Dictionary Challenge Weeks 28-29: Halfway Check-in of the Vitals

DictionaryReading the dictionary is like trying to get fit after you’ve let junk food annihilate your existence. You hit the gym and you watch the miles build, you count the reps, the crunches, the calories, and you’re giving so much but that damned scale barely budges. But you do it, week after week, and then one day you realize you’ve lost 10 pounds of excess weight. But that’s not where you quit, because you’re not done yet. You haven’t reached your goal. So you keep going, week following week following week following week following week following week….

Your entire existence has been redefined by the effort you’re putting forth. You’re tired. But you can’t quit. You’ve come so far and even though that counts for something, you know what you set out to do. So even though your muscles are aching you wake up and you begin again.

And while this is required, perhaps even admirable, there is still a cynical exhaustion that comes with it.

You see, in a way, the dictionary haunts me. The bookmarkbookmark I use was something my significant other had made me a few years ago. It was charming, once upon a time – an indication of sweet romance. But now, the meaning has become much more literal… in an unfortunate way. Every morning I find the place I had left off reading from and every night I place the bookmark as I close The Behemoth for a night’s rest. And there’s that book mark reminding me that tomorrow is going to be the same. Every morning. Every night. Every morning. Every night. Day after day, week after week, month after month.

You’d think I’d just use a different bookmark wouldn’t you?

Nope.

I am just over half way and sometimes I look at the braid of my bookmark sticking out from between the pages and I feel, well, a bit more than a little stupid for ever taking this on. But other times I look at it and feel like I’m accomplishing something great. That’s how it goes with anything. When you put your effort towards something and it demands so much from you – you’re proud. Even if it’s something as peculiar as reading the dictionary.

I had a conversation the other day with a friend and she said I should make my next challenge to NOT do a single challenge for a year. Sounds easy right? But the more I thought about it, the more I realized I couldn’t do it. Because working towards something – whether it’s perhaps more practical like running a marathon or writing a novel – it gives you a sense of purpose; it’s rewarding. And that’s something we all need. It goes beyond work and relationships and family. This is that extra thing you do that’s all yours.

But that doesn’t mean that it’s easy. Or that you’re not going to want to quit. Or that you might feel genuine hate for what you’re doing at times. But to persevere, to conquer the giant, to slay the dragon… well that feeling trumps it all. And it feels pretty damn good.

Alas, I am not there yet. This giant – The Behemoth – is still requiring much more slaying.

I usually do a halfway point check in with each challenge and though I’m now past that, I’m still going to do a belated check-in of the vitals:

Mentally I’m exhausted. This is due to the fact that I fell so far behind at the get-go that I now, each week, usually try to double the required reading. Over the past few weeks I have also had what I’m calling a “pre-headache.” It’s not an actual headache, but my head hurts and feels like it could develop into a full-blown headache.

Emotionally I’m a roller coaster. Sometimes I’m feeling bad ass, crushing page after page. Other times doubt creeps in as I wonder just what the hell I’m doing and I feel like a freak for spending so much time doing this. But then I read an awesome word I didn’t know or learn a historical fact and all is swell.

Physically… I’m a train wreck. I mean, other than toting this nearly 5 pounds of definitions around everywhere I go, I don’t have time for regular exercise. I play sports a couple times a week, ride my bike to work, and go on an occasional hike, but my poor dumbbells from the Chin Up Challenge have unfortunately been much neglected. I had also taken up drinking coffee for the past 4 months (though I just quit this past Monday) to keep me going.

I don’t know what category this fits under… but I am also now acutely aware of paper density. The dictionary has very thin pages.

Overall, this is a surprisingly demanding challenge thus far (and let’s be real – will probably only feel more demanding the closer to finished I get) but, like I said above… I can’t quit. I wanted to do this and now I’m going to see it through to the end. Learning things I didn’t know before, especially words, is really awesome. It also makes me want to read the Encyclopedia. But that’s a whole other beast I’m not actually considering… yet. I’ve learned a lot from the dictionary and would with the Encyclopedia even more so. Plus, that would be a much easier read.

