February 4th, 2024
‘After sitting empty for several decades, the current owners bought the property…’

Took them a long time to decide to buy. But they were feeling empty.

October 18th, 2023
Rep Jim Jordan and the Absolutely Fucking Flaming Triple Asshole …



[R]arely are [politicians] as instantly and unambiguously repellent as the odious Jordan. He’s so unlikable that even ideologically radical Republicans like Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO) who have no meaningful policy beefs with him are lining up to torpedo his bid. [SOS SOS: Beef and torpedo? Really?] He would be, in every possible way, a gift for Democrats to run against next year, not just because of his sordid antics but also because of the insanely unpopular policies he backs, like a national abortion ban.

October 4th, 2023
‘In interviews with friends, associates and former aides, the consensus was that, more than wholly transforming Mr. Giuliani, his drinking had accelerated a change in his existing alchemy, amplifying qualities that had long burbled within him: conspiracism, gullibility, a weakness for grandeur.’

Burbled! To see ‘burble’ burble up in this NYT Annals of an Alky is such a pleasure! The word is amusingly close to ‘bubble,’ and indeed seems to find its origin in ‘bubble.’

The alchemic metaphor is nicely maintained, with Giuliani’s enigmatic chemical “transformation” burbling up from a no-doubt Soros-spiked brew.

Burbled. So close to ‘bourbon.’


Like all great words, this one boasts a distinguished poetic lineage.

And, as in uffish thought he stood,

      The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,

Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,

      And burbled as it came!

July 20th, 2023
The Tragedy of Mixed Metaphor

Out of all this summer’s blockbusters that have had film buffs chomping at the bit, few (really just one, actually) have elicited hype as visceral and sustained as Universal’s Oppenheimer biopic from director Christopher Nolan. With its sizable fleet of A-listers doing mid-20th-century accent work, a complicated historical figure at its center, and a respected auteur steering the ship, Oppenheimer has all the making of a summer blockbuster destined to continue dominating this year’s film discourse for months to come.

Okay, so it’s not a tragedy. But when your first paragraph throws bombs (“blockbuster” derives from powerful WW2 bombs, so it’s appropriate here), and then swerves to horses (the correct word is “champing”), and after that ships, the result is kind of a mess, kind of a confusing stew. Smaller problems (it should be ‘makings‘; cliches abound; summer blockbuster is used twice; you don’t need ‘really’ and ‘actually’; it should probably be ‘sizable crew‘ if it’s one ship being steered by one person) don’t help matters.

July 5th, 2023
Scathing Online Schoolmarm Says: Nice writing.

Expect [,post-affirmative action on campus,] more antiracist action plans, more vaporous decolonization, more mandated training, more huckster consultants, more vacuous reports, more administrators whose jobs no one can explain, more sleazy land acknowledgments (“Sorry I stole your house!”), more performative white self-flagellation, more tokenization of minority faculty members.

June 5th, 2023
‘It wasn’t clear which rival gang would be the likely target of a revenge attack by the Bandidos. The Waterdogs have only six members and appear to be a club focused on riding motorcycles, instead of flaunting the law…’

As we await the next biker gang mass shooting in America, let us recall the all-important distinction between FLAUNT and FLOUT.

Flaunt is a verb that means to show off or display proudly, often in an ostentatious manner. For example: She likes to flaunt her wealth by driving a flashy car.

Flout is a verb that means to openly disregard or disrespect a law, rule, or convention. For example: He was arrested for flouting the city’s curfew.

I think we can agree that the writer in my headline meant FLOUTING.

April 2nd, 2023
SOS says: Nice writing.

… Satan carries Jesus onto a high mountain, below which are spread all the kingdoms of the world, and says, “All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.”

In the gospel myth, Christ passes the test. But how many of us mortals would? Some Republicans seem to have made it—Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers—but many did not. Consider William Barr, formerly a respected figure who reduced himself to vile toadyism and outright deceit to defend Trump from legal danger; consider Lindsey Graham, formerly, like his late friend John McCain, a figure with a reputation for independence who now crawls in Trump’s wake croaking “my precious”; consider Rudy Giuliani, once presidential timber but last seen by history as Pagliacci, hair dye dripping as he stumbled through a parody of legal argument on behalf of Trump. 

March 13th, 2023
SOS Says… I’m delighted by the development, but less delighted by the sentence announcing it.

As Rupert Murdoch’s Fox Corporation battles to contain the Dominion lawsuit scandal that has engulfed its top executives and stars, another crisis is building in the wings that has the potential to cause further turbulence for the media empire.

Smartmatic’s defamation lawsuit, targeting wiggidy wiggidy wacked New York University trustee Maria Bartiromo, is asking for twice Dominion’s damages: $2.7 billlllllion.

