Bodacious cowboys / Such as your friend / Will never be welcome here / High in the Custerdome

by John Holbo on September 11, 2013

My older daughter is supposed to learn a new word a week. And tell the class. She has a good vocabulary, so I think some weeks she coasts on fancy words she already knew. But she likes new words! So I thought I would make a short list of cool words for 12-year olds, in case she ever needs a new one on short notice: asperity, vermiculation, sussurus. That sort of thing.

Then I thought of a good one: Custerdome! From the classic Steely Dan track, “Gaucho”. The Steely Dan lexicon defines it as “an archetype of a building that houses great corporations.” Alas, since this fictional synecdoche of a fictional archetype exists in the minds of Fagen and Becker, the term has languished on the badland borderlands of private language-hood. My daughter is not exactly a Dan fan, so probably that state of affairs will persist. “Try again tomorrow.”

Here’s the song on YouTube, in case it’s been years. Such a great track!

Of course, it’s not for everyone.

But seriously: Gaucho, the album, is hanging so far out there in the ether, where sleazy Yacht Rock and bad Jazz Fusion and astringent LA alienation meets session cats who are only in it for the money. Frank Zappa wishes he thought of having back-up singers go all “Who is the gaucho, Amigo?/Why is he standing/ In your spangled leather poncho/ And your elevator shoes.” (If he weren’t dead, that is.)

I don’t expect my daughter to be able to understand why ‘high in the Custerdome’ is so evocative. Much less explain it to a bunch of other 7th graders. But maybe she could teach them what ‘astringent’ means.

And use it in a sentence: “The sleazy astringency of Steely Dan makes me feel gross. Like I’ve been slathered in expired Coconut Butter to protect me from the Santa Ana Winds, which are blowing sand into my merlot.”

And ‘bodacious’.

Thoughts about Steely Dan? And/or good words for 12-year olds?



ckc (not kc) 09.11.13 at 12:42 am



Katherine 09.11.13 at 12:50 am



Katherine 09.11.13 at 12:59 am


Barry Freed 09.11.13 at 1:25 am



Neil 09.11.13 at 1:26 am

One of Keith Jarrett’s better known songs.


JanieM 09.11.13 at 1:28 am

Came up at lunch today: trencherman.


PJW 09.11.13 at 1:30 am

They put on a great show in Omaha last month said a friend of mine who went with his 67-year-old father. And Fagen gave some curmudgeonly responses in a recent Rolling Stone piece that I thought were pretty funny. Said they don’t play “Reelin” or “Rikki” no more and I don’t believe they played either of those tunes here at the recent show. I still like to hear “Deacon Blues” and “Rikki” now and again along with a couple of others. “Custerdome” is certainly multi-allusive. Cool word.


Dogen 09.11.13 at 1:40 am

I loved Steely Dan as a teenager and into my 20’s. Back in 1973 or 74 I took the girl who later became my first True Love to a Steely Dan concert in the gym at UC Santa Barbara. It was summer, and it was really hot, and people used to smoke cigarettes at indoor concerts so the atmosphere left something to be desired and it was very hard on the performers.

It wasn’t a big venue and we were maybe 30 feet from the stage. It was magical. She didn’t know at the time that I was wild about her and I was too timid to act on it, so the tension in me was as vivid as the atmosphere was pungent. Steely Dan were absolutely perfect for that moment in time and for that couple watching. I saved the ticket stubs for decades afterwards. Thanks for reminding me.

oh, a word. I don’t have kids so I don’t know how to judge. Would “pungent” work?


Alexir 09.11.13 at 1:42 am

One word per week? That seems a bit underachieving.

According to (one) arbiter of such things (Wikipedia) “From age 6 to 8, the average child in school is learning 6–7 words per day, and from age 8 to 12, approximately 12 words per day.”

Does lexical acquisition really stop on the 12th birthday? Or is the exercise in fact about selecting which of the ~72 words learnt over the past week is most likely to please the teacher? Still, learning that bit seems like useful information for later in life.


mud man 09.11.13 at 1:55 am



Heliopause 09.11.13 at 2:08 am

Wow. Isn’t Steely Dan something most parents would want to keep a twelve year old girl about a million miles from? I mean, Jesus, half the songs are about perverted sex with someone a fraction of the narrator’s age. But if you two are good with it more power to both of you.


