Today’s Word of the Day

September 26, 2013 at 12:17 am (Icepick)

Fecaloid – read in Samuel Eliot Morison’s History of United States Naval Operations in World War II, Vol. 5: The Struggle for Guadalcanal.  From page 14 of the Castle Books edition:

That is why this large and fecaloid island [Guadalcanal] became the immediate and urgent Allied objective.

Nice way of saying “shitty” in the dignified manner befitting a Professor who taught at both Harvard and Oxford. Also, much less wordy than MacArthur’s description of New Guinea.


  1. amba12 said,

    He could’ve said “excremental.”

  2. amba12 said,

    Anyway “large and fecaloid . . . immediate and urgent” isn’t very good writing.

  3. mockturtle said,

    The island isn’t really turd-shaped. At least according my experience, which is extensive [and even excremental!] ;-) Still, it’s nice to be able to pull out the word ‘fecaloid’ or ‘faecaloid’, as it were, when the right circumstance arises. :-D

  4. chickelit said,

    “Shitty” and “excremental” aren’t exactly equivalent to fecaloid which means shaped like feces. Guadalcanal is actually shaped like a turd: link. “Shitty” doesn’t work for me as describing “shit-shaped;” it just means terrible. And it was. I had an uncle who fought hand-to-hand combat there as a Marine and he had severe mental problems afterwards which essentially wrecked the rest of his life. Some could handle that shit and some couldn’t.

  5. mockturtle said,

    I have never seen a turd shaped like Guadalcanal.

  6. Icepick said,

    I have never seen a turd shaped like Guadalcanal.

    Do I need to post some pictures?

  7. mockturtle said,

    I’ve seen pictures. It’s vaguely S-shaped.

  8. mockturtle said,

    Guadalcanal, that is! ;-)

  9. Icepick said,

    Guadalcanal, that is! ;-)

    Those weren’t the pics I was offering to post.

  10. mockturtle said,

    That’s what I figured! ;-D

  11. chickelit said,

    I have never seen a turd shaped like Guadalcanal.

    Not even one half-submerged?

  12. chickelit said,

    I’ve seen pictures. It’s vaguely S-shaped.


  13. LouiseM said,

    I have never seen a turd shaped like Guadalcanal

    How often do you look and where do most of your deposits take place?
    Not to be overly graphic, but a direct hit on the ground or a less liquid surface than water tends to put a bend on the matter.

  14. mockturtle said,

    I reiterate: I have never seen a turd shaped like Guadalcanal I didn’t say there couldn’t be one. :-) As an RN [and a mother] I have seen more than just my own—floating, submerged, partially submerged, squashed, splattered, dried and smeared. Even if dog turds count, I would still have to say that sigmoid would be quite unusual. [Note: The sigmoid colon extrudes rather straight–or sometimes round or even curved–product by the time it exits the body].

    Wow, this is the most scatological thread I’ve ever read. Or hope to, for that matter. ;-)

  15. chickelit said,

    This is a pretty shitty, Titus-worthy topic, icepick. Perhaps we should best move on.

  16. mockturtle said,

    It’s like reading Rabelais.

  17. mockturtle said,

    But not as funny.

  18. LouiseM said,

    Yeah, like the wiki picture of Rabelaisdoesn’t open a whole ‘nother door.

    Back to the subject at hand. It is possible Mr Morison’s extensive sailing and navel experiences with small no/low water laterines may have shaped more than his ideas.

  19. LouiseM said,

    Oops…Latrines. Not sure how to fix a spelling error or delete and repost here.

  20. Icepick said,

    Anyway “large and fecaloid . . . immediate and urgent” isn’t very good writing.

    Every now and then I’ll read something like that from Annie, and I get scared to write anything where she can see it!

  21. karen said,

    I’ve never read anything from Rabelais- but, from the looks of his picture– he’s really gotta go…

    I think this post if full of what the little birdies eat, Ice:0). You know- right after it comes out of the cow!

  22. mockturtle said,

    Every now and then I’ll read something like that from Annie, and I get scared to write anything where she can see it!

    Yeah, I used to worry I might dangle a participle or something but, then, she’s is a writer and I’m not. Plus, I love cliches. [Maybe one reason is that I was an avid reader of MAD Magazine as a kid and remember the feature called ‘Horrifying Cliches’]. Anyway, I just let the chips–and the trite expressions–fall where they may. :-)

  23. Icepick said,

    I remember MAD publishing a feature on cliche killers. My favorite featured a man watching his team lose a game and saying, “Well, there’s no tomorrow!” A bored looking boy (who was the cliche killer in all panels) said, “I wish we could have said that yesterday.” I’ve been waiting for THIRTY FIVE YEARS to use that, and it STILL hasn’t come up in a conversation! Some damned cliche you got there, when no one EVER USES IT! GRRRRR.

  24. mockturtle said,

    Karen, Rabelais devoted an entire chapter of Gargantua and Pantagruel to the best ‘arse’-wipes [or the French equivalent]. The conclusion: The neck of a goose.

    The entire book is hilariously funny, especially considering it’s a translation. [My French is inadequate to do it justice in the original]. I bought the book in the 1980’s in Oxford, England, and started reading it on the plane coming home. Had to put it down or risk being deplaned for wild paroxysms of laughter.

  25. LouiseM said,

    Anyway “large and fecaloid . . . immediate and urgent” isn’t very good writing.

    Every now and then I’ll read something like that from Annie, and I get scared to write anything where she can see it!

    That’s not what scares me so much as what a person’s sub-conscious can do without conscious awareness. That sentence from the educated and experienced Mr Morison, and Amba’s notice, made me laugh!

    There’s a forensic guy (Andrew Hodges) who calls such communication “Thoughtprints”: A thoughtprint is unconscious communication hidden within verbal or written communication.

