Mountweazel Mondays #004

Today’s Venerable Volume of Mountweazels: VENULAR, VILL, VIREO

That’s either a magic spell, or Julius Caesar really lousing up his speech about conquering.



My best guess: An anatomical term, like “dorsal”, meaning “along some bodily axis”.

Actual definition: (n.) – 1. A small vein; 2. One of the branches of a vein in the wing of an insect.


Veins! It should have been obvious. Given the real specific context of the word, though, I’m not terribly surprised I haven’t heard, and it’s not the worst word I’ve encountered. You know what, venular gets a pass.



My best guess: A plant, found mostly in northern Africa, low to the ground with really annoying pollen.

Actual definition: (n.) – A territorial division under the feudal system; township.


Oh, so like a villa or even a village. That one should have been more obvious, but I was reading it with a harder sound. In retrospect, here’s a fun Scrabble tactic to try: don’t have all the letters for a word? Just play as many of them as you have, and start subtracting until you get to some root word!



My best guess: An online service that allows you to submit videos that you hope will go viral.

Actual definition: (n.) – Any of several small, insectivorous American birds of the family Vireonidae, having the plumage usually olive-green or gray above and white or yellow below.



Well, that’s fairly specific. Probably not an unusual word if you’re a birder. I am not a birder. I’m guessing neither is the owner of, who’s opening offer to sell the domain name of is $10,000. Come on, Audubon Society, you know what to do here.



July 11th, 2016

Mountweazel Mondays #003

Today’s Mouthful of Mountweazels: VANG, SIMNEL, NIDI

Say that five times fast.


(n.) – Each of two guy ropes running from the end of a gaff to opposite sides of the deck.

So, it’s a nautical term. I like boats. I’ve ridden on a number of them, and read my fair share of books about boat things. Most recently, “Red Seas Under Red Skies” (the second book of the excellent “Gentlemen Bastards” series). I have never run across the word “vang” in any context that I can remember. Why such a specific name for a rope?




(n.) – “sweet cake,” c.1200, from Old French simenel “fine wheat flour; flat bread cake, Lenten cake,” probably by dissimilation from Vulgar Latin *siminellus (also source of Old High German semala “the finest wheat flour,” German Semmel “a roll”), a diminutive of Latin simila “fine flour”

That is one convoluted definition. More familiarly, I guess “simnel cake” is a thing in the UK, made with marzipan (also a fun word) and eaten around Easter. Wikipedia says that simnel cakes have been around since medieval times but I guess they never really took off outside of the British Empire. Fruit cakes have never been overly popular, and my spell-checker doesn’t think it’s a real word either.


(n.) – 1. a nest, especially one in which insects, spiders, etc., deposit their eggs; 2. a place or point in an organism where a germ or other organism can develop or breed.


The plural of “nidus”, which is pronounced “nye-duhs”. NIDI is pronounced “nie-die”. Neither of those pronunciations make sense to me, and “depositing” eggs sounds creepier than it probably should. All I can think of is that insect that Khan puts into Chekov’s ear, and it’s the worst.

July 6th, 2016


For brothers, and all the camaraderie that the word implies, my oldest brother Adam and I were never all that close. Part of this, I imagine, was due to the age difference. When you’re in your thirties, perhaps, six years is not that much. The difference between age seven and age thirteen, however, may as well be a light-year.

Our personalities, as well, could probably not have diverged more. Where he was reserved, I was outspoken. Our mutual love of LEGO notwithstanding, where his hobbies were ones of solitude and observance– photography, journalism, reading, old TV shows– mine were more of engagement and attention deficit disorder (theatre, video games, action figures). Where he was Oscar, I was Felix or— whichever one was the tidy one, that was him to a tee. Me? A fucking disaster, from my bedroom  to my occasional blue language, the latter courtesy of meeting friends in fourth grade who introduced me to the likes of N.W.A. and 2 Live Crew (and of which Adam would almost certainly still disapprove). (Joe, for his part, managed to straddle a bit of both worlds growing up, as the middle child seems to do: neither overly neat nor messy, and just generally involved in everything for good or ill.)

