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Friday, 6 July 2018

The Alternative Dictionary part 18

pork spare ribs. Thoracic pork.

porlock. Originally a patented device fitted to the doors and windows of working authors to keep out unwanted visitors. Now there is also a porlock which can be fitted to a telephone, and the sales force from the company manufacturing these devices are aware of this. Their main sales strategy is to make many calls on writers, both in person and by phone, extolling the merits of their device in keeping people such as themselves out of the writer's hair. The solution is to address them in stray Latin phrases.

pornography. Chess manuals and similar works, appropriate to introduce into the conversation if anybody asks you if you have led any good rooks lately. In some of the manuals, some of the people have a very large chess indeed. Other of the manuals will sometimes offer a vice to the love-lorn. All tastes are catered for, with girlie mags and chap books of all sorts.

porpoises. A bad-tempered breed of cetacean, giving rise to the expression ‘at cross porpoises’.

port. A fortified wine: one with added alcohol, so that it is free from attack by yeasts and other micro-organisms. A fortified wine is clearly the wine of yeast resistance.

portcullis. When port wine is maturing, it requires good ventilation, and in the Middle Ages, this meant
that thieves were able to obtain access to the casks in which the port was stored. The portcullis gate was invented to keep marauders more than two straws' length from the casks while allowing good ventilation, and it later came into wider use.

posology. In an attempt to make photographic modelling more ‘scientific’, this discipline has been invented as a major subject in the undergraduate courses offered in this art. In terms of academic rigour, it is slightly below the theory lessons on folding the polishing cloth which are traditionally given to all apprentice French polishers.

postal analysis. A method of determining from externals only the risks inherent in opening an envelope. For example, Ohms law comes into play here, stating that any buff envelope with OHMS on it should be treated with stiff resistance to save the recipient from requiring treatment with a stiff brandy.

post hoc, ergo propter hoc. A form of syllogism or logical argument form, usually based on licensed premises, which runs along the lines: now we have consumed all of this rotgut, how about getting out some of the decent stuff.

A Stone Age postilion precursor.
postilion. Unsurprisingly, foreign-phrase books often give the correct way of announcing that the postilion has been struck by lightning in other languages. The ‘Postilion’ is a patented lightning conductor used in many parts of Europe and Asia. The name derives from the fact that the ‘Postilion’ looks like a post, and breaks into many pieces (correctly, the postillions) when struck, thus dissipating the energy of the lightning bolt. In English-speaking parts of the world, many forms of transport have a conductor in place of a postilion. Since the 1750s, when the forests of Europe were depleted for ship building, and you couldn't get the wood, postilions have been replaced by humans filling the same role, but more easily replaced.

post-Impressionism. An art form which usually involves depicting, in a roundabout way, a few vertical sticks or logs, as in Jackson Pollock's famous ‘Blue Poles’ in the Australian National Gallery. A few of the more outré members of the movement have even attempted to disguise themselves as logs, but they could never stop talking long enough to offer any real attempt at verisimilitude. As a general rule, pale posts are more saleable, as light poles attract. The rejected dark poles, being thrown out, may constitute part of the universe's missing dark matter.

post-Modernism. A pretentious term used to describe the present state of mail deliveries. In the past, postal and telephone services were under a unified control, but this changed. With more time to consider this, people have realised that Telecom is poor at covering distances, and would need to drop the ‘Tele’. At the same time Australia Post had ceased to be truly national, and needed to drop the ‘Australia’. When the two are eventually recombined, they were to be known as Compost, but this fate has now been avoided by recent clever name changes.

potash. What Esau sold his birthright for a mess of.

potometer. A device formerly used by blind people with bladder problems, who needed to know how full the chamber was.

Pott's disease. A psychological condition, characterised by an uncontrollable urge to go around telling kettles they are black.

power. Something which is dangerous in the wrong hands. As a general rule, those who use it invariably turn out to be the wrong hands, perhaps because the right hands know better than to want it in the first place.

pragmatism. The notional virtue developed by a secret meeting of politicians in Prague in 1947 to explain away their actions in terms other than those of pelt-preservation. Patriotism may be the last refuge of these scoundrels, but at least we can be assured that it is usually a wholly pragmatic patriotism.

prayer. A useful way of avoiding acts of God. In tropical countries, often Islamic, prayer involves lying at full length on the ground. This is not from the heat, but the humility. Most prayers are couched in mildly poetic terms, and are distinctly amenable.

precision. It is important to be able to speak with accuracy and clarity. Contrary to popular opinion, there is more to being nicely precise than just crossing your eyes and dotting your tease. Regrettably, these two views of precision are about as like as talk and tease.

precursor. An ecclesiastical figure who, in cases of excommunication, walks ahead of the person who will actually speak the formal words of dismissal.

