Wednesday’s Word: jack

Is there any word in the English language that has more meanings than jack? Jack is a name, jack is a noun, jack is a verb. Jack is a device, a toy, a man, an animal, a cheese and an STD.

Here are a few of the meanings of this versatile, yet sometimes crude, word:

Jack the Tool


What many most commonly know as a jack is the latch and crank tool usually found in the trunk of a car to raise the car so you can change the tire. But there’s more than that. There are any number of devices called jacks which are employed to lift heavy objects. They don’t have to be mechanical like the car jack, they can be pneumatic or hydraulic. There is a nautical jack that has something to do with keeping the masthead in position. You can use a jack to turn a spit. Or you can use a jack to prop up a portion of stage scenery. A jack is the female end of a plug, either in an electrical outlet or in the connection of audio, video or telephonic cables.

Jack the Plaything

There is a common children’s game called jacks, that has something to do with scattering the jacks in a floor or flat surface then picking them up according to a set of rules I don’t really know The key object in the game is the jack itself, a six-pointed lightweight metal object. Jack is the guy who pops out of the music box.


For card players, there is in each of the four suits a jack, portrayed as either a knave or a soldier, and ranking below the king and queen.

Jack plays a role in more active sports as well. A baseball player who hits a home run can be said to have jacked the ball out of the park. You could simply credit the slugger with a jack. And there is a small white ball called a jack in lawn bowling.

Jack the LIving Thing

When it comes to homesapiens, the term jack is used as a synonym for laborer. You can get more specific by using jack as a suffix, as in lumberjack or steeplejack. Sailors can also be tagged as jacks.

(Image by James DeMers)

In the animal world a male ass is a jackass, although that term can also be used for the human variety of ass.  There are some fish called jacks and it can also mean a young male salmon. In the aviary world there is a whiskey jack, reputed to be the world’s smartest bird, and the jackdaw

Jack the Jargon

Jack is commonly used as slang for money. If you don’t know jack about something, you’re knowledge is severely limited. You can jack up, as in injecting a controlled substance, or you can jack off, as in masturbating. If you got the jack in Australia, it’s not money, it’s a venereal disease.

Jack the Act

Sometimes the verb jack is used for stealing. But usually the act of jacking is the act of lifting, whether literally or figuratively. If you use any of the tools called jacks you are hoisting up something. If you jack the prices on something you’re trying to sell, you’re raising them, likely a lot. If you’re a sports coach, you might want to jack up your team, making them more emotional or enthusiastic. Or you might want to improve their conditioning by having them do jumping jacks. We’ve already covered the issue of a baseball player jacking the ball out of the park, in basketball a player might jack up a shot. 

All this and we haven’t even mentioned Jack the Cheese (Monterrey Jack), Jack the Adult Beverage (Applejack), Jack the Flag (Union Jack), Jack the Pumpkin (o’-lantern) or Jack the Highway Accident (jackknife). And maybe the strangest definition of all is this entry from the Urban Dictionary: “to pull a jack is to shit on the top of a car then sit in it.” Somebody does that!!!

The word jack has far too many definitions for me to provide sentences for each. So I’ve condensed that exercise by offering these sentences using multiple meanings of jack.

  • Because someone jacked Jack’s jack, he was unable to jack up the car to change his tire.
  • Because Jack was a jack, when he caught the jack he didn’t have enough jack to pay for the antibiotics.
  • The jackass ate all the Monterrey Jack that the lumberjack had jacked from his buddy’s lunchbox.
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Baseball in the Time of COVID

Citi Field
Mr. and Mrs. Met social distancing

The tagline for the return of fans to Citi Field is “Safe at Citi.” It feels pretty real. While we’ve heard a lot in recent days about the relaxing of pandemic restrictions by the CDC and in the northeast states, the impact of that has not found its way to Citi Field. To get into the park you need to show proof of vaccination or a current negative COVID test result. In addition to hosting the Mets, Citi Field is also a vaccination site and more than 100,000 doses have been administered here. While there are some folks, particularly politicians, who are trying to make a partisan issue out of requiring vaccinations, I’m happy to know that the people sharing the stadium with me have been vaccinated.

As of mid-May they were allowing 20% capacity at Citi Field. You get your temperature taken on the way in and masks are required. Gaiters or bandanas won’t cut it. There are mask police who will come around and tell you to put in on if you slack off. Everything is touchless: parking, tickets, concessions. And we all filled out contact tracing forms. All in all, a pretty safe environment.

