WINTER SOLSTICE IS COMING! (JUNE 21, 2022, 09:13 UTC.)

photo by astronaut Scott Kelly

No, really: for half the earth, the Winter Solstice will begin June 21, 09:13 UTC (Coordinated Universal Time).  The winter solstice marks the beginning of the return of the sun as the days get progressively longer again—and that’s always worth celebrating!  Ceremonies and rituals include purification, ritual sacrifice, dancing, and sometimes gift-giving

Oceania

The Australian Aboriginal community is thought to have been the first to celebrate the winter solstice, starting as much as 65,000 years ago. About 11,000 years ago, humans in Wathaurong created the Wurdi Youang rock formation, which maps sun positions on the Equinoxes and the Summer and Winter Solstices.

Wurdi Youang stones near Ballarat in Victoria
Wurdi Youang stones near Ballarat in Victoria
2012 Dark Mofo Festival
2012 Dark Mofo Festival

For a chilly celebration, Australians join the nude solstice swim in Canberra’s Lake Burley Griffin. Participants strip down and enjoy (?) a swim in waters where temperatures are below zero-degrees. (A cold front in Canberra has caused exceptionally cold temperatures this year, making that nude dip extra refreshing!)

Aotearoa Stonehenge

Elsewhere in the region, people in Tasmania celebrate for weeks, from 6 to 23 June this year. In Hobart, the capital city, the Dark Mofo Festival includes music and theater performances, art exhibits, and more. 

Māori Matariki parade
Māori Matariki parade

In New Zealand’s Māori tradition, the Matariki celebration commemorates and signals the triumph of light over darkness.  Events often take place at Aotearoa Stonehenge, a modern adaptation of Britain’s Stonehenge. This year, New Zealanders will celebrate Matariki as an official public holiday for the first time, following Māori customs of remembering the dead and celebrating the living.

Africa

Cape Town, South Africa
Cape Town, South Africa
(photo by AfricanObserver)
Eswatini warriors dancing Incwala
Eswatini warriors dancing Incwala

The Eswatini of Swaziland mark the Winter Solstice with a six-day celebration of kingship called Incwala. Young men, at the direction of the king, cut branches of the lusekwane and imbondvo shrubs, which elders use to build a sanctuary hut for the king.

After days of dancing, feasting, and feats of prowess, the entire community spends a day in fasting and abstinence, including foregoing wearing jewelry, bathing, shaking hands, and sitting on chairs or mats. The elders and the king burn sacrificial objects to symbolize the ending of the old year. The king then remains in seclusion and abstinence for a month.

Umkhosi Wokweshwama in 2017
Umkhosi Wokweshwama in 2017

The Zulu celebration Umkhosi Wokweshwama (“First Fruits“) focuses more directly on the harvest. The king tastes the fruits brought from all over the country and then smashes a calabash to invite everyone to join him in feasting. Harvesting or eating before the king is a sign of disrespect. Young men of the king’s retinue sacrifice a black bull, killing it without any weapons.

British colonial authorities outlawed the Umkhosi Wokweshwama, but King Goodwill Zwelithini kaBhekuzulu revived the festival in 1990.

South America

Incan Empire Winter Solstice traditions are still celebrated throughout much of eastern South America. Inti Raymi (“Festival of the Sun God Inti“) festivals occur annually in Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, and Argentina.

Inti Raymi celebrations in Peru
Inti Raymi celebrations in Peru

One of the biggest Inti Raymi celebrations takes place in Cusco, the historic capital of the Inca Empire, in modern-day Peru. The festival begins with a reenactment of appeasing Inti in the center of Cusco.

Historically, the Incas fasted for three days before the solstice. Before dawn on the fourth day, they went to a ceremonial plaza and waited for the sunrise. When it appeared, they crouched down before it, offering golden cups of chicha (a sacred beer made from fermented corn). Animals—including llamas—were sacrificed during the ceremony, and the Incas used a mirror to focus the sun’s rays and kindle a fire.

After the recreation of the ancient sacrificial rites, the modern celebration continues into the city where dancers dressed in colorful traditional attire march through the narrow streets and plazas. Festivities last for days and concerts continue late into the winter night.

Inti Raymi celebrations in Ecuador
Inti Raymi celebrations in Ecuador

The Ingapirca complex is the largest set of Inca ruins in Ecuador. Here, ceremonies begin as the rising sun shines through the doorway to the Temple of the Sun. Each year nearly 10,000 visitors travel to Ingapirca to witness the coming of the new agricultural year and join the festival.

In Ecuador, ritual purification in springs and rivers is an important component of the Inti Raymi celebration. It is believed to revitalize spiritual energy and their relationship with Pachamama. Members of the indigenous community in Otavalo begin the festivities with a spiritual renewal at the nearby waterfalls at midnight. The celebrations continue with a grand march into the main plaza where members of the community and visitors sing and dance for several days.

Wilkakuti celebrations in Argentina
Wilkakuti celebrations in Argentina

In Bolivia, northern Chile, and southern Peru, the winter solstice (Willkakuti) marks the New Year for the Aymara People and is a time to celebrate and bless the land for bountiful harvests. More than thirty thousand people gather every year to welcome the sun at dawn. This June 2022 marks the 5,530th year of the Aymara culture. 

Sun Gate at Tiahuanaco
Sun Gate at Tiahuanaco

At Tiahuanaco, in Bolivia, ceremonies start the day before the Solstice, when pilgrims travel to Quimsa Chata and Aymara priests make offerings to Pachamama, the Earth Goddess. On the as the first rays of sunlight pass through the Sun Gate to the east of the Temple of Kalasaya, celebrants raise their hands to the dawning rays. 

Celebrants offer food and other sacrifices to Inti and Pachamama to bring fertility and prosperity during the start of the new agricultural period. Festivities continue throughout the night, with lots of dancing, eating, and drinking of a warm grape liquor known as signani to stay warm.

Antarctica

Even Antarctica gets its share of solstice celebration, thanks to the researchers staying there over the long, dangerously cold season. While the Northern Hemisphere is enjoying the most daylight hours, in the Southern Hemisphere they are celebrating Midwinter. Festivities include special meals, films, and sometimes even handmade gifts.

Bottom Line: Since ancient times, people all over the world have recognized the winter solstice as an important annual occurrence and have celebrated the subsequent “return” of the sun in a variety of ways. 

THUMBS: THE MULTIPURPOSE DIGIT

One can live a full, long life without thumbs, but it is/would be mighty inconvenient! Thumbs are hard working digits.  They are needed for power moves (lifting and moving weight), for fine motor control of all sorts, and for numerous activities in between. Ancient Romans thought the thumb held sway over the other fingers; in fact, the Latin word for thumb, pollex, may be a derivative of the word for power, pollet. Consider the following common activities:

The kalimba is played almost entirely with the thumbs.
  • Write with a pen or pencil
  • Put on jewelry
  • Paint
  • Put on socks
  • Open a door with a doorknob
  • Brush/comb hair
  • Button a shirt or blouse
  • Play basketball, baseball, most other ball games
  • Tie a bow/shoe lace
  • Tie off a balloon
  • Play most musical instruments
  • Tie a knot
Most important of all – making thumbprint cookies!
  • Drink from glass, cup, or mug
  • Seal a zip-lock bag
  • Pull up a zipper
  • Pick up something small from a flat surface
  • Snap or un-snap a closure
  • Manipulate chopsticks
  • Eat with a fork, spoon, or knife
  • Wield a toothbrush
  • Open jars/bottles
  • Use a needle and thread
  • Etc., etc., etc.