predestination. The profound conviction that there is no such thing as a free will.

pre-emptive strike. Any industrial action which commences just before the employer's coffers are found to be as empty as the employer's normal abode.

prefabricate. To convert cloth back into yarn again, that is, back to what it was before it was fabric. In cosmological terms, prefabrication is often confused with prevarication, since both involve pondering on what the universe was like ten minutes prior to the Big Bang, and what it was made of. The important question, of course, is who did the cutting?

pre-impressionist. Any artist who spends a great deal of time talking about painting (‘the pre-impression phase’), before actually making any impression on the canvas. Many artists work like this, but the pre-impressionists reduced it to an art form.

premonition. A feeling which is generally followed by a confirmation. The people of Madagascar, for example, believe that seeing an animal called the aye-aye presages a death. The Madagascans promptly kill any aye-aye they see, thus confirming the original premonition. The ‘aye-aye’ in this case is not a noise made by the animal, but by the Madagascan, confirming the correctness of the belief.

prepared piano. A pianoforte which, in the anticipation of a concert of the works of Ligeti, has had landmines concealed beneath the keys. Among modernist circles, this is considered excessive: land mines under the pedals would usually prove to be quite sufficient, and cause less lasting harm to the piano. Traditionalists say that what they do is no worse than playing Ligeti.

preposition. A good part of speech for not ending a sentence with.

preposterous. Originally, a term used to describe the bizarre knots that speakers could tie themselves in while trying to avoid ending a sentence with a preposition.

pressure. A form of stress, as in rabbits being kept in a steel drum and having Rugby umpire's whistles blown at them for five hours a day for three weeks. This form of pressure makes rabbits better able to survive periods of incarceration in a sub-zero freezer for up to 48 hours, and may explain several otherwise inexplicable things about Rugby players in winter. Pressure may also be caused by an obsessive regard for sentence endings.

presupposition. 1. The application of an ointment (a presuppository), prior to using a suppository. Secondarily, any prior preparation which helps to ensure that the treated person will bear an insufferable indignity. 2. The belief that any sentence, once started will not end with a preposition.

Prévert, Jacques. A French poet and film-script writer who owed his continued high levels of employment to the frequent errors made in typing his surname. His employers were, however, often disappointed.

priceless. The label attached to any work of art when the owner is urgently interested in selling it as soon as a price can be agreed.

primate. 1. A simian. 2. A high-level cleric. 3. Any combination of 1 and 2, of which there are many. 4. One's first spouse.

Prime Minister. A functionary about whom the general populace will always be divided into three camps: those who do not care where the PM is buried, so long as the PM is dead, those who do not care where the PM is buried, so long as they are alive to see it, and those who do not care where the PM is buried, so long as the PM is alive to see it. This seems to hold in all races and cultures which possess Prime Ministers (assuming that the said possession does not rule out being a culture). The gap between arts administrators and PMs is a narrow one, but the arts administrators can tie their bow ties.

primitive art. Rather like folk art, only worse, and so able to command higher prices.

Prince of Wales. The eldest son of the British monarch, who often has a long while to wait before ascending the throne. They usually spend their time philandering, a situation which caused more than one Victorian woman to hope for the death of the old Queen, complaining that ‘Prinny never reigns but he paws’.

principles. Those things that you must value above all others, so as to maximise your gain when you finally sacrifice them to expediency.

prisoner. A person whose depredations upon society were insufficient to purchase a mouthpiece capable of getting him or her free of the molestations of the courts. Such a person should be given sympathy and very carefully selected works of classical literature — Boldrewood's For the Term of His Natural Life, Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment, and Kafka's The Trial, are among those works which are probably less suitable choices.

privateers. The sources of most of the information which is the stock-in-trade of the public gossip.

probability. Just the tip of the Heisenberg. Basically, it is all so improbable that even if I defined it you wouldn't believe it.

probability theory. Something so improbable that it makes probability seem almost acceptable by comparison.

probability wave. A casual hand gesture, as made by Royalty, on the assumption that there is probably somebody out there who cares about whether you are waving or not.

process art. Malignant maltreatment of a canvas in the Micawberesque hope that something will come up. It should come as no surprise to us that what does come up often resembles a used breakfast or the tartan of the clan Buchanan.

process theology. A system which allows charismatic pastors to deal with large numbers of the faithful in the minimum of time. Firehose baptisms, blunderbuss blessings (at a safe distance), group weddings and mass burials are all common in process theology.

procreation. The main concern and viewpoint of rabid anti-evolutionists.

proctor. An anally fixated fundamentalist, in certain ways similar to a rector.

