March 22, 2013

The distinctive X-shape of a sawbuck

An early-twentieth century term for a ten dollar bill.  It comes up in noir novels as I found it in both David Fears’s Dark Blonde and Megan Abbott’s Queenpin.  The name comes from the X-shape formed by the crossed wood on a sawhorse, X being the roman numeral for ten.


90 Day Wonder

February 10, 2013

The original logo of Officer Candidate School

90 Day Wonder is a pejorative  term for a military officer who earned his position through Officer Candidate School.  The program was designed during World War II as a means of expanding the  numbers of officiers primarily during wartime.  Unlike members who go to West Point or other Officer academies, these men would become officers after only a short time (at one point as short as three-months, hence the name).  The term has since also become a term of affection.

Another new phrase from David Fears’s Dark Blonde, a book that expanded my vocabulary more than I ever expected.


February 7, 2013


A long, sheer woman’s outer garment of interesting word origin.  The word comes from the French verb “to comb the hair,” as it was originally used to describe a dressing gown that a woman would wear while brushing out one’s hair in the morning or evening.  Another new word from David Fears’s novella Dark Blonde.


December 11, 2012

The most romantic word in mathematics.

Imagine two arcs so slightly pushed up against each other so that there is only a single point at which they intersect.  That is osculation.

The image is too cute to resist though, so it has picked up the secondary meaning of a kiss. I found the term in the noir potboiler Dark Blond by David Fears. Keeping with the geometric definition, I imagine the quickest of pecks or the chastest of kisses.

UPDATE:  So much complication.  First, I was shocked by how many math people have never heard of this word.  Secondly, it seems like it could mean two separate things.  While it could mean to curves that touch at a single point, it could also mean two curves that run alongside each other without ever crossing.  Like this:

Heavy petting osculation

This would suggest a very different meaning than the slight peck on the cheek, hence, a google search of the term also comes up with: