Wednesday, June 29, 2016

This Buckshee Blog

“Buckshee” is a new word for me. I encountered it in "A Rifleman Went to War,” (1930) by Herbert McBride, an American who joined the Canadian Army to fight in the First World War.

McBride goes into some detail about the word, which he says was in general use in the trenches before he got there in 1915. According to him, it means:

1.   Something that can be shared;
2.   Something that can be used not in the intended way;
3.   Something left over; or
4.   Something odd that the army has in low quantities and not for general distribution.

Examples given by McBride are sticks of dynamite obtained from engineering companies, or artillery shells obtained from artillerymen. (Both intended by the infantry to be used in making bombs to be used in trench raids.)

McBride suspected that it was originally an Indian word, guessing that it had been “backsheek.”

Google brought up a lot of good information about buckshee, with the sources being at considerable variance as to the origin and meaning. That’s what usually happens, isn’t it?

Dictionary dot com just says that it’s a “gift, gratuity or small bribe.”

Mirriam Webster dot com calls it something that is obtained free, adding, “. . . especially extra rations.”

Urban Dictionary dot com gives it as, “often used by the army, meaning spare.”

There’s a big entry at the British Army Rumour Service ( They say that it is simply excess kit hoarded by soldiers. They make it look like a silly habit, like carrying extra mess tins or web belts. Arrse is way up on the derivation of the word, though. They say that it comes from the Urdu word, “baksheesh,” used even today over a wide area to mean a bribe.

Grumpy Man’s Gripe is a cute blog ( They say that it means, “free.” According to the grumps over there, the origin of the word is Arabic, from the word, “bakh’sheesh,” meaning a gift or a present. (With variations in Urdu and Turkish.) They say that buckshee was brought back to England by British soldiers in North Africa during the Second World War.

Well, we have it from a reliable source that it was in full use during the First World War, and I also like Mr. McBride’s definition and usage. His book was published in 1930, so there is no reason to suspect that its origins lie in World War II, and his usage is much more military-specific. His definition goes well beyond anything that is merely free, and applies to items that are more useful and important than extra mess tins. (Unless you need one, I suppose, and your friend has an extra.)

This word game is endlessly fascinating, is it not? 

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Gamera Under Mysterious Circumstances

Okay, so I'm watching Gamera: Guardian of the Universe on the wi-fi over here. I always think of this movie as the first of the "new" Gamera movies. And then it hits me: this movie was made over twenty years ago!

That's how it works. You meet a nice young doctor and find out that he was born in 1988. You play a song by the Shirelles and realize that it was recorded over fifty years ago. Time is not only right here and right now all the time, it also recedes at a frightening rate. So there's that.

The version that I'm watching is in the original Japanese, which I appreciate. I don't understand the language, but I've seen so many of these movies that I can easily imagine what they are saying. This version includes Spanish subtitles, and it's surprising to me how much of that language I can read and understand. Many of the Spanish words are recognizable to English speakers, and we all pick up a lot of Spanish vocabulary along the way, we Americans, especially those of us who have lived in New York and Los Angeles all of our lives. I'm embarrassed to say that at this point I can read Spanish a lot better than I can read Thai, after having lived here for over ten years. That hurts, in its way.

Anyway, great movie. I recommend it.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Stephen Colbert Is Wearing Better Suits

I've been complaining about Stephen's "fashion forward" suits since he came on the Late Show, so the least that I can do is acknowledge that he has changed his stylist.

Thank God! This one is an appropriate suit for a grown up, and it looks great on him.

So, is this a fashion blog?

Friday, June 24, 2016

Rene Descartes Was A . . .

I forget the exact line from that Monty Python song about philosophers. It was a corker, I'm sure.

(Was it, ". . . a drunken fart?")

Ambrose Bierce's "Devils Dictionary" defines Cartesian in the usual way, something that follows Mssr. Descartes' particular philosophy. He's famous for saying:

"Cogito, ergo sum." ("I think, therefore I am.")

Mr. Bierce would improve on this sentiment:

"Cogito  cogito, ergo cogito sum." ("I think that I think, therefore I think that I am.")

I'm with Mr. Bierce on this one. Anyone who is too sure of himself, or too sure that he is right, or way too sure of his own position in just about anything, should be kicked straight in the kneecap.

The most intelligent thing that a human being can do is to doubt himself a little bit.

Cool Website Alert: Public Domain Review Dot Org

Or, in Net-Speak,

There's a ton of stuff on here. Books, articles, whole movies, photographs, songs. Stuff both old and new, with the common thread being that it's all in the public domain.

I came across it by opening an article at (dot org?)

Those are both great places to find six or eight thousand words about something that you had no idea was so fascinating. Or new information about something that you've been interested in for years, or in my case, decades.

It's all Kindlized within minutes. Happy hunting!

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Eno & The Winkies - Peel Session 1974

An issue of first impression, and at this late date! Lovely versions of familiar tunes. Perhaps I should remain alive after all.

(Perhaps Apocryphal) Cool Name Alert

I'm reading "A Rifleman Went to War," by Herbert W. McBride, on the Kindle. The author was a Canadian sniper in World War I. It's interesting enough to justify the ninety-nine cent price on Amazon. It's written in a quaint vernacular, and our Herbert seems to have been one of the few people who actually had fun in the Great War.

The author fills us in on only those parts of his early life that contributed to his love of guns and his expertise at shooting. This includes a two year stint in the southwest, where he rubbed shoulders with some of the famous gunslingers. These included "Bat Masterson, Jim Lee, Schwin Box and Nat Chapin, just to name the best of them . . ."

"Schwin Box!" I shouted out loud. That name alone would be worth the price of the (e) book. I set a course for Professor Google to see if I could find any mention of Mr. Box.

Bat Masterson is a name that we recall. He was a real person, if TV and Hollywood movies are to be believed. Google had no record of a man called Schwin (one "n") Box, only a few more recent non-gunfighter people with the last name Schwin and a lot of information about how to purchase Schwinn bicycles at big-box stores. For good measure, there was no gunfighterish information about any Jim Lee or Nat Chapin. Doesn't mean there was never a man named Schwin Box, though. History picks and chooses, and history often overlooks a chance to preserve something really interesting.

And what could be more interesting than a man named Schwin Box? Why, nothing. Nothing at all.