Vocabulary Study: Combination Words, page 1


He watches dreadful tv shows and movies, howling at the screen with a mixture of delight and loathing at the teenybopper drivel, and in the privacy of his room his self-gratification is performed while imagining visions of the old family dog.
amazon.com books review by J Mullin 2000-07-17 of the book A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole (1937 – 1969).

poster child

The phrase poster child originally referred to a child afflicted by some disease or deformity whose picture is used on posters to raise money for charitable purposes; “she was the poster child for muscular dystrophy”.


blackhead is technically called comedo. Also comes as whitehead.


Squatting consists of occupying an abandoned or unoccupied space or building, usually residential, that the squatter does not own, rent or otherwise have permission to use.

There is an important distinction to be made between squatting by necessity and squatting as political statement. In this period of global recession and increased housing foreclosures, squatting has become far more prevalent in Western, developed nations.
Squatters 2011-01-15


There are not 100,000 to 300,000 children in America turning to prostitution every year. The statistic was hatched without regard to science. It is a bogeyman.
Real Men Get Their Facts Straight: Ashton and Demi and Sex Trafficking By Martin Cizmar, Ellis Conklin, Kristen Hinman. At http://www.villagevoice.com/2011-06-29/news/real-men-get-their-facts-straight-sex-trafficking-ashton-kutcher-demi-moore/


A design language or design vocabulary is an overarching scheme or style that guides the design of a complement of products or architectural settings. Designers wishing to give their suite of products a unique but consistent look and feel define a design language for it, which can describe choices for design aspects such as materials, colour schemes, shapes, patterns, textures, or layouts. They then follow the scheme in the design of each object in the suite.

Usually, design languages are not rigorously defined; the designer basically makes one thing in a similar manner as another. In other cases, they are followed strictly, so that the products gain a strong thematic quality. Though there is a great variety of unusual chess set designs, for instance, the pieces within a set are usually thematically consistent.

Note: “design” is a dirty word. Design is often a pseudo-science, and famous designers are often cult figures. Buckminster Fuller is a prominent example. (known for Geodesic Dome)


Doomsday cult” is an expression used to describe groups who believe in Apocalypticism and Millenarianism, and can refer both to groups that prophesy catastrophe and destruction, and to those that attempt to bring it about. The expression was first used by sociologist John Lofland in his 1966 study of a group of Unification Church members in California, 《Doomsday Cult: A Study of Conversion, Proselytization, and Maintenance of Faith》 Buy at amazon. A classic study of a group with cataclysmic predictions had previously been performed by Leon Festinger and other researchers, and was published in his book When 〈Prophecy Fails: A Social and Psychological Study of a Modern Group that Predicted the Destruction of the World〉 Buy at amazon.
Doomsday cult,


Reviews for the film have been mixed. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 28% of 203 critics have given the film a positive review, with a rating average of 4.6 out of 10. The site's general consensus is that “The Twilight Saga's second installment may satisfy hardcore fans of the series, but outsiders are likely to be turned off by its slow pace, relentlessly downcast tone, and excessive length.” … Michael O'Sullivan of The Washington Post gave the film two and half stars out of four, praised Kristen Stewart's performance in the film and wrote, “Despite melodrama that, at times, is enough to induce diabetes, there's enough wolf whistle in this sexy, scary romp to please anyone.” … Time Out New York gave the film 3 stars out of 5, calling it “acceptable escapism for those old enough to see it yet still young enough to shriek at undead dreamboats.” Jordan Mintzer from Variety stated, “Stewart is the heart and soul of the film”, and added that she “gives both weight and depth to dialogue… that would sound like typical chick-lit blather in the mouth of a less engaging actress, and she makes Bella's psychological wounds seem like the real deal.”


Ku Klux Klan, often abbreviated KKK and informally known as the Klan, is the name of three distinct past and present far-right organizations in the United States, which have advocated extremist reactionary currents such as white supremacy, white nationalism, and anti-immigration, historically expressed through terrorism. Since the mid-20th century, the KKK has also been anti-communist. The current manifestation is splintered into several chapters and is classified as a hate group.

