Category Archives: Words

Podcasting seems like a good tool for a lively fisk


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I came across today’s word, fisking, in a recent post over at Corante. At fist I thought fisking was a typo or a one-time-use, bit of jargon, but in fact fisking is neologism born from the blogosphere.

The eponymous verb describes a detailed point by point refutation of a argument or article. The technique is named after the British journalist Robert risk. In late 2001, while covering the war in Afghanistan, Fisk published an account of a mob beating him and his subsequent rescue from the angry mod. Blogger Andrew Sullivan, suspicious of the credibility of the report wrote a point-by-point refutation of Fisk’s account. Since then the blogosphere has used the term fisking to describe a detailed point-by-point refutation.

I don’t know enough of the story to comment on veracity of Fisk’s or Sullivan’s claims, but I do like the word. I see a lot of fisking on the Internet and I enjoy it. I hope fisking makes it into the wider vernacular.

By the way the Corante.com post is about Grokster’s Supreme Court case and includes links to a few fisks. If you are interested in IP law or the future of innovation in America the fisks are worth the time.

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There is no drayage for shipping a podcast


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I overheard today’s word around our office drayage. It is a noun and it is the sum paid for use of a dray. Duh. So what is that? A dray is a utility cart used to haul heavy items. They can range in size from a small two wheeled hand cart for moving luggage or barrels to much larger carts pulled by a horse.

Now we don’t use drays at work but the term drayage is used in the shipping world for the freight charge to pickup and deliver an ocean container.

Oh and here is a sentence using drayage, “The cost of shipping from China isn’t that bad. It is the drayage that really pushes the costs up.”

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The difference between googol and Google- a podcast

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Today’s word is one we are all familiar with or at least a recent variation on it. The word is googol. Not the G-O-O-G-L-E of Google.com but the original googol that inspired Larry & Sergey to name their search tool Google.

A googol is the number one followed by 100 zeros. It is very big number. It is also known as a duotrigintillion. I am glad we don’t have to visit duotrigintillion.com for all our searches.

Here are a few fun facts about the number googol:


  • A googol is greater than the number of particles in the known universe, which has been variously estimated from 1072 up to 1087.
  • A 9 year old Milton Sirotta, nephew of mathematician Edward Kasner, coined the term.
  • A few years ago the Sirotta family tried to sue Google for exploiting the term their ancestors invented.
  • They didn’t win.
  • A googolplex, as far as I can tell is the largest named finite number (If I am wrong please correct me). It is the number 1 follow by a googol of zeros. Too big a number to even imagine.

A googol can be written in conventional notation, as follows:

1 googol = 10100 = 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,
000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000

A podcast about a venal statue

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I came across todays word in a post over at BoingBoing.net. The word is venal. It is adjective used to describe a person or process that is corrupt. Especially one that is open to bribery or purchase.

The Boing boing post is about the Cloud Gate statue at the Chicago Millennium Park. Apparently the $11 million statue and the enhancements are copyrighted by the statue’s creator- Anish Kapoor.

This means the fine citizens of Chicago, the citizens who paid for the statue, nor tourists can take photos of the statue without the permission of the artist.

Cory Doctorow the author of the BoingBoing.net post writes, “This is about the vilest display of human venality I’ve heard of all day.”

I think it has been more than a week for me.

UPDATE: Boing Boing has a follow up post asking Chicagoan’s to take lots of photos of the Cload Gate to protest the misuse of copyright.

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The word podcast is a portmanteau

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Today we have a French word that has made its way into the English vernacular. It is
portmanteau.

A portmanteau is a word that is formed by combining two words and their meanings. For example podcast is a portmanteau. It is the combination of the words iPod & broadcast.

Other well know portmanteau’s are camcorder- camera and recorder, smog- smoke and fog and spork- spoon and fork. The Chunnel is an example of portmanteau that is a proper name.

Podcast: A 10% pay cut would leave me decimated


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Today’s word, decimate, was suggested by my sister. She is concerned it is too often misused; that people use decimated to describe something that is completely or significantly destroyed. She believes it should only be used to mean something that is reduced by 10%.