Fans at Citi Field
20% looks like this
Taking temps
Taking temps
Mens room at City Field
Who wants to stand shoulder-to-shoulder at a urinal anyway.
Hand sanitizer at Citi Field
Once there were ketchup dispensers.
Strapped seats, Citi Field
If you didn’t buy tickets together and your buddy wants to sneak into your section and sit next to you, he’s likely to have a wire up his butt.
Trenton Thunder players
Heading south, we find these guys with uniforms that say Thunder. But in fact these are the Buffalo Bison. Confused? The Toronto Blue Jays couldn’t bring teams back and forth over the U.S./Canadian border, so they are playing in Buffalo, home of their AAA minor league team, the Bison. That required some construction on the Buffalo stadium, and that sent the Bison south to Trenton. They will be playing in what was the home of the Trenton Thunder, a 25+ years successful franchise that was abandoned by the Yankees as part of MLB’s shakedown of the minor leagues. So for at least part of the season, the Bison will be playing under the alias Thunder.
masked umpire
I don’t think they’d let you into Citi Field with that mask.
Rain delay at Citi Field
But no amount of mask wearing, vaccinating and temperature taking can save us from this.
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Wednesday’s Word: chaw

Now I went out last Sunday with my little Mary Anne

She said, ‘Please stay ’til Monday,’ and she grabbed me by the can

She laid a big one on me, surprised me with her tongue

But her surprise was waitin’ there between my cheek and gum

Those are the lyrics to a song called “Copenhagen” by Robert Earl Keen. The surprise to which he refers? it’s packed and oozing, it smells bad and tastes worse, it’s a chaw.

chewing tobacco

Chaw can be a noun, as in a plug or wad of chewing tobacco, or it can be a verb. The Wiktionary uses it in this sentence: When the doctor told him to quit smoking, Harvey switched to chaw, but then developed cancer of the mouth. That pretty much summarizes what the CDC has to say about using chewing tobacco.

There are other definitions. Wiktionary notes that in some areas of the South it refers to the act of chewing or grinding your teeth. It also can refer to ruminating or pondering some question or issue. In Britain, it is apparently used as slang for stealing.

As per usual, the Urban Dictionary offers some more colorful definitions:

  • An exclamation of surprise, delight or salutation. Used with a rising inflection of pitch through which a gradual diphthong “AW-AH” is used. Various permutations of the word are also permitted, eg. “Phwar” or “Hwaw”
  • A person who is born with a gun in one hand and a fishing pole in the other. They tend to come from the suburbs of Atlanta and have somewhat of a mysterious life.
  • A reply that demonstrates an acknowledgment, understanding, or agreement with what one has stated, suggested, etc.
chewing tobacco
(image by M. Maggs)

But for most of us, it’s about that cheek packed with smokeless tobacco.  So the pertinent question is less what than why. I found this story in Esquire by author A.J. Jacobs that addresses that issue.

Jacobs starts off by noting “In my social circle, chewing tobacco elicits universal disgust. It brings to mind marrying your second cousin, jaw cancer, and cups of warm brown spit at awful frat parties long ago.” If you think it’s about the taste, consider this: “One helpful Internet commenter warned that dip tastes like ‘Big Foot’s dick.’ Another: like ‘a rodent exploded in my mouth.'” 

Undeterred, Jacobs gave it a try: “The tobacco stings my cheek like orange juice on a canker sore. And I have no control over my wad. It’s supposed to stay compact, but strands of tobacco migrate all over my mouth. The spit builds up fast. I put my empty Poland Spring bottle to my lips and do my best. But instead of the bullet I’ve seen ballplayers emit, I let loose a messy, chin-dribbling drool.”

ballplayer with a chaw

Hmmm. I’d say we’re better of just singing about it:

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Lincoln By Night

LIncoln Memorial

Anyone who has lived in Washington for even a short period of time will tell you the best time to visit the monuments is at night. The centerpiece of after-dark monumenting is the Lincoln Memorial, not only because of its beauty but also because of the view of the Washington Monument and its reflection from the steps of the Lincoln. Don’t worry about closing time, the monuments are always open.

Washington Monument
Lincoln Memorial
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Wednesday’s Word: prat

Some of my favorite English language slang comes from, of all places, England. I’m especially fond of those four letter words which constitute simple declaratory judgments about some of the Queen’s most unappealing subjects. Prat is one of those words.

The simple definition of prat is fool. We’ve already learned from this Wednesday’s Word series how many synonyms there are for fool: goober, dingleberry and nincompoop being just a few. But a prat has definitive characteristics that makes him a specific kind of fool. A prat is arrogant. A prat is smug. A prat’s head is swelled with conceit. A prat may be the dumbest guy in the room, but he thinks he’s the smartest guy in the room. I use guy since I’ve never heard a woman referred to as a prat. Maybe one of my small handful of English readers can weigh in on that. 

