All languages that derive from Latin form the word “compassion” by combining the prefix meaning “with” (com-) and the root meaning “suffering” (Late Latin, passio). In other languages—Czech, Polish, German, and Swedish, for instance—this word is translated by a noun formed of an equivalent prefix combined with that word that means “feeling” (Czech, sou-cit; Polish, współ-czucie; German: Mit-gefühl; Swedish, med-känsla).

In languages that derive from Latin, “compassion” means: we cannot look on coolly as others suffer; or, we sympathize with those who suffer. Another word with approximately the same meaning, “pity” (French, pitié; Italian, pietà; etc.), connotes a certain condescension towards the sufferer. “To take pity on a woman” means that we are better off than she, that we stoop to her level, lower ourselves.

This is why the word “compassion” generally inspires suspicion; it designates what is considered an inferior, second-rate sentiment that has little to do with love. To love someone out of compassion means not really to love.

In languages that form the word “compassion” not from the root “suffering” but from the root “feeling,” the word is used in approximately the same way, but to contend that it designates a bad or inferior sentiment is difficult. The secret strength of its etymology floods the word with another light and gives it a broader meaning: to have compassion (co-feeling) means not only to be able to live with the other’s misfortune but also to feel with him any emotion—joy, anxiety, happiness, pain. This kind of compassion (in the sense of soucit,współczucie, Mitgefühl, medkänsla) therefore signifies the maximum capacity of affective imagination, the art of emotional telepathy. In the hierarchy of sentiments, then, it is supreme.
—  Milan Kundera (The Unbearable Lightness of Being)

For example:


Definition: To spray with poo.

Analysis: Actually bescumber is just one of many words in the English language that basically mean “to spray with poo”. These are: BEDUNG, BERAY, IMMERD, SHARNY, and the good ol’ SHITTEN. In special cases, you can use BEMUTE (specifically means to drop poo on someone from great height), SHARD-BORN (born in dung), and FIMICOLOUS (living and growing on crap).

"Cracker," the old standby of Anglo insults was first noted in the mid 18th century, making it older than the United States itself. It was used to refer to poor whites, particularly those inhabiting the frontier regions of Maryland, Virginia and Georgia. It is suspected that it was a shortened version of "whip-cracker," since the manual labor they did involved driving livestock with a whip (not to mention the other brutal arenas where those skills were employed.) Over the course of time it came to represent a person of lower caste or criminal disposition, (in some instances, was used in reference to bandits and other lawless folk.)

(Source: Tywkiwdbi)


"Mushfaking" is a prison argot term which is used by Ohio prisoners to describe the process of producing contraband items from whatever materials are available to them in penal institutions."

~ The Journal of Social Psychology. 1982. Vol.117.

For example, turning a Sony PlayStation into a tattoo gun or making a jailhouse hot plate out of a brick.

"Mushfake" is a very interesting word. It seems to have first appeared in underworld slang back in the early 19th century in England. "Mush" by itself was, in that period, slang for an umbrella, from its similarity in shape to a mushroom. The verb "to fake" during the same period was criminal slang for "putting something in shape to sell by covering its defects." So a "mushroom faker" or "mushfake" was a con artist who repaired discarded umbrellas just enough to make them briefly functional and then sold them on the street, preferably during a downpour. Anyone who has ever bought one of those $3.00 umbrellas in a New York City rainstorm will recognize the racket. You’re wet again two blocks later.

Imported to America fairly quickly, “mushfaker” became hobo slang for an itinerant tinkerer or handyman. “Mushfakers” repaired pots and pans as well as umbrellas, but “mushfaking” was considered an occupation of last resort and “mushfakers” occupied the lowest rung of hobo society. By the 20th century, “mushfake” had become prison slang for making useful objects out of cast-off or less-useful materials. Ironically, a good “mushfaker” is probably a lot more popular in prison than on the street.

~ The Word Detective

Image: Via Prison Photography.

A dictionary of buckish slang, university wit, and pickpocket eloquence.

ANGLING FOR FARTHINGS. Begging out of a prison window with a cap, or box, let down at the end of a long string.

BUNTER. A low dirty prostitute, half whore and half beggar.

FIRE PRIGGERS. Villains who rob at fires under pretence of assisting in removing the goods.

GAP STOPPER. A whoremaster.

JARKMEN. Those, who fabricate counterfeit passes, licences, and certificates for beggars.

