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Saturday, 7 July 2018

The Alternative Dictionary part 19

psychometrics. The art of measuring distances by laying psychologists end to end. While there is no absolute requirement for them to be rendered unconscious, this is generally held to be (a) more practical, and (b) more beneficial to the rest of humanity. The ideal psychometric unit is encased in a thin layer of concrete, to stop it twisting.

psychopath. Somebody with a one-track mind, and a fairly concrete one at that. Nothing at all to do with crazy paving. You can make quite a good psychopath out of a number of closely similar psychometric units.

psychophagi. Cannibals who eat only psychologists. They are often afflicted with kuru, the so-called ‘laughing sickness’, but there is no evidence of any causal link here. Those who eat psychometric units may be recognised by the extreme wear on their teeth.

psychotic. See publisher.

public architecture. A special and little recognised art, presenting its own particular problems when plans and models are being created. Prison walls, for example, are never built to scale.

public good. Anything done in the name of the public good will also be found, on close inspection, to have been done for the private better.

public relations. In some contexts, an intimate act not carried out in private. This is generally frowned on, but it remains less undesirable than any other competing meaning of the term.

public sector. An exhibitionist who performs lewd and unseemly acts in the gaze of the general populace.

public transport. Any means of mass transit. In recent times, the vehicles have generally become smaller and faster, hence the expression shoot through like a Bonsai tram.

publisher. A bookmaker who takes no risks, except with authors' reputations. A newspaper publisher, on the other hand, is at pains to take considerable risks with the reputations of as many people as possible. This is called Freedom to Oppress. Publishing has now, for several generations, been an inappropriate career choice for a person of breeding or sensitivity.

punch. A moveable fist.

punchkin. A moveable fistula.

punctuality. A characteristic of those with nothing better to do with their time.

punt. A device used by higher mathematicians to demonstrate the existence of four dimensions. While it cannot be done deliberately, a naive man operating a punt will invariably send the punt, the pole, his hat and himself in four different directions which may all be shown to be mutually at right angles to each other. There is no evidence available to suggest whether the effect applies also to women who attempt to punt, or whether a woman practitioner may be able to locate even more dimensions. This effect explains the prevalence of punting at certain English institutions of higher learning.

pupil reflex. Correctly, the pupil-teacher reflex, this involves a complex of interactions between pupil and teacher, operating mainly in accordance with the principles of chaos theory.

purism. A religious belief which holds that the teeth are inherently sinful. Purists have their teeth removed, and spend the rest of their lives in contemplation, feeding solely on the purées that the group invented as a means of getting closer to their God.

purloin. A choice cut of meat, usually only eaten by butchers, unless they are deprived of it by stealth, whence comes the more common usage of this word. It has nothing to do with cats, which are sold occasionally as rabbit.

pusi. A Pidgin-English word for rabbit. No rabbits have ever been seen alive in Papua-New Guinea, but a dressed rabbit carcase, without paws, tail or head, has a remarkable resemblance to a similarly treated cat. Australian butchers have relied on this similarity for many years, and will be constrained to buy up all available copies of this reference work, in order to keep the matter secret.

pusillanimous. A term used to describe the act of a writer who provides secret or sensitive material in a work in order to constrain others to buy all the available copies of it.

pyramid selling. A common form of confidence trick practised just outside Cairo against unwary tourists. While the pyramids are in fact for sale, the transport costs to remove your property are now prohibitive, as the slave gangs have all been unionised.

pyromaniac. A dangerous person to have as an employee, somebody who should be fired as soon as possible.

Pythagoreans' rules. These were many in number, and included to abstain from beans, never to sit on a quart measure, and not to walk on highways. Most philosophers agree that these and other rules were constructed, with careful malice, to bemuse future generations.


qanat. An Iranian well. Unlike most wells, which are vertical and have to have water hauled out of them, qanats are almost horizontal, sloping upwards very slightly as they progress into a hillside, so that water runs down out of them as a result of gravity. This uncivilised behaviour has caused Iranians to be shunned by many conservative societies.

