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Saturday, 23 June 2018

The Alternative Dictionary part 9


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.

force. The 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.

formation. The act of soaking in formic acid, or adding formic acid (for example, to red wine, to improve its clarity and palate).

formication. A 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.

Fourier analysis. 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.

fractional 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.

free association. An organisation which is funded, and so able to avoid any membership fees.

freebooter. A football player who specialises in penalty kicks.

freedom. The liberty to impinge on the freedom of others without let or hindrance.

free fall. Any uncharged descent.

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 parties off.

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.

fresco. A 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.

friction. 1. 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 number space.

fringe benefits. The advantages of being a hairdresser.

fringe religions. 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 party.

functional. A 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.

fundamentalism. A compound word, derived from fund (send money), and amental (without thinking).

funny-web spider. 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’.

furbelow. An impolite term to describe pubic hair.

further education. A clever trick by the authorities to lead those who have left school without an education into believing that they have already had one.

futurology. The art of explaining, in terms of what has already happened, what might have happened in the future, all things being sequel.

G

galantine. A Spanish sailing vessel with square fore-and-aft sails.

gall. Commonly 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.

galoot. Slang term for any fool who engages in activities that lead to overpopulation, as in the rare and environmentally damaging 21-son galoot.

galvanoplasty. The 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.

Garish. The 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.

garment industry. 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 GATT.

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.

gauntlet. The 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.

general relativity 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.

genetics. A 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.

geographer. The 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.

geography. The 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.

geopolitics. While 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.

germs. Invisible things which make us very sick. Of course, now we are civilised, we no longer believe in them.

gerontology. The study and criticism of The Dream of Gerontius. This activity was popular in the early part of last century.

Gershwin, George. 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.

gesundheit. A German expression of goodwill, uttered after somebody sneezes. It literally means ‘may your ears (gesunden) remain warm (heit)’, that is, attached to your head.

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.

glaciologist. Somebody who marches to the beat of a different drumlin.

gladiator. A neutered gladiolus.

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.

glockenspiel. A 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.

Gluck, Christopher. 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 Orpheus.

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.

goatsucker. A 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.

Goldbach conjecture. 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 each other.

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.

Götterdammerung. A 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.

Goulburn. A 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.

government. The 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 faulting horst.

gracias. A Spanish phrase meaning 'fundamentally green'. See Déjeuner sur l'herbe.

granite. Something not to be taken for.

gravimeter. A scientific instrument used to assess the specific gravity of gravy in large kitchens.

gravitino. A small stringed musical instrument, rarely used to play light music , but commonly used in masses.

gravity. Nature's way of telling us to keep our feet on the ground.

greatness. A 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 gross.

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.

Gurkha. A Nepalese person who is much addicted to giving people kukri classes.

Gutenberg, Johannes. 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.

Gutenberg, Wolfram. 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 tomorrow
Look for the link ‘Alternative dictionary’
just below this. Click on it to find the rest
of the collection.

Friday, 22 June 2018

The Alternative Dictionary part 8

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.

ergonomics. A 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.

ergonometric. A related term to ergonomics, which now is usually taken to mean ‘the price just doubled’.

erudition. Technically, a form of pornography, but not prosecuted as such as it is all too technical to either understand or enjoy.

etching. Something 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.

ethnic cleansing. A highly successful demonstration of the inherent dirtiness of war.

etiology. The 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.

Etrurians. The 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.

evil. Those 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.

evaluation. A 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.

evolution. Something 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.

exarch. A 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.

exfoliation. The act of taking a leaf from somebody's book.

existence. There is a great deal of uncertainty about whether or not this exists.

existentialism. A 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.

exocrinology. The comparative study of the external genitalia of crinoids for the purposes of better identification. See endocrinology. The method actually works better on cave-spiders.

exon. The 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.

expedient. No longer able to walk.

explaining. The act of walking up into hills or mountains. This commonly gives the explainer an eyrie feeling.

expletive deleted. 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.

extrapolate. To 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.

F

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 only those.

Fahrenheit scale. 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.

fanatic. A force-ventilated upper-storey room.

Faraday's constant. 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.

fast Fourier 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 of Shakespeare.

fauvisme. Named 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.

feedback. What people get when they swim at a beach near a sewer outfall.

felon. An entrepreneur who lacked the wit to secure the services of a sufficiently reliable accountant.

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 lunge.

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.

fibula. A 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.

fiction. The opposite of fact. In fiction, the meek inherit the earth, the good flourish, and the bad live unhappily ever after.

field archaeology. 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 used.

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 century.

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.

firkin. Hirsute relatives.

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.

fishing. A 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.

flagellant. A 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.

flageolet. A 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.

flagrant. A drunken but impassioned speech in favour of maintaining the present Australian flag.

flat rate. A schedule of charges displayed in a tyre repair establishment.

flatworm. The result of excessive rolling of a damp wicket.

float tank. A self-inflicted womb.

flotation process. 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.

flying buttresses. 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 tomorrow
Look for the link ‘Alternative dictionary’
just below this. Click on it to find the rest
of the collection.