Now, I’m full of little tidbits and facts that come popping up in every day conversation. It’s gotten to the point that whenever I diverge some random piece of information, my significant other asks just one word, “dictionary?” To which the answer is yes about 95% of the time.

To sum it all up: yeah, wanting to read the dictionary is weird… but also awesome.

Now, because I know you’d all rather have read about the last two weeks of interesting words, I won’t completely short change you on this post: The second sense of the word mad money is “emergency cash carried by a woman on a date for bus fare if needed.” If needed. Hmmm. Now I wonder what kind of situation that would be…

Week 28/29 Stats:

Starting Word: lotus-eater                     Ending Word: Maryland

Total Pages: 949/1815                            Ahead/Behind: -76 pages

Dictionary Challenge Weeks 24-27: Halfway There

You thought I gave up didn’t you? Any sane person probably would have. But no. I’ve just been eyeball deep in definitions for the past month, chipping away at this deficit I’ve been in since the get-go. I am now only 106 pages behind, down from the nearly insurmountable 242 at the peak of my shortfall. I am also past the six-month mark. I know I don’t have to dumb this down, but… that’s six months OF MY LIFE.

I am also now on the letter “L.”

But let’s back track a bit and see just what words I learned, liked or simply saw over the past month and now want to share with you.

First off, I have to say: I am not from the city. I have down-home, back-country, small-town roots. So I didn’t know what HOV stood for. High octane vehicle? Not mine. Human occupied vehicle? Aren’t they all? Turns out, I didn’t have to pull out google to find out. It stands for High Occupancy Vehicle. I also found out that google ranks up there with Grammy winners, kings of days past, and those awarded the Nobel Prize. That’s right… Google has its own entry in the dictionary: search (a term) on the Internet using the search engine Google.

You know you’re a big deal when your name becomes a verb.

And speaking of the internet…. I think it deserves a better entry than “a global computer network providing a variety of information and communication facilities, consisting of interconnected networks using standard communication protocols” I mean, come on, this is the biggest mother of an invention that has seamlessly enslaved billions of people. Maybe “The Almighty ruler of the modern world” would suffice?

The Internet

A few new learnings include discovering that a goober is a peanut; that Toronto is also known as Hogtown; and, that the second sense of the word giddy is “overexcited as a result of success, pleasurable emotion, etc; mentally intoxicated.” I like that. Mentally intoxicated. I suppose if I were to say I was mentally intoxicated people would probably think that meant I was crazy. But hey, I already admitted to that. I am reading The Behemoth, after all. I find that there are a lot of words that mean the same as something else, but are just a more interesting way of saying it.

Like one of my favourites from the past few weeks: intestinal fortitude. It’s just another way of saying courage or guts, but it’s more unique. It nearly slipped right past me as one of the many mundane words because it sort of sounds like a medical term until you pause and think about it and realize hot damn!  it’s basically awesome.

Sorry. I really wanted to throw hot damn in there because I wanted to bring to light that it’s another term worthy of space in the dictionary, being defined as “expressing admiration.” I’m right close to half way through The Behemoth and I still have a soft spot for the silly and surprising words that get to take up space in this big book of the English language.

Now, let’s talk about something important…. The dance floor. It’s the place you bust out your wild and wacky moves and get your body grooving. Anything goes: the shopping cart, the sprinkler, the ChaCha, even head banging and high kicking have their place (as those who’ve seen me on the dance floor well know). But don’t think that you should try the ever popular horizontal mambo out there. Because things would get a little awkward since that would mean you’re having sex on the dance floor. There’s a time and place. Okay. There are many times and many places. This just isn’t one of them. And don’t think you could get away with a knee-trembler either, meaning “an act of sexual intercourse between two people in a standing position.”

Aannd… moving on!

