Tag Archives: word of the day

Confabulate – Friday’s Word of the Day


Today’s Word of the Day on Dictionary.com, Confabulate, is an interesting word for our times. Basically, it means to talk casually, converse or chat. It originated in 1610’s, from confabulatus,  past participle of Latin confabulari  “to converse together,” from com-  “together” (see com- ) + fabulari “to talk, chat, “from fabula “a tale” (see fable ).

It has a second meaning though, coined in psychological circles in 1924, that has found its way into our current dialog. Wikipedia offers a comprehensive look:

Confabulation is a disturbance of memory, defined as the production of fabricated, distorted, or misinterpreted memories about oneself or the world, without the conscious intention to deceive. Wikipedia goes on to explain, people who confabulate present incorrect memories ranging from “subtle alterations to bizarre fabrications”, and are generally very confident about their recollections, despite contradictory evidence.

There are several theories related to confabulation but one that caught my attention is the theory that proposes that confabulations represent a way for memory-disabled people to maintain their self-identity. And there are a host of disorders associated with frontal lobe injury or disease that present with some of the signs and symptoms associated with confabulation:

Signs and Symptoms of Confabulation:

  1. Typically verbal statements but can also be non-verbal gestures or actions.
  2. Can include autobiographical and non-personal information, such as historical facts, fairy-tales, or other aspects of semantic memory.
  3. The account can be fantastic or coherent.
  4. Both the premise and the details of the account can be false.
  5. The account is usually drawn from the patient’s memory of actual experiences, including past and current thoughts.
  6. The patient is unaware of the accounts’ distortions or inappropriateness, and is not concerned when errors are pointed out.
  7. There is no hidden motivation behind the account.
  8. The patient’s personality structure may play a role in his/her readiness to confabulate

Of course, there is a distinction between true confabulation and outright lies; that distinction being that the one confabulating truly believes the fabricated story they are telling, sometimes with such conviction that those listening may find themselves wondering if it is not indeed true. This can be problematic if the suffering individual’s illness is left unchecked, (thinking out loud here, confabulating if you will) especially if the individual confabulating is in a position of power or authority. I’ll let that settle with you for a few seconds.

It may be just me, but I am deeply concerned about the state of mind of our current chief executive. He seems to confabulate in waves, with lucid calculated, manipulating speech interspersed. Vulnerable, gullible people who are easily manipulated seem blind to the difference, believing his confabulations over verifiable fact. Believing I say, but what is most disturbing is their veneration of his statements because, they say, “he says what I think”. This realization is the scariest thought of all.

A few haiku for you then. Thanks for joining me for this confabulation on a most interesting word.

people watched aghast
poor confabulating fool
his mind sundowning

the truest old friends
confabulate for hours
words in unison

there is no solace
in confabulated yarns
that never happened


Nimbus – Friday’s Word of the Day Haibun/Haiku


Today’s Word of the Day at Dictionary.com is Nimbus. Now, some of you may be familiar with its common link to a particular type of cloud formation; namely, Nimbostratus Clouds. They are those dark, low level clouds bursting at the seams with rain droplets, snow or sleet. I think they are my favorites because when they form the backdrop of a row of tall trees they transform the leaves into a luminous green.

First found recorded in the English language in 1730, Nimbus is linked to the Greek (nephos) “cloud” and Latin (nimbus and nebula), a meaning “cloud, mist”, and (nembh) “violent rainstorm, thundercloud”. The word, nimbus, is also linked to the Slavic (polish) word Niebo for “sky, heaven” which is probably why it was eventually applied to deities and gods. A nimbus in this application is defined at the bright cloud that envelops a deity appearing to mortals in classic mythology. In Christianity it refers to a saint’s halo or aureole.

If you’re a Trekkie, you will know that Nimbus III is located in the Neutral Zone in the Beta Quadrant in the Nimbus sector at the junction between the Federation, the Klingon Empire and the Romulan Star Empire. Or at least it was until they moved it to sit very near Romulus system, and far from the Klingon border. You can read more about that HERE.

These days we still use nimbus to describe a cloud, aura or the atmosphere around someone, if we even use it at all. According to the Collin’s Dictionary, nimbus is in the lower 50% of commonly used words. Nimbus is not a word that I’ll likely use.

Which brings me to the word nimble…which has nothing to do with nimbus. They’re not even closely related in etymological terms. But nimble is the new buzz word in business circles. Must be agile and nimble and identify synergies because at the end of the day, the bottom line means balancing our EBITDA to making our shareholders happy and richer at the end of each quarter. This is what happens when I’ve worked another long crazy week and it’s Friday and I have to come in on the weekend because other people didn’t do their work on time. GRRRRrrrrr!

