Cutting

Although it is not my intention to be “heavy” in this blog, I don’t want to be flippant about an important topic. Cutting has many meanings, but a very common use in the current culture relates to the practice of “self-harm”. This is a serious and complex topic that should not be ignored or taken lightly by those who practice it or who know someone who does. So, here’s one article for each, which wouldn’t hurt anyone to read:
http://www.ulifeline.org/articles/438-cutting-and-self-injury-finding-better-ways-to-cope
http://www.ulifeline.org/articles/437-how-to-help-a-friend-who-is-self-injuring

This week’s word encompasses so many different topics–maybe more than any other word we’ll have this year. From the serious emotional and physical health issue above, to mealtime, to work and play, and humor. The term “rapier wit”, which doesn’t fit into most American conversations unless you’re Charles Winchester III, is a reference to particularly sharp humor. The cutting kind. Not just cutting up, like silly folks do, but harsh sarcasm that is even likely to cause hurt feelings.

Young boy on a football field, walking toward viewer.
Here comes Jay, cutting across the football field.

But we’re also talking about eliminating the less skilled players from the team, or reducing staff to save money, or taking scissors to the coupon book–or anything else. Cutting is pretty much what scissors do, except when you’re Alfred Hitchcock (“Dial M for Murder” reference). Speaking of movies, how do we stop filming a scene? And how do we edit the movie film? And how do you get a better seat when you arrive after the line is already too long?

Your youngster may be fussing because she’s cutting teeth. Your cowboy may be gelding a horse (pause while all men recover from the cringe). The dealer mixes the cards by cutting, and no bleeding or cringing is required for that. And my all-time favorite definition relating to skipping school says that cutting is “intentionally failing to attend.” That’s just a fun combination of words for taking an unapproved vacation day.

Carpophagous

The grapes have ripened and fallen, as we failed to harvest them this year. Our apples and peaches have suffered the same fate. The persimmons still have a chance to be harvested, though. I just, honestly, don’t know what to do with persimmons. They look like little plums, but colored more like peaches or apricots. And they taste like I don’t know what. Because if I’ve had one, I don’t remember. My wife tasted one when the garden center guy talked her into buying the tree, so I guess they must taste good.

Persimmons on our tree. Ready to pick? I wouldn’t know…

Maybe a persimmon pie would be a good choice, since I’m a big fan of fruit in baked goods. But that might be because I am a big fan of baked goods in general. Did you know that a popular honey and nut flavored oat cereal has more sugar than cookies? Or, at least the cookies I had on hand to compare. If I had known that when I was a child… well, it probably wouldn’t have made any difference, since we always had plenty of cookies we were allowed to eat. But I digress.

Fruit is nature’s candy, and one of the more pleasant things to eat right off the plant. Apples and peaches and Concord grapes (and maybe persimmons) are pretty much exactly the same when you eat them off the tree/vine as when you pull them out of a lunch bag or out of a fruit basket. No need for grinding or cooking or even peeling, though all of those things are also fine.

Some creatures eat fruit as their primary or only source of food, so I guess they’d be nature’s sweet tooth animals. Fruit bats and some monkeys come to mind, though I’m sure there are people living primarily on fruit, as well. They would all be described as carpophagous. Carpo was a Greek goddess of summer fruit, and phagus comes from the Greek for glutton. I actually find that mildly amusing, don’t you?

Arenose

In 1845, Englishman James Richardson set off on a nine month adventure in and around the Sahara, with the intention of writing a book about it. In fact, Travels in the Great Desert of Sahara in the Years of 1845 & 1846 has two volumes. It’s available online, and is actually quite interesting and even humorous, at times. He even states that some of the (Muslim) locals had correctly understood “that I am writing a book about their country to amuse the Christians.”

Haitian boys and men playing soccer on a dirt field.
A dirt soccer field in Haiti gets good use, these boys won a championship.

Many in the Western world viewed the Middle East and Africa as an exotic paradise. It turned out that the intense heat of the desert, the less advanced society, and the Turkish oppression made for a different impression. But even as Richardson was curious about all that he encountered, he was also a curiosity in every place he visited. As he learned what the “exotic paradise” was really like, his hosts also learned what a European was really like. And he found that the Sahara was not a flat, immense, oceanless beach full of sand, like many people picture deserts. It had mountains and plateaus, was mostly rocky, and scattered with oases “like spots on a leopard”.

