What is a male seamstress called?

L and L and I were talking about sewing the other day, and we couldn’t figure out what the male variant of ‘seamstress’ is. All we could come up with was ‘seamster’ which seemed a little too organized labor to be correct. However, the power of the internet proved that ‘seamster‘ is indeed a word, although ‘tailor’ would probably be the more common term. ‘Sartor‘ would also be appropriate.


L and I were recently talking about whether trilemma is a word. It seemed dubious since the dictionary.com only lists the entry from dictionary.com:

1. a situation, analogous to a dilemma, in which there are three almost equally undesirable alternatives: His trilemma consisted in not knowing whether to acknowledge receipt, deny it, or simply leave.
2. Logic. a form of argument in which three choices are presented, each of which is indicated to have consequences that may be unfavorable.

Furthermore, this seems very much in the modern style of extremifying words as the origin of new words. (This problem is so big, it’s not just a DIlemma, it’s a TRIlemma!)

But thinking about the fact that it’s a logic term, I’m pretty sure it’s a word. If a dilemma is a choice between two negative alternatives, then it makes sense that a choice between three negative alternatives would be a trilemma. A simple google search bears this out. The fact that it’s used in quotes suggests to me that it’s a technical term that’s moving into common parlance.


Tall guy and podcaster Jesse Thorn likes to refer to those old-timey bicycles with one giant wheel in the front and one small wheel in the back. Apparently these are called “velocipedes,” although that usage seems to be a subset of the more general term. From dictionary.com:

1. a vehicle, usually having two or three wheels, that is propelled by the rider.
2. an early kind of bicycle or tricycle.
3. a light, three-wheeled, pedal-driven vehicle for railway inspection, used for carrying one person on a railroad track.

Jesse Thorn also has a fascination with donks, which are miniature donkeys and natural friends of mini-horses, and mediocre baseball players of the 1980s such as Ken Oberkfell. This is why I can’t stop listening to Jordan, Jesse, GO!


Odie started calling me ‘sirrah’ on the train the other day. We figured it was the predecessor of ‘sir,’ which turned out to be true. But ‘sirrah’ holds a different connotation, according to dictionary.com:

–noun Archaic.
a term of address used to inferiors or children to express impatience, contempt, etc.

Origin: 1520–30; extended form of sir; source of final vowel is unclear


As I recently learned from Mental Floss, “arachibutyrophobia” is a word. According to dictionary.com it is:

a fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of one’s mouth

Is this really a condition? Even if it is, does it need a specific word to describe it? This is a general problem: most phobias don’t deserve to have a term defined for them. I understand having words for the fear of heights or fear of spiders. Those are natural, evolutionary survival responses. But do we need a word for the fear of flutes (aulophobia)? Or the fear of sitting down (kathisophobia)? Defining terms for these conditions removes their irrationality. Someone who is afraid of flutes does not need validation; the person needs help, or at least the shaming that comes from saying the words, “I am afraid of flutes.”

Check out this list of phobias for hundreds of other words we don’t need. Except for scabiophobia. Let’s keep that one.


George Washington used the word “panegyric” in a humble reply to a poem dedicated to him by Phillis Wheatley at the outset of the Revolutionary War. From dictionary.com:

1. a lofty oration or writing in praise of a person or thing; eulogy.
2. formal or elaborate praise.


Here’s an exchange that recently transpired:

Labmate: Are you rooting for the Rockies in the playoffs?
Our Hero: Yes. They’re the most innocuous team left.
Labmate: Innocuous?

That’s a prompt for some learning action. Here’s the entry from Webster:

1 : producing no injury
2 : not likely to give offense or to arouse strong feelings or hostility

That #2 definition perfectly describes the Rockies.


In his article in the latest Newsweek about Al Gore and Bill Bradley, Jonathan Alter used the word “jeremiad.” This piqued my interest, as you might expect. I should have guessed the etymology as biblical and hence the meaning. Here’s the listing from dictionary.com:

a prolonged lamentation or mournful complaint.

If I ever decide to change the name of this site, it sounds like a good alternative.


I had never heard the word “bailiwick” before a month ago. Then it appeared throughout The Cuckoo’s Egg and as the name of a theater in Lakeview, the Bailiwick Repertory Theater. I figured I should look it up.

1. the district within which a bailie or bailiff has jurisdiction.
2. a person’s area of skill, knowledge, authority, or work: to confine suggestions to one’s own bailiwick.

Learning… It’s great!