Monthly Archives: March 2012


pudeur n. a sense of shame or embarrassment, especially with regard to matters of a sexual or personal nature

The Oxford also mentions the synonym of modesty for this word, but I am have never thought as modesty as being shameful or embarrassed. However, now that I think about it, I suppose it does.

Modesty or pudeur is a rare commodity these days. Growing up in Catholic school, modesty was something that was imposed. Having to wear a uniform everyday and not being allowed to differentiate yourself imposed a certain need to find other ways of standing out, such as being smart or artistic. Girls were still nasty and formed cliques, but at least in the classroom, a smart or creative girl could feel good about herself. When my beloved little private school closed, I was forced to go to public school…and such modesty as I had learned did not go over well.

I was a victim of some very harsh bullying. I was a chubby 12 year old girl who didn’t wear makeup and wore unfashionable clothes that my parents bought me from Bradlees. One particular girl – who wasn’t even popular or pretty (I was so low on the totem that the popular girls didn’t even acknowledge me) dubbed me “meatballs” and I had the extreme pleasure of being called that everyday of my life at school…until I smashed her in the face with my school books. My parents told me that if I was going to survive, I needed to toughen up and give up my shy, modest and good girl ways. At that point I pushed aside my love of drawing, reading and writing so I could fully focus on improving myself in ways that the world wouldn’t cast off.

The summer after my first year in public school, I exercised everyday and nearly starved myself. I walked up and down the stairs in my house listening to Paula Abdul sing “Forever Your Girl” over and over again. By the time it was Fall and the beginning of the school year, I was thin. I forced my parents to take me to get clothes that weren’t embarrassing and when I started school on the first day the sounds of praise and compliments gave me a sense of satisfaction that I still rarely achieve to this day. I wasn’t popular, but I fit in. And it felt damn good. So good that I had a pretty great 4 years of high school.

After my high school graduation, my father was diagnosed with a rare brain tumor that would eventually take his life in 2 short years. I had hinged everything in my little world on college so when he was diagnosed on the day I was supposed to leave for my freshman year, it all fell apart for me. I worked in a factory for 6 months and ate my way through the pain until I was once again a chubby, badly dressed introvert. When I finally got to college I found myself in the same place I had been on my first year in public school…so the process began again (without the Paula Abdul music).

Over the course of my life this scenario has played itself out time and time again. I am 33 now and I find myself back in the throws of trying to lose the weight so I can fit into the right clothes so I can find the right job…all to get back to that blissful feeling of acceptance. I continually push down my modesty, my creativity and my overall awkwardness in order to attain what I have come to recognize as happiness, when that is not what it is at all.

Happiness is something that comes from within. When I listen to my son laugh, I feel it for a moment and it’s blissful. Perhaps happiness is something that I have no right to feel everyday, every minute, every hour. For me, I think it is something rare and treasured, similar to love but more fragile…in my opinion.

I want contentment. A steady lack of worrisome thoughts and faith in who I am as a person. I want the courage to face the world as I am without sacrificing anything. I want to know the strength to be called “meatballs”, to smash that girl in the face once again – but this time, to go right on living without changing a damn thing.


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opine v. hold and state as ones opinion

I have been bad and haven’t written in a few days as I have been interviewing for a job. My head has not been in the game of learning words recently, but I am back with the word of today.

Opinions are a wonderful thing and, just like assholes, everyone has one. To be quite honest, I am really weary of opinions and politics. I feel like my whole life I have either been talking about what I believe and what everyone else believes, etc. Opinions are complex things. They make or break friendships, they get you fired, they cause dissent. I have always been an opinionated person but lately I have been refraining from opining.

My reasoning is that life is a little more pleasant NOT standing on my soap box. My head is so full of information that I pick up that it’s hard for me to decide what to think sometimes. I also find that my opinion changes over time as I experience and live through more difficulties and good times. As I grow older, I am less likely to opine and more likely to examine my thoughts and keep my opinions personal until I am sure of how I really feel.

At this rate, I hope to have some decisions made about what I really believe by the time I am old and gray. At that time, I will dust off the soap box, get back on it and tell you what I think.

