secret banana writing

No, this entry isn't about the letter-tile game Bananagrams. (Some of my friends love it; if you're unfamiliar with it, take a look. But it doesn't really fit my head for some reason.)

Instead, this entry is a link to the Bloggess's entry about how to write magically appearing notes on a banana.

Just write on a banana skin with a toothpick, and a few hours later, the words you wrote will become visible. Cute!


A roving, says Wikipedia, is “a long and narrow bundle of fibre [...] usually used to spin woollen yarn.”

I'm sure y'all fibre-arts people knew that already, but I hadn't heard it before.

Wikipedia also says that a roving (I can't even type that without wanting to add “a-roving, for roving's been my ru-i-in”) can be used in thrummed knitting; another term I hadn't heard (in this context) before. The linked-to site says that a thrum is “a little wisp of unspun fleece or roving that is knit into your project every so often,” and adds that “Thrumming makes the insides soft and fuzzy, and freakishly warm.”

Yeah, thrumming does that to me, too. —never mind.

Hipster Ipsum

Want some sample filler text, but find faux-Latin too stodgy?

Now you can use Hipster Ipsum—“Artisanal filler text for your site or project” to fill your space with hipster-related terms.


Tofu tattooed Brooklyn farm-to-table put a bird on it, hoodie +1 raw denim locavore cliche. 8-bit Portland keytar butcher wolf lomo retro.

Let them eat...

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Mary Anne was talking about eating cake the night before surgery. I noted that cake is the best medicine.

Which led me to think there could be a whole series of proverbs with “cake” substituted in, along the lines of the Star Warspants” meme (that linked-to Words & Stuff column is NSFW; the pants quotes are at the end of it).

So I came up with the following:

  • Cake is a dish best served cold.
  • Red cake at morning, sailors take warning; red cake at night, sailors delight.
  • A cat may look at a cake.
  • All cake comes to he (or she) who waits.
  • All that glisters is not cake.
  • An army marches on its cake.
  • You made your cake; now you have to lie in it.
  • Half a cake is better than none.
  • You can't make a cake without breaking a few eggs.
  • Cake is wasted on the young.
  • Misery loves cake.

Eric Z replied with a comment about “the boy who cried cake.”

And then Shmuel took the idea and ran with it:

  • It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of cake.
  • It was the best of cake, it was the worst of cake.
  • Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover cake.
  • They say when cake comes close ranks, and so the white people did.
  • There was a boy named Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved cake.
  • He—for there could be no doubt of his sex, though the fashion of the time did something to disguise it—was in the act of slicing at the cake which swung from the rafters.
  • Cake, light of my life, fire of my loins . . .

As Mary Anne noted, that last one may be hard to top.

However, I invite y'all to try, or at least to have fun with the idea. Take a well-known phrase, saying, or quotation, substitute in “cake” for one or more words, and post it as a comment here.

Okay to make slight alterations to make the grammar come out right, make it funnier, or otherwise improve the MFQ, but try to stick close to the original where possible.

History of the phrase "people of color"

Just encountered the phrase “men of color” in an 1857 article about the Dred Scott case from the Albany, NY Evening Journal.

I could have sworn that there was a discussion about the history of the phrase “people of color” in my blog, and that Dominus (I think?) gave a very early cite, but now I can't find that. I did find an entry from 2002 in which I noted that I had just found a 1971 use of the phrase, but it turns out to go way further back.

Wikipedia now has info about the history of the phrase, but that info isn't necessarily accurate. But the article does cite a 1988 William Safire column that cites “a 1793 pamphlet about a yellow-fever epidemic” as an earliest known source.

(Safire also notes that Martin Luther King used the phrase “citizens of color” in his 1963 “I have a dream” speech.)

I also ran into the Wikipedia article on free people of color, a phrase that apparently derives from the French gens de couleur libre. The article is about the people rather than the phrase, and it's a little short on dates, but if I'm not reading too much into it, it implies that at least the French phrase was in wide use in New Orleans and the Caribbean well before 1810.

budgie smugglers

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Liz A, who is Australian, referred yesterday to Australian politician Tony Abbott and his “budgie smugglers.” When I asked what that meant, she explained that it's Australian slang for tight swim trunks for men, such as Speedos. I was very amused.

(I gather that many Americans don't know that “budgie,” short for “budgerigar,” means roughly the same thing as “parakeet.” Turns out “budgerigar” derives from “gijirrigaa,” from the Australian aboriginal language Yuwaalaraay, which Wikipedia says is a dialect of Gamilaraay.)

I now see that there's a similar term elsewhere: “grape smugglers.” But I like “budgie smugglers” better.

old win

Just encountered an amusing typo in a news article: “old win in new bottles.”

I suppose the opposite of that is old fail in new bottles.

Peeve: "it does exactly what the name says"

I keep seeing articles and blog entries that introduce a term or the name of a company or service or product, and then they say that the thing named “does just what the name says” (or “just what the name implies” or various variations).