But you see the problem with the sentence in my headline, which comes from the Guardian. Tossing too much figurative language into your writing – aka mixed metaphors – is far from the worst style mistake; but it can fog up a reader’s understanding with a stew of confusing images. (See? A stew that fogs…?)

In this example, we move from the realm of battle to that of flooding, then take a theatrical turn (wings), and end up in a shaky aircraft cabin.

February 26th, 2023
‘Guttenberg—a tax lawyer, cybersecurity entrepreneur, and self-described paleoarchaeologist who calls herself the “top dog attorney in the country”—lives mostly in New Mexico but has homes in New York State and elsewhere. She and the show-dog community have been at each other’s throats for some time; in 2019, Guttenberg sued the Chihuahua Club of America over claims she called their president “a Nazi.”’

UD likes to drift among the current articles on the web ISO … kibbles you might enjoy.


In a follow-up filing, Guttenberg argued that misspellings do not constitute proof of drunkenness.

True, true. But Scathing Online Schoolmarm thinks they may constitute … a suggestion … that something (“You have defamed, slandered and attempted to ruin my lively hood” … “The words that came out of her mouth were very offensive like calling the President a Nazi and refuring to constration camps and Nazi Germany.”) is very wrong.

January 12th, 2023
So here’s one for Scathing Online Schoolmarm to Scathe Through.

The occasion couldn’t be more banal: A recently appointed school superintendent plagiarized her dissertation, and the community wonders what to do about a flagrant academic cheater overseeing the academic progress and ethics of the community’s children.

A local newspaper

“examined and cross-checked the 164-page paper” after receiving a tip that the manuscript contained “questionable credits and attributions.”

So, point one: A 164 page doctoral dissertation? Even in the benighted field of education, this is pretty pathetic, given that around half (?) of that is going to turn out to be intro, notes, dedications, etc. Let’s assume actual writing takes up 85 – 90 pages. This is far from thesis length.

Even so, the author felt compelled to lard it up with stolen language.

 … 35 sections of the dissertation matched the phrasing from sources “word-for-word” and are misidentified or unidentified. The paper fails to properly quote from The Journal of School Nursing, The Journal of School Health, a U.S. Surgeon General’s Report and other sources, according to excerpts highlighted in the newspaper’s article. The story also featured a trio of interviews with professors with expertise in plagiarism — with two saying the exact matches of sentences indicate copying and the third saying they believed the dissertation should at least “be corrected if possible.”

This ain’t just plagiarism; it’s Potty Plagiarism, it’s Brown Spots on the Wall by Hoo Flong Dong, it’s lemme hurl words here and hurl words there and let my utterly indifferent and irresponsible dissertation committee figure it out. Cuz yeah responsibility here is shared by the tenured layabouts who didn’t bother reading this and just went ahead and passed it and therefore passed this woman along to her date with destiny in the form of a group of reporters who actually examined the thing.

The plagiarist refuses interview requests – who can blame her? – but does treat the school district she oversees for $226,000 a year to some of her actual prose by way of defending herself to them. Here goes, kiddies.

 I’d like to be as open and transparent as possible on a topic that reminds me being in public leadership requires perfection (and undue scrutiny and judgment), sometimes at the expense of the progress and grace that I often encourage our community to extend to self and others. I only hope that I can model what I expect of our community, display the capacity to adjust, and take the Michelle Obama approach … ‘When they go low, we go high.’

S’wonderful the way she opens by announcing she’s about to be as open and transparent as possible, and then immediately plunges into thickets of nothingness. Where is the word “plagiarism”? What the fuck is she talking about?

We’re not going after her semi-literacy here; she wouldn’t have woven her thesis of many colors if she were able to write. We’re going after her contemptible self-flattery (“My title, accolades, credentials, years of experience and degrees only matter on my resume.” Which is why I’m bleating about them here.) and victimization and plagiarism of the integrity of Michelle Obama in service of her own ass-covering. No one says her job requires perfection, and there’s nothing undue about scrutiny that reveals a person just hired to supervise the ethics of hundreds of schoolchildren has the scholarly ethics of an alleycat. “Grace” is fine, grace is excellent, grace is preparing us for: Whatever I’ve done Jesus forgives me. They go low – those hellish scum had the gall to uncover my plagiarism – but I will go high! I will point my finger to heaven where all is forgiven!

September 3rd, 2022
‘Browbeaten Stock Bulls Wilt in the Face of Rising Fed Hostility’

This Bloomberg headline helps you understand why mixing metaphors ain’t a great idea.

July 22nd, 2022
Scathing Online Schoolmarm Says: I forgive Amy Klobuchar for messing up the notorious FLAUNT/FLOUT distinction.

