Pronounced "ball-YAR-tzuh": an unsettling word denoting a form of theatre briefly popular in pre-Nazi Bohemia, explicitly written for the devil.

Orgies, animal sacrifice, blood-drinking, and the rest of Satanism's drear catalogue featured prominently in the work of this radical theatre group artistically and philosophically triangulated in the humid, teeming crotch connecting Brecht to Artaud. According to sources, the Baaljartzers claimed for their artistic godfathers (my word) an apocryphal splinter group from Exodus, who did not shall-we-say cotton to Moses's Commandments, preferring to plow greasier soils.

The founding philosopher and director of the Baaljartze movement, a sepulchral woman called only "Weis", was famous for saying that the entire human spectrum of existence was theatre for the devil; her only gripe being that it was cast with amateurs.


Received in the mail today a letter from an old school chum who, exhumed from his home by visiting kin, was gobsmacked by a touring art installation.

According to my chum, on the ebbing side of the middle part of the last century, a Greek playground designer named Antithenes Tantopolis believed that "life lessons will be designed into the playscapes of children whilst they are at their play lessons." (Chum's wording? The Greek's? The letter is unclear.) Accordingly, an early prototype of the "Tantovelt slide" featured a 90-degree turn and a hole a foot wide immediately preceding the end of the slide.

Another Tantovelt piece was a set of monkey bars with "false grasps", or, hinged rubber "falling bars"--interspersed with the solid regular sort--that caused children to drop perilously close to the ground.

Not a horrible idea in a platonic sense, but perhaps the boardroom might've benefited from a lawyer's presence?

Reasonable people might marvel that such a patently dangerous concept could find expression in a world helmed by adults. Happily, I come bearing explanation: a relative of Tantopolis, who served as the headmaster of a private school in rural England, positively raved about his relation's forward-thinkingness and ingenuity; he gave the Greek designer his first and only contract, and was in the fullness of time found to be criminally insane. While the schoolmaster vanished from the human record, the so-called "Tantovelt slide" exists today as a traveling art installation upon which children are not, alas, permitted to play.


Well here's a little something novel for you: supping with a fellow lexicographer recently at a small, rustic clamshack conscientiously unadvertised to the touring throngs of lighthouse peepers, my colleague and I were delighted to make a linguistic discovery. The matron of the establishment, draped all over with laconic New England flesh ensconced within an old and obviously well-loved dress, asked us would we have biccum with our side salads. "Biccum?" we echoed, perplexed. After a sequence of feints, volleys, false surrenders and pincer movements, we managed to extract the word's biography from her.

"Biccum" is a salad dressing or dipping sauce incorporating bonemeal. Evidently originating in Finland (circa 17C), the process was born during an especially brutal winter. The bones of livestock were employed in making a nutrient-rich stock which was then "fined" (a process of thickening catalyzed by dried, minced fish bladder). The finished product made for a healthy and flavorful vegetable dressing.

And how did it taste? Savory yet mild, with a spot of chalk--or so reported my colleague. I am afraid my stomach's lifelong war against sauce curbed my appetite for the delicacy. (It probably didn't help that the matron refused to tell us from which animal the bones had been culled. One thinks, against one's will, of a sort of cannibal roulette: a depraved entertainment ancient Finns nicked from winter's white-feathered coat.)



Pronounced shuh-NEE-bull, this is a fascinating word I stumbled upon while in the midst of thrilling research into the history of the United States Postal Service. It would seem that in 1904, a small, ragged army of put-upon coal miners executed a coup of sorts in the Wisconsin village of Shaniebuhl. (Do not bother looking for it on a map. There is no way of knowing if it still exists, much less if it's still in Wisconsin.) Their intentions were egalitarian, their methods Soviet, their success, apparently, absolute.

By all accounts formerly an unassuming town off the beaten path and most likely destined for disintegration from the cold shoulder of the railroads, Shaniebuhl became a magnet for America's disaffected and disenfranchised laborers. In droves they shambled to the sparse Midwestern nowhere, buoyed by their hopes of the life unyoked, coal-blackened men and their teams of unlettered children and their wives with tired shoulders, strained backs and exhausted breasts, proud people all, and all submitted to the dream of a fair shake.

