"If you can't be a Good Example ... be an Awful Warning"
(it is a pneumoconiosis caused by the inhalation of very fine silicate
or quartz dust).
I suppose if the doctor was confused by it, it would be pseudopneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis,
if it was a mixture of several varieties that he was confused by it, it
would be polypseudopneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis, or,
if he was only partially confused by some of it, then it would be polysemi-pseudopneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis,
on and on, limited only by your cruel imagination!
(at the point of death, fading, dying, slowly sliding out of existence,
fatality imminent) (not really to be confused with premortem and perimortem)
This is a word my grandmother used to call us, affectionately, when we
were being little rascals. Despite the context in which it was used
we always thought it equivalent to be a not-so-flattering booger.
I guess we wer right in our understanding of the word as a slang dictionary
I found gave it as a synonym for goo, slimy, gook, gummy, and goopy.
Stephen King used it to describe one of his other-worldy creatures in one
of his books I read a long time ago (sorry, don't know which one).
A "savage" Indian described by a "civilized" Frenchman,
Politeness and propriety have taught us to carry handkerchiefs.
In this matter the Savages charge us with filthiness - because, they say,
we place what is unclean in a fine white piece of linen, and put it away
in our pockets as something very precious, while they throw it upon the
ground. Hence it happened that, when a Savage saw a Frenchman fold
up his handkerchief after wiping his nose, he said to him laughingly, 'If
though likest that filth, give me thy handkerchief and I will soon fill
(R.G. Thwaites, Jesuit Relations 44:31
William Moss, regarding the excavation of lead coffins
at Cathedral Cemetery of Exeter, Devon, England:
One coffin split while being moved. We did not open it but the
liquid that ran out was far and enough to convince me that there had been
total decomposition of all non-skeletal material. This was also one
of the most disgusting experiences of my career as an archaeologist.
(William Moss, June 6, 1995, on ARCH-L internet
Lardner Vanuxem, early New York State Geologist:
In such investigations, the mind is placed between two antagonist universal
powers: a generalization or synthesis, the extreme of which destroys all
individuality; and an individualization or analysis, whose extreme equally
annihilates all generality: and consequently science cannot exist where
either power is in excess, but arises from their mutual equipoise, being
the middle term, the harmonizing principal, and performing the same useful
office in what are termed the higher mental operations, that common sense
discharges in ordinary life.
(Lardner Vanuxem, 1842, Geology of New York,
Part II, page 170).
James Fenimore Cooper, 1823, preface to The Pioneers:
It is now a long time, say the wise ones, since the world has been
told all that is new and novel. But the Reviewers (the cunning wights!)
have adopted an ingenious expedient, to give freshness to the most trite
idea. They clothe it in a language so obscure and metaphysical, that
the reader is not about to comprehend their pages without some labour.
This is called a great "range of thought;" and not improperly, as I can
testify; for, in my own case, I have ranged the universe of ideas, and
come back again in as perfect ignorance of their meaning as when I set
out. It is delightful, to see the literati of a circulating library
get hold of one of these difficult periods! Their praise of the performance
is exactly commensurate with its obscurity. Everybody knows that
to seem wise is the first requisite in a great man.
Margaret Sanger, pioneer in birth control, passing
on a favorite quote of her father (Michael Higgins, a Corning, NY tombstone
You have no right to material comforts without giving back to society
the benefits of your honest experience.
(Margaret Sanger, 1938, Margaret Sanger, an
Doug Ubelaker on a forensic case:
It was a warm spring day and the body was swarming
with some of the largest maggots I have ever seen. Maggots have a
character of their own. They vary widely in size and ferocity.
They can bunch their bodies up and jump distances far beyond their own
length, in some cases as much as several inches. In the course of
my examination, one of the largest of the teeming mass separated from the
rest, jumped off the body, cleared the side of the table, and landed audibly
on my shoe. I kicked it across the driveway and kept working.
(Douglas Ubelaker and Henry Scammell, 1992, Bones:
A Forensic Detective's Casebook. Harper Collins. New York, NY)
Jack McLaughlin on the Monticello of yesterday and
There is yet another way that historical preservation
places distance between the house and its owner. Preserved houses
are pieces of material history, and the restorer interprets their physical
remains no less than the historian interprets chronological facts.
Both impose private mythologies upon the past. The myth created for
Monticello by its restorers is that Thomas Jefferson was one of the leading
architects of his age, that his architectural practice was shaped by Palladianism,
and that his house was completed in 1809 much the way it looks today.
All that reinforces this myth has been salvaged and carefully returned
to mint condition; all that does not has been allowed noiselessly to disappear.
The difficulty with this myth is that this house was not completed in 1809,
when Jefferson returned from Washington and dismissed his workmen.
It was not until 1823 that the principal architectural features of the
exterior, the porticoes, were completed, and by this time the condition
of the house, like that of its owner, was in serious decline. Never
in Jefferson's lifetime did Monticello appear the way it does today.
(Jack McLaughlin, 1988, Jefferson and Monticello,
The Biography of a Builder. H. Holt and Co. New York, NY.)
Twain's flying esophagus:
It was a crisp and spicy morning in early
October. The lilacs and laburnums, lit with the glory-fires of autumn,
hung burning and flashing in the upper air, a fairy bridge provided by
kind Nature for the wingless wild things that have their homes in the tree-tops
and would visit together; the larch and the pomegranate flung their purple
and yellow flames in brilliant broad splashes along the slanting sweep
of the woodland; the sensuous fragrance of innumerable deciduous flowers
rose upon the swooning atmosphere; far in the empty sky a solitary esophagus
slept upon motionless wing; everywhere brooded stillness, serenity, and
the peace of God.
(Mark Twain [Samuel Clements] A Double-Barreled
Detective Story, 1902)
"Where substance is not to be had, shadow must suffice!"
(If that doesn't describe history and archaeology, nothing will!)
one of my "scariest images from childhood"
We are all affraid of the flying monkeys in the Wizard of Oz, but here
is one other that still has me freaking every time I see it - and I have
it hanging on my office wall. This image, the scariest image of my
childhood, is from the Twilight Zone, and was captured from the
TV screen by my photographer-brother, Tom Weiskotten. I have a feeling
Tom was as frightened by this as I was and still am, but he would never
admit it (why else would he go to the trouble to photograph it directly
from the TV back when the show was in it first re-runs). I have no
idea of the context except that it still remains a nightmare to me!