(Image by Artern Page)

There are some other definitions of prat. Wiktionary says it is slang for “a buttock, or the buttocks; a person’s bottom.” If that’s not clear, free elaborates “the fleshy part of the human body that you sit on.” In Scotland, apparently, a prat can be “a cunning or mischievous trick; a prank, a joke.” And the Wiktionary also claims it is a slang term for female genitals. Now I grew up in a lower middle class community where there were innumerable, mostly crude, words used in reference to various female body parts. But I never heard this one.

So let’s get back to the definition that reflects how most Brits use the term. As always, I turned to the crowd-sourced Urban Dictionary to look for some real context around this definition. Here’s what I found:

Basically someone who’s a major idiot, or is delusional and dumb. Acts against logic and thinks he’s self-righteous. AKA: Major dumbass.

A self-aggrandizing, pompous f**k. Someone who is full of themselves and, almost invariably, stupid as well. With a hint of ‘deluded.’

An overly pretentious person. Someone who is so obviously into themselves that others notice and they fail to realize it.

Offering the kind of insight you can usually only get from a spelling bee moderator, the Oxford Dictionary used prat is a couple sentences:

He looked a right prat in that pink suit.

You’ve made me spill my drink, you prat!

So having read all this and given some thought to the concept of merging stupidity with arrogance, I couldn’t stop myself from asking Siri this question: “Is Trump a prat?”


Perhaps worried that it could result in Matt Goetz descending on Cupertino, I didn’t get a straight answer. But she did offer up a suggestion for me to make up my own mind by delivering this link from Vanity Fair: Trump’s Limo Driver of 25 Years Confirms He is an Unrepentant Asshole.

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Life in 20th Century America (Artists’ Views)

from the collection of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond

One Night at Jimmy's We Saw the Supremes on Color TV, Willie Anne Wright
One Night at Jimmy’s We Saw the Supremes on Color TV, Willie Anne Wright
Sisters (Susan and Toni), Barkley Hendricks
Sisters (Susan and Toni), Barkley Hendricks
Goodbye D., David Salle
Goodbye D., David Salle
Burger Chef Interior, Ralph Goings
Burger Chef Interior, Ralph Goings
Self-Portrait with Sunglasses, Alex Katz
Self-Portrait with Sunglasses, Alex Katz
Well Prepared and Maladjusted, Amy Sherald
Well Prepared and Maladjusted, Amy Sherald
Berkeley Stucco, Robert Bechtle
Berkeley Stucco, Robert Bechtle
Wishing Well Bridge, Richard McLean
Wishing Well Bridge, Richard McLean
Pontiac in a Deserted Lot, John Salt
Pontiac in a Deserted Lot, John Salt
Coexistence, Robert Rauschenberg
Coexistence, Robert Rauschenberg
Early in the Morning, James Rosenquist
Early in the Morning, James Rosenquist
No Pictures, Rosalyn Drexler
Optic, Robert Cottingham
Optic, Robert Cottingham
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Wednesday’s Word: nincompoop

In its typically humorless way Merriam-Webster defines nincompoop as “a stupid or silly person.” How many words are there for a stupid person? There’s nasty ones, like asshole, judgmental words like idiot and derogatory pronouncements like moron.

(Image by Christian Dorn}

Nincompoop is a kinder, gentler way to say stupid. I learned the word from my grandmother. She often used it in reference to the guy who lived in the back room of her house who I called Uncle Rob, although I was never aware of any evidence relating us. Nincompoop has an ever so slight tinge of empathy, even affection, while still calling stupid stupid.

Some synonyms: boob, dolt, nitwit, lummox, ding-dong, schmuck.

Use of nincompoop predated my grandma. It goes back at least to the early 18th century. One story is that Samuel Johnson, who compiled the first English dictionary, traced it to the Latin phrase non compos mentis (“not of right mind”).

They aren’t buying that over at “Nincompoop is a silly-sounding word that’s also kind of old-fashioned, like ninny. No one has any solid idea where it came from, and anyone who claims otherwise is, well, a nincompoop.”

As always I checked the Urban Dictionary for some alternative definitions. Here are some highlights:


“A person who’s intelligence is at a lower caliber and proceeds to flaunt his idiocracy in an unappealing or inappropriate manor(sic).”

“A braindead self important little turd given an impressive sounding job title to keep him blissfully ignorant of the world shattering nefarious machinations of his keepers.”

“Slang term for anyone who is a devoted fan of Nine Inch Nails, or NIN, usually only used by other fans.”

Does anyone still use this word? I searched for use of nincompoop in 2021. I found one columnist, Kathleen Parker, who used it to try to explain Republicans fealty to Donald Trump: “either Trump has a stockpile of incriminating videos — his people have people you know — or today’s Republicans are the weakest, wimpiest crop of nincompoops in American history.” (Monroe, La., News Star, Feb. 1, 2021). Only other use of nincompoop was in a syndicated crossword puzzle.