Emboldened, Shaniebuhl seceded from the United States and became a sovereign nation. The United States hardly noticed.

In Amish communities, when someone renounces the faith and leaves for less restricting pastures, their names are forbidden to be spoken. So it was with Shaniebuhl. Its name and address was erased from the continental 48. They were assiduously omitted from the census of 1910. Surrounding municipalities were surprised to find their jurisdictions suddenly bordered not by Shaniebuhl's slight territorial reach, but as if by nameless void. When the Eisenhower Interstate Highway System begridded the nation four decades later, a not unsizable portion of Wisconsin was intentionally exempted from coverage.

The practical implication to the larger world was that, short of traveling there, (if they could even find it), kith and kin of Shaniebuhl residents had no way of contacting them. Their letters were all returned as undeliverable. The interior Postal vernacular quickly adopted the word "shaniebuhl" to indicate a town that has no official existence.

A peculiar footnote to this tale is that the number of shaniebuhls documented by Postal historians has greatly increased over time, with exceptional proliferations at certain moments in the nation's history. Conscription, for instance, is a sure way to geometrically multiply formally nonexistent communities strewn invisibly throughout America. Imagine this land! these constellations of islands, unabsorbed, endowed by cowards, lying we know not where in our very midst!


An unblossomed bud, after Sister Agnes Plippis (1822-?), late of the Anglican Community of St. Margaret in Grinstead, England. For the majority of Sister Agnes's life, her green thumb was a thing of legend. "Where 'ere she walks," an Anglican broadsheet, The Golden Angle, proclaimed in the Spring of '64, "the earth warms and billows in verdant majesty. Sunflowers shoot enormous, tall and wide from the alighting bounces of her naked soles. As she but fondles a withered, starved shrubbery, blossoms of every variety seem to cascade from the palm of her hand, and the whole of the plant is restored as if by a divine breath to heartiest verdure."

Sister Agnes's faculty for horticulture was so extraordinary that in the winter of 1867 the church set about investigating her for possible canonization. It was around this time that she fell headlong in love with a notoriously impious (and married) landscaper whose company was called "The Haw Haw Gang." (As the most learned of my readers are no doubt aware, a haw haw, or ha ha, is a fence or bank stuck between slopes, or a ditch not seen until approached closely, employed in English gardens to fend off nosy beasts from spoiling tended land.) Abruptly a fallen woman, the church's investigation was dropped, Sister Agnes was exiled from the Community of St. Margaret, and was promptly abandoned by both her lover (who would later suffer a tragic accident, himself, involving a hoe) and her divinely imbued green thumb.

It is no wonder, then, how an unblossomed bud became known to Grinsteaders as a plippis. The real question is why would God be such a taunt and jackal as to give Agnes preternatural gifts and ruin her with one of them: the gift of passion? But, silly me, doesn't He do that kind of thing all the time?

Finally, on the macabre side of the ledger, we have the legend of Agnes's interment--or lack thereof. No one can say precisely when the unfortunate Plippis expired, and therefore what I am about to report is the wildest conjecture, but it is said that Sister Agnes went unburied into eternity, left to rot and melt again into the soil, like any plant removed from the light.



An optical illusion-producing pattern in tile; from Pettiere Dolachex, a Swiss plumber of the radical left who in the turbulent 20s scandalously employed his technique in the houses of bourgeoisie with the effect of disorienting them in their bathrooms. After he had been ousted from the Swiss Plumber's Union in bloody internecine warfare initiated - it was rumored - by insidious agents of the right, Judy Garland famously hired Dolachex to tile the grand staircase of her opulent Nice estate l'enfant a la fenetre, down which Charlie Chaplin, wearing Salvador Dali's monkey la Bonita around his shoulders, tumbled in the midst of a wild, week-long party in 1933. 