John Costello 09.11.13 at 2:33 am

At that age I really liked The Superior Person’s Book of Words, which taught me the term “macerate”.

“macerate”, v. To soften by soaking. “Oh, mother, it really is too much; Richard’s at it again — I wish you could stop him. I can’t get into the bathroom. The door’s locked, and he’s been in there for half an hour now; I’m sure he must be macerating.”


John Holbo 09.11.13 at 2:38 am

” Isn’t Steely Dan something most parents would want to keep a twelve year old girl about a million miles from?”

Probably I should just have her listen to “Hey Twelve”, by Thumb of the Maid. A perfectly wholesome track.


John Holbo 09.11.13 at 2:39 am

There is not the slightest danger of her listening to Steely Dan in any case. Not her style.


Ben Alpers 09.11.13 at 2:53 am

I totally love Steely Dan, despite the fact that I don’t have much time for pretty much every thing else about yacht rock, jazz fusion, and LA alienation (other than this, of course).


Andrew Burday 09.11.13 at 3:10 am

Hm, isn’t Merlot anachronistic? I think sand is blowing in your Chablis. Could be wrong, I wasn’t drinking in the 70s.

For some reason I have had “Rikki” stuck in my head for the last couple of days, and I’ve been thinking SD weren’t that bad before they started reading their own reviews. And the reversal of my perspective on “Hey Nineteen” represents some kind of milestone in my journey to the grave, so I guess SD are part of my history, for better or worse. But I got done arguing about them around thirty years ago.

Vocabulary item: fatuous?


ben w 09.11.13 at 3:30 am

“Martinet” is a good word for twelve-year-olds.


Satan Mayo 09.11.13 at 3:40 am



Alan 09.11.13 at 3:44 am

And of course, from Steve Miller’s (of Madison, WI) The Joker:

“Some people call me Maurice / ’cause I speak of the pompatus of love”

There actually was a movie eponymously titled with the last four words and about what the hell “pompatus” means. I haven’t watched it and can’t say if Wittgenstein was ever mentioned.


MG 09.11.13 at 3:55 am

Chthonic. Unctuous. Execrable.

Also, Steely Dan did go back to their old school, so their lyrics can’t be trusted at all. Which raises another question: which was the better band from Bard College? I’d give the edge to the Beastie Boys over Steely Dan.


jazzbumpa 09.11.13 at 4:00 am

Words whose definitions I can never remember, no matter how many times I look them up:



David 09.11.13 at 4:02 am

Completely lost me at Steely Dan.


John Quiggin 09.11.13 at 5:14 am

@10 Carminative is great! I only ever encountered it in a Huxley novel (Crome Yellow?) where the point was that it means something grossly different from what you might intuit.

More generally, are we looking for adult ‘big words’ like “martinet” and “termagant”, or for genuinely obscure ones, like “carminative”? In the latter category, I’ve always liked “epigones”, from Trotsky and “transpontine”, given to me by a friend, decades ago.


js. 09.11.13 at 5:23 am

“Do It Again” is a great song, what with the vaguely Latin beat and all, but mostly I just don’t get Steely Dan. Aja is particular: what’s up with that?

As for words: I love “aliquot” (and will second “unctuous”).

(It occurs to me now that “aliquot” may be a perfectly ordinary word that I just was utterly thrown by while first reading Capital.)


dbk 09.11.13 at 5:29 am

“Occident(al)” seems a good word to me, as in “what’s the opposite of ‘Orient(al)'”.

Also: “masticate.” This is the kind of word Child #1 used to use on much younger Child#2, e.g. “Stop masticating with your mouth open.” Child #2 developed a strong vocab as a result of such sibling hijinks.


John Quiggin 09.11.13 at 5:51 am

Actually, at the right age “sibling” works wonders. I taunted my younger brother by calling him a sibling, anticipating correctly that he would run to my parents, and less correctly that I was in the clear, having spoken the plain truth.


JakeB 09.11.13 at 6:09 am

@Heliopause —

I think it’d actually be fairer to say that a lot of Steely Dan songs are about how pathetic it is to be having sex with someone only a fraction of your age.

Wrt one such song, whenever she heard the line “the fine Colombian”, my ex-girlfriend would shake her hips a la Shakira.


GeoX 09.11.13 at 6:10 am

Jeremiad? Rodomontade?


