October 2007 Archives


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I recently read a submitted story in which someone who seemed to be from Africa used the word "sahib." "That's not right," I said to myself; "there's another word like that that's used for some of the same kinds of things pertaining to Africa. Now what is it?"

I did some web searches; no dice. I went back to the story, but I couldn't focus on it.

I did some more web searches. Fruitless. I tried again with the story, but the word I was missing was driving me crazy.

I picked up Mike Resnick's Kirinyaga and flipped through it. Nothing. I had a vague idea that there was a feminine form of the word, often used in reference to white girls in Africa in the colonial adventure-story tradition, so I picked up Beryl Markham's West With the Night and leafed through that; still nothing. Tried to read the story again. Couldn't.

Looked in Hemingway. Nothing.

Had a sudden brainstorm. "Aha! I know what the word is! It's 'sahib'! ...Oh, wait, no, that's the one I started with."

Finally decided to drop Mary Anne a note and see if she could tell me the word; she's done post-colonial studies. Surely she would know.

Halfway through the note, I remembered the word.

I'm gonna use the "Extended Entry" feature for once, to give you a chance to think of the word before I say it. Do you know which word I mean? Hint: turns out there isn't a feminine version; I was confused.

Ziti loop

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Ever feel like you're trapped in a bad comedy routine?

In Logan Airport, in Boston, in May of 2003, I stopped at Baldini's Italian Cooking for lunch. The menu said "Pasta of the day: baked ziti." I went up to the kid behind the counter and the following loop occurred:

Me: Is there meat in the baked ziti?

Kid: We don't have baked ziti.

Me [looking at next item on menu]: Then can I have the broccoli chicken ziti?

Kid: We don't have broccoli chicken ziti.

Me: Then what do you have?

Kid [to other counterperson]: What do we have?

Counterguy [to kid]: Just what's out on display there.

Kid [to me, pointing to food on display]: Just what's here.

Me [pointing to ziti-like food]: What's that?

Kid [to counterguy]: What's that?

Counterguy [to kid]: Baked ziti.

Kid [to me]: Baked ziti.

Me: So is there meat in the baked ziti?

[Kid starts to go ask counterguy. I decide it's not worth my time and take my business elsewhere.]

The kid showed no indication through the entire dialogue that he saw anything contradictory about his statements. . . .

Going forward

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It's now been eight months since this blog went on hold. The plan was to integrate the old Words & Stuff columns into this blog, and integrate some entries from my main blog, and relaunch this blog as a new Words & Stuff blog.

Instead, I set it aside and tried not to think about it. It was too big a project to tackle.

But I've been gathering material all this time; especially Neology-style material (words I haven't seen before), but also various other stuff.

And this weekend, links to Words & Stuff from both Metafilter and Languagehat inspired me to get moving again.

I don't know how long it'll last before I run aground on the twin beaches of inertia and lack of time. But I'm gonna give it a try.

I won't necessarily stick to the very short entries that this blog was originally intended to focus on. But I also won't be doing full-blown 300- to 1200-word coherent columns on general topics. If I come across something cute and/or fun and/or short and/or interesting, I'll post it, without necessarily having to gather a bunch of related things.

P.S.: I've always hated the business-speak term "going forward," meaning "in the future." Perhaps using this title here will inspire me to do an entry about business-speak and buzzwords at some point.

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This page is an archive of entries from October 2007 listed from newest to oldest.

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