Pettiere Dolachex emigrated to the States and died (pot luck, casserole) the happy and fulfilled father of four, grandfather of seventeen, and is presently at rest in a family plot in Terra Haute next to his wife of 52-years, Vivianne. 


When someone deflects one question by answering another, they have engaged in a frambalism. Now a commonplace in political campaigns, the word is actually derived from a parlor game, called Frambala!, popular among America's idle rich in the early 20th century. The rules of the game were as follows: Say there are three participants; in the opening round, Person A is asked a question by both Persons B and C; Person A is required to answer one of them and not the other. In the next round, the interrogation rotates: Person B is quizzed by Persons A and C, and so on. The game evolves around the principle of malicious questioning, as questions the questioned are loathe to answer are ferreted-out and flung relentlessly at him. Frambala! was thus a particularly useful technique among America's landed aristocracy to feed gossip by tugging salacious truths from those reticent to share. The only reason to involve one's self in a match of Frambala! would be to extract enough dirty laundry from the other participants to vouchsafe one's own secrets in a collective pile of shame. While no definitive record exists of the game's incipient design, George Vanderbilt II is agreed-upon by a majority of scholars as having been the most ardent of Frambala!s early yea-sayers. The name of the game, as it were, is possibly the result of a blend of the words "frank" and "ramble." 

Whatever the details of the history, decades later Frambala! resurfaced in an unlikely place. Novelist John Clellon Holmes (who coined the term "beatnik") discovered lively rounds being played in Greenwich Village between such notable American men and women of letters as Jack and Jan Kerouac, Ken Kesey, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Elise Cowen, Diane DePrima, Joanne Kyger, Hettie Jones, Neal Cassidy and Alan Ginsberg. Indeed, it is surmised that a game of Frambala! led to the first known tryst between the latter two, for under the administration of the Beats the game adopted a decidedly lascivious nature. Rather than asking questions like knives surgically designed to eviscerate, this gang peppered each other with queries on art and literary history - the price of answering incorrectly was the removal of an article of clothing. 

According to my researches, New York Times reporter Jimmy Breslin was the first to apply the word "frambalism" in political coverage when he followed New York City's Mayor Abraham D. Beame on the campaign trail in 1974. Beame, little remembered now, was clearly as adept as any public servant in deflecting one question by answering another. 

Larschious Spirits

Larschious described a style of distilling spirits common to the rural poor of Iowa during the Prohibition. It was ostensibly linked to a recipe relied on by generations of native Sioux, and typically involved the use of nettle, tree bark, and black walnuts. Numbers are hard to come by, but folk history suggests the consumption of larschious spirits was a fatal transaction up to twenty-percent of the time. One midwestern farmer described the flavor of a larschious gin as like that of "a lake turned-over," going on to remark that "some thought beet made it better; some said cold, others hot...but it never tasted better." Larschious poisoning was attributed in the 1923 death of Archie Nickels, who one Des Moines baseball enthusiast called "a better pure ballplayer than Joe Jackson." Larschious graveyards speckled the plains in a decrepit carpet of testimony to the casualties of poverty, alcoholism and Progressivism. When resorting to particularly desperate measures, the tragic besotted would stuff their larschious stills with ragweed, clover, Jake, or even the ghastly tomato worm.   

I would be remiss in failing to note that there never was found any solid documentation bridging the Sioux Indians with larschious distilleries. Some have speculated that the viral, intoxicating potion was, in fact, a colossal and - dare I say - savage practical joke played on the colonizers of a vast mean land by those suborned and quartered who may have remembered, even then, the story of a freely given blanket whose warmth was a killing fever. 


