DICTIONSCARY:

squalid

"Squalid" refers to something filthy and repulsively foul -- like the living conditions of a cat collector with an affinity for gourmet cheese -- but to me it sounds even worse. When I hear the word "squalid" the very sound of the letters makes me think of a "squid" with a "wall" in the middle of it -- the wall of a nasal cavity. It also sounds sort of square, sort of solid, but not quite either of those -- more lumpy and slumping like some lesser Lovecraftian monstrosity. Yeah, Squalid is the younger brother of Nyarlathotep, but he isn't quite so scary -- he just sits on the couch all day, playing X-Box, festering in a pile of cookie crumbs and black ooze, sickly digging into an economy sized bag of Ctheetos every minute or two with a soiled tentacle, wiping the combined orange residue and ichor of his suction cups all over the arms of the sofa. As you can imagine, Squalid -- like most young tentacled creatures -- kind of smells bad, too.

His older brother, "squalor" is much smarter, an honor's student at Miskatonic U, majoring in Home Ick, and he's even currently on the Dean's List.

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Posted by Michael A. Arnzen on Mar 27, 2008 | Permalink | Go to Main Blog Page

DICTIONSCARY:

suppurate

If I didn't know any better, I'd think that "suppurate" described the after-effect of a satisfying dinner. A term for how you satisfied, sated, and sedated you feel when you sit on the couch after, say, a Thanksgiving meal, opening your belt. But no: "suppurate" is the fancy word we reserve to describe pustular discharge. Slimy, often freakishly yellow, leakage. The putrid rot that spills from a burst boil or infected blister.

It comes from the Latin term "puris" which means "pus" though there's nothing pure about it, since pus is surely disgusting. I have a friend who once argued with me that "pus" is incorrect; that it's actually spelled "puss." I asked him how his cat was doing. He said "Fine, she's even purring on my lap right now." If I was smart, I would have replied "Sup-purr-ating, maybe."

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Posted by Michael A. Arnzen on Oct 19, 2007 | Permalink | Go to Main Blog Page

DICTIONSCARY:

scabrid

Scab. Rabid. Scabrid.

This word sounds like it belongs on a t-shirt worn by an angry kid with a purple Mohawk and spiked leather wristbands. And like many punk rock band names, it is, in fact, lifted straight out of the medical dictionary: "scabrid" typically refers to skin (or other tissue) that is scaly or rough to the touch. Often the flesh is rough, delicate, exhibiting irregular projections, lesions, bumps, knobs, or disgusting little follicles. Caress Tommy Lee Jones' right cheek and perhaps you'll feel something scabrid.

Since plants are more often scaly than humans, Scabrid is a term probably used more frequently by botanists than celebrity dermatologists. A synonym for scabrid is scabrous. Its antonym? Glabrous, which sounds happy, and happily it is just as fun to say with your mouth full.

It is sometimes used to mean "difficult" or "knotty," as in the sentence, "I do say, good sir, your choice of noose is particularly scabrid...would you mind removing it from my neck before I develop a nasty rash?"

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Posted by Michael A. Arnzen on Jul 14, 2007 | Permalink | Go to Main Blog Page

DICTIONSCARY:

gibbous

Nope: this adjective has absolutely nothing to do with Barry Gibb, though it may be associated with a "night fever" of another kind, since the term is often used to describe the moon. A "gibbous moon" is what you call it when the lunar disc is more than halfway illuminated, but not yet full. It is the "pregnant moon" -- the one that frustrates werewolves and geeky lunar eclipse aficionados everywhere.

"Gibbous" also more generally describes an oddly convex shape, a lumpy bulge...anything grotesquely tumescent or otherwise odd-shaped and resembling the head of Stewie Griffin from Family Guy. Gibbous comes from the Latin word "gibbus" which literally means "hump" and the term has been employed to malign hunchbacks by foppish aesthetes everywhere since the 18th century. I hereby propose we deem Wednesday of the work week "Gibbous Day" (instead of the colloquial "Hump Day," which always sounds nastier than it ever is).

Of course, in "first person shooter" games, any splort of blood or flesh blown off a person's face is called a "gib"...but this term likely comes from "giblet," not "gibbous," as any chicken farmer who has read his HP Lovecraft certainly would know.

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Posted by Michael A. Arnzen on Feb 8, 2007 | Permalink | Go to Main Blog Page

DICTIONSCARY:

LUGUBRIOUS

Though you're likely to drool when you pronounce the word carefully, the term "lugubrious" doesn't have as much to do with loogies, goo, grubs, or brie as you might assume. "Lugubrious" describes maudlin mourning, exaggerated sorrow, excessive gloominess...or simply the emotional state of mankind in the year 2006. It should be an emo metal band; I'd like to see Lugubrious written in drippy letters on a soiled black t-shirt. "Bela Lugubrious" would also make a good title for either a Bauhaus song or a splatterporn actor. And anyone named Lou Gubrias should sue his parents for libel.

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Posted by Michael A. Arnzen on Aug 10, 2006 | Permalink | Go to Main Blog Page

DICTIONSCARY:

serpiginous

Today's word is "serpiginous" (pronounced "sir-pijin-us"). This pretentiously bizarre adjective actually means "creeping from one part to another" or "having a wavy border" and is often applied by medical doctors to refer to visual skin disorders, like ringworm, snaking lesions, or drunken tattoos. Example: "Her serpiginous freckles run in an S-shape down her back like shizophrenic bird droppings down the sidewalk." Note that "serpiginous" is not to be confused with "serpentine"-- for the former clearly involves a snake-eating pigeon while the latter refers to a snake with a strange affinity for turpentine. Nevertheless, both terms work equally well in limericks and are especially funny when slurred by the mouths of tippling drunks. Some Satanists debate about whether or not the Great Dark One is "serpentine" or "serpiginous" -- but the answer is obviously neither, and they really ought to look these words up in the Satanic Collegiate Dictionary before uttering them so carelessly. After all, I've heard the Great Dark One is notoriously litiginous.

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Posted by Michael A. Arnzen on May 10, 2006 | Permalink | Go to Main Blog Page

DICTIONSCARY:

squeg

Today's word is "squeg" (pronounced "skweg"). To "squeg" generally means "to oscillate in an irregular fashion." My fan squegs when the gears need oil. Squegging is what a volume meter does when a singer bumps into the microphone. Waves squeg when someone drops a body in the ocean. Pencils get all squeggy when you do the old "rubber pencil" trick. I squeg back and forth when I drink brandy and walk on ice. "Squeg" is not to be confused with "squegg" which means to either be disinterested in gender or to try to freak someone out. Squeg has no relation to Squiggy, Square Peg, Egg Squirts, or Queequeg from Moby Dick. Squeg was not invented by the authors of the Scrabble dictionary. Squeg would be a good name for a baby, but only last until age 21.

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Posted by Michael A. Arnzen on Feb 21, 2006 | Permalink | Go to Main Blog Page
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ON WRITING HORROR
On Writing Horror is a huge anthology of advice on how to write scary stories by famous members of the Horror Writers Association. Arnzen's article, "Degrees of Dread," discusses creative writing workshops and other ways that horror fiction appears in higher education.

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Proverbs for Monsters is a 300 page omnibus of the very best short stories and poems by Michael Arnzen, culled from over seventeen years of award-winning scary storytelling.

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100 Jolts: Shockingly Short Stories is a collection of one hundred dark short-short stories, now rereleased in expanded hardcover. Bruce Holland Rogers calls it "A substantial library of horror fiction in one book!" Look also for the fun audiobook version, Audiovile, available on iTunes!

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