The first Klan flourished in the South in the 1860s, then died out by the early 1870s. Members adopted white costumes: robes, masks, and conical hats, designed to be outlandish and terrifying, and to hide their identities. The second KKK flourished nationwide in the early and mid 1920s, and adopted the same costumes and code words as the first Klan, while introducing cross burnings. The third KKK emerged after World War II and was associated with opposing the civil rights movement and progress among minorities. The second and third incarnations of the Ku Klux Klan made frequent reference to the USA's “Anglo-Saxon” and “Celtic” blood, harking back to 19th-century nativism and claiming descent from the original 18th-century British colonial revolutionaries. The first and third incarnations of the Klan have well-established records of engaging in terrorism and political violence, though historians debate whether the tactic was supported by the second KKK.

Ku Klux Klan,


Astroturfing is a form of advocacy in support of a political, organizational, or corporate agenda, designed to give the appearance of a “grassroots” movement. The goal of such campaigns is to disguise the efforts of a political and/or commercial entity as an independent public reaction to some political entity—a politician, political group, product, service or event. The term is a derivation of AstroTurf, a brand of synthetic carpeting designed to look like natural grass.

Astroturfers attempt to manipulate public opinion by both overt (“outreach”, “awareness”, etc.) and covert (disinformation) means. Astroturfing may be undertaken by an individual promoting a personal agenda, or highly organized professional groups with money from large corporations, unions, non-profits, or activist organizations. Very often, the efforts are conducted by political consultants who also specialize in opposition research. Beneficiaries are not “grassroot” campaigners but distant organizations that orchestrate such campaigns.



The comments on my piece were hostile, insulting and vehemently opposed to my argument. The onslaught continued for a few more days: Some 2,000 comments were submitted, and editors took down about 700 of the worst. If you check this article online today, you will find more than 1,300 comments. For some reason, people are very invested in handwriting.
Handwriting Is History By Anne Trubek. At http://www.miller-mccune.com/culture-society/handwriting-is-history-6540/


Spencer, “the father of American handwriting,” was a fanatic who was obsessed with script even as a child. He made it big when he established a chain of business schools — the slogan was “Education For Real Life” — to teach his script, Spencerian, which he based on natural forms: leaves, trees, etc. Spencerian was the standard script taught from the 1860s to the 1920s. This transcendentalist move toward a script that better followed the human body's movements is belied by his insistence on rigor and standardization. He advised his students to practice six to 12 hours a day. Mastering his script would, Spencer believed, make someone refined, genteel, upstanding.

Later in the 19th century, Palmer invented a script that would better suit the industrial age. The Palmer Method stresses a “plain and rapid style.” He rejected the slightly fey Spencerian for a muscular, rugged script better suited to a commercial culture. By 1912, Palmer was a household word, and a million copies of his (printed) writing manuals had sold. Educators taught his method, and millions of Americans were “Palmerized.”

Handwriting Is History By Anne Trubek. At http://www.miller-mccune.com/culture-society/handwriting-is-history-6540/


These experiments demonstrated that there is a finite store of mental energy for exerting self-control. When people fended off the temptation to scarf down M&M's or freshly baked chocolate-chip cookies, they were then less able to resist other temptations. When they forced themselves to remain stoic during a tearjerker movie, afterward they gave up more quickly on lab tasks requiring self-discipline, like working on a geometry puzzle or squeezing a hand-grip exerciser. Willpower turned out to be more than a folk concept or a metaphor. It really was a form of mental energy that could be exhausted


In Hindu, Jain, and Buddhist mythology, the yakṣa has a dual personality. On the one hand, a yakṣa may be an inoffensive nature-fairy, associated with woods and mountains; but there is also a darker version of the yakṣa, which is a kind of ghost (bhuta) that haunts the wilderness and waylays and devours travelers, similar to the rakṣasas.

In Kālidāsa's poem Meghadūta, for instance, the yakṣa narrator is a romantic figure, pining with love for his missing beloved. By contrast, in the didactic Hindu dialogue of the Yakṣapraśnāḥ (“questions of the Yakṣa”), it is a tutelary spirit of a lake that challenges Yudhiṣṭhira. The yakṣas may have originally been the tutelary gods of forests and villages, and were later viewed as the steward deities of the earth and the wealth buried beneath. In Indian art, male yakṣas are portrayed either as fearsome warriors or as portly, stout and dwarf-like. Female yakṣas, known as yakṣiṇīs, are portrayed as beautiful young women with happy round faces and full breasts and hips.

