Wednesday, March 30, 2011

scaramouch, scaramouch, will you do the fandango?

Oh Sarah Palin. How can I ever thank you?

Yesterday people were gigging you again for another Palinism, "squirmish." I didn't see the original context, so I don't know whether you were after "skirmish" or "squirm."

I wanted to check the spelling of "skirmish," which led me to the dictionary.  Imagine my surprise when I read there the origins of the word:

1300–50; (noun) Middle English skirmysshe  < Old French eskirmiss-,  long stem of eskirmir  < Germanic (compare Old High German skirman ); replacing Middle English scarmouche  < Old French escaramoucher  ( see Scaramouch); (v.) late Middle English scarmuchen, scarmusshen  to skirmish, Middle English skirmisshen  to brandish a weapon < Old French escar ( a ) mucher  to skirmish; vowels influenced by Old French eskirmiss-

There it was.  Scaramouch.

Be honest, dear reader.  How many times have you sung along with Queen, "Scaramouch, scaramouch, will you do the fandango?" and asked yourself, "what IS that nonsense I'm singing?"

Well, lo and behold, it is not nonsense.  Scaramouch is from the French, as you can see above, and means to skirmish - yes I know you're not supposed to use a word in its definition, so "skirmish" means a hand-to-hand combat.

So, following the stream of consciousness that passes for my brain, of course next I look up the lyrics to Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody to see what the fandango - isn't that a dance??? - has to do with military skirmish.  

Absolutely nothing.

So it turns out that Scaramouch is also the name of the hero in an historical novel of the same name, by Rafael Sabatini.  In the novel, Scaramouch is a "swashbuckling character" who goes incognito.  Perhaps his name is Scaramouch because "swashbuckling" sounds a little like something one does during hand-to-hand combat.   All right.  Hold on.  I will look up "swashbuckling."

Oh, for crying out loud.

characteristic of or behaving in the manner of a swashbuckler.

Apparently even doesn't know it's against the rules to use the term itself in the definition.  Let's try Merriam Webster.


noun \-ˌbə-klər\

1: a swaggering or daring soldier or adventurer

Better.  Now, back to Queen.  According to Wikipedia, for whatever that's worth, Queen was inspired by Rafael Sabatini's character and thus put a scaramouche into their song Bohemian Rhapsody:

I see a little silhouetto of a man
Scaramouche, Scaramouche, will you do the
Thunderbolt and lightning, very very frightening me ...
And if you're not now singing, "Galileo, Galileo," then your mind works far differently than mine!

By the way, you've simply got to love the people who make Wikipedia their life's work.  There is an ENTIRE entry just on this one song, Bohemian Rhapsody.  And it's a long entry.  Everything you never knew there was to know.  But that's a topic for someone else's blog.  Or, click here if you want to be instantly transported.

So, thank you Sarah Palin.  Look at the adventure I got from your latest gaff.

And, Sarah, seriously - I want you to know I LOVE the word "squirmish" and think we should find a place for it in the dictionary.  It rolls off the tongue really well, and I can think of half-dozen uses. 

I mean, how better to describe a two year old struggling to get out of your arms?  He's squirmish. 

Or a politician struggling to get her foot out of her mouth.  She's squirmish.

Wait.  Maybe that was what you had in mind all along.

Why not collect all your Palinisms into a Palinary?  What an adventure that would be.

...♫... I'm just a poor boy and nobody loves me
He's just a poor boy from a poor family....

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

MOTIVATION: Autonomy, Mastery, Purpose!

We are not as endlessly manipulable and predictable as you would think."  ~ Dan Pink

In the video below, Dan Pink talks about what motivates us.   This will surprise you.   Here's a small teaser.

An economics study:  The theory on performance suggests a large reward - high incentives - will get the best performance.  Results:  as long as we're talking about purely mechanical skills, the motivation scheme works.  But the minute the task requires cognitive skills, the incentive scheme worked the opposite way we assume.  This has been replicated over and over again. 

So what does motivate performance? 


Learn more!

Sunday, March 27, 2011


Today's winning email:

After a rigorously brief overview of your profile, I wanted to let you know I have already married and divorced you in my mind.

Thanks for all the wonderful imaginary memories... you will always have a special place in my heart.

your ex-hubby,


ps. You can keep the house in Maui but, I am going to need half your money according to our prenup.

Sigh... If only I had some, Murrell.