Extinction event

"Oh, that's sad," I remarked: "it says here that a native American language went extinct this week, when the last man who could speak it died."

"I wonder what his last words were," said Jen. "Mind you, so did everyone else."


For reasons I won't bother you with, I was thinking about the syllable pib yesterday.

As syllables go, it's not all that unusual: consonant-vowel-consonant, easy to pronounce, not an actual word—but there's no reason on earth why it couldn't be.

Then I tried to think of words which begin with the syllable pib. I eventually came up with pibald.

I found pibald a totally unsatisfactory answer to my self-imposed challenge to find a word beginning pib_ for two reasons: (1) piebald is how I (and, I hope, most other people) would normally spell the word, and, more importantly, (2) the letters P, I, B are not pronounced as a single syllable: it's pi-bald. Like I said, totally unsatisfactory.

So I racked my brains for a while, trying to come up with another word which begins pib_. I failed.

So I've just looked in my Compact Oxford English Dictionary (the full-hit dictionary printed so small that it comes with a magnifying glass to help you read it), and here are the pib_ words listed in it:

  • pibald
    already got that one!
  • pibil/pibble/pible
    an obsolete spelling of pebble
  • pibble-pabble
    an alteration of bibble-babble (obviously)
  • pibcorn
    an obsolete word for a form of hornpipe formerly used in Wales
  • pibling
    some famous writer's misspelling of pipling (the dolt!)
  • piblokto
    a form of hysterical illness in Eskimo dogs (no, really!)
  • pibroach/pibrach
    variations on a particular musical theme for bagpipes in the Scotch (sic) Highlands

So now I know.

I wonder why so few words begin with pib_.

(Don't get me started on beb_.)


BBC: Pro-family groups call Rome rally

Pro-family groups are holding a rally in the Italian capital, Rome, to protest against legislation giving more rights to homosexual couples.

Pro-family: is that what they're calling themselves these days?

Well, it does sound so much nicer than homophobic god-bothering bigots.


A man on the telly just said, "There's no such word as can't."

Yes there bloody well is.

I think you'll find he meant to say, "There's no such word as frintlebury."

Define 'pedantic'

BBC: eBay 'sorry' over policy change

Auction website eBay has apologised for not giving sellers enough notice about a change to the way it lists items…

Peter Jones says his business has been 'decimated', with sales down 90%.

I don't want to kick a man when he's down, but it's far worse than that, Mr Jones: the literal meaning of decimated is down by 10%.


Until I met Stense, I didn't know the meaning of the word ditzy.

That came out all wrong. What I mean is that, until I heard Stense use it, I was not even aware of the word ditzy. Likewise schlep. Ditto filmic. That's three new words in sixteen years.

Apparently, until she met me, Stense didn't know the meaning of the word asshat. You can't say our friendship hasn't been mutually educational (in a ratio of 3:1).

Last week, Stense sent me a text message intended for someone else, the ditzy cow.

Her words, not mine.

The Ys have it

New Scientist: This is no way to save the whales

For a graphic example of science being abused for political and sentimental ends look no further than the debate over whaling.

I'm not going to comment on the above article (the bulk of which is locked away behind a New Scientist, subscriber-only paywall), but cop a load of the author's name: James (I kid you not) Hrynyshyn!

Do you see what he's done? He's taken his real surname (which is presumably some foreign equivalent of Harrison) and replaced all the vowels with the letter y. That is so totally cool.

Some time ago, I toyed with the idea of changing my name to Richaard Caarter in a sort of tribute to Søren Kierkegaard, but this idea with the ys is so much better:

Rychyrd Cyrtyr, just imagine that! Don't you just love the (for want of a better word) Welshness of it?

Or is it just a tad too Lynyrd Skynyrd?