Thursday, 21 June 2018

The Alternative Dictionary part 7

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.

differential. A device used by orators wishing to sound technical. At night, all differentials are grey, according to the well-tested differential equation.

differential 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.

digital watch 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 90o to the right, and you will be facing north.

diminishing returns. 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. See Pavlov.

dinosaur. The 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.

diplomacy. The 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’.

dirge. Originally, 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.

dirty-minded. A term use to describe the outlook of somebody with a good sense of humus.

discrimination. Generally applied on the grounds of choler or greed.

dispersal. The 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.

Dodgson, Charles 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 canem.

Doppelgängers. Very 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.

double blind 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 intended.

doxology. The study of music performed on strumpets.

dragoman. An 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.

drop-bear. A 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.

drug. Any 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.

ductile. Small 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.

dyslexia. A problem which can warn at any time without striking.

E

earth. Something 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.

earwig. Although 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.

economic rationalism. The reverse of rational economics.

economics. A 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.

economist. A 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.

ecosystem. An electronic device for measuring the depth of the sea, relying on bouncing signals off the ocean floor.

ecstatic. No longer stationary.

education. While 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.

Einstellung. A 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.

eldritch. The older of a pair of ostriches.

electric field. A paddock in which solar or wind generators have been set up.

electric 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 here.

electricity. Stuff 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.

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 both directions.

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 office.

electrolyte. An 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.

electron microscope. A precision-engineered device which is made from a single very small electron.

electrostatics. The main observations from any time and motion study on electricians who are on hourly rates.

elimination. A 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 juices.

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.

emulation. The 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 water.

endocrinology. The 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!’.

endorphin. The 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.

Enigma variations. 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.

enterprise. A word derived from ‘enter-’ meaning ‘in’ and ‘-prise’, meaning ‘take’. Those taken in generally include both customers and staff (see next entry).

enterprise 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.

epicycle. A wheeled vehicle with five or more wheels, all in contact with the ground, and driven by pedals.

Memorial to Epimenides in Athens.
Epimenides. A 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.

Episcopalian. A person skilled in operating an episcope, a device used for examining some of the darker aspects of human nature.

epistemology. The 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.

equality. A curious cause of unidirectional desire, insofar as we always wish equality with our superiors, and not with our inferiors.

equinox. This cross between a cow and a horse is an early example of genetic engineering.

To be continued tomorrow
Look for the link ‘Alternative dictionary’
just below this. Click on it to find the rest
of the collection.

Tuesday, 19 June 2018

The Alternative Dictionary part 6

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.

countercanonical poem. 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 any form.

coup de grace. A sweeping cut which leaves one the Victa.

courage. The 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.

cribriform. Similar in structure to the brain of a lexicographer.

crime. A 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 tautology.

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.

croquet. Often 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 chess.

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 questions.

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 reference, cross.

cross section. Usually, that part of the audience in a theatre who are so placed as to miss some important part of the action.

crossopterygian. A 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 observations.

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 unstoned.

crucible. Literally ‘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.

cubism. Dicing with death.

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 la carte.

cultural revolution. 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.

curiosity. This 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 world today.

current bedding. 1. Sleeping with a Sultana. 2. A leaky waterbed 3. An electric blanket. 4. One's present mate.

curriculum. A 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.

cyclotron. An 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.

D

dado. The decorated lower part of the wall of a room. Decorators need to be very careful to distinguish between a dado and a dodo.

Daguerreotype. A 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’.

Danegeld. A fairly drastic form of population control used by the Anglo-Saxons against the Vikings.

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.

dastard. A dyslexic bastard.

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 instead.

debilitate. To 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 severe.

debt. A 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 longer.

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.

decibel. Derived 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.

defamation. A true statement, but made about somebody who is better connected than the person saying it.

defenestration. In 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 cultures.

deme. Originally 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.

density. A 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 extremely unnatural.

dentist. A professional whose name derives from the effect of his bills upon the wallet. See orthodontist.

deodorant. A 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 public transport.

depilatory. A 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.

dermatologist. A medical practitioner who is obliged to build his or her practice up from scratch, a very hard task indeed. Still, to itch his own . . .

derogate. In 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).

derrick. A 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.

design. Literally, 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.

détente. A release of formerly strained relations, at which times troops are returned from living under canvas in the field to more pleasant accommodation in their barracks.

determinism. The art of so placing explosive mines as to deter any potential intruder from intruding any further.

detrimental. A 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.

developer. This 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.

devil. A 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 Satanic meals.

dextrorse. As indicated under helices, spirals have a handedness. The right-handed form is known by this term in honour of the Australian Right Horse.

dialogue. To disguise timber by adding false colouring matter to stain it.

diatoms. Chemical elements which form molecules containing two atoms, such as nitrogen, hydrogen, oxygen and chlorine.

dictation. Something 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.

dictionary. A 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 tomorrow
Look for the link ‘Alternative dictionary’
just below this. Click on it to find the rest
of the collection.