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Page history last edited by Ben Casnocha 7 years ago

Ben Casnocha Commonplace -- New Words and Outstanding Phrases from Print Books (online favorites are stored elsewhere)



debauchery - self indulgent behavior 


inveigle - persuade


effete - lost character, vitality, strength

insouciance - relaxed calm










Mélange - collection of different things 


supplicate - ask humbly


mollify - pacify; get good grace of


tautology -  Needless repetition of the same sense in different words; redundancy. 


anachronistic -- belonging to a time other than the one being represented; used in drama


praxis - practical application; a custom or habit 


Jingoistic - zealous patriotism especially in hostility to other countries


Comeuppance - something unpleasant, regarded as a just punishment for someone


Piquant - refreshingly interesting; sweet








Apropos - ADJECTIVE:     Being at once opportune and to the point. See synonyms at relevant.ADVERB:    1. At an appropriate time; opportunely. 2. By the way; incidentally: Apropos, where were you yesterday? ; Prep:    With regard to; concerning: Apropos our date for lunch, I can't go.


repartee -A swift, witty reply. 2. Conversation marked by the exchange of witty retorts.






burke - prevent  from becoming known/evade


lacuna - a gap (some disconcerting lacunae in the analysis)


Pleonasm - using more words than necessary; verbose; it's a noun






Aplomb  - confidence/skill in difficult situation






clairvoyance - hindsight


skulduggery - trickery; verbal misrepresentation intended to take advantage of you


prosaic - everyday, ordinary












Petulant - ill-tempered or sulky in a peevish manner


Pirouette - a spin of the body, especially one performed in ballet on tiptoe or on the ball of one foot


Morose - gloomy


Vim - exuberant vitality and energy


Comely - describes a woman who is good-looking


Flatulence - digestive gas or pompous/ self important


Dysenteric - disease of lower intestine


Picayune - trifling, small-minded


Mollify - placate


Decadent - undergoing a decline in morals


Incontinent - unable to control bladder or bowels; lacking sexual control


Lilt - variation in voice pitch; bouncy step; cheerful piece of music


Philistine - somebody uncultured, indifferent to intellectual matters









propriety -  quality of being socially appropriate



Banal - boringly ordinary, dull, lacking originality


quotidian - everyday, found in ordinary course of events


veritable - being in fact the thing named and not false, unreal, or imaginary —often used to stress the aptness of a metaphor <a veritable mountain of references


interminable - endless; without end


Effeminate - an offensive term used to describe a man whose behavior, appearance, or speech is considered to be similar to that traditionally associated with women or girls


import - used in the sense of having meaning or significance




logorrheic - excessively talkative




ingratiate - to gain favor or favorable acceptance for by deliberate effort —usually used with with <ingratiate themselves with the community leaders — William Attwood




wafting off here toward




It bears looking at

"which judgments you will agree to depends on what desires you have, which is a feature of you." (which is a feature of you)


"that furrowed Hume's brow." (to explain confusion)


"xyz was relatively less demanding: rather like being an Uncle, in fact." (rather like...)


"close to arctic. Dad tried to be cheerful and philosophical simultaneously. Mother said little." (arctic to describe an atmosphere)


He had been asked so many of the same questions so often in recent years that he had developed a set of pat answers that sounded no better than pat answers.


We're talking about a mother who completely colonized her daughter's self-image. - philip roth

Merry would have been better off sucking the cows if she wanted a little milk and nurturance. At least the cows have maternal feelings."

That is the outer life. To the best of his ability, it is conducted just as it used to be. But now it is accompanied by an inner life, a gruesome inner life of tyrannical obsessions, stifled inclinations, superstitious expectations, horrible imaginings, fantasy conversations, unanswerable questions. Sleeplessness and self-castigation night after night. Enormous loneliness. Unflagging remorse, even for that kiss when she was eleven and he was thirty-six and the two of them, in their wet bathing suits, were driving home together from the Deal beach. Could that have done it? Could anything have done it? Could nothing have done it?


