2LD: Allusion & Ambiguity (And a bonus: garden path sentences)

Two more easy ones.

An allusion is a reference the author doesn’t explain, because the reader is expected to know of it.  The reference can be “a person, place, thing or idea of historical, cultural, literary or political significance.”

Verbally, allusions are made every time we say something is “so 1984“, meaning that the something resembles the dystopian world Orwell wrote in 1984.  When we say someone ran like Usain Bolt, we are making an allusion.  We expect the audience to know that “running like Usain Bolt” means “running very fast.”

Perhaps more interesting are visual allusions.  Take the iconic Obama Hope image:


The above image is in our cultural lexicon.  The below image, however…

…is not directly in our cultural lexicon.  But the design of this image inherently references the original.  This image can be viewed and “read” superficially, but there won’t be much to read.  Knowing that this is a reference to the Obama Hope image, though, allows us to read it as an allusion.  In this specific case, it is a parody allusion.  The Joker image could be commenting on the difference in goals the two leaders have, it could be poking fun at the original image (notice how it can do this without being the original image at all), or it could just be the product of a curious mind.  Either way, it is a visual parody allusion.


If I were to come up with a list of literary devices, ambiguity would not be one of them.  To me, it’s just a middle-school vocabulary word.  But it does make sense that it is a literary device: it’s another tool the writer has to add layers to his work, another lens with which the reader has to read the work.

An ambiguous sentence is a sentence that can be read in at least two different ways.  If I read the sentence “Her phone rang and she answered”, it could mean

1.  Her phone made a sound and she answered the phone
2.  Her phone made a sound and she answered something else (someone in the room)
3.  Her phone vibrated (or otherwise alerted her to a call) and she answered the phone
4.  Her phone vibrated (or otherwise…) and she answered something else

There could be more possible events.  The point is, is that the sentence has at least some ambiguity.

Ambiguity, like allegory, is a spectrum.  The above example typically is read/heard to mean #1.  #2, 3, and 4 are possible, but they are not probable.  However, an example, such as the following, has multiple meanings that are more closely probable:

“[I ran to the store] and [got back in time] [for the game.]”

The first part alone could mean:

1.  I physically ran to the store
2.  I drove to the store

The second part could mean:

a.  I got back to see the pre-game shows/events
b.  I got back to see the beginning of the game itself
c.  I got back before it was over

The third part could mean:

I.  board game
II.  sports on the TV
III.  actually at the sport event
IV.  poker game of No-Limit Texas Hold Em
V.  poker game of Five Card Draw
VI.  etc.

The sentence’s ambiguity decreases given the context, but all the readings are still technically possible.

One fun example of ambiguous sentences are “garden path sentences.”  These are sentences that prime the reader to expect ambiguity, but to guess the sentence is going one way, but it ends up going another.  Here are some examples from the Wikipedia page:

“The old man the boat”
“The complex houses married and single soldiers and their families”
“The government plans to raise taxes were defeated”

Here’s the excellent Dinosaur Comics explanation and example:


And here are some more examples:

  • The man who hunts ducks out on weekends.
  • The cotton clothing is made of grows in Mississippi.
  • The author wrote the novel was likely to be a best-seller.
  • I convinced her children are noisy.
  • The tomcat curled up on the cushion seemed friendly.
  • The man returned to his house was happy.
  • Mary gave the child the dog bit a bandaid.
  • The government plans to raise taxes were defeated.
  • The girl told the story cried.
  • I know the words to that song about the queen don’t rhyme.
  • The sour drink from the ocean.
  • That Jill is never here hurts.
  • The tycoon sold the offshore oil tracts for a lot of money wanted to kill JR.

2LD: Allegory & Alliteration

Two more easy ones in this Two Literary Devices series: allegory and alliteration.

An allegory is an entire story/artwork that superficially works on its own, but it’s purpose is to primarily teach a political/ethical lesson.  Literarydevices.com gives these examples of allegories: George Orwell’s Animal Farm (superficially it is about animals on a farm, allegorically it is about communism), Edmund Spenser’s Faerie Queen, and John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress.

Wikipedia’s page on allegory is exceptionally interesting: Northrop Frye apparently had the idea of “a ‘contiuum of allegory.'”  In certain allegories, the superficial story is just the vehicle for the lesson.  The character’s aren’t fleshed out, the plot is straightforward, and the allegory just lacks depth.  On the other side are allegories that have so much depth that it is difficult to ascertain their deeper meaning.

