Towse: views from the hill

September 18, 2010

Back from a roadtrip through the cornfields and badlands of mid-America

Filed under: photographs,travel,wordstuff — Tags: — Towse @ 9:00 am

Spotted while waiting for the Anacortes ferry to Sidney (Vancouver Island) to visit old friends.

misplaced apostrophe

“[tap tap] Did you know you have a misplaced apostrophe?”

July 10, 2009

Plimsoll – trivia for the day

Filed under: factoid,history,wordstuff — Towse @ 12:31 am

Are plimsoll shoes related to the Plimsoll line on a commercial ship?

Yes, indeedy.

A plimsoll shoe or simply plimsoll is a type of athletic shoe with a canvas upper and rubber sole, developed as beachwear in the 1830s by the Liverpool Rubber Company (later to become Dunlop). The shoe was originally, and often still is in parts of the UK, called a ‘sand shoe’ and acquired the nickname ‘plimsoll’ in the 1870s. This name derived, according to Nicholette Jones’ book “The Plimsoll Sensation” because the colored horizontal band joining the upper to the sole resembled the Plimsoll line on a ship’s hull, or because, just like the Plimsoll line on a ship, if water got above the line of the rubber sole, the wearer would get wet.

We’d been looking at an incoming container ship and I was wondering if the plimsoll shoe got its name because of the resemblance of the demarcation between the shoe’s rubber sole and canvas upper and the Plimsoll line on the ship.

The Web is a wonder.

February 2, 2009

The Phrontistery: Obscure Words and Vocabulary Resources

Filed under: life,URL,wordstuff — Towse @ 2:55 am

The Phrontistery: Obscure Words and Vocabulary Resources

I did one of those “Twenty Five Things” sorts of things over on Facebook. On that list were four items pertaining to Webbie things:

16. I collect quotations and factoids and bits of sparkly info and stash them away and then can’t find them when I want them.

17. I do the same with Web bookmarks and then discover that a site I just discovered is one whose bookmark I’d stashed away nineteen months ago. Too many pretties?

18. I no longer cut recipes out from newspapers and magazines (much…) because things of that sort are all on the Web, or a decent substitute is.

19. I worry (seriously) that one day the Web won’t be there and I’ll be lost and archive-less because I’ve given all my stuff away and grown dependent on the Web as resource. And then where would I be?

What does that have to do with Phrontistery?

I came across Phrontistery today (AFTER I put together the Facebook note) and thought, oh, cool. Wordstuff stuff. I loves Wordstuff stuffs.

I clicked my Delicious click to bookmark the site … and found that I saved it 06 Jun 2007 … which is just under twenty months ago.


If you like Wordstuff, though. Go there.

Since 1996, I have compiled word lists in order to spread the joy of the English language. Here, you will find the International House of Logorrhea (an online dictionary of obscure and rare words), the Compendium of Lost Words (a compilation of ultra-rare forgotten words), and many other glossaries, word lists, essays, and other language and etymology resources.

January 31, 2009

Save The Words

Filed under: wordstuff — Towse @ 1:30 am

Save The Words — interesting words that have fallen by the wayside as new dictionaries are published.

Save The Words. Learn their definitions. Use them in memos or Scrabble.

Site says that lexicographers check for what “new” words are showing up in the language and will sometimes add a word back into the dictionaries that had previously been given a pink slip. e.g. wheatgrass

January 26, 2009

Pandit or The Things You Learn Whilst Playing Scrabble

Filed under: factoid,wordstuff — Towse @ 8:07 pm

The things you learn whilst playing Scrabble.


pundit from (1672) “learned Hindu.” Broader English usage first recorded 1816.

Thx, JMT!

January 11, 2009

Today’s pet peeve: Annoying bloggers.

Filed under: peeves,wordstuff — Tags: , — Towse @ 8:57 pm

I checked all my links on the internet-resources’ WordStuff page yesterday, using the handy dandy Free Link Checker as a first pass and then following with a check of all the other links as a cleanup sweep.

One of the links the free link checker found was a definite 404. (Robin Queen’s collection of linguistics links … The page was 404 and after I found her UMich faculty Web site, seems her collection of links is no more, or not what I remembered.)

I went looking for the substitute link or another link just like it.

And found this. has cut and pasted and reformatted my wordstuff links page onto its blog — a blog, I might mentioned, that is surrounded by ad stuff.

No mention that the links and commentary aren’t its.

No mention that link collection is mine as is the commentary.

No mention of my collection of links and how to get there.

Now ovablastic itself found that little nest of links through Stumbleupon, which does point people to my site.