Perhaps by definition a neighborhood is the place to which a child spontaneously gives undivided attention; that's the unfiltered way meaning comes to children, just flowing off the surface of things.


"The human acrobtaic mind at once can detest something and admire it."


"He shoehorns in awkward ideas/phrases...." 


What his grades were remains unknown, since the school's records were later destroyed in a fire. (start sentence with "what")


questions about the meaning of life, and to answer them for yourself, you may need a Bible, Torah, Koran, or quiet mountain stream.


"who was fascinated by the range of human invention, the variety of our ways of life and thought."


He has an engaging personality, a quick and witty tongue, and I liked him from the start. (praise)


her bravado had a brittle quality. We could tell she was still scared. Anxiety and fatigue covered her like an invisible film. - Floating City


"fashion a narrative" (fashion = to create)


But these five too-easy pieces are neither absorbingly serious nor engagingly frivolous: a real problem with a musical set, and a disaster, if only in a minor key, when it’s a question of prose.    


If without love we're losers and our lives bereft, [use of bereft]


internal logic 


that certainly casts a rather Nietzschean pall over the domestic scene. [casts...a X pall]


"plural of anecdote is data'


as toothless as carp.


Brass buttons flew like popcorn.


one moment follows another one, like beads on a string,




at last we discover that our curve is a parabola, whose arcs will never meet. - Emerson


His laid back manner masked a fierce analytical mind.


Solitude is a nice refreshment to a busy mind.


Events that unfold unexpectedly are not reasoned about as much as they are  rationalized,


...less prone simply to do the hard work of thinking  clearly.


In Sickness and in health Franklin could never stop thinking and could never stop writing about what he thought.


"Trying to get a particular sin out of it was like fishing a swamp, where you feel the tug of something that at first seems promising and then resistant and fianlly hopeless as you realize that you've sngagged the bottom, that you have the whole planet on the other end of your line."


"I felt suddenly alone, as if someone had walked out on me in the middle of a good argument."


"It never once occurs to him, though, that the reason he's so unhappy is that he's an asshole." - DFW


it felt like a postmodern neighborhood, stuck between genres -- like the world music my more artist colleagues liked.


"The book's spirit marries rigor and humility in such a way as to let Garner be extremely prescriptive w/o any appearance of evangelism or elitist put-down."


"This is so stupid is practically drools."


"Some of the cultural and political realities of American life are themselves racially insensitive and elitist and offesnive and unfair, and that pussyfooting around these realities with euphemistic doublespeak is not only hypocritical but toxic to the project of ever really changing them."


"Pretentious diction, whose function is to signal the writer's erudition, and opaque abstraction, whose function is to keep anybody from pinning the writer down to a definite assertion that can maybe be refuted or shown to be silly."


"When you come right down to it" (opener line)


"the underlying problem was more finessed than ever really solved"


"very much a creature of its own moment"


"This is a judgement for which I can offer reasons but no guarantees" 


"he became too familiar with the basement of loneliness."


"that's just your garden variety American paranoia"


"he suffered from the opposite of charisma."


"buzzsaw of opposition"


"I don't know whether or not Wisconsin has a cheese-tasting festival, but I who am a lover of cheese beleive it should." construction :"I who am a ..."


"The baby will never be born unless...." (we do a good job understanding customer needs, e.g.)


"His prose has a cocky zest that makes you think he loves his job."


"I prefer nonficiton to be true, too, but let's grant that writers with a bent more literary than literal do have a knack for creating lively characters and vibrant scenes."


"his muscles feel as hard as week-old cafeteria bread."


"It's not bad, but it's sort of ordinary and doesn't amount to much."


"whether it cops to the charge"


"was to feel loss and its contrary simultaneously."