In making my own example, I don’t know whether to start with a superficial story or with the underlying moral/political lesson I want to teach.  Let’s say I started with the moral lesson: never be rude to a customer:

When John was of the mortal realm, he waited tables.  Upon his catastrophic death, when he died of food poisoning after eating the bleach riddled entree meant for the rude customer, John was sent to Hell.  But this was a special kind of Hell: John lived in a nightmare only the servers from the movie Waiting could imagine: every customer that the John was rude to, deserved or not, now lives underneath John’s eyelids, pestering him with requests every time he blinks.  Nothing he can do will get rid of the images he sees every time he blinks: each customer red in the face asking to see his manager.  If only John had been polite.

Yeah, it’s not great, but man, it’s tough to write an allegory.  Far easier to identify.


Alliteration has been one of my favorite literary devices ever since I learned about it: the repetition of the same sound at the beginning of close-together words.

Tongue twisters are often alliterative:

•A big bug bit a bold bald bear and the bold bald bear bled blood badly.

•Brisk brave brigadiers brandished broad bright blades, blunderbusses, and bludgeons — Balancing them badly.

•Can you can a canned can into an uncanned can like a canner can can a canned can into an uncanned can?

Here’s a list of idiomatic alliterations, alliterations that are in our everyday speech.

Here’s my alliteration example:

When waitstaff whine, cooks can’t care.

Alliteration is similar to consonance and assonance, with a key difference.  Alliteration is only the first sounds in multiple words; consonance (only consonant sounds) and assonance (only vowel sounds) refer to sounds anywhere in the words sentence/sentences.  My example above alliterates and consonates.

Happy literary devicing.

2LD: Ad Hominem & Adage

As far as literarydevices.net is concerned, the literary device of “ad hominem” is the same as the logical fallacy:

An ad hominem is a verbal attack on a person rather than the person’s argument.  It is logically unsound, but it is generally effective, because it attacks the person’s ethos (rather than logos), engages the audience’s pathos, and enrages the person’s pathos and pride.  They defend themselves instead of discussing further the argument, and by doing so, they just play into the hands of the logically fallacious.

An ad hominem argument is as follows:

“How can you argue your case for vegetarianism when you are enjoying your steak?”

My example is as follows:

“Clean your room, it’s dirty” said the parent.
“You didn’t clean your room.  You’re a hypocrite,” said the child.

Calling out hypocrisy is irrelevant to the argument that one’s room needs to be cleaned because it’s dirty.


As with ad hominem, adages are simple.  An adage is “a short, pointed and memorable saying based on facts, and is considered a veritable truth by the majority of people.”  Literarydevices.net claims that there is a difference between adages and proverbs, but I disagree, as does dailywritingtips.com.  As that website points out, “English possesses dozens of nouns that mean ‘short sayings that encapsulate truth or wisdom passed on from previous generations.'”

Examples of adages are as follows:

“Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.”

“Things are not always what they seem.”

An adage isn’t something I can just write, but one that I thought of that wasn’t on any of the websites I consulted is a bit of wisdom I hear from managers at restaurants:

Time to lean, time to clean.

2LD: Accumulation & Adynaton

2LD posts will be featuring two literary devices. My goal is to learn all of these.  It is personally satisfying knowing the names and even the existence of these techniques, but more than that, knowing the word helps explain the beauty.  All of the times we think a sentence sounds superb, there is at least one literary device at work.  It is my goal to recognize and use them often.

First up is “accumulation.”  Accumulation is the rhetorical act of piling up a description for a single purpose.

Of all the examples I’ve found online (1, 2, 3, 4), I found 4 the most useful:

In the following examples, scattered arguments are gathered and presented together to make the point compact and forceful.

  • “He is the betrayer of his own self-respect, and the waylayer of the self-respect of others; covetous, intemperate, irascible, arrogant; disloyal to his parents, ungrateful to his friends, troublesome to his kin; insulting to his betters, disdainful of his equals and mates, cruel to his inferiors; in short, he is intolerable to everyone.” Attributed to Cicero,Rhetorica ad Herennium, IV.52
  • “A generation goes and a generation comes, yet the earth remains forever. The sun rises and the sun sets, and rushes back again to the place from which it rises. The wind blows south, then returns to the north, round and round goes the wind, on its rounds it circulates. All streams flow to the sea, yet the sea does not fill up.”   (Ecclesiastes, The Old Testament)

The repetition of description (the accumulation) is aimed at one purpose for each of these examples: in the first, the character is clearly no bueno; in the second, nature moves in cycles.

