Awesome words: orogeny


I am a sucker for a good geological term. I don’t know what it is about rocks, but I find them fascinating. I love that they are the relics of the vast history of this planet. And that you can read that history on a continental scale, or at the most minute, microscopic level. Fossils fascinate me; caves entrance me; I marvel at the way you can tell where a glacier has been by the shapes it leaves carved in mountains; and I love the weird silhouettes left by the bones of volcanoes after the original mountain has been worn away.

Orogeny is the making of mountains through continental upheaval. As if that wasn’t awesome enough, the collective word for the array of geological processes that go into all this continental crumpling is orogenesis. (That gives me word shivers.)

I know orogeny is something purely mechanical, but in my mind the word conjures images of some fiery and arcane art practiced by ancient gods over eons. The kind of gods that created the land to the sound of grinding stone and the slow shattering of layers of rock; and when they care to turn the Earth over and make it up anew, they’ll do it without a care for the creeping cataclysm they’ll cause for the mayfly humans eking out a life on its shifting skin.


Awesome words: Alternative Facts

Alternative Facts:

  1. A lie.
  2. A lie expressed for political expediency.
  3. A lie about a lie.

(My definitions.)

This phrase is awesome (I don’t mean that in a positive, upbeat kinda way) for its abject insidiousness. It is awesome because the very phrase “alternative facts” is a perfect example of what it embodies. If you call something out as being a lie, falsehood or untruth, you are making a statement of fact. If you call something an alternative fact, you are engaging in a lie about a lie. It is pure, self-perpetuating genius.

Just to drive home why this whole alternative facts thing is an exercise in evil, this phrase is now inextricably wound up in connotations of lying for political expediency. Let’s look at the events that rocketed this phrase to notoriety.

  1. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer lied (made false/inaccurate/misleading statements, whatevs, you split the hairs) about attendance numbers at Donald Trump’s presidential inauguration.
  2. When challenged about this at a press conference, Trump’s campaign strategist Kellyanne Conway characterised these statements as “alternative facts”.

What is striking about this incident is that the alternative facts were not tendered for any meaningful reason. I’m sorry to be so crass, but this really was just a one-sided political pissing contest, a mine-is-bigger-than-yours schoolyard tossing competition. The implications it has respecting this administration’s capacity for being up front and honest with the American people and the rest of the world on any issues of actual import are freaking huge.

The other consequence of Conway making out like alternative facts are an actual Thing, is the broader effect it has on the culture of political discourse in the US.

This from the Wikipedia page on alternative facts, about the discussion of Conway’s use of the term and the criticism she subsequently received for it:

The magazine [American Thinker] asserted that the phrase “alternative facts” was in common use in law and that it was known to most lawyers, including Conway, with her George Washington University Law School degree. After giving examples of non-legal uses of the phrase “alternative facts”, the article contended that when Chuck Todd upbraided Kellyanne Conway with the claim that “alternative facts are not facts; they’re falsehoods”, he was not only wrong, but “propagating an ignorance born out of lazy and shallow thinking”.

Wait, what? So a journalist challenging a government spokesperson on what was a pretty blatant and easily provable falsehood was somehow “propagating an ignorance born out of lazy and shallow thinking”? WTAF?

I mean, whoah. Now we are talking a lie defended by a lie defended by a lie. It’s like a whole recursive onion-thing, where each layer is just wrapped in a new, bigger, thicker, stickier, more repulsive layer of lies. This is orders of magnitude above mere political spin.

And you know what? That onion thing is a comprehensively documented consequence of lying: that you have to keep lying to perpetuate the original lie. That’s what makes phrases like alternative facts such powerful, dangerous things. They are just the start of a self-perpetuating process that has the capacity to do incalculable harm.



To get the t-shirt, click on the pic.

Awesome words: fart

Canons fire from a tower down onto a group of men in 18th century military regalia below. The men are crawling on their hands and knees, buttocks bared, farting back at the canons. A ship can be seen in the distance.
British cartoon mocking the failed French & Spanish siege of Gibralter, 1782

In keeping with the theme of Wednesday’s post, here’s an extract from the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue by Francis Grose, available through the Gutenberg Project.

FART. He has let a brewer’s fart, grains and all; said of
one who has bewrayed his breeches.

      Piss and fart.
Sound at heart.
Mingere cum bumbis,
Res saluberrima est lumbis.

  I dare not trust my a-se with a fart: said by a person troubled
with a looseness.

FART CATCHER. A valet or footman from his walking
behind his master or mistress.