Klobuchar wonders how the violence at the Capitol would have been handled if we’d had a president “who didn’t flaunt the laws of the United States.”

As Vocabulary.com notes, “Flaunt is to show off, but flout is to ignore the rules.”

She’s forgiven because it’s way easy to confuse these two very similar words; and also because she’d make a damn good presidential candidate and I don’t want to discourage her.

June 8th, 2022
‘MAGA candidates fail to oust mainstream Republicans in House primaries – including a GOP Rep. who voted for Trump’s impeachment and South Dakota Senator John Thune who ex-president declared his career “over”

Know Hope.

(Yes, SOS is aware that last part should be whose career the ex-president declared ‘over’.)

May 9th, 2022
Aw hell. Since, post-Taliban burqa mandate, everyone’s got nasty shit to say about that garment (and where are all the British burqa’ed women who routinely show up on the telly to insist that the shroud is beautiful and empowering?), I think we should revisit Polly Toynbee on the subject. SOS says: She’s a hell of a writer.

The top-to-toe burka, with its sinister, airless little grille, is more than an instrument of persecution, it is a public tarring and feathering of female sexuality. It transforms any woman into an object of defilement too untouchably disgusting to be seen. It is a garment of lurid sexual suggestiveness: what rampant desire and desirability lurks and leers beneath its dark mysteries? In its objectifying of women, it turns them into cowering creatures demanding and expecting violence and victimisation. Forget cultural sensibilities.

More moderate versions of the garb – the dull, uniform coat to the ground and the plain headscarf – have much the same effect, inspiring the lascivious thoughts they are designed to stifle. What is it about a woman that is so repellently sexual that she must diminish herself into drab uniformity while strolling down Oxford Street one step behind a husband who is kitted out in razor-sharp Armani and gold, pomaded hair and tight bum exposed to lustful eyes? (No letters please from British women who have taken the veil and claim it’s liberating. It is their right in a tolerant society to wear anything including rubber fetishes – but that has nothing to do with the systematic cultural oppression of women with no choice.)

March 10th, 2022
Scathing Online Schoolmarm says: It pays to know how to organize the material in your sentences.

SOS has been reading up, this morning, on the just-sanctioned oligarch Oleg Deripaska, and she found these extremely instructive sentences in a 2018 NYT article, so pay attention.

Unlike Mr. Deripaska, Lord Barker had a largely spotless reputation. His only minor brushes with scandal came in 2006, when he left his wife to live with a male interior decorator, and in 2012, while serving as energy minister, when he made the tabloids for using a microwave at Parliament to warm a cushion for his pet dachshund, Otto.

LOLOL. Do you see what the two extremely clever writers who produced these two sentences did? Do you see why the ghost of Lady Bracknell shines bright out of these two sentences? I mean, read it out loud, using her upperest of upper class British accents. Go on!

First, their set-up, and it’s vintage Oscar Wilde, as in

The General was essentially a man of peace

Then … Bada bing bada boom:except in his domestic life.

So here we begin with another insipid cliche: spotless reputation… Though that sly largely tells you Bracknell waits panting in the wings. Largely, essentially – insert a seemingly innocuous adverb in front of your cliche and let fly.

That short first sentence, in other words, is the set-up. The second, much longer sentence, will launch us into the realm of absurdity… Or not launch, really – launch suggests an instant liftoff, whereas the trick actually involves sort of the opposite of a liftoff… a kind of sly gradual fizzling out is more like it… an operation whereby the sentence, instead of gaining steam and significance (writers are typically instructed to put their most significant material toward the end of their sentences, to work up to it — in part so that the reader is led to want to read further), delightfully self-deflates, leaving us in a terrain so beyond-trivial, so astoundingly non-serious, so insanely petty, so infinitesimally small, as to …

I mean, ask yourself: Why didn’t they write dog? Why did they belabor, bedeck, and bedew the sentence with breed and name? With warm? With pet? Have the writers not read Politics and the English Language?

Of course they have. But I don’t pay a fortune to subscribe to the New York Times in order to march solemnly through a stern-faced rendition of what is in fact a farcical story featuring sleazy twisted self-regarding idiots – I want a sense, as I read, that, along with the obligatory surface rendition of events, the writers grasp the sick world that set the events in motion. The writers correctly pinpointed the dachshund detail as a … sly … opening to that world, and they went with it.

The only thing SOS thinks could have improved this writing would have been if Lord Barker had inadvertently put the dachshund rather than the cushion in the microwave, in the same way Miss Prism inadvertently put the baby rather than the manuscript in the handbag. Alas, real life seldom cooperates to this extent.

Though it is certainly true that we got more than we might have expected in the name Lord Barker. Here life lent the whole thing a very Richard Brinsley Sheridan touch. Nice.

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