Wednesday, December 20, 2006


what's up with the Chakas being gone ?!

Monday, December 18, 2006

whats up with this one

'to clean one's clock'

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Where oh where can they be ?

Where can i get a good deal on my next magic carpet ?

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

I'm not dead

And I will prove it by handing out some useless/precious facts (I'm going from memory here and not checking the facts, so beware):

I grew up saying "kitty-corner" to describe two items diagonally opposed from each other. When I was in high school, I heard a teacher refer to two such items as "catty-corner." This sounded absolutely ridiculous (see also, "Duck, Duck, Goose"). Everyone knows what a kitty is, but what on earth is a catty?

Further research showed, however, that "catty-corner" is the older form of this expression. The "catty" has nothing to do with cats, but is descended ultimately from the French quatre, pronounced by Americans as "cater," whence "catty" and finally "kitty." Quatre means four, particularly in America as in the square of dots on the four side of a die; the expression cater-corner thus implies the relationship between opposite corners of the square. No folk-etymologies about how cats tend to ignore straight lines and walk in diagonals are needed!

This example illustrates a principle of historical linguistics which has application in many fields, like Textual Criticism, for example: the more difficult variant is more likely to be original. My teacher's "catty-corner" was more opaque than my "kitty-corner"; it seemed to be composed of a meaningless element and a meaningful one. My intuition was to hold my pronunciation as original, because both elements of the compound were meaningful, but my intuitions were wrong.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

whY - oh whY ?

and once again we have to ask: whY has Chaka died?


oh, i mean um, whY has Ask Chaka died again?

- sorry for the dramatic confussion to all of yoU that thought Chaka actually died there for a second.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Franny and Tranny

What are the qualifications for a good nickname? All guys I know seem to have one, and yet they are the most random and meaningless names ever! So last night my friends and I made nicknames for our friends Francisco and Orlando 'the transformer' (aka Chino Latino) that they rapidly abhorred and rejected. What could possibly be wrong with Franny and Tranny?!?

Monday, October 23, 2006

Linus, if you can't fix Scrubs...

Can you at least fix this website?

Monday, October 16, 2006

Quel horreur

Linus, what's this I hear about Zach Braff thinking he's too good to do another season of scruBs? I expect you to take decisive action.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

aRe we still alive out here ?

or have we all given up ?

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

As we approach our garbology unit...

I'm on an intense reduce, reuse, recycle, rethink kick right now, so I'm continually noticing how much garbage I produce and how wasteful I am with every possible resource. On that note, in your expert opinion, can the wrappers for the Dove chocolates be recycled? They are made out of aluminum foil (so I'd say, "yes!"), but there are words and a coating which may interfere with the recycling process.

Also, for any of you who have athletic shoes that you were thinking of throwing away, DON'T! Drop them off or send them to a program called NikeGrind. They reuse them to create sports surfacing products, thus preventing them from taking up space in our landfills. For more details, see

Saturday, September 30, 2006

This ones for everyone!

since you've now been turned into a pumpkin, aRe yoU going to become friends with the yard gnomes ?

Friday, September 22, 2006

Querida Special K

Muchas gracias para los discos de musica latina. Los recibimos el semana pasada. Desafortunadamente, !ninguno de los dos funciona! Trate de tocarlos en la computadora y tambien en el CD player (?como se dice? ?tocador de discos?) y nada. !Que lastima!

Monday, September 18, 2006

Rumors of my demise...

...have been chilling in their accuracy. I am in fact dead, killed off by three things, nay, four: 1) Teaching 2) The student newspaper 3) my classes (oh, yeah, I have to read these books!) and 4) traveling to see family on the weekends. As I fritter away precious minutes on this post, I am getting deader and deader. Got to admit I'm getting deader, getting deader all the time .

Friday, September 15, 2006

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Pronounciation train

Chaka, without looking this up, how would you pronounce the word "provolone." As in the cheese?

Monday, September 04, 2006

Barbaric Folk Entymologies

So, Boromir has a question for Chaka, and anyone else for that matter, but he cannot post, so I'll post in his stead (that sentence should be re-worded to remove a comma or two, but I'm feeling lazy):

What is the origin of the word "Barbarian"? Boromir was intruiged because he had heard two different origins, and I had heard a third origin.

