Do Not Do This

Do not pull a razor blade from its protective cover, in such a way that the edge of the razor is passing right across your own boob. Just don’t. This advice is gender neutral: this is not how a sword is to be handled.

Tactical and strategic wrong

With a katana it is critical, at all times, to know where the back is and where the edge is. After all, if you confuse the two, you can destroy parts of yourself pretty easily. Also, you want to block with the back/offside of the blade and not the cutting edge. But, in general, understanding blade facing is one of the most important aspects of surviving handling a sword. I have lost control of a sword twice in my life – one time, I chipped a chunk of bone from my right index finger (that’ll teach ya!) and the other time the blade whacked hard into the side of my lower leg; I stood immobile for 20 seconds with my eyes closed, not looking, waiting for the pain – as it happened, I hit with the back, not the edge – but I had lost orientation so I didn’t know how I had hit myself!

See that draw she’s doing? Since the scabbard (saya) is curved away from its intended direction, if she tried to complete that draw she’ll either cut into the wood on the edge-side of the saya, which could result in it breaking apart and then the blade would go right into the tendon that formerly held her thumb on. Fortunately, that’s not a real sword; it’s a wall-hanger. Being stupid with a wall-hanger is what wall-hangers are for.

I cannot imagine that this picture impressed anyone in the NRA. Oh, wait they’re gun nuts… In other pictures of Maria Butina she’s carrying guns, and correctly keeping her finger off the trigger. So, at least she’s not omnincompetent.

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“omnioncompetent” – damn, I like that one. Did I invent it? A quick google indicates that may be the case.


  1. says


    “omnioncompetent” – damn, I like that one. Did I invent it? A quick google indicates that may be the case.

    It will be entering the lexicon soon, if I have anything to do with it.

  2. Sunday Afternoon says

    Did you invent “omnioncompetent” – maybe, but check your spelling. That’s now a ratio of 3 vs. 1 uses in favour of the incorrect spelling in this thread… :)

  3. komarov says

    Misspelling this new creation might be a feature rather than a mistake to be used for emphasis. I’m not sure how the dictionary folks would feel about that though.

    omnincomptetent- adj., terrible at anything and everything
    [continued for 57 pages]
    See also omnincompetence, polyincompetent

  4. cvoinescu says

    The British spelling is omniïncompetent. The diaeresis on the second i means both are pronounced separately (OM-nee-in-COM-pe-tent). Omni-incompetent and omniincompetent are also an acceptable spellings.

    Panincompetent would be easier to spell, but it’s an atrocious miscegenation (pan- is Greek and in- is Latin). OTOH, it’s somewhat autological.

  5. Oggie. says

    Tpyos (may Hir msipelings be bleesed) is pleesed.

    I would never have noticed the positioning of the blade’s business edge with regards to the holder or the scabbard as it is outside of the very few competences I have.

    Amusing, though.

  6. says

    My spelling of “omnincompetent” contains echoes of “nincompoop” therefore it is a better spelling. Also, a word like “omnincompetent” should be spelled sort of rong.

  7. Allison says

    I’m no expert on swords (I don’t think I’ve even ever held one), but when I think back to what I’ve seen of Western swords, my impression is that they’re set up so when you draw them, the flat, of the blade is towards the body. (Of course, when I picture a sword, both edges are sharp, so there’s no back.)

    In fact, the way she’s holding the sword and the scabbard looks awkward; wouldn’t you naturally hold it 90 degrees from the way she’s holding it, so you’d end up with the flat facing the body?

  8. lorn says

    Concern for her health is laudable, and her technique is clearly flawed, But I suspect that, at least in this particular case, she is not at any danger even if it was the very sharp genuine article. Yes, it looks to be a prop blade, but there is IMHO a few inches between the blade and her body. The lighting, the lack of a shadow, and the nuances of human perception, light colors advance and dark colors perceptually recede, are making it look like the edge is closer to her breast than it really is.

    The clue for me was the apparent positioning of her right forearm. It looks to be sticking straight out forward. Try it yourself. Even with the shoulder pulled back in anything but a strained and unnatural manner the hand is still a considerable distance forward of the plane of the body.