QED. 1. An abbreviation for ‘that which was to be demonstrated’. 2. An abbreviation for quantum electrodynamics, which has as yet to meet the criterion implied in the first meaning, but which still has a certain charm. 3. Commonly used in mathematics examinations where the candidate is operating in a clue-free environment.

quadrant. Any long and involved oration delivered in a roughly square open space. Many of these terminate in QED (meaning 3).

quadrat. The sort of person who specialises in delivering quadrants.

quadratic. Rather similar to erratic, but only wandering off along one of the four cardinal points of the compass. Given the random element in quadratics, there is no point at all in even contemplating quadratic equations.

quagmire. A wild ass found in the swamps between the Tigris and the Euphrates Rivers, notable mainly for its huge feet. It is widely believed in the area that the quagmires survived both Gilgamesh's flood and Noah's flood, with no outside intervention.

quantum mechanics. People who are particularly skilled at the micro-repair level needed to carry out efficient repairs on all classes of quanta.

quark. Considered by many physicists to be the basic building blocks of matter, you can buy pure quark in Yorkshire (England), where it is eaten as a dairy product. Some physicists suspect that this consumption of quark as foodstuff could account for the missing dark matter of the universe. Other physicists say a) the quark sold is white, not dark, and b) there aren't enough Yorkshire people. The first group counter b) yes there are, in fact there are too many, and a) at night, all Schrödinger's cats are grey, probably, and so would the quarks be. The second group of physicists are still thinking about this while the Schrödinger's cats eat the cream that would have been used to make the next batch of quark.

quarrel. The name given to the arrow fired by a crossbowman, which is enlightening in a sense, but still does not tell us why the bowman is cross. If Saint Sebastian had been pinned to a tree by quarrels rather than ordinary arrows, he would not only have been cross, he would have been justly accused of suffering from a quarrel fixation.

quartering. Along with hanging and drawing, the standard punishment for infamous conduct. It should come as no surprise that most of the noble families of England display quartering in their coats of arms.

Questa O Quella. One of the more famous arias from Rigoletto, sung by the Duke of Mantua, as he prepares to sail out to destroy the Moorish fleet of Othello. It is at this point that the Duke realises that the seas are becoming rough, and he calls for a mal de mer potion for all of his sailors.

quis custodiet ipsos custodes. A doubtful expression, which probably originally meant ‘so who makes sure that nobody is pouring custard on the watches?’ It is almost certainly not of classical antiquity.

quotation. Something which you did not say, but which, if you say it often enough, you fondly hope other people will associate with you.


rabbit. A small and over-sexed mammal. They are rare in some areas as the female rabbits prefer to mate with roosters, which is the origin of the ‘Easter Bunny’ legend. To achieve this result, a rabbit must first associate with hens, to acquire a suitable smell, and they then move in with the rooster, but it does not last, for a fowl and his bunny are soon parted.

racist. A person who believes in the superiority of people sharing the same colour of skin. Racists can sometimes be fooled by using skin colouring material, hence the habit in some quarters of observing that the dye is caste.

radical. A conservative in the making.

radio. A medium with infinite capability to do things which could never be done on television, and which, as a consequence, never does so.

rainbow promise. No more Walton but de Falla next time.

rain forest. A kind of forest so named because, all over the world, it is falling faster than any rain. In Australia, most rain forest depends for nutrients on the presence of the satin bowel bird.

rake. A person who leads an interesting and dissolute life, but who may later fall on hard tines.

ramshackle. A device used by certain deviant persons to limit the wanderings of a male sheep, often for unspecified purposes. See the entry on the Duke of Wellington.

rank. 1. An unpleasant smell. 2. Something found more commonly among rich and self-important people. 3. A word, contemplating these parallel meanings, which can bring great insights.

rap. A particular kind of music in which the letter c is silent.

rare earth. As time goes by, a term which is more and more commonly applied to Australian topsoil.

Rathaus. The German name for the town hall or seat of government. It appears that Germans have fewer illusions about their politicians than do people of other nationalities.

rational economics. Any form of economics where, on most days, it is possible to detect the fallacies straight away. The opposite of economic rationalism.

ratites. Large wingless (and hence flightless) birds. Typical examples are found among the emus, ostriches and cassowaries, as well as the moa, supposedly confined to New Zealand. The most famous of these was a Rotorua moa called Victor, but moas were also found in Israel in biblical times: the Old Testament has several references to moa bites.

Ravel, Maurice. French composer of a tone poem based on the mistaken belief that Beethoven became deaf after a jealous Salieri poured glue in his ears as he lay sleeping. While Beethoven was certainly Salieri's pupil, there is no more evidence for this notion than there is that Salieri poisoned Mozart, as is sometimes claimed. Nonetheless, Ravel's Deafness and Gluey is a work of great tenderness and beauty. The same cannot be said for his later degenerate work, Dildo and Anus. Ravel was the leader of a tightly-knit group of French composers, now disbanded after having lost the thread.

real estate agent. Anybody whose role description requires three words is inherently untrustworthy. This is doubly so when the first word of that title is a blatant and demonstrable lie.

