Wednesday, July 25, 2012

What A Wonderful Word Vol. II: A Sequel of Deformed Discourse

Not quite three years ago, I once again let my mind go wandering. One thing lead to another and I began to muse over words that sound funny but are real words with legitimate uses. I reached out to my sons for input. This resulted in one son scouring a dictionary and the other son combing through a thesaurus. My two daughters even got involved. I came up with a list of 18 words and wrote my feelings about each word on the list. I had a wonderful time doing this and wanted to revive the piece. I reached out to friends on the Internet as well as colleagues from work, I also, of course added a few words of my own.

The conditions of the list are pretty simple. First, it had to be a real word that can be found in the dictionary (I used several dictionary sources). Secondly, keeping in the spirit of my blog, it had to be family friendly. Lastly, if you could imagine Tigger saying the word, it had a good chance of making the list. With that in mind I submit to you the following 18 words:

  • absquatulate – This word means to flee, to abscond, to vamoose, or to leave as if your britches are on fire and your backside is beginning to spark. I discovered that if the word is a verb that had the –ate suffix, it has a good chance of sounding funny enough to make the list (annotate, defenestrate). Given this, if your britches are on fire and your backside is beginning to spark, it would be wise to absquatulate to the nearest fire station. Once you arrive, you should stop, drop, roll, and politely ask the first fireman you see for a remedy to your anomaly.
  • cacophonous – This is an adjective that describes a harsh or discordant sound. I only know what this word means because, in the 1980’s (when guitars were properly tuned), there was a band called Cacophony that included Jason Becker and Marty Friedman. I rather enjoyed there ne-classical guitar work. Still, the name was GREAT marketing. I imagine the poor souls whose britches are on fire and with a sparking backside let out quote a cacophonous sound as he absquatulated to the nearest fire station.
  • crepuscular – This adjective refers to the twilight hours of the day. Lightning bugs, for example, are crepuscular creatures. The word also implies dimness. Politicians are often said to have crepuscular logic on an issue. I am challenged to find a more appropriate adjective for the average candidate. This is an election year with an abundance of examples. It makes a man want to absquatulate with a cacophonous cry of frustration.
  • curmudgeon – This refers to a ill-tempered, cantankerous person. The curmudgeon in question is usually, at least, middle aged. I have yet to meet a 22 year old curmudgeon. One of my colleagues offered the following observation: ‎"You know what I like about Shane's blog? You see, I act curmudgeonly. Shane only does that WHEN HE WRITES". With THAT kind of back-handed compliment, I HAD to include this word. I just wish those unruly hoodlums next door would turn down their Brittany Perry music (or whatever her name is) so I could hear myself think.
  • depone – This is a verb meaning: to testify under oath. Sometimes, when such testimony involves a politician it leads to another word – perjury (followed by some crepuscular logic on the part of the politicians lawyer). I also find this word amusing because pone is a type of flat cake bread. If one’s flat cake bread is stolen, are they then deponed?  This would eventually lead to the victim deponing about the alleged thief who stole his pone and then allegedly absquatulated.
  • falafel – Be honest, now. Do I REALLY have to explain why this word made the list? For those who do not know falafel is a dish of Arabic origin. It consists of a spicy mixture of ground vegetables (often chick-peas or fava beans) that are formed into balls or patties and then fried. This sounds awfully good. Even if I didn’t like falafel, I’d get a big kick out of telling people I had it served to me. I could have a waffle for breakfast and a falafel for dinner. I’d be too tired from laughing to eat either.
  • finagle – This verb means to acquire something by trickery or manipulation. For example: The old curmudgeon finagled the neighborhood kid into mowing his lawn. Shortly thereafter, the old curmudgeon absquatulated on his new Harley Davidson.
