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March 11, 2009

nonplussed — the most vexing word in the English language

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Ever since I first encountered it in my teen years, I've dutifully gone and looked it up, then made a serious effort to memorize its meaning so as not to ever have to do so again.

And yet, last night when it appeared in something I was reading, for maybe the fiftieth time in my life I wasn't sure if it meant confused/perplexed — or the opposite.

Here's a dictionary definition of nonplussed: "perplexed; confused; bewildered; disconcerted."

Its origin: "From Latin non plus, no more: non, not; see non + plus, more."

A synonym: "At a loss."

But how do we get from the Latin to the English?

What am I missing?

On second thought, don't answer.

FunFact: As if I'm not already confused enough, it can be spelled either "nonplussed" or "nonplused."

FunFact #2: It's also a noun meaning "A state of perplexity, confusion or bewilderment."

So I guess you'd say "I'm in a nonplus."

You speak for both of us.

••••••••••••••••••••

Note added at 4:13 p.m. the same day: On reading the post just now after it appeared on the site, the penny finally dropped.

At long last, a mnemonic tool.

See, the word has always bewildered and confused me — that is, it's nonplussed me.

So nonplus nonplusses me.

So obvious now, like so many things once you figure them out.

March 11, 2009 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

UnComb — 'You'll never part with it'

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Catchy, what?

$5.99.

[via Milena]

March 11, 2009 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

MorphWorld: Cover boy for March, 1906 Cosmopolitan magazine into Bernard Madoff

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The magazine cover (above) appears on page 18 of today's New York Times section A, where it illustrates an article about how members of the U.S. Senate are considering changing the rules by which vacant seats are filled.

The undisputed all-time King of the Ponzis (below)

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is expected to plead guilty tomorrow to stealing nearly $65 billion from investors, with life in prison a likely sentence.

March 11, 2009 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Bread Sponge

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By Korean designers Jaewon Yang and Hyung Jeong Lee.

5" x 5" x 0.75".

Cellulose.

$10.

March 11, 2009 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

'A fish rots from the head down' — Fact or fiction?

This isn't about the origin of the phrase, whose appearance in English traces back to the 1674 publication, "An Account of the Voyage to New England."

Rather, it's an enquiry into the truth of the oft-used adage, which appears in one form or another in over 30 languages worldwide.

It seems to me that a fish would rot from the gut outward rather than from the head down.

I mean, aren't the intestines full of bacteria poised, after death, to begin their activities unopposed by the now-defunct immune system?

Perhaps Anahad O'Connor will take up the topic in his most informative and entertaining "Really?" column in the New York Times Science section.


March 11, 2009 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Bulletproof Heart

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Created by Berlin-based

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designer Jörg Höltje.

[via design-reaktor.de and Milena]

March 11, 2009 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Favorite Websites from the Bizarro World: LibraryThing UnSuggester

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From the website: "UnSuggester takes 'people who like this also like that' and turns it on its head. It analyzes the thirty-six million books LibraryThing members have recorded as owned or read, and comes back with books least likely to share a library with the book you suggest."

I'm reminded of a friend back in college who was always setting me up with her friends.

After a couple disasters I realized it was as if she were choosing the type least likely to be compatible with me, even though she believed they were perfect.

The reason must have been that my presentation of self to her was markedly at odds with the person I actually was.

But if I presented the person I actually was to her, she'd no longer be my friend.

Such are the compromises we make.

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As Jerzy Grotowski remarked (one of my top 10 quotes of all time): "Daily life involves endless pretexts."

[via Cynthia Crossen's "Dear Book Lover" column in the Wall Street Journal]

March 11, 2009 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

'Ask Me About My Compost Pile' Romper — Just how crunchy are you?

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Well?

"100% organic cotton."

0-6mo. or 6-12 mo.

$14.98.

March 11, 2009 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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