Call me wishy washy, a coward or a loner, but I am tired of being self righteous and determined to have my voice heard. I have to do some research and learning. I want to be fair. Instead of being seen as opinionated and strong I am more interested in being a decent and good person. I want to enjoy life as much as I can and absorb the world around me – for better or for worse.

I have spent my life trying to be something, trying to collect all of the things to use to build a picture of who I am or want to be. I have always had a strong opinion. I have never just let me be me. So instead of looking at things and forming opinions I am going to focus on acceptance and learning to take in all of the world around me without the pressure of having to say what I think. Maybe some meditation…perhaps a few sun salutations…hopefully a prayer or two.

Let’s see how long this lasts…

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redingote n. a woman’s long coat with a cutaway or contrasting front

keeping this short today…lots on my mind and i don’t feel like writing. here are a bunch of redingotes.



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rodomontade n. boastful or inflated talk or behaviour

Dorothy Parker is one of my favorite poets because of her sarcasm and cynicism. She has the ability to wrap these two qualities into a rhyme. This word reminded me of her poem ‘Braggart’…


by Dorothy Parker 

The days will rally, wreathing
Their crazy tarantelle;
And you must go on breathing,
But I’ll be safe in hell.

Like January weather,
The years will bite and smart,
And pull your bones together
To wrap your chattering heart.

The pretty stuff you’re made of
Will crack and crease and dry.
The thing you are afraid of
Will look from every eye.

You will go faltering after
The bright, imperious line,
And split your throat on laughter,
And burn your eyes with brine.

You will be frail and musty
With peering, furtive head,
Whilst I am young and lusty
Among the roaring dead.

Rodomontade is one of my least favorite things in the world. I find braggarts to be the most insufferable of all individuals. I like the poem above because it captures the caustic emotions that one feels having to listen to a rodomontade.

In pondering the act of bragging and its relation to narcissism, I’ve come to thinking upon self esteem. Every one these days talks about how self esteem is so very important to living a happy life. Attending Catholic school in my younger years led me to believe that self esteem was very similar to pride…even hubris if taken to extremes. I was taught to avoid too much of it and to strive for humility. However, too much humility can make you a pretty sad kid, unless of course you are a saint (which is rare.)

So how much self esteem is the right amount? It’s not a good thing to have none at all as you become a door mat and most likely depressed. Having too much makes you an insufferable narcissist. Like everything else in this world, we have to walk a fine line and find the balance. The world needs braggarts and narcissists as much as it needs martyrs and saints. Without the contrasting personalities we would not be able to appreciate the truly good and the shockingly evil. Everyone needs both the angel and the devil on their shoulders.

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hodiernal adj. relating to the present day

Today is a hazy 66 degrees with the sun just beginning to burn off the fog of the morning. Graham has just finished 8 ounces of formula gone down for a nap. I am roasting eggplant which will be assembled into a vegan muffelata sandwich that needs to marinate for at least 3 hours before we eat it for dinner. When Graham wakes up, he will eat something pureed and then we will head out to the mountain for a run. When I am done writing this post, I will check on the eggplant, fold some laundry and eat some soup for my own lunch. Stella is somewhere sleeping and the painters two houses down are done with their annoying sanding machine. The neighborhood is suburbanly quiet as it’s too early in the season for landscapers. This is what is going on today in my life.

In writing the above hodiernal blob, I have started to think about how vastly different my life is as compared to this day last year. I was about 4 months pregnant with Graham and we were living in Brooklyn. My feet had not begun to swell up to twice their normal size yet and I was feeling pretty good (and getting big already.) I would head into work everyday and go about my business. I met with vendors, followed up on projects and dealt with the drama that came my way that day. These days I think a lot about going back to work and lately I am starting to doubt what I should do.

It has taken me awhile to learn that what I have now is freedom. I have struggled with this new freedom over the course of Graham’s babyhood. I always used to say with pride that I have never known a day without work since I was 16. My parents instilled the mentality that if you are not employed than you are lazy. I come from a working class family and I remember my dad working 3 jobs at one point so we could survive. Being busy has always been the goal and I have always been an incredibly hard and dedicated worker. But as I write this I have come to learn something very different about myself and the world. Just because you work hard does not mean you will get ahead.

