The Random Yak

Unfriend Me, You Rogue!

Filed under: Wordyak,Yak Rants — Random Yak @ 11:20 am on November 18, 2009

Apparently the brilliant lexicographers (“word guys”) over at The New Oxford American Dictionary (it’s a book, yo!) have decided that the 2009 “Word of the Year” is …


This newest mastication (“unchewing?”) of the English language apparently functions as a verb, and means “to remove someone as a friend on a social networking site such as Facebook.”

Word, indeed.

Now, I hate to sound stodgy and ungrateful, to say nothing of outdated, outmoded and … unfriendly.  (Assuming I can still figure out what that adjective means, in light of its new…verbosity.) But I remain strangely dedicated to the proposition that the phoenix of a modern lexicon does not automatically rise from the smoldering ruins of grammatical error.

You can’t make a good omelet without breaking eggs, but that logic doesn’t function the same way in the etymological world.  Or, in words less likely to bug the uninformed: you don’t make a new vocabulary by breaking the old one.  (Statistically, anyone who uses the word “unfriend” as a verb didn’t get that last pun.)

I have no problem with liguistic change.  Languages, like laws and sand bars, must and will change over time to reflect the shifting currents within which they function.  But surely I’m not the only one who sees the difference between the acceptance of words like “microchip” and “entrepreneur” and the mighty yawp which heralds the dubious entry of grammatical miscreants into the standard lexicon.

Or maybe I really am just that unfriendly.

Story Via LiveWire, with a Horn Tip to Althouse.

Beaten at My Own Game

Filed under: Wordyak — Random Yak @ 4:31 pm on October 20, 2009

…but at least it’s still in the family.

As a transactional attorney, part of my job involves the creation of “defined terms.”  Even if you’re not a lawyer, you know what I mean.  You’ve seen them.  Parenthetical, usually-capitalized words included in a document to stand for longer terms which need definition in order to avoid lengthening the document by constantly restating them in their unabridged form (aka “Defined Terms”).  (See?  There goes one now.)

Most transactional attorneys I know (and more than a few litigators) engage in a subtle form of competition and one-upsmanship when it comes to the creation and use of defined terms.  Almost all those who wield a License to Kill Torment Harass Practice (I still have trouble getting that right) appreciate a well-defined term, and all of us long for the occasional, rare-but-oh-so-satisfying times when work throws you the opportunity to create one that goes beyond the mere definition-of-something-more and becomes a thing of beauty (the “Editorial Definition”).  The defined terms which manage to incorporate a comment, pun or double-entendre with such grace that the careful (read: attorney) reader will ask…was that intentional?… but never exactly know.

A variation on this theme is the defined term that intentionally pulls the pigtails of the other side.  A defined term which, without exceeding the bounds of definition, adds an editorial quirk to the proceedings.  Although not a litigator by nature profession, I appreciate the beauty of using a standard literary device to bring The Smackdown on someone who really deserves it.  Publicly, in a recorded document available on The Internet.

It amuses me.  (Statistically, 87% of you just muttered, “Easily done.”  Perhaps, but there you have it.)

Until today, I believed myself the final word on defined terms in the Yak Family Tree.  Generations of lawyers, reproducing the better parts of their linguistic DNA, until at last they reached the epitome of the Defined Term gene, the ultimate expression of my family’s ability to produce a legal definition (hereafter, “Me” or “the Best”).

I stand corrected.

In an email dealing with topics beyond the scope of this post (“Private Communication”), The Random Sibling forwarded me a copy of a complaint he recently filed in a pending litigation matter.  And there, on page 3, I saw a defined term so beautiful, so simple and yet so complete in its ability to put the Editorial Smackdown on the opponent’s psyche, that I must (temporarily) surrender my crown.

The definition?  Of course I’m going to share.  Without divulging enough information to bring a localized version of The Smackdown (“Immediate Firing”) upon The Random Sibling….

The lawsuit in question seeks to recover damages from an individual who failed to live up to a legal obligation (“Didn’t Pay The Money”) and then filed a lawsuit against the people to whom he Didn’t Pay The Money, for purposes of diverting attention away from his own intentional and malicious acts.  After reading a full and proper identification of the malicious lawsuit, the parenthetical definition provided the short name by which the defendant’s lawsuit shall thereafter be referenced, both in this document and, presumably, in court.

We shall call it … the “Sham Action.”

Full points, little brother.  Even from the (notoriously difficult) judge From This Side of the Mountain.

But don’t think I surrender my crown lightly, or permanently.  I shall recover from this besting (the “Minor Setback”) and dedicate my full attention to producing a pun so thoroughly beautiful that it replaces even your admittedly talented effort (which for now, we’ll call the “Sham-Wow.”)


