Category Archives: etymology

Short Shrift


First, goal progress: In bed by 11:30 a.m. ish Jan 23, Up at 7:50 a.m. Jan 24.


Because I created our All Things Vegan Radio blog today, this blog gets short shrift. From good old

O.E. scrift “confession to priest, followed by penance and absolution,” verbal noun from scrifan “to impose penance” (see shrive). Short shrift originally was the brief time for a condemned criminal to confess before execution (1590s); figurative extension to “little or no consideration” is first attested 1814.

My short shift: I’m innocent, I swear!

And…always look on the bright side of life…
Always look on the light side of life…

For life is quite absurd
And death’s the final word
You must always face the curtain with a bow.
Forget about your sin – give the audience a grin
Enjoy it – it’s your last chance anyhow.

So always look on the bright side of death
Just before you draw your terminal breath.


Emem Neophytos Ameretat Korbinian Sissinnguaq


reflect on this year and manifest what’s next

New Name. Let’s meet again, for the first time. If you could introduce yourself to strangers by another name for just one day, what would it be and why?

Saint Barbara

I’ve never really liked my name. As a little girl, my family called me Barbie. They were thinking cute. However, I realized by 4th grade that this was completely offensive and insulting on a number of levels. First of all, I wasn’t blond, air-headed, or a bimbo, thank you very much.

So when 5th grade started, I decided to change my name to B.J., for my first two initials. That brought on a little snickering here and there, but at least it stopped the Barbie label for those outside my family. Long lost relatives and friends of the family had a harder time giving it up, but I wasn’t shy about expressing my visceral disgust at the name if they even innocently let it pass their lips.

After 5th grade, I reverted to Barb. It was boring and old-fashioned sounding, but tolerable. I’ve always wished, however, that I had been given a unique name. Barbara’s not the most common name of my generation, but it’s common enough (I didn’t know that it’s been a masculine name choice as well, peaking in 1938). In fact, although it wasn’t too popular by 1970, it was in the top 5 U.S. names for girls in the 30s, 40s, & 50s. I’ve never understood why my parents picked three typical names for their children, but maybe it’s because they were names they had heard a lot growing up. My mom had a fairly common name, but my Dad had a highly unusual name (for his century, at least). I wonder which one of them had more influence choosing the names? I remember mom, who worked for the school district, complaining sometimes about the names parents chose for their children and how the kids should not have to be teased in school because their parents gave them a weird name. So it was probably her.

As a result of my boring name angst, I decided early on that I would name my children very uniquely, and started keeping name lists in my journals. If only I knew where those journals were, I would share a few of those gems with you. But since I do not, I’m forced to poke around at places like, the etymology and history of first names. I love discovering word origins [geek].

Alas, my step-kids came pre-named (two with common names, one with a pretty unique name), and I’ve only had the opportunity to name a series of animal friends. Connecticut (girl), Queequeg (girl), Tundra (girl), Pip (girl), Algernon (boy), Nevermore (girl), Tamias (boy), Isis (girl), Deimos (boy), and Archimedes, Arcturus, & Hera (foster kittens)—and those are only the ones whose names we changed. How’d we do?

All this is really not bringing me to an idea for a new name. How about a name borrowed from some of my favorite species; Corvus Crazicus, Loxodonta, Acinonyx, Archaeopteryx (or Urvogel), anyone? Or this Native American name suggested by Sissinnguaq, meaning squirrel in Greenlandic. Or Ameretat, the name of a Zoroastrian goddess of plants and long life. Neophytos, Ancient Greek, meaning newly planted (even if it is a boy’s name). I like the simplicity of the African Emem, meaning “peace” in Ibibio. And Korbinian is derived from Latin corvus meaning “raven.” That’s it, for one day only, I’d like you to call me Emem Neophytos Ameretat Korbinian Sissinnguaq.