    The unconscious mind communicates constantly and typically hides its messages in verbal or written communication generated by the conscious mind. We don’t always say what we mean. These unconscious communications are what we call thoughtprints.

    To understand thoughtprints and discern what is really being said we must pay attention to the big idea, not necessarily the literal idea. Pay attention to the subject a person introduces. The subject may introduce it through denial: “There are no sharks on the island.” Or by linking it to someone else: “Beverly was talking about seeing the sharks.” The key idea in this case is “sharks.” By paying close attention to the big ideas we get a clear idea what subject matter is on the speakers mind.

    What came up for me, reading Morison’s description, was the awareness that something about the place was distinctly unpleasant to him.

    I like stories like this, because they take me to fecaloid islands where I’d never go on my own!

  26. LouiseM said,

    Maybe I need to clear that up. I experienced Mr Morison’s observation as a thoughtprint, and Amba’s as conscious notice.

  27. Icepick said,

    Loiusa, Morison and one of his important subordinates (it’s a fifteen volume series) both saw action during the half-year long battle. From the Preface:

    DURING the six months covered in this volume, the United States Navy fought six major engagements in waters adjacent to Guadalcanal, more bitter and bloody than any naval battle in American history since 1814. Four of them were night gunfire actions of a kind that we may never see again; two were carrier-air battles of the pattern set at Coral Sea; all were highly interesting and significant in the history of war. In addition there were a score of naval actions involving destroyers and motor torpedo boats which never attained the dignity of names; fights almost daily between Imperial Japanese Air Force and American fliers; some thirty occasions when land-based airplanes attacked ships; a fair number of submarine battles; and almost continual ground fighting by United States Marines and Army against Japanese troops, including the Battles of Tenaru River, the Matanikau River, the Bloody Ridge, Henderson Field, Point Cruz, the Gifu and the Galloping Horse, which are worthy to figure in military history. The Guadalcanal campaign is unique for variety and multiplicity of weapons employed and for coordination between sea power, ground power and air power. And certainly no campaign in modern history is more fraught with ferocity and misery; none has blazed more brightly with heroism and self-sacrifice. So, although this story is one primarily of naval operations, we have endeavored to describe the struggle for Guadalcanal as a whole, subject to the limitations of space, time and imperfect human knowledge.

    We cannot pretend to write of that stinking island with the detachment and objectivity expected of trained historians, for both Commander Shaw and I had a part in the torment and passion; and we sometimes feel that we are writing not for the present or for posterity but for ghosts, like that of Private First Class Cameron of the Marine Corps whose rude epitaph I copied from one of the long rows of crosses and stars in the Lunga Point Cemetary: –

    And when he goes to Heaven
    To Saint Peter he will tell:
    Another Marine reporting, Sir;
    I’ve served my time in Hell!

  28. Icepick said,

    And before the Preface we get this note:

    In 201 B.C. Philip of Macedon defeated Rhodes in the naval battle of Lade, sinking two quinquiremes, forcing the other ships to flee, and occupying their base. Nevertheless, the Rhodian writers Zeno and Antisthenes claimed a victory for their fleet. Polybius, writing the 16th book of his HISTORIES about fifty years later, has this to say about them: –

    That historians should give their own country a break, I grant you; but not so as to state things contrary to fact. For there are plenty of mistakes made by writers out of ignorance, and which any man finds it difficult to avoid. But if we knowingly write what is false, whether for sake of our country or our friends or just to be pleasant, what difference is there between us and hack-writers? Readers should be very attentive to and critical of historians, and they in turn should be constantly on their guard.

    So Morison seemed very aware that he had to fight his biases in writing this volume in particular. And while he may have been willing to face the failings of his country (we didn’t win all those naval engagements, and the first one, the Battle of Savo Island, was a disaster), he wasn’t willing to forgive the failings of the Island itself.

  29. Icepick said,

    And Annie is still intimidating, but don’t tell her I said that.

  30. mockturtle said,

    As a lover of military history, I certainly respect the author’s desire for objectivity. Maybe when I return to that genre, I’ll give him a read.

    Right now, because sad things are going on in my life, I am reading Sue Grafton mysteries. They are very readable and, more importantly, diverting .

  31. Icepick said,

    MT, sorry to hear about that.

    I’m reading Morison as a side project while reading through MacArthur’s Reminiscences. I thought I’d do it to check MacArthur’s point of view, but I’ve gotten side-tracked into the whole damned war. WWII truly was a global enterprise, and it’s hard to understand why MacArthur and other Pacific commanders were dealing with shortages of every kind without knowing about the war in the Atlantic, and the logistics behind that.

  32. Icepick said,

    As an aside to an aside, I’m surprised no one seems to have made a movie, or even a mini-series, about Douglas MacArthur’s father Arthur, who led one hell of an interesting life.

  33. karen said,

    I hope all things will get better, mockT.

    I”m still on my 4th James McBride, it’s proving not nearly as engaging as the other 3. ~The Good Lord Bird~ is stranger than the work of fiction that it is. James Brown and his band of __________men. Not sure what to call them, but this book makes them seem pretty ragtag.

  34. LouiseM said,

    Appreciating the additional quotes, Icepick, and the opportunity to read something I’d have otherwise not seen. This line, for both Commander Shaw and I had a part in the torment and passion; and we sometimes feel that we are writing not for the present or for posterity but for ghosts…, brought to mind the recent pictures of the 9000 shadow bodies stenciled in the sand on the Arromanches beach, Normandy, while the tide was out.

    I liked some of his other word pairs too. Variety and multiplicity…ferocity and misery,…heroism and self-sacrifice…

  35. mockturtle said,

    I hadn’t seen that memorial to Normandy, Louise. Thank you for posting this grim and haunting tribute.

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