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
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Sunday, 8 July 2018
The Alternative Dictionary 20
rich. People who
are rich can generally be recognised by the fact that they feel they can afford
to waste the world's resources.
Rifkin, Jeremy. Unassisted,
a cogent argument against the release of genetically unengineered specimens.
Right. In political
terms, they rarely are, unlike the Left.
As we know, two wrongs do not make a right (although they make a good excuse),
but a bunch of wrong'ns generally make up the Right, as will most lefties,
Rimbaud, Arthur. The
Belgian-French cover version of an American cinema ‘tough guy’, the star of the
martial arts epic First Plod.
Rime of the Ancient Mariner. The story in verse form of a
magnificent trek across the ice floes west of Vladivostok. The story is hard to
follow because the author (Robert Frost) used many archaic terms (like ‘rime’
instead of ‘ice’), and so it is commonly seriously misrepresented. The best
translation is the one by Albert Ross.
small mites which attack the rind of a cheese. Because of the nature of their
staple diet, they have extremely strong jaws, and can cause serious structural
damage to furniture and tableware if they become confused. For this reason,
spirits and fortified wine should never be placed on infested cheese.
Ring Cycle. Any
form of wheeled vehicle which is pedalled in circus performances, but
especially the kind of velocipede where the wheels are mutually at right angles
to each other, so that the vehicle revolves continually but gets nowhere. Wagner's
Ring Cycle was named after this
device, for reasons which should be obvious.
Rite of Spring, The.
A ballet by Stravinsky about a skydiver whose parachute fails, but he lands on
a trampoline, and collides with the helicopter from which he jumped. The
modern-day Olympic sky-diving trampoline relay race commemorates this event,
which actually happened in 1908 in northern Italy to Count Luigi Pizza-Pizza (a
posthumous title, but the one by which he is best known in the record books).
rites of passage.
Those initiation activities which tend to be part of entering the corridors of
roast lamb. Much
ado about mutton.
rockoon. A rocket
raised above the ground by balloon, thus increasing the effective altitude that
will finally be attained.
rock platform. A
shelf on the edge of the sea, where things remain generally constant throughout
the tides. It follows from this that the fundamental things apply as brine goes
rocks. Not a good
thing for a marriage to be on, which is why bed-sellers do so well in life.
rook. A black
bird which can be a problem at harvest time if they are not hunted and shot
down. This is why it is usually a good idea to rook before you reap.
rosé. A form of
wine, intermediate in character between red wine and white wine. It is, of
course, unthinkable that rosé should be made by mixing equal parts of red and
white wine. Some critics conclude from this that most French rosé is made
without any significant degree of cerebration.
A comic opera by Richard Strauss. The title translates best as ‘the rose and
cauliflower’, and concerns the attempts of Baron Ochs to return a silver
cauliflower to the jeweller who made it, without his wife knowing, and to
replace it with a silver rose, which is what he had actually ordered. Described
baldly like that, it may sound strikingly uncomic, but compared with the rest
of German opera, it is very funny indeed.
rotation of crops.
To many writers, this procedure was one of the hallmarks of the early
agricultural revolution. In fact it was nothing new, and similar practices had
been followed by hunter-gatherers, as evidenced by animals such as the fallow
roughage. Any era
in which people are willing and able to say what they think, while looking like
something out of Hogarth.
round. When a man
claims to be ‘in shape’, this is mostly the shape he means.
rubber bricks. A
popular building material in some earthquake-prone tropical areas. The walls
also act as earthquake detectors, since they wobble at the mildest tremor. In
these areas, where there's a wall, there's a sway.
rubble. In many
parts of the world, areas of loose rock may be found with gorse bushes growing
all over them. At other times, there may be just the bare rocks. This is a
rubble without a gorse.
Rugby. 1. A football game where grown men sniff
each other's bottoms a lot. As an amateur code, all violence is concealed
within mass formication groups,
called rucks and scrums. Going down in the scrum is generally held not to be
the appropriate thing to do. 2. A piece of music by Honegger, based on the
football game, but from a limited perspective, being entirely in 5/8 time. The
other fourteen players get time out.
Rugby League. Similar
to Rugby, but as a professional
sport, violence is carefully packaged and presented for the public to see. In
recent years, this precept has been extended from the field to the whole of the
game. The audience participation, so favoured by soccer audiences, must soon be
here. According to careful and unbiased observers, we should give our
wholehearted support to any activity which involves alpha males and would-be
alpha males beating each other up.
which is strengthened by denial, especially by a published preemptive denial, a
fact well-known to creative journalists.
person who comes second in a race, usually as the result of lesser exertion. The
winner is generally the one who looks run-down.
runt. A small
unoccupied residence may be offered for runt. If the residence also contains
two artists' studios, the secomd tenant may well be the lessor of two easels.