The working world boils down to about 3 different personality types : laborers, careerists and intellectuals. My parents were laborers, not careerists – and I am a laborer. Laborers are people who work hard and put in honest work, sometime even physically difficult work. Laborers are not good at playing games, gossiping and making alliances. They go to work with the intention to put in a full day of thinking and doing and solving problems. They take pride in being punctual and dependable. They are the backbone of a company but never seem to rise above the middle. They establish deep friendships, but are never seen as popular.

Careerists are politicians. Their entire goal is to climb the ladder no matter the method. Going into work for the careerist is not simply about putting in a full day and getting things done. At all times the careerist has an ongoing campaign. They are always running for the next rung on the ladder. Work and performance is secondary to a true careerist. Establishing relationships, being seen as a leader and making sure the perception people have of them matches the criteria for their next promotion. Careerists are always working on the bullet points listed in their review. They tend to be ruthless in their endeavors. Personally, I tend to think they are of below average intelligence…but I’m a laborer and thus biased.

Intellectuals are the doctors, chemists and professors of our world. They go to school for long spans of time to learn their trade and are the smartest. However, having an advanced degree does not make you an intellectual. Professional students sometimes travel in the guise of the intellectual, but do not be fooled. True intellectuals are able to use their intelligence to provide for themselves. They convert the book smarts and theories into skills that can be used for the good of others and making money. They are the unique minority that is smart enough to make money off of their brain power alone. I admire intellectuals more than anyone else.

In viewing these categories, I have come to the conclusion that I am 80% laborer and 20% careerist. I don’t consider myself incredibly smart. I just work really hard. In order to do well in the corporate world, I need to get my careerist qualities to at least 60% – at least for the line of work I have chosen. I need to smile more and complain less. I need to give more false compliments and tone down the sarcasm. I need to be someone who I am simply not.

So should I strive to have a “career” because the world tells me it’s important? Am I even capable of becoming more of a careerist? If I am successful at doing so, will I even like myself anymore?

I think I am going to focus on the hodiernal task of assembling my eggplant muffelata…

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mendacious adj. untruthful

2 + 2 = 5 is a mendacious statement…it is also an amazing song by Radiohead.

This “untrue” statement is also found in Notes from Underground by Dostoevsky, one of my favorite books which I have not read in a very long while.

I admit that twice two makes four is an excellent thing, but if we are to give everything its due, twice two makes five is sometimes a very charming thing too.

I think I must have written several college essays on this quote. We spend most of our lives striving for honesty and truth in our lives and yet when we break its confines we enter a new realm of creativity and invention. Yet in Orwell’s 1984, 2+2 = 5 is a statement used by the state to oppress its people.

Something to think on for the day…

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oik n. an uncouth or obnoxious person

Wow. I can’t believe the dictionary gave me this word today. It’s Saint Patrick’s Day! In America, it means you get drunk, wear green and pretend you’re Irish. In Ireland…er…you drink Guinness and have a farm parade. We spent St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland a few years ago and it was actually quite pleasant and devoid of oiks. It was like a religious holiday for the Irish and as we were there on a weekday, it was a day off. We went to a parade in Cashel but it was mostly tractors, farm animals and children. We had ice cream and Guinness and the world was blissful. Unfortunately there was no traditional Irish music, just Black Eyed Peas and a late night dance party…which was disappointing.

The world could do with a few less oiks these days. They seem to turn up everywhere…television, Whole Foods, on trains with “F*** Me, I’m Irish” t-shirts” and on the road in cars. I think someone needs to form a Coalition Against Oiks. I encounter them everyday and have to bite my tongue.

Well anyway, today I have avoided the oiks. My husband’s birthday is today so he is in the city while my son and I avoid the crowds and drunken masses. This word reminds me of a chant from old Girl Scout Camp days. Change the oi oi oi to oik oik oik….

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contumacious adj. stubbornly or wilfully disobedient to authority

The author

When I was in kindergarten, I bit a fellow classmate because she grabbed the rotary telephone I was playing with out of my hands. I spent the week in the corner during recess. Later on, I slapped a girl because she made fun of a picture I had drawn of myself and said it looked like a bumblebee (we had to wear blue and plaid jumper uniforms), more recess in the corner. During one of my times in the corner, I peeled apart a construction paper advent wreath that was hanging on the wall – double time in the corner. And so on.

