Tales from a Misinformed Dictionary – Phonolite

Tales from a Misinformed Dictionary

Phonolite: From the ancient Phoenician, phoenolyte. Posited by archaeo-climatologists as a complicated temperature scale measuring temperature via the digestive tract of domesticated ungulates and the quality of light as witnessed through the prismatic spectrum.

Unlike his ever-trading brethren in nearby Phoenician cities, herdsman Itthobaal Milkherem (translation: Joe Smith) preferred a quiet life wandering the meadows, ruminating with his flock of cows. One day, while searching for his absent mind, Itthobaal concluded that by listening closely to the sounds of cud chewing and comparing the chorus of masticatory melodies with the varying qualities of light, he was able to determine whether he felt hot, warm, cool or cold. Later that night in their hut, after he expounded upon his new theory, Itthobaal’s wife scolded him. “You don’t need a scale to tell you that, you silly shepherd!” she said.

But Itthobaal was convinced that in phoenolyte, he’d made a discovery for the ages. And so one day he set out on a pilgrimage, spreading his newly coined word which people found useful as conversation filler, even if they had no idea what it meant. The musically adventurous plucked the scale on their lyres, but the music sounded more flatulent than tuneful and left the musicians cold, even on a hot day. However, Itthobaal spread the news near and far, culminating in a visit to the famous Oracle of Delphi where he set up a ballpark hot dog stand and lived the rest of his life in obscurity because no one had invented baseball yet.

Intriguingly, wandering nomads, known for their concern about properly maintaining body heat, used the phoenolyte scale intermittently through successive centuries, eventually wandering (nomadically) as far away as the Falkland Islands, where penguins preferred it over the confusion created by the constantly in-fighting firm of scientists, Kelvin, Celsius and Fahrenheit.

The phonolite scale, as we call it today, remained regrettably lost in the so-called mists of thyme, until rediscovered by audio archaeologists sifting through thousands of hours of tapes recorded by Falkland military herbologist and amateur sound technician, Sir Fernando Lemmingwild-Hough, whose parents met during the infamous Falkland Island war between Argentina, Great Britain and Herb Wadsack, a character from a simulated computer game. Once they decoded the unusually complex penguin dialect, linguists discovered a previously unknown, long forgotten temperature scale. After a decade of peer-reviewed journaling, they passed on to archaeologists what they mildly referred to as “this ersatz pseudo-scientific mumbo-jumbo claptrap.” The archaeologists passed it on to cultural anthropologists, who passed it on to top level government scientists, who passed it on to low level climatologists who had enough on their hands with global warming. Plus, as devotees of heavy metal, they refused to use the scale because the name “phonolite” made them think of “easy listening music.” And so, Itthobaal Milkherem’s intriguing theory is today no more than an obscure historical footnote, although there’s a colony of penguins on the march who think otherwise.

Actual meaning: a rare, light-colored (usually gray or green) volcanic rock composed of feldspars and nepheline. The name in Greek means “sounding stone.”

Tales from a Misinformed Dictionary – Virustatic

Tales from a Misinformed Dictionary
Virustatic: 1) a he-man so muscle-bound and manly that he becomes entirely incapable of moving. 2) a virulent variety of static disparaged by some and hailed by others for inconveniently disrupting radio and television transmissions.

Gurp was the youngest son of the once world-renowned former wrestler and gubernatorial candidate, Ferd Ferdelance. After a long-suffering youth in which he witnessed his father’s downfall, Ferd was determined not to make the same mistakes and wind up a lonely cleaner out of cages at the Minnetonkan Herpetarium. But what to do instead? “Why am I here?” he pondered. “What am I here for?”

He lifted weights, barbells, bookcases, buckets of sand, bags of bilbos, boxes of Special K, whatever was handy. Soon he sported bulging muscles rippling up and down his arms and legs and ears. His chest expanded exponentially. His shoulders broadened broadly. His nose grew several inches and was capable of lifting a 40 pound dog all on its own. Gurp kept hoisting and heaving until one day he lifted his house off of its foundation, carried it to the city park, where he beat his chest in triumph and then discovered that he had become virustatic. One by one his fingers froze in place. Gurp could no longer lift anything, not even a speck of dust. His tongue was so muscle-bound he could no longer speak. He couldn’t even bat an eyelash at one of the growing crowd of attractive women staring at him. He just stood in the one position, a haven for passing pigeons and scolding squirrels. Passersby couldn’t help thinking of the Tin Woodman in the Wizard of Oz at the time of his discovery in the dismal forest by the Dark Prince of Hollywood. Some joker poured a little oil in Gurp’s oversized ear, hoping to loosen him up, but the stuff just dripped into a slick puddle at his feet.

