Wednesday, February 12, 2014


                So all of the pedestrians are crazy today.  All is a lot.  Many of the pedestrians are crazy.  I don’t know if it was a single suicidal one that prompted a herd migration or just everyone upset that it’s only Wednesday but I have never seen it so bad.  Tires squealing, people jumping, horns (naturally) and shouting.  Dudes, chill man.  There’s a storm coming, let’s just use the crosswalk and wait for the signal.  I mean seriously, you want to get run over on the way to work?  No, really, do you?  I don’t.  Give me that extra 45 seconds of fresh air.
                A loyal reader wrote, “I loved your construction of ‘.3k words.’  Is there a word meaning a unit of 1,000 words?”  I poured over Washington Orville Hampton’s diary and found this entry, excerpted here for you in a sort of answer to the question.

12/25/1921 – Christmas in Paris
I found my room at the Hotel d'Angleterre to be somewhat typical of the French but then one doesn’t go to Paris to stay inside.  At least not in the room.  At least not in the room with only a book for company.  I arrived late in the evening so that this morning was my first good chance to look around.  Imagine my elation at finding a fellow ex-pat in the downstairs.
Ernest interrupted his conversation with the lovely Elizabeth Hadley to call me over.  I was invited to luncheon with them at the Café de la Paix on Ave de l'Opéra.  What followed was a marvelous day during which we…[snip] ...but the evening’s conversation was one of the most interesting dissections of the writing process I’ve ever had.  Hemmingway insisted that daily writing hampered his ability to enjoy grappa so that he preferred instead to write in great spurts, pouring out thousands of words at a time.
I felt that it would be impolite to express my distaste for grappa and instead asked what the proper term for a unit of 1,000 words might be.  He wasn’t sure there was one and the three of us worked out the puzzle.
There’s kilowatt, kilometer, (and in 60 years kilobyte) so we felt it should be kilo-something.  Hadley proposed kilograph.  Ernest thought we needed to come up with an abbreviation.   "kg" was taken, "kph" could work but I thought it would be confused with speed limits outside of America.  Hadley then proposed "kilographeme" so we could use "kgm."  Hemmingway thought it a long word and, using that amazing gift for finding the remarkable in the simple, said, “What about Kwd for kiloword?”   Absolute genius.
In 1957, Harper Lee actually changed the working title of his story idea, “Mocking Bird,” after drafting a detailed outline that was 2,000 words long and sending it to his brother with the cover, “Two Kilowords -- Mocking Bird.”

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