Keith Edwards 09.11.13 at 6:28 am


All those Ys! And a Zs! Plus it looks made up, like something from a bad science fiction story (“It’s worse than that! We’ve become stuck in the syzygy!”) only it’s a real and useful word in astronomy.


rdb 09.11.13 at 7:26 am

Mieville’s The Scar added neritic and disphotic to my vocabulary in its first 3 pages.


lige 09.11.13 at 7:43 am

Just go through your average Jack Vance novel – I think all those words will be used conversationally. Also I believe Steely Dan would make a decent soundtrack to said novel.


maidhc 09.11.13 at 8:34 am

When I was a teenager I liked “termagant” and “sesquipedalian”. And we all learned to say “floccinaucinihilipilification”.

“Propinquity” and “zymurgy” are good too. There are so many great words when you’re young.

I like SD but I’m not a huge fan, so “Custerdome” is new to me. It sounds like something from Firesign Theater.

This is a line of Indians leaving Rancho Malario … to make room for YOU! And here’s the beautiful Trail of Tears golf course …


maidhc 09.11.13 at 8:42 am

Another great one, although the plural is tricky: Hapax legomenon. She could almost deliver a lecture to her class on that one.

Here’s a good source of ideas:


Phil 09.11.13 at 9:01 am

Katherine – the OED and I call shenanigans on at least some of the Unusual Words:

adelphepothia An incestuous desire for one’s sister
adelphirexia An incestuous desire for one’s nephew
adelphithymia An incestuous desire for one’s niece

When an abstract noun’s formed from two Greek roots, the prefix qualifies the suffix: the suffix gives the state, the prefix its nature or object (agora/phobia, my/algia & so on). Although none of these words are in the OED, at least two of them are well formed: adelphirexia could certainly mean ‘desire for a brother or sister’, and adelphithymia could conceivably mean ‘thinking obsessively about a brother or sister’ – although ‘thymia’ really implies a state of mind, like ‘depression’ or ‘mood swings’. (I don’t know what’s going on with ‘adelphepothia’ – although ‘adelphipathia’ would be ‘the suffering induced by having a brother or sister’, which coincidentally we have touched on in this thread.) But you can’t get sister/nephew/niece out of those suffixes.

‘Coruscate’ is a good one to use correctly; similarly ‘excoriate’.


ajay 09.11.13 at 9:02 am


One cavalry regiment enters, no cavalry regiment leaves!
One cavalry regiment enters, no cavalry regiment leaves!


Kevin 09.11.13 at 9:22 am



Jack Leonard 09.11.13 at 9:36 am


but it’s not always the big ones: ‘crass’ is very effective.

‘unbirthday’ has use too.


Katherine 09.11.13 at 10:28 am

Katherine – the OED and I call shenanigans on at least some of the Unusual Words

Hey, don’t blame me! All I did was google ‘fun unusual words’.

John, I apologise profusely if my wanton googling misdirects your daughter to erroneous definitions of incest.


Katherine 09.11.13 at 10:29 am

Note to self: using the word ‘inc*st’ in a comment gets it put into moderation.


Katherine 09.11.13 at 10:35 am


Was reputed by some to be the longest non-scientific word in the dictionary. Could be a dictionary-based myth though.

Also, probably not useful to anyone outside Britain.


Matt Heath 09.11.13 at 10:45 am

Tuvalu has a state church and English as a national language. I don’t know if it has much of disestablishmentarian movement to be opposed, though.


JO'N 09.11.13 at 12:04 pm

Take any volume from The Book of the New Sun, open to a random page, and take the first work you notice, and give it to your daughter. I’d start with “hierodule”, unless its real definition isn’t school-appropriate — otherwise, “aquastor” or “fuligin”.

I used to really like Steely Dan when I was about 12, but then I heard Black Flag and things changed.


William Timberman 09.11.13 at 12:31 pm

Cosmodemonic, from Henry Miller. (A dig at the Western Union of 100 years ago that fits Google just as well today.)


Shatterface 09.11.13 at 1:22 pm

Steely Dan take their name from a steam powered dildo in a William Burroughs book.


Dude w/o Qualities 09.11.13 at 1:25 pm

Usufructuary. Sounds kinky but is actually boring.


bill benzon 09.11.13 at 1:36 pm



ajay 09.11.13 at 1:58 pm

Take any volume from The Book of the New Sun, open to a random page, and take the first work you notice, and give it to your daughter.