Meanwhile, in a nearby office building, an aged secretary named Mildred plugged in an antiquated coffee-maker and one of those newfangled toaster ovens at the same time(she liked her morning cottage cheese warmed up), causing an immediate and complete breakdown in communications networks throughout the known world and a few other places, too, such as Akron, Ohio. Ever on the spot, Washington officials proclaimed a national emergency over a bizarre condition their top scientists were calling “Virustatic.” “Stay calm!” they assured the populace in their initial broadcast. “All will be well! Stay tuned! This is not a test!” But of course not a soul heard them. Deejays tapped their microphones in bewilderment and then listened to them, as if hoping something might hatch. Soap opera stars, used to live TV, slipped on their soapy tears and no one cried. Newscasters cast news into the wind, which threw back dead air.

After two days of panic, a wiseacre garage attendant named Slim Jim Flimm, walked into the city park, sidled up to the new statue (Gurp), pulled out two old-fashioned television rabbit ears from his deep pockets, and employing his pocket blowtorch, welded them to Gurp’s muscular head. Instantly, all of the radio and television networks revived, saving the lives of thousands of despondent broadcasters. Authorities had no explanation for the mysterious Virustatic onslaught (in Germany they called it “Virustaaaaticgottfriedsonglutenjammer,” in Italy, “Virustaticcisalami”) or its sudden resolution.

Now most days, rain or shine, Slim Jim Flimm hunkers down by the smiling statue, shares a sandwich with the head-nodding pigeons and a quiet laugh with Gurp, who at long last seems to have found some purpose in life.

Actual meaning: tending to check the growth of viruses.

Tales from a Misinformed Dictionary – Petrifaction

Tales from a Misinformed Dictionary
Petrifaction: 1) when someone is frightened out of their wits, hair standing on end, goose bumps approaching the size of hummingbird eggs, saucers as big as eyes 2) The “PetriFaction” is a politically motivated anarchistic coterie whose sole purpose is to create such unreasonable and unknowable terror as to paralyze any and all governmental bodies.

Fearless Ferd was a professional wrestler acclaimed for his unruly yard-long mop of hair and his uncanny ability to win every wrestling match that came his way, from sumo wrestlers to mountain gorillas to the arithmetical problem puzzling the professor down the street since 1972. So fearless and courageous was Ferd that he had never known a moment of petrifaction in his life, except perhaps once when he found himself surprisingly vulnerable to post nasal drip (he much preferred “pre”). Thankfully, the pontificatory press and his fervent, though as it turned out, fair-weather, fans never got wind of this tragic failing, and as he grew more and more powerful, he found himself increasingly interested in politics. One day (fortunately during an election year), he decided to run for governor of Minnetonka under the aegis of the “Ferdelance Party,” named, not as it was commonly supposed, after Ferd himself, but after his pet venomous viper, Ferdelance, whom he nominated as his running mate (allowed under an extremely obscure Minnetonkan law created as a sub-attachment to a bill passed in 1857).

Little did Ferd know that moments after his initial speechifying, his very own political machine became infiltrated by powerful members of the notorious PetriFaction, a group so nefarious, so unencumbered by charity and good will, so egregiously vocabulary-challenged, that no one had ever actually heard of them. Through highly negative campaign tactics, which included fear-mongering, gossip-mongering, fishmongering, and costermongering, as well as subliminal advertising and sublime televangelizing, the PetriFaction created such a paralytic state-wide gridlock that Ferd cruised to an amazing 96.2% election tally. However, when the dust settled and the graft graphed, it was the vituperative viper, Ferdelance, who actually became governor. The sneaky snake’s first step was to appoint Formerly Fearless Ferd as Chief Visionary Director of Cleaning out Cages (CVDCC) at the Minnetonkan Herpetarium, a lost soul, forever paralyzed by his new-found petrifaction. His only solace, as he darted in and out of cages, valiantly avoiding reptilian zeal, was a lonely late night hotdog slathered with mustard and grape jelly and then turned inside out with the bun tucked tidily within.

