Sunday, July 08, 2007

Sunday's Slippery Scribblings

Slippery slug


What a word. So many connotations and so few of them savory--slippery as in serpent, Slytherin (from the Harry Potter books), slimy, slug, snake, sinister, salamander, and so forth.
There aren’t too many slippery things I like. I dislike slippery foods—oysters, raw eggs, uni (a slimy form of sushi). Similarly, few people including me like slugs. Surprising to many people, snakes aren’t really slimy. Neither are frogs, toads or salamanders. I happen to have a soft spot for reptiles and amphibians. Leeches probably are slimy. Yuck.
Some bacteria have a slime layer. A form of fungi known as slime molds can be quite disgusting looking. To see the creature known colloquially as the “vomit slime mold” or “dog vomit slime mold” check out this link.
They really do look like vomit, but vomit that moves and grows. Oh, barf! Now that I think of it I have seen these on the ground from time to time but didn’t realize what they were. I also didn’t try to look very closely, probably on the presumption that it was actually dog vomit.
Then think about moral slipperiness. If you are going down the slippery slope you have broken rules that will lead to the more egregious rule-breaking. When a former president was referred to as the Teflon president, it meant that he was on that slope but wasn’t getting caught.
Freezing rain is slippery. So too are oil slicks. Both cause major accidents.
I looked for a slippery quotation and here is what I found:

"To the best of my knowledge and belief, the average American newspaper, even of the so-called better sort, is not only quite as bad as Upton Sinclair says it is, but 10 times worse – 10 times as ignorant, 10 times as unfair and tyrannical, 10 times as complaisant and pusillanimous, and 10 times as devious, hypocritical, disingenuous, deceitful, pharisaical, Pecksniffian, fraudulent, slippery, unscrupulous, perfidious, lewd and dishonest."
-H. L. Mencken, 1941

Mencken who had a wonderful way with words put slippery in company of other loathsome characteristics. Can anyone define Pecksnifian for me? What a great word.
Well, my muse has slipped away for now. Or, courtesy of Simon and Garfunkel it has gone,

"Slip sliding away, slip sliding away
You know the nearer your destination, the more you slip sliding away."


Rob Kistner said...

Interesting collection of slippery things... ;)

raymond pert said...

Pecksniffian derives from his Martin Chuzzlewit of 1844, in which Seth Pecksniff is a land surveyor and architect, though the author remarks that the only surveying of land he did was of the view of the countryside from his windows and that “of his architectural doings, nothing was clearly known, except that he had never designed or built anything.” In truth, Mr Pecksniff, though in appearance the most upright of men who prated about high moral principles and benevolence, was an awful hypocrite, full of meanness and treachery. Dickens remarked scathingly that “Some people likened him to a direction-post, which is always telling the way to a place, and never goes there.” In common with some other Dickens’ characters, including Gradgrind, Micawber, Podsnap, Scrooge and Uriah Heep, Pecksniff has become an archetype. He was turned into an adjective as early as 1851 and later became a noun, Pecksniffery.

Unknown said...

Thanks rob and thanks for the definition raymond. It explains a lot.

rel said...

That's an impressive list of negative connotations for slippery.
Now, your assignment for this week will be to come up with an equally impressive list of positives, ;-)
I'll start you off with:
1. slippery elm

nimi said...

Wiggle worms are slippery too ;). What a great write. I'll be in the look out for slippery vomit like creatures on my next morning walk through the trails.