Story Words
Very short fiction, written on the fly, from words submitted by readers.
© 2002, 2003, 2004 Jay Lake

Saturday, November 23, 2002
Dangling Participle

When springtime comes to the high Harbrace mountains, bull gerunds become sexually active and roam the meadows and peaks searching for split infinitives with which to freely breed. At that time, their dangling participles become engorged, changing from transitive to a brief period of intransitivity during which new utterances can be conceived. "Dangling participle."

Friday, November 22, 2002

Monobrow is of course a parallel term to high brow and low brow. High brow refers to intellectual or academic culture, low brow to blue collar or lower class culture, and monobrow to culture that is a single dark, hairy line across the face of society. In reasonable nations, monobrow culture is plucked and maintained and trained to have clever little elven curls at the edges.

Thursday, November 21, 2002

"Boustrophedon" literally means the movement of the ox back and forth as it plows the field. In linguistics, the word applies to writing forms, such as certain dialects of ancient Greek, where the writing runs back and forth across the marble tablet. In child-rearing, the word applies to the infinitely energetic behavior of a four-year old. In romance, the word applies to serial relationships, where a couple breaks up and reunites on a weekly basis. If you want to get your life straightened out, unharness the ox.

Wednesday, November 20, 2002

Pedantic. Frantic. Atlantic. Nyantick. Fully automantic. Besquantick. Mantick-plantick. Soon to be in media res mid-antic. One size fits all pantic. Watch out for that tree Hantic. All too soon to be romantic. Pedantic. Sigh.

Tuesday, November 19, 2002

Once upon a time, there was a small gang of mice and men that lived aft of the little Scottish village of Agley. This multispecies group were terrible bandits, noted for daring daylight robberies and even piracy on the high seas -- and low. When crime was slow, they made a living as carpenters and joiners, from which they gained a reputation for the best-laid planks of the gang aft Agley.

Monday, November 18, 2002

A Middle English word, "erstwhile" originally meant the time that passed as peasants harvested ersts. Ersts are a slightly nuttier-flavored groat, once valued for their role as a thickener in meat pies and as axle lubricant when the grease ran out. As a bonus, one could lick one's cart wheels during times of short commons. The common, or English, erst has long since vanished from cultivation, but Anglo-American tourists to the Jutland peninsula of Denmark can sample the larger, hardier Nordic erst to get a taste of their cultural heritage.

Sunday, November 17, 2002

Whining is the fine art of tasting fermented spirits through one's nose until one becomes an irritable pain in the neck. Practiced by many French people, it is a skill often learned by Americans later in life after they realize the value of European sophistication. It comes naturally to most children, out of whom it is quickly driven.

  I've been nominated for a Hugo Award for Best Novelette, and for the John W. Campbell, Jr. Award for Best New Writer!
Award info | Me

Read the Hugo-nominated story for free at

Q: What is this?
A: A fiction experiment. Every day, people email me words. At some random point in the day, I pick a word, write a quick story about it on the spot, and post it unedited (except for a quick typo patrol).

Q: What did that word mean?
A: Look it up:

Q: Can I send you a word?
A: You bet. Include a definition if the word is deeply obscure -- or not, if you prefer. Send it to

Q: I've got something to say about this.
A: Click over to the Story Words discussion topic.

Q: Who else is silly enough to do this? I think it's kind of neat.
A: David Jones, for one. Surf over there and check him out. Drop him an encouraging word, too. He's a brave man.
A: Jeremy Tolbert, for another, with his Microscopica project. Likewise show him some love.
A: Jason Erik Lundberg with his Mythologism blog.

Q: You're even cooler than KITT the Knight Rider car. Do you have a mailing list to announce your latest hijinks?
A: Of course I do. What kind of self-promoting, narcissistic writer would I be otherwise? Email me. Occasional mailings regarding stories appearing in print and online, weird stuff in general, and appearances of the Greek Chorus.