Etymology of the Papacy

As you may or must have heard by now, Pope Benedict XVI has stepped down from office before his term was up. Or, to be more ambiguous, before his term was laid to rest alongside his cousin(?) (I’m not Catholic, so I don’t know the family structure between the Pope and ol’ JC.)

In light of this news, I thought it’d be beneficial to know the proper wordage for handling a world with multiple Popes.

A group of popes is known as a popery, similar to a nunnery or a nursery. If you’re talking about separate groups of popes, then you are speaking of disparate poperies.

When referring to a pope when there are other living single vessels of God hanging around the house, it’s best to refer to them by their papal name. However, sometimes casually you’ll just mention ‘the pope’ and unfortunately forcing a conversation regarding which one. For quick reference, until time sorts out the problem, here is your two-pope solution: Refer to the yet-to-be-named pope as ‘the new pope’ while former pope Benedict XVI can be referred to as the shadow pope or the sleepy pope. Once again, one simple snarky adjective can make a world of difference!

The history of the term popery is a fascinating one. Because as I’m sure has been mentioned, a pope hasn’t stepped down from his high chair since 1415. The world has changed a great deal in those nigh-on six centuries. Back in the early 15th Century, when dealing with the last papal resignation, the people of the time were still hesitant to bathe properly. So while there was a popery in Rome, each pope would don different perfumes to distinguish themselves. It is surprising how easy it is to mix up guys wearing pointy white hats (just ask the KKK!)

These different scents were very particular and known across Europe, even as far as the British Isles. England, home of my native tongue, was still heavily influenced by the Norman French ruling class at that time. And this is why to this day we have a French word and spelling for a bouquet of scents: potpourri.

We’re, We Are, Annoyed by Punctuation

Driving home today, I saw a billboard. And that billboard took a wrench to my left hemisphere and started twisting it around.
We’re Undefeatable.
We are Vikings.

I don’t know if Undefeatable was the top word. Or if it’s a word at all. Not that it matters.

The “we’re” vs “we are” kills me. It’s two different rhythms and two different feelings. And using both makes it lopsided and asymmetrical. “We are” is much more declarative and powerful.

I think I get that the second statement was supposed to be the dominant of the two. But there are other ways to do it.

We are Undefeatable.
We are Vikings.

Shift things around.

We are Undefeatable.

We are Vikings.


Give them different sizes.

We are Undefeatable.

We are Vikings.


“We’re Undefeatable” sounds weak and whiny. It lacks the 1-2-3 of We-Are-Vikings.

So the main lines of this promotion? Swing and a miss. Which is saying something, considering this was promoting football.

Worst. Billboard. Ever.

1. 2. 3.

A Little Bit Nuts


That word means exactly what it sounds like, and yet, is not an onomatopoeia*.

Though, now that I’m over-thinking, cockamamie (which I originally spelled cockamamy, also acceptable, thank you) it sounds really terrible and painful. That poor chicken.

Cockamamy, just as much ridiculousness as you’d think.

*Onomatopoeia, however, does not spell how one would think it would. By one, I mean me. And by how one would think, that one must be erudite.

Actually, erudite isn’t the right word for that sentence. Except for the fact that my intuition believes that erudite and onomatopoeia start with the letter a.

How cockamamie is that?



I think we’re more familiar with the term dastardly. I assume in conjunction with other descriptions of Snidely Whiplash. After all, I’m certain that everyone else has the same points of reference in life as I.

[If what I just said had no spark of recognition for you, I shall ask you to leave the room. And don’t let the doorknob fracture your fairytale on the way out.]

My bigger point: there is also the root word dastard. And it is quite what you would think. It is a goofy spelling of bastard, generally the d coming from dullard or dotty. There are other definitions of sneaking and cowardice attached. Perhaps as a smashing of devious bastard would be a way to look at it?

But I think dastard would do well to come back into our standard spoken lexicon. Bastard has its normal connotations of being a child born out of wedlock, and while that’s not really a worthwhile term in the modern age, it’s also considered something of a curse. Even though it generally means stupid jerk or asshole, I think we’re better off moving beyond it. Time for the revenge of the dastard!

There is another, slightly more esoteric use of the word, I suppose you could say. That of a bastard item or idea as an adulterated or mutated form of an original thing. This berry beer is like a bastard ale. Or, Reese’s Pieces are the bastard child of a peanut butter cup and M&Ms. Or, if you can stand the Dungeons and Dragons reference: a bastard sword (a longsword with an extended handle to use one- or two-handed.

In fact, it turns out dastard is a bastard word.

Who’d’ve thunk?



Did you know that Eskimos have 600,000 words for snow? It’s true. I, like, totally looked that up just now.

Minnesotans have a few different words for them as well.

“Shit” comes to mind.

In less than a day, we went from no snow on the ground to 8.5″ being dropped. That’s after having rained yesterday afternoon. Not only is there a lovely layer of slush under everything, it means this was a warm storm and the snow is very wet. In the city, it was mostly rain and a couple of inches of snow. Up here, we got nailed hard enough that even the district called a Snow Day.

After sleeping in a bit, the neighborhood got up and began work to dig itself out. I and the boy were sweating through our gear pretty quickly. Once we got about 1/3 done, he was off and playing. 1/3 more of the driveway cleared, a neighbor loaned me his snowblower.

Upon handing the rumbling contraption off to me, his only words were, “This shit is too heavy.”

See!? It’s not just me. The natives do have many words for snow up here! Cultural Anthropology is so fascinating.

Point of order, however: this heavy, wet snow is some of the best. At least for kids. Why? You can reach right down and grab a handful of snow and it automatically forms into a functional snowball. Had I not wiped myself out shoveling, the games would have been on.

On like white on rice.

In a glass of milk.

On a paper plate.

In a snowstorm.


There seems to be an age break between making a smiley emoticon look like this 🙂 and like this (-: and I think it’s about age 20.

For me, the former is proper, the latter looks confusing and wrong.

Allow me to establish that my over-20 way, the :-), is most correct. Why? Because we are English speakers, descendants of Greek and Latin. We write and read from Left to Right, Top to Bottom. Therefore, starting on the left would be the best way of seeing something from the top.

For the latter (-:, it looks like it is starting with a frown, quite the opposite of its intended meaning. It requires a double-take and some backtracking to decipher.

Besides, if you go down the dark path, then your big happy grins :-D, turn into some kind of unibrow demon from the pits of Hades.



Hang One’s Head

To hang one’s head, is a lowering of your chin and your gaze, generally in shame. Right?

Does this strike you as an odd phrase? Would it not be better to droop one’s head? Hanging sounds an awful lot like a hanging. And outside of hangman, there’s been no good hanging. Ever.

Hang your head in shame! And pretend you have a hemp necktie!

And seriously, can hangman move onto a cool geometric shape or something? Not only would it be less morbid, it would also be more consistent.

So remember: it’s better to find a place to hang your hat than hang your head.



muddle |ˈmədl|
noun [ usu. in sing. ]
an untidy and disorganized state or collection

New Oxford American Dictionary

I can appreciate this one. My mind’s been a muddle since… well I have to be nearing a year now, right?

It actually does stem from the word ‘mud’ from ages ago. And yet, perfectly apropos.

And it ends in that wonderful -ddle. Muddle, puddle, paddle, addle, fiddle, riddle, paradiddle, befuddle.

Brings to mind an old countryside world. Where a young man’s a muddle, the old man’s addled, and the kids are mucking about.