  • gobbledygook – This a a great word that refers to jargon that is usually wordy and often unintelligible. For example, a supervisor may tell his superiors that he helped one of his team members thoroughly investigate multiple development opportunities in order to facilitate improvement of the respective team member’s quality of life. Simply stated, the supervisor told the team member he stinks at his job in multiple ways and will risk an abrupt update to his resume if he fails to improve. Through all the gobbledygook, five words rise to the top: Shape up or ship out.
  • inundate – Again, we have a word with a prefix of –ate. This means the word has already made it through the first auditions and got a callback. The word means to flood with water. It can also refer to being overwhelmed by something. For example, when the old curmudgeon insulted his gourmet neighbors about the smell of their cooking, he woke up to find his front lawn inundated with falafel. This was especially unfortunate because the old curmudgeon was unable to finagle the neighborhood kid into more lawn work.
  • luciferin – Previously, we discussed the crepuscular insect known as the lightning bug (or firefly). Luciferin is the pigment that causes the lightning bug to…well…light up. Still, I can’t but think of some 1970’s hospital drama where a doctor might say: “Nurse, get me an ampule of luciferin. STAT!” It won’t cure the poor fellow’s cardiac emergency but his abdomen might light up at night.
  • osculate – This word is, at its origin, a geometric term. It refers to when a curve touches another curve at the same point of contact (sharing the same tangent. The word also means to kiss because that is what happens, geometrically speaking, during a kiss. This is funny to me. The reason why is that I can’t even fathom even the nerdiest guy on the planet telling his girlfriend: “Baby, when I see you, I plan to osculate you as if such were prohibited by the Volstead Act and we would have to wait another 11 years for the Blaine Act for a repeal.” Talk about your smooth operator.
  • outré – This refers to something that is bizarre or violates accepted conventions. I mainly find this word funny because it makes people think that using a French word makes a person sound smarter or more sophisticated. I, personally, find such behavior to be rather gauche.
  • pajamas – I don’t need to explain what these are. I included because the word sounds funny to me whether you pronounce them as puh-JAH-muhs  or puh-JEH-muhs or PJ’s.
  • pedantic – This works smacks of irony. It refers to making a show of one’s knowledge. This is ironic because using the word pedantic in a sentence is usually pedantic. Many consider pedantic behavior to be outré and ostentatious.
  • perturb – I really like this word. This verb refers to upsetting or agitating someone. The problem is that the word sounds too funny to hear. If someone tells you they are perturbed. You start giggling. This causes an aggravation to the perturbation. I giggled just writing that.
  • protuberant – This adjective refers to something that protrudes outward from an adjacent surface. The best example I can come up with is the late actor Don Knotts aka (Barney Fife or Ralph Furley or Mr. Limpet). Knotts had protuberant eyes. It actually added a lot of comic effect to his characters. I can watch Barney Fife while whispering the word protuberant and giggle through an entire episode of “The Andy Griffith Show”.
  • usurp – You don’t really have to have any idea what this word means for it to sound funny. It refers to taking over something by force or without proper rights. Even funnier, one who does so is a usurper. A usurper’s action is called a usurpation. The more you follow this word grammatically, the funnier it gets. I offer the following (with apologies to any educated historians): The Russians consider Napoleon’s attempted usurpation to be a mere perturbation. Therefore, it behooved Napoleon to absquatulate back to France as if his little britches were on fire and his backside was beginning to spark.
  • zephyr – The person who submitted asked me the following question: “Why can’t they just call it a breeze or a wind?” To her, the use of the word zephyr appears a bit pedantic. Further investigation revealed that the word zephyr refers to a breeze from a west wind. It comes from the name Zephyrus – god of the West Wind. This is not to be confused with the Oklahoma blues guitarists J. J. Cale. They called him The Breeze because he kept blowin’ down the road.

Once again, folks, there you have it – another list of funny sounding words with legitimate uses. If you found that I omitted words from this list (or the first volume). Feel free to chime in as long as they meet the guidelines (funny and family friendly). I hope you didn’t find it too pedantic or crepuscular (however, I WILL accept being described as curmudgeonly).

