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September 2011


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Jun. 13th, 2011


just for fun: laughable liffs for lunch

#32 in an ongoing series of posts celebrating the alphabet.


Liff (lif) n. A common object or experience for which no word yet exists.

I'm guessing there are an infinite number of liffs floating free in the world, just hoping someone exceedingly clever will chance along and name them. Two clever someones, Douglas Adams and John Lloyd, compiled the first humorous dictionary of liffs back in 1983: The Meaning of Liff, followed by a revised and expanded edition, The Deeper Meaning of Liff (1990). Along with these "no name" objects, feelings and situations, Adams and Lloyd also noted "thousands of spare words which spend their time doing nothing but loafing about on signposts pointing at places."


Words like Dunfish, Jeffers, Knaptoft, Ranfurly. They were real places, but who ever heard of them? Better yet, who'd ever think of visiting them? Why not match these place names with a needy liff?

Our job, as we see it, is to get these words down off the signposts and into the mouths of babes and sucklings and so on, where they can start earning their keep in everyday conversation and make a more positive contribution to society.

Thought you might enjoy a Sampler Platter of Liff Lunchables, à la Adams and Lloyd. All but a couple are food related; I've added a few extras to compensate . Nibble on them, maybe give them a good chew (you're bound to chuckle). There's plenty to go around!

One who washes up everything except the frying pan, the cheese grater and the saucepan which the chocolate sauce has been made in.

BECCLES (pl. n.)
The small bone buttons placed in bacon sandwiches by unemployed guerrilla dentists.

The brittle sludge which clings to the top of ketchup bottles and plastic tomatoes in nasty cafes.

DUDDO (n.)
The most deformed potato in any given collection of potatoes.

EPPING (participial vb.)
The futile movements of forefingers and eyebrows used when failing to attract the attention of waiters and barmen.

FINUGE (vb.)
In any division of foodstuffs equally between several people, to give yourself the extra slice left over.

Something left over from preparing or eating a meal, which you store in the fridge despite the fact that you know full well you will never ever use it.

The dried yellow substance found between the prongs of forks in restaurants.

Descriptive of the expression on the face of a dinner party guest which is meant to indicate huge enjoyment to the hosts and "time to go home, I think" to your partner.

JEFFERS (pl.n.)
Persons who honestly believe that a business lunch is going to achieve anything.

KIRBY (n.)
Small but repulsive piece of food prominently attached to a person's face or clothing. 

One who kindly attempts to wipe an apparent kirby (q.v.) off another's face with a napkin, and then discovers it to be a wart or other permanent fixture, is said to have committed a 'kirby misperton'.

The correct name for one of those little paper umbrellas which come in cocktails with too much pineapple in them.

The sap of a giant Nigerian tree from which all cafeteria jams are made.

NAPLES (pl.n.)
The tiny depressions in a piece of Ryvita.

One who can kiss and chew gum at the same time.

PAPPLE (vb.)
To do what babies do to soup with their spoons.

The fear of peeling too few potatoes.

QUABBS (pl.n.)
The substances which emerge when you squeeze a blackhead.

The single hemisphere of dried pea which is invariably found in an otherwise spotlessly clean saucepan.

A faint taste of dishwashing liquid in a cup of tea.

THROCKING (participial vb.)
The action of continually pushing down the lever on a pop-up toaster in the hope that you will thereby get it to understand that you want it to toast something. Also: a style of drum-playing favoured by Nigel Olsson of the Elton John Band, reminiscent of the sound of someone slapping a frankfurter against a bucket. An excellent example of this is to be heard on 'Someone Save My Life Tonight' from the album Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy.

That part of a kitchen cupboard which contains an unnecessarily large number of milk jugs.

One who, having been visited as a child by a mysterious gypsy lady, is gifted with the strange power of being able to operate the air-nozzles above aeroplane seats.

WOKING (participial vb.)
Standing in the kitchen wondering what you came in here for.

YATE (n.)
Dishearteningly white piece of bread which sits limply in a pop-up toaster during a protracted throcking (q.v.) session.