A stangler is a member of a quasi-secretive fraternal society of New Englanders whose fathers were killed in fishing accidents. Many members would tattoo the word "stangler" to their chins and grow beards - this stemming from a tale oft told of a bearded seaman who died on a trawler in a terrible gale in Massachusetts waters and whose tradition-starting tattoo was revealed upon his death. The word itself is derived from "stupid angler," a criticism frequently leveled - and drunkenly, slurringly so - at recreational fishers by the father of the Order's anonymous founder. This inebriated old salt died at sea, and his son applied the term to him disparagingly, and yet, as with many stories of fathers and sons, ranging back to perhaps Cain and Enoch, perhaps even predating biblical genealogy into the primordial soup of offspring and -springer, the Fraternal Order of Stanglers was established to countenance the quiet and everlasting grief felt so acutely by the grown boy bereft of his daddy. It is said that in the village of Prides Crossing, Massachusetts, Essex County, a seaside tavern closes at irregular hours once a week and the doors open only for men shuffling slowly in, a weight upon them not sufficiently explained by their long, thick beards.  


A crime of some sophistication executed with such flawless methodology that the perpetrator is not only never apprehended, but a convincing suspect is never even investigated. Pronounced to rhyme with "crudite," it should come as no surprise that this word derives from French. In 1957, Emanuelle Fiecundite was a gallic painter of shady origins. Letters were addressed to the elusive artiste both Mr. and Ms., his or her visage was completely unknown, any self-portraits only dubiously guessed-at and, in any case, too perplexingly amateurish to offer any concrete insight. Fiecundite had no sons or daughters, or friends, or parents, or brothers or sisters. Though for the most part - in my estimation rightly - overlooked, for a moment at the end of the sixth decade of the 20th century, this enigmatic artist was exhibited in the august halls of the Parisian Musee d'Orsay. This exceptionally viewer-friendly museum's holdings date from 1848 and include, today, Kandinskys, Picassos, Matisses, and no more the three Fiecundite works (called, respectively, Fiecundite Un, Fiecundite Deux, Fiecundite Trois) that represented simultaneously the culmination of an invisible life dedicated to bad painting, and a moment of surpassingly poor judgment on the part of the museum's curators, for in '57 they were expertly pilfered by unknown agents. Detectives at the time marveled at the unparalleled professionalism of the thief, or thieves, who left absolutely no trace of his or their presence save the absence of the Fiecundite trio, while art critics and collectors were beside themselves with rage over the inexpressible bad taste of the crime, which left numerous priceless masterpieces on the walls. Fiecundite himself (or herself) was, of course, the first person the Prefecture of Police sought out following the heist, only to discover that the artist had died in mysterious circumstances involving a swimming pool, a hot air balloon, and quite possibly a sling shot. In Fiecundite's last will and testament, everything (which wasn't much) had been bequeathed to the American entertainer Jackie Gleason, who had never heard of Fiecundite. The paintings, such as they were, have never been seen again. 


While I do not myself indulge in the reading of children's books, I have been led to understand that the Harry Potter series, by British authoress J.K. Rowling, met with some success in the publishing world in recent years. The word blantamold stems from that franchise, having circulated with alarming rapidity in London circles - with apparently nothing better to do - prior to the release of the sixth novel. I leaned on various sundry young acquaintances for the following explanation. Perhaps you can make sense of it (I most certainly cannot):

Blantamold is a fungus that grows upon the mortal wounds of those whose death is a result of something called the Imperius Curse. It was rumored that, in The Half-Blood Prince, a villain absurdly named Draco Malfoy was to acquire some of the fungus ultimately from the corpse of someone else called Broderick Bodie. The lethal stuff would have been originally collected by Dementors (whatever they are) at the direction of a Lord Voldemort, shuttled thence to the villain Malfoy's devious father Lucius, and on to his son, who was instructed to introduce the blantamold in the form of dried tea, or something, anonymously gifted to the hero, Harry Potter. Blantamold was said to induce the poisoned to fratricide, matricide, patricide, or infanticide. Evidently, it was hoped by Malfoy et al that Potter would exercise the third of that unpleasant quartet on a sage called Dumbledore, who was - I am told - the nearest thing to a father figure the unfortunate boy had. In so doing, the child would vilify himself while erasing an obstacle to the "Dark Lord's" triumphant return to power. I don't know. Maybe it means something to you.

Though Rowling is mute on the subject, it is conjectured that, thinking it overly macabre, she abandoned blantamold, leaving it, I gather, to grow benignly on Broderick Bodie's fatal Death Snare wound.