As with all of these 2LD posts, I’ll make my own example.  This example will be a meta-example, an explanation of the literary device AND an example of it in use:

Accumulation is the piling up, the stacking, the heaping of useful description

The gerunds (piling up, stacking, heaping) all mean the same thing, but they add to the description by emphasizing the quantity.


That was accumulation.  Now on to adynaton.

First off, how is it pronounced and where does this word come from?  As far as I can tell, it is pronounced a (cat) + dee + na (name) + tin.  Adeenatin.  It is a compound word from Ancient Greek meaning “without” + “I am able”.

As an English literary device, it is a hyperbole (an exaggeration) in the extreme.  So hyperbolic is this device that it would be impossible for the description to be real.

There are excellent lists of adynatons (technically the plural form of adynaton is adynata): 1, 2 .  However, the one that I think will stick in my head the best is this one:

“‘I will sooner have a beard grow in the palm of my hand than he shall get one of his cheek’, —Shakespeare 2 Henry IV 1.2.20-22″

It is physically impossible to grow a beard on the palm of one’s hand.  Therefore, it is an adynaton.

As for my own example, here it goes:

I’m so horny, I could fuck through a brick wall.

Happy literary devicing.

ATOV: Every n years

So I came across this Category page in Wiktionary.  What caught my interest was the righthand sidebar.  It lists “Recent additions to the category” and “oldest pages ordered by last edit.”  Here is what they are now:

Screen Shot 2015-09-13 at 23.47.10Adoxography is definitely a word to add to our vocabularies.  It means “fine writing on a trivial or base subject”.  What an easy way to give a back-handed compliment when you want to praise the message but condemn the topic.

Anyways, the list updates.  And I found the word “quinquennial”.  It was easy enough to see what it meant, same as annual, but instead of once per year, “quinquennial” means once per five years.  But I didn’t know the word/idea had a name.  So I looked up as many of these “every n years” words I could find.  And I found this excellent list.  Somehow, I want to use “dodransbicentennial” in my everyday speech.

ATOV: Inflection, Lemma, Lexeme, Limnology

Inflection/Inflexion: “modification of a word to express different grammatical categories such as tense, mood, voice, aspect, person, number, gender and case…The inflection of verbs is also called conjugation, and the inflection of nouns, adjectives and pronouns is also called declension.”

Lemma: the canonical form of an inflected word (i.e. what’s in the dictionary).1

Lexeme: the lemma and all of its inflections.

So a lemma might be (run) and the lexeme would be (run, runs, ran, etc.).  Our vocabulary is full of lexemes; dictionaries are full of lemmas.  A lemma is a lexeme without inflection.  A lexeme is a lemma plus all possible inflections.

Limnology: study of lakes and fresh water (Greek limne means “pool of standing water, tidal pool, marsh, lake”)2

  1.  How does lemma etymologically relate to dilemma?  Prescriptively/connotatively, a dilemma is a choice between two equally negative outcomes.  Di is the Greek root for “two” and lemma means “premise, assumption.”  Somehow, the idea of “a conclusion” is added in there.
  2.  The Ancient Greek limne most likely comes from the Proto-Indo-European word that also gives us the English slime.

How Haven’t I Learned This Word/Phrase: Compound Fracture and Hematoma

Last night, my girlfriend and I watched the TV show The Blacklist.  And all of a sudden, somebody on the screen’s bone is sticking out of their skin.  They have a compound fracture, we are told, as if the image wasn’t telling enough.  Instead of whimpering with my blanket over my head, I realized I have heard this phrase my entire life, but I don’t have a clue what it means.

So today I looked it up.  A compound fracture is “a broken bone in which a part of the bone sticks out through the skin”.  Okay, easy enough.

But wait, why is it called a compound fracture?  As far as I know, “compound” has nothing to do with the skin.  Could it just be that it’s a fracture/break of both the bone and the skin?  That’s my best guess, and it doesn’t seem like I’ll be getting a definitive answer anytime soon, because…

I’d like to think that I have the cojones to look this up on Wikipedia, but I’m not a huge fan of pictures of this particular event.  But I have to know.  So I drag the window to the edge of my monitor and push it past, so that I can only see 3/4 of the window, and then I bravely pull up the Wikipedia page.  I can’t see any pictures, but I can read all of the text.  Score.

So a compound fracture is also known as an “open fracture.”  I’m seeing a lot of terminology that is significantly less than pleasant: “Avulsion fracture: A fracture where a fragment of bone is separated from the main mass”, “Blowout fracture – a fracture of the walls or floor of the orbit”, “Comminuted fracture: A fracture in which the bone has broken into several pieces”.  If that last one sounds interesting to you, there is a whole section of Fragment fractures.

