Need a Curse Word from the Past

Let’s say it’s 1890 or so (plenty of wiggle room). You’re a young man from a wealthy family, but you’ve been disowned. Good schools, but since then you’ve run with a pretty coarse crowd. Now you are under extreme duress at the hands of some guy who is totally beneath you.

“You ______!” you cry out in anger and frustration. If there were ladies present they would drop their porcelain teacups and faint dead away. Men would take umbrage, while servants scurried about hoping not to be noticed.

Please help me fill in the blank. If there’s a particularly choice word from an earlier time, that’s fine, too. 1900 is about the latest, but even as early as 1700 would be cool.


New Features here at MR&HBI!

First, allow me to call your attention to the episode immediately before this one. You might notice the little icon is a camera. “huh,” you might be saying to yourself, “I don’t remember seeing that one before.” Very observant, Buckaroo! It’s for a new category, Photography, that I added. “But,” the even more observant amongst you might say, “There are already a handful of episodes in that category.” Right again, Wisenstein! I recategorized a couple episodes that were under The Great Adventure and found a couple in Idle Chit-Chat that were better filed under the new category. I expect there are plenty more; the trick is finding them.

The icon is actually my camera sitting on an opened unabridged dictionary. That may seem staged, but that’s actually where we keep the camera these days. Yes, we have an unabridged dictionary open on a stand at all times. No, that does not make us geeks.

Second, way down at the bottom of the sidebar, there’s a section called Other Muddled Stats (or something like that). That’s a wordpress widget I made that counts all the words in all the episodes, and keeps a tally of how many comments there have been as well. I plan to add other stats as well next time I have the hood open. Perhaps the number of times I’ve said “You don’t have to thank me,” or the number of times I’ve blamed the Chinese for things. (Hm… haven’t done that in a while…) Anything you’d like to know? The number of letters typed? Words in comments? Most prolific commenters? If it’s on these pages, I can count it.

The WordPress plugin itself is hand-crafted by yours truly. I started by downloading a different word-counting plugin, but it counted the words on every page load and didn’t have a sidebar widget. All it was was a database query and a loop. My version only counts when the relevant value changes – it only counts words when a new episode is posted, for instance. Once I tidy it up I’ll be adding it to the WordPress repository, so others can also gather useless stats about their blogs. It’s all about sharing the love.

An Onomatopoeia Question

Hey guys! It’s November, and that means the annual tradition of pooping out a novella in a single month is under way. My time will be more limited this year, so I plan to use the bloggcomm as a resource. I’m going to toss out questions here and let you guys mull over things, rather than getting hung up on the details myself. We’ll see how it goes (it may take longer to ask the question here than to think of a good answer myself, but I like the group-participation angle.)

First Question:

If you have a human heart in a zip-lock bag, and the heart is still beating, how would you describe the sound?

magnificent insignificance

My spelling checker didn’t like pissant. Stupid spelling checker. It suggested piss-ant. Just to make sure I wasn’t completely insane I consulted my dictionary (oh, dictionary, help me enumerate the ways I love thee…) and sure enough there it was. Origin: the noun piss+ant. So of course I looked up piss. It comes from the Old French verb ‘pisser’, which the dictionary theorizes is imitative of the sound. But then I had “French” and “pissant” in my head at the same time, and I typed in “puissant”, a fine word if ever there was one, and opposed to pissant on more than one axis. Not only do they mean pretty much the opposite, but people who are likely to use one are unlikely to use the other.

A challenge to the muddleverse: a bit of doggerel that will fit in the header above that uses both words, preferably next to one another. You may work individually or in groups.


Help me out. Glide is a graceful word, but in the past tense glided is particularly ugly. Glid? Glode? I could substitute floated, and in my context I could even use slid (see glid), but glide is the right word. Or it would be if the past tense didn’t have two abrupt stops in it that undermine the meaning of the word. The word serves as the antithesis of its own definition.

Here we have one of the hallmarks of English, its strength and weakness all in one, that rules are made to be broken. Yet we have a case where an irregular conjugation would vastly improve the word. How could Shakespeare’s inventive tongue ever have allowed glided to happen?


I was sitting in my accustomed corner at the Little Café Near Home, and having secured permission to unplug the television so I could jack in the laptop I was rolling along. Of course, with any writing adventure, there are the blue times, when you are letting things spin in your head, and typing would be a waste of time. It’s like bottling a cloud. It makes a lot more sense after things have condensed.

I was in such a state, moving the big Lego bricks in my head, a long way from the technical bits, when I was politely interrupted. I had peripherally noticed folk at the bar carefully poring over the labels of a couple of thin bottles. It turns out they were pooling their English knowledge to translate the propaganda on the bottle. Like a team solving a puzzle, they had it figured save for one critical word. “This word, chilled, does it mean a little hotter or colder?”

