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Words, Nov. 13



“Only Blog readers old enough to recall the early days of MAD magazine will feel the pang in the announcement that Mexico's famous axolotl is pushed to the brink of extinction. ‘Axolotl' was but one of a batch of fun-to-say words (‘potrezebie' was another) that the MAD editors sprinkled randomly and totally without context throughout the pages of the nascent monthly compendium of the crazy. What is an axolotl? It's a foot-long salamander found in the now-polluted waters of Lake Xochimilco.”

I recall “axolotl” and “potrezebie.” I think I remember “fershlugginer,” or something close, from those early MAD days too. Some of the words were made-up, I think, some were real but unfamiliar, like “axolotl” and “aeolipile,” the name of a semi-scientific gizmo that appeared in fake advertisements parodying the real ads in the Johnson Smith catalog. Some of Johnson Smith's real ads were weirder than the MAD parodies, come to think of it. Both publications made for great reading, in their different ways.


“ ‘This is amazing,' Ann Eemia said shortly after noon as she waited to be let into the election night party. ‘I feel the Cosmos have aligned.' ”

If she was referring to “the world or universe regarded as an orderly, harmonious system,” a lower-case c and a singular verb are needed. But maybe she meant the cocktail called a Cosmo — short for Cosmopolitan —- that was popularized by the TV show “Sex and the City.” Align a bunch of those Cosmos, and things will indeed get pretty amazing.

If you offered Sarah Palin a Cosmo, she'd say “You betcha,” I betcha. Her friend, Joe Six-Pack, would stick with his beer.

“Joe Six-Pack” has been used as a name for the common man, especially the blue-collar worker, since about 1975, and is apparently derived from “the stereotype of a six-pack of beer as a workingman's drink.” (According to The Onion, Barack Obama had the support of Joe Cabernet Sauvignon.)

Joe Six-Pack is the raffish younger brother of John Q. Public, who's been around since the ‘20s. Joe Doakes is in the middle. 

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