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Photo by Jacob Morch on Unsplash

’Twas the week before Christmas, when at the White House
The loser could pardon every creep, crook and louse.
Their e-mails were sent to his inbox with care,
In hopes that the pardoner-in-chief would be there.

The POTUS was nestled all snug in his bed;
While visions of justice made him see red.
The country was reeling, and I in my briefs,
Was trying to recover from four years of grief.

When up from his iPhone emerged such a clatter,
I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter. …


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Formula for the sample standard deviation

On Quora, someone asked about why, in the standard deviation, we square and take square roots rather than use mean absolute deviation. Here’s my answer:

We can do either, but a more common method is the median absolute deviation, rather than the mean absolute deviation (which is what you propose). The median absolute deviation is very robust to outliers. And there are other possibilities for measures of spread.

The term “variance” was introduced in a paper by Ronald Fisher in 1918. It has some nice properties.

First, Fisher used it because it is part of the Normal distribution, and many traits follow that distribution (at least approximately). The probability density function for the Normal involves the standard deviation, not the median or mean absolute deviation. …


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Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

Groak: (Rhymes with cloak)

Definition

v. To watch people while they are eating, hoping they will ask you to join them. (from Mrs. Byrne’s Dictionary of Unusual, Obscure and Preposterous Words by Josefa H. Byrne).

Etymology

Unknown.

Usage

This is a simply marvelous word. What a great language English is! How many of us have groaked without knowing it, or watched people groak and shunned them?

Examples

Groaking probably peaks in the tween and adolescent years, as cliques try to mark their territory by excluding others.

— — — — — — —

One difference between dogs and cats is that dogs groak while cats do not. …


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Photo by Jeremy Thomas on Unsplash

Definition

adj.

  • Tending to fall off, especially seasonally or at a particular point in development of an organism.
  • “Having deciduous parts.’’
  • “Ephemeral.’’

Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/deciduous. Accessed 16 Dec. 2020.

Etymology

From Latin decidere (to fall off).

Anti-thesaurus

There are many synonyms for the third sense, but I don’t think that sense is particularly interesting. I haven’t found any synonyms for the first two senses.

Usage

The interesting thing here (at least to me) is that \emph{deciduous} applies to a lot more than trees and their leaves. For example:

  • Humans (and many other creatures) have deciduous teeth.
  • Many fruit trees have deciduous fruit.
  • Deer have deciduous antlers. …


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Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

Definition (adapted from Merriam Webster and other sources).

n.

1. Ethical resolution of conflicts.
2. Specious argument.

A person who engages in casuistry is a casuist.

Etymology

From Latin \emph{casus} (case). The second sense may have come from sarcastic use of the first, or it may have been present from the beginning.

Usage

Until I started research for this book, I was only aware of the second sense and I was mispronouncing the word as kas you ess tray, it’s cash weh stray.

Examples

Some thought it mounted to the lunar sphere,
Since all things lost on earth are treasur’d there.
There hero’s wits are kept in pond’rous vases,
And beaux’ in snuff boxes and tweezercases.
There broken vows and deathbed alms are found,
And lovers’ hearts with ends of riband bound;
The courtier’s promises, and sick man’s prayers,
The smiles of harlots, and the tears of heirs,
Cages for gnats, and chains to yoke a flea,
Dried butterflies, and tomes of casuistry. …


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The Food

The food of western China, and of Xi’an in particular, is relatively little known in the USA. In New York City, there is a restaurant chain called Xi’an Famous Foods that is working to change that.

The main carbohydrate here is not rice but wheat, specifically noodles of various kinds. The main protein is not pork or beef or fish but lamb. And there is far more reliance on cumin than in other regions of China. And it’s spicy.

The menu at XFF typically includes

  • Noodles: Cold skin noodles (plain or stir fried), hand ripped noodles (with lamb, pork, oxtail, beef, or plain). …


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Photo by Kyle Glenn on Unsplash

Definition

n. Saying something unpleasant in a pleasant way or an insult disguised as a jest (from Wiktionary and Foyle’s Philavery by Christopher Foyle.

Etymology

From Greek kharientismos

Usage

Diplomacy is full of charientism. Vice-president Spiro Agnew even defined it this way: “Diplomacy is to do and say the nastiest things in the nicest way.’’

Examples

Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli (at least purportedly) displayed a mastery of charientism in a conversation with William Gladstone.

Gladstone: I predict, sir, that you will die on the gallows or of a venereal disease.
Disraeli: That depends, sir, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress.

and a later PM (Winston Churchill) was also a master of the form:

Lady Nancy Astor: Sir Winston, if you were my husband I would put poison in your tea.
Churchill: Lady Astor, if you were my wife, I would drink it. …


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Image licensed from Shutterstock

Definition

v. To hastily tidy a house.

Etymology

Debated. Some sources say it was a word in Old English, others say it is of
“jocular formation.’’

Anti-thesaurus (how this word is different from other words)

Clean — But scurryfunge is much more specific and graphic. This is also true of
Straighten — and other similar words.

Usage

What a wonderful word! I think many of us have done this; there are loads of cartoons of people scurryfunging. But who knew there was a word for it? Did you? Now you do! This word appears to be obsolete, but we can change that!

Examples

Many people scurryfunge when a date is coming over

Frequency

Google Ngram Viewer did not find a single use. …


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Photo by Luca Bravo on Unsplash

The other day, Donald Trump and William Barr decided that New York City, Portland and Seattle are “anarchist jurisdictions”. They didn’t define this term, but surely it must mean that anarchists were in charge. But this is nonsensical. Anarchist aren’t in charge. Their whole philosophy is not to be in charge. But ….. I thought I’d go out for a walk to see my anarchist jurisdiction. After all, it’s a beautiful day in the anarchist jurisdiction.

I left my apartment and before I could even get in the elevator, I saw one of my neighbors unloading a box from Amazon. Wow! Those drivers must be brave, to drive and deliver packages in an anarchist jurisdiction! I said hi and he said hi. I went downstairs and there was my doorman, who somehow got to work in the anarchist jurisdiction. Should I congratulate him for his bravery? Naaah, I just said “hello”. After all, maybe he’s not brave, but crazy. …

About

Peter Flom

Word person. Math person. Learning disabled adult (www.IAmLearningDisabled.com). 2E.

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