Dictionary Challenge Weeks 32-33: Hey Nimrods!

Prepare yourselves folks. Because I’ve been treating you pretty good so far… you know, choosing the best words to pass along to you without making you slog through the dictionary yourselves. Today, however, that changes. So watch this video and share this painstaking experience with me.

If you actually made it all the way to the end, I applaud you. (Though I’m willing to bet no one did and I really don’t blame you for tapping out.) I know it wasn’t easy. And that’s now 8 minutes of your life you’ll never get back. Which is pretty insignificant when compared to the amount of time I’ve already dedicated to reading The Behemoth… that being somewhere between 90 and 100 hours so far.

Jeez. I’m going to be able to do so many things when this challenge is over.

Anyways, it’s not always like what you just witnessed. There really are some awesome things in that big old book of words. Take murder for example. Okay, that maybe came out wrong. I don’t mean murder is awesome. I’m all about non-violence. But! The second sense of the word is “an unpleasant, or dangerous state of affairs” and I think it’s awesome that the definition made me laugh out loud…. Because, really – what an understatement. Imagine someone being murdered in cold blood and the newscast comes on the TV with the anchor saying “The family of Alfred Thompkins mourns an unpleasant state of affairs. Mr. Thompkins was murdered by a deranged psychopath.” Yeah, I don’t think so.

Some other thing that I have recently learned… a musk-ox is “a large goat-antelope”. I didn’t see that coming. Also, we are all basically netheads because most of us are “frequent users of the internet.” And…  the word nice was originally a Middle English word meaning stupid/wanton from Old French for silly/simple. That one makes me a little sad because I can see the evolution at work. Nice people generally get taken advantage of the most for being caring, trusting, generous and good to others. Which boomerangs back around to them being kind of stupid when they get taken advantage of. Kind of like the dog biting the hand that feeds it. Most of us have been there, getting bit by our dogs… we’ve been the nice guy… and where did we finish? Last! Ah, but thank goodness for Karma right? Good things are a-coming. Right? Right? I think so. So despite the word’s origins, stay nice. You’re not stupid. You’re a good person and the world needs more people like you.


Original photo courtesy of M01229 via Flickr. Adapted by me.

And while we’re on the subject of stupid… to all my hunter friends, don’t get angry the next time I call you a nimrod. It’s actually a compliment meaning, in the second sense of the word that you are “a skilled hunter.” Well, I guess you won’t really know for sure though, because in the third sense, it also means “an inept person.” So… happy hunting ya nimrod!

Now I saw a news story the other day in which kids didn’t know that beef came from a cow or that when they were eating their burger they were eating a cow. There are words sort of like that. We get accustomed to words without really knowing what they mean sometimes. For example, o’clock. We all know what 6 o’clock is. It’s 6 in the morning. Or 6 at night. But did you know that o’clock means “of the clock”? It’s not a surprising definition, but it reminds you that sometimes you don’t think critically. You don’t know the why, but the word is so ingrained that you don’t think to ask why.

There is, however, something I want to ask “why” about, and it is… why is an ordinary seamana sailor of the lowest rank, that below able seaman”? Titles aside, you’d think that your common, ordinary seaman would at least be able. Their ranking system kind of says that the average seaman isn’t able. Not really good odds on your ship since that puts half of them as unable. Maybe changing the titles would make people feel more at ease.

Another thing I’ve noticed since I began this challenge, is that there is a form science dedicated to everything. I mean everything. In just the past two weeks, I’ve come across orthoepy, “the scientific study of the correct pronunciation of words” and oenology “the study of wines”. If I knew that oenology was a thing when I was 18… my career path would probably have gone a lot differently.

Next up I have to talk about some words where I have some sort of an appreciation for the way in which they were defined. First, is overkill, being defined in the second sense as “the amount by which destruction or the capacity for destruction exceeds what is necessary for victory or annihilation.” Pretty sure when you’re talking about annihilation, there is no such thing as overkill. But what a grand definition. I mean, it’s big, you know? I usually use overkill for more simple things, like the amount of homework assigned was overkill. And that’s not exactly something that would destroy the world as we know it.

Similarly, the definition of overwhelm in the third sense is “bring to sudden ruin/destruction; crush.” Yup, being overwhelmed is a pretty monumental thing. But again, I usually take it more along the lines of “I’m overwhelmed with the amount of chores I have” but I wouldn’t say that means I will be ruined or crushed. I can… and will… *Cue gladiator music* … survive my chores!