(Hungarian) A prince of the blood royal temporarily forced to seek employment as a waiter.

~ from The Deeper Meaning of Liff by Douglas Adams and John Lloyd (Three Rivers Press, 1990).

Lovisa Granath/flickr

*BONUS LIFFS (cause I just can't get enough of these suckers):

GLASGOW (n.) *for David and Tanita
The feeling of infinite sadness engendered when walking through a place filled with happy people fifteen years younger than yourself.

The ancient Eastern art of being able to fold road-maps properly. (Len is an expert.)

The light breeze which blows through your armpit hair when you are stretched out sunbathing. Aaaaaahhhhhhhh!

A quiet little unregarded man in glasses who is building a new kind of atomic bomb in his garden shed.

Hey! Wanna try one? What do you think "Smyrna" is?

My guess: Tiny smudge left on one's face after kissing an always-smiling, zealous jam eater.

♥ If you're still hungry, even more liff.

♥ More alphabetica here.

Da da da duddo! (DrSlippers2007/flickr).

Back to Woking . . .

 Certified authentic alphabetica. Made by hand especially for you with love and adorable pappling.

Copyright © 2011 Jama Rattigan of jama rattigan's alphabet soup. All rights reserved.

May. 16th, 2011


if rocks could sing: a discovered alphabet by leslie mcguirk!

#31 in an ongoing series of posts celebrating the alphabet.

"Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others." ~ Jonathan Swift

Oh. My. God.

This has got to be the most astonishing alphabet collection ever -- the coolest of the cool, the most unique and inspiring gift from nature anyone has ever received!

Some time ago, author/illustrator Leslie McGuirk began taking a closer look at the sedimentary rocks on a stretch of Florida beach near her home. These fascinating natural sculptures, smoothed and shaped by thousands of years of wave action, consisted of grains of sand and fossilized shell fragments "glued together" by a chemical in the seawater. Yes, they were all amazing and beautiful, each in its own way, but it was Leslie who noticed that some resembled letters of the alphabet.   

She soon became obsessed (my kind of woman), and began collecting these special letter rocks, as well as rocks resembling objects beginning with each letter. She did this for over ten years. Patient, persistent, eyes open, heart waiting. One by one, they revealed themselves to her. And now, she's sharing her collection with the world in her brand new book, If Rocks Could Sing: A Discovered Alphabet (Tricycle Press, 2011), which will be officially released on Tuesday, May 24th!

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May. 6th, 2011


friday feast: letter perfect

#30 in an ongoing series of posts celebrating the alphabet.

"Think about it. Every word that has ever been invented belongs to you just as much as it belongs to the most famous author, poet, fairy tale teller, or song composer." ~ Rebecca Kai Dotlich


Some of you may know that I am stark raving mad about have a teensy obsession with the alphabet.

The mere sight of those 26 letters -- singly, in groups, edible or inedible, gets my pulse racing, my heart thumping. I've always believed each letter has its very own personality (X is risqué and mysterious, B has an inferiority complex). You gotta admire something that comes with its own sound effects, is open to mingling freely with all its counterparts, and is so versatile it can lend itself to countless words.

In our old house, I stenciled the alphabet in one of our hallways, and every time I saw those letters, I marveled that different combinations of those 26 symbols gave us all the works of Shakespeare, E.E. Cummings and Dickens, the Bible, Pooh and Paddington. Like Rebecca says in the opening quote, we all have equal access to those letters and every word ever invented. Tremendously exciting and humbling at the same time.

Heinz Alphabetti and Numberetti by Leo Reynolds/flickr

Last month, Rebecca and I got to talking about alphabet pasta and soup and favorite words (she and I both love "pudding"). You probably know she's a champion word collector, part of the reason she's such a brilliant poet. Imagine my surprise and delight when she sent a poem written just for me! Somehow, I've managed to stop cartwheeling around the kitchen just long enough to share it with you today. Thank you sooo much, R!

by Rebecca Kai Dotlich

The A's are always plentiful.
What would a word collector do
without them, tell me . . .
and the o's, let there be a ton
(see? Needed one) and the c;
please stack up the t's, too;
throw in an x here and there
for interest, for spunk.
Dunk these letters in soup
and let them float, call it art,
that's what it is; a letter biz.
What better way to spend an hour
or a day; a lifetime, really.
Alpha, alpha, alpha, betcha
can't do it like she does.

