Some new portraits of old guys…

Copyright 2019 by Russ Hodge; not for use without permission (as opposed to most of the material on the site).

Some of these images (or high-quality reproductions) are for sale if anyone is interested. The formats of the originals are all very large: A0 (84 x 119 cm); medium chalk and wax.Johann Sebastian Bach

Claudio MonteverdiAbraham LincolnEdgar Allen PoeHenry David Thoreau


New updates to the Devil’s dictionary

more entries in the Devil’s Dictionary: -bios, faveolus, pleuston, sitology, somatic, snurps, supination, and tarsi.

See the complete Devil’s Dictionary of Scientific Words and Phrases here.


all entries in the Devil’s Dictionary copyright 2019 by Russ Hodge

-bios a suffix attached to organisms indicating the ecosphere – the “living space” – in which they typically reside. Examples include:

halobios  the organisms residing inside a halo

limnobios  the organisms that live in limonade

limobios  anything organic that remains after cleaning a limo

diplobios  parasites occupying the bodies of diplomats

geobios  animals that live on land; interestingly, an anagram of the word is “boogies”, which means organisms that live in a gelatinous substance extracted from the nose and exposed to air.

faveolus  the crater left behind on a person’s face after the removal of a zit

pleuston  the aquatic version of a windbag

sitology  the scientific study of the interactions between a butt and a chair

somatic  everything that remains of a body after the soul has been extracted, whether through surgical, psychological, or divine methods

snurps  cynical, quip-like comments in a review, usually delivered in a sarcastic manner

supination  a posture adopted by a penitent when petitioning mercy on the part of a superior being, such as a religious authority or a group leader. In proper supination, the ventral side faces upward, toward the superior, exposing the soft parts, basically offering one’s intestines to the predator in the event he or she has a taste for such things.

tarsi  structures that keep a person’s eyelids from falling off.


If you liked the Devil’s Dictionary, you’ll probably also enjoy:

The subtle art of writing a truly mean and vicious review

Even God’s first paper got rejected

The Evolution of Pizza: Novel insights from the fourth domain of life


The Devil’s dictionary returns!

more entries in the Devil’s Dictionary: today including palindromidae, factoid, gyration gladiate, laminate, and lamprey

See the complete Devil’s Dictionary of Scientific Words and Phrases here.


palindromidae  members of very rare camelid species with such nearly perfect anterior-posterior symmetry that only experts can determine which end is the front and which the back. The most famous example is the Pushmi-pullyu, a llama with heads on both ends. Its first description in the scientific literature was provided by the group of Dr. John Dolittle (see, for example, Lofting et al, 1922), who originally mistook it for a cross between a gazelle and a unicorn. (The mistake was corrected for the documentary film on Dolittle’s career, produced by Walt Disney in 1967.) The animals themselves often become confused about whether they are coming or going, and have nearly gone extinct due to physiological difficulties during reproduction, or quarrels over which end gets a mate. The term is sometimes extended by analogy to human beings who can’t tell their heads from their asses.

factoid  a unit of information which can be combined with other units to create a fact.

gyration  the circular motion of an object around an axis, such as planets around a star, or hips around a pelvis. Gyration was discovered by Elvis Presley; until then, it was thought that the hips moved according to a model based on epicycles.

gladiate  to mediate between parties in a dispute using knives, axes, or other weapons, including the tongue, if it has been sufficiently sharpened by irony.

laminate  to preserve an object – such as a hotdog, a PhD student, or a cadaver – by placing it in an airtight seal, using Saran Wrap or a similar substance, so that it can be bought from a vending machine or unpacked for use in experiments at a later date.

lamprey  an organism that attaches itself to another, or sometimes unintentionally an inanimate object, by placing its lips on the surface it and sucking hard to create a sort of biological suction cup. If, by chance, two lampreys engage in a mutual lip-lock, one may suck the other inside. The term is sometimes extended metaphorically to a scientist who hitches his career onto that of another and never lets go. Parasitic lampreys live off the blood out of their hosts, sometimes boring through the skin; the mechanisms that prevent them from boring all the way through and falling out the other side have not yet been described. The best method of removing a lamprey is with a crowbar.

