Category Archives: Words

Why I Don’t Eat The Coleslaw

Header image by Amanda Wood via Flickr

I have been thinking about and reading lately the voluminous works of Ogden Nash, a silly poet who was taken seriously. How he managed to become widely known by working in the disrespected field of light verse is still perplexing. Nash died in 1971. There has been no one like him since.

You hardly hear about Nash today. People have a way of vanishing. Even the most accomplished artists and statesmen can quickly become inconsequential, postmortem.

But during the many hours I’ve spent standing in the supermarket checkout line, one thing I’ve learned that you can stay relevant if you manage to perish under a cloud of suspicion.  If you can’t do that, at least make your exit in some unconventional and potentially memorable way.

It turns out Nash died after eating “improperly prepared” coleslaw, although few details about the incident are available online. The official cause was said to be Crohn’s Disease, aggravated by side dish.

Here is where we might identify some fame-extending mysterious circumstances. How could Nash, a well-known hypochondriac, so casually imbibe a lethal helping of such an unhelpful multi-layered vegetable?   Was he force-fed into oblivion?  Or was it intentional?

In pursuit of the truth,  the public demands a dogged persistence.
But all it will get right now is doggerel.

Did Ogden Nash know?

Did Ogden Nash, with his last breath,
decide to die a funny death?
His final meal – some stringy gabbage
hid the reaper ‘mongst the cabbage.
Did fate, ironic, choose to slay him
with this side of gastro-mayhem?
Or did Nash select this gaffe
to seal his doom with one last laugh?
One last punchline – Woe betide
all those who chews coleslawicide.

Describe the circumstances of your ideal, intriguing death.

We’ve Got Your G.O.A.T.

Today’s guest post comes from Barbara in Robbinsdale.

Ah, Babooners are a word-loving bunch, and if they don’t find the word they seek in the common lexicon, they will create their own. To keep track of these, we occasionally update our “Glossary of Accepted Terms” , or G.O.A.T.

This acronym was coined by our Alpha Baboon, Dale (he of the CAP – see ACRONYMS, below). For the uninitiated:  when we started this “dictionary”, we had a couple of goat farmers among our personnel (welcome back, Cynthia), which explains a little. Jacque and I collaborated on the first one, and I’ve kept it going, sporadically. Here we are past Summer Solstice of 2015, two years since the last update in May of 2013.

Sometimes the newly created word is the result of a typo; others are just sheer cleaverness . The dates are left in, in case you have a lot of time on your hands and wish to find out what the HECK was going on at the time.

I now have a system – copy and paste the new word into a M’soft Word file with all the information I’ll need, and then edit like crazy when I’ve collected enough to make a post. It appeals to my love for making order out of chaos.

To visit the Glossary, go to top right, under The Trail Photo.

Here are the latest additions:

Accidentalics – i.e. “Ooops… unintended italics.  Do we have a word for that?”   December 16, 2013 at 11:12 pm 

Achedemic – Learning something the hard way, as in “she seems to be heading off in more achedemic directions…”          September 3, 2014 at 8:17 am 

Binoculookers – a device that helps you see farther than you usually can. For instance “Then she asked her dad if she could ‘use his binoculookersto view the bear in the night sky’ ”.   February 23, 2015 at 12:10 pm 

Crimea River – a river in Crimea, OR a sad song. “If you’re aim is to turn this geopolitical episode into a musical, don’t forget to include Crimea River as one of the numbers.”  (unfortunately, I lost track of the date for this one.) .March 24, 2014 at 7:40 pm 

Disphasia – the condition of being out of synch with others of your generation  (did I get this right, Clyde?), as in “The gap has created some interesting disphasia in our life.”   June 23, 2015

Distraughtitude – The condition of being distraught, as in:  “I’m sure that the distraughtitude of the usual suspects will probably be more pronounced.”   June 3, 2015 at 8:09 am