Sunday, July 22, 2012

I’m On My Weigh Vol. III: Gearing Up for Adventure

I have written previously about my struggles with obesity. I have also written the numerous times I have fallen off the proverbial horse, re-mounted the proverbial horse, and wanted desperately to sell the proverbial horse to the nearest proverbial taxidermist. For this writing, as I promised, I would like to share an investment that I made in my weight loss.
I should start with a brief back-story. Some years back, I had made an online friend named John. John lived in Illinois. John and I corresponded very closely for several years via phone and Internet. John and I never met face to face. In spite of this, we shared many laughs together. We also endured many trials together. John comforted me when my parents were involved in a severe automobile accident. I did my best to help John face his impending divorce. John was also a man who had issues with his weight. John’s weight struggles took their toll on his health. The toll ultimately became too great. On April 1, 2000; John collapsed and died in his living room in the presence of one of his teenage daughters. It has been 12 years since John died. I will never forget the laughs we had. I will also never forget the stories he shared regarding the physical and emotional consequences of his obesity. They have especially struck a chord with me as my weight climbed over the past year to the 300 lb. mark.
About 7 years ago, I acquired another friend named John. There were some differences from my deceased friend of the same name. This friend named John lives locally, within walking distance. John is a few years younger and in better health. We have somewhat different personalities. Those differences allow us to complement one another very well. John has expressed tremendous concerns about my weight and overall health in the past year. Actually, at times he has railed me rather harshly. John has, at times, talked to me in the same way Mickey Goldmill lashed out at Rocky Balboa. Still, I know that John, like Mickey, is always in my corner.
In the past couple of months, I had spoken to my wife about making a significant financial investment in my fitness goals. I wanted to buy a bicycle. I didn’t just want some off-the-rack department store bicycle. I wanted a bicycle that could endure my extra weight, provide a comfortable ride, and be easily modified (when needed) as my fitness progressed. My lovely queen agreed that this was a sound idea and was very encouraging. I, once again, reached out to my friend John. This was a no-brainer to me. John not only has a very nice bike of his own. He also teaches a spin class. Divine providence is really a wonderful thing when you realize it for what it is.
John took me to a local bike shop where he got his own set of wheels. They sized me up on a bike. I fell in love with that thing the minute I got on it. I felt like I was a kid again that could ride his bike everywhere. I looked like a hippo who probably needed training wheels. Still, nothing was going to steal my bliss in that moment. I got a quote on the bike. John also guided me on some accessories I would need such as lights, a lock, a helmet and appropriate riding apparel. I spent the next few weeks obsessing about getting this bike. My older son asked if I was getting a bike so I could ride to the mailbox and back. To the untrained ear, that would sound like an insulting crack. I took it as a phrase of encouragement from someone who is definitely his father’s son.
The day finally came and I went in and got my new bike. Allow me this one unsolicited testimonial. The Bike Zone ( did GREAT by me. They gave me 25% off on the bike and 15% off on the accessories. They even mounted the accessories as they were setting up my bike. They had me out the door with my bike in less than 15 minutes. If you are in the Rochester, NY area and want a good solid deal on a bike, head out to The Bike Zone on Route 104 near Greece Ridge Center.
John and I woke up early the next morning and went riding together. I was decked out in my riding gear which included a strong helmet, a bright t-shirt, and a bright fluorescent vest (think DOT orange). The last thing John or I want any other person on the road to say with a straight face is “I never saw him coming.” By the way, I named my bike the X-1 in deference to one P. W. Herman. My buddy John took me on a conservative ride. He guided me about shifting gears and hand signals. John was doing this because he knew I had not ridden a bicycle in this manner in roughly 30 years. It should be noted that one item missing from my new bike was a rack for a water bottle. Fortunately, John has a rather nice pannier on the back of his bike he he stored my water bottle so we could hydrate at brief points during the ride. We rode 6.8 miles that day. A few days later we rode again. My only goal was to go farther than the previous ride. We rode 8.8 miles that day. Just yesterday, I acquired my own water bottle rack and installed it on my bike. John and I were having troubles the entire week connecting for a ride together. I decided that since I had a way to store my water, I would ride solo. I promised John I would wear the proper gear and stick to our route. Once again, I rode just a bit farther than I had previously. I rode 10.4 miles in exactly 90 minutes.
In closing, I don’t think it is any big secret at this point that I am very grateful for John’s mentorship. I am looking forward to many more rides (both solo and with John). Lastly, if you are curious if the investment had made a difference in my fitness goals, I have lost 7 lbs. in less than one month.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