© 2011 Rebecca Kai Dotlich. All rights reserved.

Back to cartwheeling . . .

What's better than admiring the alphabet? Eating it, of course!

          Uber cool edible alphabet set by Don Moyer/flickr.

So, what's your favorite letter and why? (These days, I'm favoring Y -- so strong, it can ask a question even if W and H don't want to cooperate. "A" gets far too much attention being first, and sometimes is decidedly haughty at being the only letter who's also a complete word all by itself.)

♥ This post is brought to you by the letters R, K, and D, a beautiful poet with a child's heart and quite possibly, cute toes.

♥ Today's Roundup is being hosted by Terry at Family Bookshelf. Enjoy all the cool poems being shared around the blogosphere this week and don't forget to:


♥ More alphabetica here.

"When I was having that alphabet soup, I never thought that it would pay off." ~ Vanna White.

 Certified authentic alphabetica. Handmade for you with love for perfect poets. ♥

Copyright © 2011 Jama Rattigan of jama rattigan's alphabet soup. All rights reserved.

Mar. 23rd, 2011


hmmmmmm . . .

#29 in an ongoing series of posts celebrating the alphabet.

by Miroslav Holub

A, b, c, d, e,
f, g, h, i, j,
k, l, n, o, p,
q, r, s, t, u,
v, w, x, y, z.

~ from Notes of a Clay Pigeon (Secker & Warburg, 1977)



1. ma-ma.

2. menu.

3. M = Sir Miles Messervey.

4. McCartney.
5. oustaches.

6. acarons?

7. Muse.

8. oolah.

9. MIA?

10. Dormouse.

11. etaphor.

12. moo.

13. mm mmm mmm m m.

♥ This post is brought to you by the letters J and A, who are looking for a few M's.

♥ Alphabetica live here.

Flavio Sartori/flickr

 Certified authentic alphabetica. ade by hand just for you with love and issing _'s.

Copyright © 2011 Jaa Rattigan of jaa rattigan's alphabet soup. All rights reserved.

Mar. 8th, 2011


please peas me

#28 in an ongoing series of posts celebrating the alphabet.


In my ongoing search for quirky alphabet books, I was tickled green when I discovered Keith Baker's LMNO Peas (Beach Lane Books, 2010).

This is not your usual serving of teensy round rascals who look exactly alike and take great pleasure in rolling around plates and hanging in groups. No -- Mr. Baker (don't you love his name), infinitely clever and highly imaginative soul that he is, has cooked up a fun and tasty alphabet which proves that peas are not the same-same vegetables everyone thinks they are -- they're actually fascinating little peaple!

Such a busy lot, too. These alphabet peas "work and play in the ABCs." Each giant, gloriously textured capital letter is home, workplace, and/or playground for peas with corresponding occupations. And they love introducing themselves in rhyme (click on each spread to enlarge):

"We're acrobats, artists, and astronauts in space.
We're builders, bathers, and bikers in a race.

We're climbers, campers, and he's a circus clown.
We're dancers -- can you dig it? -- and drivers round town."

Oh! Mega cuteness, 100% charming and delightful. Little pea guys waving checkered flags, jumping through hoops, driving colorful cars, juggling dishes, paddling kayaks, flying planes. The letters themselves are not mere backdrops, but figure prominently as cool architectural platforms, as peas roll, climb, perch, glide, slide, balance, and gleefully cavort in, around, atop, beside, and underneath them. Movin' and groovin', rollin' right along.

Little ones will have a ball closely examining what all their favorite peaple are up to. Along with an interesting alphabet of occupations, there are plenty of opportunities for counting, identifying colors, discovering endless objects and discussing varied scenarios. Lots of action and winsome details will keep the munchkins giggling all the way through. Baker has also cleverly hidden a ladybug on each spread, an extra search and find exercise which proceeds from endpaper to endpaper. And when they are done introducing themselves, the personality-plus peas ask the reader, "Who are you?"

