Word of the Day: cocktonsil

November 16, 2010 § Leave a comment

Here’s a word which, I hope, needs no explanation. Nor is it a word you’d expect to find in any dictionary. It’s certainly been in the ether for a while, but came to me by way of a remarkably cool Twitter comment, just yesterday, courtesy of one of South Africa’s top literary figures. She claimed to have stolen the word from another Tweet, and so it turns out that the word does in fact already have a sizable following. It marks a beautiful departure from standard terms of abuse by compelling us to think beyond the usual surfeit of private body parts and go to a place that truly transcends basic name-calling.

The Urban Dictionary describes cocktonsil as “a word used to describe an undesirable person, with a tendency to be achingly annoying, who inflicts their presence on you in inconvenient situations such as traffic, the workplace, the supermarket, bars and shopping malls”.

The word is virtually limitless in its scope. Here are a few examples to start you off: “There goes another cocktonsil, changing lanes without indicating.” Or: “So sorry I’m late, I was stuck behind a slow-moving cocktonsil, doing 20 in the fast lane.” And, if you like to express your frustration with local politicians: “The cocktonsils on Cape Town’s city council have decided that they can reduce incidences of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome by closing bars earlier.”

Intriguingly, the word cocktonsilectomy has not yet been defined by the Urban Dictionary.

Word of the Day: felicity

October 27, 2010 § Leave a comment


Apologies for the lack of vocabulary these last two days, but Soberholic has been moving house, unpacking seemingly endless quantities of boxes, and familiarizing himself with myriad new light switches…

Given the onset of summery, sun-drenched days in Cape Town, today’s word perfectly sums up that gratifying sense of living in a virtual paradise.

felicity – The state of being particularly happy; being happy to a high degree; joy or bliss (as in “marital felicity”). The word can also refer to something which is a source of happiness, or something which produces happiness. In another meaning, felicity refers to the appropriateness of an expression or style (as in “the statement ‘summer is rapidly approaching’ possesses felicity”).

Looking for more synonyms to describe your state of well-being? Try exhilaration, contentment, exuberance, jubilation, enjoyment, merriment, delight, ecstasy, elation, euphoria, pleasure, rapture, joy…

May you be surrounded by such pulchritudinous sights today, that you experience absolute, utter felicity.


Word of the Day: mullered

October 22, 2010 § Leave a comment

It’s the weekend and there are no excuses for not sucking the marrow from the bones of life over the next few days. Experience something new, step outside the box, smile at everybody, say hello to strangers, and try to avoid getting into a state that’s marvelously represented by today’s slang term. It’s one of those words that just sounds so very right.

mullered – Generally means “broken, smashed or beaten up to the point of being visisbly altered, unusuable or non-functional”. In a more specific (and weekend-appropriate) context, it means “intoxicated with drink or drugs to the point of non-sensibility”. And, finally, in its most direct derivation from its assumed original source, it means “resoundingly beaten in a competition of some kind”. According to one source, the term comes from the German footballer Gerd Muller, who had a knack for scoring plenty of goals.

Have a fantastic weekend. If you still haven’t done so, please check out The Soberholic Review, which launched earlier this week.

Word of the Day: penurious

October 21, 2010 § 1 Comment

As we surge towards the most expensive time of the year when parties and holidays and endless shopping expeditions seem to dominate our lives, here’s a generally insulting word that, in these times of economic stress, mightn’t be such a difficult label to swallow, after all.

penurious – This lethal-and-lovely adjective can be used to describe someone who if unwilling to spend money; or someone who is stingy. However, it can also be used to mean “yielding little” or “barren”, as when describing a harsh environment, for example “a penurious land”. Finally, penurious could also mean “poverty-stricken” or “destitute”.


Do Real Men Dream of Fragging Electric Sheep?

October 20, 2010 § 1 Comment

Every so often I find myself in a situation where it’s convenient to thumb through a men’s magazine. I’m talking about those times when someone has made a pile of arbitrary magazines next to the lavatory, and your curiosity about what might lie beneath the glossy, expensive, seductively laid-out cover gets the better of you. Also, you’ve neglected to bring a book or newspaper, so you give in to the availability of random, meaningless reading, and the off chance that you’ll come across a useful story—like how to become the world’s greatest lover by eating five raw eggs a day, or how to turn your stomach into a concrete wall of pure rippling muscle. Women, I’m guessing, look forward to yet another list of reasons why men are bastards.