In a sense, these stark contrasts were also just purely markers of our individuality, a product of how we were raised. I don’t claim to know much about the human condition, how we become who we become, whether its driven by nature or nurture, but I would certainly describe the way we were raised as “having our nature nurtured”. The way my mom sees it, people are going to be whoever they’re going to be and it’s a far better thing to encourage them to be the best version of that, and to enjoy it, rather than to force them to fit into the world in some wholly unnatural way. I can’t say as I disagree. Growing up, we were allowed to pursue our own paths for happiness, whatever that entailed. One of the things that I believe this engendered in us is a strong sense of self, and of self-reliance. And although me and my two brothers often did have afternoons and summer days riding bikes together or chasing each other around the yard with cap guns, it was also not uncommon for all of us— my parents included— to be off in separate rooms of the house, tending to our own projects, following our own muses.

Perhaps it is telling that when we, as a family, played the card game canasta, we always preferred to play the version that is “every man for himself” instead of playing with partners, even when there were just four of us playing. In any case, learning to live with one’s self— to survive without a partner— is a valuable thing. I highly recommend it.

As we grew older, as if in keeping with our theme of being polar opposites, Adam and I seemed to drift further in opposite directions. He had gone off to school in Montana for a couple of years, true, but when he finished he moved back near our parents. As for me, I moved out the day I left for college and never looked back (save for the occasional visit home, rarely for more than a week at a time).

I never really saw him much after I moved out. After both he and our parents moved to San Antonio, visiting was harder but I tried to make the time once a year to fly down. Still, he was often busy. He was at work, or off on one of his many adventures. We would talk from time-to-time. He would write me, occasionally, and at some length. It was usually good news tinged with a bit of bad (broken cars and money troubles, the usual sorts of things). I would, even less occasionally, write back; I have always been bad about that.

And I’ve missed my chance to write him again, ever again. I’m not saying this in self-pity. Rather, it serves to point out one the most fundamental ways in which he was different from me, and indeed from most people I know: he was, endlessly, a thoughtful human being. There was very little he did in life without someone else in mind. Always a card, always a call, always a thoughtful gift on birthdays, on Christmases. When I was visiting North Bend and my friend Eric passed, he dropped everything to drive me up to Eugene, no questions asked, to be with my friends. For that and a thousand other things, I am grateful.

I tried to repay him in kind, where I could, and I didn’t always succeed. The larger point is that I really had to actively try. To him, it was closer to a second nature. Why wouldn’t you be thoughtful? Why shouldn’t you care?

Adam would have been forty-four today, June 21st, the equinox, the longest day of the year, and perhaps all that sunshine that was the source of his generally sunny disposition. Happy birthday, dear brother. You are missed.

June 21st, 2016

Mountweazel Mondays #002

Today’s Mountain of Mountweazels: NGWEEPARVO, and DIAZO

No, they are not a singing trio.



(n.) – A monetary unit of Zambia, equal to one hundredth of a kwacha.

Not to be confused with legendary Swedish guitarist Yngwie Malmsteen, this is a bit of a circular definition, because it immediately raises another question: what’s a “kwacha”? Obviously, it’s a unit of currency. You can check the relevant exchange rates yourself, should you be Zambia-bound in the near future.

I do find it odd that currency names are valid “English” words– NGWEE, for instance, meaning “bright” in the Nyanja language. This does, however, open up other interesting possibilities for the board. Drachma, zloty, krona, and baht are all valid Scrabble words.



(n.) – A shortening of “PARVOVIRUS”.

Shortening is reasonable, particularly when it comes to viruses and the like. “The flu” is easier on the ears than “influenza”; “a cold” certainly sounds less drastic than “a rhinovirus”. I do wish we shortened the latter as we did our friend “PARVO” because “I can’t come into to the office because I’ve got a rhino” is a fantastic excuse.

