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Jun 21, 2021
This week’s theme

This week’s words
mouse potato
rat race

“When I flex my muscle, my hula girl tattoo looks like it’s dancing!”
“When I do a hula dance, my muscle tattoo looks like it’s flexing!”
Cartoon: Dan Piraro

Previous week’s theme
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with Anu Garg

Magawa the rat is retiring from his job detecting landmines. In his long and distinguished career, this gold-medalist creature has sniffed out dozens of landmines and other explosives in Cambodia. (BBC)

Magawa is special, but even ordinary rodents are smarter than some humans. They have inspired poems. Robert Burns’s “To a Mouse” tells us: “The best-laid schemes of mice and men / Go oft awry.”

They do. And best-laid landmines kill and maim decades after they have been planted. I propose a journalistic standard that whenever someone writes an article about landmines somewhere, they should also mention who put them there in the first place.

Also, I propose that after a person steps on a landmine, if they survive, when they hobble out of the hospital on crutches, a representative of the armament factory meets them at the hospital gate and presents them with a certificate of authenticity. It’s the least they can do.

Keyheed Martial Corporation

Dear Phnom,

This certificate of authenticity confirms that the landmine you stepped on was a genuine Keyheed® landmine. It was assembled by Karen Smith in our Oklahoma City plant.

She has been a conscientious member of our team for more than two decades and during that time she has assembled more than 70,000 precision landmines of exceptionally high-quality. We can only imagine the results her meticulous work has produced. We are so proud of her.

She volunteers in her church and loves God with her whole heart. She has two children, Susie, 9, who loves softball, and Max, 14, who made varsity soccer this year. When not attending her children’s sports, she enjoys a round of golf herself.

She wishes you a long and happy life.


Keyheed Management

PS: As a special perk of being a satisfied consumer of our products, we include a coupon that entitles you to a free tour of our landmine plant in Oklahoma City.

On the other hand, why worry about all this? Phnom is probably the wrong religion and going to hell anyway. And if she didn’t want her legs blown off, why did she choose to be born in the wrong country? Why did she pick the wrong skin color? And, above all, why did she go out to play in the open instead of staying in the nicely fenced and manicured backyard in her home?

Fortunately, treaties are in place banning landmines, but some countries have not signed on. No, we haven’t maimed and killed enough people yet. H. sapiens,* literally “wise man”. Wise indeed! Can we rename ourselves to something else? What happened to the truth-in-advertising laws? I propose H. nesciens or H. malevolens.

Enough about humans and their despicable actions. Sometimes it takes a rat like Magawa to clean up after humans. This week we’ll feature five words derived from rats and mice.

*We are so wise that if I spell out the H in H. sapiens this email would be blocked by email filters at many schools and corporations as containing a slur. Because smart computers! High-tech! AI! If these email nannies were any smarter, they would filter out “landmines”.



1. The study of muscles.
2. The muscular anatomy of a person or an animal.

From myo-/my- (muscle), from Greek mys (mouse, muscle). Ultimately from the Indo-European root mus- (mouse, muscle), which also gave us mussel (a respelling of muscle), mustelid (any member of the weasel family), and mysticete (baleen whale), from Greek ho mus to ketos (literally: the mouse, the whale so called). Earliest documented use: c. 1649.

What does a muscle have to do with a mouse? Some thought a flexing muscle (especially of the upper arm) resembled the movement of a mouse. Note that myopia has nothing to do with mice. Rather it’s from Greek myein (to shut) + ops (eye), referring to the squinting of a myopic person. That said, people have used the term myopia as if relating to the mouse and used the term mouse-sight as a synonym for myopia.

“Visible contours have become a must-have status symbol for women ... and there are definitely people, Bella Hadid, for one, whose myology I feel I know better than their professional output.”
Zoe Williams; Why Six-Packs Are an Oppressive Status Symbol for Women; The Guardian (London, UK); Jan 22, 2020.

See more usage examples of myology in Vocabulary.com’s dictionary.

Life has no meaning a priori. ... It is up to you to give it a meaning, and value is nothing but the meaning that you choose. -Jean-Paul Sartre, writer and philosopher (21 Jun 1905-1980)

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