Clearly, thumbs are hard working digits. (You heard it here first!)

But wait! There’s more!

Thumbs for Identification

Finger and Thumb Prints of Al Capone
  • Everything that applies to fingerprints applies to thumbs. Your prints are set three months before birth.
  • They are virtually unique. No two are the identical, not for the two thumbs of the same person and not for identical twins.
  • They are durable over one’s lifetime, making them useful as long-term identifiers of criminals and dead bodies. 
    • Any injury that goes beneath the outer layers of the skin can affect the thumbprint.
    • Thumbprints can be temporarily scarred by cuts, abrasion, acid, or certain skin diseases, but thumbprints lost this way will grow back within a month.
  • With age, the skin on your thumbs is less elastic and the ridges thicker.
  • Voters mark ballots with a thumbprint in many countries where large portions of the population don’t read
  • A thumbprint can be used as a legal signature if the print is done in the presence of a Notary Public and is witnessed by two people who are not affected by the document, who also sign the document.
  • The Registration Act of 1908 in the Indian state of Maharashtra specified a print of the left thumb.
  • By custom and convention, the left thumb mark of a man and the right thumb print of a woman are used
  • Sometimes thumbs alone can be used to access print-controlled locks
    • i.e., sorting those who are allowed access from those who are not.


Thumbs for Communication 

Professor Albert Mehrabian has estimated that, when a speaker’s verbal and nonverbal communication don’t match, listeners only get a fraction of their information from words. The rest is comprised of paralanguage (tone, speed, “delivery”) and body language: posture, facial expressions, proximity, touch, and gestures.  So what are your thumbs saying? It depends on where you are, what you’re doing—and when!

Thumbs Up

Wikipedia has an extensive discussion of the possible origins of the gesture (pre-flight checks, archers testing bow strength, seal business transactions, etc.). Regardless of origin, the meanings are numerous. Here is a not-exhaustive list.

  • In the U.S., this is generally positive, indicating success, good wishes, agreement, etc.  
  • In the Middle East, it means “up your butt.” Many, perhaps most, Latin Americans consider it offensive, as do people in West Africa, Greece, Russia, Sardinia, southern Italy, Australia, the Philippines, and many Islamic nations. 
  • In Germany and parts of Japan, it simply means the number one. 
  • The hitchhiker’s thumb: thumb out, fingers curled, arm out meaning I want a lift. 
  • A similar gesture made toward a door means get out of here.
  • When scuba diving, thumbs up means ascend.
  • Two thumbs up means jump ball in basketball.
  • In baseball, an umpire’s thumb over the shoulder signals an out.
The A-OK
Scuba diver signaling that all equipment works during pre-dive checks

Touching the index finger to the thumb while remaining fingers remain upright.

  • It’s considered a positive gesture, meaning all okay here in the U.S.
  • The same gesture means all is well in scuba diving 
  • In Brazil, it’s like giving someone the finger
  • It’s vulgar in Greece and Turkey and implies that the person receiving the sign is gay
  • It’s the evil eye in some Middle Eastern countries
Thumbing One’s Nose
Joseph Stalin, 1940

Called “cocking a snook” in Britain, thumb your nose by touching your thumb to the tip of your nose, with fingers curled or open and wiggling. This is often accompanied by jeering, crossing eyes, or sticking out the tongue. It is a gesture of ridicule in most of the world.

Eric Ambler in 1938 wrote, “The Rome–Berlin axis…cocked the biggest snook yet at the League of Nations idea” in Cause for Alarm.

Experts (5 year old neighbors) agree that this gesture is most effective when accompanied by chanting, “na-na na-na na-na!”

The Cutis

Put the tip of your thumb in to your lips while the rest of the fingers are straight up (or sometimes curled). Then the the thumb is flicked out while vocalizing “Cutta!” (Screw you!). It’s an insult to the target and to the target’s entire family. The cutis is used mostly in India and Pakistan.

In American Sign Language, this gesture means “mom.”

Bite One’s Thumb

This gesture was famously used by Shakespeare as one of the insults used by Montagues and Capulets in Romeo and Juliet. Italians used the gesture as an insult for centuries before Shakespeare came around. There is some evidence that it had spread to England by the time of Romeo and Juliet’s production, but it was uncommon enough that Shakespeare included an explanation for why it was an insult.

The Fig

Hand is curled into  a loose fist with the tip of the thumb sticking out between the index and middle fingers. 

  • In the U.S., Canada, and Australia, this gesture is part of game often played with babies.
  • In American Sign Language, this is the gesture used for the letter T. 
  • It is insulting in Turkey, Indonesia, Italy, India, and some other Asian countries. 
  • In Ancient Rome, the head of the family would make this sign to fend off evil spirits during the Lemuria Festival.

In the Roman Arena

Pollice Verso by French painter Jean-Léon Gérôme (1872)

Myth: In Ancient Rome, a thumbs-down meant the gladiator should die. Wrong! This painting by Jean-Léon Gérôme (above) is most likely responsible for the popularity of this myth. The title means “Turned Thumbs,” a reference to the gesture being made by the crowd.

The Médaillon de Cavillargues (c 200AD) shows a gladiator referee gesturing with a sideways thumb.

Fact: Gladiator referees used a variety of gestures and signs to communicate with crowds, and gladiators didn’t often fight to the death. (Training a gladiator was incredibly expensive, and all the trainers, investors, sponsors, coordinators, etc. would have been quite upset if all their hard work was left to bleed out on the Coliseum sand. Death from injury, sepsis, or heatstroke was more common.)

Anthony Corbeill, a Latin professor at UVA, has written a whole book on ancient body language: Nature Embodied: Gesture in Ancient Rome. Hand gestures evolved and changed in meaning throughout the centuries and from place to place, but here are some common Coliseum gestures:

  • Pollices premere (thumb up) – raising weapons, attack
  • Pollices verso (turned thumb) – weapons down, submit, begin
    • Historians aren’t sure whether this meant turned to the side or turned down
  • Pollice compresso (pressed thumb) – sheathe weapons, bout over, pause
    • This might mean the thumb pressing the other fingers or being pressed by the other fingers
  • Waving handkerchiefs or shouting

Sign Language

Sign language interpreters from different countries during a project meeting with Spreadthesign
ASL “water”

Sign language: a system of communication using visual gestures and signs, typically used by/with deaf people. There are more than 300 different sign languages in use around the world. Almost all of them are highly dependent on thumbs! 

