e: An Eloquent Orator

Words can be tricky things to say. They get tangled around and come out all wrong if you're not careful, and sometimes even if you are. Which is why actors and others who perform using their voices do enunciation exercises to warm up their vocal apparatus. The most famous such exercise is probably the rhyme […]

d: Everything Higgledy-Piggledy (Reader Comments)

Dominus, who can usually be counted upon to provide a comment, wrote: Higgledy-Piggledy isn't his favorite— too many syllables, not enough length. Mark-Jason Dominus can't do them anyway; metric analysis isn't his strength. —Mark-Jason Dominus Ranjit Bhatnagar wrote to say: "I once tried to combine the venerable Higgledy-Piggledy form with the equally well-respected Ten-Word Story, […]

d: Everything Higgledy-Piggledy

I've long had a fondness for certain poetic forms oft-derided as doggerel. One of my favorite such forms is the Double Dactyl, also known as the Higgledy Piggledy. A dactyl is a poetic foot which consists of a stressed syllable followed by two unstressed syllables. Words like "turpitude," "menopause," and "aspirin" are dactylic—their stress pattern […]

c: The Elusive Stormy Petrel

A stormy petrel, also known as a storm petrel, is an Atlantic seabird (also found in the Mediterranean). The term "stormy petrel" in general usage has come to refer to a harbinger of trouble; perhaps people believed that the bird was seen just before a storm. Sometime in the late '80s, Elliott Moreton came up […]

b: I’ve Jibe and Joke

My father used to tell me that between them, he and his father knew everything. "All right," I finally challenged him, "what's the meaning of life?" He replied, "That's one of the things my father knows." While driving somewhere with his parents, my father once boasted that he could tell a joke on any subject […]

a: Dogwood (Reader Comments)

Kendra Eshleman mentioned some nifty ladyplant names I'd never seen before: lady's smock, lady's thumb, and lady's ear drop. She added: I learned an interesting facty today from my Pro Scientia calendar: the Greeks knew of a certain plant, the rheon, which (in their experience) mostly grew in foreign countries, so they called it rheon […]

a: Dogwood

"Dogwood," I said, and then, "cowslip." There were four of us in the car; we were on the way to pick ollaliberries, kind of a silly word, and I was thinking about names of plants. "Catnip," said Sarah, picking up the theme without having to have it explained. Arthur mentioned "lambsquarters"; Ananda tossed in "foxglove." […]