Yaksha, 2011-07-09. See also: 夜叉
Yaksha is mentioned many times in Journey to the West. See: Yaksha (夜叉) in “Journey to the West” (西游记). For some pics of female yaksha (known as yaksinis), see: Asian Goddesses.
waylay = To lie in wait for and attack from ambush. (AHD)
tutelary = Being or serving as a guardian or protector. (AHD)
steward = originally, stigweard, literally, a sty ward. (sty = A enclosure for swine) Steward today means: One who manages another's property, finances, or other affairs; attendant on a ship or airplane, etc.
portly = bulky, comfortably stout, corpulent


Netflix got its start as the red-envelope movie rental service, later turning into the video streaming authority (bankrupting Blockbuster in the process), and now may be making yet another major move: bankrolling original content.
Netflix Gets Into The Original Content Game, Buys Upcoming Show For A Rumored $100m By Kyle Thibaut. @ Source www.crunchgear.com
bankroll = A roll of paper money.


That's exactly what the 15-year-old boys who sell their bodies on Polk Street in San Francisco say. And the young pickpockets in midtown Manhattan. And the baby-faced heroin addicts panhandling in Seattle. In Miami. In San Diego. Sure, the streets are brutal, even terrifying at times, but let me tell you a few stories about my dad or my mom or the uncle who won't leave me alone.
Running Scared By Jon D Hull. At http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,981850,00.html


More recent projects stir the imagination, even if the field is still young. Computer programs have generated over one thousand conjectures in graph theory, expressing numerical relationships between different graph invariants. One open conjecture is described in the box “An Open Computer-Generated Conjecture”. No technological barriers prevent us from unleashing conjecturing machines in all branches of mathematics, to see what moonshine they reveal.
Formal Proof Thomas C Hales. American Mathematical Society's “A Special Issue on Formal Proof”. At Source
moonshine = shine of the moon; empty or trivial (as moonshine); whiskey illegally distilled.


Then the scorpion changed to a vulture and the serpent became an eagle, which set upon the vulture and hunted him for an hour's time, till he became a black tomcat, which miauled and grinned and spat. Thereupon the eagle changed into a piebald wolf and these two battled in the palace for a long time, when the cat, seeing himself overcome, changed into a worm and crept into a huge red pomegranate which lay beside the jetting fountain in the midst of the palace hall. Whereupon the pomegranate swelled to the size of a watermelon in air and, falling upon the marble pavement of the palace, broke to pieces, and all the grains fell out and were scattered about till they covered the whole floor. Then the wolf shook himself and became a snow-white cock, which fell to picking up the grains, purposing not to leave one, but by doom of destiny one seed rolled to the fountain edge and there lay hid.
miaul = To cry as a cat; to mew; to caterwaul.
piebald = Having spots and patches of black and white, or other colors; mottled.


I know an extremely savvy businesswoman who made almost a million dollars online last year. Every entrepreneur I know considers her to be wildly successful. But guess what? A few days ago, out of the blue, she told me that she’s depressed. Why? “I’m burnt out and lonely. I just haven’t taken enough time for myself lately,” she said. “Wow!” I thought. “One of the most successful people I know isn’t happy.”

I also know a surfer who surfs almost all day, every day on the beach in front of our condo complex in San Diego. He’s one of the most lighthearted, optimistic guys I’ve ever met – always smiling from ear to ear. But he sleeps in a van he co-owns with another surfer and they both frequently panhandle tourists for money. So while I can’t deny that this man seems happy, I wouldn’t classify his life as a success story.

10 Simple Truths Smart People Forget By Marc At http://www.marcandangel.com/2011/01/10/10-simple-truths-smart-people-forget/
panhandle = beg by accosting people in the street and asking for money.


There are plenty of signs of the shockingly sudden economic slowdown during my commute. The radio isn't filled with the hopeful jingles of Internet retailers, and I can almost always get a cell-phone circuit. Some of the signs are just that — vacancy signs dangling from buildings whose landlords until recently were demanding shares in the companies started by their tenants. And the blank billboards along Highway 101 — the valley's main thoroughfare — mutely advertise the downturn. There are few tire kickers in the lots of the luxury-automobile dealers. Near my office, the people who sometimes paraded along the sidewalk bearing placards that said WILL WORK FOR EQUITY have mercifully disappeared.
Spring Comes Early To Silicon Valley By Michael Moritz. At http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,999529,00.html
downturn = a worsening of business or economic activity.
thoroughfare = A public road from one place to another.


the smokestack industry


me and my girlfriend reached a deadlock position
deadlock = a situation in which no progress can be made or no advancement is possible.