Experience Loyal – An alternative to being  brand loyal:   “I am experience-loyal  Give me a good experience, and I’m bound to come back.”   November 25, 2013 at 11:58 am 

fauxtimming  November 25, 2013 at 3:34 pm – “a disorder having to do with the inability to remember to capitalize and or punctuate. on occasion there may be a hand held device that intercedes and give the impression of english etiquette but it is an illusion. it is called fauxtimming. [timism] * and fauxtimming are not taught but can be easily implemented with any standard keyboard and a computer that has a disarm feature on its spell checker.”       October 6, 2014 at 11:16 am

Hygge, hyggelig – A Danish word that doesn’t have an English counterpart:  “Hygge” is part state of mind, part physical coziness that includes comfort and warmth, and good smells. As we get close to Christmas, a batch of gløg, a few Christmas cookies, soothing music and, again, a lot of lit candles help make things  hyggelig  …”       December 21, 2013 at 8:03 am

Mingy, minginginess – “Being skimpy, paring everything just inside of “enough”. Rhymes with stingy, and means about the same but not quite, as there is also an implication of deception-pretended generosity. (This is actually in the dictionary, folks.)”  October 22, 2014 at 11:36 am 

Mushroomisticism – slow cooking a mushroomy dish for hours at low heat.  “im tackling suaces as my next challenge, that and mushroomisticism.” February 5, 2015 at 7:49 am

Multi-nontasking – looking around and seeing all the things one hasn’t managed to get done. August 1, 2013 at 7:15 pm       i.e. “I can sit with a cat on my lap while listening to a ball game.”  August 2, 2013 at 12:03 am

Procrasti-tasks – “things you don’t want to do, but you do them to avoid something you want to do less. For example, if you have laundry to fold which has been sitting for days but you also have a grant request to write, suddenly the laundry is folded.”   January 12, 2015 at 10:37 am

timism – (from G.O.A.T.) – An ambiguity in which you are not sure whether there was a typo, or an intentional misspelling, as in “My favorite timism of the week is ‘Talk snout dysfunctional’…” (See Dec. 23, 2010 TBB for rich, complete discussion.)

To-do-plegia – Wikipedia uses “plegia” to describe paralysis in which all voluntary movement is lost.” To-do-plegia involves a to-do list, as in “I need lots of good energy sent my way this week. … [to accomplish] the to-do list…”     September 8, 2014 at 10:31 am 

Turbo-mouse – A rodent capable of monumental achievement, say, climbing with a malted milk ball to a place 12’ off the ground.   “My apologies to the turbo-mouse if I am not giving credit where it is due.” November 25, 2014 at 6:23 am 

Unfronding – In response to Dale’s hand-weeding description: I need to confront the weeds personally, face to frond”, there was this comment: “These days we call what you do unfronding the weeds.” August 5, 2013 at 7:06 am        DC: “Hah! Just think, I could have wasted all those hours on Facebook instead!”

Weasel words – Product description lingo that disguises some aspect of the contents of a food, as in “If a product is described as chocolatey, that’s an almost certain indicator that there’s no actual chocolate in it.”   February 28, 2014 at 11:29 am

Worm wigs – a very creative typo that created this mental image:  “I wonder if I wore a worm wig if that could solve my winter composting problems – I could have compost-eating worms right on top of my head.”   March 27, 2014 at 1:12 pm

Yikes meter – a measure of… take your pick:  outrageousness, offensiveness, or unbelievability that causes a Baboon to say “Well, that’s way up there on the yikes meter.”   March 22, 2015 at 9:58 pm


CAT – I admit to having Compulsive Acronym Tendencies     February 21, 2015

CRAPO – Calendar Reactive Anniversary Pile On   November 22, 2013

When you feel compelled to make a list, what’s on it?




Summer Reading!

Today’s guest post comes from Sherrilee.

It’s that time of year when everyone across America trots out their summer reading list.

Newspapers, online `zines, libraries – they are all hawking their ideas for filling up our lazy summer days with reading. When do they think we’ll get all this reading done? I don’t know about anybody else, but my summer is pretty full – yardwork, graduation parties, out-of-town visitors and vacations. And in my world vacations are pretty jam-packed with not much reading time.