FARTLEBERRIES. Excrement hanging about the anus.



I’ve had this song stuck in my head for the last couple of days.

I love the bluesy guitar, and the lyrics of the chorus are just perfect for channelling one of the POV characters in my current WIP at the moment.

Take me to church

I’ll worship like a dog at the shrine of your lies

I’ll tell you my sins and you can sharpen your knife

Offer me that deathless death

Good God, let me give you my life

This WIP is sitting on about 94,000 words and I’m pretty much committed to getting it done by the end of the year. Wish me luck. I’m almost there.

Awesome words – Graceless

I love this word. It has so much story at its heart! At a basic level it means clumsy or awkward, but because it is a word that defines itself by the absence of a characteristic, it becomes so much more. It’s almost accusatory.

And “grace” is such a complex word, too. It doesn’t just mean “elegance” (of form, motion and manner), but can also refer to being in a state of favour or having been extended mercy. So to be “graceless” is not just to be awkward, but there are also overtones of having fallen into disfavour and being denied clemency. Pitiable indeed!

Furthermore, there are also some nice ecclesiastical overtones from “being in a state of grace”, which call up echos of a deeper fall into ignominy.

Favourite use of the word “graceless”… In the inimitable Florence & the Machine’s Shake It Out.

And it’s hard to dance with the devil on your back

So shake him off.

And I am done with my graceless heart

So tonight I’m gonna cut it out and then restart.

Awesome words: Nocturne

Here’s a good word for an insomniac. It’s a term for a piece of art, most often music, that evokes evening or night, or, alternatively, a dreamy, pensive mood.

I like it because it sounds musical. It sounds haunting. For me it conjures up purple twilights, glimmering stars and crickets chirping.

Artworks at top: Nocturne Landscape, Jon Molvig; Nocturne: Forest Spires, Tom Thomson; Nocturne in Black and Gold – The Falling Rocket, James Abbot McNeill Whistler; The Falling Rocket (detail)

Awesome words: Amaranthine

Amaranthine: Unfading, everlasting, particularly in relation to a flower. From the Greek amarantos, undying, and anthos, flower.

Amaranth is the name given to a genus of summer flowering plants, most of which go by the (very) common name of pigweed. Now, there’s a step down for you.

It’s also the name of a purplish-red colour and a synthetic red food colouring ( E123), used in packet soups, cakemixes, etc.

Why do I love it? Well, I’m a sucker for a word with overtones of colour and I think I conflate the purplishness of this word with amethyst, which gives amaranthine a jewel-like quality in my mind. I also like the association this word has with the concept of a magical, undying flower.

Red-root Amaranth (A. retroflexus) – from Thomé, Flora von Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz 1885

Awesome words – elytra

Cetonidae: Eudicella Gralli Orientalis, by Mike Libby

Elytra is the plural of elytron, a word that refers to the hardened forewings of some insects, such as beetles, which cover the transparent hindwings, which are the ones used for flying. In the sculpture above the elytra are striped green and orange.

Why is it an awesome word? Just is. Beetle wings are awesome. And elytra sounds utterly mystical. I didn’t know they were forewings. I didn’t know they were wings at all. If you’d asked me what that bit of the beetle was, I would have said “carapace” or “shell”. I only encountered the word for the first time today in this article about a new art pavilion being built at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. Robots are weaving a moving canopy for the Elytra Pavilion, based on the “fibrous structures found in the hardened forewings of flying beetles”.

Speaking of art and elytra, check out the incredibly beautiful and just plain cool sculptures from artist Mike Libby. I’ve seen his steampunked insects around on Pinterest for a while now, but the crab “Ludlow” is… well… I mean he has interchangeable claws. Holy hell. I’m itching from wanting.


Awesome words: unquiet

No doubt about it. This is a creepy word.

It’s interesting, because unquiet is not the opposite of the word quiet in its most usual meaning. It doesn’t mean noisy or loud. Unquiet relates to restlessness, turbulence and anxiety.

The word unquiet is most usually paired with is “spirits”.

There's even a suitably creepy looking font with this name!
There’s even a suitably creepy looking font with this name!

Other words I found it paired with, doing a quick and dirty Google search, were: “dead”, “graves”, “ghost”, “dreams”, “past”, “mind” and “earth”. So it definitely has overtones of the spiritual, emotional and the macabre.

I like this word because the very fact of it being an un- word implies the most desirable state of whatever is being described is one of quiet. The fact that it has become unquiet is ominous, even unnatural.

Unquiet is a lovely word, just dripping with story.

I hope you had a great Halloween.