New Words and Old Words and Book Idea

I took the summer off, but the Oxford English Dictionary didn’t. News has it they just released a list of new words they added to the dictionary. That’s nice.

Oxford English Dictionary

But here’s what I’d like to see: a list of all the words they remove from the dictionary. I’m sure it happens with every revision – archaic words that have fallen out of use are culled from the language by the vocabulary monitors.

Which is fine, but I’m curious about this, and I think a good book idea would be to publish a book of all the words that have been removed.

But since this would probably bring some of them back into popular usage, they’d then have to be re-added to the dictionary again, and I have a feeling that the dictionary people discourage this flip-flopping. Merriam-Webster’s website wants us to forget about these words, but that is like forgetting your history. A book containing all these words would be a handy and culturally-important thing, and therefore should exist.

But oh, I guess it does – it’s called “old dictionaries.” Oh well.

Update: Hey, this is neat: OED has a “vault of failed words.”

New Toy: Baitfish

kid fishingI think this would be a great toy idea:

You know those little foam things, that you put it in water and it grows to a hundred times its size? Well, this one starts out looking like a worm, but then it grows into the shape of a fish.

It would be perfect to put on the end of a kid’s fishing pole so they can “go fishing” in any water, and they’ll catch something every time.

Of course, the drawback is they have to leave it in the water long enough to grow, but still, I think it’d be neat. They could be sold with a little fishing pole, or separately as refills, and could grow into different kinds of fish.

Cards for Coworkers

John Hancock's signatureWhenever something happens to someone at work – they get hired, they get married, they get sick, their child graduates, their parent dies, they retire, whatever – someone buys a card, passes it around, and everyone has to sign it.

This annoys me. I don’t like cards in the first place, and I certainly don’t see the need for 30+ people to all write variations of the same theme. Examples:

  • We’ll miss you!
  • You’ll be missed!
  • We miss you already!
  • Won’t be the same without you!
  • Please don’t go!
  • Blah blah blah!

For years I’ve tried to be creative and original, but now I just don’t care. It’s not that I like my coworkers any less – I just don’t see any value in these cards.

As you might expect, with most of my coworkers, this argument doesn’t hold water. So, I came up with a new card signing strategy.

I noticed that, after half or whatever of the staff have signed the card, pretty much everything you could say has already been said. Subsequent coworkers always read the previous comments and react, “oh, so-and-so already said what I was going to say.” (As if this matters.)

But it occurred to me that when the person of honor reads the card, they have no idea who signed first or last. So since the signing order doesn’t matter, I try to make sure whatever I write will be read first. That way, even if I steal the most sentimental message already written in the card, the person reading the card will read mine first, and then when they see the other one, they’ll think, “oh, person #2 just copied that.”

Tactics for primary visibility:

  • Write in large letters
  • Write in a bright and/or unusual color
  • Write your message in the top-center of the card
  • Include a little artistic squiggly design or wavy underlines or flowers doodle next to what you write
  • Of course, make sure your name is large and legible

This strategy requires a fine balancing act. You need to wait until most other people have signed the card, so you have the most material to chose from. However, the longer you wait, the less space you’ll have for a large letters, and the more chance all the prime spots will be taken.

But again, if you sign too early, someone could pull this trick on you so that their message is the first one the person will read. You can’t let that happen – you’ve worked far too hard appearing to be sincere.

Cruel Experiment

Bug zapper and bug sprayI wonder what would happened if you sprayed a bug zapper with bug repellent – would the bugs still die after being attracted to the light, or would the repellent keep them from getting zapped?

Maybe they would cancel each other out, or maybe they work on totally different principles and neither would affect the other. Still, I wonder…

Dating Advice

Turning up the thermostatSomething no one tells a single guy before he starts dating is this: expect your heating bill to go up.

Survival Test

MM testDid I ever tell you about my college roommate’s brother’s M&M survival tests?

Here’s what he’d do: first, he’d buy a bag of plain M&Ms, and take out two at random. Next, he’d hold them lying flat, one on top of the other, between his thumb and index finger, and gently squeeze them together. Whichever one started to crack first lost the survival test, and the winner moved on to the next round.

He’d go through the entire bag this way, squeezing two M&Ms together, setting aside the winner and eating the loser. After all the rounds, he would be left with one M&M that never cracked.

He would then mail this one back to the M&M Mars, with a letter explaining that it was a champion and should be used “for breeding purposes.”

Ah, college.

Product Idea: Scented Hair Dryers

blow dryerJust in time for Christmas, here’s another product I should invent: a hair dryer that uses perfume capsules.

The hair dryer would blow dry hair as normal, of course. However, it would also have a little compartment into which you would drop a scented capsule – say “shampoo,” “the beach,” “lavender,” “cotton candy,” etc. The heat would activate the scent, so that when you’re done, that’s what your hair would smell like.

Reasons why this fits the model of modern American products:

  • it is a superficial gimmick and no one needs it
  • it is curious enough to be exactly the kind of thing someone would want to give as a gift, but also just distasteful enough that they would not actually want for themselves
  • the key component is consumable, which means customers will have to keep buying (very expensive) refills of the scent capsules