Increasingly, educators have adapted sign languages for use by very young children and non-verbal students. Many sign languages can be modified to suit the physical needs of the user, including creating two-handed signs with one hand, adjusting the size or speed of a movement, or changing which fingers are moved. Sometimes, this even includes not using the thumbs at all!


Bottom line: thumbs are incredibly important and deserve more attention and appreciation that they usually are granted!

HOW CLEAN IS CLEAN ENOUGH?

Balneological custom depends on when you live, where you live, how long you live, what you do for a living, and the seasons!

When You Live(d)

The Kumbh Mela is a Hindu festival that includes ritual river bathing.

If you lived in ancient India, you likely engaged in elaborate practices for personal hygiene with three daily baths and washing. These are recorded in the grihya sutras, covering domestic rituals and are still in practice today in some communities.

If you lived in China during the Chou Dynasty, you likely bathed outside, weather permitting. However, if you lived in a Chinese city during the Song Dynasty, you were likely to wash your hands and face before eating and to visit a public bathhouse several times a week.

Infant Buddha bathing
From Gandhara (circa 2nd century)

If you were a Buddhist monk in ancient Vietnam or Laos, you would have bathed frequently, sometimes daily, for religious reasons. However, if you were a Benedictine monk at Westminster Abbey, you would have been required to bathe only four times a year: on Easter, at the end of June, at the end of September, and on Christmas, according to monastic rules (though the Abbey employed a bath attendant year-round).

A German knight bathing
From the Manesse Codex, circa 1300

If you lived in Europe during the early part of the Middle Ages, you likely would have used a public bathhouse to spend quality time with your family, have a nice meal, meet your neighbors, and possibly even petition local officials. And if you lived during the 1340s-1350s and worried that open pores could allow illness to enter your body, you would likely have believed that dirt all over your skin would block disease. You would actually think bathing bad for your health because it opened pores, which led to sickness.

The Catholic Church has gone back and forth on bathing, sometimes linking physical and spiritual cleanliness and sometimes linking nudity and hellfire.

If you lived in Europe shortly after the Crusades, you are more likely to have engaged in a variation of the Turkish hammam and used soaps and perfumes brought back from Jerusalem.

“Don’t throw out the baby with the bath water!”
Narrenbeschwörung (Appeal to Fools) by Thomas Murner, 1512

The ancient Irish bathed daily, sometimes multiple times a day. With the spread of Christianity in Ireland in the 5th and 6th centuries, societal norms shifted to match the current Church customs in Rome: bathing only a few times a year.

It wasn’t until the time of the American Civil War, and the acceptance of germ theory of disease, that bathing became associated with health in Western medicine. 

In the early 1900’s, a typical Saturday night ritual involved American family members hauling loads of water into the kitchen, heating it, then filling a bath. Usually, the oldest/father of the family bathed first, followed by the mother, then the children in birth order, with the youngest last. Maybe this practice gave rise to “Don’t throw out the baby with the bath water.”

Where You Live

A sweat bath: illumination from Peter of EboliDe Balneis Puteolanis (“The Baths of Pozzuoli“)

“Daily showering is a more cultural phenomenon than medical necessity,” Joshua Zeichner, MD, Mount Sinai Hospital. 

If you believe YaHoo! Life, “Americans have long had a reputation for a “squeaky clean” devotion to hygiene that fuels a $3.1 billion body soap industry, yet recent studies show that Americans are actually quite average when compared to how often people shower worldwide.”

Among people who shower every day, Mexicans and Australians led, followed by Americans and the French. Brits, Russians, Swedes and Germans averaged less, with Chinese the least frequent.

Takaragawa Onsen

If you live in an area where the geography lends itself to hot springs, geothermal vents, and readily available water and fuel for heating water, you are more likely to bathe frequently. Japan’s natural hot springs (onsen, more than 27,000 by some estimates) are used for nearly daily bathing, with some research indicating a link between frequent soaking and longevity. Dense forests provide fuel to heat Finnish saunas and Iroquois sweat lodges, both used for physical and mental health as well as bathing.

Himba woman wearing a paste of hematite, sap, and butter

If you live in an area where water is scarce, you are likely to employ “dry” methods of bathing. Smoke baths, in which a blanket or tent is positioned above a fire of Commiphora wood to trap smoke around the bather’s skin, are effective means of killing bacteria and any bugs on the body or clothing. Oil or fat smeared on and scraped off the skin removes dirt and bacteria as well as protecting the skin from the elements. Pastes made with antibacterial herbs, clay, bark, and scented ingredients serve two purposes: they protect skin from sun, wind, or cold when applied and remove dirt when wiped off after drying.

If you live in an area crowded with other people, you are more likely to bathe frequently and often communally. Turkish hammam, Swiss health spas, Roman thermae, even medieval European bathhouses took advantage of shared resources (such as heat from baking ovens used to heat water) and were visited by groups of friends or neighbors. On the whole, bathing is less frequent in more sparsely populated areas.

Societies with a tradition of communal bathing tend to view a visit to the bathhouse as necessary for social and mental health in addition to physical hygiene. Russian banyas and Turkish hammam are places for meeting neighbors. Swedish and Japanese onsen are used for mental health and relaxation as much as removing dirt from the skin. Taiwanese hot springs and Mexican temazcal serve medicinal roles and are often staffed by medical professionals. The Finnish House of Parliament has a sauna where elected representatives can discuss legislation and issues of the day.

How Long You Live

Children
“Eskimo children bathing in Bering Sea”
c1905 FH Nowell

Bathing recommendations from the Cleveland Clinic depend on your child’s age. Dr. Tamburro suggests these general guidelines:

  • Babies, toddlers and little kids should spend some quality time in the tub two to three times per week. Their delicate skin doesn’t need daily cleansing, but it’s OK to get out the bath toys more often if your child gets dirty or has a messy diaper situation.
    • Speaking of tub toys, make sure they’re non-toxic and don’t have the potential to harbor, mold, fungus, and bacteria.
  • Older kids ages 6-11 should hit the bath two or three times per week, at a minimum. More showers are in order when they get muddy, sweaty or stinky.
  • Tweens and teens should shower daily. (Their newly stinky pits will probably clue you in when it’s time to step up their hygiene game.) They should also wash their face twice a day.  In addition, many teenagers are physically active, and showers are a good idea after strenuous sports events or practices, including swimming, working out, and other physical activities.
Older People/Seniors
  • To avoid any skin conditions or infections, a senior should bathe at least once or twice a week. 
  • Some elderly people may suffer from dementia, and they may have more toilet mishaps. Obviously, this means more frequent baths and showers to avoid infections.
Adults in General 

It may sound counterproductive, but a shower every day could be bad for your skin. Some dermatologists only recommend a shower every other day, or two to three times a week.  If you shower too much it can lead to discomfort, and you may experience:

After the Bath
c1898 by WB Davidson
  • Itching
  • Dry, flaky skin
  • Flare-ups of skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis
  • Dry, brittle hair

Although fewer showers may improve skin health, you should still keep your personal hygiene in mind.  If you go too long between showers you may experience

  • Increased body odor
  • Acne
  • Flare-ups of skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis, and dermatitis
  • Skin infections
  • Areas of dark or discolored skin
  • in extreme cases, dermatitis neglecta, thick patches of scaly skin

What You Do for a Living

Hydropathic applications according to Claridge’s Hydropathy book

People who work at desk jobs and spend most of their time indoors have the same bathing needs as adults in general. However, those who work with dangerous substances, animals, or in any jobs that people consider to be unhygienic may feel the need to bathe more often.