A similar trick with Stephen Donaldson books is, of course, the foundation of the great sport of Clench Racing.
“This is a social and competitive sport, that can be played over and over with renewed pleasure. Playing equipment currently on the market restricts the number of players to six, but the manufacturers may yet issue the series of proposed supplements to raise the maximum eventually to nine.
“The rules are simple. Each player takes a different volume of The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, and at the word “go” all open their books at random and start leafing through, scanning the pages. The winner is the first player to find the word “clench”. It’s a fast, exciting game – sixty seconds is unusually drawn-out – and can be varied, if players get too good, with other favourite Donaldson words like wince, flinch, gag, rasp, exigency, mendacity, articulate, macerate, mien, limn, vertigo, cynosure….”


Trader Joe 09.11.13 at 2:07 pm

Expectorate ( to spit) always brings out the giggles among 12 year old boys.

A boy on a team I coached at the age had this hilarious riff about “What to expect when you expectorate”

If all the Steely Dan albums were tossed into a blender it might be possible to assemble one really good one from the broken pieces. Everyone seems to have a minimum of one song they really like (Kid Charlemagne) and one they cannot stand (too many to list, but Rikki would be way up there).


Barry Freed 09.11.13 at 2:08 pm



arw 09.11.13 at 2:18 pm

Clicked on the YouTube link, and among the suggested related videos is : “How To Decalcify Your Pineal Gland”. This works in so many ways. I’m sure Hunter Thompson smoked one of those glands, it includes words to learn, and is the gland that is activated when listening to Steely Dan.

My younger daughter used to sing “Cousin Dupree”, and one day the lyrics caught up with her. “That’s so gross!” she said…


mrearl 09.11.13 at 2:34 pm

Word: dote.

Song: While not SD proper, Fagen’s cover of “Ruby Baby.”


calling all toasters 09.11.13 at 2:36 pm



bob mcmanus 09.11.13 at 2:46 pm

You do have a corpy of the weak about the haus, i hopenprey. All the sorts of verbals for shoujo’s delectation there.


Dave Maier 09.11.13 at 2:56 pm

I say make her the first twelve-year-old in all of recorded time to use the words “hocket” and “bitcrusher” in the same sentence.

Also, I like all eight tracks on The Royal Scam, but I haven’t listened to it (vinyl a-mouldering in the basement) in ages.


Dave Maier 09.11.13 at 2:58 pm

Wait, I think The Royal Scam has nine tracks. Told you it’s been a while …


ben wolfson 09.11.13 at 4:19 pm

More generally, are we looking for adult ‘big words’ like “martinet” and “termagant”, or for genuinely obscure ones, like “carminative”? In the latter category, I’ve always liked “epigones”, from Trotsky and “transpontine”, given to me by a friend, decades ago.

Isn’t “epigone” in the former category? Also, I chose “martinet” partly for its meaning, not just for its Big Wordness.


Woody 09.11.13 at 4:26 pm

Words: popinjay, cockalorum (anyone dealing with a bureaucrat with a stamp has encountered this one)

SD: No other song invokes the Seventies for me as much as “FM”.


que_es 09.11.13 at 4:54 pm



Sean 09.11.13 at 5:53 pm


Read it in “Lolita” when I was in college. Looked it up in the dictionary but, like so many of the words in that novel, it wasn’t in there. This was in the days of internet 1.0, which I didn’t have in my apartment. Reading that book now, with the power of a gazillion dictionaries at my fingertips, would be a totally different experience.


Donald A. Coffin 09.11.13 at 6:19 pm

I don’t think I’ve seen misogyny mentioned, but it’s certainly a good word to know, as one encounters it way too often.


Ragweed 09.11.13 at 6:27 pm

@30 Mieville is great for rarely used words, used correctly and poetically. But you must be careful – he makes words up too, particularly in some of his more fantastical worlds. Though even when he makes up words, the Latin and Greek roots are correct.


GiT 09.11.13 at 6:43 pm

I like “cavil”. Short and sweet.


Jeffrey Davis 09.11.13 at 6:45 pm

replevin (she could get lost in archaic legal terms)
ruching (as I got lost in S.J. Perelman)
withers (n. not v.)
wattles (I once saw a fat man described as a “wattle baron”)


NickS 09.11.13 at 6:47 pm

” Aja is particular: what’s up with that?”

