You read the blurb on the back of a book to figure out if you want to shell out the extra bucks for the hardcover. You glance at the blurb on a DVD before deciding if that film is the one to enjoy that evening.

A good blurb provides a short summary or praise of a creative work, but it doesn’t give anything away. It whets the appetite.

People have been slathering praise on each other in writing and spreading hype for longer than you might think. In ancient Egypt the concept was known as taqriz.

But the word “blurb” came about in 1907 with the publication of a book by humorist, nonsense verse writer, and San Francisco bohemian Gelett Burgess. Among his most famous work is a poem called “Purple Cow.”

I never saw a purple cow;
I never hope to see one;
but I can tell you anyhow;
I’d rather see than be one!

At the time, it was customary to have a dust jacket that promoted a book. Featured on the dust jacket for Burgess’ “Are You a Bromide?” was a picture of a woman comically named “Miss Belinda Blurb” and the quote “YES, this is a ‘BLURB’!”

(A bromide is a term in chemistry and pharmacology. But it also refers to a trite saying or boring or conventional person.)

Over time the publishing industry adopted the term “blurb.” And now, blurbs are found almost anywhere there’s printed text — from news sites to cereal boxes to CD covers.

We enjoy covering the eccentric corners of the English language. For example, the story of what “TASER” stands for is truly bizarre. (Read about that, here.) We’re also quite fond of the absurd term used on Wall Street, a “quadruple witching day.” (Find out what that actually means, here.)

Is there a word or phrase that we collectively take for granted, but you think is ludicrous for some reason? Let us know, below.


The Post-Standard (Syracuse, NY) March 12, 2003 Byline: AL FASOLDT STAFF WRITER No Mac is an island, and that’s true for OS X, too. Here are my Top 10 free (or almost free) utility programs for modern Unix-based Macintoshes.

1. Pic2Icon. Mac OS X can show every image on your desktop and in other folders as a miniature of itself – a thumbnail, in other words. The Jaguar version (OS X 10.2) creates thumbnails automatically, but Pic2Icon does a better job. Just drop a folder that contains images onto Pic2Icon. You can even choose how the thumbnail should be displayed.

Web site: www.sugarcube software.com . Cost: Free.

2. Tinker Tool. Adjust dozens of hidden settings in OS X with this gem. Running OS X without Tinker Tool is like riding a bike backwards. Sure, you can do it, but why would you want to? go to web site best web browser

Web site: www.bresink.de/osx . Cost: Free.

3. ClearDock. I love the OS X Dock, but how come Dock icons look like they’re pasted onto an odd strip across the bottom (or top or sides) of your screen? The Dock background is dumb. Get rid of it with ClearDock. Once you see how cool your desktop looks with Dock icons that hover in space, you’ll never go back to the ugly old look.

Web site: www.unsanity.

com . Cost: Free.

4. MacJanitor. OS X is Unix, and it does all those housekeeping tasks that Windows never bothers with. (Ever wonder why a Windows computer runs so badly? How about a zillion temporary files that never get deleted?) But the OS X housekeeping sticks with Unix tradition and is automatically scheduled for the middle of the night. If your Mac isn’t running then, OS X skips the cleanup … unless you use a utility such as MacJanitor to run the cleanup jobs at another time.

Web site: www.macupdate.

com/info.php/id/5856 . Cost: Free.

5. Meteorologist. When I typed my home zip code into the location form while setting up this weather reporter, it came back in a few seconds with “Baldwinsville, N.Y.” I was hooked.

A quick click on the menu bar lets you see the weather in other locations, or you can just take note of the weather in your home town by looking at an icon at the top of the screen. (It’s always visible.) Full reports are just a click away, too. go to site best web browser

mac.com/fahrenba/ . Cost: Free.

6. PTHClock. If Apple’s menu bar clock is too wimpy for your tastes, this will make you happy. You can see both the time and the date at the same time and you can change the way each one is displayed.

com/PTHClock/ . Cost: Free.

7. Safari Enhancer. Safari is the best Web browser for Mac OS X, but Apple kept a few tweaks out of sight. Safari Enhancer even gives you a one-click way to add your Internet Explorer bookmarks (or the bookmarks from any other browser in OS X) to Safari.

sourcecod.com/sites/softwarelist.php Cost: Free.

8. MacVCD X. Need a good way to play video CDs? Cough up a pair of ten-spots and get this VCD player. You’ll never look back. Web site: www.mireth.

com/text/macvcdsp.html . Cost: $20.

9. iCal. You might argue that iCal, one of the best personal information managers yet invented, is hardly a utility. But I think it’s more useful than a zillion other programs, and usefulness is what utilities are all about. iCal has a problem or two – it uses colors that are too faint, for one thing – but you just might fall in love with this wonderful calendar and scheduler.

Web site: www.apple.com/ical/ . Cost: Free.

10. PCalc. Everybody needs a good calculator. Don’t put up with a one that’s almost good. This one has it all, and it even includes a “tape” so you can keep a record of your fidgeting.

Web site: www.pcalc.com . Cost: Free.

Coming Sunday in Stars Al Fasoldt tells you how to tweak pictures you take with a digital camera as part of the annual Stars Digital Photo Contest winners issue.

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  1. Andrew -  September 11, 2011 - 10:50 am


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