Short takes

A few interesting words and phrases that don’t warrant a full column. I wonder if “fisking” will endure as a description.

Fisking — A point-by-point refutation of a blog entry or news story. A really stylish fisking is witty, logical, sarcastic and ruthlessly factual, pointing out flawed research, unfounded assertions, and logical fallacies. Named after Robert Fisk, a British journalist who was a frequent (and deserving) early target of such treatment.

Cuckoo — in slang: silly, gone nuts, crazy, bonkers, simple
             — a common European bird, Cuculus canorus, of the family Cuculidae

Rank has its privileges — a military acronym, RHIP, an unofficial way to identify a person assuming some benefit by virtue of their position.

Sharp as a tack — or a razor. Mentally acute. Dates from the mid-1800.

Neat as a pin — tidy, orderly. Dates from 1542, when it meant “clean.” It was not until 1968 that it came to mean “very good.”

Awfulize — to imagine an event as horrific and terrible, thus engendering negative emotions like anger, anxiety and depression, which impede coping abilities.

Werewolf — Old English wer (man) + wolf; scarier than a werehamster.


One of the things I enjoy about playing with the language is to discover new invented words. A few months back I talked about one that a friend made up. “Wrabble” is a combination of ‘babble’ and ‘write,’ describing chatty letters or emails. It’s a verb, so I can wrabble, I am wrabbling, and we wrabbled yesterday. In fact, she and I are always wrabbling, so the word has become a permanent part of our lexicon.

Last week, she came up with another. “Curmudgette” is a female curmudgeon. Specializes in complaining about the weather.

If any of you have made-up words you’d like to share, please type them into the Comments box, along with a definition. I’d love to see them!

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