I found the “Classic Albums” documentary about Aja to be surprisingly meaty and interesting.


magistra 09.11.13 at 9:03 pm

I dervied much pleasure when a teenager from discovering Ogden Nash’s poem on the word velleity.


Meredith 09.11.13 at 9:16 pm

Just came across a word new to me (as an English word) in a Martin Amis novel I am reading: sudorous. I like it. (And suits the hot and humid weather of the US northeast today.)


SusanC 09.11.13 at 9:34 pm

I loved how Gene Wolf’s Book of the New Sun took genuine (but obscure/archaic) English words and repurposed them to new meanings.

Steven Donaldson’s Chronicles of Thomas Covenant on the other hand, is just irritating in the way he fixates on some words that are normally rare in English.

And “rugose” is a real word, though its use by H.P. Lovecraft might lead you to suspect otherwise. (“The Great Race’s members were immense rugose cones ten feet high, and with head and other organs attached to foot-thick, distensible limbs spreading from the apexes”)

Reading SF/Fantasy may be a “bad influence” on your vocabulary :-)


MG 09.11.13 at 10:18 pm



PJW 09.11.13 at 10:29 pm



John Holbo 09.11.13 at 11:08 pm

Thanks for all the suggestions!


Squirrel Nutkin 09.11.13 at 11:13 pm



Squirrel Nutkin 09.11.13 at 11:19 pm


Obviously, that’s my suggested word, not a description of the post/comments.

Got to add I am rather saddened to discover how many people above have decided to not see the worth in Steely Dan. Even now the combination of sharp, self -aware lyrics with high-grade instrumentalism, fine arrangements, strong tunes, killer hooks, etc, puts them in a status well above most bands in the last four and a bit decades (and back in the mid-70s they seemed to be orbiting in some kind of Olympian sphere, miles above the Cro-Magnon lumberings of most of their contemporaries).
Maybe later they got a little prone to Jazak stylings and virtuoso noodling (and TBH I haven’t really picked up on their recent work), but surely they earned an honoured niche in any pantheon of rock and popular music (© D Jewell, pompatus of jazz gentility to the English bourgeoisie). Indeed ….

Sorry, an excess of whisky has got me channelling (distantly) the spirit of their sleeve notes. What I mean is: when they were good, which was often, they were so good that to deny their excellence – only a fool would say that!


Katherine 09.11.13 at 11:37 pm

Messuage – a relatively old English legal term meaning, roughly, a package of property.

And here’s the fun bit! It derives not from some obscure latin root but from an ancient typo. It was simply a mistake made by someone transcribing the French word ‘menage’. It was then copied and recopied until it eventually entered the legal lexicon.

Ooh, lexicon. That’s a good one. Apt, too.


LizardBreath 09.11.13 at 11:54 pm

Eschatology? For a phrase, “Immanentize the eschaton”? “Ontogeny recapitulates philogeny”? “Monotremes oviparous, ovum meroblastic”?


JanieM 09.12.13 at 12:10 am



ben wolfson 09.12.13 at 12:30 am

“inspissate” is a nice word.


js. 09.12.13 at 12:34 am

Getting away from the longer Latinate words for a second, there’s always “knap” and “cwm”. (Tho the English “knap” doesn’t come close to matching the awesomeness of the German “knapp”.)

I also find that “cattycorner” (or “catercorner”) is an amazingly useful word that people don’t use nearly often enough.


ben wolfson 09.12.13 at 12:48 am

Or “wlatsome”!


Old John 09.12.13 at 12:53 am

I too encountered carminative in Chrome Yellow. Didn’t know anyone else still alive had read that.


Alan 09.12.13 at 4:01 am

Ok, a word a not-so-literate person beat me with on Scrabble as using last letters but in the dictionary:


After 30+ years I’m still mad.


PJW 09.12.13 at 4:02 am

“Words whose definitions I can never remember, no matter how many times I look them up…” (jazzbumpa @22)

That reminded me of something I’d read in the early to mid-1980s by a famous author who marked his dictionary every time he looked up a word and he’d had to look up a lot of the same ones numerous times (me, too!). Thought it was John Irving or John Updike and turns out it was John Irving: “Beside every word I look up in my dictionary, I make a mark. Beside every word I look up more than once, I write a note to myself…I have looked up ‘strictly’ 14 times since 1964.”


