Put This In Your Funk & Wagnalls!

September 4, 1998

I’m always working to improve my vocabulary. I have a daily calendar with useful words, I subscribe to a few different listservs that give me interesting words, their definitions and origins, and occasionally when writing something, I resort to the dictionary or thesaurus in order to avoid cliches and to find something that will really catch people off guard and grab their attention. Here are just a few of the best words I’ve added to my vocabulary:

boustrophedon (adj)–of or relating to the writing of alternate lines in opposite directions

This comes up in conversations a lot, especially when I say things like, "Does anyone know what ‘boustrophedon’ means?"

farctate (n)–the condition of feeling bloated after a full meal I used this one several times in restaurants where I’m now banned.

ploughbote (n)–from Anglo-Saxon times, this was the legal right of tenant farmers to acquire from their master’s estate the lumber necessary for farming tools. Now it applies to anything that comes out of an office supply closet.

cooperage (n)–the art of making barrels

This one’s incredibly handy at farewell parties, especially ones where you don’t know the person leaving but you’re just there for the food. Go up to the person leaving and say, "So, I hear you’re making the transition from sales to cooperage." Enjoy this week’s offerings.


A study in the Washington Post says that women have better verbal skills than men. I just want to say to the authors of that study: "Duh."
– Conan O’Brien

In elementary school, in case of fire you have to line up in a single file line from smallest to tallest. What is the logic? Do tall people burn slower?
– Warren Hutcherson

The statistics on sanity are that one out of every four Americans is suffering from some form of mental illness. Think of your three best friends. If they are okay, then it’s you.
– Rita Mae Brown

If your parents never had children, chances are you won’t either.
– Dick Cavett

I was a vegetarian until I started leaning towards sunlight.
– Rita Rudner

The Swiss have an interesting army. Five hundred years without a war. Pretty impressive. Also pretty lucky for them. Ever see that little Swiss Army knife they have to fight with? Corkscrews. Bottle openers. "Come on, buddy, let’s go! You get past me, the guy in back of me, has got a spoon. Back off! I’ve got toenail clippers right here!"
– Jerry Seinfeld

Why does Sea World have a seafood restaurant? I’m halfway through my fishburger and I realize, "Oh my GOSH….I could be eating a slow learner."
– Lynda Montgomery

What do people mean when they say the computer went down on me?
– Marilyn Pittman

Sometimes I think war is God’s way of teaching us geography.
– Paul Rodriguez

I don’t do drugs anymore ’cause I find I get the same effect just by standing up really fast.
– Johnathan Katz

When you look at Prince Charles, don’t you think that someone in the Royal Family KNEW someone in the Royal Family?
– Robin Williams

How to know where drivers are from:

  • One hand on wheel, one hand on horn: Chicago
  • One hand on wheel, one finger out window: New York
  • One hand on wheel, one hand on newspaper, foot solidly on accelerator: Boston
  • One hand on wheel, cradling cell phone,brick on accelerator: California. With gun in lap: L.A.
  • Both hands on wheel, eyes shut, both feet on brake, quivering in terror: Ohio, but driving in California.
  • Both hands in air, gesturing, both feet on accelerator, head turned to talk to someone in back seat: Italy
  • One hand on latte, one knee on wheel, cradling cell phone, foot on brake, mind on game: Seattle
  • One hand on wheel, one hand on hunting rifle, alternating between both feet being on the accelerator and both on the brake, throwing a McDonalds bag out the window: Texas city male
  • One hand on wheel, one hand hanging out the window, keeping speed steadily at 70mph, driving down the center of the road unless coming around a blind curve, in which case they are on the left side of the road: Texas country male
  • One hand constantly refocusing the rear-view mirror to show different angles of the BIG hair, one hand going between mousse, brush, and rat-tail to keep the helmet hair going, both feet on the accelerator, poodle steering the car, chrome .38 revolver with mother of pearl inlaid handle in the glove compartment: Texas female
  • Both hands on steering wheel in a relaxed posture, eyes constantly checking the rear-view mirror to watch for visible emissions from their own or another’s car: Colorado
  • One hand on steering wheel, yelling obscenities, the other hand waving gun out the window and firing repeatedly, keeping a careful eye out for landmarks along the way so as to be able to come back and pick up any bullets that didn’t hit other motorists so as not to litter: Colorado resident on spotting a car with Texas plate.
  • Four wheel drive pickup truck, shotgun mounted in rear window, beer cans on floor, squirrel tails attached to antenna: West Virginia male.
  • Junker, driven by someone who previously had a nice car and who is now wearing a barrel: Las Vegas
  • Two hands gripping wheel, blue hair barely visible above window level, driving 35 on the interstate in the left lane with the left blinker on: Florida "seasoned citizen" driver, also known as "no-see-um" (or could it be Marge Simpson?)
  • Two hands on the wheel, driving forty-five in a seventy mph zone in the left lane, with the left turn signal on, and making a right turn: New Mexico resident (as anyone who has ever driven through this lovely state can attest)

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