Tales from a Misinformed Dictionary – A couple of critters, the Shalloon and Muscat

Shalloon: 1) a shalloon is a subspecies of North American loon. Shallow lakes are its preferred domicile. 2) a shalloon is an odd-shaped balloon which resembles a nearly flat bowl. Long-suffering parents use them as a corrective for toddlers who constantly beg for traditional round or oblong balloons.

Luna laughed more than your typical loon, even more than her fellow shalloons of shallow Lake Walloon in Walloomsac, Maine. The Walloomsac shalloons are well-known, though not well-loved, for their riotous laughter. She was not the funniest, perhaps, but certainly the giggliest loon ever to glide along the tickling, rippling waves of the lake. One day, over one thousand balloons appeared, looking like shallow cereal bowls without the cereal, floating silhouettes in an orange sunset sky. Some days before, a throng of cheering children set them free as a promotion for a new corndog restaurant in Wadsac, New Jersey. As each balloon drifted down, the loon population of Lake Walloon snatched them in their beaks and popped them. Luna had trouble catching one, since she was laughing so hard. Then all of a sudden she grabbed what appeared to be a tasty-looking flapjack – she loved flapjacks with or without maple syrup. She bit down hard and there was a sudden hissing noise sounding like one of those angry swans that visited Lake Walloon now and again. Instead of flapjack Luna held flattened rubber. She guffawed, she chuckled, she let out a hoot and then the wildest, loudest loonish laughter ever heard in those parts, or for that matter, anywhere else. It was the only time in history – as far as we know – that two kinds of shalloons got together.

Actual meaning: A lightweight twilled fabric of wool or worsted mainly employed for linings of coats and uniforms.

Muscat: a muscat is a rare subspecies of muskrat known for its powerful ability to mimic musical modes, combining eerie vocalizing with a percussive tail. Uniquely, the muscat of Muskellunge, Idaho, offers the most impressive muscatorial specialty of all – scat singing. In fact, for centuries jazz singers have journeyed to Muskellunge in often vain hopes of catching the melodious scatting of this elusive beast, which sings only on the fourth Monday of the fifth month every sixteen years every other century. The word scat, contrary to popular belief, does not derive its original meaning from certain mammalian emissions or for the common epithet hurled at bothersome cats, but from the wondrous music of the muscat of Muskellunge, Idaho.

On Monday, May 25, 2122, renowned jazz artist Bebop Horne slipped and slid down the banks of the Muskellunge River in Muscatoomi, Idaho. Clambering up the sides of a disused beaver hutch, he hunkered down and waited patiently for hours and hours. At last, just before dusk, and after slapping polyrhythmically at the ever-increasing clouds of gnats, Bebop heard something stir, musically that is. At first it was a ground beat, half-diminished, followed by an intense fusion of diatonic boogie with augmented chromatic syncopation. He sat there, ignoring the gnats, spellbound. The following day, slathered from head to toe in calamine lotion, Bebop Horne composed and then recorded his tribute to the muscat, improvising on the famous old 20th century standard, “Muscat Man,” originally created by the master scatter, Scatmo Riff, and released on his seminal LP, Jamming the Wild Muscat. By late July, “Muscat Man 2122” reached #1 on the newly created Adult Contemporary Heavy Scat Chart, making Bebop Horne a trillionaire, while the muscats stilled their voices once again for the next two hundred years.

Actual meaning: A musky-scented grape, white, red or black, used for wine, raisins and as a table grape. Also, the capital of Oman.

4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. eliseteitelbaum
    Sep 23, 2012 @ 16:51:41

    The joys of language and Fred’s famous flights of fancy!


  2. Fred Burwell
    Sep 23, 2012 @ 17:31:35

    Thank you, Elise. I’m beginning to think I might just have the beginnings of a bestiary with, among others, the vizard, the biramous, the shalloon and the muscat! Stay tuned.


  3. Christina Wilsdon
    Sep 25, 2012 @ 10:18:54

    What, given the muscat’s rare arias, are the mathematical chances of encountering a muscat singing on the same lake at the same time that said lake is afloat with shalloons of both types? Inquiring minds want to know


    • Fred Burwell
      Sep 25, 2012 @ 10:59:21

      Thanks for reading, Christina. Although the mathematical chances are miniscule, the possibility exists…and now you’ve given me an idea for another story! Once I’ve filled up my “bestiary” with enough endearing (and not so endearing) critters, I’ll write a story that somehow manages to include all of them!


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