  • Janitor
  • Exterminator
  • Miner
  • Garbage collector
  • Butcher
  • People who work with corrosive materials, dangerous chemicals, disease agents, and radioactive materials need to shower at the end of each of their shifts.
  • Horticulturalists, arborists, amateur gardeners, and anyone who spends a significant amount of time outdoors around a variety of plants can reduce their risk of rashes and other skin injuries by showering as soon as they come indoors. on.
  • Athletes—anyone—whose job requires intense physical exertion.

Seasons and Weather

Home Bathing
by Kusakabe Kimbei

Guidance for better bathing during seasonal differences and changing weather are included in other categories and won’t be repeated here.

Health Line offers tips to bathe correctly and protect your skin.

  • Only take one shower a day (every other day, if possible). On days that you don’t shower, give yourself a sponge bath. Wash your face, armpits, and groin with a washcloth.
  • Don’t shower in hot water. Use warm water, instead.
  • Limit showers to 5 to 10 minutes.
  • Use a gentle soap or cleanser, and thoroughly rinse off soap before exiting the shower.
  • Don’t rub your skin with a towel. Blot skin dry to retain moisture.
  • Avoid cleansers and soaps with fragrances or deodorants. These products can irritate your skin.
  • Apply moisturizer to your skin after each shower or bath

Related Matters

Turkish hammam
  • Sweat doesn’t have an odor. It’s the interaction of sweat with bacteria on the skin that creates the stink.
  • Even with “good” smells, too much is never a good thing, particularly in close quarters. For example, the Richmond Symphony and Chorus ban perfume, aftershave, deodorant, etc.
  • According to the Cleveland Clinic, you probably don’t need to wash your hair every time you shower. Typically, shampooing two or three times a week will help keep your scalp healthy and hair happy.
  • Dutch study found that individuals who ended their showers with at least a 30-second blast of cold water were absent from work 29 percent less of the time than people who did not do so.
Washing before prayer (wudu) at Badshahi Mosque
Lahore, Pakistan

Bottom Line:  According to medicalnewstoday.com,  “Although showering offers physical, mental, and emotional benefits, the daily shower that many people in the U.S. are in the habit of taking is probably more than most people need. Showering dries out the skin and hair, uses natural resources, and creates an additional source of water pollution.”

For a more detailed exploration of how social norms around bathing vary throughout history and around the world, check out Clean: A History of Personal Hygiene and Purity by Virginia Smith.

WHAT? THERE ISN’T A WORD FOR THAT?

Also known as “Main Character Syndrome”
from EliteDaily

Last week I waxed enthusiastic about dictionaries, in all their forms and focus. Well, now I’ve made a truly unique addition to my collection, a Dictionary of  things there aren’t any words for yet—*But there ought to be.


As you can surmise from the cover, The Meaning of Liff is basically a humorous read. In 157 pages, British writers Adams and Lloyd have made a herculean effort to fill the word void with wondrous creations, some with historical notes and illustrations. Rather than inventing new words, the authors have paired each definition with the names of places in England and Scotland (Liff is a village in Scotland near Dundee).

Adams and Lloyd followed up with The Deeper Meaning of Liff. Thirty years later, Joe Morwood and John Lloyd decided to expand their geography with The Yorkshire Meaning of Liff.

(In case you don’t recognize the names, Douglas Adams is a best-selling novelist, the creator of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Dirk Gentlys Holistic Detective Agency; John Lloyd is an award-winning comedy television producer in England.)

Dalmilling (dal-MILL-ing) ptcpl. vb. Continually making small talk to someone who is trying to read a book.


In the examples I’ve excerpted below, bracketed comments [ ] are my additions.

  • Aalst (ay-AY-lst) n.
    • One who changes his name to be nearer the front.
    • [Something to consider when choosing a pen name?]
  • Bathel (BATH-ul) vb.
    • To pretend to have read the book under discussion when in fact you’ve only seen the tv series.
    • [One might assume that this applies to having only seen the movie as well.]
Glenwhilly (glen-WILL-i)  n. Scots. A small tartan pouch worn under a kilt during the thistle harvest.
[AKA under-armor.]
  • Craboon (kra-BOON) vb.
    • To shout boisterously from a cliff.
    • [And who hasn’t?] 
  • Duddo (DUD-oh) n.
    • The most deformed potato in any given collection of potatoes.
  • [Not to be confused with] Dubbo(DUB-oh) n.
    • The bruise or callous on the shoulder of someone who has been knighted unnecessarily often.
  • Ely (EE-le) n. T
    • he first, tiniest inkling you get that something, somewhere, has gone terribly wrong.
  • Falster (FAWL-ster) [FALL-ster in American] n.
    • A long-winded, dishonest and completely incredible excuse when the truth would have been completely acceptable.
Ipplepen (IP-pul-pen) n. A useless writing implement made by taping six ballpoint pens together which is supposed to make it easier to write one hundred lines.
  • Hadzor (HAD-zer) n.
    • A sharp instrument placed in the basin which makes it easier to cut yourself.
  • Juwain (ju-WAYNE) adj.
    • Only slightly relevant to the matter at hand.
    • [Such a frequently useful adjective!]
  • Kanturk (kan-TERK) n.
    • An extremely intricate knot originally used for belaying the topgallant foresheets of a gaff-rigged China clipper, now more commonly observed when trying to get an old kite out of the cupboard [closet in American] under the stairs.
Ossett (OS-et) n. A frilly spare-toilet-roll cosy
  • Lemvig (LEM-vig) n.
    • A person who can be relied upon to be doing worse than you.
    • [Need I point out how incredibly valuable such a friend/acquaintance/coworker is?]
  • Mogumber (mug-UM-ber) n.
    • One who goes around complaining that he was cleverer ten years ago.
  • Nubbock (NUB-uk) n.
    • The kind of person who must leave before a party can relax and enjoy itself.
  • Papcastle (PAP-kah-sul) [PAP-castle in American] n.
    • Something drawn or modeled by a small child which you are supposed to know what it is.
Sconser (SKON-ser) n. A person who looks around while talking to you to see if there’s anyone more interesting about.
  • Querrin (KWER-rin) n.
    • A person no one has ever heard of who unaccountably manages to make a living writing prefaces.
  • Randers (RAN-ders) pl.n.
    • People who, for their own obscure reasons, try to sleep with people who have slept with members of the royal family.  
  • Tanvats (TAN-vats) pl.n.
    • Disturbing things that previous owners of your house have left in the cellar.
  • Udine (YEW-dine) adj.
    • Not susceptible to charm.
Vidlin (VID-lin) n. The moistly frayed end of a piece of cotton thread.  “It is easier for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven than it is for a violin to pass through the eye of a needle.”
  • Wartnaby (WAWT-nay-bee) n.
    • Something you only discover about somebody the first time they take their clothes off in front of you.
  • Yetman (YET-man) n.
    • A yes-man who is waiting to see whom it would be most advantageous to agree with
    • [X. Apparently their imaginations failed them.]

