Sunday, August 29, 2010

Gum and Magnets--What Do They Have In Common?

Well, perhaps that title is a little misleading. What they have in common is alternative every day uses other than what they were originally intended to do.

Let's start with gum. There are several creative uses for the sticky stuff other than being an annoying substance stuck to the bottom of your shoe.

Memory Builder: No need to concern yourself with Ginkgo Biloba when all you need to do is chew a stick of Big Red. People who chewed gum during memory tests scored higher than those who didn't, according to Purple Slinky dot com.

Glue Substitute: According to Reader's Digest you can fix a broken ceramic flower pot or mend a doggie bowl with well-chewed gum. And in a pinch you can also use a tiny piece to fasten papers together when you don't have any staples or paper clips.

Glass Fixer: Gum can be used as a substitute for putty on a loose window pane or in an emergency it can be used to hold your glasses together. It is, however, recommended that you get your glasses properly repaired as quickly as possible.

Tummy Tamer: Again, according to Reader's Digest, a stick of spearmint gum will provide gastrointestinal relief. The spearmint oils ease gas and the chewing produces acid-neutralizing saliva.

Auto Repair: Plug your leaky radiator with gum until you can reach a mechanic.

Key Picker-upper: As demonstrated in movies and on television shows, by putting gum on the tip of a hanger or some sort of wooden stick you can pick up small items that have fallen through a grate.

Bait: Bubble gum, in particular the Bazooka brand, allegedly attracts catfish. Spearmint gum reportedly lures crabs, but make sure the gum is only partially chewed so that some of the flavor remains.

Of course, there is the standard warning of no guarantee that any of these suggestions actually work. :)

So, let's move on to magnets and a few ways they can be used other than attaching children's drawings to the refrigerator.

Magnetic Wall: Turn any wall into a giant magnet with magnetic paint. This paint can be used on several surface materials such as drywall, plaster, wood, and metal. Then you can hang things using a small magnet without having to put any holes in the wall.

Stubborn Battery Remover: Trying to remove one of those tiny batteries so you can replace it with a fresh one? Use a magnet to grab hold of it and save your fingernails.

Screw/Nail/Needle/Pin Locator: Did you ever drop screws or nails when doing one of those assemble-it-yourself projects? Or when sewing, drop needles or pins? Use a magnet to pick them up quick and easy.

Have any of you ever used chewing gum for some type of emergency repair? Ever used a magnet in an unusual way? Leave a comment to share your experiences with us.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

New Words Added To The Oxford Dictionary Of English

Two weeks ago I blogged about non-words…new words that had been rejected by the prestigious and very picky Oxford English Dictionary. This week I'm talking about words that have been added to the Oxford Dictionary of English, a dictionary based on how the English language is used in everyday life, published by the very same Oxford University Press.

Over the last few years, the internet has been responsible for the addition of many new words. Another source of new words has been the current economic crisis, words such as staycation—a holiday or vacation spent in one's home country.

And the proliferation of social media (itself a new internet term) has produced some unusual words and phrases. Words previously considered as non-words are now properly used in everyday conversations. To say that you plan to defriend someone (remove that person from a list of friends or contact on a social networking site) or arrange a tweetup (organize a meeting via Twitter) are now common terminology.

Here's a sampling of fifteen new entries to the Oxford Dictionary of English.  Several of the words on the complete list of thirty-nine are not new in the U.S. but show how long it has taken for some well-established Americanisms to take root in other parts of the world.  Some have been universally around but are just now making it into the Oxford Dictionary of English as common usage.

Buzzkill: a person or thing that has a depressing or dispiriting effect

Catastrophizing: view or present a situation as considerably worse than it actually is

Cheeseball: lacking taste, style or originality

Chillax: calm down and relax

Chill Pill: an "idea" pill given to someone to calm them down

Cool Hunter: a person whose job it is to make observations or predictions about new styles and trends

Exit Strategy: a preplanned means of extricating one self from a situation

Freemium: a business tactic, especially on the internet, where basic services are provided for free with more advanced (and more desirable) features needing to be paid for

Frenemy: a person you are friendly with despite a fundamental dislike or rivalry

LBD: little black dress

Microblogging: the posting of very short entries on a blog

Overthink: think about something too much or for too long

Steampunk: a genre of science fiction that typically features steam powered machinery emulating far more advanced technology (think Wild Wild West, the old television series and the movie)

The only one of the new words that passed spell check was Chill Pill, but that was only because it was two acceptable separate words, not the new term. Of course, as quickly as these words became common usage is as quickly as they might disappear from our daily life.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Did You Survive Friday the 13th?

We just experienced another Friday the 13th, the only one for the year 2010. Even if you don't believe in the superstitions, it's still a date that makes you stop and think.

Triskaidekaphobia: Fear of the number thirteen.
Paraskevidekatriaphobia: Fear of Friday the 13th.

An obviously irrational concept that a mere number can bring bad luck to someone. Or that a specific day of the week can be unlucky. But that doesn't stop us from dwelling on the possibility. :)

A date so infamous that it was chosen as the title for a series of horror movies.

The tradition of Friday being a day of bad luck goes back centuries with some of the more common theories linking it to significant events in Christian tradition believed to have taken place on Friday such as the Crucifixion, Eve offering Adam the apple in the Garden of Eden, the beginning of the great flood.

Many sources for the superstition surrounding the number thirteen and its association with bad luck also derive from Christianity with the Last Supper being cited as the origin. Judas was the thirteenth person to be seated at the table.

And when you put the two bad luck symbols together you get Friday the 13th…the day traditionally associated with misfortune.

Superstition is a belief or notion not based on reason or knowledge. An irrational belief. Lots of superstitions came into being during the Dark Ages, a time when living conditions were so severe that people reached out to anything that might bring them help and solace with the results being explanations for what seemed unexplainable at the time. Religious beliefs and lack of scientific knowledge helped to spawn many superstitions.

