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shameless pleading





February 2011 Issue

Semper Ubi Sub Ubi


Yeah, well, OK, it’s March. What, you miss February? Let’s review: around here we had ice, snow, ice, ice, high winds, snow, ice, slush, mud, more mud and frozen mud, and then we finished up with a “rare late-winter” tornado that took out a farm a mile away from us. And I’m not even counting when the power went out because some enterprising miscreants broke into the substation and stole a bunch of copper wiring. This whole place is starting to look a bit post-apocalyptic at the edges; the latest thing is to break into businesses while they’re closed on the weekend and steal all the plumbing and heating fixtures.

By the way, can someone please explain why we have Ohio Air National Guard Black Hawk helicopters flying low over the house several times every day now? When we first moved in we had the four o’clock Huey every afternoon, a homey old Vietnam-era bird (with that thud-thud-thud sound you could hear ten miles away) which just sort of floated slowly by in the distance. Now these things come in a treetop level and make the whole house shake. Last week we had one sort of hovering at low altitude over our north field for no apparent reason. If they know what they’re doing, fine, but I’m getting a very disquieting student-driver vibe from this behavior.

So AOL bought the Huffington Post. This is hilarious. A zombie falls in love with a fluff farm. The schmuck who runs AOL just got through admitting that 60% of their profits come from people who pay $25/mo. for AOL dialup accounts they don’t need because they have broadband access and AOL is free on the web. Heckuva business model, dude. What’s next, Medicare fraud?

As far as I know I still have a free AOL “press” account they gave me back in 1994 when I was writing a book about the internet. It still worked a couple of years ago, and I have no doubt that, had I been paying for it, they’d still be charging me.

I’m sure that Ms. Huffington is as happy at being crowned Queen of AOL as a shape-shifting reptilian overlord can be. And I’m sure that we can look forward to many more features hewn of the same fearless journalistic stock as her now-legendary “What Time Does the Superbowl Start?.” (That article has since been re-written to seem less whorish, but it originally began:”Are you wondering, “what time does the Superbowl start?” It’s a common search query, as is “what time is the super bowl 2011,” “superbowl time” and “superbowl kickoff time 2011,” according to Google Trends the evening before the Super Bowl. It’s easily answered too. Super Bowl 2011 will take place on Sunday, Feb. 6, 2011, at 6:30 p.m. Eastern Time and 3:30 p.m. Pacific Time.” As one commenter noted, “Most pathetic SEO spam ever.”)

Unfortunately for Arianna 2.5, less than a week after the grand announcement of the sale, Google released a crowd-sourcing plug-in for its Chrome browser that lets the common folk blackball “scraper” sites like HuffPo, and a bit later re-jiggered their search algorithms to devalue “content farms” and thinly-disguised search-engine whores (and plagiarism factories) like … HuffPo. It would appear that Google, which has profited enormously from promoting garbage search results for years, has recognized that the worm has turned and that they had better clean up their act. That is not good news for HuffPo, Demand Media, and their idiotic how-to-boil-water ilk.

Um, what else? We had a Kindle for about a week but sent it back. The screen is gray. Did you know the screen is gray? If you have anything wrong with your eyes, it’s damn near impossible to read the thing. And there are no page numbers. And you have to jump through hoops to find the table of contents of books. Kathy (it was hers) hated it and, after playing with it for 30 seconds, I concurred. Creepy little gizmo. But your mileage may vary. I played with a iPad in an Apple Store for a few minutes a few weeks ago, and it’s much easier to read on one of those, but they’re heavy and expensive.

Onward to movie reviews! I recently saw Green Zone on cable and actually liked it a lot. The more you know about the run-up to the Iraq war, the more sense it makes, though the character played by Amy Ryan is a very mild take on its apparent inspiration, Judith Miller. Matt Damon is very good, and I think I may have finally overcome my tendency to confuse him with Brad Pitt.