I need to talk about the ladies a bit.  First up we’ve got Lady Godiva who was an “English noblewoman, wife of Leofric, Earl of Merica. According to a 13th century legend, she agreed to her husband’s proposition that he would reduce some unpopular taxes if she rode naked on horseback through the marketplace of Coventry.” Well, well, well. I’m not actually too sure what I want to say about this. What a way to govern. So here’s a woman who’s willing to do whatever it takes for the good of the people. Contrasted with the guy who’s actually in power who makes decisions based on bets of humiliation. That involve his wife. He must have been a real winner.

Next, we have Lady Jane Grey who was the Queen of England for nine whole days in 1553. The Duke of Northumberland forced her to marry his son and persuaded the Protestant king Edward VI to declare that she should succeed to the throne rather than his Catholic half-sister Mary Tudor. She was deposed after 9 days of being Queen and later was executed to avoid possible rebellions by Protestants.

There is so much wrong with this. Her story starts with being forced to marry someone and ends with execution to avoid possible rebellions. Who kills someone over possible unrest? Over-react much? Obviously there’s more to this tiny blurb of history, but what a raw deal for Lady Jane Grey. She probably didn’t even want to be Queen either. Puts your own life into perspective a bit doesn’t it? I mean, you’re probably not royalty… but you’re also probably not being executed on a big “maybe.”

You know, when I read get even and it was defined as “achieve revenge,” I had thought that was a bit peculiar. As in revenge is something you achieve… like an A+ on your history paper. But after talking about Lady Jane Grey, I’m sure revenge would have felt like the greatest of all achievements to her.

And since we’re somewhat on the topic of great injustices… have you heard the term Hundred Flowers? This was when citizens of China, between 1956 and 1957, were told to voice their opinions of the Communist regime and then lo and behold after unrest and severe criticism of the regime, those who did voice their negative opinions, well they were persecuted. WTF? You asked for this! Literally. That’s like asking “does my ass look fat in these jeans?” then decking someone when they say “actually, yeah it does.” Why ask for an opinion if you don’t want to hear it? You just never can trust the government. But that’s not really my opinion on the government… Or is it?

Oh and no, your ass doesn’t look fat…

Now you don’t know if your ass looks fat or not. And if we were face to face, you’d probably be giving me the old hairy eyeball. Which means you’d be looking malevolently or threateningly at me through narrowed eyes so you’d be looking through your eyelashes…. Ah shucks – your ass doesn’t look fat. Sheesh. I just wanted an excuse to tell you about the hairy eyeball. You don’t need to have kittens about it. That meaning “be extremely upset, anxious or nervous.”

Alright folks, now that I have enlightened and insulted, I think I’ve really accomplished all I could with this post. Catch you next time.

Weeks 24-27 Stats

Starting Word: genetic engineering             Ending Word: Laberge, Lake

Total Pages: 849/1815                                     Ahead/Behind: -106

Dictionary Challenge Week 21 – 23: Let’s Talk About Sex Baby

In just a few weeks I’ll have spent half a year with Bertie the Behemoth.

What? No applause? That’s okay. I can’t say it’s been easy, but I also haven’t been a dictionary-reading champion whose earned that moment on the podium with a gold medal hung around my neck. I mean, there’s still time for that, but, well, it might just be a Forlorn Hope (a persistent or desperate hope that is unlikely to be fulfilled)

However.

There has been something I’ve been searching for with every definition I’ve burnt through and it has evaded me for hundreds of pages, numerous months and countless days! But, finally, at long last I have found it! And I found it in the definition for none other than Mr. Sigmund Freud.

You see, beyond this quaint little blog here, I’m also a gainfully employed writer and in my line of work if I’m given an opportunity to slip in a pun or a double entendre I most definitely will.

Things like this.

Punny Headline

And this.

Punny Headline

And this.

Punny Headline

(Just to clarify, these weren’t my doing.)

 Now, when I began reading the dictionary all I could think was “how do they keep it so straight forward?” Definitions are boring. I have to say it. Their job isn’t to entertain or convince, but to inform with no prejudice. And yet there is so much potential to have fun with them. How do the lexicographers and editors and everyone else involved resist? I don’t think I could. And apparently, for just one, short moment… neither could they.