Recently, I looked down to find a recent edition of Stuff. On the surface, it looks just like a men’s magazine: there’s an image on the cover of a perfectly smooth and upright woman staring out at you with a look that says she could change a tyre in less time that you’d take to unhook her bra strap.  Despite certain heterosexual animal urges, you know instinctively that wouldn’t want to piss this woman off, and you know by looking at her that she probably ate the photographer shortly after she posed for the cover shoot. She’s severe and glamorous and although she’s rendered in 2D, somehow takes control of the bathroom as you sit there, naked from the waist down, your bowels in transition. She and her magazine have a captive audience.

I’m assuming that’s just the way men who read men’s magazines on the loo want their women to look: super-hot and more than a little frightening, and I guess that plonking her on the pile next to the lavatory represents some kind of perverse macho way of showing her who’s boss. Anyway, even if she weren’t trapped on that cover, she wouldn’t be at all interested in you. She’s gotta more important things on her mind. Not only is she busy digesting the photographer, but trying to force your attention from her evil model eyes down to the thing she’s holding in her hands, which are neatly, coyly, folded over her lap.

It’s a phone, of course, and it looks like it’s already eaten the five raw eggs, fucked the chicken that laid them, and then showed Ms Severe it’s rippling six pack. Something about this woman’s expression suggests that she could probably use the phone to perform an emergency landing with a Boeing. The fact that she’s holding that phone tells you everything you need to know about this magazine. It’s a warning that this isn’t a men’s magazine at all. It’s a trap. It’s spider’s web laced with high-tech gadgets. Basically, it’s a glorified catalogue of expensive toys for boys who’ve already had their testicles ripped off by the vixen on the cover.

Still, none of this logic prepares you for what I found on page 10 of Stuff. I’m warning you in advance; the following will disturb and confound. This is what I saw:

This line-up of glowing throbbing-headed “gadgets” appears under the heading “HOT STUFF”, and is the first of 24 pages of gadgets that include touch-screen cellphones, laptops, trendy cars, speakers, cameras, and even a Jetpack. All of which equates in my mind as the kind of cool technology-angled stuff that men can turn to when they find themselves transformed into instant eunuchs by the icy stares and lightening-speed testes-removal movements Ms Severe is so good at.

But these items at the start of those 24 pages had me scratching my head, flummoxed, because they look precisely like the type of gadget that should appear in the self-help sections of a woman’s magazine. If you don’t know what I’m thinking, here, then you haven’t watched enough Sex and the City. And I’m not suggesting you should start watching now.

So, rather than doing the usual quick flick through the magazine, I felt compelled to read the short, irritating blurb that accompanies the picture, if only to satisfy my breathless curiosity. What I learned was both a relief (to discover that these weren’t sexual devices, but a type of state-of-the-art joystick for Sony PlayStation users) and another shock. Because I came across a new word: “fragging”.

Shamefully, I felt myself instantly alienated from contemporary culture, cut off from the hip tech-speak of modern day men who pass their time logged on, hooked up, and zoned in. There’s some exhilarating sofa-action going on and I’ve been missing out.

But then my friends who are authorities on geek-speak and tech-lingo assure me that “fragging” isn’t a sexual term at all, but something to do with first-person shooter games—those virulent, mindless simulations of gun-toting violence that allow teenagers to vicariously live out the dreadful preoccupations of soldiers, warriors, urban cowboys, and criminals. I was off the hook, released from Ms Severe’s painful grip.

I quickly flick through the remainder of the magazine to scan for anything that might encourage a grown man’s interest. Nothing. This is nothing more than a sexed-up version of a product catalogue for boys who dream of electric sheep and women with plastic bodies. It’s an embarrassing rag for aging teenagers with a few empty spaces on the shelf alongside a priceless collection of Star Wars figurines.

There’s nothing sexy about toys, boys. Even sex toys are simply a stand-in for the real thing.

Finally, I think I’ve got it figured out: The magazine is a back-up for when the loo paper runs out.

Word of the Day: tumid

October 19, 2010 § 1 Comment

Today’s word has a couple of divergent meanings, granting you the freedom to use it in either a biological sense, or perhaps at a political rally. What’s really nifty is that in its most basic sense, as an adjective, it’s the kind of word you want to have on the tip of your tongue whenever you see a guy wearing a Speedo. So, this being the start of summer in the southern hemisphere, here’s the word and it’s varied meanings, just in case….

tumid – Typically used to describe a body part or organ, this adjective means “swollen” or “distended”. It can also be used to describe a bulging shape or something that is protuberant, as in “he had a tumid growth on the side of his head”. But the real reason we like this word is because it’s also an under-utilised synonym for “overblown” or “bombastic” (as in “Malema’s latest speech was tumid, yet completely empty”).

And just in case you didn’t think the day had the potential to get any crazier, just imagine the possibility of dragging both uses of the word into the same sentence: “That politician with the tumid opinion of himself also has a revoltingly tumid face.” Or vice versa.