I highly recommend this dictionary, if for no other reason than it’s a fast, humorous read.  Can you think of a definition we need in English that might fit your hometown?

But what about you?

Do you have your own non-words worthy of such a dictionary? I have a handful I’m willing to share, and will follow the format above. Some are in my speaking vocabulary; more are in my mental vocabulary!

  • Alcologic (al-co-LOG-ic) n.
    • Thinking or ideas that seem perfectly reasonable and logical when drunk, almost always a bad—or worse than bad—idea.
Bednertia (bed-NER-sha) n. The reluctance to get out of bed, even when drowsily awake, thinking about getting out of bed. No sex is involved.
  • Hangry (hANE-gry) adj.
    • Irritability or a bad mood caused by low blood sugar.
  • Ignoragas (ig-NOR-a-gas) v.
    • The act of not apparently noticing a fart. This is a social nicety in some situations, aimed at avoiding embarrassment. In the home setting, it may reflect habituation.
  • Netbrain (NET-brain) n.
    • A condition in which something that is usually known or remembered drops through the net and is temporarily unavailable. I first heard this word from my Associate Director of Educational Affairs at the American Psychological Association and it’s been a staple in my vocabulary ever since. I have no idea how widely used it might be.
Obvispeak (OB-vi-speak) v. Saying the obvious in any situation.  Often it is announcing something that everyone present can see. Alternatively, voicing a conclusion when there is no alternative.
  • Pickaddict (pick-AD-dict) n.
    • A person addicted to nose-picking, often in the bathroom or car when the picker thinks no one will notice. Usually controlled in public.
  • Readarhea (read-ah-REE-ah) n.
    • A condition exhibited by someone who reads aloud from whatever s/he is reading, regardless of what the other person(s) might be doing, including reading, writing, or working.
  • Rubbleit (RUB-bul-it) v.
    • To reduce to rubble, either literally or figuratively.
  • Sleepnet (SLEEP-net) n.
    • A system or habit of thought a person uses to promote sleep. Does not usually involve counting sheep.

So, what is the use of non-words? 

Besides entertainment, consider working them into your speech and/or writing. The context is usually sufficient for understanding. Such words are fresh and eye/ear-catching. Many authors have created words that are now part of everyone’s vocabulary. Just think of chortle (Lewis Carroll), freelance (Thomas Brown), litterbug (Alice Rush McKeon), mondegreen (Sylvia Wright), nerd (Dr. Seuss), robot (Karel Capek), scaredy-cat (Dorothy Parker), and scientist (William Whewell).

If you’re interested, here are some other dictionaries that only sort of exist:

Bottom Line: Sometimes, dozens of dictionaries still aren’t enough. Consider creating words. Every word in current usage started as someone’s creation!

CONSIDER THE ONION

They say inspiration comes from everywhere. Interesting details to add to your writing also come from everywhere. To flavor your work, consider the onion.

(For a laugh, consider the satirical new website The Onion, but I’m actually talking about the plant in this instance.)

Onion Lore

There is a vast array of folklore surrounding onions. Onions are part of nearly every cuisine around the world, so nearly every culture has found uses for onions beyond cooking.

  • If you stick pins into a small onion and keep it on your windowsill, it dispels bad spirits from your home—or so says folklore. (Garlic has been used for the same purpose.)
  • Onions are also thought to ward off snakes and witches.
  • American colonists hung onions outside their doors to deflect evil spirits and keep them from coming inside.
  • If you throw onion peels on the floor, you’ll throw away your luck.
  • In many prehistoric societies, onions were the symbol of eternity, fit only for the gods. Additional symbolism includes protection, memories, jealousy, envy, divine healing, and mood swings.
  • Onions in dreams may represent the layers the dreamer needs to get through to find the source of a problem or issue. Alternatively, the dreamer may need to cleanse something in order to start afresh.
  • Put an onion under your pillow if you wish to dream the identity of your future lover.
  • In Egypt, an onion held in the right hand was a sign of fealty, used to swear allegiance to Cleopatra, and were a farewell offering carved into Tutankhamen’s tomb. They have been found in the pelvic region of mummies, in the thorax, and flattened against the ears. In 1160 BCE, King Ramses IV was entombed with onions in his eye sockets.
  • In other cultures, onions were associated with the devil. In Persia, it was said that when Satan was banished from paradise, onions sprang from the print of his right foot. 
  • Romans believed that eating onions increased the quantity and vitality of sperm. Some Middle Eastern cultures considered onions an aphrodisiac.
  • In England, onions predicted the weather: a thick skin meant a bad winder ahead, a thin skin, a mild one.
  • Schoolboys used to believe that rubbing their bottoms with onion juice would numb them to the sting of disciplinary caning.
  • If you want to make a wish on Friday morning, sprinkle salt and pepper on an onion skin and toss it into the fire while thinking the wish.  Other days or times? Who knows?
  • When undecided about something important, scratch each option on a different onion and store them in the dark. The first one to sprout reveals your best choice. This applies to choosing one’s lover/husband as well!
  • In English-speaking countries, some people believe that putting onions under the bed of a sick person aids recovery. 
  • Stringing onions up around the house, especially at the entrance will guard against illness, accidents, and curses.
  • Put a slice of onion under the doormat to keep away unwanted visitors.
  • If onions sprout in your kitchen, plant them. If they grow, you will come into unexpected money.
  • The cut side of an onion has been used to relieve the effects of insect stings, and to draw poison from the bites of venomous snakes and rabid dogs.
  • Snakes hate the smell of onions, so carry one when you walk in snake territory to ward them off.
  • Get rid of warts by rubbing the edge of an onion on the warts and then throw the onion over your right shoulder without looking back.
  • Onion juice provides extra sulfur which can support strong, thick hair, thus preventing hair loss and promoting hair growth. The sulfur from onions may help collagen production which, in turn, promotes healthy skin.

Onion Medicine

Folk medicine often contains a kernel of truth, and onion medicine is no different. Modern medical researchers study onions’ palliative properties for everything from high blood pressure to cholesterol levels. 

  • Because eating onions causes one to perspire, they’ve been used in folk medicine to cure colds. 
  • Onions are low in calories yet high in nutrients, including vitamin C, B vitamins, and potassium. 
  • Research shows that eating onions help reduce heart disease risk factors, such as high blood pressure, elevated triglyceride levels, and inflammation. 
  • Red onions are rich in anthocyanins, which are powerful plant pigments that may protect against heart disease, certain cancers, and diabetes. 
  • Onion consumption is associated with improved bone mineral density. 
  • Onions are a rich source of prebiotics, which help boost digestive health, improve bacterial balance in your gut, and benefit your immune system. 
  • Onions have been shown to inhibit the growth of potentially harmful bacteria like E. coli and S. aureus
  • Onion juice can cure colds, cough, high fever, and sore throat. (One might want to eat parsley to combat onion-breath!)

