charlie's blog

Friday, December 19, 2008

despair (the funny kind)

Motivational posters. We've all seen them; in offices, in schools, and anywhere else where people might need to be motivated. Some of them feature soaring eagles, other show lions standing proudly on the savannah, and yet others capture the end of a grueling but rewarding marathon. They are uniformly designed, uniformly deployed, and uniformly despised.

That's where Despair comes in. Rather than agonize over these posters, they figured out a way to fight back and make money at the same time: demotivators. These are posters that are designed to look just like the standard motivational posters, but the messages are cynical, ironic, and downright discouraging. And they've been pretty successful: it's getting to where some folks have only ever seen the demotivational variety, and when confronted with the "real" ones, don't understand why the posters aren't funny.

Just a few days ago I discovered that they've started a Do It Yourself project, where you can create your own demotivational posters and have them printed on Despair's high-quality printers. Of course I had to try it, and I was pretty pleased with the results. I hope you'll enjoy them as well.


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

new words

It's taken longer than I hoped to get this one ready, but here's the latest list of new words.

Some of these came from Halting State by Charles Stross, which I recommend to anyone interested in geeky near-future science fiction. For this one, I had to use Urban Dictionary as much or more than my regular dictionaries, because the author used a lot of UK slang. I avoided putting a lot of these on the new words list, since I'm not very likely to use them, but I did include some of the most choice.

A smaller set of words came from I Am a Strange Loop by Douglas Hofstadter, which I can't recommend highly enough to anyone with an interest in cognitive science or personal identity. I plan to do an entire post about this one sometime soon.

Now for the words:

hokum -meaningless nonsense with the outward appearance of being impressive and legitimate
oppugn - to challenge or question the validity of a statement
obsequies - funeral rites
adduce - to cite or allege, to advance evidence for
proprioception - the ability to sense the position and movement of one's limbs
eminence grise - a secret or unofficial decision maker, "the power behind the throne"
teleological - showing evidence of design or purpose
zanana - the part of a house reserved for women, in some Asian countries such as India and Pakistan
sui generis - one of a kind, or in a class of one's own
recondite - incomprehensible or abstruse
bampot - an idiot or a foolish person (this is one of the Scottish words, but it's too good to leave out) 
emollient - a substance that softens or soothes the skin
wibble - to make meaningless comments; also a metasyntactic variable (see below)
gourmand - a connoisseur of fine food and drink
mustelid - a member of the weasel family (a good word for poking fun at someone without them understanding)
pants - rubbish (another another British-ism, see below)
caitiff - a cowardly and despicable person
mirabile dictu - wonderfully or amazingly, i.e. "it's a miracle!"
echt - genuine, not counterfeit
tonsorial - of or related to barbers or barbering
prevaricate - to evade the truth or be deliberately ambiguous
qiviut - the wool of the musk ox, great for Scrabble

This week's winner is 'wibble', a new (to me) metasyntactic variable from across the pond. I've already started to incorporate this into my lexicon of nonsense words for programming. The runner-up is 'pants', which featured in a recent news article from the BBC. I can't figure out exactly why, but this usage really tickles my funnybone. So, chalk up two wins for the Brits today.