Filed under: Wordyak — Maniyak @ 11:43 am on August 12, 2008

A zenana is not a harem after all.  Who knew?  From the Persion word zena, meaning “woman,” zenana simply means the part of a house (in Asian cultures) which only women are permitted to enter.

So, is that like, uh, the kitchen?  the nursery?  the laundry?  Yaks, not living in houses, find some concepts difficult to grasp, particularly virile male yaks (well, actually, that’s redundant).  So, when a male human wants something from a female human he goes outside this mysterious zenana and bleats, or what?

Tuesday Frivol and WordYak of the day: “Revocable”

Filed under: Frivol,Wordyak — Random Yak @ 12:02 pm on December 4, 2007

Revocableadj. “capable of being revoked or taken back by the giver (or, in some cases, a qualified third party).”

Our top story this morning: A student driver in Houston took and passed his driver’s license exam.  After receiving a passing grade and letting the driving examiner out of the car, the newly-licensed driver crashed the test car into the side of the Department of Public Safety Building, leaving a “slight hole” in the building.

Although the accident remains under investigation, I’m betting the driver in question will soon learn whether or not the City of Houston considers a passing grade on the driver’s exam … revocable.



WordYak: Defenestrate

Filed under: Wordyak — Random Yak @ 10:50 am on July 6, 2007

Today’s Wordyak vocabulary builder:


(v.) “To throw someone or something out of a window.”

Origin: Latin de (out of) + fenestra (window).

Some examples:

“When the committeecouldn’t reach a unanimous decision because Ed refused to cooperate, the remaining members voted to defenestrate the opposition.”

“Don’t you defenestrate your brother!”

“In medieval times,castle defenders often defenestrated spies by means of catapults.”

See if you can work it into your day.

Trackposted to The Amboy Times, Right Truth, Right Voices, and Church and State, thanks to Linkfest Haven Deluxe.

Wordyak: Kakistocracy

Filed under: Wordyak — Random Yak @ 12:14 pm on June 1, 2007

We now bring you today’sreading from“The Yak’s Big Book of Useful Words You Really Should Know.” Our selection comes from Chapter 4: IGovernment and Governance.

Today’s word:

Kakistocracy. (n) Government by “the least qualified ormost unprincipled” persons.

I’m betting you can come up with at least three solid sentences (for a real challenge, try to do sowithout using the words “Congress,” “Democratic National Committee” or “[insert locality]public school system”). Feel free to prove me right in the comment section.

(Tip of the Horns, Althouse, for reminding me there was, in fact, a word for the organizations I’ve been dealing with today.)

Trackposted to Pirate’s Cove, Rightlinx, third world county, Jo’s Cafe, and Adam’s Blog, thanks to Linkfest Haven Deluxe.

Coming to Terms with Legal Domestic Partnerships

Filed under: Frivol,Just Yaks,Law Yaks,Wordyak — Maniyak @ 12:01 am on March 7, 2007

Does the law partner of alawyer inadomestic partnership thereby become a partner-in-law?

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Quizzical Yak Quiz

Filed under: Frivol,Just Yaks,Wordyak — Maniyak @ 2:37 pm on March 6, 2007

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Filed under: Frivol,Just Yaks,Wordyak — Maniyak @ 11:13 am on February 2, 2007

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Resolve This

Filed under: Frivol,Just Yaks,Wordyak — Maniyak @ 10:29 pm on January 24, 2007

I made a New Year’s resolution to be more enervated, but I just don’t have the energy.

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The Ghost of Christmas Presents

Filed under: Christmas Alliance,Just Yaks,Wordyak — Maniyak @ 12:02 am on January 1, 2007

I have another confession to make. The Christmas gift I got for the Random Yak this year was not the one I had planned. When the time came to buy it, I had forgotten what the original idea was,so I got a book instead. I guess that’s what happens when you lose your presents of mind.

The Santa Claus(e) Contract Meme

Filed under: Christmas Alliance,Just Yaks,Law Yaks,Wordyak — Maniyak @ 1:00 am on December 25, 2006

In case you haven’t noticed, there’s been a Santa Clauscontract claus(e) meme bouncing between Random Yak and the Maniyak here at TRY (in which Ryak is trouncing Myak incidentally), e.g., here and here and here (sorta) and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and definitelyhere and here, where it all began.

Other “Santa” and “Claus(e)” wordplay of the nonlegal variety(some may be so sick as to be classified as ill-legal)also tried to push their way into the meme-line, hereand hereand here and here and here.

So then . . .

If Santa, the role model for all grandparents, brings presents only to the children (who still believe in him) and not to their parents (who have lost the faith), is Santa exercising his rights under a generation-skipping transfer gift Claus(e)?

