Grammar Moses: Those with sequelae rarely find cloture

Updated 10/13/2018 6:14 PM

Do you remember during the James Comey Senate Intelligence Committee hearing when some of us discovered a new word -- contemporaneous -- and felt the need to pepper our conversation with it?

Those were heady days.

For me, Senate hearings are like Christmas morning: I always find a shiny new word gift-wrapped and ready to play with.

We -- and by "we" I mean the people who watch those who portray lawyers and doctors on TV and not those who practice law and medicine -- found a couple of gifts under the tree during the awful Brett Kavanaugh hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee: "sequelae" and "cloture."

When Sen. Dianne Feinstein asked Dr. Christine Blasey Ford why she held her charges against Kavanaugh in for all those years, Ford responded: "I haven't held it in all these years. I did disclose it in the confines of therapy where I felt it was an appropriate place to cope with the sequelae of the event."

I can almost hear the riffling pages of a million dictionaries. I'll bet many of you were among those who wanted to know what it meant.

"Sequelae is the plural form of "sequela," which is defined as an aftereffect of a disease, condition or injury.

You might recognize it better in the form of "sequel."

On Oct. 3, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wanted to end debate over Kavanaugh's nomination and call a vote.

He filed a "cloture" motion.

This one is too easy: "Cloture," in which the "t" is pronounced "ch," is the French spelling of "closure."

So, the next time your significant other is complaining that you haven't completed your honey-do list swiftly enough, simply file a motion for cloture.

In reading the comments on a Washington Post story on Kavanaugh's appointment, I encountered a word I'd never seen before: "incel."

There was a lot of sniping and name-calling between Ford supporters and Kavanaugh supporters, and at least one member of the Ford camp referred to the other side as "incels."

"Incel" is a portmanteau for "involuntarily celibate."

If you've not encountered this yet, it's not as benign as it might seem.

It's an online subculture of men who want to have a sexual partner but can't attract one.

On one end of the spectrum, it's men who are very introverted or who have social anxieties or issues with body dysmorphia and self-worth. On the other end, it's characterized by extreme misogyny, unhinged masculinity and advocacy for sexual violence.

I think I know which end of the spectrum those commenters were citing.

Just thought you should know.

Play the percentages

In response to my best-of column from last weekend that reflected on fuzzy math, Ron Flowers wrote: "One of my pet math peeves concerns percentages. Professional athletes and many others are known to boast of giving 110 percent. How can that be? All I have is 100 percent. How can I give more? Bad math? Bad English? Both I think."

Thanks for your assessment, Ron, and for contributing to about 10 percent of this column. It's readers like you who allow me to give as little as 60 percent on some columns. I like to think I'm pacing myself.

Book smart

Sandy Klimowski saw a funny definition and thought of me: "If you are addicted to all kinds of words, would that make you addiction-ary?"

Groan ...

Write carefully!

• Jim Baumann is vice president/managing editor of the Daily Herald. Write him at Put Grammar Moses in the subject line. You also can friend or follow Jim at

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