I answered “zima”, he was thankful, and that was that. Except… chill. It’s a reflexive verb now. (I trust my sister to correct me if I’m wrong, I’m just a guy chillin in a pub.) It’s an adjective. “That guy’s chill.” No matter how you use it, chill is good.

For well you know that it’s the fool who plays it cool, when all you have to do is chill.

Of course, by now teenage kids are rolling their eyes when their parents make awkward attempts to use chill. I’ve been a fan of chill for some time now, which means the the days of chill are long past. So it goes. This is one flash in the pan I will miss. Because, come on, “Take a chill pill, man” is poetry. American Haiku.


“Have your eyes ever glown red?” sounds so much better than “have your eyes ever glowed red?” I have no reference that would allow me to use this, however. Any help out there? (Keeping in mind that I’ll use any word I want, but going against the grain is a conscious risk.)


“For your deliction” might more awkwardly and less precisely be phrased “to be enjoyed by you as a delicacy”, or “for you to find to be delicious”. “For your indulgence” is a common enough phrase, but there are different nuances that leave the substitute inadequate. I’m not indulging you. Deliction is about the simple pleasure of a moment, and has none of the decadence implied by indulgence. I’m not asking for your indulgence, either. If you don’t find this delicious, blow me. “For your delight” is closer, but less tasty.

The closest standing word in Mr. Oxford’s American Dictionary is “delict”, a legal term, a noun, something about breaking laws. Muddled Ramblings and Half-Baked Ideas (“The Empire”), its author, flunkies, hangers-on, sycophants, functionaries, yes-men, no-men, toadies, and armies of brain-hungry zombies do not condone or encourage any legal misdeeds by using the word “deliction” in the “What’s New” section above.



It was a typo. I wrote whorker rather than worker. I looked at the word. I liked the word. I’ve been savoring it for a couple of days now, searching for the best way to explain it.

Tonight, Soup Boy gave me the answer. I haven’t seen much of him lately, and moments ago I got a message from him about how working thirteen-hour days was beating him down. I nodded, understanding. That’s a hell of a long work day.

Only, I’m on hour thirteen as I write this. I’m tired, but although today was uphill, good things came of it in the end. I made some real progress, mostly identifying problems I will need to fix later, but you have to do that sometimes.

I am a slacker, apparently, simply because I love what I do. (True, I make almost no money at it, but when was that ever a measure of success?) I spend my days working, to the exclusion of my frustrated friends and bemused family members, but because I genuinely enjoy what I do to a degree that may not be healthy, to many of them I am not working. Today, part of my job was to read a fascinating piece by Milan Kundera about Franz Kafka. It was not an easy read; there was much to think about with each paragraph. It was fun, but it was work. I work every day. Enter whork.

If you’re watching the clock, pining for the whistle that marks the end of your shift, you’re not working. You are whorking. I had a blast building a software company, but eventually my work became whork. It took me a long, long, time to realize that, and in the meantime I whorked myself into a position where I can work for a while now, without worrying too much where the next slice of pizza is coming from. No, I am not in any way above whorking; I have done it and will almost certainly do it again. I simply wish working was given as much respect. Suffering on the job has been elevated to the point where your job can’t be worthwhile if you don’t feel trapped and suffocated. Suffering on the job has become a virtue. Somewhere along the way whork has become more meaningful than work.

That’s messed up.

And I probably have it all wrong. Blame Kafka. [Let us pause for the moment while the author clinches down really hard to repress the urge to compare Kafkan bureaucracy to modern America, where the state is granted the right to define existence, and privacy is unpatriotic. Must… avoid… insane… rant!]

There are plenty of days I don’t work thirteen hours. Every now and then there is a day I don’t work at all (not seriously, anyway—there’s no way to stop a writer from testing words and savoring phrases). The most magnificent part of my life is that I am not whorking. Not for the moment, anyway. When I find myself muttering, “ah, crap. Astounding wants another Tin Can story,” then perhaps I will discover my inner whore once more. (It’s there. Don’t let my pompous language fool you. My whole career is a campaign to sell out.)

Crazily, happily, there are accountants who love numbers, who work rather than whork. There are probably damn few teachers who are whorkers. I’d even go so far as to say that there are more workers out there than there are whorkers. And now, by gum, I’m one of them. It feels great.

Almost, but not quite

Around here you will often hear the word docela translated as “quite”, and the other way around. My textbook (gathering dust right now) translates those two words that way. Only trouble is, they don’t mean the same thing. Soup Boy brought it up again this morning; he had an interesting conversation with a girl last night, the confusion caused by this mistranslation.

For instance, in English, “quite good” is more emphatic than just good. It’s good-plus. Docela dobře is good-minus. “Sort of good” would be a better translation.

I think you can easily imagine the sorts of problems a misconception like that can lead to in a conversation between a guy and a girl. “Quite close” and “sort of close” are quite different.