This is already far more than I could ever care to learn about bone fractures.  As I scroll down the page, there are fractures named after doctors: Le Fort fracture of skull, Chance fracture, Holdsworth fracture, Monteggia fracture.  Of all the things in the world I’d like named after me, fractures are not one of them.

This perusal of the Wikipedia article also had em come across another word I should know but don’t: hematoma.  It’s a bruise.  There are even degrees of hematomas: from the small petechiae, to the bigger purpura, to the biggest ecchymosis, which is the common bruise.

Nonetheless, I will remember “compound fracture” and “hematoma” from here on out.  But I don’t necessarily need to be reminded of what it looks like, thank you very much.

Phrases of Questionable Jackassery: Ceteris paribus and mutatis mutandis

Ceteris paribus and mutatis mutandis. 

I came across ceteris paribus in reading the Wikipedia entry for “Price elasticity of demand”.  Ceteris paribus “is a Latin phrase meaning ‘with other things the same’ or ‘other things being equal or held constant.'”1  Ceteris means “the other” and paribus means “equal”.

The Wikipedia page lists two types of ceteris paribus clauses: hypothetical and substantive.  Among the substantive, there are the further hyponyms: temporal isolation and causal isolation.  I need to read more into all of this to understand it more.

Ceteris paribus is shortened by writing cet. par. or c.p.  It is considered New Latin, due to it originating in academic works well after the Roman Empire.

Mutatis mutandis means “‘the necessary changes having been made’ or ‘once the necessary changes have been made.'”  It’s Latin directly translates to “with the changes changed.”

I don’t know if these words are unnecessarily pretentious or absurdly useful.  Either way, it’s important to know them.

Edit made 13Sep15 at 2238

  1.  The Wikipedia page for ceteris paribus has a lot of vocabulary/ideas I’m not familiar with.  I need to read into this more: more about the difference between “fundamental science” and “special sciences”, what it means to have a “logical empiricist view of science”, what are its opposites, and what is the differences in mechanistic models vs. law models?

Open Tabs: 10Sep15

I watched a lot of Iron Chef when I was little.  I’m talking about the old-school Iron Chef, the one with Masaharu Morimoto, yes, like also in Iron Chef America, but also with Chen Kenichi (Iron Chef Chinese), Hiroyuki Sakai (Iron Chef French), and Masahiko Kobe (Iron Chef Italian).

In the opening sequence of the show, Chairman Kaga (the Michael Jackson meets Muammar Qaddafi of Iron Chef), reads French food writer Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin‘s quote “Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are.”1  I think the quote holds today just as it did in the past, but I think there are other things we consume that explain who we are.

Screen Shot 2015-09-10 at 21.22.30
The above picture is my current non-incognito Chrome window.  I write these posts through WordPress’ web portal, and I have three total tabs open on it: this one, Dictators in uniform (I had to search “flamboyant dictators” to remember Qaddafi’s name, which led me to that tab), and the Wikipedia page for Brillat-Savarin).

The point is, I have an absurd number of tabs open.  The sheer quantity says something about me: I use the computer a lot, I like tabs, I like the internet, I’m curious, I’m lazy, I procrastinate, I hoard, and/or I have a commitment/detachment issue.  Far more interesting, though, is what the tabs say about me, or what your tabs say about you.  Tell me the names of your unclosed tabs , and I will tell you what you are.  And on the way, I’ll close these tabs so I can actually shut down my computer tonight.[2 Yes, I know that I can just have Chrome reopen all the tabs.  But I’d rather not trigger The Day After Tomorrow as my laptop’s fan cranks up to Harrier percent.]

I’ll go from right to left.  Although this would usually mean most recent to least, I’ve had these bad boys up for a while now and I’ve reopened tabs in the middle and added tabs from there.  But in general, the story should go from now to the most distant browsing past:

1.  Anthony Bourdain Melts a Meteorite to Make a Beautiful Blade

Soooo, Anthony Bourdain is my hero.  Jackie Chan, Bill Gates, and Maurice Greene were my childhood heroes, and since Maurice Greene is just old-news, I’ve replaced him with Elon Musk and David Chang.  My favorite aspect about Bourdain is that he made a name for himself by getting up before his morning restaurant shift and writing.  Everything about the discipline of that is impressive: writing while being a line cook, having the wherewithal to wake up early (when the nights are probably pretty late), and writing something that touched a gustatory nerve.  His commitment to food and cooking and his unabashed desire for high quality; what a badass.