The Art of Yak, British Style

Filed under: Frivol,Just Yaks,Wordyak — Maniyak @ 12:41 pm on December 13, 2006

Since the renowned loquaciousness of the yak has given the English speaking world the verb “to yak,” that is, to speak ad lib, and “frivol” as the noun form of the verb “to frivol,” TRY acknowledges the worthy work of the British “Plain English Campaign” in bringing to the attention of the literate world the pretentiously inept expressions of the not-so literati. Winner of this year’s Golden Bull award for “written tripe” is Germaine Greer, Australian-British A-list feminist and author of “The Female Eunuch,” who wrote recently in her arts column in the Guardian that “The first attribute of the art object is that it creates a discontinuity between itself and the unsynthesised manifold.”

Such aethetically clunky Gorgon-esque jargon deserves proper recognition.

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Thanksgiving Yak FAQ-cetious Turkey Interview Gobbledygook Squawkback

Filed under: Faith Yak,Frivol,Just Yaks,U.S-E.R's,Wordyak — Maniyak @ 9:13 am on November 22, 2006

Dear TRY

In response to the Random Yak’s F(requently) A(musing) but Q(uerulous) “Ask The Turkey” Thanksgiving post, “Random Thanksgiving” googlebaiting and inquiries about avuncular, the Maniyak would like the TRY reading public worldwide to beinformed that:

1. That turkey pic must have been taken when it was dressed up on Halloween as a peahen. Or else he/she/it is an escapee from an experiment involving chameleon DNA.

2. If I am avuncular, it’s my brother’s fault. My sister could have tied this label to me, of course, but apparently preferred the zero population growth option. Besides, I’m not all that avuncular anymore; I’ve had all my carbuncles punctured. I remain, however, evocative and rambunctious, if that helps.

3. The world’s first palindrome was “Eve.” (Which is why men love spare-ribs.)

4. Only yaks consider kayak the world’s first palindrome. It was created by a beautiful but somewhat backward and dyslexic yak named Kay, who married a forward-looking guy named Yak, and together they went down the river.

5. Yes there is something to be thankful for besides food, family, friends and football. There’s frivol, frolic and faith.

Speaking of frivol, Adam was lonely as the only human being in the world, so he went to God and asked whether he could have some human companionship. God said, Yes, he could give Adam the most lovely, intelligent, perfect being that the human species could imagine, but it would cost him an arm and a leg. Adam pondered for a while and then asked, “What could I get for a spare rib?”

Christmas As “Xmas”: Xristos or X-man (Identity Unknown)?

Filed under: Christmas Alliance,Faith Yak,Holyday Yaks,Just Yaks,Wordyak — Maniyak @ 1:44 pm on November 18, 2006

The Christmas Alliance (like last year’s Christmas Resistance) represents a multi-chorused vocal opposition principally to two phenomena: (1) substitution ofgreed and commercialism for the true meaning of Christmas and (2) public removal of virtually all meaning fromChristmas by eliminating or silencing references to the birth of Jesus Christ and to the historical basis for the holyday holiday.

With these concerns in mind, we address the cunundrum of Christmas as “Xmas.” (Seeing that today is Day “X” in the pre-Advent TRY alphabet posts, is it a difficult topic to avoid.)

The explanation for “Xmas” actually is simple to understand, albeit somewhat odd in its linguistic origins. X is the symbol for the letter chi in Greek, the first letter of the word Xristos, ???????????? (Greek for “Christ”), the anointed one, the Messiah, Jesus Christ.

“Xmas” originated as a cross-cultural acronym for the concept– it’snot an actual word –”Xristos-mas,” areference toChristmas that combines the Greek with theAnglo-Saxon “mas,”for a “festival.” It was, I am informed, used respectfully and reverentially by people who had no intention of removing Christ from Christmas. But it may also have been, and still be, used by others who want to obscure the origins of the celebration of the birth of the Lord, Jesus Christ.

The problem, of course, is algebra. “X” is the unknown variable.

Not all people know Greek. More people nowadays have been exposed to algebra than to Greek.Even those who do readGreekcannot read the minds of the people who choose to use “Xmas,”so their intentions remain…unknown.

Do “Xmas” writers (happily “Xmas” is not often a spoken form) intend to eliminate Christ from Christmas, as do so many? Or are people perhaps uncertain whether we are celebrating the birthday of Jesus Christ or, say, Xenophon or Xerxes?

The Yaks prefer generally to avoid the use of “Xmas” but not to get too upset if others use it, because we cannot read their minds or heartsto know what they intended to mean. It’s an unknown variable.

What we do know is that for the Christmas Alliance, “X” marks the spot, on December 25, for Xristos-mas Day.

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