 "Because he left his dorm room before 6am for drills and often didn't get back until after supper, packing his book bag and knapsack, together with selecting his raqcquets -- it all took Hal some time." (Sentence strucutre: start with "because" as DFW does and mention the subject at the end)


"Writing with great industry." - ie productive


"sloppy intersection of desires and fears"


"ethnically vague"


"make little genital-adjustments" (move your balls around in pants)


it results in "massive shirt loss" for investors.


an opus so magnum it...


This absence of shame at the self-obsession.


"His hands were tiny and pink and hairless and butt-soft, delicate as shells."


"A respectable but my no means to-write-home-about 43rd nationally..."


Wayne's not-to-be-fucked-with papa


He'd probably now describe his desire to win as a preference, nothing more.


something you can't quite define, the way you can't quite remember a word that you know you know, inside.


This threatnes the self-concept of a John Doe that thinks of himself as a kind of hiply sexy artist intellectual.


the siren is creepily muffled by the no-sound of falling snow.


violent technicolor harm


the authoritiate figure radiated good cheer and abundant charm and limitless patience.


"it bears noting..."


everything is sweetness and light among us.



"the hard work of  thinking clearly" 


"clean and well lighted places"


"there can be no blinking the fact that..."


"to offer a one-sentence gloss on American history..."


"impossible to know yet endlessly fascinating to speculate upon"


"Although by now it has become a great baggy-pants cliche into which many discrepant types have mbeen made to fit..."


measured modesty


"HIs own ignorance on any of these subjects was not allowed to impede his supreme confidence that what he had to say was of grave importance."


He's more intuitive than intellectual


constitutionally unable


a protesting silence filled the car


You don't have favorites among your children, but you do have allies." - Zadie Smith


You are a shameless flatterer


To want to shock and tell the truth at the same time



he had a vivid and complex inner life, and introspected a great dealΓÇöbut



She found she could muster contempt for even his most neutral physical characteristics.


The audience pretended to a worldliness none of them had earned.


dicker with = mess with


inwardly bent


emerges from the more generous side of the writer, the side that loves instead of the side that selfishly craves love.


You can think that writing's just writing, and wolfing a hotdog over the ktichen sink is the same as sharing a meal with someone you cherish.


Yuppies, with that winsome arrogance that is all their own, proudly  describe....


snappy, chin-up reminders that everyone hates doing the laundry


compassion fatigue


"was like a love affair: born out of the most urgent needs, quick to flame, and just as quick to burn out."


my mother died the way Mike lost his money in The Sun Also Rises: very slowly and then all at once.


brisk "nothing shocks me" professionalism


Hemingway's seems to me a sensibility worth following into every nook where it expressed itself.


But if it cannot be swallowed as a cure-all, Walden can be relisehd as a condiment, a flavoring, a head-clearing spice.


To cease utterly, to give it all up and not know anything more -- this idea was as sweet as the vision of a cool bath in a marble tank, in a darkened chamber, in a hot land. - Henry James


Her life is one of reaction, mostly negative. (updike)


his prefernece for X conjure up few American parallels...


he delivers us into the care of an ambiguous conclusion (updike)


frittering his talent away in mere busy-ness


Edward Gorey was, artistically speaking, a thin man who cast a fat shadow.


his published essays can seem unduly long and, once read, slippery in the mind.


a novel's set piece


they have a muralistic largeness


playful inventiveness can come down with a case of the cutes


The pyschologies of his numerous heroes are shrewdly traced, most reavingly in those intervals when each is alone. (the use of "intervals")


described with a child's acuteness of sentation and innocence of perception.


childish desire to spill ink, out of control, and unload what is in his head.


Use this phrase when reviewing a business book: There would be no need to complain of literary biographies -- so often superfluous, bloated, and carping -- if they were all as good as Peter J. Conradi's life of Iris Murdoch.


There was trust: a single jerk of my hand could have brought death to everyone the car contained.


Nolan can watch revulsion and fear warring with something she believes, or wants to believe:  the filthiest skinhead slimeball is some mother's son.