Here’s a slightly revised version of an old entry, enhanced after some new historical facts came to light:

oviduct  In modern times this refers to a chute or apparatus in an egg factory which transports an egg from its point of origin in a chicken to its ultimate destination in an egg carton. The etymology of the word is interesting; the roots are derived from ovi- (eggs) and ductus, which was a Medieval vocal composition to be performed during marches or processions. The link between eggs and music is a custom from ancient times that began before dawn every day when a procession of soldiers, priests, and other dignitaries marched to a farm, selected an exceptional egg, and marched it back to the palace, setting the pace by singing a ductus. At the palace the egg was delivered to the Duke of Breakfast, who examined it for cracks or other obvious flaws, such as syringe marks, which might be an indication of an assassination attempt, in a ceremony adorned by plenty of Pomp and whatever Circumstances the occasion might require. After the Duke’s formal acceptance of the egg, he placed it in a bejeweled container called an ovi-carton and personally delivered it to the King. The King conducted his own inspection, with the option of declaring it kingsworthy and handing it to a page for delivery to the kitchen, or rejecting it and cutting off the Duke’s head.

Thus the original meaning of oviduct is best captured by a phrase such as, “Processional music for the King’s Egg.” The oviductus was one of the major musical genres of the late Renaissance and Early Baroque eras, undergoing an evolution not dissimilar to that of the sonata, dance suite, opera, and kazoo symphony, fulfilling an essential social function by providing a livelihood for musicians who were contractually obligated to compose a new one every day for as long as they were employed by the court, unless they died or went insane. All oeuvres in the genre share a feature: the rhythmic structure of the “Colonel Bogey March.”

In modern times Kings get their eggs from, sometimes using the delivery-by-drone service, and this sounded the death knell of/hammered the final nail into the coffin of/brought a definitive end to the art form known as/ushered in the Götterdämmerung of the musical genre known as the oviductus.

When a thing disappears the word often follows, unless it jumps the species barrier to inhabit another object. Oviductus was rehabilitaed in the shorter form oviduct: understood as a chute, apparatus, delivery robot or limousine service that collects a product at its source (chicken) and delivers it to its destination (egg carton). Linguistic creativity led to the combination of -duct with other roots in words such as aquiduct, boviduct, air conditioning duct, etc. In the process –ducts came to represent passageways between the starting position of a thing and its final resting point: Acquiduct, for example, is the route by which “aqua” (water) is passed to cities and towns and ultimately into the urinary tract for recycling. Bovi-, the Latin root for cattle, has now been used to coin the term boviduct, a passageway in slaughterhouses used by cows who have been selected for passage to the Other Side and a new plane of existence which must be pretty wonderful because they are so content they forget to write postcards home. By extension, one should understand air conditioner duct as the network of passageways in a house by which air conditioners are shuttled from room to room.

I recently came across a modern reference to a boviduct in a text in Dutch on a website. Here I present the original and a rough translation. (For those of you who don’t speak Dutch, a word of caution: be aware that according to some scholars, Dutch isn’t a real language. It’s a random mixture of German and English and some old Viking words, thrown together with any word order a speaker feels comfortable with, and then vocalized in a Scottish brogue. This is actually wonderful for translators, because it gives them a great deal of freedom in interpreting the text. It also adds a certain excitement to relationships, because neither partner can ever be completely sure of what the other means.) I certainly wouldn’t call myself an expert in Dutch, but based on a thorough acquaintance with English and German and after a weekend of total Dutch immersion I have enough of a feel for the language to offer a rough translation:


Een aantal panden kan worden afgevoerd omdat ze inmiddels zijn gesloopt of zodanig verbouwd dat de historische kantjes er wel af zijn. Maar de speurders kunnen er ook wat aan toevoegen: karakteristieke stukjes bebouwing die beschermd dorpsgezicht zouden moeten worden, mogelijke archeologische vindplaatsen (Oene) en een aantal kleine cultuurhistorische objecten. Een daarvan is het ‘boviduct’ in Vaassen, een tunneltje als doorgang voor het vee onder de Geelmolensebeek door, die even voor de Geelmolen in een hoge bedding stroomt. Het zou de enige boviduct in Nederland kunnen zijn.


A portion of panda can work effectively if governed in the middle of ten sloppy sudden buildings where the historical corners are well-seen. But the spurters can hook something up to the tobogan; characteristic pieces built the smeary (beschmierde) dork-face that has suddenly become mute (Note: the word in the original Dutch is moet, and the author may instead be referring to an alcoholic beverage), perhaps like archeological wind palaces (or at least one of them) and a smidgen of small culturo-histo objects. A divan is the “boviduct” in Vaassen, a tunnel which begins at the doorway of the horny moles’ back door, which existed even before the horny moles needed it to “storm” (move with effort) a huge bedding. It is there that the only boviduct in the Netherlands can be seen today.