And at least half the time lately when I encounter that phrase, it's in reference to a name that isn't at all clear.

For example, an article today says:

[...] keyloggers do exactly what their name implies [...]

Okay, so keyloggers . . . log keys? I would expect that most people who don't already know what a keylogger is would say “what does ‘log keys’ mean?”

Of course, the sentence goes on to explain: “[...] they log every keystroke a user makes, including passwords.”

Which is a pretty clear and reasonable explanation. And in fact, the phrase “just what the name says” (and variants) is almost always followed immediately by an explanation.

And so in most cases, it's redundant. If you're about to explain what the thing does, then why not just do so, instead of starting by saying that it's obvious what it does?

And if it really is obvious, then why explain it?

I think the impulse is an admirable one: to both explain, and apologize to people who don't need the explanation because it was obvious to them from the name.

But the phrase itself bugs me. For that purpose, I'd much rather use a parenthetical phrase like “(as the name suggests)” or “(as you might expect).” I think part of my reaction is just to the words “just” or “exactly,” which makes me feel like they're saying that the explanation should be completely obvious to everyone, and which makes me try to interpret the term literally.

As with most pet peeves, this one is minor and idiosyncratic; I imagine that plenty of you (especially those of you with a less literalist bent of mind than mind) find nothing wrong with the pattern nor even with the specific example.

But for those of you who share my peeve, here are a few more examples from the web:

Surge Protectors Do Exactly What The Name Says
So they protect surges?
retainers do exactly what the name says
If someone told me “use this to retain your teeth,” I wouldn't expect it to just keep them in place.
Carbon Copy Cloner will do exactly what the name says
It will clone a carbon copy of something?
Rapture/Accession/Celerity/Penury do exactly what the name says. Except I have added an /Echo to each one to remind myself what each one does.
If they do exactly what the name says, why do you need a reminder?
have you ever seen the show on discovery channel called Mythbusters? well, if not they do exactly what the name says
Oh, so they take ancient Greek and Roman myths and they smash them into pieces? Or do they arrest them?
[the DOF preview button] does exactly what the name says, DOF preview
Helpful explanation there.
The clone stamp does exactly what the name says
That would be handy if I had any clones I needed to stamp.
Zzz real estate does exactly what the name says
It . . . buzzes?
Jaw Juice [...] seriously does just what the name says
I'm not letting that thing anywhere near my jaw, then!

And so on. There are, of course, lots and lots of uses of these phrases in which the explanation really is obvious—but I feel like I've been seeing more cases than usual lately in which the explanation is obvious only if you already know what it is.


I was reading Suzanne Brockmann's novel The Defiant Hero, and I came across this phrase:

as they crossed the roof on their bondoons.

I had no idea what bondoons were. My dictionary didn't list the term. But a quick web search revealed the answer, in a thread about sniglets. One of the thread participants had emailed Brockmann about the word, and Brockmann had replied:

It's actually made up word—a euphemism for one's bottom that my husband created when our kids were little.

It actually first came to be as “bondoony.” Which is a somewhat silly word that made everyone laugh—especially the two-year-olds who often fell on their bondoonies.

It turns out there are a couple of other instances of the term on the web, most notably a thread from a system optimization forum from 2000:

Now there's a large pain in the bondoons.

The reason that's notable is that the book came out in 2001; presumably other people had picked up the word from Brockmann and her family before the book was published.

Google also gives a search result that includes the phrase “sitting at home on our fat bondoons,” but the article that that allegedly appears in doesn't actually contain that phrase, and Google's cached copy says the term appears only in pages linking to that page. Odd and confusing.

Anyway, pleased to be able to find the answer to the mystery so easily; thanks to the person who emailed Brockmann for asking and posting, and thanks to Brockmann for responding to that question.

Fear no noxious

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The other day, Kam and I watched the Lost (season 2) episode titled “The 23rd Psalm.” And she joked, “The 23rd Psalm—isn't that ‘I must not fear; fear is the mind-killer’?”

(For those unfamiliar with the reference, it's a line from Dune.)

Which I was really amused by. And now I'm even more amused, because I just came across two pieces of comment spam that take the 23rd Psalm in a different direction:

When i ocean on the vally associated with death.....I see absolutely no evil. As I attractive satans family room, I believe little nasty. [and then some advertising text]

And, presumably from the same spammer:

When i surfing throughout the vally connected with fatality.....I see absolutely no noxious. As I approach satans family den, I think basically no satanic. We're the online world, We are net. Do you really be aware of the connection on the electricity we need to cope with in this case? Ignored.

I especially like the phrase “surfing throughout the vally connected with fatality.” Nice work, spambot!

(I also like the phrase “satans family room.” And if you Google that phrase, you'll find a bunch more spam from this bot, including lines like “As I walk into satans family room, I'm basically no malefic.” Words to live by!)