My favorite peaple? The eaters please me immensely. Five hungry fellows gather round a table for a spaghetti dinner. The volunteers work at a soup kitchen (check out the tall stack of bread)! And I love that artists, poets, teachers and readers are all represented. Also, gigglers. Where does one train to become a giggler? Oh, it's your natural talent? Happea to hear that!

LMNO Peas has received glowing reviews, including a *starred review* from School Library Journal. And it was just named a 2011 NCTE Notable Children's Book in the Language Arts. Highly recommend this paean to uniqueness and individuality. Yippea!

I'm beyond pleased to add LMNO Peas to my alphabetica collection.

Pass the peas, please!

Thanks, Mr. Baker!

♥ Blog Reviews: Brimful Curiosities (includes related craft), 5 Minutes for Books, Richie's Picks.

♥ More alphabetica here.

 Certified authentic alphabetica. Handmade especially for you with love and a fervent wish for world peas.

Copyright © 2011 Jama Rattigan of jama rattigan's alphabet soup. All rights reserved.

Dec. 8th, 2010



#27 in an ongoing series of posts celebrating the alphabet.

Okay, how cute is this?



Made of bone china and available at!

More alphabetica here.

 Certified authentic alphabetica. Handmade especially for you with love and a china fetish.

Copyright © 2010 Jama Rattigan of jama rattigan's alphabet soup. All rights reserved.

Nov. 2nd, 2010


of yokelish yabbies and deluded dodos

#26 in an ongoing series of posts celebrating the alphabet.

Oh yes, I say! Love these leetle foxes.

Thanks to Tanita S. Davis, who tipped me off about yet another cool alphabet set. These samples are from Jess Bradley's "Rather Odd Alphabet." It's full of quirky creatures and many unusual words, some of which will twist your tongue twenty ways from Saturday trying to pronounce them. What fun!

Jess is an illustrator living in Bristol, England. Check out her website and blog to find out more about her work. She also has a cool online shop where you can purchase prints (she ships internationally).

Click here to see all of Jess's "Rather Odd Alphabet."

♥ More alphabetica here.

♥♥ If you come across any cool, unusual, or otherwise noteworthy alphabet-related stuff (books, art, graphics, whatever), please let me know so I can feature it here and add it to my collection. Thanks!

*This post is brought to you by Friends. Thanks again, T.

 Certified authentic alphabetica. Handmade especially for you with love and whiffling weevils, among other things.

Copyright © 2010 Jama Rattigan of jama rattigan's alphabet soup. All rights reserved.

Sep. 8th, 2010


this is just too cool . . .

#25 in an ongoing series of posts celebrating the alphabet.

source: inhabitat

the alphabet carved from pencil leads!

This just might be the most amazing alphabet set I've ever seen! I have to thank Tanita Davis for the heads up on Dalton Ghetti, a 49-year-old carpenter from Bridgeport, Connecticut, who obviously has the patience and acute artistic acumen of a saint.

Apparently he does these amazing carvings as a hobby; sets like the one above can take him years to complete, and the only tools he uses are a sewing needle, sculpting knife and razor blade. No magnifying glass!
source: inhabitat

Currently he is working on a project related to the September 11 attacks. Ever since 2002, he's been carving a teardrop every day, and plans to do 3,000 of them, in honor of every person who died. Ultimately, they will collectively form one large teardrop. He estimates it will take him 10 years to complete.

To see and learn more about his incredible work, click here and here.

♥ More alphabetica here.

 Certified authentic alphabetica. Handmade especially for you with love and a new appreciation for #2 pencils.

Copyright © 2010 Jama Rattigan of jama rattigan's alphabet soup. All rights reserved.

Jun. 8th, 2010


a little chat with master soup artist gianna marino

#24 in an ongoing series of posts celebrating the alphabet.

 Animal prints available in three sizes may be purchased here.