If you liked the Devil’s Dictionary, you’ll probably also enjoy:

Searching for Oslo: a non-hypothesis-driven approach

On the publication of “Remote sensing” by the magazine Occulto


Musicophobia: an appendix to the Devil’s Dictionary

Today’s entry represents a small appendix to the complete Devil’s Dictionary of Scientific Words and Phrases, which can be seen here.

As always, suggestions for new entries are welcome!


A small glossary of terms for the fears and conditions that commonly impede the performance or appreciation of music, many of which are entirely justified.


all entries in the Devil’s Dictionary copyright 2019 by Russ Hodge


1812 syndrome a fear that the cannons pointed at the public during a performance of Tchaikovsky’s overture are loaded with real ammunition

aquatonophobia a fear of being unable to control one’s compulsion to sing in the shower, or any time it rains

arcocidophobia a fear of being fatally stabbed when your stand partner’s bow penetrates your ear

batonocidophobia a fear of being stabbed by a baton released by a conductor, at which point you discover the tip has somehow been dabbed with a toxic substance

bizetophobia a fear of falling in love with the lead singer in an opera, which almost always turns out badly for everyone involved

bombasturinophobia a fear that your bladder will burst during a concert

chorophobia a fear of church choirs or the robes they wear

carillonophobia a fear of bell towers, particularly amongst those living near them

chromataphobia a fear of playing a piece which has been written in a key with more than one or two sharps or flats, just out of malice on the part of the composer

chutephobia a fear of falling into an orchestra pit, impaling yourself a music stand, and becoming trapped there until you bleed out or starve to death

cornemusophobia a fear of ancient reed instruments that produce bleating sounds, usually out of tune

cornoviperophobia a fear that a poisonous snake has crept into your French horn and is residing in one of those inaccessible curves

dingalingophobia a fear of missing one’s cue while performing in a bell choir

dongiovannitis a fear that a zombie will appear onstage during an opera

faintophobia a fear of locking your knees and fainting while singing in a choir, particularly when standing on one of the high risers at the back

fermataphobia a fear that a conductor will hold a note so long that a singer or wind player will asphyxiate

fortissimoflatulaphobia a fear of audibly releasing gas during a concert

gamelonophobia a fear of tonal systems in which octaves are not subdivided into 12 equal parts

karaokephobia a fear of being compelled to sing a solo in public

lloydweberphobia a fear of being compelled to attend a musical after being given tickets as a birthday present

mumphphobia a fear of opening your mouth to sing and nothing comes out, possibly because someone has stuffed a sock in it

music stand collapse anxiety a self-explanatory term

nibelungenphobia a fear that you will die during the performance of a particularly long opera

ohrwurmophobia a fear of getting a tune permanently stuck in one’s head, especially an advertising jingle, children’s song, or polka

reveillephobia a fear of being roused from sleep by a loud trumpet blasting in one’s ear

ringtonophobia severe anxiety caused by not being sure whether you have turned off your cell phone during a concert, or that if one goes off people will think it’s yours

saxamorophobia a fear of falling in love with a saxophone player, which almost always turns out badly

shankarophobia a fear of being trapped in a concert of Indian music that lasts for 12 or 14 hours

sourdaphobia a fear of peforming so badly that a listener to goes deaf, or wishes that he would

sousaphobia a fear of marching bands, which is almost always perfectly justified

stockhausen syndrome a fear of learning to like 12-tone music

tremeloseismophobia a fear that the dissonance created by bad tuning in the bass section will cause vibrations that register on the Richter scale

tritenorophobia a fear of any event involving three tenors

trombocularphobia a fear that your eye will be poked out by a trombone player

valkyriphobia a fear of very large altos

victrolaphobia a fear of becoming paralyzed while trapped in a room with a skipping record

violaphobia a fear of an unnatural behavior on the part of viola players that will lower the quality of their performance even below the expected standards, including fearing that they won’t show up on time, that they will show up on time, fearing that they will be sober when they show up, that they will have remembered to bring their bows, that they accidentally play the right piece, read the right clef, etc. etc.


Can it be? two updates in one day…???

Even more entries in the Devil’s Dictionary: development, inebriation, perianth, and tepal.