Superstitions differ from culture to culture, but we all have them even if it's only paying surface homage to the concept. We don't believe in the good luck vs. bad luck of chain letters, yet it often comes down to saying what's the harm or couldn't hurt, then sending out the letters.

We often follow the tradition of the superstition without really knowing why it's the traditional thing to do. If we blow out all the candles on our birthday cake with one breath while making a silent wish, then the wish will come true. When expressing a desire for good luck (we'll be able to go on the picnic if it doesn't rain), we grin, then we knock on wood as we emit an embarrassed chuckle.

In Western folklore, many superstitions are associated with bad luck. In addition to Friday the 13th, there's walking under a ladder, having a black cat cross your path, spilling salt, stepping on a crack, and breaking a mirror among others.

In addition to cultural superstitions, there's also certain occupations that evoke various rituals to bring on good luck. It seems to me that gamblers and sports figures have the most superstitions and rituals to insure good luck.

Do you have any superstitions that you hold dear? Are they more of a traditional situation handed down through your family or are they superstitions that have come down through the ages?

I'd like to hear about them.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Oxford English Dictionary Rejects

Non-Words—by definition, these are words that have been submitted to the Oxford English Dictionary and were rejected because, according to the powers that be in charge of the dictionary, too few people currently use them.

A twenty-two year old recent graphic designer graduate claims to have found a secret vault at Oxford containing many filing cabinets crammed with thousands of failed words that had been hidden away, some dating as far back as 1918.

Oxford University Press, publishers of the Oxford English Dictionary, denied him access to the vaults. So he did extensive searches of the internet and compiled a list of 39 words that The Oxford English Dictionary had rejected.

Following are fifteen of my favorites from his list.

Accordionated: Being able to drive and refold a road map at the same time.

Asphinxiation: Being sick to death of unanswerable puzzles or riddles.

Blogish: A variety of English that uses a large number of initialisms, frequently used on blogs.

Dunandunate: The overuse of a word or phrase that has recently been added to your own vocabulary.

Griefer: Someone who spends their on-line time harassing others.

Lexpionage: The sleuthing of words and phrases.

Nonversation: A worthless conversation, wherein nothing is explained or otherwise elaborated upon.

Pharming: The practice of creating a dummy website for phishing data.

Pregreening: To creep forward while waiting for a red traffic light to change.

Scrax: The waxy coating that is scratched off an instant lottery ticket.

Sprummer: When summer and springtime can't decide which is to come first, usually hot one day then cold the next.

Stealth-geek: Someone who hides their nerdy interests while maintaining a normal outward appearance.

Wurfing: The act of surfing the internet while at work.

Wikism: A piece of information that claims to be true but is wildly inaccurate.

And finally…

Xenolexica: A grave confusion when faced with unusual words.

I ran this through spell check before posting it to my blog. As expected, spell check did not recognize any of the non-words. I was amused and surprised that spell check did recognize the word phishing.  :)

Who knows, maybe someday The Oxford English Dictionary will include some of these words.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Misprints—Potential Gold Mines.

We've all heard about the value of misprints in postage stamps. Errors on our money, whether bills or coins, can be worth a small fortune. But they're not the only misprints that could fill your pockets with extra cash.

When typos occur in printing, they're usually caught and corrected immediately…sometimes during the printing process before any of the books are distributed and the publisher needs to go through the very expensive process of recalling them. Of course, printing errors normally make a book more valuable when that book was already rare to begin with.

I read an article recently about nine misprints that are potentially worth a lot of money if you happen to own one of those books.

The year was 1631 and about one thousand copies of the King James Bible were printed. Number seven of the ten commandments was printed as, "Thou shalt commit adultery." One theory says that the typesetter was trying to get back at the printer for some misdeed. If that was the reason for an intentional misprint, it worked. The printer's license was revoked. That edition became known as the Wicked Bible. It's estimated that only eleven copies survived the bonfire King Charles I ordered, putting its value in the area of $100,00.

The year was 1968. Western writer Larry McMurtry's In A Narrow Grave was so full of uncorrected errors ("skyscraper" became "skycraper") that the publisher had to pulp most of the copies. Only about a dozen of the "Skycraper Edition" escaped and can now go for as much as $17,500. It's probably logical to assume that the copy editor lost his/her job over that.

The year was 1885 and a first edition of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is rare enough on its own but it also contains a minor typo of "saw" and "was" that was corrected in subsequent editions. A copy in terrific condition could set you back as much as $18,600.

The first editions of the British Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban had the name "Joanne Rowling" on the copyright page rather than her pen name of J.K. Rowling. It was corrected on the second printing. An as new copy complete with dust jacket could go for as much as $10,000.

The year was 1926 and the first edition of Ernest Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises had the word "stopped" printed as "stoppped." A first edition in excellent condition with the dust jacket could be $40,000 to $60,000.

One copy of Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code was so riddled with misprints that the man who purchased it was convinced that the errors had been inserted intentionally as clues. He's trying to sell his copy for half a million dollars. So far he hasn't had any takers.

Comic book misprints usually don't do much for the value. Except on rare occasions, they are more likely to hurt the value.

I had a cover error on one of my Silhouette Desire books. I had ordered a copy of the cover art so I could do mailers a couple of weeks before its release date. As soon as it came off the computer the art department emailed me a copy of the cover. I was on the phone to my editor immediately. They had put my title, my name, and my blurb on someone else's cover art. They corrected it before the book was distributed and all was well.

And, of course, the bottomm line caveat with errors is that a book with a misprint is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it. Hmmm…that misprint of bottom was a legitimate typo, but if I leave it does that make this blog more valuable. :)