Boromir heard:
1) Barbar means "outsider" in some language.
2) Barbar is like the name of a tribe of a particularly savage peoples in asia.

I heard:
When the Greeks or Romans or some other tribe of people came upon Northern Europeans who were speaking Germanic languages, they thought that the Germanic peoples' gibberish sounded like "bar bar bar bar bar bar." So any peoples who spoke a Germanic language were called "barbarions."

Has anyone else heard a different origin for the word "barbarian"? Do you have your own guess, Chaka?
At the end we can then check O.E.D. and find the actual origin.

Sunday, August 27, 2006


The most important current question for the Chakas is: Have you been practicing your dance moves? La Salsa, El Merengue, La Bachata? I sure hope so! The next time you're in Mpls we WILL go out together, because we there is at least one venue each and every night of the week. Maybe not quite as sophisticated as La Rumba, but just as fun.

Friday, August 25, 2006

oh, those bed grubs did bite !

no - theres no new question here. this ones a trick. hopefully, getting all your hopes up that there may actually be something new and exciting. but no. there is not. in fact, this may be a complete waste of your time. whY you're still reading is simply beyond my comprehension. its almost as if yoU all actually have nothing better to do with your lives than sit in front of a computer screen and read random dribble off of the lamp post.
and don't even try to turn this around on me. i know all of yoU tricky sneakersters out there - and your ways of devilry. of course i have nothing to do. its a non- event weekend for me. and therefore clearly my thusly writings of ramblings is justified by my decleration of thus saying so and my ever growing pile of revolutionary boredom.

(and YES, i did actually mean to say 'bed bugs' in the title but my backwards-nature-ness (there should be a word for that) won that battle - oh well.)

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Good night, sleep tight

So the wife and I visited historic Milton, WI the other day. There's an inn there that is the only documented Underground Railroad site in Wisconsin. As our adolescent tour guide was leading us through the inn, she attempted to demonstrate the sleeping conditions in the mid-ninteenth century: "As you see, the base is ropes; the bottom mattress is straw; then a feather mattress. That's the origin of the saying 'Good night, sleep tight, don't let the bed bugs bite.'"

Huh? you say--isn't there a part missing in that origin story? Like the part where the bed bugs are introduced? My thoughts exactly. There is clearly a gap in the guide's script. So I put the question to you, askers of Chaka: what is the background of the saying? Did it originate in the U.S. or England? What's the earliest recorded use? Get to work!

Sunday, August 13, 2006

I opine that they're the same

We've generated a few questions for you, in part because rumor has it that you're out of school (and that's not fair for those of us still in school), but the list is two shorter than it originally was, due to my lapse in memory:

1. Why do people not use the word opine? We always opt for the passive sentence structure when opine is such a cool word!

2. What's the difference between a motor and an engine. Most often motors are reserved for electric sources of power, but the Ford Tri-motor is an 1929 airplane. When did the word meanings begin to deviate?

3. Are Aggravation and Sorry! essentially the same game? And why is the newer version creating a generation of liars. If you're truly sorry, you should avoid the action for which you will later have to apologize. The majority of the time, such aggressive and cold-hearted actions are avoidable.

4. What's the difference between a tree and a really big bush? A mulberry bush I've been picking is really quite large and tree-like.

Thanks for doing our work for us! We anticipate the fruits of your wisdom and research!

Saturday, August 12, 2006

I ride bike!

Why do iron-rangers, and possibly others, use the phrases "ride bike" and "drive truck"? What happened to the definite or indefinite articles?

Friday, August 11, 2006

I don't understand!

Why is "understand" a word for comprehending something? Is there an "overstand?"

Why does standing under something means you know what I'm saying?

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Now "nerd" is an interesting word

Nerds have of course been around for a long time. At least as long as people have read Tolkien and wanted to name their first born Boromir. But the word itself is fairly recent. Anatoly Liberman, in his course on the History of English Words, argued that its appearance coincided with the rise of computers.