See the complete Devil’s Dictionary of Scientific Words and Phrases here.


all entries in the Devil’s Dictionary copyright 2018 by Russ Hodge


development  a process by which complex organisms arise from a single cell (often a fertilized egg), then go through a brief, chaotic phase as multicellular organisms before degenerating. This requires a great deal of energy and places an enormous burden on the entire ecosphere, which must expend fantastic resources to give such organisms something to eat. Originally multicellularity arose when a progenitor’s offspring were too lazy to leave home, get jobs and carry out fruitful, independent lives. Instead they remained stuck together in a sort of commune or collective, which happened for several reasons: they shared a common religious or political ideology, or were simply too lazy to learn to fend for themselves and developed a pathological co-dependency on each other. Or they were simply too sticky to detach themselves. Ultimately all of these experiments fail because the group becomes too large to manage, descends into anarchy, and finally falls apart, leaving single cells again. At that point you have to wonder whether it is worth it, if the whole point is simply to end up as food for bacteria and worms.

inebriation  a scale used by medical professionals to estimate the degree of severity of a case of alcohol poisoning in a patient. The lowest end of the scale is represented by the teetotaller, a person who drinks uniquely tea, usually a green, murky type that tastes like it has been aged in a brackish swamp somewhere. There follows sobriety, a temporary situation in which alcohol is no longer measurable in the bloodstream, usually attained after an extended stay in a rehabilitation clinic. Further points along the scale, in temporal order, are buzzed, rowdy, obnoxious, hammered, incoherent, blackout, dead to the world, death warmed over, hung-over, powerfully thirsty, andhair-of-the-dog. At that point the cycle repeats itself. If the poison of choice is tequila, some steps are very short-lived or skipped over entirely.

perianth  the non-reproductive part of a flower; generally the ugly parts which resemble weeds, or everything that is left when the petals fall off.

tepal  a part of a plant which arises when it misspells a petal.


If you liked the Devil’s Dictionary, you’ll probably also enjoy:

Even God’s first paper got rejected…

Searching for Oslo: a non-hypothesis-driven approach

On-line etiquette for clones; with a few tips for zombies…


Holiday entries in the Devil’s dictionary!

Today’s entries in the Devil’s Dictionary include fruitcake, novelty, polymery, sepal, shrub and whorl.

See the complete Devil’s Dictionary of Scientific Words and Phrases here.


all entries in the Devil’s Dictionary copyright 2018 by Russ Hodge

fruitcake  the product of a complex chemical experiment in which flour is taken in its raw, inedible form and combined with various other ingredients, some of which originally hung from trees in tropical climates, then subjected to intense heat until they reach a solidified form that is practically inedible unless you are willing to risk some teeth. A person probably wouldn’t die after eating some, but it has rarely been tried; only anecdotal evidence exists in the literature. The baked form resembles an adobe brick and can be used for most of the same purposes. The other main use is purely ritualistic and plays a role in Christmas festivities. A family bakes some, wraps them up as presents, and gives them to the neighbors. They, in turn, give their own version of fruitcake as form of revenge. Neither will eat the object, but you can’t throw it away – they might notice it in your garbage can. People do check what their neighbors are throwing away after the holidays. The solution is to archive it in the deep freeze, with a label indicating the year. We have a fruitcake in our freezer from the year 1897.

novelty  a scale used to indicate the degree of plagiarism or copyright infringement contained in a project or paper. “High novelty” indicates that a term, experiment or concept has been modified enough to evade most legal actions. A “low degree of novelty” is usually an indication that the author or inventor should be heavily insured against claims by others.

polymery  a state of intoxication in a parrot.

sepal  a sort of umbrella growing over the bud of a flower, to protect it from hailstorms and hide its sexual organs from the wrong pollinators.

shrub  a derogatory term used by trees to refer to plants that are unnaturally stunted, haven’t fulfilled their potential, or are somehow disappointing overall.

 whorl a region within a person’s hair which is shaped like a tiny hurricane, formed through similar physical forces. In those born in the Northern Hemisphere, whorls generally form in a clockwise direction, while in the Southern Hemisphere the structure flows in a counter-clockwise direction, viewed from above. Usually this region is located on the back side of the head, although there have been well-documented cases of its appearance in other places, such as between the eyebrows. Contrary to popular belief, one cannot retrain a whorl to grow in the opposite direction by sticking a finger into it and twirling it in the opposite direction, or with the aid of some mechanical device such as an electric mixer, although a few recent studies suggest that this can be achieved temporarily if the device rotates at a speed above 1000 rpm.

If you liked the Devil’s Dictionary, you’ll probably also enjoy:

Searching for Oslo: a non-hypothesis-driven approach

On the publication of “Remote sensing” by the magazine Occulto