But the reason I even came upon this book is that it is the only example I could find where the word, arenose was used in a sentence. Arenose means sandy or gritty. Richardson refers to a particular oasis as arenose, and that even the ripe dates were sandy because of the strong winds constantly blowing the sand. An oasis in the Sahara is arenose. Who knew? Actually, the dates would be arenose as well, since they were gritty.

The word, arena comes from the same root, and there are still sandy arenas today (such as the Haitian soccer field in the picture). I’m sure there was a time when the best arenas had the best sand. Before the Astros had Astroturf, in fact, they just painted the dirt green, since there wasn’t enough sunlight getting through the roof of the Astrodome for the grass to grow. So in 1965, folks may have watched baseball being played in the arenose Astrodome without even realizing that there wasn’t a blade of grass in view. “Chemgrass” wouldn’t be installed until the 1966 season, and eventually renamed “Astroturf”.

But I must return to Mr. Richardson’s travels. I’ve left him not far from the farthest point he will travel. I fear that, if I don’t finish reading, he will not survive to write his memoir.

Subsidy

“Moderation in all things,” Hagar the Horrible’s doctor told him. “But you can take that too far,” was Hagar’s response. Too much eating and drinking and raiding villages can be bad for your health. Too much sitting and watching TV can be just as bad. Moderation is a way to get to a balanced lifestyle.

Raw capitalism can be harsh and unforgiving. The risk to farmers from market forces and natural forces led to what we know as the Farm Bill. The idea of providing a buffer to the farmers so that they could keep prices low to the consumers sounds appealing enough. We all have to eat, so lower food costs benefit everyone, at some level. Yay, moderation!

Virginia cornfield

Corn is pretty much the poster child for American farming, since it’s our biggest crop by far. So the Farm Bill has a big impact on corn, which is eaten by people and livestock, and used to make ethenol to add to our gasoline. But it also affects barley, about half of which is made into beer. So, corn, beef, gas, and beer prices are lower than they would be without the Farm Bill. Still sounds good.

The Farm Bill is an example of a subsidy, which is money supplied by the government (or other organization) to an industry to keep product or prices low. It provides moderation, keeping the agricultural product prices from wide swings and high levels. But the latest Farm Bill is almost one trillion dollars. Trillion. That’s not a spellcheck error.

The US is the largest food producer in the world, and the largest food exporter, as well. In fact, we export more food than all of the EU countries, combined. And the Farm Bill will cost us nearly a trillion dollars. Maybe we’ve taken moderation too far. Maybe it’s time to find a new balance.

Paid for by Hagar the Horrible for Congress…

Revalorize

Value seems arbitrary. Products are sold for different prices in different stores, and even in the same store, different prices for different quantities, etc. Stock prices rise and fall for the most ridiculous reasons–with “uncertainty” being the favorite. Some things are valued highly because they are brand new, and others because of great age.

Pocket watch with a train image.
Dad’s pocket watch.

A friend became a coin dealer after retirement. He turned his hobby into a business and “hasn’t worked a day” since. But he says the coins are getting easier to get and harder to sell, and the prices are dropping like crazy. The new generations don’t want the old collectables. Not coins, not baseball cards, not Grandmom’s dishes… These have very little value to the younger folks. And it seems unlikely that Beanie Babies will ever be worth their original price, let alone the insane markup that we saw on eBay for a while.

Children sometimes become so attached to a blanket or stuffed animal that it becomes difficult to even free it up long enough for the laundry. To anyone else, the object is a dirty, stinky mess. But it is a prized posession to its owner; no thing has higher value. But eventually, and sometimes suddenly, Binky is left behind. Its value has gone from an incredible peak to near zero in a few breaths. Nothing intrinsic to that blanket or toy has anything to do with its value. That has only ever been determined by the attachment the child felt to it, and when that faded, the fall was steep and permanent.

This value re-evaluation is what today’s word is talking about. Revalorize is to assign a new value to something, or the process of determining a new value for something. In truth, this is constant, and affects more than just coins and children’s toys. I read that a 1967 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500, which sold for $5000 when new, and probably lost value pretty quickly at the beginning, sold for over $2Million earlier this year. In fact, it broke the record for the highest price for a Mustang at auction. The previous record was $1.3Million. Incidentally, it was set by the very same car back in 2013.

