of a person's intellect and general
ethical content. In reality, the implication of potential for growth in these
areas is largely wishful thinking, but it can usually be disguised by making a
great deal of noise, most developers being severely detrimental.
mechanical device, rather like the cow-catcher on an old steam train, for
collecting the composers of outrageous music, as indicated in the expression
‘devil take the Hindemith’. If the devils are able to agree on a single course
of action, then they will act with impunity.
devilling. A food
preparation process common among American Blakes, which is used to produce dark
indicated under helices, spirals
have a handedness. The right-handed form is known by this term in honour of the
Australian Right Horse.
disguise timber by adding false colouring matter to stain it.
elements which form molecules containing two atoms, such as nitrogen, hydrogen,
oxygen and chlorine.
formerly done by employers to short-hand writers who then typed it up. In these
more liberated days, women refuse to take so much for grunted.
collection of words which features all the words you already know, all the
spellings you do not know and so cannot find in the first place, and all of the
meanings except the one you want. A good dictionary is never self-referencing,
which is why this dictionary is a good one.
die. The singular
form of dice which is preferred by the pedant.
Most people prefer the old adage that you should never say die.
To be continued
Look for the link ‘Alternative dictionary’
just below this. Click on it to find the rest
of the collection.