Okay, okay. I know I put you through the gears in making you watch me read the entry for just one word from the dictionary. So I won’t drag on forever here. Here’s a list of some of the other words I either learned, found the definition to be interesting, or just simply liked from the past two weeks:

Orgulous – haughty, proud

Orphan drug – a drug that is useful but is not commercially available for the pharmaceutical company producing it unless it is granted tax credits and other special status

Overweening – arrogant, presumptuous, conceited

Olivaceous – olive green; of a dusky yellowish green

Obstreperous – 1. Unruly, resisting control 2. Noisy, vociferous

Obstinate – 3. Inflexible, self-willed

Normal school – a school or college for training teachers

Nullity – 2a. the condition of being non-existent b. a mere nothing

As always.. thanks for reading! If you want to know as soon as the next post is up, click on the little blue rectangle at the top of the page to the right that says “Follow Exit Sideways.”

Week 32-33 Stats

Starting Word: Munition                     Ending Word: Pacific Daylight Time

Total Pages: 1114/1815                        Ahead/Behind: -51 pages

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?


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 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

Dictionary Challenge Week Five: Knock off the Bafflegab

Good news! While I’m still behind, I’m no further behind than I was last week. Here’s to the start of the comeback. And I’ve also made it all the way through the As! Only 25 letters to go…

It’s been very hard to pick my top 5 each week. Some words roll off the tongue nicely, others mean something beautiful, still more have an interesting definition that sparks further thought on origins and relatedness to yet other words. Some just make me smile. Like Axilla. Don’t you picture a giant lizard wreaking havoc on downtown New York with a gargantuan-sized axe? No? Just Me? Either way, it means armpit.

Now that the appetizer is over with, here are my top five in no particular order:

  1. Arsenic hour – the period in late afternoon when youngsters become particularly cranky and unmanageable
  2. Arrabbiata – a pasta sauce of tomatoes, garlic, bell peppers, and hot peppers
  3. Assassin – a person who is hired to kill someone, usually for political or religious reasons
  4. Autumnal – past the prime of life
  5. Bafflegab – official or professional jargon which confuses more than it clarifies

Okay, before jumping into things, I’ve decided I have to give honourable mention to bada bing bada boom, bada boom bada bing. I love that this nonsensical phrase has legitimate merit.

Definion of bada bing bada boom

Now for the big guys.

Arsenic hour. I know some moms and pops out there who read that and were like YUP. I feel quite inclined to personally expand that definition and use the term for 6 am – the time of day when adults awaken and become cantankerous zombies before a hot brew turns them into human beings again.

Up above, I mentioned the words that roll of your tongue. Say arrabbiata out loud. Really purr it out. Now you have to admit – that’s some fun stuff right there. But it’s about more than the tongue roll; the word comes from Italian for ‘enrage’ which alludes to it’s spiciness. Anybody like me who finds themselves sucking back a glass of milk after a chance encounter with a jalapeno understands this connection of rage to mouth-on-fire spice. I’d really like to see someone tell their waiter, “I’ll have a caesar… with a lot of rage.” Well, maybe not. They’d probably get a black eye along with the drink and the waiter would just say, “that’s what you asked for.”

While I’m not into violence at all, I had to put assassin on the list this week. Again, not because of the actual definition, but because is comes from medieval Latin assassinus from Arabic hassas which means hash-eater since the medieval assassins were ‘reported to consume hashish to fortify themselves for action’. That’s right, folks. Your highly trained, professional killer is high as a kite. Maybe it helps with the guilt…

Although there are a few other definitions of autumnal, the one that reached out to me was the one above. It sounds so much nicer to say that you’re an autumnal woman rather than an old geezer. No one likes to admit when the prime of their life has passed and that death seems much closer than you ever thought it would be. But here you have this nice, easy-going word to make it seem alright that you’re growing older and can no longer throw a fastball or dance the boot scootin’ boogie like you used to. It’s going to be okay. You’re just autumnal.

On to bafflegab. I really liked the frivolous sounding nature of the word, but it’s the potential application that excites me. When someone is using all these big, fancy words you don’t understand – you just pull out this dipsy-doodle of a word and put a stop to it in true mic-drop fashion. What comes to mind is the scene in every movie when someone gets diagnosed with cancer:

Doctor: We used a fluoroscopy during your biopsy to get a sample from the parenchyma. After testing, we’ve discovered that you have adenocarcinoma and will require curative surgery, followed by adjuvant chemotherapy.

Patient: What does that mean in English?

So I’d like to rewrite that scene to have the patient say, “knock off the damn bafflegab and give it to me straight doc.”

Week Five Stats

Starting word: Argentina                      Ending word: balance sheet

Pages: 69-103                                        Total Pages: 103/1815

Ahead/Behind: -71 pages