Warning: Just imagining Julius Malema in a Speedo is likely to cause your brain to become tumid.

Trapped by the Media (I’ve never met a Chilean Mineworker I didn’t like)

October 18, 2010 § Leave a comment

All fears confirmed: Survivor has finally met Big Brother, and their twisted, flatulent coitus has spawned the biggest media circus Chile has ever witnessed.

I’m going to ask your forgiveness right from the get go. Excuse me, please, for failing to share in what appears to be a global enthusiasm. Forgive me for not feeling what the world feels. I’m so sorry that I’m not emotionally engaged or—frankly—the least bit interested. I have neither friends nor family who are Chilean mineworkers, and even the people I know who have been to Chile didn’t get to meet anyone connected with the mining industry.

Apparently, according to weeks and weeks of radio news bulletins, I’m meant to feel genuine, bleeding-heart compassion for an anonymous bunch of blokes who found themselves trapped, hideously, under the ground. It must have felt like an eternity; it was definitely terrifying. In the days leading up to their final escape, the result of a technically challenging rescue operation, there seemed to be an international countdown preempting their release from the bowels of the earth, their 60-odd days of imprisonment passing with all the stealth and relaxed civility of a Sunday afternoon picnic. So drawn out and long-winded was the process of getting the poor souls out from beneath the ground that it started to feel unreasonable to expect these people ever to readjust to normal life once they were in fact rescued, if ever. Never mind the fact, I’m told, that once they were discovered down there, they became, unavoidably, the subject of ongoing TV broadcasts—I find it perverse and spooky that a camera was sent down amongst the trapped and terrified miners, in no small part to help give the rest of the world yet another riveting human-interest story to watch and objectify in all its super-realistic glory.

But—like traffic slowing at road accident scenes—did we really need to be told (or to actually see) how difficult things must have been down there? I’ve seen enough claustrophobia-inducing horror movies to have a sense of how harrowing it must have been. Not to mention revolting. I’m thinking stale air, rotting teeth, putrefying body odour, and the mounting problem of where exactly all the human waste was being dumped. Frankly, they’re all things I wouldn’t be contemplating were it not for the constant reminders coming at me via assorted media channels. On the plus side: no cellphones, no television, no Internet, and no rush hour traffic.

(I’m guessing no sex either, but then again, as I’ve already said, I know bugger all about Chilean mineworkers, so perhaps there was plenty of anonymous and dark, dangerous bonking going on. Dirty, too, given their location.)

Best of all, those poor, darkness-ravaged underground crusaders didn’t have to put up with the ongoing dissemination of news, “human drama”, and intimate details about their predicament, by the topside media. I’m fortunate enough to eschew newspapers and avoid television, but even the radio coverage of what was going on in Chile had me reaching for the vomit bag.

I really don’t believe that news stories like this do much more than give armchair gawkers extra opportunities to indulge a fantasy sympathy for the imagined trauma of others, beefing up their dinner conversation, and enabling them to go on blissfully ignoring the many very real human tragedies happening right in our own backyard. It’s little more than a smokescreen, people: If you care so much about mineworkers, go and give support to our own miners risking their lives for our economy every single day. Sadly, the media has it’s own sordid agenda, and their standard response when a horror-movie scenario takes on a human interest angle is to drum up as much pity and sorrow and emotional outpouring of support as can possibly be engineered.

As the workers finally emerged from their underground prison, words like “heroes” and “salvation” were flying off the lips of newsreaders and on-the-scene reporters. And here’s where you’ll really need to forgive me… I’m truly very sorry, but they’re not heroes. They’re survivors. They’re unlucky and unfortunate (or extremely fortunate and very lucky, depending on which part of the time-line of their experience you’re referring to), but “hero” is a word that refers specifically to someone who has gone beyond the call of duty, put themselves on the line and at serious risk, to come to the aid of another. A hero does good work, saves, goes on missions, sacrifices, and possibly changes the world. These poor Chileans—as much victims of sordid media reporting, as they were of bad luck and negligent safety measures in a dangerous work environment—were being misrepresented by the media, possibly because there is so much nonsense going on in the world right now, they’ve been blinded from seeing the vast, obvious difference between heroes and victims.