MORNING DROP. The gallows. He napped the king’s pardon and escaped the morning drop; he was pardoned, and was not hanged.

PETTY FOGGER. A little dirty attorney, ready to undertake any litigious or bad cause: it is derived from the French words petit vogue, of small credit, or little reputation.

RED RAG. The tongue. Shut your potatoe trap, and give your red rag a holiday; i.e. shut your mouth, and let your tongue rest. Too much of the red rag (too much tongue).

SWIGMEN. Thieves who travel the country under colour of buying old shoes, old clothes, &c. or selling brooms, mops, &c.

WRINKLE. A wrinkle-bellied whore; one who has had a number of bastards: child-bearing leaves wrinkles in a woman’s belly. To take the wrinkles out of any one’s belly; to fill it out by a hearty meal. You have one wrinkle more in your a-se; i.e. you have one piece of knowledge more than you had, every fresh piece of knowledge being supposed by the vulgar naturalists to add a wrinkle to that part.

(Source: Boing Boing)


Cant (kant) n. 1. whining, singsong speech, esp. as used by beggars 2. the secret slang of beggars, thieves, etc; argot 3. insincere or almost meaningless talk used merely from convention or habit — to use cant, speak in cant — adj. of, or having the nature of, cant —

The things on my tongue may burn you.


Let’s invent a word so haunted, so transformational–so transitional–that the moment you type it your soul is sucked through it & into communication with & exile from everything. “Everything” being the truth about the world, in the sense that it is the world. “The truth about the world” being that it’s everything in the world–& though you were always in the world, now you are in there with it, which is a different matter altogether. It is not a truth you wanted to know, this quality of the world being able to lie alongside itself & yet remain a single thing. But you spoke the word. You turned the key.”

~ Let’s Invent | M. John Harrison

Image: Visual poem by Fernando Aguiar.

A sampling:

GIRI (義理・ぎり): debt or obligation. A very complex concept of duty unique to Japanese culture, this indicates both the gratitude one has for an act of kindness and the obligation to carry out revenge. The yakuza distinguish themselves from the American and other mafias by claiming to uphold a sense of giri and ninjo.

KAKUSEIZAI (覚醒剤・かくせいざい): speed, amphetamines, meth. The drug of choice in Japan and the trade that has proved more lucrative for the yakuza than even the sex industry. Possibly accounts for up to one-third of total revenue. Virtually the entire business in Japan is run by the yakuza. Slang: (シャブ).

TOBASHI (no) (飛ばし・とばし): Slang for something fake, typically registered in someone else’s name and used in a scam, such as mobile phones or bank accounts.

noun (plural) /iˈjektə/
(from the Latin: “things thrown”, singular “ejectum”)

1. Material that is forced or thrown out, esp. as a result of volcanic eruption, meteoritic impact, or stellar explosion

Ejecta. The debris from impact. Scars. Fluids. Screams.

Not only the source material but the true measure of any art - what kind of impact did it make?

A gallery projecting on brackets and built on the outside of castle towers and walls, with openings in the floor through which to drop molten lead, boiling oil, and missiles.

A machicolation is a floor opening between the supporting corbels of a battlement, through which stones, or other objects, could be dropped on attackers at the base of a defensive wall. The design was developed in the Middle Ages when the Norman crusaders returned. A machicolated battlement projects outwards from the supporting wall in order to facilitate this. A hoarding is a similar structure made of wood, usually temporarily constructed in the event of a siege. Advantages of machicolations over wooden hoardings include the greater strength of stone battlements, as well as the fireproof properties.

The word derives from the Old French word *machecol, mentioned in Medieval Latin as machecollum and ultimately from Old French macher ‘crush’, ‘wound’ and col ‘neck’. Machicolate is only recorded in the 18th c. in English, but a verb machicollāre is attested in Anglo-Latin. The Spanish word denoting this structure, matacán, is similarly composed from “matar canes” meaning roughly “killing dogs”, the latter being a reference to infidels. A variant of a machicolation, set in the ceiling of a passage, was colloquially known as a murder-hole.

Machicolations were more common in French castles than their English contemporaries, and when used in English castles they were usually restricted to the gateway, as in the 13th-century Conwy Castle.

(Source: Wikipedia)



A false or slanderous story used for political advantage.

[After Baron von Roorback, imaginary author of Roorback’s Tour Through the Western and Southern States, from which a passage was purportedly quoted in an attempt to disparage presidential candidate James K. Polk in 1844.]