Actual meaning of petrifaction: A process of fossilization or petrifying, turning organic material into stone.

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.

Tales from a Misinformed Dictionary – Sudorific

Sudorific: Sudorific evolved from two words, “suds,” meaning the lather one creates from mixing soap with water, and “orifice,” meaning a mouth, or some such bodily cavity, or in layman’s terms, “opening.” Thus, the earliest definition of sudorific was “soap suds in mouth,” occasionally useful as a threat to the wayward child. However, as the centuries passed and the word “terrific” fizzed into popularity, “sudorific” came to mean “truly outstanding suds.” Both definitions continued in use, then gave way as a slang term gained currency in street talk, i.e.: “incredibly cool beer, dude.” German psychologist, Helmut Himmelspachendorfindoppelgangerfenstermacher coined the related term, “pseudorific,” after downing fourteen sudorific beers at the Schweinhund Cafe in Heidelberg. Pseudorific means, loosely translated, “Something one expects to be remarkably good, but is a pale imitation. Like sweet smelling soap with dud suds. Or flat, sudless beer.”

Mickey O’Hara was in trouble. He’d come to work in the mailroom under the influence, although no one could figure out just what influence he came to work under. But one look at his strange, shambling gait as he stumbled into a movable mail bin, sending it careening into his supervisor, Ned Shned, and his condition was obvious. “Oops, sorry, man,” said Mickey.

Ned was immediately aware of the sudorific bubbles leaking out of Mickey’s ears, a sure sign of sudorific imbibing. Ned was about to send Mickey home to sleep it off, when he thought better of it. He was extremely tired of pseudorific sudorific bubbles and pseudorific sudorific beer. The real stuff was unfailingly scarce since the economy went down some tubes or other only to spew out a month later as a confounding morass of political pabulum. Now everything was black market. You couldn’t buy a bar of soap worth its salt (unfortunately the pseudorific types were made of nothing but salt, which irrigated the skin – or was it irritated, Ned could never remember which). You couldn’t buy a beer without gagging on its pseudorific flavor, which always reminded Ned of strained sock juice. He pulled Mickey aside and pretended to be examining the postmarks on a batch of envelopes. Feeling damp around the edges, Mickey whipped out a Kleenex to wipe the suds off his shoulders. They both felt the intensely curious stares of the other workers in the room. Even the mail sorting machines seemed passingly interested. Ned Shned spoke first. “Uh, Mick, uh, where did you, uh, you know…”

“You mean?”


“Well, I…”



“Uh huh.”

“Or you could…”


Hannah Holepunch, the office manager, known for her ability to slice four hundred pages at a time with the paper cutter, came to the rescue and as always, cut right to the quick. “Stop this dilly-dallying, higgledy-piggledy, wishy-washy, mollycoddling, comme ci comme ca speechifying,” she cried, although no one had the faintest idea what she meant. However, the two men immediately stopped hemming and hawing. “WHERE’S THE SUDS?” Hannah asked. “Tell me right now or I’ll stick you in a padded envelope and mail you to a padded cell where you’ll never see the light of day again.”

Mickey turned nearly as white as one of the envelopes in Ned’s hands, although he was sure that only in fiction does anyone ever actually turn white as a sheet, and of course this wasn’t fiction, but reality…wasn’t it? “On the outskirts of town there’s a little night spot,” he said.

“No there isn’t,” said Hannah. “That’s the beginning of an old song. Don’t you fool with me.”

He tried again. “Out in the west Texas town of El Paso, I fell in love with a…”

“That’s another song! Tell me or else!”

He tried once more. “In a little border town, way down there in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico.”

“You’re getting closer, but that’s still a song.”

When Hannah wielded her staple gun, Mickey finally caved in. “O.K. Go left on Central Avenue, down Pleasant two blocks and enter the second green door in the non-descript yellow shack with blue shutters shaped like one of the great pyramids.”

“You call that non-descript?”

Mickey nodded. “You got it. That’s where the suds are, the most sudorific suds ever found in this here land.”

