The Cure for Literary Laryngitis in 300 Words

Unleashing Me suggested a writing exercise on April 19th:

“Pick an object sitting on your table and write a description of it in 300 words, in your voice. Make it beautiful. Make that description sing. I don’t care if the object is a dry, cracked pen that needs an ink refill and has lint all stuck on the front of it, make those 300 words sound fantastic and showcase your voice to the world!”

This is the result of that exercise.


My phone, settled beside me on the bed, rests silently as I type away rather noisily. Dreaming of electric sheep and satellites in the sky, it lies in peaceful dormancy. I let it alone for now. The sleek, black device has been through many a trial and none too few a tribulation. He’s seen the world fall toward him one too many a time. Chips and nicks are the telltale signs of misuse, neglect, and mindlessness. The way the light hits it at the moment reveals a slick canvas of long strokes and short smudges. And yet, the phone does not whine. It does not moan and groan and rail against me. He remains quiet until summoned.

Ah, a jolt. With a vibration, ring, and a flash of the screen, the phone suffers a night terror and shows me what he saw. “What are you doing right now?” it reads. I slide the message away and let the phone sleep again. Seeing the evidence of my greasy fingers on the screen makes me uneasy. Irrationally, I slide my thumb flatly against the screen, top to bottom in very human lines. It’s no less greasy now, but at least the grease strokes are uniform.

Microsoft tried to make a phone to compete with the iPhone and the Galaxy. My phone is the product of their noble attempt, noble in the consumerist court. “Sleek” was a misleading word. Samsung clearly did not spend as much time on this Windows phone as they did on the Galaxy. The corners are far too sharp and boring. This cannot even hold a AAA-powered light to the even newer Windows phones, mobile devices that actually had a design department. But here my phone lies, in resumed sleep, a beta test of a supposed smartphone. Oh, another text.


I think that may have been a word or two over 300, but the more the merrier, eh? Thanks again, Unleashing Me, for the prompt. If you’re looking for some inspiration, try it out for yourself!

Easter, Eggs, and The Etymologicon

My family, not being particularly religious, doesn’t celebrate Easter. The most we do is take my youngest siblings Easter egg hunting. Maybe eat at Red Robin. And that’s if we’re feeling particularly special on this otherwise normal Sunday.

Don’t worry, this isn’t an “Easter is a pagan holiday and Jesus doesn’t exist post.” Over on The Big Blog of All the S#!t I Know, I’ve been partaking in [not really] the April A-Z Challenge. The month is almost over and I’m only on the letter “E.” Hooray for laziness. And I’ve also been neglecting this blog, so I’m just using the topic of Easter as inspiration and to segue into talking about etymology (because it’s alliterative, of course).

Words are fascinating, to express my feelings simply. They rock my crocs and allow me to convey ideas both inane and relevant. As much as I aspire to be one, I am no professional linguist, just an amateur lover of language. For fellow word-lovers, a fun read is The Etymologicon: A Circular Stroll Through the Hidden Connections of the English Language by Mark Forsyth, the blogger over at The Inky Fool. Forsyth is a level 99 etymology nerd, which makes me both love him and be jealous of him. It’s a lot of etymology packed into less than 300 pages and every other page, you’ll be going “Oh! So that’s where that comes from!”

Another site logophiles will find equally fun and useful is the Online Etymology Dictionary, started by one guy who was also a huge etymology nerd and figured the interwebs needed a proper, coherent etymological dictionary. It’s been added to by loads of people and has become pretty extensive. It’s my go-to site for looking up basic etymologies of words. “Hm, I wonder where the word ‘cockroach’ comes from?” Oh well let’s see. European dude’s bastardization of the Spanish “cucaracha” (chafer, beetle, kind of caterpillar - is “cuca” related to cocoon?)

A certaine India Bug, called by the Spaniards a Cacarootch, the which creeping into Chests they eat and defile with their ill-sented dung [Capt. John Smith, "Virginia," 1624]. (Online Etymology Dictionary)

And this often leads to a descent into the etymology hole, much like the Wikipedia hole and the cute-animals-on-YouTube hole.

Etymology’s fun isn’t just in memorizing where words come from. Words are more than packaged, literal definitions. They are social vehicles that get us from A to B to X, Y, Z. They get us out of bed and through the door, at dinner with a friend to bed with a lover. The etymology of “etymology” is from the Greek for “the study of the true sense.” This includes the social, cultural history of the word, the psychologies involved with its evolution and use. While a gene pool and a swimming pool might not technically have the same historical origins, is it a coincidence that both senses of pool are tied so closely together in our minds?