It all happened right out of the blue. I was sitting there in my low-riding king’s chair, dutifully reading as I sipped my morning coffee. And then…

Bam.

Freud, Sigmund – Austrian neurologist and psychotherapist. The first to draw attention to the significance of unconscious processes in normal and neurotic behaviour, he was the founder of psychoanalysis, and his theory of the sexual origins of neuroses aroused great controversy; his works include The Interpretation of Dreams, Totem and Taboo, and The Ego and the ID.

For a moment I was stunned. And then I leapt to my feet and hoisted The Behemoth to the air. The day had finally come! They are not lexicographical robots! It was so subtle I could have missed it, but there it was in all of its inky glory. Aroused. Whoever wrote this definition could have used a lot of other words, but they chose aroused when talking about sexual neuroses from the guy who introduced the Oedipus Complex concept to the world.

Thank you, whoever you are, for showing that even the best can’t resist the temptation. It was perfect, by the way.

Now that you know the single greatest moment of the past three weeks (and quite possibly the past half a year) it’s time for all the runner-ups.

I’ll kick it off with Foo (used to name temporary, hypothetical, or representative variables or files). It’s a straight-up fun word to say. And while it’s more of a programming thing, I think I’ll start titling my works-in-progress “Foo” since they’re only temporary. You know what I’m talking about. Everyone has opened up that save as dialog box and punched in Final Draft.doc clicked save and sat back thinking it was a job well done.

But then soon, you’ve got Final Draft 2.doc and Final Draft 3.doc and Final Draft 3 Second Attempt.doc and One More Final Draft.doc and One More Fucking Final Draft.doc and The Last Fucking Draft I Fucking Swear.doc and finally … FUCK THIS I QUIT.doc.

But that’s just a footling (trivial, silly) thing.

You know, since Mr. Freud’s definition started this all off with the whole arousal thing… let’s walk down that path a little further and talk about the French. Perhaps this is some naivety on my part, but there is definitely something going on with them and I can’t quite put my finger on it. It started with French Kiss (a kiss with one partner’s tongue inserted in the other’s mouth) and while it didn’t stand out other than that the definition itself really made it sound more mechanical than sensual, it did lead to French Letter and French Safe, both of which mean “a condom.” That’s 3 words on the sexual side of things that all happened bang, bang, bang. So. French people, tell me what’s going on here. If “French” gets tagged on something, it has to somehow relate to sexy time? Is this a long-standing tradition or what?

In keeping with what seems to be this post’s theme… I also came across John Ford who was a writer of revenge tragedies e.g. ‘Tis a Pity She’s a Whore! While I haven’t read this particular book, the title certainly seems to scream “revenge tragedy.” Literally. It even comes with an exclamation mark. I’m thinking he was once a lover scorned and never quite got over it. But that’s just a guess…

Next on the theme… we’ve got the ever popular fornicate whose definition goes: “(of people not married or not married to each other) have sexual intercourse.” So… as an unmarried person, I can only speculate at this point, but this definition seems to reinforce the idea that tying the knot puts the ol’ brakes on a couple’s sex life… well, unless they’re doin’ it with other people, that is… apparently. If you’re hitched – you ain’t fornicating! Maybe it’s cause then… you’re making love.

PFFFFTTTTT! Yeah, right.

At least those married couples can still engage in Frottage (Sense 2 – the practice of touching or rubbing one’s body against the clothed body of another person usually in a crowd, as a means of obtaining sexual gratification) Ahem. You all know this is really just called dirty dancing right? Okay, I’m starting to feel uncomfortable about all these sexual references.

So let’s talk about fucking.

I got you a little with that one, didn’t I?

Fuck – (in sense 2) Curse, confound

The definition then includes an example of this which is “Fuck the thing!” – to which I can’t help but gasp in a quaintly Georgian-era manner. “Not…. (insert dramatic drum roll) the THING!” Also, it comes with a side note that it is “considered to be one of the most offensive words in the English language.” So I’m sorry if I offended you by using it. Well, only a little bit.