Annette Bening, in a comedic tour de force, plays Lester's wife Carolyn, a straitlaced, uptight, worry wart who sells real estate. Next door we have, just moving in, 18-year-old Ricky Fitts, played with sly self-assurance by Wes Bentley, the dope-dealing, Bible-suit wearing, photog son of Marine Corps Colonel Frank Fitts and his mostly catatonic wife.
American Beauty movie review by Dennis Littrell. At Source
tour de force = French expression meaning a exceptional creative achievement, a particularly adroit maneuver, or a difficult feat.
worrywart = One who worries excessively and needlessly.
photog = A person who takes photographs, especially as a profession.
straitlaced = exaggeratedly proper; prudish


I don't feel all that evangelical about this though. The real bugbear is the paper size. If Americans would switch to A4 I'd be very happy
Online forum post on Metric vs Imperial measuring system.
bugbear = A imaginary monster used to frighten children; A object of dread or apprehension.


God, the more I dig the more I'm drawn in… Kinda like rubbernecking at a traffic fatality on the 405 during rush hour.
macosx-talk mailing list post by Roger Howard, 2002.
rubbernecking = To look about with unsophisticated wonderment or curiosity.


One of these days, female notwithstanding, I'll end up dead or in prison if I can't change my ways. Or back in the bughouse if I'm lucky that day.
Yahoo schizoid forum post by a prostitute, 2001.
bughouse = A institution for the mentally ill. (AHD)


“Alright you two! Enough lollygagging! Let's get to work!”
dialogue from a comic by Hollister David, 2004
lollygagging = To waste time by puttering aimlessly; dawdle. (AHD)


Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, in a whirlwind, are grilled before the Senate over the prisoner abuse scandal.
whirlwind = A violent windstorm of limited extent, as the tornado, characterized by an inward spiral motion of the air with a upward current in the center


Written in the days when kingmakers really were beheaded and rebellion meant war and not a boardroom coup, (and I am sure those days still exist in the world), Titus was a revenge tragedy not unlike others of its day, but so raw and emotionally violent that it is refreshing!
Online user comment on the 1999 movie Titus. At Source
kingmaker = a important person who can bring leaders to power through the exercise of political influence.


“Titus Andronicus” is Shakespeare's much maligned play, and not without some justification. But in the hands of an artist such as Ms. Taymor, something quite new emerges. Where once was a potboiler of its time, now comes a witty and daring satire of our time.
Online user comment on the 1999 movie Titus. At Source
potboiler = a literary composition of poor quality that was written quickly to make money (to boil the pot).


honeymoon is the period when love birds pair off to a copulating vacation.
honeymoon = a holiday taken by a newly married couple. Honeymoon


the Simpsons cartoon: Homer: “Hey, Flanders, who put that bug up your butt?” Flanders: “Ohh. I wanted to subscribe to that new Arts and Crafts Channel. Well, sir, they send over this flimflam man to install it. And do you know what he did? He offered to hook me up illegally to every cable channel for only 50 bucks.” (then Homer ran after the flimflam man)
The Simpsons cartoon.
flimflam = a swindle in which you cheat at gambling or persuade a person to buy worthless property.


Should anyone much care whether an American boy living overseas gets six vicious thwacks on his backside? So much has been argued, rejoined and rehashed about the case of Michael Fay, an 18-year-old convicted of vandalism and sentenced to a caning in Singapore, that an otherwise sorry little episode has shaded into a certified International Incident, complete with intercessions by the U.S. head of state.
The Whipping Boy By James Walsh. At http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,980647,00.html
intercessions = a prayer to God on behalf of another person; the act of intervening (as to mediate a dispute)


Then there is the female university president's contretemps with a male board member. Before they enter her office, she gives her secretary a piece of paper and says, “I've just finished drafting this letter. Do you think you could type it right away? … And would you please do me a favor and hold all calls while I'm meeting with Mr. Smith?” Inside her office, Mr. Smith suggests that he disapproves of the solicitous way the head of the college has spoken to her secretary. “Don't forget,” he says, “you're the president!”
Are Women Too Nice At the Office? By Ginia Bellafante. At http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,981522,00.html
contretemps = a awkward clash.


OK, I understand this to mean that you do not have the mental wherewithall to understand that focusing on people is a choice, opposed to focusing on the arguments, on information, on ideas, on knowledge, on understanding, etc.
Erik Naggum in comp.lang.lisp, 2002-09-28
wherewithal = The necessary means, especially financial means. The word came from “wherewidth”