Unfortunately for my sister she is only half right. The etymology certainly supports her interpretation. Deci means tenth like deciliter (1/10 of a liter). And decimate does mean to reduce by 10%. In fact decimate originally meant to kill every tenth person. The Roman’s used decimation to punish mutinous legions of their army. But today it can mean to reduce by 10% or more broadly to significantly reduce in size or to damage a significant portion.

Sorry Kell. I looked it up in several sources and they all included the broader definition.

Blondie’s rapture is a part of history, but the Christian’s isn’t in the Bible


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A few weeks ago a someone asked me if I believed in the Rapture. I didn’t know exactly what she meant so that is today’s word.


Rapture- A noun. Refering to a state of euphoria or overwhelming emotion. A mystical experience that imparts divine knowledge.


In the Christian faith, the meaning I suspect my interrogator was interested in, the rapture is when god brings the faithful up to heaven and then smites the non-believers who are left behind. It is an very popular word and concept with the hard core fundamentalists who believe god picks and chooses the good and the bad. Oddly, the word rapture does not appear in the Bible.

Rapture was also a number one hit by Blondie in 1980. The first #1 rap song.

WWII Paper Puzzle Machine – A Podcast

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Today’s word is enigma. It is noun meaning puzzle or something that cannot be understood or explained. Such as “Dawn Miceli’s infatuation with Adam Curry is an enigma.”

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Enigma was also the name for the WWII era encryption machine used by the Germans to secure their military communications. The Enigma machine and cryptography were the subject of Neal Stephenson’s excellent novel Cryptonomicon. If you are interested in WWII history or cryptography I strongly recommend Stephenson’s book.

I choose enigma for today’s word after coming across an updated version of the Enigma machine. It is a PDF file that does the same encoding and decoding as the original Enigma machines. You can find the PDF and a thorough explanation at mckoss.com.

Now I must give credit to hackaday.com/. Phil Torrone of Engadget fame is runs great site with daily hacks including this PDF Enigma.

Paper Enigma Machine @ www.hackaday.com

Thanks to Sean at Microsoft for telling me about onelook.com. “Onelook indexes over 5 millions words from over 900 dictionaries. The cool thing is that it include specialty dictionaries (e.g. technical, medical, scientific, etc.).”

Podcasting isn’t ubiquitous yet


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Today’s word was requested by fellow podcaster Nicole Simon. You can find her podcast, Useful Sounds at useful-sounds.de


Nicole requested the word ubiquitous. It is an adjective meaning widespread, widely available or being everywhere at once.


I usually hear ubiquitous used to describe a new technology. For example in 10 years wifi will be ubiquitous.

The example Nicole sent is from a recent CNN article on podcasting. It reads:


In the end, if MP3 players become so ubiquitous that we are invaded by
ear-bud-wearing podcasting people, they will probably be too
pre-occupied with choosing from all these programming options to
screech and point at those not connected to the mothership.


Nicole requested this word for a very interesting reason. She wanted to hear how it was pronounced. Nicole, as you might guess from her domain name, lives in Germany and she reminded me that for many listeners podcasting is about learning a new language and that this podcast is very educational.


Thank you Nicole I appreciate the suggested word and the feedback.


When I am uncertain how to pronounce a word I look it up at merriamwebster.com. They offer an audio recording of each word. And unlike some online dictionaries it is free and cross-platform.

This podcast was redacted but not the way you think


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Today’s word is redacted. You often read it or hear it in the news when they are talking about an official record or transcript. It means to edit or adapt for publication. This usually means the sensitive parts have been removed or obscured. Like with a black magic marker.


Two sites that offer great example of redacted documents are The Smoking Gun and The Memory Hole.

The Smoking gun offers a few juicy official documents a week. Documents like the new Homeland Security nominee’s bankruptcy fillings, Bill Gate’s mug shot from 1977 or all 57 pages of Kobe Bryant’s police interview. The Kobe Bryant interview is not appropriate reading for minors.

The Memory Hole, in their own words, “exists to preserve and spread material that is in danger of being lost, is hard to find, or is not widely known.” Their redacted documents are not very juicy and often frightening. Like a recent one that shows John Ashcroft’s Justice Department Censoring a Supreme Court opinion. The opinion basically warned of the danger of using homeland security as shield to protect a government’s abuse of power.