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Words, Aug. 13



“Turkmen Channel Water to Desert Lake”

“ASHGABAT, Turkmenistan — Turkmenistan has begun channeling water across hundreds of miles to create a lake in the heart of a barren desert, in a Soviet-style engineering feat that some experts fear could unleash an environmental catastrophe.

“Turkmen engineers are pumping water — runoff from irrigated cotton fields across the country — through a network of canals, filling up the natural Karashor depression in remote Northern Turkmenistan to create Golden Age Lake and, they say, bring life to the searing Karakum  Desert. … Critics have heaped scorn on the project, saying that cotton field runoff is rife with insecticides and fertilizers.”

Sounds like a title from a popular series  — “Harry Potter and the Ashgabat of Turkmenistan” — but apparently this is a real place, and now I know what to call somebody who lives there. “Good Morning, Mr. Turkman,” I'll say. Or, “How you Turkmen doin' ” if there's more than one. I think the newspaper may have gotten the adjective wrong, though. Could it be Turkmenian engineers manning the pumps? Turkmen, let's hear from you on this. And good luck with the lake.


n Newspapers used to be rife with stories like “Turkmen Channel Water to Desert Lake.” That was a golden age. Now they're rife with J-Lo and Lindsey Lohan.

n “Doe wrote three novels on his 1909 cast-iron frame typewriter, sporting thick-rimmed glasses and dark brown curly hair so thick ‘he was sometimes accused of combing his hair with a towel,' Roe said.”

I see how the expression could be used that way, but in my experience, “Combs his hair with a towel” is said of a bald man, a person who has no use for a comb. Which is correct? Turkmen, I'm looking at you again.


n Joe David Rice writes:

“I think there's a word for folks who have a special interest in cemeteries or who visit them as a hobby — but I cannot recall it. Can you give me any help?”

Cemeterians is probably not it. Ideas, anyone? Mr. Rice didn't stipulate that he's not offering a generous reward.

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