We don’t, like, use as many, you know, big words and stuff anymore?

I’ve realized reading Thomas Wolfe’s Look Homeward, Angel that my vocabulary is abyssmal. (Notice how I did that, using a fun word?)


In school, we always had to memorize the lists of vocabulary words, use them in sentences, and spell them correctly. We even had old-fashioned print dictionaries! (I still have several, actually.)


No one bothers much with spelling anymore, assuming some computer function will fix everything. Ever had a funny miscommunication because of auto-correct in a text message changing what you meant to say? Yeah, me too.



As I have written, I am in a current Wolfe-worship phase (see Look Homeward, Angel, or Things Thomas Wolfe Said and I’m not obsessive, I’m passionate (or, I’m stalking Thomas Wolfe). In his wonderfully crafted writing, he uses a lot of words that I have to look up. Some of them are really awesome (I need a synonym for that one), but not so easy to fit into conversation in our “modern times”. Of course, Wolfe thought he was living in modern times. It’s always modern times at the time…

In 1982, Moon Unit Zappa released her novelty song Valley Girl.

The a year later, the movie Valley Girl came out.


I was in my early 20s at the time, and thought the ridiculous way of talking was a joke  or would go away. It hasn’t, and it’s spread. “Like” as a substitute for every part of speech is ubiquitous (see, I did it again), and it’s an increasing phenonmenon that Americans end their sentences with an  uplift, as if everything is a question. I am guilty of falling into the speech pattern myself. “I was, like,… and then he was, all, like, …” instead of “I said… and then he said…”

In an effort to become more erudite (love that one), I once signed up for the Oxford English Dictionary’s Word of the Day e-mail. But the e-mail always got lost in the shuffle, or I promptly forgot the word by the next day (or hour). Urban Dictionary was more fun, but not quite what I had in mind in terms seeming smarter. As in book smart, not street smart. No one who knows me would ever call me street smart!


I’ve started keeping a list of words from Wolfe’s writing as they strike me (and as I have to look them up in the dictionary). I am under no illusions that I will start using these words in regular conversation; I feel misunderstood much of the time already. But the beauty and power of words is something we sometimes forget. I love this quote from writer Diane Setterfield:

“There is something about words. In expert hands, manipulated deftly, they take you prisoner. Wind themselves around your limbs like spider silk, and when you are so enthralled you cannot move, they pierce your skin, enter your blood, numb your thoughts. Inside you they work their magic.”

Writer Diane Setterfield.


Wolfe himself clearly loved words. It is said that editor Maxwell Perkins worked over almost two years helping Wolfe cut 60,000 words from the original, vast manuscript of the book.

Editor Maxwell Perkins.

Here are a few of my favorites that I have run across that survived the editorial pencil.

Proofreading Red Pencil

pusillanimous: cowardly

pullulation, as in “The limitless land, wood, field, prairie, desert, mountain…the ceaseless pullulation of the sea.” It has to do with abundance.

stertorous, as in stertorous breathing–rasping, snoring

scrofulous: Wolfe uses it a lot as the fictional town of Altamont is a place where people went to recover (or die) from tuberculosis; he uses it to refer to people who don’t look well. It sounds like you wouldn’t look well if you were scrofulous.

debauch: to corrupt

rapscallion: one of my favorites and often used with the kittens–mischievous

inchoate: rudimentary; immature

fecund: fertile

bellicose: aggressive

rapacious: aggressively greedy

I fear the post is verging on the somniferous. In other words, I’m like, probably, you know, boring you and stuff like that? So I’m, like, going to bed now?


Peace and hugs.

Proud to be a Crazy Cat Lady

Hi, my name is Genevieve, and I’m a Crazy Cat Lady.

Yes. I admit it.

Now that you’ve gasped in surprise, let’s talk about where this label comes from; how Crazy became part of the equation when a woman loves cats.



The Urban Dictionary definition of  Cat Lady is my favorite:


And what about a man who loves cats?

One of my favorite books as a child (and still as an adult) was Harriet the Spy.


And one of the characters she spies on is a MAN who has an apartment full of CATS.

“When Harriet was all through with her dinner and bundled off to bed, she began to think of Harrison Withers and all his cats. Harrison Withers lived on Eighty-second at the top of a dilapidated rooming house. He had two rooms, one for him and one for the cats. In his room, he had a bed, a chair, and a work table at which he made birdcages, and a whole wall of birdcage-making tools. In the other room, there was nothing but the cats. In the kitchen there was one glass, one cup, and twenty-six plates all stacked up.”

Harrison Withers, illustration by Louise Fitzhugh, 1964.


I have a room just for cats too. The foster cats I bring in from the East Bay SPCA. They stay as long as they need to, then go back to the shelter to get ready for adoptions and then to forever homes. Is that crazy? Okay, the room is a mess, but it’s for a good cause. Look at momma cat Yuki and her babies!


Yes, I own more than one dress made out of a cat-print fabric.


But I am a relatively normal, articulate, coherent person who functions in life, unlike the Crazy Cat Lady (Eleanor Abernathy) on The Simpsons, who does crack me up even if I question the cat tossing as part of the cat ladiness.

I own a Crazy Cat Lady Action Figure (thanks, Bob). My hair does sometimes look like that, and I have a penchant for wearing a stretched out gray cardigan sweater over my bathrobe (see Tim Gunn and Ruby Dee walk into a bar…). But it is warm and comfortable, and great for kitten snuggling.



I love dogs too. In fact I love all animals. Except maybe banana slugs, which give me the creeps. But I stay out of their slow-moving way.


There is a dog who lives with us. You might have met him. Einstein. He has his own Facebook page, and being a tireless self-promoter, he requested I put a link to it here so he can get more followers.

Einstein’s Facebook page


I grew up with dogs; most of my family would consider themselves to be “dog people”. One of my favorite movies is Christopher Guest’s Best in Show.


I do believe that, if there is a god, she does love a terrier.


I found this story of the origins of the term Crazy Cat Lady, and it goes back ancient cultures where cats were worshipped. Yes, worshipped. I was born too late!

The True Story Behind the Crazy Cat Lady Stereotype

In Japan, the maneki-neko, or beckoning cat, is a good luck charm.


The whole negative spin on women and cats came about with the publication of the Malleus Maleficarum in 1487. Also known as Hammer of Witches, it was your guidebook to identifying witches, who could then be tortured, burned at the stake, etc. Because we wouldn’t want any independent-thinking women running around. (Remind you of a current someone with his Nasty Woman comment?) This was during the Reign of Terror of religious persecution in Europe. Not good times.  A good clue to identifying a witch–her association with cats. I guess I’d have been burned at the stake. It didn’t go well for the accused cats, either.

From the 1555 Swedish guide to witches by Olaus Magnus. Witches with cats wreaking havoc.

Well, I think these days, Crazy Cat Ladies and Nasty Women are turning their pejorative titles into positive ones.



And in the United States we might just end up with a presidential spouse (First Gentleman?) who happens to like cats, too.

I suppose his title will actually be President Clinton and not First Gentleman.

I shall leave you with these awesome images of real men who love cats. If you want to call them Crazy Cat Men, go right ahead.