A gene pool is a collection of DNA. A swimming pool is a collection of water. So what if the gene pool sense of “pool” comes from the French for chicken, poule, and the swimming pool “pool” is from the Old English/Germanic pol for small body of water? As with John Smith’s mishearing of “cockroach,” when someone hears a language they are unfamiliar with, they automatically search for and attach to familiar-sounding words, whether or not they’re actual cognates. It’s narrow-minded to think words are nothing more than what the Oxford English Dictionary says they are. As a friend of mine said, “Remember that language is no more or less real than math, and words are no more things than unicorns.”

To me, that pretty much sums it up.

Do you have a passion for words? Or are they just tools to get you through the day? Other thoughts?

Freewriting on a Lazy Saturday (Or “This is What the Internet was Made For”)

Surely, the world is still capable of creating original ideas. Or perhaps now. not. There is nothing new beneath the sun, just the same turkey with gradually different dressing. I don’t feel so bad about being uncreative, unimaginative.

This song has already played. I’ve stayed for an entire loop of the music here. Likely for two cycles. I’m leaving now.

Just kidding. I’m too comfortable.

Good God, I’m bored. Must. Find. Something. To. Do.

When a person says “I’m bored,” you know they’re doing something wrong in life.

Too much anxiety. This is why I’m writing nothing. There’s just too much anxiety. It needs to be got out somehow. No matter how therapeutic writing may be, however, it’s not nearly enough. So much anxiety, stress, frustration. Just looking up quotes both inspiration and depressing to put on the blog. Nothin’. Inspiring me to be depressed. I had one of the most vivid and insightful dreams the other night.

Might be interesting to chart the days when I go on manic writing sprees.


It’s a Saturday. There’s no need to put any effort into anything. Legitimate post coming this Monday, I promise. Happy Easter, folks. And if you don’t do anything for Easter, high five, let’s watch Breaking Bad on Netflix together.

Shelf Life Expiration Review: Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder

Slowly but surely, I’m flipping through the pages of the books I’ve hoarded and neglected and will be giving mini-reviews on what I think of them in the new segment Shelf Life Expiration Reviews.  Last month, I took to task reading the philosophical narrative Sophie’s World: A Novel About the History of Philosophy by Jostein Gaarder. What a powerful read.

Sophie's World | Shelf Life Expiration | Stressing Out College | stressingoutstudent

I’ve had a mild fascination with the history of major philosophies for quite some time, having read a little here and there throughout my hefty academic career. However, I had been having a hard time figuring out where to properly begin my sojourn into the world of philosophy – something more put together than a series of Wikipedia articles, but that would take less effort than reading translations of interpretations of translations of old texts?

Sophie’s World was my answer.

Gaardner opens us into the cradle of western thought in Greece and guides us through the cliched whirlwind tour of the history of western philosophy. At first, the metanarrative seemed like a cheap, lazy veil of a story to carry the history lesson through. But it ended up taking a brain-picking turn for the unexpected. Socrates, the Renaissance, Hume, Hegel, Darwin. It’s by no means an exhaustive look at the history of western philosophy – he gives Nietzche a mere sentence of a mention – but it’s great for newbies like me. And the index at the back makes for easy referencing.

I still don’t understand all of what happens narratively in the novel with Gaarder toying with questions of perspective and reality, so I suppose I’ll just have to read it again sometime. Not complaining here. Sophie’s World gets the Shelf Life Seal of Approval from me.

This is the first Shelf Life Expiration Review of hopefully many more to come. I’ll try my best to read a non-school-related book each month from my Shelf Life Expiration List and tell you how great, mediocre, or terrible I think it is. Have you read Sophie’s World? Or any book like it? Feel free to share your opinions in the comments below.

Dead Week: I’M DOING MY BEST(ish)

I'm doing my best | Stressing Out College | stressingoutstudent

“I’M DOING MY BEST. A journal in which to prove that despite any indications to the contrary I am constantly working on myself and trying to become the very best me even though it’s a much slower and harder process than Oprah and Deepak would have me believe and while I would sometimes prefer just to swallow a pill or have a personality transplant I will keep plugging away at this infernal self-improvement thing until I’ve done so well I can come back in my next life as a golden retriever.”

One of those life philosophy/human condition themed journals you find in the non-book merchandise section of Barnes and Noble. Shallow as it might be, it still tickled my study-numbed funny bone.

I’ll be back with a proper blog post soon, I pinky swear.