OED's first citation of the word attests to its use in Detroit in 1951 (reported by Newsweek). As for etymology, it can only give several options that it judges to be unlikely. A curious world demands better. We could engage in thorough research of popular media and private communications from mid-century Detroit. Or we could make up some folk etymologies on the spot. Any takers?

Tuesday, August 01, 2006


As I was researching my refutation of some dastardly folk etymologies (see post blow) I came accross one of the obsolete meanings of the noun "cop." One of the entries for "cop" in OED is devoted to spiders--a related word that is still used is "cobweb." The etymology shows that the Old English word for spider was "attercop."

Now, does that word ring any bells? A prize to the one who answers correctly...

Hint: they hate it when you call them that.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Since no one's asked a real question in a long time

I thought I'd share some thoughts about our common enemy at Folk Etymologies

Folk etymologies are the urban legends of linguistics; they are beliefs about the histories of certain words that arise and spread spontaneously. They are intuitive, not researched, and are wonderful examples of human creativity and our search for meaning.

On the other hand, folk etymologies are weeds in the garden of research--they're not what you're trying to cultivate, but they keep popping up. They deceive people into believing that they have insight into the "true" meaning of a word and short circuit real learning (not that knowing even the correct etymology of a word necessarily gives any insight into its meaning--but that's a topic for another day).

Fortunately, these weeds are fairly easy to spot. For instance, if anyone tries to tell you that a certain word is really an acronym, feel free to punch them in the face (unless it's scuba, laser, radar, fubar, or snafu, of course). Acronyms make great word stories because you don't need to know anything about the history of the language to create them. Just string the letters together and presto! The fact of the matter is that people haven't been coining new words from acronyms for very long. You'll notice that the examples above are all technical or military in their origin. If the word is older than the 20th century, don't bet on an acronym.

Ultimately, you can check any etymology you hear against a thoroughly researched dictionary like the Oxford English Dictionary or the New Century Dictionary. Of course, they won't always be right, but if you want perfection, you'll have to wait until Anatoly Liberman finishes his Encyclopedic Dictionary of English Etymology.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Monday, July 10, 2006

anyone anyone, any takers ?

does anyone wanna help me anti-wall paper and paint this weekend /? ? ? huh ? - huh , i know it sounds exciting !

Saturday, July 08, 2006

pirates ?

How come pirates never seem to die ?

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Last one...for now at least

What are you (open to anyone, but mainly targetted at the Chakas) doing the weekend of July 15th and 16th? It just so happens to be the birthday of the coolest guy around, and the coolest gal around will be in the Milwaukee area with a guaranteed scrumptious cake in hand for some celebration. Would you two like to travel north to partake?

Rules of Usage

Though I once thought I vaguely understood the proper usage of the now-common phrase "ownzed," the most recent examples have led to some confusion. When, and why, does one use such a phrase, and what does it mean?


When this three letter combo is not being used as a multi-purpose exclamation of disgust, when are you actually allowed to use it as a suffix to create an adjective? For example, childish and ticklish are legal, but warmish and reddish just sound wrong. Also, why is it used in the root of some words, such as radish, relish, ravish, outlandish, gibberish, etc.?

Sunday, June 25, 2006

recreation vs. recreation

how come recreation, and recreation (re-creation) aRe the same word? who thought of that one ? and when i'm typing along and want to use the word recreation how aRe people gonna know that i don't mean recreation? for example; "i love recreation!'

Saturday, June 24, 2006

How many of you are there?

All-knowing Chaka, did you know that there is a congressman out there who shares your revered name? "Chaka Fattah is an experienced lawmaker serving in his sixth term in the U.S. House of Representatives. He represents the Second Congressional District of Pennsylvania, which includes parts of Philadelphia and Cheltenham Township." He was referenced in one of the books I'm currently reading, The Shame of the Nation: The restoration of apartheid schooling in America by Jonathan Kozol.

Pretty cool, eh?

Friday, June 23, 2006

Screech ?

ok, whY is Screech living in Port Washington, Wi ?

save his house


how come soccer is so dumb ?

Saturday, June 17, 2006

more than one prefix

I was thinking, why is more than one prefix called "prefixes."
Wouldn't it be correct to call them "prefaces"? Does that mean that the word "preface" came before "prefix," since it's plural overrides the rules that would give "prefix" the same plural form?