But I digress. Breathe Kathy…let the nimbus of grace and peace surround you. Write a few Haiku. You’ll feel better…you know you will.  Ahhhh…ohhhmmmm…ahhhh…:)

Actually I do feel a bit better. Here are a few haiku for you. Hope you have a great weekend! 🙂

dull, entranced faces
aglow in pale blue nimbus
where’s the pokemon?

insanity looms
a suffocating nimbus
there is no normal

if you are there god
come out from the nimbus mist
we need a hero

when the sun is right
she appears as an angel
a nimbus of light


Hobbyhorse – Friday’s Word of the Day

When I think of a hobbyhorse I imagine a stick with a horse’s head or a rocking horse, ridden by children, which is, in fact the second definition for today’s word of the day on dictionary.com. The first definition, a pet idea or project is not something I ever associated with the word hobbyhorse. 

A look at the word’s origin tells a different story. According to etymology online the word hobby actually means a “small, active horse,” from hobi short for hobyn (mid-14c.; late 13c. in Anglo-Latin), and was probably originally a proper name for a horse that is now extinct. Hobby as a shortening of hobbyhorse also was used in the “morris horse” sense (1760), or as Dictionary.com states “in the 16th century hobbyhorse meant several things, e.g., a figure of a horse made of wicker worn in morris dances, pantomimes, and burlesques; a child’s toy consisting of horse’s head on the end of a stick or a rocking horse; a horse on a merry-go-round or a carousel in the 1680’s. By the 17th century hobbyhorse developed the meaning “pet project, favorite pastime.” Hobbyhorse entered English in the 16th century.”

Is it just me or does the term hobbyhorse sound a bit redundant? Basically one is saying horse (hobby) horse. But I digress.

Painting of a hobby horse with Morris dancers beside the River Thames at Richmond, London, c.1620

Hobbyhorses were associated with May Day celebrations, Mummers plays and the aforementioned Morris dance in England in the 17th and 18th centuries. Wikipedia explains that there were several types of hobbyhorses:

*Tourney horses- meant to look like a person riding a small horse that is wearing a long cloth coat or caparison (as seen in medieval illustrations of jousting knights at a tourney or tournament)

* Sieve horses – a simpler version of the tourney horse. Known only in Lincolnshire, made from a farm sieve frame, with head and tail attached, suspended from the performer’s shoulders. The performer wears a horse blanket (the kind that includes a headpiece with holes for the eyes and ears) that covers them and the sieve.

* Mast horses – are meant to represent the horse (or other animal) itself. They had a head made of wood, or sometimes an actual horse’s skull was used; it usually has hinged jaws that can be made to snap. The head is attached to a stick about 1 m (3 ft) long. The person acting the creature is covered by a cloth attached to the back of its head; he (or, rarely, she) bends over forwards or crouches, holding the head in front of their own and resting the other end of the stick on the ground. A tail may be attached to the back of the cloth.

And this is only a sampling of the types of hobbyhorses used in Great Britain. In fact many countries and cultures have used a form of hobbyhorse in ceremonial dance, festivals, customs and theatre for centuries. You can read all about them at Wikipedia HERE.

So how did the word hobbyhorse become associated with an obsession? According to Wikipedia the term “hobby horse” came from the expression “to ride one’s hobby-horse”, meaning “to follow a favourite pastime”, and in turn, the modern sense of the term hobby. Makes perfect sense to me! 😉

Of course there is also the literary reference to the word penned by none other than the Bard himself, “Cal’st thou my love Hobbi-horse?” (Translation: A loose woman or strumpet) – William Shakespeare, Loves Labour’s Lost, in 1588. And there is the ‘velocipede’ (sounds like a very fast many-legged slug…the stuff of nightmares!)…also called a ‘pedestrian hobbyhorse’ or ‘dandy horse’. it was a two wheeled ‘bicycle’ that the rider propelled by pushing the ground with each foot alternately. This modern marvel, a forerunner to the modern pedaled version was all the rage in the early 19th century. It was featured in The Gentleman’s Magazine, February 1819.

