Disasterizing English

My father had a wonderful sense of humor, much of which involved language and word play. When we were little kids, he used to declare, “I have a falubus vocaluberry, made up of volunimus words.”

We’d say, “You mean fabulous.” And he’d say, “Exactly.” So language was up for grabs in our house.

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He also teased us with some of the irregular forms of words, especially when verbs become nouns. For example, he would say, “Look, if you deduce, you come up with a deduction. So if you elude, you come up with an eluction.”

At first, I corrected this. “Deduce and elude are not a parallel set. If you use deduce and produce, you get deduction and production.”

But he answered, “If you enlist, you have made an enlistment, so if you resist, haven’t you made a resistment? And if you desist—”

“Yeah, okay, desistment.”

“Don’t reducify my eluctment of terms. If you retire, you’ve entered retirement, so if you desire, you’ve entered desirement. If you write verse, you’re a versifier, so if you do worse, you’re a worsifier. And if you live in a house, you’re a housifier. Get it?”

We’d roll our eyes, but it loosened up the mood. “You’re a disasterifier of English,” I’d tell him.

“I’m just sophisticationalizing it.”

So I’m just saying that if I mess up in my writing, it’s not my fault.

Tiny friend on the trail…

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This photo, at least on my screen, is the actual size of this little beast.

dsc02218On October 1st, not far above the “four-way,” on the road to the Seven Bridges Trailhead, I came across this neonate smooth green snake, total length 110 mm. This makes it a late summer brood hatchling, smaller than the average given in Redder, et al. (2006). In my experience, this little species is rare in this region, but according to various studies cited in Redder, its population densities can reach at least 75 per acre. Imagine that. So around here, in a grassy swale near water, in the area the size of a football field, there might dsc02219be, say, 20 or 30 of these little guys, and we never see them. Almost never. They eat insects and spiders. Keep looking. Most snakes occur in populations much larger than us non-herpetologists imagine. We just don’t know how to find them.

Redder, Alan J., Brian E. Smith, and Douglas Keinath 2006 Smooth Green Snake (Opheodrys vernalis): A Technical Conservation Assessment. USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Region Species Conservation Project, http://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprdb5182074.pdf

And here’s another from Paul Young, from Stratton Open SpaceSmooth Green.jpg

Waking Up at the May Museum

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Dedicated to the May family.

When I was eight years old, I suffered a short career in Cub Scouts, less than a year, weathering one bit of idiocy after another. The camping trip, washed out by a downpour, the picnic in the park spoiled by the nutcase who forgot to bring the drinks, the hike up the canyon ruined by falling on sharp rocks that cut my shins and made them bleed–everything conspired to destroy my faith in scouting.

The last straw, my final and most deflating experience with the organization, but also the most wondrous event in my life, was the field trip to the May Museum of Natural History. There, my patience stretched to—and beyond—the breaking point. Continue reading “Waking Up at the May Museum”