The Appapaloif Zipper

This was the nickname of a diminutive pugilist famous for a brief time in the last decade of the 19th century. An unlikely heavyweight, the Zipper stayed for the most part on the periphery of the American boxing scene, competing for small purses in bare-knuckle bouts held as far away from local New England police as possible. In his posthumously published memoir "What I Seen," Hall of Fame sportswriter Ring Lardner recalled watching the Zipper as a young boy:

Thirteen years old and I knew then and there I'd never forget the sight: this fellow about knee-high to a grasshopper so fast in the ring it was a pure human blaze of frenetic, unrestrained violence. Before the bell had stopped humming on the first round's gong the Appapaloif Zipper was cutting the big round face of his bruiser opponent to ribbons with hook and cross, jab and cross, jab jab jab roundhouse. He was a swarmer if ever a swarmer there was. The big guy unfortunate enough to be on the other side of the purse didn't last to the third. It was like watching a building engulfed in flies, only the flies were one person and two fists. When the guy didn't get up after a ten count, the Zipper did the splits. I think it was his signature.

By all accounts, the Zipper enjoyed as much success as his stature would permit for a handful of years. Many of the reigning boxers of his day refused to fight him on account of perceiving the matchup unfair - ostensibly for the Zipper. Then Gentleman Jim Corbett agreed to a bout and did not step into the ring blindly. He had heard all about the Appapaloif Zipper's technique and was ready for it. His career, typified by frantic acceleration and breakneck speed, ended just as abruptly. The fight began, the Zipper raced across the ring, and Gentleman Jim flattened him with one devastating hook. Not long after this he was committed to an insane asylum, leaving behind his wife - a mute - and their three boys Proctor, Gamble, and Ajax. It was eventually learned that the Zipper's Christian name was Appa Paloif. It was only that he spoke so fast that people thought it either his last name or the town of his birth. 

You may well be curious as to how I know so much about this strange little man. Well, I'll tell you: my father Brandeis (may he burn in hell), long a champion of the underdog, was personally avid about the Zipper. Much of my largely intolerable childhood was whiled away listening to tales of the spirited warrior Gentleman Jim ended with one stroke. 


A center cut of meat from the extinct African Tuxedo Monkey (known as such for its peculiar coloration: the Tuxedo Monkey was sheer white save three black "buttons" on its chest, black "sleeves" and a curiously correct black "bow-tie"), killed off by colonizing French poachers and gourmands in the northwest of the continent. Belf meat, described by the famous American big game hunter Donovan Scribes in a letter home in 1921 as "tasting of pork, only porkier," was believed to possess aphrodisiacal properties while simultaneously fortifying the consumer against the contraction of venereal disease. While there is no historical forensic evidence supporting this claim, the belief was broadly held, as suggested by the recent entry of "Belvy, the Safe Sex Monkey" in a contest hosted by the government of Ethiopia to determine a sexual education mascot. Though a snappy dresser (Belvy donned a penguin suit, of course), he lost.   


The Tansecky Shuffle

On the Oregon Trail in the early 19th century, in the vicinity of what came to be known as Tansecky Pass in the Rocky Mountains, Wyoming, Rosalyn and Herdon Tansecky had a child too sickly to bear the rigors and privations of continued travel. Stuck, Herdon sent a nephew back to Cheyenne, where his brother-in-law, a man named Roebuck, had accumulated a tidy fortune in dry goods and livestock. The nephew was dispatched with instructions not to return without a deal having been struck that would secure the Tansecky's at least until the child was well-enough to travel, or buried. Roebuck, a skinflint relentless in his usury, came through but with terms that would saddle the Tansecky's with a debt they'd never see the end of. The nephew returned with a caravan of goods and Herdon, having stayed still long enough to witness the ceaseless flow of fellow wayfarers making the same trek - most all of whom registered some biting need - undertook to plant the Tansecky flag for so long as was necessary to exhume his kin from the mountain of debt freshly piled atop them and to wave it over a trading post, provisioned on loan from Roebuck and managed with pinchpenny hawkishness by an unyieldingly bottom-line oriented Tansecky clan.