By the way, even a mild inability to tell people apart can be a real problem in a small town. I keenly remember, about ten years ago, failing to recognize a guy I’d spent more than two hours with earlier that same day. I know he thought I was either a real jerk or insane or both. It was mortifying. And I have actual in-laws around here I wouldn’t recognize outside of a family gathering. Life would be a hell of a lot simpler if people would just wear the name tags I give them.

Kathy says that sometimes when we’re shopping in a grocery store she’ll see me looking at her from down the aisle and I clearly don’t recognize her. I assume that’s true, because I don’t remember seeing her, which I wouldn’t if I didn’t recognize her, would I? I guess I should make a mental note when we go in of the color of her coat or whatever. This is nothing new. One of my earliest memories is of mistaking some stranger in a store for my father, and as a child I actually used to confuse Fred Astaire and Frank Sinatra. When I took six hours of cognitive tests right after I was diagnosed with ms a few years ago I did miserably on the facial recall test. Quelle surprise.

This makes movies with even vaguely similar characters problematic. A few weeks ago we finally saw Black Swan, which, when I first heard references to it, I had honestly expected to be vaguely about epistemology with a car chase or two thrown in (the way that He’s Just Not That into You, a self-help book, was spun into a romantic comedy). It turns out to be about ballet. (As Paul Carr recently said on TechCrunch, “If I were Nassim N. Taleb I’d tell my publishers to immediately re-release The Black Swan with a picture of a ballerina on the front.”)

So, anyway, Norma Bates, Ballerina. Interesting concept. On the drive home, however, I learned that the good ballerina turns into the bad ballerina (or vice-versa) several times (and into the has-been ballerina at least once). But I had missed all of these subtle and pivotal psycho-points (and therefore the meat, lean as it was, of the movie) because I couldn’t tell any of these ballerinas apart. So I thought Natalie Portman was just really, really unhappy, not gonzo nuts, and I sat through the entire movie being bored to tears, watching other patrons text their friends, and being repeatedly reminded of how much I hate Tchaikovsky. Sigh.

Meanwhile, back on TV, one of the cable channels recently showed The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia, which I had expected to hate (snotty Tribeca filmmaker making fun of hillbillies, etc.), but which was actually remarkably sympathetic to its subjects. Oddly enough, meth didn’t seem to be in the picture for these people, who trade in prescription drugs, although it’s a major industry where we are. I must say I had never heard of people huffing gasoline before. Wow.

Oh, well, so it goes. And, lest we go, please consider subscribing.

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And now, on with the show…

6 comments to February 2011 Issue

  • Noah

    “Semper Ubi Sub Ubi readme” Why? just thought i’d ask :)

  • admin

    It’s an old Latin students’ joke:

    Semper (Always) Ubi (where) Sub (under) Ubi (where).

  • Neil

    My first time visiting the site. I came in via a (yes, Google) search for ‘boy howdy’, but stayed for the ‘semper ubi sub ubi’ which was my favorite joke when I was studying Latin in college.

    I’m commenting, however, because (without having searched the site) I don’t know whether you are aware that there is a name for your face-recognition problem: prosopagnosia. Oliver Sacks has written about it, and also suffers from it. The Wikipedia entry on it is, well, Wikipedia.

  • Wow, you sound like a textbook case of prosopagnosia, a.k.a. “face blindness”. I also have it, and try to spread the word. There are several websites devoted to prosopagnosia, and I strongly recommend you look a few of them up. For me, my classic embarrassing experience was when I was dating a pair of sisters (fraternal twins, NOT identical), and couldn’t always tell which one I was with! Just knowing about it and that it’s a real condition, not just you going crazy, makes it much easier to cope with.

  • OTRsaOSG

    Neil and OwenKL are obviously not ardent followers of the Word Detective, although I would have thought the name of the site would give things away (maybe a case of “URL blindness”?).

  • admin

    Prosopagnosia, yeah. BTW, Kathy came up with this article about a woman who conditioned herself to be able to tell people apart:

    Is Face-Blindness Curable?

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