To celebrate the launch of alphabet soup back in August 2007, I gave away a picture book called Zoopa: An Animal Alphabet by Gianna Marino (Chronicle Books, 2005).

After all, when considering soup books and alphabet books, Zoopa was one of my all-time favorites -- it contained so many of the ingredients I wanted to serve up via this blog: fun, whimsy, gorgeous art, fresh perspectives, renewed appreciation for the alphabet, and of course, delicious food for thought.


In the world of children's literature, there are alphabet books and there are ALPHABET BOOKS. Along with Carmine: A Little More Red by Melissa Sweet, Zoopa remains at the top of my list. This wordless visual feast, which begins with one tiny Ant eyeing up a bowl of tomato-y soup, and progresses with an entire alphabetical menagerie crawling, romping, leaping, trotting, splashing, and bounding all over the pages, inevitably begs repeated servings. Who can resist a mischievous chipmunk, a border of elephants cavorting on the rim of the soup bowl, a grasshopper wearing pink sneakers, or a monkey with green eyeglasses? Best of all, I love all the pasta letters floating around however they please in the bowl.

I was thrilled when Gianna contacted me a couple of months ago, asking if I had heard of Zoopa. Heard of it?! How do you tell an artist she's created a book with your name written all over it, the contents perfectly evoking a vision you've tried for years to express in words?   

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Mar. 4th, 2010


it's all in the hands

 #23 in an ongoing series of posts celebrating the alphabet.

Raise your hand if you know American Sign Language (ASL)!

I'm in awe of people who can sign, people like Jules of 7-Imp, a sign language interpreter and former librarian who worked at the Tennessee School for the Deaf. I thought of her when I came across this video in my search for cool things to add to my alphabet collection. My Smart Hands™ teaches sign language to hearing babies and toddlers, and this particular video teaches ABC phonics. I love the little munchkin demonstrating the signs. Watch her facial expressions !

To see the ASL alphabet with corresponding words, click here.

More alphabetica here!

 Certified authentic alphabetica. Made by hand just for you with love and a fascination for visual and kinesthetic learning.

Copyright © 2010 Jama Rattigan of jama rattigan's alphabet soup. All rights reserved.

Jan. 27th, 2010


cause it's boring being so good all the time

#22 in an ongoing series of posts celebrating the alphabet.


Well now, let's be naughty, shall we?

And while we're at it, let's throw in picky, offensive, rude, talky, quarrelsome, nosy, annoying, smelly, selfish, terrible times two, and shockingly untidy. And that's just for starters.

Linda Ashman's M is for Mischief: An A to Z of Naughty Children, features 26 alphabrats, each described in deliriously rollicking, alliterative rhyme. Compared to these kids, Pigpen's immaculate, Eloise, angelic, Genghis Khan, mild mannered and polite ("May I take over your country, please?"). One would be hard-pressed to find a noisier, more irritating bunch of rugrats anywhere in the civilized world. Tsk, tsk.

(Click to enlarge.)

I dare say, if any of these urchins showed up on my doorstep, I'd immediately pack my bags and flee! Definitely wouldn't want Daphne, the magic marker maniac, doodling all over the walls, furniture, just about everything in sight, including her father's face. As you can see from the cover image, she's doodled all over this book, too.
I positively tremble at the thought of meeting Catastrophic Coco, Fiendish Frankie, Mischievous Martin, Nagging Nora, and Rude Ruby. I imagine I'd be able to smell Offensive Oscar, who shuns the bath, from miles away. I'd rather not befriend a boy coated in dirt, with ooze on his oxfords, oil on his shirt, and yesterday's oatmeal still clinging to his chin, thankyouverymuch.


Disobedient and maladjusted though they may be, these are brats we love to hate. Oh, the vicarious thrill! It's just so much fun observing them from a safe distance, so satisfying when some of them get their just desserts. Ashman has done a brilliant job with her poetic portraits. I love the indefatigable wordplay and how each poem riffs on the featured letter. "Picky Penelope" begs to be read aloud; it's a prim, pungent, pimply, perky, puny, painful passel of perfection. Plus, there's pie:


Lest I appear negligent in my responsibility to this blog, I must declare Gluttonous Griffin the most delicious miscreant of them all. How I admire a boy with a good appetite! Dare I say, it's easy to see why he would want to gobble the gherkins, guzzle the gravy, and glug a few gallons of guava juice. Burp!