After checking in to a big Super 8, overlooking the highway, I walked Charlie along something called Huff Puff Road, dropped him in the room then went to check the truck's engine, which looked like it was sweating oil. When I returned Michael was watching TV, Charlie was drinking out of the toilet, and an ad for <em>Snoop Dogg's Girls Gone Wild</em> came on. Snoop screwed up his face and framed his gold jewelry-covered chest with his arms; teenagers on streets and beaches flashed their breasts at him. It was mesmerizing. When the ad was over a feeling of loneliness crushed us to sleep. - Sean WIlsey


Splendid, but I part company at the last sentence. (to set up disagreement)


"The book has an enigmatic quality to it -- it's addicting quality is not only clear. It's like staring into the flame of a fire around a campfire: you're not sure why exactly it's so engrossing, but you keep with it." - Ben Casnocha


"like a child left alone in the sand" - good to use for things when you have a blast, alone. "I write because you can play on the page like a child left alone in sand."


I found myself going back time and again to reread whole paragraphs, not because they’d been obscure, but in the way one might press a finger to the crumbs littering an otherwise cleaned plate: out of a desire to savor every morsel.


And this evening he was apparently even less: the sort of man who’d sit in a cinema but never be shown a film.


"Lost in thought..."


So this is how they lived. For some time Theo, like a tree living in the shadow of taller trees, found a way to live off reflected light.


Sleep came like the lightest rain. He felt it on his skin, something like a mist, numbing his legs, his arms.


The reality, as is so often the case with reality, is more nuanced. - Dan Pink


Andy is cool like the other side of the pillow


casual misrepresentations vs. willed delusions


My own: I love hard, green apples that burst with flavor. I hate soft apples, especially soft, bruised ones. But I always finish my soft apples. I munch away. It's not that soft apples are terrible, they're just not fantastic. They're good, not great [some people are hard apples, some soft]


"They are pleasant people, my studnets; like their counterparts in American universities, their default geniality is so pronounced that it verges on apathy." - on education, from n+1

bearing (unlike the Scarecrow) the impress of an institutional experience.


"and ask ourselves whether we still need it" vs. "and ask ourselves whether we need it still." - the latter is a better last sentence, closing phrase, from Fallows


"Unlike 'provocative' books designed to stir controversy, 'The Art of Choosing' is refreshingly thought-provoking


 "as we all know but maybe don't often remember" - Colin Marshall


Mr. Hiss’s book — a dead thing about being alive — moves on to ideas like creating “longer nows” in our lives, which sounds like tantric sex without the good bits. Reading “In Motion” is among the longest nows you’ll experience this year.  - Dwight Garner  (phrase "sounds like X")


to borrow a phrase -- use when informally quoting or paragrapshing someone

had begun to thump the tub of “client impact,” the notion that the Firm had to more deliberately
Evidence for the percolation of strategy into the consciousness of CEOs ranges from the hit-you-in-the-face obvious to the more indirect, if possibly more interesting.

Nodding to the problem that clients kept misleading themselves about
phrase nodding

Like many other journalists, I’m skeptical about the power of the press. It often seems we write articles and send them out into the void, and the void eats them with nary a burp.


Since Jeffrey actually witnessed my taking on the King of Jordan in this respect, and since it is integral to my most detailed argument about Israel and Palestine here and here, it is particularly disingenuous of him to maintain the canard that I have denied this in some fashion. - sullivan (use of "canard")


Do the hard work of thinking clearly


So cheerful, so downright life-affirming (Art of Fielding)


He knew something was afoot


But just trying to sneak and bully his work into magazines is a disingenuous strategy; it borrows the prestige of a credibility he forsakes. 


“She died of a disease called Bitterosity, “ Olivia says, and, as if on cue, Gopnik whips a complete meal out of this inspired crumb, bannering it as a synonym for the corrosive spite that makes the cocktail-party circuit such a skeleton feast.

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