Search us!

Search The Word Detective and our family of websites:

This is the easiest way to find a column on a particular word or phrase.

To search for a specific phrase, put it between quotation marks.


Ask a Question!

Puzzled by Posh?
Confounded by Cattycorner?
Baffled by Balderdash?
Flummoxed by Flabbergast?
Perplexed by Pandemonium?
Nonplussed by... Nonplussed?
Annoyed by Alliteration?

Don't be shy!
Send in your question!




Alphabetical Index
of Columns January 2007 to present.


Archives 2006 – present

Old Archives

Columns from 1995 to 2006 are slowly being added to the above archives. For the moment, they can best be found by using the Search box at the top of this column.


If you would like to be notified when each monthly update is posted here, sign up for our free email notification list.






All contents herein (except the illustrations, which are in the public domain) are Copyright © 1995-2011 Evan Morris. Reproduction without written permission is prohibited, with the exception that teachers in public schools may duplicate and distribute the material here for classroom use.

Any typos found are yours to keep.

And remember, kids,
Semper Ubi Sub Ubi


TWD RSS feeds

January 2013 Issue

Semper Ubi Sub Ubi


What about December? You mean December of last year? Sheesh. I think it’s best if we all just look forward, y’know? There’s nothing to be gained by pointing fingers and dwelling on the missteps of the past. Things happened, mistakes were made, water under the bridge, ship sailed, case closed. Besides, what we have here in our shiny new January is one of those increasingly special times when I post an issue of this little circus in the same month as it says at the top of the page.

Anyway, ave atque vale, annus terribilis 2012. Meanwhile, thanks to all our friends who have subscribed and otherwise contributed to our well-being over the past few months. Quite apart from the fact that your support literally makes this site possible, the morale boost it furnishes is the reason I don’t spend my days watching Family Feud reruns.

As for the Great Thanksgiving Norovirus Adventure, I am better now, but not entirely up to snuff yet. Having missed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years entirely, I hope to be completely well soon, because I have a lot riding on Arbor Day. Anyway, I have all sorts of fun medical appointments scheduled (I seem to be anemic, among other things). I also have an ophthalmic exam coming up, which I hope will fix my inability to read anything. Seriously. I’ve spent the past two months with vision so blurred that I’m almost completely unable to make out lines of type on a computer screen. I am really hoping that the problem can be resolved by new glasses and isn’t a sudden increase in the irreversible loss of vision associated with multiple sclerosis.

Speaking of computer screens, my big LCD monitor gave up the ghost last year, and after spending a week or so struggling to use an old, dim and yellow 17-inch Dell LCD monitor I had left over from about 2001, I went online at (the totally awesome opposite of larcenous dumps like Best Buy) to see what I could reasonably afford. I discovered that while I was sleeping, the world had dumped the old LCD technology, CCFL (cold-cathode fluorescent lamp) backlighting, and taken up with the cheaper, “greener” LED backlighting. OK. Whatever. So I hunted around a bit and found a suspiciously cheap (~$125) 24-inch Dell LED LCD monitor. (I think the deal must have been a drastic sale, actually, because the same monitor is now almost $200). So it comes, I plug it in, and boy howdy, that thing would have been visible from space. I’m now running it at 40% brightness. It looks like it might be sharper than my old LCD, but it’s hard to say because, as I said, I can’t actually read anything on the screen. Grrr.

So at the moment I’m relying on my aging but trusty T60 ThinkPad laptop, which has a slightly dim screen (which is OK because everything around me seems way too bright), but also sports 1024 x 768 resolution (a la 2004) and thus is much easier to read. I love my T60.

Continue reading this post » » »

November 2012 Issue

Semper Ubi Sub Ubi


OK, it’s not November. November was not a good month. October wasn’t so hot, either. There will be a December issue as soon as I can muster one.

We went to a doctor’s appt. in Columbus, 40 miles away, in late October and somebody kicked in our back door and robbed us. We don’t have much of anything anyone would want, but these creeps went straight upstairs to the bedroom and took some heirloom jewelry (grandparents’ rings, etc.) that they found in a drawer. Unfortunately, what they took was not only emotionally important to Kathy, the only direct, physical mementos of her parents and grandparents, but also our last-resort, end-of-the-world nest egg. Now we’ve really got nuttin’.

It was a weirdly fastidious robbery; they closed the drawers and some boxes on the dresser, and closed the back door on their way out. If they hadn’t cracked the door frame and part of the wall next to it, we might not have noticed the robbery for days. The Sheriff’s Deputy who came to investigate suggested that, based on the method, it might be the work of either a family member or a neighbor, but we lack an eligible relative and it has since become apparent that our robbery was just one of about a dozen identical crimes that have swept our general are in recent weeks. What we need now is an alarm system that plays the sound of somebody racking a 12-gauge pump shotgun.

