constellations #69: vocabulary
I hope you’ve been well. The onset of summer in Brooklyn is about as nice as everyone says it is; I hope the same is true where you are.
Last August I sent a newsletter (constellations #56) filled with nice words whose definitions I kept forgetting, and links to the places where I had run across those words. Since then I’ve been keeping track of even more such words; here are some of them, plus the places where they entered my life:
concatenation: a group of things linked together that produces a particular result
meretricious: superficially significant; falsely attractive (this came from an episode of Succession)
parvenu: upstart, ingenue; someone who has recently risen to an unaccustomed position of power and has not yet gained the manner associated with it
perfervid: marked by overwrought emotion
puerile: juvenile; childish
retinue: a group of attendants
shambolic: disorganized or confused (this came from a Slack message from a coworkers, describing a meeting we were both in)
sophistry: subtly deceptive reasoning
stochastically: randomly; involving chance or probability
vexatious: intended to harass; full of disorder
Speaking of vocabulary: I rewatched Paris Is Burning, the classic 1990 documentary about ball and vogueing culture in New York in the ’80s, last weekend with Elle and Matt. I remembered that film — specifically, the Black and Latinx queer and trans performers and drag queens who are at the center of it — as a source of so much queer slang, but I forgot just how many words came to me through it: realness; serving; shade; gagging; mother; reading; etc. A rich text!
And speaking of not knowing things: One unexpected but lovely thing about moving to a big city has been the opportunity to rely heavily on other people; the expectation that I know what I’m doing has more or less evaporated. I’m sourcing recommendations and connections and advice and expertise constantly: Where do you think we should go for drinks? What train would you take to get there? Do you like that bookstore? Where do you get coffee in the mornings? What’s your favorite bagel place? Etc. It feels good to have an excuse to pry a little bit. And to be at the whims of my friends’ knowledge. And to be along for the ride. I’m learning as I go.
Here are some other things I have been consuming lately: Nevada by Imogen Binnie; Air Guitar by Dave Hickey; Farm To Table by Bartees Strange; Ugly Season by Perfume Genius (which I also wrote about in this newsletter); MUNA by Muna; Teeth Marks by S.G. Goodman; “The Swimming Song” by Loudon Wainwright III on repeat; Swearin’ and Waxahatchee live in Central Park; Hadestown on Broadway; a very nice bottle of whiskey that was a gift from a friend; mint chocolate chip Tofutti Cuties; the first season of Hacks; renewed plane anxiety; a boat ride during which I saw an entire pod of dolphins; one photo a day on BeReal (please add me); this live video of Jimmy Eat World from a festival I attended in 2010 (found on YouTube totally by accident, but also I definitely have an ancient Voice Memo on my phone of this exact performance)
Thanks for reading. I hope you learn something new this month, and then you remember it longer than you thought you would.