Onion Facts

Even without their miraculous fortune-telling powers or magical healing properties, onions are pretty nifty vegetables!

  • Most people cut onions before eating them, often tearfully. Chilling peeled, halved onions in the fridge or in a bowl of ice water for 30 minutes can lessen the onion tear production.
  • FYI: onion tears are chemically different from tears caused by pain or sadness. 
  • No one knows for sure where onions first appeared. Some believe they originated in Central Asia; other say onions were first grown in Iran and West Pakistan. But onions were surely eaten long before they were cultivated, and now they are grown in 135 countries.
  • When Europeans came to the New World, they brought onions with them, only to find that Native Americans were using wild onions for food, in syrups, as poultices,  as an incident in dyes, and as toys!
  • Worldwide, people consume and average of 11 pounds of onions per year, but onion  eating varies widely by geography. Turkey has the highest consumption, with 80.7 pounds per capita per year. In the US, the figure is 18.6 pounds per person per year. 
  • WARNING: all parts of onions (and related plants, like garlic) are toxic to dogs and cats! Raw or cooked, as little as 1/4 cup can make a 20-pound dog sick. 

If that’s not enough onion-y brain fodder, check out the National Onion Association, the Encyclopedia Britannica, The Old Farmer’s Almanac, and the story of The Oldest Onion in Denmark.

I like learning when I read, and I try to include bits of lesser-known information in my stories. For example, gasoline cost ten cents a gallon during the Great Depression, and around the time of the Civil War, the census’s listed the occupation of prostitutes as seamstresses. 

Bottom line: Consider adding a little onion to your writing!

THE DOWNSIDE OF SELF-CONCEPT

Despite being a legendary harpist, ruler, and monarch, King David said, “But I am merely a worm, far less than human, and I am hated and rejected by people everywhere.” ~Psalm 22:6
Chu Wanning of Er Ha He Ta De Bai Mao Shi Zun is a visual illustration of the power of self-concept. When he appears in other’s flashbacks, Chu Wanning is an extremely handsome young man. When he is the narrator, Chu Wanning is an old, ugly, weak man.

Self-concept is how people perceive their behaviors, abilities, and unique characteristics.  For example, beliefs such as “I am a good friend” or “I am a kind person” are part of an overall (positive) self-concept. These perceptions of oneself are important because they affect motivations, attitudes, and behaviors.  Self-concept also impacts how people feel about who they think they are, including perceived competence and self-worth.

Low self-worth is having a generally negative overall opinion of oneself, judging (or evaluating) oneself critically, and placing a generally negative value on oneself as a person.


Self-esteem is a similar concept to self-worth but with a small (although important) difference: self-esteem is what we think, feel, and believe about ourselves, while self-worth is the more global recognition that we are valuable human beings worthy of love (Hibbert, 2013). People with low self-confidence tend to have low self-esteem and vice versa.

Abraham Lincoln’s “melancholia” is likely to have been influenced by a negative self-concept.
“Every man is said to have his peculiar ambition. Whether it be true or not, I can say for one that I have no other so great as that of being truly esteemed of my fellow men, by rendering myself worthy of their esteem.”

Some of the most common characteristics of low self-esteem—of which there are many—also appear in those with low self-worth:

  • Depression/sadness
  • Anxieties
  • Low mood
  • Feelings of inadequacy
  • Extreme focus on clothing, makeup, grooming, etc., because of a belief that self worth comes from exterior appearance
  • Poor confidence
  • Feeling like a burden to other people
  • Criticize their appearance and personality regularly in their head and out loud
  • Feeling a lack of control in life
  • Negative social comparison
  • Negative self-talk
  • Worry and self-doubt
  • Not trying things out of fear of failure
  • Neglect of their own needs, particularly emotional ones
  • Guilt over self-care
    • (E.g., you feel guilty buying things because you feel you don’t deserve them.)
Esther Summerson, in Charles Dickens’ Bleak House, has been described as both an ideal of Victorian womanhood and a personification of low self-esteem.
(Illustration by Hablot Browne)

Some of these characteristics have an obvious effect on how a person interacts with others.

  • Avoiding social situations
  • Trouble accepting positive feedback
  • Afraid to talk in a conversation, and belief that no one listens when they do
  • Sensitive to any criticism and obsessing about it for weeks if not months
  • Apologize when other people bump into them
  • Problems asking for what they need
  • Fear of leaving the house to avoid anything out of their comfort zone
  • Questioning how a romantic partner could possibly love them
  • Always needing everyone’s agreement
  • Needing constant validation from others
  • Constantly comparing themselves to other people
  • Treating Feel other people are more important
  • Belief that other people don’t actually enjoy your company and are just being polite
Avatar Korra masks her low self-esteem by being impulsive and impatient. This leads to anger, depression, isolation, physical impairment, and nearly destroying the world.

Some of these characteristics may affect how a person interacts with others in less obvious ways.

  • Frequent anger and irritability
  • Difficulty making decisions because of worry about making the wrong one
  • Needing to be perfect 100% of the time
  • Over-achieving in general
  • Overly accepting or not accepting flaws in others
  • Tendency to criticize other people to make oneself feel better
  • Jealousy of other peoples accomplishments, instead of being happy for them
  • Shifting blame to others because they think it is unacceptable to make the slightest mistake

How Did This Happen? 

Even after becoming a mother, a senior witch, and Queen of Lancre, Magrat Garlick (left) remained in the shadows of the elder witches in her coven.
“She seemed to have spent her whole life trying to make herself small, trying to be polite, apologizing when people walked over her, trying to be good-mannered. And what had happened? People had treated her as if she was small and polite and good-mannered.” (Lords and Ladies by Sir Terry Pratchett)

Causes of low self-esteem can include:

  • Disapproval from authority figures or parents
  • Emotionally distant parents
  • Sexual, physical, or emotional abuse
  • Contentious divorce between parents
  • Bullying with no parent protection
  • Academic difficulties
  • Guilt associated with religion
  • Social beauty standards
  • Unrealistic goal setting

Does It Have To Be This Way? 

If these sound all too familiar to you personally, don’t panic!  You can retrain your brain and start to replace all the negative things you told yourself with positive things.

Several ways in which one can improve self-esteem:

In one of the most dramatic depictions of negative self-concept, George Bailey (It’s a Wonderful Life) so firmly believes that he is “worth more dead than alive” that he considers suicide.
  • Identify and challenge negative beliefs
  • Identify the positive about oneself
  • Build positive relationships—and avoid negative ones
  • Give yourself a break
  • Become more assertive and learn to say no
  • Improve physical health
  • Take on challenges

Low self esteem can lead to anger, depression and anxiety, and generally a miserable life. Therefore, it’s important it is to work on it—and to keep working on it. If you have never worked on your self esteem before, positive affirmations for confidence are a good place to start.

Bottom line: You can identify low self-worth (in yourself and/or others) and portray it in your characters without an explicit label.