Brownie & Fifi the Cat

What happened next is hard to write about, so I’m going to keep this short. Our beloved dog Brownie died the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, apparently of a seizure of some kind as she slept on the living room floor. Brownie was 14-1/2 years old. She was our best friend, the most wonderful, loving, smart, sweet dog I have ever known. We got her as a foundling puppy soon after we moved to Ohio from NYC, and we were lucky to have spent all day every day with her ever since. Apart from some arthritis, she had no known health problems; I had taken her for a walk earlier in the day around the yard, and she seemed fine. I’m glad she wasn’t sick, I’m glad she could still play ball with me in the living room the night before she died, I’m glad she knew how much we loved her, but we miss her terribly. She was the third person in the house, and it seems impossible that she isn’t sleeping downstairs right now.

Onward. Because this seems to be how the universe works, I greeted Thanksgiving Day by coming down with either the worst case of food poisoning possible or, more likely, a killer case of some Norovirus. Whatever it was meant a solid week of Exorcist-level projectile vomiting and inability to eat that left me too weak to walk and severely dehydrated. Multiple Sclerosis acts as a force multiplier in such things, so everything hurt like hell and my eyes went completely blurry, making it impossible to read. I seem to be on the mend now, but I lost about ten pounds and I still feel yucky and my eyes are still iffy. Thanksgiving, of course, simply did not happen.

Have I mentioned that today is my birthday? Oh, yay.

But the Holidays are here, and Subscriptions make lovely holiday gifts! So please consider giving a few. And random acts of contribution are, of course, always appreciated.

And now, on with the show….


September/October 2012 Issue

Semper Ubi Sub Ubi


Before I forget (yeah, right), if you’ve been planning to subscribe at some point but forgetting, this would be an awesome point at which to remember to subscribe. Things are dicey, pickings are slim, and the cats are getting that “Maybe you’ve forgotten that we are, after all, predators” look in their eyes.

And now, a message from Edith Freedle:

Dear Internet: Please excuse Mister Detective’s absence for the past month. He has been sick and has been unable to do anything even remotely constructive. In early September he developed a horrible cold which turned out to be due to a gum infection which turned out to be due to a bad tooth. He has been to the dentist four times in the past month and has now had all of his teeth removed, as well as several random molars he had apparently borrowed from neighbors. The doctors say that if this doesn’t solve the problem he may have to have his ears cropped, although such a drastic step doesn’t actually have anything to do with his teeth (or the lack thereof). But they say it will make his hats fit better.

At the moment he is still under the effects of last week’s an√¶sthesia (at least we hope that’s it) and has been unable to do anything but post utter nonsense to something called “Tweeter,” which is apparently some kind of online club for weirdos. He is, of course, on a liquid diet, which we assumed meant gruel (he loved gruel as a child growing up in the workhouse). But he belligerently insists that the dentist specified gin and tonic (with limes to prevent scurvy). Since the dentist now forwards all our calls to a personal injury lawyer (evidently someone was bitten during last week’s appointment), we have been unable to verify this prescription and so must assume it’s true.

He is steadily, if slowly, improving, and he thinks he may be able to handle a little pizza next week (liquified in a blender, of course). We have tried to get him to do his homework and update this website, but he has built a fort out of the couch cushions and refuses to come out. This would be an acceptable state of affairs for the short term were it not for our well-founded suspicion that he is smoking some of his strange homemade cigarettes in there.

In any case, the poor little lad has suffered a month of pain and torment, so I hope that you will forgive his absence, and that this unfortunate turn of events will not affect his Google Rank and thus his chances of earning enough pennies from ads to pay the dentist bills and feed the cats, several of whom, apparently from hunger, have taken to licking his feet in a very creepy fashion.

If the other children on the internet would like to contribute, please tell them that, short of sending bales of actual cash, the most important, helpful and compassionate thing to do would be to subscribe to TWD-by-Email.

Yours sincerely,

Edith Freedle, Assistant to, and reluctant temporary caretaker of, Mr. Detective.

p.s. — Mr. Detective briefly emerged from his burrow a few moments ago, just long enough to insist that I warn his readers not to pay attention to the various political ads currently running on this site, which are in “no freaking way, shape or form” under his control. It was difficult to make out exactly what he said next as he seemed to be trying to hold his breath for some reason, but it sounded like “All those lying dirtbums belong in the Graybar Hotel.” Wherever that is.

And now, on with the show….