“Music to my ears,” said Hannah, flying out of the room. Letters fluttered, packages fell, and a leaning tower of postcards toppled, as the room emptied, leaving Mickey alone. A strange gleam lit his eye as well as the small silver flask he pulled from his pocket. Was the gleam pseudorific or sudorific? No one ever found out. No one ever saw Mickey again, though rumor has it he’s fallen in love in a little border town in West Texas at a little night spot on the edge of…”

Actual meaning: causing or inducing sweat.

Tales from a Misinformed Dictionary – Guanaco

Guanaco: Guanaco is the name of a small European city located near the famous Phosphatorium caves. Originally “settled” by itinerant fertilizer salesmen, the city took off when the Guanaco Company moved in and began mining a millennium’s worth of bat guano. Boom went bust when scientist Ignatio Mausoleum created synthetic fertilizer which was cheaper, although the very idea insulted every right-minded bat, plus its explosive qualities made it much more dangerous, if lots of fun in the backyard. The city dwindled to town size and then village size and then hamlet size and then…..a member of a new breed of scientists, Kyle Kintematsu (an African-Japanese-American), began on-site experimenting. If all went well, it would be boom-time for Guanaco once again.

Kyle had a PhD in ethical polynomial bio-fuel (a new degree), and had produced a widely discussed thesis, Computational and Analytical Parameter Estimation of Discontinuous Connectivity in Marginalized Bifurcating Tropes. The budding genius’s evil thesis adviser arranged for the shadowy, high-tech employer, “Stochastic Algorithms and Co.” to send him to Guanaco, which by that time seemed more Western-style ghost town than haven for aristocratic guano magnates. He booked a room at the decrepit “Batwing Hotel,” quaffed milkshakes at the earthquake ravaged “Quantum Shake Cafe,” and spent his remaining free time playing billiards by himself at the “Echolating Cue Ball.”

One day, while chalking his cue stick, wondering how on earth he ever ended up in small town nowhere deep in the heart of the backwater wasteland of some godforsaken spot in an obscure corner of the world, when he – Kyle Kintematsu – had been so sure of his post-graduate projection-based prediction of his future Nobel Prize-winning success, he lost track of his sentence and had an absolutely brilliant idea. He snapped the stick in two and immediately left for one of the famous caves, which twisted and turned until it became lost, deep in the ice-topped mountains. Kyle, too, found himself utterly lost, but fortunately still had his sticks and was able to beat off the indignant bats who were attempting to catch up on centuries of lost sleep due to incessant mining. The bats were in for a rude awakening, however, since Kyle’s idea might potentially bring a new boom to tranquil and inactive Guanaco.

After collecting a quantity of guano and fighting his way out of the maze, Kyle spent long hours in his grant-funded laboratory, creating a new kind of bio fuel. He was confident that his results would ensure a new frontier where engines no longer need guzzle oil or gas or ethanol. Farmers would no longer need to grow endless fields of corn or sugarcane or switchgrass or lima beans (not only poor for fuel, but with the gag-producing consistency and flavor of mildewed blanket). Fuel meticulously extracted from properly aged guano, however, not only ran cars and airplanes and other motorized vehicles (such as electric shavers) but actually grew those vehicles! People would no longer drive tiny compact models, Kyle thought, because the models would grow and grow…and grow. A tiny VW Beetle might expand to the size of a monster SUV. His only fear was that there was no cutoff point, that cars would grow so large they would begin to inflict too great a weight on the planet. Instead of fears of global warming, everyone would worry about global obesity.

While pondering these and other matters one day, Kyle found himself deep in one of the caves, lost in thought and lost in the cave, far from town, far from anyone hearing his desperate shouts for help as his thesis adviser, hanging upside down along with rows and rows of similarly inclined bats, caught Kyle in a carefully wrought trap.

Next thing Kyle knew, he was living the life of a laundromat accountant for a chain of dry cleaners in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, thousands and thousands of miles from Guanaco, in a place where no one had ever heard of bifurcation and even old bats slept soundly and dreamed sweetly.

Actual meaning: South American mammal with a soft thick fawn-colored coat. Although related to the camel, the guanaco lacks a dorsal hump.