procure. A generic name describing any of a range of powerful broad-spectrum antibiotics. These should be kept under tight medical control, but are often sold on the black market to prostitutes, who use the drugs carelessly to prevent venereal infections, causing the development of drug-resistant strains of these bacteria. The procurers find themselves frequently being prosecuted.

producer gas. Common stage jargon for words of encouragement from on high.

profession. Any group of people who practise the same trade, and who have some code of conduct which binds them. Note that in practice, the binding may only relate to the maintenance of archaic and wasteful work practices, and may be of no value to the people who employ the professionals.

professionals. People who have worked out how to get somebody else to pay them handsomely for doing that which they enjoy doing in any case. To disguise this as well as they can, they usually employ an internally comprehensible jargon.

professorial rank. A peculiar musty smell, often emitted by senior academics. The cause of this smell has been a matter for great debate, but it has been known since the days of Heraclitus. It is probably insoluble.

profile. A person who believes in maintaining a tidy desk.

profit. That which is left after the depredations and creativity of the accountants. Since a good accountant can turn any profit to a loss, the continuing solvency and survival of so very many large organisations is proof positive of the mild and genial beneficence of most accountants for some of the time.

progress. The opposite of congress, which is why so many young things, just when they feel they are making progress, find that in fact they are not.

progressive. A label which, in all walks of life other than accountancy, is universally accepted as a term of praise. Even accountants like some things to be progressive, so long as they are taxes.

projective geometry. Those parts of a geometry which, in accordance with Gödel's incompleteness theorem, stick out and trip up the more self-confident mathematicians, generally when they least expect it.

project manager. A person, often male, who may not be good at actually doing anything, but who is very good at explaining why all the successes are his and his alone, while adequately distributing the blame to factors and staff beyond his control. See O.B.E.

prolix. Orally fixated.

Prometheus. The original cup-bearer to the Greek Pantheon, Prometheus favoured the imbibing of methylated spirits, and introduced the gods and goddesses to this, thus winning his name, and also, due to an unfortunate accident when Zeus sneezed near a candle, winning Prometheus his reputation as ‘the bringer of fire’. See also methu.

promotion. Advancement in one's chosen profession. While it is commonly expected that people will be promoted to their level of incompetence, this can be circumvented if the initial entry point is above that level. This happened most commonly when Popes appointed their ‘nephews’ as cardinals, in the process of nephewtism.

proof. Any sequence of loosely connected assertions which can be enumerated faster than they can individually be assimilated by the listener. Generally improved by an interlarding of circumlocuitous interpolations, references to dead authors, mumbling, a few foreign phrases (like the authors, dead languages are also to be preferred), and a bravura show of total confidence that verbum sapienti sat.

proof reading. The art of distinguishing, as a spell checker can not, between nuclear explosions and unclear explosions, between casual relationships and causal relationships, valuable and voluble criticism, beatification and beautification, mating and matting, and between simulation and stimulation, especially when several of these phrases are combined in the one sentence.

prosecuted. Being followed by sex workers. As indicated elsewhere, René Descartes used to pay to be prosecuted.

prosody. The art of creating either a prose work about odes, or an ode about prose. It is now a dead art, and we are unlikely ever to fathom what the ancients actually meant by the term. The claim, sometimes heard, that the term was invented by two drunken poets, in order to confuse future generations, makes too much sense to be really true.

prostate. A characteristic of many elderly politicians is that they become more conservative and concerned with states' rights as their prostate gland grows. Given this background, the etymology of the gland's name is immediately obvious.

prosthetic. The application of prosthos in a drama. Quentin Tarantino has recently tried to revive prosthetic drama, but the results have been rather closer to pathetic.

prosthos. A Greek word literally meaning ‘crutch’, used in Greek tragedy to denote a situation in which a hero is kicked or struck hard between the big toes. This will often be achieved by a greatly laboured prosthetic device. The prosthos came to mean a dummy which could be easily dismembered in those plays which called for the Furies to descend and so maltreat one of the characters.

prostrate. An Italian word, the plural of prostrata, a person of either sex who is in favour of layers. Putting several of these people together leads to a situation which can not be appropriately discussed in a document which is essentially a reference work for all the family.

protozoology. See molecular biology.

protractor. A peasant who believes whole-heartedly in the values of rural mechanisation.

Provenance. A region in southern France, where many fine art objects are unearthed, complete with a fully documented explanation of where they have been since completed by the artist. These papers, usually forged, are known by the name of this region.

prowess. A female figurehead, attached to the prow of a ship.

prudery. A condition which can be taken to extreme lengths. In some societies, women even demand to be delivered of their babies fully clothed, this being known as a breeches delivery, or impolitely but fairly accurately, as a lucky dip.

psychiatrist. A trauma critic.

psychic determinism. The total commitment of some people to doing exactly what they are advised to do by a fortune teller.

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

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