A Tansecky Shuffle occurs in a system of barter when something of demonstrably far-greater objective value is surrendered by a party to secure something of immediate and urgent need. Arguably the first Tansecky shuffle (at least in the lives of Herdon and Rosalynd) occurred when this small band of Oregon trailblazers traded the destiny of their common dream, which undoubtedly lay to the west of the Rockies, for a life of remorseless poverty huddled amid the unforgiving mountains, in order to save the life of their child. Yet another Tansecky shuffle was won (although, it should be noted, there are no clear winners or losers in a Tansecky shuffle, as the neediest among us, when quenched of his mortal thirst, is as rich as the richest of us) by the brother-in-law Roebuck, who mercilessly leveled interest on a loan that, while representing, to be sure, no mean divestiture of his own wealth, vouchsafed the at least temporary security of the Tansecky babe. Incidentally, the fate of said child is unknown to history. What is known is that, for the seventy-plus years that it hung an open sign on its door, the Tansecky Pass Trading Post ruthlessly plied its own shuffles on those who stumbled in needing water, a new horse, some jerky, or a drum of fat. While no one was ever turned away outright, they did pay dearly for what they most needed.


Containing elements of the words "sliver," "volley" and, especially, "shiv," it should come as no surprise that this euphonious word refers to a weapon and that, considering its Piccadillyesque tonal arrangement, it originates in the Australian outback circa early 19th century. The nature of the word, however, brought me very nearly to tears alternately from the comic portent of its meaning and from the truly despicable circumstances of its coinage. It merely follows the dictates of reason that, upon establishment of their peculiar nation, Australian's denizens - the sloughed of England's empire - found fit to establish their own network of jails...as perhaps it can be said of viruses that viruses grow on them as well. In one exceptionally miserable jail in the New South Wales penal colony (this christened New Newgate and well prior to the signing and ratification of the Australian Capital Territory Act of 1911), the unspeakable practice arose among the jailed - stripped as they were of all implements of violence outside their fists, brains and feet - of using food to attack each other. Casting light on this darkness is the following diary excerpt from a New Newgate warden named Hitchins, dated January 12th, 1874 (in which the initial C is understood to abbreviate the word convict):

"Conditions worsened. C. Arf gave C. Wilbers the Slivolly with a Blade whiddled (sic) from froze Porridge. Cut his Throat."

On February 7th the staff of life was used to bludgeon to death:

"C. Simovich pelted mortally with Volly (sic) of Hardtack Biscuit. If keeping track out there score now Slivolly Seven/Warden Zilch."

And again only three days later:

"Guard Eckhardt strangulated with Rotted Tubors. Filthiest Slivolly yet."

The word seemed to occupy an adaptable position straddling noun and verb. One could slivolly someone else using a slivolly. Perhaps there is a lesson to be learned here about the derivation of words from abhorrent acts: the caprice necessarily involved...sustenance is perverted into lethality and our vocabulary adopts a torpor, an immoral flexibility to accomodate it. 

O Slivolly. It is to laugh...and cry... 



As a young girl, right around the time she was betrothed - at seven - to Henry V, Holy Roman Emperor, Matilda (or Maud) (or Maude) invented the game of Tippins, later employed on a wide scale and for unnumbered centuries by Royal subjects on the occasion of the monarch's birthday. Matilda's reign, though lasting only eight months in the year 1114, incited the ire of Britannia, who believed her haughty, too-foreign, and generally ill-tempered. The game of Tippins was taken up en masse explicitly to mock the Empress Matilda (even now, her name is often omitted from Britain's royal chronology), whose authorship of Tippins they ostensibly believed precious, and whose continued fancy for it they seemingly took as evidence of a delusional mind. The rules of the game itself are completely lost to history. We know only that it revolved around the acquisition of pieces of string beaded with small, wafer-heavy handmade objects (or tippins), and that its popular variant was almost never joined without accompanying volumes of English ale; alas, this no doubt contributes to the historical obliteration of the game's rules. There did endure, however, until very recently, a vocabulary of Tippins, involving such turns of phrase as seen in this gem from an anonymous, untitled tract found scribbled over the faded newsprint of a Piccadilly Picayune from 1842:

"Oy, Mary's all Tucked. It's thrice Tippins to you she's truced or I'm squabbled. "

Among the detritus found elsewhere in the written word's effluvial outpour scattered amongst 21st C.E. England, I have stumbled upon references to "the Tippins trapeze" and "triumph Tippins!" The former seeming to indicate the treacherous skirting of dire straits, the latter a rousing and final success. 



During a period of approximately three years in the first decade of the 20th century, Berlin's Jewish community was entranced by the image of one of its own: Yehuda Plizvitz, a young playboy considered by one and all to be the most dapper, dashing fellow born in generations. The sartorially resplendent Plizvitz enjoyed a fame, for three brief years, the likes of which could only be appreciated by the still-to-come Holy Triumvirate of Houdini, Chaplin and Einstein. Then, almost overnight, the people whose adoration had elevated him to a messianic fever of celebrity and renown came to the sudden realization that, as a matter of fact, Yehuda Plizvitz was only marginally attractive and that he didn't even wear matching clothes. He became the embarrassment of his culture, and his name, in Yiddish slang, synonymous with someone incapable of wearing matching colors. Note the feminine: plizvitza. Morton Schlomz, protagonist in the high modern, Jewish-American novelist Schlomo Mortonfeld's final book, Fishmonger's Song, described a tryst with "a funny-smelling plizvitza what couldn't evidently remember a color as long as it took to look from one sock to the next." 

Alas, no pictures remain of Yehuda Plizvitz. It seems reasonable to hypothesize that they were incinerated and quick.

Deadly Milkwaist

In the Autumn of 1756, Lady Marjorie Parks-Sand, a botanist accompanying an expedition through the Alps, discovered the milkwaist, a species of flower belonging to the exceedingly rare dioecious population in which all plants are either androecious (male, pollen producing) or gynoecious (female, seed producing). It is not known how Lady Parks-Sand settled on the name for this beautiful and almost impossible-to-find flower - indeed very little is known of her relationship to her discovery, as she was also the first victim of the male of the species, the deadly milkwaist, whose pollen contains a poison fatal to humans. The benign female, however, thrived for a brief period as an exorbitantly expensive delicacy popular especially among the Romanov's ruling house of Russia. As with many other bourgeoise appetites, the harvest of milkwaists was repressed by the Bolsheviks and since all but forgotten. For a time, however, the peculiar nature of the plight of the milkwaist had a foot in the verse of not insignificant poesy, as this sample taken from H. Robert Mendel's 1914 elegy, "O, Unanswering Night" shows:

My woman, my delicate one, uprooted...
May they in their heaven dine on yours,
whilst I like deadly milkwaist await revenge,
plotting amidst a legion of widowers. 


Pronounced "care-a-geen" by the Australian Aborigines and rhymed with "margarine" in American English, chargerine is a spice derived from certain coral rocks found predominantly in the Pacific Rim, off the shores of Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Australia, and in the Caribbean. Lately fallen into fashion among the eco-hungry crowd, chargerine is purchased as small rocks and then ground. Added to seafood - especially Creole cuisine - it is a potent, spicy, salty mineral. According to Aboriginal legend, the eldest son of a dead patriarch eats, at the occasion of the latter's funeral, a meal heavily seasoned with chargerine, and in so doing channels the best parts of the departed soul. In Aboriginal lore, the souls of men wade into the sea, while women's congregate under trees.



The braythistle is a larger-than-average chocolate brown bird with iridescent blue spots. A desert bird and herbivore, the braythistle has a high-pitched staccato call and survives almost exclusively on the milk of cacti. Once a staple of cowboy poetry, the braythistle symbolized proximity to water. Curiously, braythistle was also a word denoting an architectural feature of medieval fortresses, in which spike-studded iron lattice-works were used to brace windows against attack.