So what’s a PARVOVIRUS? Apparently, it’s a family of very small viruses that affects all manner of creatures, from starfish to humans. The contagious “canine parvovirus” in dogs is one of the more prevalent forms in which it appears. The Wikipedia entry on the subject is light on the details of what various PARVOVIRII do to humans but there is a picture of a young girl with very red cheeks.



(n.) –A copying or coloring process using a diazo compound decomposed by ultraviolet light; a type of organic compound called diazo compound that has two linked nitrogen atoms (azo).

Not a terribly exciting word. It just reminds me that Words With Friends will accept this crazy word but not “PIEZO” for some reason. Piezo buzzers were always the most fun aspect of building circuits in school.


Until next time!

June 20th, 2016

Mountweazel Mondays #001

mountweazel (n.) – any invented word or name inserted in a reference work by a publisher for the purpose of detecting plagiarism

Welcome to the inaugural installment of Mountweazel Mondays! Every Monday that I decide to post this, I’ll be taking a look at some awfully peculiar words. The source of most of these is “words that have been played against me in Words With Friends to my utter disbelief”, but that doesn’t exactly make for a catchy title. These aren’t really mountweazels, in the strictest definition of the word, either. Does it matter? Not so much.

Today’s unlikely trio: ABMHO, OBEAH, and ZOEAE

Just let those sink in for a minute. Any guesses as to what any of these words mean?



(n.) – The centimeter-gram-second unit of conductance, equivalent to 10^9 mhos.

If you guessed that this one had something to do with electrical conductance, congratulations! You probably took some electrical engineering class. The word “mho” is a weird word in itself; it’s the reversal of the word “ohm”, the unit of electrical resistance, named after the German physicist Georg Simon Ohm, a pioneer in the field. Conductance being the inverse of resistance, they flipped the word as well. This is not a strategy you see employed very often when naming new things, which is probably why this unit is more commonly known as the siemens, possibly also because the letter S is a lot easier to use than the upside-down Omega symbol.

(The “ab-“ prefix is used for a centimeter-gram-second electromagnetic unit, of course. The “abmho” is also known as the “absiemens”, accordingly.)

This seems extremely jargon-y for an acceptable “scrabble word”. This sort of thing is frustrating to me, since the rules by which jargon is allowed seem arbitrary. Offhand, there are a lot of Computer Science terms that are not accepted. TRIE is one that I know I’ve tried, unsuccessfully, on more than one occasion.



(n.) – A kind of sorcery practiced especially in the Caribbean.

This seems like a pretty good “vowel dump”, or, what you do when life hands your a rack of AEIOUs. I’m going to have to get this one in my lexicon as my luck frequently grants me more vowels than seems decent. Wikipedia states that this word is “sometimes spelled ObiObea, or Obia” and with that many alternate spellings they may as well have tacked on “…or however the hell else you feel like spelling it”.

Jamaican sorcery seems like a pretty cool and interesting subject, and, indeed, Wikipedia has a fair amount to say on the topic. Almost immediately, however, it’s noted that the word has pejorative associations, so you probably shouldn’t work it in to conversations too often.

Despite the fact that it seems to be used almost exclusively as a proper noun, the word “obeah” has been used quite a bit in popular culture– in everything from Live and Let Die to Pirates of the Caribbean and, indeed, most films that I can think of where Caribbean magic is involved, with the notable exception of The Serpent and the Rainbow. If nothing else, this seems to warrant it as a potentially reasonable word.



(n.) – A larval form of certain crustaceans, such as the crab, having a spiny carapace and rudimentary limbs on the abdomen and thorax.

This is an utterly ridiculous word. Great vowel dump, though!

I won’t lie, I’ve already used this one once already since I’ve seen it. I immediately felt guilty.

June 9th, 2016

Previous Posts