Why did it cut and paste the HTML and pop it on its blog with no hattip or pointer to my site?

Because it’s clueless and a thief. Yeah. That could be it.

n.b. for allz of you who may say, “But links are links and not copyrightable!” The collection of links with the associated commentary is copyrighted. ’tis just not worth it to go lay sue papers in ovablastic’s mailbox. I’d rather mention here that someone with ads on its site stole my content and is a thief.

(Hi, ovablastic! Hope you Google your nym every once in a while! If you’d had an e-mail easily available on your blog, I would’ve dropped you a note. This is the next best bet.)

December 17, 2008

OEDILF – The Omnificent English Dictionary In Limerick Form

Filed under: URL,wordstuff — Towse @ 3:55 pm

OEDILF – The Omnificent English Dictionary In Limerick Form

An aphorist states what is known
In a pithier, folksier tone.
He is given to joke
That the mightiest oak
From a balanoid object is grown.

(BAL-uh-noid) Acorn-shaped.

Sorts by topic, author, word, &c.

We are presently accepting submissions based ONLY on words beginning with Aa- through Dd- inclusive.

August 15, 2008

Film Terms and Definitions: chyron

Filed under: news,wordstuff — Towse @ 2:24 am

Maybe the next time I have to look up chyron I’ll remember what it means.

(Three’s the charm.)

July 23, 2008

Britishisms beyond zebra crossing

Filed under: wordstuff — Towse @ 6:48 pm

[1] BA in-flight magazine. July 2008

From context, the meaning was relatively clear.

Merriam-Webster on hoarding:
1: a temporary board fence put about a building being erected or repaired —called also hoard
2: [British] billboard

[2] Independent. 18 Jul 2008

“Neither candidate looks likely to balance the budget without swingeing cuts.” Context again clear, but etymology?

Merriam-Webster on swingeing:

Etymology: from present participle of swinge
Date: 1575

chiefly British : very large, high, or severe swingeing fines swingeing taxes

Which in turn brought me to Google Books and Hensleigh Wedgwood’s A DICTIONARY OF ENGLISH ETYMOLOGY, publ 1872:


e.g. swindle

Swindle G Schwindel swimming in the head dizziness giddiness In a figurative sense Schwindel is applied to dealings in which the parties seem to have lost their head as we say to have become dizzy over unfounded or unreasonable prospects of gain. ‘Als der Assignatenschwindel Assignat mania zu wüthen begann’ ‘Er hat bei dem Akticn schwin del Share mania viel geld verdient’ — Genz in Sanders The word may be translated madness delusion Then in a factitive sense schwindeler one who induces delusions in others Einem etwas abschwindeln to get something from another by inducing delusion to swindle him out of something The parallel form ON sundla to be dizzy connects G schwindeln through ON sund a swimming with svt ma svimma to swim svimra Da si tmlc to be dizzy Du swijmelen falsa imaginari instar dormientium vertigine laborari Kil Da svingel dizziness darnel from producing dizziness svingle to reel as a drunken man.


June 12, 2008

[URL] Corpus of American English

Filed under: app,resource,wordstuff,writing — Towse @ 12:26 am

Corpus of American English

Brilliant app.

The Corpus of American English (not to be confused with the American National Corpus) is the first large corpus of contemporary American English. It is freely available online, and it is related to other large corpora that we have created.

The corpus contains more than 360 million words of text, including 20 million words each year from 1990-2007, and it is equally divided among spoken, fiction, popular magazines, newspapers, and academic texts (more information). The corpus will also be updated at least twice each year from this point on, and will therefore serve as a unique record of linguistic changes in American English.

The interface allows you to search for exact words or phrases, wildcards, lemmas, part of speech, or any combinations of these. You can search for surrounding words (collocates) within a ten-word window (e.g. all nouns somewhere near chain, all adjectives near woman, or all verbs near key).

The corpus also allows you to easily limit searches by frequency and compare the frequency of words, phrases, and grammatical constructions, in at least two main ways:

* By genre: comparisons between spoken, fiction, popular magazines, newspapers, and academic, or even between sub-genres (or domains), such as movie scripts, sports magazines, newspaper editorial, or scientific journals
* Over time: compare different years from 1990 to the present time

You can also easily carry out semantically-based queries of the corpus. For example, you can contrast and compare the collocates of two related words (little/small, democrats/republicans, men/women), to determine the difference in meaning or use between these words. You can find the frequency and distribution of synonyms for nearly 60,000 words and also compare their frequency in different registers, and also use these word lists as part of other queries. Finally, you can easily create your own lists of semantically-related words, and then use them directly as part of the query.

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