Reamers. A religious sect founded in Pennsylvania in 1760. Their methods of sexual purification were robust to say the least. The sect died out some forty years later, to almost no public regret, save for one or two observers who wished that their number had included rather more real estate agents.

recapitulation. A form of punishment which involves temporarily killing the victims, reviving them, and killing them again. This practice was discarded first in France, not so much on humanitarian grounds as upon grounds of practicality. This approach could well be used today on real estate agents.

Rectifiers. A band of murderous peasants in Sicily in the 18th centuries who were in the habit of rectifying anybody who annoyed them, especially real estate agents, so that, even today, Sicily is completely free of this pest.

recursion. See infinite loop.

Red Hot Mommas, Last of the. A fictional character who appears in several musical works, including Wolf-Ferrari's Joules of the Madonna.

red shift. An embarrassed Freudian slip.

reductionism. A principle which is now less complicated than it used to be.

reel. Any drunken dance.

reference, cross. See cross reference.

refute. After Samuel Johnson kicked a rock, crying ‘I refute it thus’, he suffered considerably, until he underwent a treatment described by Boswell as ‘being refuted’: apparently a replacement of the entire pedal extremity.

rehearsal. Moving the coffin to another vehicle.

relative velocity. With respect to their rate of descent, the velocity of relatives generally transcends c. From this, relatives appear to leave much more slowly, but this is simply a corollary of the FitzGerald contraction, viewed in a skewed and asymmetric way.

relative. In Tasmania, everyone is.

relay, electric. Any foot race which involves a single runner in hurtling back and forth at high speed between the two ends of a course, without going anywhere, rather like alternating current.

relegate. The process by which limbless spiders replace all of their appendages.

relevé. A ballet step where the dancer raises one leg in the manner of a dog urinating.

rennet. A sea-bird, similar to a gannet. It is famed for its disgusting habit of ‘dive-bombing’ anybody entering its rookery areas and regurgitating partially digested fish on the intruder. Few people have experienced this treatment more than once, but it is apparently similar to associating with real estate agents.

reputation. This word has come to us by way of a technical change seen when the Latin 'pater' becomes 'father' (this process of consonantal variation is fully described in Grimm's Law). Originally, a reputation was obtained by refuting or denying allegations made about one. In some parts of the world and most large organisations, little has changed.

resistance. 1. Something which is useless unless it exceeds one ohm. 2. Something which, when it is less than one ohm, can be attached in series to another useless object such as a real estate agent or a developer, and connected to a large potential difference. In this way, the potential difference can become a useful actual difference in the world.

resort. The last refuge of a developer.

restaurant throat. The loss of voice resulting from shouting to be heard in a crowded restaurant with tiled walls and floor, concrete ceiling, hard furniture, harder waiters, and (generally) Italian food. Garlic is a sovereign remedy for this, and should be applied as soon as the condition arises.

rest mass. A solemn requiem for the permanent slowing down of a fundamental particle.

retaliation. The act of reselling faulty goods bought wholesale.

retrograde. A musical term, referring, inter alia, to a theme being played backwards. Not very surprisingly, retrograde forms are common in atonal music.

revisionism. Developments with which the speaker does not agree.

Reynolds number. An obscure remnant of an art scandal of the 19th century, when it was discovered that Sir Joshua Reynolds had engaged in ‘painting by numbers’. While this surprised few perceptive critics, it upset those tasteless people, such as property developers, who had paid good money for Reynold's works. Ever since then, physicists, having been too poor to buy such trendy stuff in the first place, have commemorated the event by identifying certain fluids by the numbers that Reynolds would have used to represent the specific hue of that fluid.

rheology. The study of the biology of Rhesus monkeys.

rheostat. A device used in fence-free zoos to restrict the movement of a large emu-like bird.

rhinitis. A form of allergy suffered by zoo-keepers with responsibility for large African mammals. It has nothing to do with the Rhine river, although by an odd coincidence, the Rhine Maidens all died of it, probably when the Rhine forests were felled by developers.

ribosome. A small but extremely important cell in the body. Ribosomes are the cells which clump together during the development of an embryo to make ribs, and a number of other bones as well.

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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