QQ: Drongos, Droobs, and Droogs

Have you been looking for a good slang dictionary? Me too. It can be hard to tell, on a cursory inspection, which are reasonably accurate and which are outdated, miss shades of meaning, or are just plain wrong. I've taken to checking a few particular words that I feel reasonably confident I know the current […]

PP: Party Boobytrap

Everyone knows what a palindrome is: a word that reads the same backwards as forwards (except for spaces and punctuation). Maybe the fact that everyone knows about them is why it's taken me a year and a half to get around to writing about them. The most famous palindrome is probably "Madam, I'm Adam." Perhaps […]

OO: Peephole in a Barbed Wire Fence

In a 1985 column, world's greatest columnist Jon Carroll asked for information about the phrase "I stand before you to sit behind you..." He was deluged with comments. Like many of his correspondents, I had heard a version of the phrase as a child; it's the start of a contradictory nonsense verse. The verse generally […]

NN: The Eponymous Four

I don't know how long people have been coming up with odd names for groups of musical performers, but the practice dates back at least to the 1930s. (Before that there were named musical groups, but the names were usually descriptive (and often place-linked), like "The London Philharmonic Orchestra," rather than fanciful.) Bands with names […]

LL: A Fa Fa Better Thing

"California is a garden of Eden, a paradise to live in or see But believe it or not, you won't find it so hot If you ain't got the do re mi." —Woody Guthrie Solmization (also known as sol-fa) is the use of syllables (such as do, re, and mi) to indicate musical notes. You […]

KK: Index, Keywords, Philosophy, Games

As we're confronted with an ever-vaster quantity of unsorted online information, one of the greatest challenges of coming decades may be determining ways to find a given needle of information in the haystack of the Web. Indexing is the process of providing multiple topic-based entry points to a collection of data—specifically, providing a way for […]