Stimulations, Contraction, and Boney-eared Assfish

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April 11, 2016 by libroshombre

Some periodicals provide close to the same serendipial stimulation browsing the shelves as a well-stocked library. But where the library’s books have in-depth information and serendipity, rousing publications like Mental Floss and Lapham’s Quarterly, also provide variety while presenting the informational equivalent of tapas. The current issue of, the magazine’s online offshoot includes “10 Shocking Secrets of Flight Attendants.” Apparently attendants hate serving Diet Coke, which takes longer to stop fizzing while pouring at high elevations, and they only start getting paid when the doors are secured. Moreover, since 1980 2 million people have flown commercially, 300 were seriously injured by turbulence, and 200 of these were flight attendants.

Another Mental Floss article by Arika Okrent clarified the origins of the word “won’t.” After all, “he will” contracts to “he’ll,” so why doesn’t “he will not” contract to “he willn’t”? “In Old English,”Ms Okrent wrote, “there were two forms of the verb ‘willan’ (to wish or will) – ‘wil-’ in the present and ‘wold-’ in the past. Over the next few centuries there was a good deal of bouncing around … At different times and places ‘will’ came out as wulle, wole, welle, wel, wile, wyll, and even ull and ool. There was less variation in the contracted form. From at least the 16th century, the preferred form was ‘wonnot’ from ‘woll not’ … In the ever-changing landscape that is English, ‘will’ won the battle of the ‘woles/wulles/ools,’ but for the negative contraction, ‘wonnot’ simply won out, and contracted further to the ‘won’t’ we use today.”

Words can come from all directions. The BBC reported last month that an Italian eight-year-old boy named Matteo recently created a new Italian word to describe flowers: “petalosa,” meaning “full of petals,” by combining “petalo,” the word for “petals,” and the suffix “-oso,” or “full of.” Matteo’s teacher helped him submit the word to the Accademia della Crusca, “the institution that oversees the use of the Italian language.” One of their top linguists wrote back, saying “The word you invented is well formed and could be used in the Italian language. It is beautiful and clear.” Besides providing a wonderful teaching moment, the Accademia’s response encouraged the creation of Facebook and Twitter connections, and the term is being adopted and growing in popularity.

On the other hand, the British public seems determined to name a new polar research vessel “Boaty McBoatface.” The National Environmental Research Council, the ship’s governmental owners, thought the public should be included in deciding on the name, and invited suggestions. A “former BBC presenter James Hand” submitted Boaty McBoatface, which captured the public’s fancy. It still leads “Science!!!,” “Big Metal Floaty Thingy-Thing,” and “Its Bloody Cold Here” by a mile.

It could be worse. A recent NationalGeographic,com article by Liz Langley is titled “What’d You Call Me? Meet the “Bony-Eared Assfish.” “It’s actually a type of cusk-eel, an eel-like fish that resembles a ‘glorified tadpole … assfish bodies are ‘soft and flabby, and their skeleton is light and reduced. And inquiring minds should know that even more eyepoppingly-named fish are mentioned in the article.

Calling someone “a flop-faced, boney-eared assfish” carries a lot more weight than “you suck.” In fact, literacy counts when it comes to cursing. Saying you’re “a cad and a bounder” imparts much more than “you’re so lame,” as Osher Lifelong Learning instructor, and local English teaching legend, Susan Stitham said in a recent lecture, adding that when it comes to Shakespeare great English invective, Shakespeare rules.

Cursing has benefits, according to a recent Atlantic Monthly article titled “Curses! How to Get Ahead By Swearing.” Cursing facilitates the communication of emotionally-charged information, allows a safe form of venting anger, and it helps to endure pain. However, in office settings, co-workers who swear in formal meetings are judged “to be incompetent,” and studies show that “people who swear habitually experience less relief “ than those who only swear occasionally.

The inexperienced can hone their skills with the library’s book, “Holy Sh*t: A Brief History of Swearing.” And I swear you’ll feel good about attending the Fairbanks Library Foundation’s Gala Fundraiser dinner April 16 at Raven Landing, because all proceeds will go to improve our splendiferous public libraries.


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