But who am I to go against tradition? In the spirit of the Summer Reading List, here are a few of the books that are on my list this summer.


Death by Rhubarb by Lou Jane Temple. This title was unearthed by Clyde last month in a discussion on the trail of toxic rhubarb.

The Creation of Anne Boleyn by Susan Bordo. If you are interested in Henry VIII’s second wife, for whom he upended the country, this book challenges what you think you know and why you think you know it!


The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches by Alan Bradley. #6 in the Flavia de Luce mystery series, featuring the very precocious 11-year old, Flavia.

Cider with Rosie by Laurie Lee. A nostalgic look at growing up in another time. I have the Illustrated volume and it’s charming!


As You Wish by Cary Elwes. This title takes a look behind the scenes of one of my favorite movies of all time, Princess Bride.

Uprooted by Naomi Novik. I haven’t a clue what this is about but it’s by Naomi Novik, so it’s on my list!


Some Luck by Jane Smiley. The first in the Hundred Years Family Saga – promises some emotional ups and downs.

Sophia: Princess, Suffragette, Revolutionary by Anita Anand. Biography of Sophia Duleep Singh.

Where’s your favorite summer reading spot?

Five Year Plan

Following a pattern well established by the Soviet leaders of old, I launched Trail Baboon on June 3, 2010 with a grandiose five year plan for world domination.

I had just been tossed from a job I’d held for twenty five years at the place where I’d worked for more than thirty.  During most of those years I’d been writing fake ads,  joke essays, sing-song poems,  and phony conversations with preposterous characters.

It was fun, and while my employers weren’t exactly paying me to do it,  they didn’t withhold my pay to make me stop.  I took that as tacit approval.

So when the gig ended I felt a strong desire to maintain my daily writing habit in case a sudden demand surfaced for random acts of topical whimsy.

The plan in the back of my mind was this – that the blog would become a widely-read creative and conversational spark plug and the audience would grow to such levels that the entire enterprise would turn into a financially self supporting side industry that could continue whether I was otherwise employed – or not.

Today it is my delightful duty  to declare that thanks to the tireless work of the People’s Blogging Army and a prodigious daily output of pithy remarks by the People’s Baboon Commentariat, our ambitious five year plan has led to spectacular successes on every front and all our dreaded foes have been humbled.

Which is Soviet shorthand for this – not a single one of the above mentioned goals was achieved.

But in the process we’ve had some wonderful fun while a loyal community has gathered to meander down the Trail Baboon. With an occasional hiccup, I have posted either here, or at the companion site, The Baboondocks, six days a week, every week, for sixty months.

The most rewarding aspect has been the fine writing and camaraderie that has developed in the comments section, powered by a diverse cast of characters that no one could invent.

Today you are reading post 1,397. Lest anyone think I am claiming credit for all that, 231 of those posts were written by readers – the famed Baboon Congress.  But at the end of this week we’ll hit 1,400 posts – high time to take a bit of a rest.

So after posting this Saturday, June 6th, I’m giving myself a three month sabbatical – some necessary time and space to take a look at how I schedule my days and where I spend my energy. And an opportunity to enjoy these precious summer evenings doing something other than hunching over a computer – just to see how that feels.

I’ll weigh in from time to time if the moment is right and other commitments align.  Some baboons are working on guest essays – I’ll happily post them when they come in.  But one of the beauties of a blog is that it need not follow any set schedule.  Trail Baboon and The Baboondocks will remain in place and open for comment while I rest.

And the internet is wide and deep and there are many other places to go where like-minded Baboons can have a conversation.

I know I don’t need to remind you of this – but like Dorothy and that thing with clicking her heels to go home, everyone has the power to create a blog.    Some already have – note that in the left margin of the screen we have  existing links to Blevins’ Book Club,  A Neo-Renaissance Writer, and The View From Birchwood Hill.

Describe a sabbatical you took and what it meant to you.




Curious advertisers ask –  “Is it possible to draw attention to your product by starting a conversation about something else entirely?”

The rest of us, who have been marinating in a marketing stew for most of our lives, answer “Where have you been living?”