Ok, what does the prefix "Inde" mean?
Is it actually two prefixes, "In" and "de," smashed together?
If it is, it looks redundant, since both mean roughly "non."
[Although later I guess I point out two separate, but related, forms of "non."]

Inde-fatigable describes something that cannot be fatigued.
Inde-finite describes something that has no finite boundary.

Here's the kicker though:
Inde-structable describes something that is not destructable.
My original guess was that indestructable has a different prefix than indefatigable; in-destructable vs. inde-fatigable.
But then I looked at the base word "destruct."
The antonym of "destruct" is "construct." Two words so similar suggest that, although this doesn't appear to be true now, "struct" used to be a word by itself. de-struct is to tear down a structure, and con-struct is to build a structure. So possibly struct is the root, and "de" and "con" are different prefixes used with the word "struct." And then by adding another prefix, "in," we are saying something is in-de-structable, or in-con-structable.

So what's the deal?

Friday, June 16, 2006


Really important question: how talented is Sharapova?
Also, an unrelated question: how good is she at tennis?

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

i'm tired of Pete the Repeat Pirate

and thusly - i'm putting up this picture of the GeeBee R-2

Monday, June 05, 2006

Pete the Repeat Pirate Parrot

Though I really just wanted to use this venue to share a recent pirate experience, I suppose I must pose a question. Chaka, how long will it take for these silly toys to no longer be novel or interesting to anyone? I had two throughout my entire childhood (not the parrot variety) that my grandma gave us, and I'm amazed that someone is still successfully marketing these things!

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Brand name

Hey, if I were to start a brand and name it New Now Nice, would those spellings be consistant/accurate? Or just as dumb as this rambling post ?

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Band Name

Hey, if I were to start a band and name it Olde Tyme Flavour, would those spellings be consistant/accurate? Or just dumb?

Saturday, May 27, 2006

i want to 'make a difference'

no not really. i mean, seriously, who wants that? no one - right !

so, i've concluded therefore that it shall be my quest to make an antidifference.

and since i've just put words together, much like my other quest (to be a 5 year old again), i was wondering what 'antidifference' means exactly.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006


! ! !

Monday, May 15, 2006

Oh, Myron

Why is the regular tally system inadequate for foresters? And how does the dot tally system, also embraced by professional dry-wallers like Myron Ferguson, work?

I propose a rendezvous!

What do we think about meeting here on Friday?

Thursday, May 11, 2006

your patches say you’re open-minded...

How 'open minded' do yoU think God is ?

Wednesday, May 10, 2006


if i could could ask the All Knowing Chaka anying - what would i ask ?

Thursday, May 04, 2006

so mr Chaka

when aRe yoU two lovely people done with finals and or school and life ?

You're fired

So I was watching The Apprentice the other day, and I started thinking about the word "fired" to mean "removed from employment." How did this meaning of the word come about? It occured to me that "to fire" and "to discharge" are synonomous in the context of firearms. "Discharge" itself used to be a more common word for what we now commonly call being fired. Could the expression "You're fired" be descended from a sort of pun on shooting?

Is this to be ?

aRe we really all out of questions ?

does that say something about our true state of inquisitiveness ?

Monday, May 01, 2006

and all just because i see things upside down

Friday, April 28, 2006

Pronunciation of "ii"

Looking at the word "Wii," how would you pronounce it?
Now, if I told you "Wii" is a proper noun, how would you pronounce it?

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Chaka has a question

Where is Danger?


so, can animals have dialects?

more specifically i was thinking chickens. but i guess the question can apply to any comunicating animals.

and one better, could one distinguish between the chicken dialects? like say, 'hey, clearly that chicken's a southern chicken, cause of the way that cluck went'

these aRe questions that haunt me deeply.


What is the proper procedure for giving ownership to a proper name that ends in an x?