I’m On My Weigh Vol II: The Journey Continues

For a large portion of my adult life (no pun intended), I have struggled with obesity. Actually, let me be honest. It really involved little struggle on my part arriving to such a morbidly obese state. The struggle has been in maintaining the discipline to get the weight off. I had wondered for years WHY this was such a great struggle. I had overcome other obstacles in my life that required a tremendous amount of tenacity and a daunting level of discipline. (Note: While I am ashamed that I have not previously proclaimed. Consider this an announcement of the arrival of ongoing alliterations. we shall now continue with the essay already in progress.) I began pursuing my first college degree in 1998 at the age of 32 with 4 mouths to feed. That was quite a challenge for someone who was a lazy student and had been out of high school for 14 years at that point. As another example, I have been smoke free for 5 years. I go most days now and never miss having a cigarette. Having said that, those first 60 days were HARD! To be honest, I remain smoke free because I know I will be back at day one again if I slip.
So the question remains, having overcome the aforementioned obstacles, why is it such a struggle to get my weight down to a heavy level and keep it off? To best answer that question. Smoking was something I was did well. I had gotten especially good at smoking during that last year before quitting as it was also the same year my mother passed away. I would even go outside in sub-zero New York temperature because I refused to allow anyone to smoke inside my house. It was sometimes merely a dramatic prop and at other times a tool (pronounced \ˈkrəch\) for stress relief.
As it turns out, eating is also something I do well. American men have even been known to engage in eating competitions. I have never done sure but I am sure I’d have some post Olympic endorsement deals if I ever ventured into such “sport”. The point is, while I AM a fussy eater to some point, what I do eat I tend to do in unhealthy amounts. This is where part of the problem lies. As much as I enjoyed smoking and found great solace in the habit, I knew I was never at risk for dying prematurely if I quit (it’s NOT quitting that tends to have that terminal side effect). Food is a different story. I enjoy eating and find solace in it as well. However, while overeating can lead to a premature passing, NOT eating can also leading to inopportune exit. So the trick is finding a healthy level eating. I believe it was Kesuke Miyagi that balance makes one’s whole life better. I am paraphrasing a bit but I haven’t seen the movie in a while.
Part of achieving this balance is in making different food choices. Now, I should be clear on this issue. This doesn’t mean that I will join the society of herbivores. I have quite a few friends and loved ones that are either vegetarians or vegans. I love them dearly and respect their choices. I have even been known to occasionally borrow a recipe. Still, a full time membership is just not in the cards for Shane. It’s just a stone cold fact that if my doctor tells me that I must abstain from fried chicken and cheesecake forever or die, I will immediately update my will. I can go for long stretches without having certain foods. I don’t need fried chicken and cheesecake daily. Other food choices HAVE been eliminated.This is because they have shown themselves to be trigger foods. If I have one, I must consume them until they are all gone.  Back last November, I announced my divorce from chocolate malted milk balls. I am sure the Whoppers company was shocked by the sudden and devastating news. I just felt that I could no longer go on with such a presence in my life. It was a tearful departure. My torrid relationship with Pringles potato chips has been on hiatus for some time now. We have not been together in some time. I hear that Pringles is doing okay since our time apart. I still get the occasional anonymous note and hang-up phone call saying “Take Me Back!” I am not certain who is responsible for such anonymous communications. I suspect it may be a Wendy’s triple cheeseburger. We have also not spent time together in months now. Yes, I admit it. I am a food polygamist.
Please understand that I am writing this not only as a means of sharing my catharsis with you all. I also do it for some accountability with my weight control. In a future essay, I will share how I have made some recent investments and set up a chain of accountability.