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shameless pleading





May 2011 Issue

Semper Ubi Sub Ubi


Spring is here, Spring is here, life is skittles and life is beer… Well, at least it seems to have stopped raining for the moment.

The vultures are back! I love the vultures. They nest every year in our old semi-dead hollow tree down by the road and spend their days soaring above the yard and the field across the road.  I counted nine of them wheeling above our side yard the other afternoon. They are truly awesome birds. You can go stand in the yard and they’ll swoop low over your head to say hi. At least I hope they’re saying hi and not just checking my pulse.

We acquired a flock of crows in our trees last year for the first time. That sounds like we paid for them, but they actually just appeared. I grew up with crows, and I didn’t realize until these showed up how much I had missed their caws. And in the early evening, I sit on the front porch and watch the bats zoom back and forth catching bugs. Bats are cool.

The downside of spring around here is the clouds of agricultural chemicals that envelop the house. We’re sandwiched between two enormous fields, each spanning hundreds of acres, where soybeans and corn are grown in alternate years. Because of the rain, the farmers are way behind schedule in their planting, and they’ve been spraying late into the night. Not fun. It’s a huge argument against country living.

Many thanks to our readers who have subscribed or otherwise contributed to our well-being lately. As I may have mentioned a few times, your support literally keeps this leaky little boat afloat. I know money is tight for most people, but, if you can swing four cents a day ($15/yr), you’ll be ensuring that we’re here when you run into someone who firmly maintains that the proper spelling of the phrase is “all tolled.” Think of us as an insurance policy on a small but important bit of your sanity. So please consider subscribing if you can, because (as I have lately discovered the hard way) there are many people out there who would like to but can’t.

Many thanks also to the kind person who sent me Dragon voice-recognition software. I actually do have a computer that can be booted into Windows 7, so that’ll work. My shoulder is healing slowly, but I’m  going to use this software even after it’s working again. One of the things that ms has done is undermine my ability to make my fingers type the proper letters. I worked as a legal proofreader for several years at a large NYC firm and I was very good at it (good enough that I quit wearing a tie to work and got away with it), and until a few years ago I almost never made a mistake typing. Now? Fuhgeddaboudit. Word salad. It’s mostly my left hand that’s the culprit, but that’s half of every word up for grabs. But I still compose complete sentences in my mind before I type them, so speaking them aloud instead ought to work. It’ll be like having an amanuensis. My father worked as an assistant to H.L. Mencken in the 1930s, and he said the high point of that gig was when Mencken got into the habit of introducing him to people as “my amanuensis.”

Speaking of computery things, my primary computer just went kablooey, which isn’t surprising, since it’s a low-end desktop Dell from 2003. I bought it NIB on eBay for less than $400 and gave it a real graphics card, a decent power supply, a cheap sound card and four gigs of cheap memory, and it hummed along happily for eight years. Now the graphics card has died rather dramatically (strobing orange screen!), but I’m not sure I’ll replace it since (a) I don’t have the money at the moment, and (b) the whole machine has been acting strangely for a few weeks, and Dell never built anything to last this long. Kathy’s final Dell (before she jumped ship to a Mac years ago) died of a fried motherboard one day after the one-year warranty expired. What a coinkydink, eh?

I’m thinking I’ll just build my own next time. After all, I pretty much built this one. And I can buy the parts over time, like building an airplane in your garage. And I can use the disk drives, sound card, etc. I already have.

By the way, the failure of this computer freaked me out less than it would have last year, when there was a good chance I’d have lost the last few changes to whatever column I had been writing. But since I now use the Dropbox online backup service, my documents folder online gets updated literally as soon as I save the file on my computer (where it continues to exist in case the internet isn’t working, etc.). If you sign up through that link, you get 2 gigabytes of free storage, and I get an additional 250 mb. You should still run weekly backups of everything to an external drive, but Dropbox really is insanely convenient.

Elsewhere in computerville, one of our neighbors called me the other day. He lives about a half-mile down the road and, like most people who didn’t grow up with computers, he regards his as a temperamental mystery. He was wondering why his DSL connection keeps going dead, so I explained that last year Verizon unloaded its rural lines to a bunch of feckless gits from out west called Frontier, who apparently haven’t quite grasped the complexities of running a business with actual customers. The solution, which I learned last year and relayed to him, is simply to turn off the DSL modem, wait ten, twenty or twenty thousand minutes, and fire it up again. Works about 50% of the time. It doesn’t work when it’s raining, but, then again, neither do the phones around here.

By the way, DSL out here, sold as being between 3 and 5 mbps, actually tops out, on a good day, at around 370 kbps, or about one-tenth of the low end of the advertised range. It’s really just glorified dial-up. But you people in the big city with your true broadband don’t have vultures, so we win.

Lastly, as always, please consider subscribing. C’mon, gang — it’s four cents a day.

And now, on with the show….

5 comments to May 2011 Issue

  • Clark

    Hello, in there! It’s me, out here!

    I haven’t really ‘studied’ your site yet, but the name (TWD) and the first two columns I found make me pretty sure I like it already. I’m the kind of person who can go to a dictionary to look something up, stumble across something else, and off I go on rabbit trails! The curse of being a lexiophile. And I look stuff up(not just words) often; in books, on the web (gotta love the web; the world at your fingertips!), and anywhere else I can think of. So I enjoy digging for information on stuff that interests me (almost everything), not unlike a detective; so I related to your blog’s name immediately.

    I was there looking up the origin of the word, “pumps” as relates to shoes. See, a stray thought made me realize I barely knew what defined pumps as shoes, much less the origin of the term. So I saddled up my computer, rode out a ways, and found it pretty quick on your blog; and I busted out a big ol’ grin when the first words I read were a Firesign reference (Shoes for industry)!

    So I decided to investigate the site a bit more (after reading about pumps), and went to your blog’s home page. Another grin, and a lol to boot; Professor Tom Lehrer, for cryin’ out loud! Yee-ha! It’s old home week! So let’s make a date for the park next Sunday; I’ll bring my own peanuts.

    Thx, C.

  • Charlie Nunzio

    Tom Lehrer’s “Poisoning Pidgeons in the Park” just came to mind. Is Tom still around?

  • admin


    There are a number of videos of his performances up on YouTube.

  • Bill Schmeer

    It’s a murder of crows, isn’t it?

  • Renee Guillory

    Hi there! As ever, love your column, and I’m glad your shoulder’s better. Can’t find the entry on “Budge” to comment on directly, and I’m afraid I’m going to forget to reply later, so here goes. Now, on the Beeb, and in my netflix list, there are a number of Brit films where I’m certain I’ve heard characters say, “Budge up there, mate.” It was even used in a similar manner by J.K. Rowling in Harry Potter – I think by Hagrid, whose colorful expressions and written idiom have a Scots feel to them. The phrase I think means, “scooch over a bit.” P.S. I couldn’t find an entry on scooch – is it possible you haven’t featured that word in the last five years? Please, sir, can I have some more information on this?

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