Ruth. As well as
being a person who appears in the Old Testament, Ruth is a pagan goddess of
healing, particularly for stomach upsets, and is still commonly called upon by
the violently sick, often using a large porcelain instrument called a
lagerphone. See also Book of Ruth.
sabotage. The act
of causing malicious damage on a Sunday.
saddle quern. A
form of millstone which could be ridden by the miller. This design rapidly fell
from popularity among the survivors.
sadist. A person
who gets no kicks from sham pain, devoted to making other people genuinely sad.
safety footwear. For
some reason, the Japanese gumboot, or thong, seems to be popular. In fact a
diphthong (the technical term for a pair of these things) is little use at all
in protecting the feet, hence the expression ‘the thong is mended, but the
malady lingers on’. Alternatively, from the Japanese name, we get the reminder
‘Whose zori now?’.
sag. A condensed
version of a saga.
saga. A tale,
usually about Norse people. The name derives from the Norse words for a
sea-goer, but many of the later sagas were quite land-based. This is because
Scandinavia is ‘springing back’ after the Ice Ages in what is technically a
post-glacial uplift, so there is now more Scandinavian land than before, and less
sage. A wise
person with the potential to add some spice to life. Often known by an admiring
title, like Old Father Thyme.
device used for sailing, which is contrary to the laws of God. If God had
intended us to sail without a rudder, why did He give us tillers?
sailing. A means
of getting from A to B with twice the expense, taking twice as long, and at
twice the discomfort, but allowing the participants to sneer with righteous
disgust at the denizens of floating gin-palaces and people who use smoke-sails.
correct plural of salamander. The sausage of the same name is traditionally
made with salamander meat, two salamanders usually being the minimum number
required to fill one standard sausage skin.
Mind over patter.
Salvation Army. Perhaps
the most fractionated denomination in the world, having split off from the
Wesleyan Methodists, who split off from the Anglicans, who split off from the
Catholic church, who split off from the Orthodox church, who split off from
‘underground’ literature in the early 1980s, read, copied, and passed on from
hand to hand. The name is a corruption of the English ‘same as that’, referring
to the copying processes used.
Samson. While he
is commonly believed to be a Hebrew, Samson was in reality a native of Ireland.
There are clear hints of this in the phrases ‘Irish in Gaza’, and ‘blind as a
Pat’, both used about Samson after he lost his sight. The other fallacy about
Samson is that Delilah cut his hair: biblical scholars have been getting free
beers on this one for years.
condition in which all parts of the brain are completely fertilised, generally
known to the medical fraternity as compost
French musical group in which all of the instruments are tuned to the Sarum
scale. Banned at the time of the French Revolution, the sarabande has recently
undergone an upsurge in popularity.
sari. An Indian
form of female dress, all with distinctive patterns to allow them to be
separated after washing and drying. The Indian dhobi wallahs become extremely
annoyed if they have to go from door to door with a lost one, asking ‘Who's
satrap. A form of
dance, popular in the USA, akin to rap
dancing, but performed with a loaded cheap hand-gun (‘Saturday night special’)
in each hand. With these minor variations, the rules are the same as those used
in Russian Roulette, and the results are generally similar, although the
victims are far less commonly Russian.
to do with the unluckiness of the ninth day in any month, if it falls on a
Saturday. This superstition has more or less died out, as it was only accepted
by the adherents to the Monophysite heresy. These people, while devout, were
fairly innumerate, and mass suicided when they believed that a Friday the 13th
was to be followed on the next day by a Saturday the 9th.
should be eaten in strict order. While this can be hard to remember, it may
help to keep in mind that the German sausage should be eaten last, so that you
can keep telling yourself the wurst is yet to come.
A cleric who attempted to use political
correctness to further his ambitions, and ended up getting his fingers
burnt. Among other parts.
scat singing. A
syndrome which causes the sufferer to sing extremely unpleasant songs about
excreta. Mozart suffered a rare form of this, remote scat singing syndrome, and
was simply a compulsive writer of such songs. There is also a motor vehicle
called a Scat, but nobody seems to sing about that.
behave in a manner similar to a Cabinet
Minister. Anybody who has made a serious study of the behaviour of seagulls will have no problem fathoming
the true mode of operation of the Westminster system.
sceptic. A person
who thinks carefully. When sceptics form a group for thinking, they do so in a
special kind of think tank, the name of which escapes me at this moment.
which gneiss geologists do not say.
schlick. A term
applied to those who are capable of being both positive in their outlook and
logical in their operations.
pronunciation of many words by those being subjected to seldonry.
with a clear opinion upon any subject you care to mention, and the ability to
recall what book they read it in. Serious scholars are those who do not need to
look the book up again.