SNACKING: WHY AND WHERE

WHO? 

Nearly everyone in the U.S.

Over 70% of surveyed Americans said they snack.

WHAT?

Food that isn’t part of a regular meal, usually a small amount.

In fact, dictionary definitions specify a small amount. However, eating more than a quart of ice cream can be a snack without being small. (For some of the most popular snack foods, see last week’s blog.)

WHEN?

Any time, day or night. Or habitually, the same time every day and/or every night

WHERE?

Anywhere possible!

  • Wherever you watch TV
  • Reading chair
  • Bed
  • Boat
  • Car
  • Bar
  • At sports events
  • On fishing trips
  • Hiking
  • Pillow fort
  • Treehouse
  • In front of the refrigerator
  • While driving
  • Backstage
  • Grandma’s house
  • In class (not recommended)
  • Hospital waiting room
  • Swimming
  • Camping
  • Wakes
  • Wedding receptions
  • Card parties
  • Cocktail parties
  • Retirement parties
  • Birthday parties
  • Graduation parties
  • Virtually any kind of party

WHY?

Duh! Who needs a reason? But let me list a few.

  • Too hungry to wait for a meal
  • Too busy to stop for a meal
  • Too tired to cook a meal
  • Need to gain weight
  • Need to lose weight
  • To maintain blood sugar levels
  • To explore when traveling
  • It’s a favorite food, so it’s the pleasure principle
  • It’s right there
    • When you see it, you eat it, the convenience factor
  • To be polite when someone offers food 
    • In many cultures, it is considered rude to refuse an offer of food, particularly from a host
  • You’re drinking
    • Well established that people snack more with alcohol
  • You always eat leftovers
    • The waste-not principle
  • You need an energy boost
  • You feel like celebrating
  • You’re feeling down or depressed
  • You want to reward yourself
  • It’s a habit
    • You always have a bite to eat at a particular time
  • Other people are snacking
    • Psychology has documented that people who’ve stopped snacking when alone in a room start eating again when someone else comes in and starts eating

Bottom line: Snacking is ubiquitous. What can we learn about ourselves and/or our characters based on what, when, where, and why we snack?

SNACKS AND SNACKING IN AMERICA

While filming The Avengers (2012), Robert Downey Jr routinely hid food around the set so he could snack between takes. When he offered to share with his co-stars, the director let the camera keep filming. And so we end up with Iron Man offering Captain America and Hulk some of his blueberries.
Some people (particularly those who keep outgrowing their sneakers) snack on anything that stays still long enough.

February is National Snack Food Month. It was started in 1989 to “to increase consumption and build awareness of snacks during a month when snack food consumption was traditionally low” according to the Fooducate wellness community. February 15th is a particularly good day to stock up on chocolate!

According to Oxford Languages, a snack is a small amount of food eaten between meals. Snacks often differ from main meals in what they contain, portion size, consumption time, and place as well as why they`re eaten 
So, theoretically, it can be anything.  But certain foods are more likely to be chosen than others. My personal observations—totally not scientific—is that people tend to be primarily salty snackers OR sweet snackers.

Salty or Sweet?


You can find favorite junk food by state, but these are the nation’s most popular snacks, as measured by consumer opinion.

  • Jif.  (peanut butter)
  • Oreos. 
  • Lay’s.  
  • Pringles. 
  • Fritos. 
  • Snickers. 
  • Tostitos.
  • Cheetos.

And sometimes, one is not enough: according to a OnePoll survey of 2000 snackers, 60%  said snacks taste better when they’re paired together.

Celery salt and Worcestershire sauce?
  1. Cookies and cream                         39 percent
  2. Chocolate and nuts                         37 percent
  3. Popcorn and chocolate                   35 percent
  4. Chocolate and marshmallow          34 percent
  5. Chocolate and fruit                         33 percent
  6. Peanut butter and jelly                   32 percent
  7. Peanut butter and apples               30 percent
  8. Cheese and crackers                       27 percent
  9. Chips and salsa                                26 percent
  10. Chocolate and peanut butter         26 percent

Modern Snack Trends

Little Women is modern, right?


According to an article by Bridget Goldschmidt (progressivegrocer.com), Americans are snacking between meals more than ever, and eating snack foods with meals grew by 5% over the ten-year period from 2010 to 2020. She cited several conclusions.

Some people bake the cookies before eating them.
  • NPD (a national research group) also found that snacking follows a daily pattern in most U.S. households: better-for-you snacks such as fruit or yogurt are eaten in the morning; snacks like potato chips or tortilla chips are likely eaten at lunch; and sweeter snacks like chocolate candy and cookies in the evening. 
  • What drives snacking?
    • Taste
    • Satiety (how full the eater is)
    • Preferences 
    • How easy a food is to eat 
    • Time of day (health-driven motivation gives way to satiety as the day goes on)
  • The COVID-19 pandemic ramped up snacking. (How surprising is that? Not.) The NPD study cited in the article found that having enough snack foods available during the pandemic is important to 37% of consumers. These consumers’ homes are well stocked with salty snacks and frozen sweets more than other items. 
  • In many cases, the more snack food packages in the home, the more often the item is eaten, which tends to be particularly true of certain kinds of snack foods, such as salty snacks.
Wonder Woman takes her snacking seriously.
Kebabs are wonderful!

According to the survey of 2,000 American snackers mentioned above: 

  • 71 percent of all those surveyed consider themselves “snackers”
  • 66 percent said snacking brings them great joy
  • 67 percent said snacking is one of their favorite forms of stress relief
    • (No wonder snacking is up during the pandemic!)

Snacks? What Snacks?

Conan the Barbarian always steals Princess Yasimina’s snacks, but at least he shares.

48 percent of surveyed Americans have stashed their favorite treats in hidden spots around the house (often with no plans to share!).

Doctor McCoy tries to hide his snacks, but Vulcans are notorious snack sleuths.
  • 46 percent of those who had hidden snacks said they simply “don’t want to share” 
  • 53 percent said the people they live with would “eat them all” if they knew where to look

Of respondents who have ever hidden snacks, 69 percent said they’re currently doing so!

  • 72 percent said their snack stash has been discovered by someone else
  • The average person has moved a snack stash four times to try to keep it a secret.
  • 71 percent of the time partners and kids were the finders of respondents’ “snackpiles”
  • Only 6 percent of respondents have never been caught
Does time travel for fries count as a hiding place?

A few creative snack hiding places:

  • Behind the washing machine
  • Inside oatmeal containers
  • Behind books on a bookshelf
  • In the freezer, behind the broccoli
  • Under yarn piles in a knitting basket
  • On a top shelf, out of sight
  • Among cleaning supplies
  • At the bottom of the diaper bag
  • Taped to the underside of the fish tank lid
  • Behind the butter churn
  • Suspended from the ceiling, above the ceiling fan
  • In the wall, behind the vents or outlet covers


And the average respondent believes they could survive almost FIVE full months on their stockpile of snacks alone. 