Bloix 09.12.13 at 5:01 am

I’ll see your catercorner and raise an inglenook. And don’t bother calling, I’ve got three widdershins and a bumbershoot.


Dave Maier 09.12.13 at 5:10 am


(Ooh, widdershins, good one Bloix!)


bad Jim 09.12.13 at 6:02 am

Since js. brought up “cwm”, it might be worth mentioning a typewriter test, a sentence using each letter once: “Cwm fjord-bank glyphs vext quiz.”

“Carminative”, mentioned twice above, was, as I recall, discussed by Bertrand Russell, who eventually looked it up in a German-English dictionary. “Windtreibend” wasn’t exactly what he’d expected. My father was fond of “lugubrious”, because someone had once applied it to him, and used it as term of approbation, meaning something ambiguous, ill-defined, intriguing.

I’ll put forth “excoriate”, not only because it’s really useful, but because until very recently I’ve always written and pronounced it as “exorciate”, and I still prefer the flavor of the erroneous utterance.


John Quiggin 09.12.13 at 6:12 am

@bad Jim: That’s exactly the story Huxley uses for “Carminative”, but for a character who is definitely not Bertrand Russell (tho I think the novel I recall is a roman a clef)


John Quiggin 09.12.13 at 6:35 am

Of the words above, I’d use about half, recognize but not use another quarter, recognise but don’t know the meaning of 10 per cent, and don’t recognise/doubt the legitimacy of the rest.


bad Jim 09.12.13 at 7:35 am

Hah! That, perversely, makes me feel better about my memory lapses. I’m not that much worse now, perhaps. Come to think of it, I’ve certainly read more Huxley than Russell.

‘Ubiquitous’ and ‘teleology’ are two words Steinbeck emphasized in “The Log of the Sea of Cortez”, which I read at about that age (unless memory fails me again) Worse, I have a vivid memory of an even more obscure word from marine biology, having been out on a boat that brought up a pregnant shark which was cut open for our education: ovoviviparous, not the easiest thing to drop into casual conversation.


Phil 09.12.13 at 7:50 am

“Sesquipedalian” was always my favourite – I liked the way it, well, is. Not as much so as the (mythical?) German compound noun my father told me about once – one who tries to kill the aunt of a native African king, the Hottentottenpotentatentantentotenattentäter (don’t forget the umlaut!).


bad Jim 09.12.13 at 8:10 am

Just one more, I promise. My mother, her father, my sister and my brothers have rather prominent noses. Embarrassingly big honkers. My mother once confided that she wished she had an “aquiline” nose, meaning, I think, something modest like mine or my father’s. An aquiline nose, of course, is an eagle’s beak, crooked and protrusive, very like her own conspicuous proboscis.


ajay 09.12.13 at 9:33 am

replevin (she could get lost in archaic legal terms)

Any small girl should of course be able to exclaim “Lawyer J. Noble Daggett will disagree. He will come after you with a writ of replevin!”


Barry Freed 09.12.13 at 11:45 am

“Ask your lawyer about Replevinâ„¢ …”


Emma in Sydney 09.12.13 at 12:22 pm

All those lovely animal words: ursine, vulpine, bovine, etc. There are more obscure ones like psitticine, but once you know them, they stick.


phosphorious 09.12.13 at 12:38 pm

I like the word “probosculate,” but as far as I can discern, it only ever appears in the Muppet Movie, spoken by Dr. Teeth of the Electric Mayhem.

Still. . . it’s a word. . .


godoggo 09.12.13 at 12:42 pm



Dave Maier 09.12.13 at 1:46 pm

“Ovoviviparous” reminds me of “sphygmomanometer”, both of which I know only because they were on the test.


LizardBreath 09.12.13 at 2:11 pm

If widdershins, then deosil.


Jeffrey Davis 09.12.13 at 5:34 pm

I learned “replevin” from P.G. Wodehouse. (Laughing Gas, I think.) A lawyer was up to his eyebrows in Writs of Replevin. Wodehouse also used the phrase “socage in fief” in “Uncle Fred Flits By”. 40 years ago, during my 4 months transit in law school, I also learned about leaping — or possibly shifting — seisin. (“shifting seisin” might be my own fantasy)

And then there’s Myles (the da) who weeps and gnashes his teeth over the possibility that his property would be “ESTREATED”. [caps in original].