For example, Jimi Hendrix has a song named Fire. How would I say that song is owned by Jimi Hendrix? Here are the three possibilities that I see:

a) Jimi Hendrix's Fire
b) Jimi Hendrix' Fire
c) Jimi Hendrices Fire

My first instinct was option (b), because the x makes a sound similar to an ending s. Kind of like if Lars owned an item it would be Lars' item, not Lars's item. But then I thought maybe since it's not an s, it just sounds like one, it would still have the s after the apostrophe. So in the end I think option (a) is right, but I still don't know for sure. Option (c) is just kinda silly, but I included it just for good measure.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

My first post

on the front page. It's like being able to eat in the dining room instead of the kitchen. (With all respect to Langston Hughes)

Monday, April 24, 2006


Chaka, what are your thoughts on the word "truthiness"?
The story behind the word can be found at wikepedia here.
Basically it was sort of invented by Stephen Colbert, the comedic genius, and then all of a sudden it was accepted as 2005's word of the year by some sort of organization. Anyway, is this a true word in your opinion? Or do we have to give it time to be codified and adopted universally before it actually becomes a word of sorts? And can someone just make up new definitions when they feel they should?

ps - unfurl the sails, mateys!

i think this question has been answered before

Can Peru people distinguish differnt (southern) American accents?

Sunday, April 16, 2006

the Sons

how come the Sons of Korah almost sound completely 'normal' when they sing - but aRe clearly from New Zealand when they talk ?

Friday, April 14, 2006

i wanna catch fire

so - in tradition of seemingly random phrases:

where did the phrase:

'catch 22'

come from?

Tuesday, April 11, 2006


In my disorganized way of writing letters, I often think of things after I sign my name. Is it wrong for the length of a postscript to exceed that of the main body of the letter? Or does it just reflect poorly on my mental capabilities? And how many postscripts are too many before just starting over is in order?

Monday, April 10, 2006

More Seaworthy Questions!

I have another pair of questions, both in the field of naval lore.

1) Why the frick does "aye" mean yes? And what is the point of saying it twice (i.e. "aye-aye cap'n")?

2) In the spectacular naval adventure movie based on a book by the same name, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, the crew celebrate a holiday called "Salutin' Day." What date does that holiday take place, and what is it all about? I'd like to start celebrating Salutin' Day and need this information in order to give it proper treatment as a holiday.

Friday, April 07, 2006

red-colored honor amongst the armoured thieves.

Which is the correct spelling?
"Honor" or "Honour"?
"Color" or "Colour"?
"Armor" or "Armour"?
I like Honor, Color, and Armour.

Why is one a "British" and one an "American" spelling?
When was the divergence?

Also, a bonus question:
What are the origins of the common pirate phrase: "yar"?
(a.k.a. yarr, arr, arg, yarg, etc.)

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

adequaticaticism - i couldn't find it in the dictionary

Saturday, March 25, 2006

dehydrated water

whY aRe wines described as 'dry' - when CLEARLY they aRe not in fact dry - but verymuchso wet. ! ! !

Garlicky Lentil Soup

Why must one add a "k" to the word garlic in order to make it an adjective? Garlicky. It looks so wrong.

Friday, March 24, 2006

San Louis

What's the difference between a cathedral and a basilica? And why is the St. Louis cathedral in New Orleans and not St. Louis?

Saturday, March 18, 2006

not-so-helpful fortunes

What has become of the once highly anticipated messages in fortune cookies? They now contain purely declarative statements in the present tense rather than hopeful future-looking comments.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

I haven't buyen anything recently

Why can't boughten be a word? After all, I've taken a shower and eaten dinner. Ohh, now I see. I would have to have buyen something.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

stop signs

is it wrong for me to NOT stop at the stop signs in the Elmbrook Church parking lot on my way out late at night ?

one better; is it wrong for me to NOT stop at them on my way out late at night, after my Christian Ethics class ?

ok here's a word for ya ...

how about 'de-thaw' ?

the word makes sense to me, but some people seem to think that i have its meaning backwards.

Monday, March 06, 2006


is it a problem if i have trouble spelling the word 'inerrant' ?

Saturday, March 04, 2006


Does the "ee" suffix necessarily turn the giver of an action into the recipient of said action? For example, the employer/employee, trainer/trainee, entertainer/entertainee relationships. Have we inadvertently discovered the root of the word cookie? Is it the recipient of the action performed by the cook?