Really? I’d be pressed to live 5 months on my pantry, 2 refrigerators, and a freezer! Surely that was 5 full months of snacks. 


BOTTOM LINE: In the U.S., you now know the what of snacking, and a bit of the when.

STAY TUNED: Next week I’ll delve into where and why!

Science Fiction or Fantasy?

I read in an interview with Ursula K. Le Guin that science fiction has both feet planted solidly in the science of today, that the fictional parts are pushing beyond those roots in a way that is both logical and plausible.  

So when I read a blurb for CREATION: How Science is Reinventing Life Itself by Adam Rutherford, I immediately thought science fiction. According to Rutherford, we are radically exceeding the boundaries of evolution and engineering entirely novel creatures—from goats that produce spider silk in their milk to bacteria that excrete diesel to genetic circuits that identify and destroy cancer cells. Imagine what stories might be told in a world where such creatures are commonplace, where such engineering is taken for granted. Imagine the products, and the governmental involvement.

Fantasy, on the other hand, is making it up out of whole cloth. Even so, it could draw on science for an idea.

For example, another book I came across recently has such possibilities: TEMPERATURE-DEPENDENT SEX DETERMINATION IN VERTEBRATES edited by N. Valenzueta & B. Lance. It contains articles by leading scholars in the field and reveals how the sex of reptiles and many fish is determined not by the chromosomes they inherit but by the temperature at which incubation takes place.

Fantasy could be a story in which human sex is determined by ambient temperature. And perhaps it can vary as the temperature varies. And so forth.

As the planet warms, everything will be overrun by mermaids.
Mermaid by John Waterhouse

Now, if you wrote a story about a world over-run by snakes and fish because of global warming, you would be back to science fiction. Ditto for a world in which the biological engineering described in CREATION results in changing many species to be temperature-reactive and put that in the context of global warming.

Bottom Line: Check out the latest in science and then let your imagination run wild!

QUESTIONS TO PONDER IN 2022

“Is it still a sea monster if it’s swimming in the snow?”

Which came first, the chicken or the egg? has been around—and around and around. Assuming you’ve either answered it to your own satisfaction or relegated it to the realm of The Great Unknowable, surely you need different questions to ponder late at night in the year ahead. After browsing both online and print sources, I compiled this collection. Here you go! 

Are children who act in ‘R’ rated movies allowed to see them?
(Tanveer K. Atwal in The Matrix Revolutions, 2003)
  • If you were going to die tomorrow, what would you do today?
  • If a baby’s leg popped out at 11:59 but it’s head didn’t come out till 12:01, which is its birthday?
  • Are eyebrows considered facial hair?
  • How important does a person have to be before they are considered assassinated instead of just murdered?
  • How do dead bugs get in enclosed light fixtures?
Why does Goofy stand erect while Pluto remains on all fours?
  • If you had the opportunity to be different, what would you change about yourself?
  • Why don’t we ever see a billboard being put up by the highway?
  • Can a short person “talk down” to a taller person?
  • Once you are in heaven, do you get stuck wearing the clothes you were buried in for eternity?
  • If corn oil is made from corn, and vegetable oil is made from vegetables, what is baby oil made from?
  • In winter, why do people keep the house as warm as it was in summer when they complained about the heat?
  • If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be?
  • Do bald people get dandruff?
  • Do dentists go to other dentists or do they just do it themselves?
  • Why does a round pizza come in a square box?
  • Are plants actually farming people, giving us oxygen until we eventually expire and turn into mulch which they can consume?
  • How would society change if everyone died at age 35?
How do you handcuff a one-armed man?
  • Do the “Alphabet Song” and “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” have the same tune?
    • How about “Baa-Baa Black Sheep”?
    • Why did you just try singing all of those songs?
  • If you could choose to live anywhere in the world, where would you prefer to live?
  • If a pack of gum says 10 calories per stick, is that for chewing only, or must it be swallowed?
  • Do sheep get static cling when they rub against one another?
  • What disease did cured ham actually have?
  • Why does the Easter Bunny carry eggs when rabbits don’t lay eggs?
Why are there interstate highways in Hawaii?
  • If you could commit any crime and get away with it, what would you do?
  • If you could have any car you wanted, which car would you choose? Would it be practical or flashy?
  • Why are people IN a movie but ON TV?
  • Why do we press harder on a remote control when we know the batteries are going?
  • Do they bury people with their braces on?
  • What would you do if you found the wallet of a next door neighbor whom you hated?
  • At a movie theater which arm rest is yours?
  • How come you never see a billboard being put up by the highway?
  • If you were walking through the forest and you suddenly saw a tiger, what would you do?
  • If you were told you had a terminal illness and had six months to live, what three things would be most important for you to do?
  • Do people yawn in their sleep?
  • Why do people pay to go up in tall buildings and then put money n binoculars to look at things on the ground?
  • Is believing that your life has purpose a delusion to make you feel better?
  • If you dug a hole through the center of the earth and jumped in, would you stay at the center because of gravity?
Why does someone believe you when you say there are four billion stars but check when you say the paint is wet?
  • If you could be famous (a household name), what would you like to be famous for?
  • If you were given a choice to live as long as you want, how long would you like to live?
  • If you could only see three people for the rest of your life, who would they be?
  • If a doctor suddenly had a heart attack while doing surgery, would the other doctors work on the doctor or the patient?
  • Do stairs go up or down?
  • When does it stop being partly cloudy and start being partly sunny?
  • Why do doctors leave the room while you get undressed when they’re just going to see you naked anyway?
  • Is it possible to be allergic to water?
  • What’s a question with no answer called?
Why doesn’t Tarzan have a beard?
  • If you had one wish, what would you wish for?
  • If you were given a choice between being given great wisdom or great wealth, which would you choose?
  • Do coffins have lifetime guarantees?
  • Why is “bra” singular but “panties” plural?
  • Why is it that produce bags never open from the end you first try?
  • Do fortune cookie fortunes have an expiration date?
  • If you try to fail, and succeed, which have you done?
  • If you could do any job, what would you like it to be?
  • If you were asked to speak to a graduating class, what would you say?
  • Do your eyes change color when you die?
  • How can something be both “new” and “improved”?
    • If it’s new, what was it improving on?
Why is it that no matter what color bubble bath you use, the bubbles are always white?
  • What if interstellar aliens have intercepted human social media posts, and that’s why they haven’t bothered to invade Earth?
  • What if, when you go underwater, you’re actually entering an alternate dimension where you can fly but you can’t breathe?
  • If you could say a sentence that the whole world could hear, what would you say?
  • If you were given the opportunity to be born again, how would you change how you lived?

BOTTOM LINE: What questions keep you awake or put you to sleep in the still of the night? Inspiration can come in the strangest of questions.

  • For more questions that might break your brain, check out the ShowerThoughts subreddit.
  • You might be surprised at how many of your unanswerable questions have been answered!
    • Try asking your questions of the masses at Quora.
    • The experts at EtymOnline have fascinating insight into the way English etymology shapes the way native English speakers think about things.
    • For super reliable sources, check out Snopes, especially if you can’t determine whether something is true.