Phil 09.12.13 at 7:18 pm

I don’t know much of the later stuff, so I don’t know if the title is a direct quote. I just can’t stop hearing Becker (or possibly Fagen) singing “BURMA SHAVE”. Possibly to the tune of “FM”.


Phil 09.12.13 at 7:18 pm

“…no stubble at all…”


js. 09.13.13 at 12:24 am

Widdershins is really quite excellent. I fold! (@82)


flubber 09.13.13 at 1:05 am

Tautological is a useful word.


Royton De'Ath 09.13.13 at 4:50 am

Last night. CT inspired Pub-Job/Challenge for assembled bar-stool mounted older folk:
Remember back to a loved 11-13 year old stripling; what words did you/they like the best?
Some of the socially palatable products of this work were:
Lots of smiles, possible slobbering and argumentation were in evidence in working up this list.
But. Personally. I thought the wordsmithery was the product of selective amnesia of nostalgic poseurs. I don’t ever remember Dr Jocelyn Peabody, Dan Dare or Desperate Dan using words like these when I was a kid (but then I only looked at comic pictures).
I’d have honestly thought that The Olds would have gone completely doolally-tap if they had asked me about my favourite word(s) at that age: “Ray-gun? Toffee? Comics? Toffee? Huh?”


Bloix 09.13.13 at 5:42 pm

An adversary once derided an argument in a brief I’d submitted as “thixotropic.” Once I looked it up I decided it was a perfectly good metaphor.


JAFD 09.13.13 at 7:50 pm

One point missed in, is that the “piaster” was the currency of South Viet Nam, and that when _Katy Lied_ came out in ’74 or ’75, ‘twould be hard to hear ‘the last piaster I could borrow’ and not think of it as a reference to the ending of the American war effort there.


bad Jim 09.14.13 at 5:48 am

Thixotropic brings to mind

Shake and shake the catsup bottle.
First none will come, and then a lot’ll.


Bloix 09.16.13 at 3:40 pm

Yes, catsup/ketchup is the Platonic ideal of thixotropism.

And although this thread is long dead, I can’t help adding another word to the list – a word I actually found myself using in conversation this morning: ebullient. There’s one every 12-year old should know.


Martin Bento 09.17.13 at 5:16 pm

Just in case there’s a chance of reviving a Dan discussion.

I suppose the place to start with a defense of Dan is with their uniqueness. If you were familiar with their style, and you heard an instrumental cover of one of their songs that you had never heard (instrumental so that Fagen’s voice is not a clue), chances are very good you would know you were hearing a Steely Dan tune. Only Becker and Fagen write like that (from the peanut gallery: or want to! which is of course has been thrown at every original stylist. BTW, I think it’s mostly Fagen, as his solo work sounds like Steely Dan. Becker’s not so much.) Of how many pop or rock artists can this be said? Even among jazz musicians, it is mostly true of the real giants – Miles, Monk – who casual jazz listeners might identify, as opposed to Jackie Maclean or Tommy Flanagan, who connoisseurs could identify and who are fine players, but not necessarily giants.

As for the dirty old man thing, half their songs is a wild exaggeration, of course, but they have hit that note more than once: Babylon Sisters, Hey Nineteen, Janey Runaway. I think it is understood, is it not, that rock starts boink 20 year olds well into middle-age, maybe beyond, for the same reason Clinton gave – because they can. I wouldn’t be surprised if Mick Jagger still has groupies today. But if Mick writes a song about a hot young thing, the unstated premise is that he is still a hot young thing himself, maybe hotter. Dan are looking at it more honestly. And they don’t shy away from how dark and exploitative such relationships can be. Here is how Janey Runaway starts:

It must have been my lucky Thursday.
Your dad went on that spree.
Before the crew put out the fire,
You caught the next bus to NYC.
Down in Tampa, the future was desperate and dark.
Now you’re the wonder waif of Grammercy Park.



Rolf 09.18.13 at 4:03 pm

Great piece! The first word I actually knew was Rugose, as my mathematician – mountaineer father calls small irregularities of rock faces rugosities.

Every time the song Rikki was mentioned in the comments thread my mind would substitute in Rikki for Jenny and I would hear the chorus of 867-5309. I still think I have come out ahead.

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