Props aplenty to Nancy Carpenter for her ink and mixed media collages, which propel riotous misbehavior to the moon and back. She gives new meaning to the words, "holy terror," through posturing and hilarious facial expressions, deftly depicting the unbridled tornado of energy and intensity that is childhood. Young readers who relish in devilry, mayhem, and the delectable act of provoking polite society will ask for repeated servings of this comical cache of cautionary counsel. Highly recommended!

M IS FOR MISCHIEF: An A to Z of Naughty Children by Linda Ashman
illustrated by Nancy Carpenter,
(Dutton, 2008), PB for ages 4-8, 32 pp.
Source of book: library copy

♥ Check out Linda Ashman's official website!

♥ Blog Reviews:

Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast
Bees Knees Reads
Poetry for Children

♥ More alphabetica here.

**Spreads posted by permission, text copyright © 2008 Linda Ashman, illustrations © 2008 Nancy Carpenter, published by Dutton Children's Books. All rights reserved.

 Certified authentic alphabetica. Handmade just for you with love and a heapin' helping of bad.

Copyright © 2010 Jama Rattigan of jama rattigan's alphabet soup. All rights reserved.

Jan. 11th, 2010


swinging the alphabet

#21 in an ongoing series of posts celebrating the alphabet.

Happy Monday!

Start the week with a smile and a song, courtesy of the Three Stooges. "Swinging the Alphabet" is from their 1938 short, Violent is the Word for Curly. This is a great exercise in mental dexterity, and the women are pretty, too.

Dec. 16th, 2009


send me some letters, santa!

#20 in an ongoing series of posts celebrating the alphabet.


Got a few holiday items to share. Aren't these alphabet ornaments wonderful? I'm looking for just the right little tree to hang my set. They're on sale at Ballard Designs!

Here's another look:

The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in NYC offers these Girard Alphabet Blocks. Very handsome indeed -- made from locally grown sustainable wood with non-toxic inks, and features the Girard font:

Finally, I like these restaurant grade dishes from Fishs Eddy. I'm a sucker for anything with writing on it!

                        Worrisome Dinner Plate (10-1/4")

                       Worrisome Side Plate (8-1/4")

They also have a few letter mugs left (50% off/5.48 each):


Can't leave out the alphabet bowl (also 50% off):


Happy Shopping!

More Alphabetica here.

 Certified authentic alphabetica. Handmade just for you with love and a little ho ho ho!

Copyright © 2009 Jama Rattigan of jama rattigan's alphabet soup. All rights reserved.

Nov. 19th, 2009


a to zzzzzz's

#19 in an ongoing series of posts celebrating the alphabet.


I hope you don't mind my whispering, but I finally got all the lower case letters to go to sleep. As soon as I opened this doozy (or should I say dozy) of a picture book, those little rascals skitter-scattered every which way and their UPPER CASE parents kind of looked at me like this -- :o(.
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Oct. 23rd, 2009

poetry friday

friday feast: no quibbles with q

#18 in on ongoing series of posts celebrating the alphabet.

photo by tenebrismo.

I am quite quazy about Q.

Quick and quiet, quacking or quaking, Q's a letter of quintessential quality.

Unlike O, who sometimes doesn't know which end is up, Q sits next to me on the couch and stays put. I like a letter who's quaint, a little quirky, sometimes questioning, always forever faithful to U.

photos by jazzejunqueinc and crissygarcia333.

You know how Ramona Quimby signs her name, drawing Q like a little cat? Ever since I saw that purr-fect Q, I've been a goner for Q's tail; it's got to be the coolest fashion accessory in the alphabet!

Okay. Right now, say "q." See how it makes you purse your lips just so, like you're ready for a kiss?  I love that!

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