I have always been stubborn and don’t obey much of anything well. I was not a well behaved child in kindergarten most likely because I had not attended preschool instead spending the first 4 years of my life at home playing outside like an animal with the neighbors the way a healthy child should. So when I arrived at kindergarten I was forced to learn to obey authority or at least pretend to.

Although my contumacious ways were tamed by the first grade, they never really went way. Probably because most of the time the authority I am supposed to be obeying is unqualified, dictatorial or has other objectives in mind other than my well being. Just because someone is named an “authority” does not mean that they can wield power over someone else. It reminds me of the constitutional peasants from Monty Python’s Quest for the Holy Grail.

Perhaps my personality is the reason why this movie is still one of my all time favorites and this scene is one of the most memorable…or it could be the usage of the phrase “moistened bitch.” Happy Friday!

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nard n. the Himalayan spikenard

Wikipedia’s description:

Spikenard (Nardostachys grandiflora or Nardostachys jatamansi; also called nardnardin, and muskroot ) is a flowering plant of the Valerian family that grows in the Himalayas of China, also found growing in the northern region of India andNepal. The plant grows to about 1 m in height and has pink, bell-shaped flowers. It is found in the altitude of about 3000–5000 meters. Spikenard rhizomes (underground stems) can be crushed and distilled into an intensely aromatic amber-colored essential oil, which is very thick in consistency. Nard oil is used as a perfume, an incense, a sedative, and anherbal medicine said to fight insomnia, birth difficulties, and other minor ailments.[1]

Lavender (genus Lavandula) was also known by the ancient Greeks as naardus, nard, after the Syrian city Naarda.

The scent of Spikenard attracts cats, a strange phenomenon in itself.

I am at a loss as to what I should write about this one. The most interesting thing about this plant is that it attracts cats and can be used as a component in catnip. I’m a dog person. I’ve never had a cat, only dogs. I will admit that cats are way smarter than dogs, as judging by the 3 cats that sit on my back deck and taunt my dog everyday. Stella (my dog) goes to the same window everyday and barks as if this was something new although it happened the day before. The cats seem to get enjoyment out of it because she’s behind a door and they know she can’t get to them.

However, I am looking for unconditional love from my pets, not intellect. Cat’s seem to have their own ideas and agendas. They wander around out of doors on their own and are more independent than dogs. They have their own lives and adventures. I respect cats. If I had a great childhood, I might want a cat…but I need the love of a dog.

I’m not going to argue about whether cat people are better than dog people…or vice versa. I think they are just different types of people. There are a prevalence of cat videos and photos all over the web…more so than dog videos and I have frequently wondered why. I think it might be because cats exhibit more human qualities than dogs. Most of the videos and photos of dogs show them being goofy or stupid or with babies. Cat videos show more curiosity, vindictiveness, calculation…hence the adjective “catty.” Cats are more female while dogs are more masculine…there may be some personality analysis behind your preference, but I’m not qualified for this.

This word also brings to mind the TV Show, the Office…which I can no longer watch because Steve Carell is gone. I don’t like Andy running the Office and I find it unfunny and trying too hard, which is something the old Office never had to do…but Andy’s nickname is ‘Nard Dog, so it’s an interesting allusion to my mental wanderings.

In conclusion (and having nothing to do with the plant definition of this word) cats are smarter than dogs, but dogs are more loving and loyal…and The Office was way better with Steve Carell despite the combination of Nard and Dog in Andy’s nickname…well, I can’t say I haven’t made a new word association, albeit random.

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brinkmanship n. the pursuit of a dangerous policy to the limits of safety before stopping

I did a little more research on this word since at first I was thinking of Evil Knevil and various examples of pushing oneself to the brink of physical safety. However, Wikipedia clarified it for me as having a more political context, one of the best examples being the Cold War. So here’s a little short animation that I find apropos…

The best and most famous example is the Cuban Missile Crisis. I remember when I was younger discussing this with my parents and how insane everyone was thinking that an attack on the country was near.

Since I associate so many things with music, a good musical tag for this term is “99 Luftballoons” which is awesome in English or German…

Or even as sung by Homer (my personal favorite).

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