As for watching this video, I will.  Just not now.

2.  Minimatic: Google Search

I’m a fan of electro-swing music, especially when cleaning my home.  I was listening to Minimatic’s remix/cover/mashup of Blackstreet’s No Diggity and I was wondering if Minimatic had done anything else.  Instead of finding out, I just left the tab open to remind me that I was interested in it at sometime.  As it turns out, it looks like Minimatic has made a lot of music.  I’ll be listening to it for the rest of this post.

3.  Slick Rick & Doug E. Fresh – La Di Da Di (Full Version) – YouTube

Earlier today, I was watching Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake’s sixth History of Rap.  It had a song that I had heard before, but didn’t recognize.  That song, as I found out, is La Di Da Di.

4.  ‘Parks and Rec’ Ben Schwartz Can’t Stop – Speakeasy – YouTube

This was from this morning.  I like to play video games (today was Super Smash Bros. for the Wii U) on mute while listening to podcasts from my computer.  I found this YouTube interview series by user Made Man.  The host interviews celebrities while drinking cocktails.  It was mildly interesting, the interviewer was decent, but he talked a little too much for my taste.

I listened to the Aziz Ansari interview first and then I stumbled across this one from Ben Schwartz.  I didn’t know anything about him, besides that his character on Parks and Recreation cracks me up, so I listened to the interview.  It was mildly interesting.  What caught my ear was how Schwartz and the interviewer talked about how in show business once you take a break and stop working/producing, it feels like it’s all just gone and that you’re nothing.  I don’t think this is unique to showbusiness.

5.  45 Manly Hobbies | Art of Manliness

This is a spawned link (came from another tab I had open, also Art of Manliness).  I think I got my usual feeling of “What the fuck am I doing with all of my time/why don’t I do something besides check Facebook constantly” and figured I’d check out this list of hobbies to see if anything sounded good.  I don’t think I read a single word.  I’ve been on this page before; looks like a great list.  It’s just not something I necessarily need right now.

6.  100 Must-Read Books: The Essential Man’s Library | Art of Manliness

I don’t remember when I first viewed this list, but it was sometime around the 2008 posting of it.  I don’t remember when I first started reading Art of Manliness.  I should find that out.  It seems to have been with me throughout all of my adult life.

Either way, I’ve seen this list a lot.  I’ve toyed with the idea of reading all of these books (for the first time or reread) and potentially write about each one.  I got as far as rereading The Great Gatsby and then starting to reread The Prince.  I quickly realized that I was missing far too many of the references Machiavelli made to Italian/Roman history and I figured I would make a guide to reading it.  This fell through, although I still think the idea is good.

What is it about these lists that make me so drawn to them?  How awesome would it be to have read all of these books?  I need to do this.

7.  Testosterone Week: How I Doubled My Testosterone Levels Naturally and You Can Too | Art of Manliness

I opened this tab and proceeded to not read a word.  I will, though.  I’m interested in what effect testosterone has on the body, particularly with exercise.

8.  How to Develop the Situational Awareness of Jason Bourne | Art of Manliness

In listing my childhood heroes earlier in this post, I forgot Jason Bourne.  I’ve read all three of the Ludlum books, I’ve rewatched the three Damon movies, and I’ve imagined what I would do if I had amnesia and was trained as an assassin (incidentally, I tend not to imagine what I would do if I just had amnesia, although that is probably a more likely scenario).  He’s a big reason I took three languages in high school and chose to study Russian in college.  Long story short, any link with “Jason Bourne” in it is bound for me to click on it.  However, I never read any of it.

9.  7 Simple Exercises That Undo the Damage of Sitting | Art of Manliness

One thing I love about working as a cook is getting to stand for work/the majority of the day.  During my month of unemployment, I got pretty sick of sitting all day.  Although I’m largely immune to the effects of oversitting now, my girlfriend, who works in an office, is not.  She was telling me she has been getting sore from it.  So I clicked on this link.  And proceeded to not look at it.  I’ll check it out tomorrow.  I’m probably going to end up using this post as a list to revisit these links.

10.  Mastering Man Food: How to Cook Bacon Properly | Art of Manliness

Now here’s a link I read.  I made some bacon last night for dinner.  I’m not a huge fan of the finicky method of stovetop bacon frying, so I did some quick research into alternative methods.  I’ve baked bacon regularly before (when I worked at Colton’s Steakhouse, I loved the smell as we opened the oven doors to two full sheets of baked bacon), and I just needed some reminders.