Devoiced

Back in 1984, my good friends, Bill and Joy, were married in the church where we grew up by the pastor with whom we grew up. Reverend Jack, as he was known, was a great pastor and friend, but he had his quirks. At rehearsal, during the part where the bride and groom repeat the vows after the pastor, Rev. Jack said, “…til death us do part…”, and Bill said, “…til death do us part…”.

Joy and Bill in 2018. Photo stolen from Joy’s facebook page.

“Everyone will notice that difference”, Rev. Jack pointed out, “if I say ‘us do’, and you say, ‘do us'”. So they practiced a half dozen times and Bill really never mastered it. Rev. Jack insisted that he go home and practice, and Bill promised he’d get it right.

But Rev. Jack also pronounced “us” like “uz”. I don’t think there was a particular reason, other than he always had. It didn’t matter. No reason to even make a point of it. Until Bill and Joy’s wedding. All of us who had been to the rehearsal were particularly attentive to the vows when Bill was called on to say those words, in the right order, so everybody wouldn’t notice. He nailed it. He got the words in the order exactly as Rev. Jack said them. Unintentionally, he also got the pronunciation the same: “…til death UZ do part…”. There we all were, in front of a full church, hiding our faces as we were in hysterics. None of us missed it. One of the brides’ maids was even bent over in laughter, but hardly any of the guests noticed anything at all out of place. Amazing.

The pronunciation of the “S” in “us” relates to this week’s random word, as it is normally unvoiced, but Rev. Jack always voiced it. That is, a voiced consonant is one where the vocal chords vibrate to produce a sound, and unvoiced would be when they don’t. “Z” is voiced; “S” is not. “V” is voiced, “F” is not, etc. Devoiced is a bit more technical than that, as it has to do with the voicing/non-voicing based on context. So, “use”, when a verb, has a voiced “S”, and as a noun, an unvoiced “S”. Wolves even has a different letter for the voiced sound than in the singular form, wolf, with an unvoiced sound.

And that, good reader, is what reminded me that 35 years ago this summer, Bill and Joy pledged to love each other “til death uz do part”.

Broadish

My grandparents lived in a wonderful house on a wide street that was not long. In fact, it was only two or three blocks long, but wide enough to easily do a u-turn. And it was generally not used to get anywhere that wasn’t on that street. I would even describe that street as quite broad, while Broad St. in my own hometown is only broadish in comparison.

The house had been configured with an apartment upstairs at one time, so the rooms both upstairs and downstairs were not quite normal. The dining room had been a bedroom, so it was closed in and not large. But the living room was actually double, and directly below what was basically my grandparents’ double bedroom. The attic had stairs and was somewhat finished, and my grandmother never called it an attic, but always “the third floor”. The basement was also somewhat finished, with rooms where she kept canned goods–mostly grape jelly and peach halves, as I recall. And in the middle of the basement was a pool table which was usually covered by special plywood sheets to turn it into a ping pong table.

Image of my grandparents' house.
117 East Ave Swedesboro, NJ

Of course, this week’s word is “broadish”, which means “rather broad” (am I the only one who hears that in a British accent?). Pretty obvious meaning, even if it’s not a particularly commonly used word. Though sticking “ish” at the end of a word, or even a sentence is pretty popular right now. “We hit traffic on the way, so it took us longer than expected. Ish.” It has a tempering effect. “I wouldn’t say your voice is loud, but it is loud-ish.”

When I saw the word, “broadish”, I thought of the broadness of my grandparent’s street, and I was reminded of their house where they lived most of their lives. I have many, many fond memories of that house on that street. Maybe the street didn’t need to be so broad for the memories to be good, but my memories are definitely impacted by it.

Unscarfed

Last week’s random word was one that had been unfamiliar to me; I had to look it up and even read the definition multiple times to catch its precision. This week also brings an unfamiliar word, but with a pretty obvious meaning. Unscarfed is defined as not wearing a scarf, or not eaten (ie. not scarfed down). Yeah, that second meaning would be considered “informal”, at best. Only two meanings, and only an adjective. In contrast, the definitions of “scarf” are much more interesting and varied. It made me wonder if unscarf should be expanded…

Scarfed and unscarfed.