A German term used mainly to describe a prolonged version of Chopin's Minute Waltz. 2. When German stores are
open for business.
A composer of lyric love ballads and Tin Pan Alley songs. He sprang to
prominence when an unfortunate accident led to the memoirs of a Prussian
general being converted to the secret German musical code. Acting in his country's national interests, Schönberg
willingly accepted the ‘credit’ for these ‘works’, helping to hush up the truth
about the incident. After this, he was still able to compose light music, but
he did so under the name Karl-Heinz Stockaitken-Wassermann. This name was sadly
too long to fit on most royalty cheques, and he died penniless.
A cat, locked in a container, where there is an equal chance of the cat being
alive or dead. Schrödinger was only able to get away with this in his thesis
only because at his University, 50% was a pass mark. A cat such as this has
eighteen half-lives. It thinks outside the box.
Unlike the cat, this unfortunate animal perished during the very first trial,
leaving it to the cat to enter into the annals of physics. Of course, it would
actually have been Schrödinger's budgerigar in any case, except for an
unfortunate Pauli effect event which
led to the bird's head being bitten off by an escaped gorilla, just before the
experiment was first proposed.
Two hundred randomly selected African babies aged six months are measured each
month, and the average radius of their heads is calculated. This is use as a
measure of the extent of African malnutrition from month to month.
Arnold. The thinking man's bean-bag, with the polystyrene beads replaced by
tennis balls. The common comparison of Arnie with a condom filled with walnuts
is only used by people who have never actually tried to fill a condom with
walnuts. Indeed, they must never have tried a condom filled with walnuts.
about scions (the correct plural of
‘scion’ is actually scia).
science fiction. A
device, invented by harassed scientists, to draw attention away from the fact
that most of what we call modern science will only stand up as long as we
believe in it. They reason that if something else is called science fiction,
people will be less likely to suspect that real science is fictional, weakening
the morphic resonances which
underlie modern science. It won't work, you know.
This is widely believed to flourish best in Petri dishes held at 37oC.
device for assessing personal health. If you are stopped by a Scientologist and
offered a free personality test, you
know immediately that you are looking run-down and vulnerable. At this point in
time, it is wise to become a jogger.
scion. This is
the elementary particle of science, the smallest known fact which is
demonstrably scientific. Every law of science is made of a selection of these.
alternative spelling of sonnet,
where the ‘c’ is silent. William Shakespeare preferred this spelling, as he
always had a ‘c’ in his sconnet.
very boring fish. So boring, in fact, that it has been known to sink quite
large vessels by drilling holes through them, thus accounting for its odd name.
The boring effect is brought about by the fish having asymmetrical pectoral
fins, which cause it to progress spirally through the water, engendering a
twist in the spike at the end of its head. When the fish becomes impaled in
wood, the spinning motion continues, and the twisted spike acts as a drill bit.
nomadic people who lived in much of what we now call Europe and Asiatic Russia,
so named because they used a scythe as their main weapon, mainly to cripple
their opponents' horses by slicing off the hooves. These weapons were mounted
outrigger-style, on either side of a Scythian's horse. On this account, they were
greatly feared by other cavalry forces, and by anybody in the infantry who felt
they were too short already.
sea. A useful
device for keeping land masses separate. Also provides adequate fish storage
for most needs.
extremely efficient scavenger, much studied by Cabinet Ministers and upwardly
mobile public servants. There is no evidence to suggest that the seagulls have
been influenced by these other parties.
sea snake. These
make extremely fine leather, which in itself would not be remarkable, were it
not for their complete lack of hands.
situation providing comparative safety and peace of mind. The Spanish treasure
galleons of the 17th century were protected by high security, even being
unloaded in special boon docks, constructed in deserted places. The word comes
from the Spanish segura, dry urine,
implying that a place has long been free of other living things that might
argumentative. There is a false etymology which suggests that this word is
somehow derived from ‘said’. In fact it comes from the Latin sed, meaning ‘but’.
small portcullis in a castle, rather in the style of a turnstile. In times of
siege, lesser races (or classes) would be rudely thrust out through the
segregate, to take their chances with the advancing foe. Those so thrust out
were often diseased (a clever tactical ploy), but segregation today is based on
art, long cultivated by dentists, of understanding what their victims say while
their mouths are stuffed with Novocaine derivatives, cotton wool, hardware and
a small machine that goes ‘schloop’
at regular intervals.
selfish. The net
effect of trawling.
To be continued
Look for the link ‘Alternative dictionary’
just below this. Click on it to find the rest
of the collection.