I think you’d be more offended if I said you could Fuddle Duddle because, despite how cute and seemingly-meant-to-be-said-by-a-six-year-old it sounds, it actually means “go to hell; drop dead.” People aren’t going to expect that. So the next time your boss makes you angry, just give a little shrug and drop a casual “oh fuddle duddle.” The boss will think you handled that situation like a pro and you’ll get the satisfaction of telling him or her to nicely go fuck themselves. Essentially.

There are clearly a lot of awesome things I’ve come across in the dictionary over the past few weeks. I will leave you with just one more, simply because it most aptly described what I was doing when I had The Behemoth hoisted high after reading Freud’s entry.

Galumph –  (in sense 2) Go prancing in triumph

Weeks 21-23 Stats

Starting Word: fighting fit              Ending Word: genetic drift

Total Pages: 624/1815                   Ahead/Behind: -191

Dictionary Challenge Week 20: All Good Things Come to an End

In the wise words of Nelly Furtado… all good things come to an end. So, I included a little video below so you can hear Nelly Furtado elaborate on this a little bit. Go ahead. Press play.

Now scratch the part about lovers and friends. Why? Because I never loved Bertie The Behemoth (which is what I have decided to name my hulking companion) and we are not friends despite this constant companionship. And also, the “good thing that is coming to an end” isn’t Bertie The Behemoth, but my once glorious comeback about demolishing her.

Yup. I have not broken even yet, but over the last 8 weeks I have been steadfastly digging myself out of the egregious hole I had dug for myself with this challenge (that being the attempt to read the Canadian Oxford Dictionary in under a year by keeping a schedule of reading 35 pages a week, which I had fallen pitifully behind on.)

That’s two months. And I have to bite, claw and fight every inch of the way back to par. This week the comeback stopped. I really tried to fight to keep the comeback going, but I have to be honest… I’m tired.

I’m really, really tired.

Do I stop? Do I just walk away and pretend I never tried at all?

I could.

And some days I really consider it. Some days I want to quit. Some days I want to light a match and watch The Behemoth go up in flames. (And book burning is something I do not take lightly at all…)

But then the sun rises again, I pour a cup of coffee, and I crack open The Behemoth. Some days I win, some days I lose, but all I can do is take each loss and each win and stack them up day by day until I reach the end. It is, after all, up to me whether I make it to the end at all. And when or if I do, I’m not so sure how I’ve been defining success and failure is going to be quite right.

And speaking of defining…

Clearly the challenge itself is always on my mind, so I have found that many of the words that jump out at me and I end up scribbling down are related to the experience or how I feel about myself during this challenge. As in.. I consider myself a fantast with a fighting chance despite my false start at the beginning of this fandangle in which I am trying to fight the good fight and avoid a fiasco… but maybe I’m just a fanatic who is trying to avoid a facile way of living and in doing so made an unfortunate faux pas.

But I guess not everything is about me. Right?

Fantast – a visionary; a dreamer

Fighting chance – an opportunity of succeeding by great effort

False start – an unsuccessful attempt to begin something

Fandangle – (in sense 2) nonsense, tomfoolery

Fight the good fight – act with strong commitment to a worthy cause

Fiasco – a complete and utter failure

Fanatic – (in sense 1) a person filled with excessive and often misguided enthusiasm for something

Facile – (in sense 1 a) easily obtained or achieved and so not highly valued

Faux pas – (in sense 1) a tactless mistake; a blunder

This week I also came across a few quite powerful words. Fie being one of them. It comes from Old French from Latin and is an exclamation of disgust at a stench. That right there is powerful. Because you don’t use the word stench lightly. You could use fetid or fetor and they both relatively mean something stinky. But when you whip out the big guns and say “stench” you know that is an utterly devastating smell. Plus, fie is such a hard, short word…. I can’t wait for someone to fart so I can raise my fist to the heavens and shout an impassioned FIE!

But back to fetor. That’s also kind of a fun definition, that definition being “an offensive smell.” So it’s a bit more than just stinky. It’s offensive. Just picture yourself letting a big one rip right by a high society lady who instantly becomes offended by your fetor and curses discreetly under her breath… “fie.”

