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

Saturday, November 30, 2002

Say the word. "Zinfandel." "Zin," like the beauty of zennias flowering in the spring. "Infan," the innocence of children playing in the flowered meadows. "Fandel," the delight fanning from our youthful zest. "Del," the valley where those flowers bloom. Now put it all together, "Zinfandel," the bloom of youthful innocence in the wild country. Not unlike a fine table wine, n'est-ce pas?

("Zinfandel" courtesy of Jed)

Friday, November 29, 2002

In the faraway lands of the upper Midwest, where the howling snows tear across the ice-bound Great Plains eleven months out of the year and third-generation Norwegian-Americans dream fondly of the ice-locked harbors of Tromso and Stavanger, they have an in-door sport called "bolgering." To "bolger" is to imitate a character from The Wizard of Oz, dancing and singing like a maniac. Sometimes under winter's dark influence, a person overbolgers and has to be dressed in costume and restrained in a large picnic basket until sanity is restored.

("Bolger" courtesy of Felinda)

Thursday, November 28, 2002

Of or pertaining to the ancient Roman province of Gallinacea. This little-known area is in modern-day Anatolia, and was known primarily for the large flightless birds wattling around, gobbling up everything in sight. Modern-day Turkey derives its name from Gallinacea.

("Gallinaceous" courtesy of AnnaH)

Wednesday, November 27, 2002

"Jugwoe" is Yorkshire dialect for the feeling of regret one has after a night of hard drinking. Now obsolete, it survives as usage primarily in the Appalachians and with certain thieve's cants in the British Isles. The term is ocassionally applied to other forms of regret, such as buyer's remorse, altitude-induced migraines and seventh wedding anniversaries. See also "jugjoy."

("Jugwoe" is a 'possible word' courtesy of SarahB)

Tuesday, November 26, 2002

The doppione is the cultic (or secret) name of the Seventh Dwarf, that enigmatic figure to which Ingmar Bergman paid homage in his famous film. The doppione stands in for Everyman in the symbolic life of the twentieth-century West, especially after Everyman has had three or four beers and is trying to get the waitress to get naked with him on the pool table in the back. Dedicated dopes, as followers of the doppione are known, can be identified by the hooded shirts they wear in the doppione's honor.

("Doppione" courtesy of KathyG)

Monday, November 25, 2002

The obscure science of Cambodian traditional biology. In the Cambodian system, taxonomy is assigned based on the postion of the organism in the freizes to be found on Angkor Wat, so, for example, the Lesser Hirsute Mole Shrew is seen to descend from the Bald Lightning Fish. The obvious challenges in gross anatomy presented by this system are for the most part obviated by the imaginary status of virtually all the animals described thereby. All of which proves that the Penh is mightier than this word.

("Phenomenology" courtesy of Jed)

Sunday, November 24, 2002

The penumbra is the shadow beneath an umbrella. It is often confused with the idea of a "rain shadow," the territority behind a mountain range where precipitation does not fall. The difference, of course, is that is hard to catch the #19 bus downtown with the Cascade Mountains held in your hand.

  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.