It seems that someone who removed a scarf could say they unscarfed, just as they would have said they undressed when they removed their clothes, and we’d have a verb. But if we allow unscarfed to refer to the removal of a scarf, then what effect would that have in the slang meaning, after someone has scarfed too much food too quickly? Unpleasant to imagine, but maybe a new euphemism to replace “blew cookies”.
Another interesting point that wasn’t my first thought was that a scarf is not just a long knit rectangle to keep our necks warm in the winter, but also a headscarf, worn over the head and hair. My grandmother used to wear a scarf over her hair after finishing at the hairdresser. I suppose it was to protect from the wind; it certainly couldn’t have been warm. Almost transparent, barely any weight at all, and she only wore it outside. When she was inside, she would be unscarfed.
Many woman all over the world wear headscarfs for religious/modesty reasons, and often abandon the scarfs when they are “westernized”. For the devout, then, unscarfed would be a bad thing: corrupted. Or vulnerable. There is a pivotal scene in the movie, Witness, where Kelly McGillis’ Amish character removes her head covering, symbolizing vulnerability and perhaps defiance, as well.
On a more personal level, this week sees the end of boot camp and infantry training for my youngest child, who joined the Army National Guard in the Spring, and we’ve hardly gotten to see him since. It will be a proud moment to see him graduate, but seeing him daily will be a pretty good thing. And much of the unscarfed food in our cabinet will only survive a few days longer before he arrives and begins his “debriefing activities”.

Epigraphic

My wife and I traveled to Israel in 2018, and were part of a small tour group while we were there. The size of the group is only important, perhaps, because it allowed us to spend much less time waiting for the rest of the group than a large group would. We had 19 people on a single bus. Friends of ours were on a tour with about 600 people on 14 buses. Although they were happy with their choice, the time spent waiting was a “con”.

One stop on our tour was Caesarea Maritima, which was essentially the Roman capital of Israel during the time of Jesus. Back in 1961, a block of carved limestone was discovered there, which contains an inscription regarding Pontius Pilate, widely known as the Roman official who ordered the crucifixion of Jesus, and had “King of the Jews” posted on the cross as his offense. In any case, the block is called the Pilate Stone, and a copy is on display in the ruins there in Caesarea Maritima.

Pilate Stone replica on display in Caesarea Maritima, Israel.
Photo by Jamie Harre.

You can look up the details on Wikipedia under Pilate Stone, instead of me plagiarizing the article, here. But I noticed that the article never mentions the word “epigraphic”, which relates to the study of epigraphs, or inscriptions. Why is that important? I thought it was the best chance I had of seeing the word in use in something to which I could relate. Epigraphic is my random word of the day, and I was hoping I could see it used in context, rather than just in a definition.

In fact, I didn’t find any colleges that offered the major (apologies if I just didn’t search hard/smart enough). I’m not even sure I found any colleges in the US that offered a single course dedicated to it. But if they do, it would be in the department of classics, or something similar, and probably focuses on Greek and/or Latin. It makes sense that the actual language of the epigraph would matter, I guess.

In the Pilate Stone article, all credit for discovering and interpreting the stone is given to “archaeologists”, who would probably have been trained in epigraphy, if they found a school that offered the training. Coincidentally, the Pilate Stone was discovered in June, 1961, but I was too busy being born to have noticed.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epigraphy
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pilate_stone

You’ve found it. Read on.

We use words (spoken), and symbols of words (written), as the primary tools to essentially copy what is in our own brains into someone else’s brain. Or even to mass copy what is in one brain into many, even millions of other brains. This is amazing.

We use pictures, too. Sometimes the words just compliment the pictures, and sometimes it’s the other way around. Words and pictures, or pictures and words, produced and propelled in digital form make up almost 2 billion websites. Also amazing.

So, regarding this website, having generated a list of random words as “seeds”, I’ll add a picture or two and a collection of other words to the random selection and have some fun with it. Maybe even learn something. Each week. WOW.

By the way, I’m Jamie. I have a regular corporate job, but I’ve also started a few businesses which are still in operation, including a couple related to photography. So, most of the pictures I use will be my own, with maybe some exceptions. Thanks for joining me.

Create your website at WordPress.com
Get started