Because it’s unbecoming to use actual curse words. And to shout.

Ah. Okay, enough of this fible-fable (nonsense). Find me on facebook or twitter  or subscribe over to the right of this page to follow along as I keep trying to fight the good fight… for the moment.

Week 20 Stats

Starting Word: F                   Ending Word: fighting fish

Total Pages: 551/1815         Ahead/Behind: -154

Dictionary Challenge Week 19: The Derailing Thought Train

I have a fairly active imagination and it doesn’t take much to trigger a complete detour from the information I am presented with.

Just moments ago I read eyebrow. We all know what it is, but you don’t think about it. So when I read the definition and am matter-of-factly told that it is “the line, usually arched, of short hair growing along the ridge above each eye socket” it’s not anything particularly striking. But just the way it’s worded makes me picture it like a hairy caterpillar crawling along a ridge. And then I think why do we have this line of hair so distinctly placed crawling across our faces, basically in the middle of nowhere.

Because it is weird when you think about it. Humans are pretty bald. Even the hair on our head is weird. Most hairy animals are close to fully covered, but then we come along with our tuft of hair on our heads… and a few other places. Which then makes me think about evolution and how we came from apes and were once fully covered in hair. And so really humans are like a hairless cat. Kind of gross.

You know what I mean. Whether you like them or not, you have to admit hairless cats are pretty darn freaky looking. So then I think about how every human is actually freaky looking because we are the hairless cat of the apes and I get to wondering just what was it that caused mankind to procreate in the first place when we were all – technically – so ugly?

And then I curse beHairless Catcause all that nonsense wasted 5 minutes of my time, just like it did yours. And we all know it’s not a person’s looks – it’s their personality.

So I turn back to The Behemoth and dive in again: Extra sensory perception – the supposed ability to perceive outside, past, or future events without the use of known senses (ESP). At first glance, I completely get why it is the “supposed” ability, but then I wonder why in the second sense of the word eternity meaning “the condition into which the soul enters at death; the afterlife” there is no supposition. Neither is there one with the second sense of epiphany meaning “a manifestation of a god or demigod.” And all of a sudden I’m trapped in an existential (of or relating to existence) moment and I just want to stop thinking so I can read the next word…

Erase. Meaning “rub out or obliterate (something written, typed, drawn)”

Which is what I want to do with all the extraneous (irrelevant, unnecessary, or not part of the matter at hand) thoughts that come along with each word. Like how reading the entry for erase made me picture a person’s pencil spitting out cannonballs of fire as they obliterated that horrible sentence they just wrote about eyebrows. Maybe that example was more personally situational… Either way, I love this definition. I will never erase the same way again – I will obliterate!

But you see what this is like, don’t you? I read about 35 words every 10 minutes. Well, so long as my incessant imagination doesn’t intrude and cause me to spiral out of control into existential daydreams and ponderings on every single little thing. When each entry is a bite-sized little stand-alone nugget it’s hard not to, because otherwise I’m not really engaging with what I’m reading. Which I’m guilty of as well. Some words slip by and I realize that my mind has been elsewhere thinking about hairless apes and I have no idea what I just read. This can continue until something major happens to pull me out of my reverie. Something big. Something great. Something awesome.

Like the word empurple, meaning “make purple or red” and “make angry”. This time you have got to be picturing that heavier set guy with a chip on his shoulder reaming out some zit-faced kid behind a cashier’s counter as his anger causes his face to empurple in a terrifying yet impressive way. If you weren’t, you are now anyways.

On that note, I am going to leave things for this week. Tomorrow I start on the letter F. I’m about 30% of the way through The Behemoth and just over 140 pages behind in finishing it by the end of one year’s time.

If you’d like me to share more words or more on the experience, just drop me a line! You can find me on Facebook or Twitter.

Week 19 Stats

Starting Word: empty calorie                   Ending Word: Ezra

Total Pages: 529/1815                                Ahead/Behind: – 141 pages