Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Words Odd and Familiar

If you're noticing some disturbances in the Force lately, that's just Nancy kicking worldwide butt in online Scrabble. Most of her competitors quit when she gets over 100 points for a single word, which happens surprisingly frequently. As Zach says, it keeps Mom off the streets.

Her killer strategy is to place a word with "Z" in it on both double letter and triple word squares. I'm not too good with "Z's," but I do like "Q's." And I will generously share four examples of such words I've come across over the years which I file away mentally for that sweet surprise attack after I bemoan the fact that all I have are odd consonants (misdirection, you see):

QUOIN: an exterior angle in architecture, like a vertical cornerstone

QUIRK: a lengthwise groove on a moulding (made by specialized hand planes back in the day but by routers now)

QUERL: German word for a wooden kitchen utensil used as a stirrer, eggbeater or potato masher

QUIRE: 24 sheets of paper; 1/20 of a ream (the Dunder Mifflin staff would use this one).


Do you ever go back to the bookshelf and take down an old favorite and re-read it, maybe several times over the years? Yesterday I took out a 1973 alternative-lifestyle (OK, hippie) book, "People's Guide to Country Real Estate." Actually, this one is Nancy's, given to her by pioneering brother Tommy. It's homemade, with illustrations and photos by the authors (residents of Woodstock, New York), and while it would look low-quality to any literary type, I have a warm feeling for it. There were a lot of self-sufficiency, homesteading and voluntary simplicity books out in the 1940s and 1960s/1970s; most are available used online with a few classics gone forever and several others finding new life in reprints. This one, along with On the Road, An Introduction to Haiku and Selected Poems of Ezra Pound, I go back to like old comfortable shoes. Two that are gone that were read through many times are Whole Earth Catalogue and the Agriculture Department Yearbook on Trees (1949). The latter I found in the Government Printing Office bookstore in the Pentagon. I also picked up many pamphlets on fruit tree growing and other practical country matters, in preparation for that move to the country that never happened. The Trees volume is no longer in copyright and is available in a free digitized version. If you're interested in the subject, this is the best there is about it.

In a while, maybe a long while, I will re-read Treasure Island and that apocalyptic last paragraph of On the Road again. Old friends, they never let you down.


  1. Now I understand the competitive edge of she who must be obeyed. As for living in the past, I gave away all my treasures like Alice in Wonderland or R. Crumb's comics because I have read them and want to pass them on for others to discover. I know what they said and what they meant at the time, but can not relive that moment. Similar to photos, reminders of what was then, but this is now.

  2. Actually I'm not competitive at all; it's just a fun brain activity.