Lexicon Big Year: August 5


Aug 5: Aerumnous is Steven Poole’s ancient abandoned word meaning “full of troubles.” When the Stage 4 lockdown news startled me three days ago, I couldn’t help feeling that I and the world are aerumnous. I’m not sure of the pronunciation but either option should sound wonderful.

I woke up in the middle of the night with a possible sentence for my book and it featured the word baleful. It means “menacing” or “threatening harm.” I’d always thought it was best used in connection with someone cast as the devil, as in “the devil’s baleful gaze,” but now I think that’s mistaken.

Source: A Word for Every Day of the Year by Steven Poole.

Writing Big Year: Call me happy

Happy face?

Over the first full fortnight of our second lockdown, I put in 108 writing hours, just what the Writing Big Year requires. Drafting time only amounted to 58 hours, not the 84 hours I’d prefer, but hey, there has been plenty of friction. So I should be happy and you can call me happy and I took a selfie in which I tried to look happy, but you know what? The photo is fake news. Happy I’m not – the world is sick and I know people who have died and I know people struggling mightily.

Lexicon Big Year: July 25


July 25: Ipsedixitism. Huh, what you saying? Well, this, according to Steven, is how you describe someone “who appeals to an idea he thinks is obvious and needs no further explanation.” This can be a tactic to avoid drawing attention to any real criticism of the idea. A word two-hundred-plus years old, let’s acknowledge ipsedixitism.

Jogging this morning, for who knows what reason, a word sprang to mind. I muttered, “persispacious,” “persospicious,” maybe “perococial,” a word having something to do with luck and foresight. It took another twenty minutes on the road for the right word to slip into my addled brain. The word is perspicacious, and it means “having a ready insight into and understanding of things” or “of acute mental vision or discernment.” So not only could I not pronounce it, I had no idea what perspicacious means.

Source: A Word for Every Day of the Year by Steven Poole.

Mind all over the place

Fractious mind

After yesterday’s fine, get-stuff-done effort, I wake and rise early, heft a hired-during-lockdown dumbbell, and then discover that thoughts leap and leap and leap. I can’t sit still, either physically or mentally. Sparks fly. I’ve learnt to appreciate times like these, to be gentle with myself, to indulge and drift and live.

Rewarding myself for solid work

Guided By Voices

I jogged in the dark, then chained myself to this desk. Late afternoon I need a break. Why not catch Guided By Voices, whose lockdown concert (price US$25) I’d missed live due to timezone difficulties and need to watch by midweek? It’s not quite the same watching “Moses on a snail” (from Robert Pollard’s 2010 solo) in my workspace as it would be on the Corner Hotel’s grippy carpet, but it’s wonderful!


Daily progress

My work week kicks off on Monday, so today is the first real week of Lockdown #2 (we’d already had four days). A very positive start: real energy, daily goals, and a steady work ethic. May every day of this week follow suit.

Lexicon Big Year: July 12

Unusual words

July 12: “A custom or notion that has been shown to be unreasonable but nonetheless persists,” Steven Poole tells us, “is a mumpsimus,” and doesn’t it sound mellifluous? Apparently it arose in the 1600s and died out as an active word sometime through the 2000s. If I could resurrect it, I’d slap mumpsimus onto all those circulating Covid-19 conspiracy ideas, and all those dingbat “climate change doesn’t exist because …” tropes.

My word of the day is mizzle, something I stumbled across, yet again, in a podcast. I’d never heard of it but the dictionaries do include it. The verb (I’m not sure a noun is allowed) mizzle means ” to rain in very fine drops.” One dictionary seemed to derive that meaning from a German word, but when I heard it, the speaker said it means halfway between mist and drizzle.

Source: A Word for Every Day of the Year by Steven Poole.

Writing Big Year: Bring on the next six weeks


4:06 PM on Day One of Lockdown #2 in the city of Melbourne in the country of Australia. I experienced a visceral shock at the sudden plunge from “nearly unlocked to normality” (well, I’d been sitting in a cafe for two hours every morning, once again writing amongst humanity) to home lockdown (only four reasons to leave the house, folks). The shock was more pronounced because a much-delayed grandparent visit to Darwin has had to be shelved once more. But there’s no point in whining when so much of the world lives amongst Covid-19 risks a magnitude higher than mine.

So . . . six weeks, forty-two days. Unlike the first lockdown period, which yielded progress but nothing outstanding, this time I am pent up to hit every day running and to see the quasi-incarceration as an opportunity, both for writing and life in general. We are but our actions allied to our dreams, and this time I intend to make me proud of myself.

Fragile but

Jason Isbell lyrics

Day two of working alone. Half productive. Often terrified. But, you know, just staying at the desk or at least reading hard when distracted, something slithers forward. It’s mid-afternoon and a grey sky outside looks peaceful. Soon I can relax and I might eat in or pop out, and I might have a glass of red, and I might watch Proxima or Lost Bullet or ZeroZeroZero, all dark and hopefully truthful and smart.