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the latest waddle:

good morning, wordpress - 10:36 a.m. , 2009-07-03

elaborate murder attempt - 2:56 p.m. , 2009-07-01

building a tractor in the basement - 10:42 a.m. , 2009-06-19

ask no questions tell just a few lies - 3:17 p.m. , 2009-06-09

my long lasting flavor really lasts long - 1:10 p.m. , 2009-06-04

2001-06-26 ... 12:59 p.m.

Tonight Martin Amis is giving a reading at the Newberry Library. (Quite a dangerous name. George W. would probably say Newberry Liberry.) Part of me wants to go, but part of me wonders what one gets out of seeing one's favorite authors read. I'd be like, Yup, that's him. That's Martin Amis. That's what he looks like. And yup, that's one of my favorite passages. I think it would be idle literary fan worship and I wouldn't learn much. And we all know my idle literary fan worship is reserved solely for David Foster Wallace.

Yesterday I was up in Andersonville and I saw Screaming Man. It was quite a shock, for I always thought Screaming Man was a strictly downtown citizen. For those of you who are not familiar, Screaming Man is a middle-aged, very tall, bearded black guy who wears a whole lot of scarves and rags and fabric strips tied kerchief-style around his head. And yes, he screams, wordlessly and at semi-regular intervals. I recognized him immediately as I rounded the corner of Berwyn and Clark, and my first thought was to ask, "Hey Screaming Man! What the heck are you doing this far north?" But I didn't.

Are there any etymologists in the house? (Words, not bugs. That's entomology.) I studied ancient Greek, and the word "barbaroi" apparently used to have a wider meaning than what we would think of as "barbarians": it used to be a term for anyone who could not speak Greek. (Egocentric much? But it's true, you can find this usage in a lot of Greek texts.) I was always taught that its derivation came about because the Greeks couldn't understand anyone who didn't speak Greek (obviously), and so used to joke that the non-Greek speakers were just going "bar bar bar bar bar," ie, speaking nonsense words. (Which sounds kind of like an ancient Greek stand-up routine to me. Apparently it got big laughs at the agora. "Didja ever notice...")

Now, is this account of the derivation of "barbarian" true? I desperately want to believe it is, but it's entirely possible that my Classics prof was just blowing smoke. Actually, you know what? Never mind. If you have proof to the contrary of the origins of "barbarian," keep it to yourself, and I'll live happily in my Cartoon Version of the Linguistic World a little longer.

A Weird Combination of an Open Letter and a Confidential Aside:

If anything that I write here in this Web Thing ever feels like a special shout-out to you and you alone, rest assured that it is. Either it literally is or I would dearly love for you to think so. So please: feel special, feel whispered to.

---mimi smartypants


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