Trump and followers
Did these nincompoops all go shopping together for those suits?

I have many blogger friends who write poetry. As a service to them I went to and found this list of words that you can rhyme with nincompoop: dupe, scoop, snoop, Guadeloupe, chicken soup, alleyoop, rock group and basketball hoop.

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The Colors of the City

Richmond mural

Mending Walls is a public art project in Richmond, Va, the goal of which is to promote healing by having artists from different backgrounds tell their stories through their murals. The project was conceived by Richmond muralist Hamilton Glass. The name comes from a Robert Frost poem about two farmers who come together to mend a fence.

Freedom Constellations
Freedom Constellations: Dreaming of a World Without Youth Prisons, Performing Statistics
The Journey Forward
The Journey Forward, Nadd Harvin/Humble
In Conversation
In Conversation, Hamilton Glass/Matt Lively
Poe Museum
Two of several paintings covering the doors and windows of the Poe Museum in downtown Richmond

Beyond the Mending Walls project, Richmond is a city of murals with more than 150 adorning its public spaces.

Robert E. Lee statue in Richmond
Some folks in Richmond have added some color to the Robert E. Lee statue on Monument Ave.
empty pedestal
The fate of the statues of some of Lee’s Confederate co-conspirators have suffered a more definitive fate.
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Wednesday’s Word: dingleberry

I started with a lot of questions about this word. Is it one word or two? Is it dingle or dingel? And what exactly does it mean? I thought it referred to animal droppings, specifically the kind that come out in small round pellets, deer shit for example.

One definition of dingleberry is, courtesy of Merriam-Webster, “a foolish, stupid or contemptible person.” Synonyms include chowderhead, dingbat, schlemiel and doofus. You get the idea.

Laurel and Hardy
(image by Gerhard G.)

And then there is an actual berry called a dingleberry. Scientifically speaking it is a vaccinium erythrocarpum. That is a small dark red berry similar to a cranberry that is found in the southeast United States.

But neither of those represent the most common definition and usage of the word dingleberry. There are many ways in which this definition has been expressed with varying degrees of specificity and explicitness. Some are awkward and some are disgusting. I dug deep into the Urban Dictiobary to find this most elegantly stated definition of dingleberry:

“A smallish, semi-dry, extraordinarily tenacious remnant of fecal matter which, when unwittingly rolled into a mixture with toilet paper lint by the action of wiping, becomes almost irremovably entangled among ones anal hair, a situationality exacerbated by the vigorous chafing and friction between the buttocks and most commonly remedied by the sad and almost entirely unavoidable remedy of plucking out at its root the individual hair to which each dingleberry is conjoined.”

I will pass on providing photos of this one. I have no interest in searching for them and hope to never be in a position to take a shot myself.

With that definition in mind, consider some of these uses of the word dingleberry.

In California in the John Muir Wilderness there is a Lake Dingleberry. Apparently the lake got its name from the sheep that surround it, sheep that have dingleberries hanging from their backsides.

Lake Dingleberry
This is not Lake Dingleberry, but you get the idea (image by Gina Dolenc)

If you live near Columbus, Ga., you could take advantage of the services provided by Dingleberry’s Pet Waste Removal.

Dingleberry's Pet Waste Removal
Dingleberry beer

Untappd, the app for beer aficionados, has a listing for a Dingleberry beer, a product of the microbrewer Hell ‘n Blazes. It is described as “A Sour German wheat beer aged on boysenberry and passion fruit to give a tart slightly sweet flavor with a dry finish.”

If you prefer something harder, the Cocktail Builder offers up a recipe for a Dingleberry: a combination of root beer schnapps, Jagermeister, Crown Royal and wine. ( disavows any responsibility for what might happen if you go into a bar and order a Dingleberry.)

And last but not least you can go onto Amazon and order up a Dingleberry candle. No idea if it is scented and, if so, with what.

Dingleberry candle
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Future of Earth, Future of Art


Renewal 2121 at ARTECHOUSE Washington is about how nature survives in an over-developed and technology focused future. The photo above and the two videos below are from the main gallery which features a vision of Tokyo 100 years from now. The visual design is by Yuya Takeda, music is by Mario Hammer and the Lonely Robot. The exhibit is timed to coincide with cherry blossom season in Washington.

This appears at first to be a static scene but as I get closer flowers begin to rain down and as I come closer still you can see the outline of my body.
Part of Abandoned View installation by ARTECHOUSE
Part of ATH20XX printed mural by Dragan 76
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