Much advertising is based on this.

Until yesterday, I would have argued that this technique took hold sometime in the last 80 years or so, pushed forward by the creation of radio and television – two mediums that offer great advantages and even greater rewards to liars and deceivers.

But I was proven wrong while scouting about aimlessly on the Internet, when I stumbled across the odd marketing approach of a window shade merchant in Yonkers, NY around the turn of the 20th century.

The American Carpet and Upholstery Journal described it this way in 1902:

William Welsh, dealer in window shades, matting, oil cloth and linoleum, 5 North Broadway, Yonkers, N.Y., is a rather daring and novel advertiser. He makes use of a 6-inch space, in a good position, in the Yonkers Statesman, and always fills it with a semi-facetious matter, which is no doubt looked for and read by the subscribers of that enterprising daily.

While this style of advertising is generally considered bad, as Mr. Welsh conducts it, the effect is undoubtedly good.

Screen Shot 2015-05-31 at 10.05.45 AM

Welsh goes at his customers again and again from various odd angles, trying to get their attention with a barrage of words. Today’s advertisers use swimsuit models for the same purpose, but that wasn’t permitted in the Yonkers Statesman of 1902. Regardless of the chosen topic, he always brings it home to the real point – WINDOW SHADES.

Cold Chunks

Politically speaking, we have been lambasted, garroted, buncoed, gold-bricked, solar-plexed, sandbagged, knocked out, our picture turned to the wall, and otherwise treated with brotherly love and now we feel that we are not as other men – and to show our distinction we will have to wear a badge, but not one bought with the people’s money. It happened this way: Last fall, when the political bosses were fishing for suckers the bait looked tempting, and we swallowed the hook and were landed. Now, there would be no kick coming from lus if the bosses had not shoved whole chunks of cold political harmony down the back of our neck, remarking at the same time, “Peace be with thee, brother.” We are under the impression, from the chill it gave us, that it was not a “peace” of cold political harmony that went down our back, but the whole lump. Now the reaction is great, and our political temperature is 106 under the collar. There are sudden changes in some other things besides the weather, but no so with our WINDOW SHADES. They are always the same – A No. 1.

WM. WELSH, 5 North Broadway, Yonkers

Even when the talk is small and light, the payoff is as usual.


We met a friend of ours, this morning, who did not ask us if we liked this kind of weather, or if it was wet enough to suit us, or when we thought it would clear up, or even remark that we are having a wet spell. Now, this must seem surprising to you, but it is a fact; there are a few people in the world who think that some other people know when there is a wet spell without being reminded of it every few minutes in the day.

Now, we wish to say, right here, that we know when we are having a wet spell, and we also know when we have enough. The next time we have a dry spell we shall mind our own affairs and peg away at our WINDOW SHADES.

We have a large stock of Oil Cloths, Linoleums, Mattings, White Beds and Bedding:

 WM. WELSH, 5 N. Broadway, Yonkers

We forgot to say that the man who didn’t speak to us about the weather was deaf and dumb.

Like re-hearing a well-loved joke, you already know the punch line, but the fun is all in getting there.

Recall a character from your life who only wanted to talk about one thing.

Steam & Stress

Header photo by Olaf Tausch

I actually found it quite troubling to learn that saunas protect middle-aged men against heart attacks.

Apparently the evidence is irrefutable. It’s at a climate-change level of certainty – the Finns have been right all along about their culture built around a box of heat. Regularly sweating in the sauna can, for a time, forestall the reaper.

As a man well into the prime heart-attack years, I am suddenly faced with a discouraging and stressful choice between going to sit in a stifling room for a time nearly every single day with a bunch of strangers – other drippy men in towels struggling to breathe the same super heated moist air – or an early death.

As Jack Benny replied when told by a mugger, “Your money or your life!”, the answer is … “I’m thinking.”

And for Trail Baboons this will immediately remind you of early Keillor – the strange saga of The Finn Who Would Not Sauna.

You can only choose one – excessive heat or painful cold. Which will it be?