So there you have it; a glimpse into today’s word of the day. And here’s a little Haiku to bring it all home…

this blogs a hobby
could say, it’s my hobbyhorse
my tack is a pen


Ballon -Friday’s Word of the Day

Today’s word of the day at Dictionary.com is a French word: “ballon”. At first I wondered if it was a typo. “Shouldn’t that be ‘balloon’?” I thought. And then I looked at the definition and especially the origin of the word. It all began to make sense. From dictionary.com:

Origin of ballon
Ballon is a French term used especially in ballet, describing a dancer who appears to be floating in the air while executing a jump or other movement, like “His Airness,” Michael Jordan. Earlier English spellings of the word include balonne, baloune, and balloone as well as balloon. The original sense of the word in the early 17th century was “ball,” specifically a large, sturdy, inflated leather ball hit with the arms protected with wooden boards or kicked like a soccerball. By the late 17th century ballon and balloon had developed the meaning “a large globular glass vessel” used for chemical distillation; and by the late 18th century, balloon (thus spelled) also meant “a round, flexible, airtight bag that rises into the air when inflated with heated air or gas.” Balloon becomes the standard English spelling in the late 17th century. Ballon, as a ballet term, entered English in the 19th century.

So, ballon in ballet is about floating on air, and balloons? Well they are floaty orbs, unless they’re filled with water or made of glass. I got the impression that the original balloon was more about its shape than its floating qualities. And then I started to think of round, inflated ballerinas bursting at the seams of their leotards, tutus stretched tight and stiff around their middles, and I couldn’t help but giggle.

Which came first the ballon or the balloon? The latter, of course. Ballon, in ballet, entered the English vocabulary rather late to the dance in the 19th century. We humans had been filling animal bladders and other hollow bulbous things for centuries.

Somewhere between heaven and earth the idea of floating on air became associated with balloons and voila! We now have ballon to help us describe the amazing acrobatic, gravity-defying leaps of ballerinas. Being inflated and puffy not required!

I’m feeling silly today. I best give you my Haiku. Have a great weekend!

suspended, graceful,
the skilled ballon of dancers
defies gravity


Al Desko – Friday’s Word of the Day Haibun

al desko

Today’s Dictionary.com word of the day…Al Desko…is patterned after al fresco and was first used in the 1980’s. Its facetious meaning alludes to eating a meal at one’s desk in an office: always snacking al desko; having an al desko lunch.


Here’s a look at my al desko lunch today, as a matter of fact. It’s not much different any other week day, though the menu changes slightly. I get 30 minutes of unpaid time for lunch. But most days, the lunch hour is exactly the time when my boss needs me to write notes from the morning’s meetings or prepare presentations for the afternoon meetings. It is a rare thing for me to even leave me desk in the course of an 8-1/2 to 9 hour day; rarer still to actually finish my soup while it is still warm. But today is a good day. The boss is flying as I type somewhere over the Rockies, so I am enjoying an uninterrupted break.

We are work-a-holics here in the US. The sad truth is we are encouraged to work long hours, and do, with the hopes of gaining the boss’s attention. Positive notice is what it takes to ace an evaluation which translates into a favorable raise, not the minimum pittance required for breathing, and positions one for future opportunities as a person who “works hard and gets the job done”. Sadly, though loyalty is a thing oft cited in great reviews, companies are loath to return the favor.

I’m exhausted just thinking about it. And yet I acquiesce to”the man” hoping that I might one day be able to afford to retire. It is highly unlikely that I ever will, but I like saying the word retire and thinking that I might have a shot at it. Especially now that I’ve passed the 60’s mark.

I’m sorry. I’m afraid I have digressed a bit. The word of the day al desko has nothing to do with retiring. But here I sit, eating my healthy store-bought soup, heated in the office breakroom, with my little bag of goldfish and a cup of ice water. Dining al desko, catching up on Facebook and WordPress. Checking the news and the weather; glad that I brought my umbrella in from my car this morning. It’s going to rain this afternoon.

I’ll leave this desk around 5:30 or so, squinting as I emerge from the building at seeing the light of day outside for the first time in hours. A quick 15-20 minute trip in traffic will deposit me home where I will feed my pets, grab a bit of grub myself and then settle in for the night. All to start again at 6 am next morning when I will get up…feed the pets…and pack another al desko lunch to tide me over mid-day.

I’m shaking my head as I read this back to myself. I really do need to step away from my desk at least once during the day. It occurs to me…I need a life! 😉 At least I have words and writing to sooth the lunacy. Blogging has saved me. 🙂

Have a great week. Step away from the keyboard every now and again. You deserve it. (I say this, hoping that I’ll remember to take my own advice!)

work-a-holics dine
on bagged lunches and take-out
al desko gourmets


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