Tales from a Misinformed Dictionary – Falciform

Falciform: A falciform was briefly in vogue during the 1420’s in Europe during an unexpected shortage of falcons used for hunting. Any captive bird, from hummingbird to great auk was a candidate for the falciform, a cast-iron contraption designed to convert them into fierce hunting falcons. Falcon masters in on the secret process boasted that the scientific discovery was a miracle of avian alchemy. Kings, Queens, Jacks and Knaves, all vied for the finest in falciformic creations, only to find that the newly created falcons lacked something essential, namely, feathers. We know that a bald eagle proudly, vehemently accepts its baldness as a badge of honor. Not so a bald falcon. The poor monstrosities shivered in the cold and burrowed under tapestries and chain mail and cautiously inched into the depths of seemingly available holes. Burrowing owls resented the intrusion and cast the falcons out. Eventually lone and lorn bald falcons flapped away to tropical climes and disappeared, never seen again except as figments of their own imaginations.

On April 1st 1421, the European stock of usable hunting falcons suddenly plummeted, victim to an unexpected plague which sent the birds into dreamlike euphoria. The happy birds were completely useless as hunters and only good for breeding euphoric offspring. Hunters everywhere cried into their mugs of ale and then turned to priests and monks, sages and philosophers (basically, any old coot wearing a robe) for solutions. None of them had the slightest idea what to do about the dilemma aside from a Franciscan named Don Pedro Cinco de Mayo, who agreed to present his answer by May 5th. What he came up with, however, failed to satisfy the hunters, who angrily swung heavy maces and beat on the feathered effigies the dotty monk created, spilling their contents, which proved to be a lot of hard sweets wrapped in waxed paper – thus the piñata, but not a viable falcon.

Finally, in despair, King Rufous Sided Towhee of Tarragon (a tiny speck of a kingdom located somewhere or other in Central Europe), turned (in desperation) desperately to the resident mad scientist, who lived in a remote mountainous district covered in haunted woods and topped by a perpetually mist-wreathed castle. King Towhee had great faith in this particular wizardly scientist, Hawkston Falcone, a renowned specialist in the enigmatic thaumaturgy of name changing. For decades King Towhee had suffered under the unpronounceable weight of his given name, Pipilo Erythrophthalmus, and then one day Falcone concocted the feathery light and mellifluous “Rufous Sided Towhee,” and all was well. Falcone was of mixed Transylvanian and Persian heritage but preferred himself not to go by his original name, Count Lazlo Daavoooodi-Zaaadeeeh, because of constant run-ins with the vowel constabulary.

Hawkston took to Towhee’s falciformic challenge immediately, as hawks and falcons were his favorite birds, although naturally he hoarded a stock of the requisite midnight black ravens and wise-looking owls about the castle as a matter of course. He set to work in his combination laboratory and smithy, welding this piece of rare metal to that piece of even rarer metal, steeping them in various experimental chemical concoctions, one of which turned the metal into plastic which he immediately threw out, not recognizing its value. Finally, after many tries, he succeeded in transforming a sparrow into a crow and a crow into something not even a pterodactyl would eat.

He tried again.

At once he succeeded in turning a crow into a sea gull, which consequently pooped all over the laboratory and on Hawkston Falcone’s head. He kept trying, anyway – he was mad after all. At last he succeeded in creating a falcon, but like so many before him, could not see his way around the lack of feathers. Since he had a lot of gold as well as his mad scientist reputation riding on this, he raided the storage bin in his third sub-basement for his stash of thousands of feathers (useful in all kinds of deranged experiments), climbed up the dank stairwell to his seventh floor lab and artfully glued the feathers onto a flock of bald falcons. In the dead of night he stole to King Towhee’s palace, crossed the moat, and left them at the barred gateway, where the poor creatures clustered together for warmth.

Alas, King Towhee also needed to maintain his reputation as a double-dealer. He peddled the falciformed birds throughout Europe at outrageous prices. Monarchs and falconers alike pretended that everything was hunky-dory since they too needed to prop up their prestige, even in the Middle Ages, just a few years before Gallup Polls.

Meanwhile, Hawkston Falcone, high in his mist-wreathed castle, continued his diabolical experiments, wreaking havoc while cultivating an even madder expression on his face, later transferred to one of his most famous and monstrous creations…..

Actual meaning: curved, sickle-shaped

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