I ended up baking it just like Art of Manliness describes under the subheading “The Way of the Pros”, except that I took the advice from “The Vermont Style” and added some maple syrup.  Wow.  Definitely worth it.  Extra thick cut bacon, 400 degrees, maple syrup.  I don’t think there’s any other way to do it anymore.

So all of these Art of Manliness links are all from yesterday.  Three more.

11.   4 Personal Finance Principles That Would Make Your Grandfather Proud | Art of Manliness

I opened this and didn’t read it.  It has my name written all over it: generational jealousy, personal finance, and Art of Manliness.  It’s just I didn’t read it.  Why?  I guess I was just interested in other things at the time.  I figured I’d come back to it.  I think I use tabs almost the way most people use bookmarks (in real life or via a browser): as something to come back to and read later.

12.  5 Easy Ways for the College Student to Upgrade His Style | Art of Manliness

Same thing as above: clicked on it, didn’t read.

13.  The Art of Manliness

Alas, the homepage.  The progenitor of all the above AoM links.  If I remember right, at the time I typed this into the browser, I’d exhausted all of my front-page reading of CNN.com, Facebook, Engadget, Appleinsider, and I wanted more time on the computer.

14.  The Cinematic Orchestra : Every Day (Full Album) – YouTube

So I found this maybe on Tuesday.  It was in the Related Videos list on the right side of some YouTube page (I should get to it soon in this tab archaeological excavation), I recognized the group (Cinematic Orchestra), and I wanted to remind myself to check them out.  I meant to look them up on my iTunes library to see how I recognized them.

I just quit listening to the Minimatic Soundcloud (not nearly enough electro-swing, but I did like one of them besides No Swinggity: Get Swingy) and I tried this link a try.  Ooph.  Not for me.

However, their songs from my iTunes library are fantastic, and I definitely haven’t listened to them enough recently: Arrival of the Birds & Transformation and To Build a Home (Ft. Patrick Watson)

15.  Bonobo – The North Borders – YouTube

I opened this for essentially the same reason as #14: I recognized the artist when I saw the video link on the Related Videos, clicked on it, and planned to check it out.

There must be a number, a certain threshold that I have to reach, when I just start mining music artists.  If I like x number of songs, I just am content with those songs.  But if I like x>n, n being the threshold number, I just will give everything a try by that artist to see if there are any other wonders.  And with Bonobo, the answer to that question has been a consistent yes.

As I listen to the link now, it couldn’t be more perfect for “I’m just about to go to bed but I’m cranking out this post.”

16.  Miley Cyrus Bangerz (Full Album) – YouTube

That scenario described a sentence before this one?  Yeah, I’m just going to go out on a limb and guess that Miley Cyrus music would not fit that billing.  I’ll give this a listen to sometime other than right now.  Apparently some of the songs are decent.

I think this was from Tuesday.  I just used this to determine that my computer has been on for 3 days, 5 hours, and 31 minutes.  Sounds like I had it off during my lunch shift on Monday, turned it on when I got home, and then have had it on since then.

Okay, I’ve got to go to bed.  I told my girlfriend, at 915, that I’d be to bed in 30 minutes.  It’s now 2228.  I’ve got to write my journal and get to bed asap.  I’ll pick this excavation back up tomorrow.

  1.  I began my B.A. English capstone paper with this quote.  I’ll put it up here sometime

Jackass Lexicon: “Prima Fascie”

There are some words and phrases I’d like to add to my vocabulary, and then there are some that I’d desperately like to avoid.  Prima fascie is one I think I can do without.

In his “Politics and the English Language”, George Orwell gives six rules for clear and beautiful language:

(i) Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.

(ii) Never use a long word where a short one will do.

(iii) If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.

(iv) Never use the passive where you can use the active.

(v) Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.

(vi) Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

Prima fascie breaks rule one and five, if not more of them.  Prima fascie denotatively means “It seems”, it usually syntactically means “It seems…,but actually”, but it always means “I’m trying to sound smart.”  People use prima fascie to hide ignorance, obfuscate their language, or in some other way deceive their audience.

The only situation when prima fascie is acceptable is in law.  Since prima fascie is clearly non-English, it lets the speaker/writer use it in ways that “It seems” would not work (e.g. “the prima fascie evidence”, “the prima fascie case”, etc.).  Law, prima fascie, is the only situation where this is useful.  If you are using it in another way, you’re probably a douchebag.