The straw that really broke my camel’s back was a nasty—truly nauseating—caveat uttered by one local newsreader who ended his report on the fact that the miners were finally being evacuated to the surface by saying that they had been rescued “much to the relief of millions of people around the world”. What a load of phoney bollocks. The only reason millions of people around the world were the slightest bit aware that miners in Chile were trapped underground was because the media told us about it, and repeatedly, for days and weeks on end reminded us of their toil, bombarded us with reports on their developing health and psychological issues, and increasingly hyped up the language to include such beige soap operatic techniques as transforming these victims into “heroes”. You’d swear these people were going to emerge with supernatural powers (the ability to see in the dark being the bare minimum for me to buy into the hero-worship frenzy). Come to think of it, I’ve been in a lot of nightclubs and find that even I see pretty well in the dark…these miners would have to have acquired X-ray vision or grown an extra set of limbs to earn the “hero” moniker.

The point is that I don’t think the media has the right to report—as news—an assumption that the entire world is having an emotional response to a story that it concocted in the first place, and then shamelessly rode like a bareback cowboy. What they did amounts to nothing less than a serialized loop of social and emotional brainwashing. It works by repeatedly convincing media consumers that they should first care about, and then idolize, a group of helpless victims, and in so doing forces the story itself to be sustainable as something legitimately “newsworthy”. It’s nonsense. The story is that Chilean mineworkers were trapped underground. And the next, and final, part of the story is that they were rescued. Whoever designed the complex and complicated rescue plan—a world-first if anything the media says is to be believed—is the real hero. Unfortunately, it was probably more brainwork than physical exertion, so there’s unlikely to be an action-packed Nicholas Cage movie at the end of it all. (Unless there was, in fact, a pregnant miner down there, and the blind, midget miner with two left hands got the baby out of the womb unharmed.) Although Nicholas Cage wouldn’t cut it as the midget, right?

I’ll wrap this all up by saying that I’m very glad that those Chileans survived and made it out alive. But I’m truly grateful it wasn’t me down there, nor anyone in my immediate circle, which extends to people I know in Mexico and maybe Brazil (but no-one in Chile, I’m afraid). I’m probably just being honest when I say there’s no-one on this planet who wasn’t relieved to know that it was a group of strangers—Chilean strangers, in fact—who were trapped down there instead of being trapped themselves. Although, occasionally, when I listen to the news, I can’t help thinking those miners were at least lucky enough to spend time away from the ceaseless assault by an unthinking, perverted media.

Then again, one eyebrow-raising news item tacked on at the end of their ordeal concerned the tussle between several of the victims over who should have the “honour” of being the very last person to be rescued. In this case—a shocking symptom of our over-mediated culture—it wasn’t an issue of chivalry, or of letting the women and children off the boat first. It was an argument to decide who would emerge as the biggest hero, the victim who was trapped longer than the rest, perhaps the one whose harrowing tale would fetch the biggest price on the market of tabloid journalism. My vote goes to the midget.

Word of the Day: lascivious

October 18, 2010 § Leave a comment

Every so often it helps to contemplate a word that works well in the place of harsher-sounding, or even dirty, words. Rather than reach for the first available slur to hurl at someone you’d like to insult, temper your aggression with a word that might not appear particularly crude but packs a punch and will certainly make you sound super-smart.

lascivious – Another word for wanton or lewd, it’s an adjective used to describe someone who is inclined towards lustfulness (for example, “That girl is a lascivious hussy; look at her flirting with my husband.”) It might also describe an aspect of such a person’s behaviour, or to qualify the intention of a behaviour or action (as in “That flat-chested hussy gave my husband a lascivious look, her eyes burning holes through his underwear.”) It can also be used to describe something that arouses sexual desire, such as an erotic photograph (“a lascivious image of a college sex fantasy”). Or to describe something that indicates sexual interest, or is expressive of lewdness or lust, such as “a lascivious joke”.

Note: If you assumed that my comments about the word tumescence are lascivious, there’s a very good chance you’re the one with the lascivious mind.

Word of the Day: numinous

October 15, 2010 § Leave a comment

Friday. For those about to embark on a pleasure-filled weekend, devoid of responsibility or duty, here’s a word that may help describe your superior sense of joy and freedom.

numinous – Mystical, spiritual, supernatural. Numinous (from the Classical Latin numen) is an adjective describing the power or presence of a divinity.

And should the weekend work its numinous magic on you, let’s hope it brings you into propinquity with loads and loads of the most pulchritudinous people.

Word of the Day: torpid

October 14, 2010 § Leave a comment

Today’s word is one of those warm and fuzzy-sounding adjectives the meaning of which is neither pleasant nor kind. It may, however, describe your typical Thursday frame of mind.

torpid – 1. lazy; inactive or sluggish. 2. slow; dull; apathetic; lethargic. 3. dormant (as a hibernating animal).

In contrast with pulchritudinous, there is nothing particularly attractive or desirable about being torpid, but at least you know that if someone uses this word to describe you, you have every right to tell them to go and frot themselves—unless, of course, they happen to be a mucky muck with power over you.