Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Tuesday, May 17, 2021

On the same day that Merriam-Webster unveiled the results of its reader-submitted Top Ten Favorite Words (Not in the Dictionary) contest, I was treated to such a fanciful word:


It was written by a Florida high school student, in an essay intended to display his/her persuasive writing skills (yes, another example of the dearth of writing instruction).

The intended word was “jumpstart”; but I like the idea of “jumpstop”. To me, it conveys the effect that bureaucratic involvement has in a project — the sudden screeching halt it brings to any forward progress. “Jumpstopping the process” has a nice ring to it.

Anyway, here’s the Merriam-Webster list. Maybe jumpstop will catch on in time for next year’s edition:

1. ginormous (adj): bigger than gigantic and bigger than enormous

2. confuzzled (adj): confused and puzzled at the same time

3. woot (interj): an exclamation of joy or excitement

4. chillax (v): chill out/relax, hang out with friends

5. cognitive displaysia (n): the feeling you have before you even leave the house that you are going to forget something and not remember it until you’re on the highway

6. gription (n): the purchase gained by friction: “My car needs new tires because the old ones have lost their gription.”

7. phonecrastinate (v): to put off answering the phone until caller ID displays the incoming name and number

8. slickery (adj): having a surface that is wet and icy

9. snirt (n): snow that is dirty, often seen by the side of roads and parking lots that have been plowed

10. lingweenie (n): a person incapable of producing neologisms

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 05/17/2005 11:34:22 PM
Category: Creative
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Tonight, only days and weeks before a summer movie season that’s going to bring blockbusters like Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith and Batman Begins, I’m watching 1998’s Velvet Goldmine.

It’s something of a prelude to this summer. Goldmine features two actors who are going to be headlining the aforementioned epics: Ewan McGregor and Christian Bale.

So it’s Obi-Wan and Batman, going at it glam-rock style! Now there’s a movie for you.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 05/17/2005 11:20:51 PM
Category: Movies
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The advent of a computerized system for grading school writing assignments had me frothing at the mouth over how it would lead to lower-quality writing instruction. Underlying that is how this inattention to developing writing skills will have a wider impact: Those communication-challenged students will eventually pollute the business world, dragging everyone down.

In this vein, the New York Times’s Brent Staples calls out the deficiencies of the American educational system when it comes to teaching writing, especially in the wake of the new essay requirements for the SATs.

The English teachers, however, have other ideas. The group questioned the validity of the tests and trotted out the condescending notion that requiring poor and minority students to write in standard English is unfair because of their cultural backgrounds and vernacular languages. This is sadly reminiscent of the “Ebonics” proposal of the 1990’s, in which misguided educators supported the appalling notion that street slang was as good or better than the standard tongue and should be given credence in student work produced for school.

The council also tried to discredit the idea of timed writing tests. The report seemed to suggest that the only way to judge writing was to consider student work that had been rewritten and edited over longer periods of time. Long-term projects are important, but they do not cover all of the kinds of writing that students will be called upon to produce either in college or in their lives. On the contrary, substantive writing on demand for reports, correspondence and even e-mail is now a common feature of corporate life.

The teachers also seemed to feel that only other English teachers were qualified to judge what good writing is. The evidence suggests, however, that most teachers have never taken a course in how to teach effective writing and that many don’t know how to produce it themselves.

Pretty typical, and completely on-target. The teachers don’t know what they’re doing, so they avoid-avoid-avoid. And the students get short-changed.

It’s truly going to be an uphill battle, no matter how it’s framed. Even giving it a good-for-business spin won’t make it a sure sell.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 05/17/2005 11:07:04 PM
Category: Society
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pitch in time
What’s the difference between a slider and a curveball? How can you tell if a fastball is of the four-seam, two-seam, or split-finger variety? Learn the intricacies of the big-league pitches, and of those who flung them best.

Just wondering: Does the publication of such a tutorial indicate that the Tampa Bay area is somehow baseball-ignorant? I ask because whenever a comparable hockey piece runs in the area papers, the pucks cognoscenti start crying about how undeserving the region (and the Southeast in general) is to have NHL hockey.

Anyway, I found the variant nicknames for the pitches to be most enlightening:

Four-seam fastball: Gas, Cheese, Heat

Two-seam fastball: Sinker, Backdoor fastball

Curveball: The Hook, The Deuce, Lord Charles, Uncle Charlie

Slider: Biter

Changeup: Change, Offspeed, Dead Fish

Split-finger fastball: Splitter

Knuckleball: Knuckler, Floater

I’d like to know why “Charley” is associated with the curveball. Seems like a Vietnam thing, but that would be silly.

The obsolete pitches are also of interest, particularly the bone-breaking screwball:

The screwball behaves just the opposite of a curveball. For example, if a right-handed pitcher throws a screwball to a left-handed batter, the ball spins away from the batter. The Dodgers’ Fernando Valenzuela might have thrown the best screwball ever.

So why don’t pitchers still use it?

“Here’s why,” Rays coach Chuck Hernandez said, pointing to the long scar from surgery that runs across his elbow.

Because the pitcher has to twist his arm with an inside-out motion, it’s only a matter of time before the elbow, bending in a way not intended by nature, breaks.

Watch for the next Major League pitching sensation to be a rubber-boned freak of nature who can contort his pitching limb to deliver the ultimate screwball.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 05/17/2005 10:17:24 PM
Category: Baseball
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