  9. says

    Panincompetent would be easier to spell, but it’s an atrocious miscegenation (pan- is Greek and in- is Latin).

    Why exactly is it atrocious to combine together elements from various languages?

    Personally, I find foreign words fascinating. How humans take words from one language and apply them in another one is an interesting topic for linguists to research. And it’s not just word usage itself and creation of new words that’s interesting. People’s attitudes towards these words are even more fun to analyze. Why exactly is it wrong to take sounds from various languages and combine them into a single word that’s intended to be used in a totally different language? Why do some people feel like foreign words make their native language less pure? And why do they perceive “language purity” as something important?

    At school I had a teacher who tried to indoctrinate us into believing that using foreign words in our native language is bad. She never really gave us arguments for why it is a bad thing to do. In fact, she was OK with some foreign words and not OK with some other foreign words, and her reasoning how she separated the good foreign words from the bad foreign words was, well, not exactly convincing. It’s not like I’m blaming my school’s Latvian teacher. Just like the French, also Latvians seem to have a distaste for foreign words. But why, really?

    Once you study linguistics and history of languages (I have taken courses on Old High German, spoken from around 700 to 1050; as well as the development of the Italian language, namely how we got from Latin to the Italian dialects spoken today), you are bound to realize that there is no such thing as a “pure language.” All languages mix with each other, develop, change, assimilate a ton of foreign words, often they take only parts of foreign words and transform those into something totally new that gets mixed with the existing language elements, etc. All that is perfectly normal for languages. People who demand language purity seem perfectly happy to use foreign words that were assimilated 500 years ago, but they are unwilling to use foreign words that were assimilated 5 years ago. Why the double standard?

    The point is, I fail to see anything wrong with combining pan- and in- together in one English word. But I’m fascinated by the reasons why some other people perceive that as a bad thing.

  10. jazzlet says

    leva @#10
    Regarding the combination of Greek and Latin to make a novel English word my suspicion is that those who fuminate against it are using it as a marker of the quality of ones education in the classics. This means it is not a rational judgement, but down entirely to prejudice.

  11. jrkrideau says

    @ 10 Ieva Skrebele

    One of my favourite quotes about the English language.

    The problem with defending the purity of the English language is that English is about as pure as a cribhouse whore. We don’t just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary.

    James Nicoll.

  12. says

    jazzlet @#11

    Oh, yes. Using foreign words as a way how to show off your education is another fascinating topic.* In my native language, Latvian, if you pepper your speech with French, Latin, or English words, you are perceived as well educated. If, on the other hand, you use Russian words (especially Russian slang), then you are perceived as poorly educated. Apparently there are fashion laws also for language usage.

    Anyway, the way I see it, I definitely can think of situations where using foreign words is a bad idea. If native speakers of some language cannot even pronounce some foreign word, then it might be a good idea not to add that word to this language. On top of that, there are also cases where a foreign word is grammatically incompatible with some language. For example, some languages require words to begin or end with specific sounds in order to fit into this language’s grammatical system. But not mixing and combining syllables that originated from Greek and Latin doesn’t seem like one of these cases. If English speakers can easily pronounce the resulting word and it works together with the English grammar system, then I don’t see any problems.

    * It is especially fascinating for polyglots like me. It is incredible how often people use foreign words despite the fact that they are unable to pronounce or spell them correctly. Since I happen to know several of the “cool languages” (remember, there are some fashionable “cool languages” from which educated people borrow words, and then there are also “lame languages” from which borrowing words won’t make you sound any smarter), I often notice these mistakes. In my opinion, messing up your Italian or French coffee vocabulary makes you sound worse than simply saying “coffee with milk.”

    jrkrideau @#12

    That’s a cool quote. Thanks!

    The thing is, this is true for every single language there is. It’s not just English. The worst enemy of every language purist is an etymology dictionary.

  13. jrkrideau says

    @ Marcus
    I would not have noticed the sword problem but, as a former cook, watching a bar tender cut lemons and limes sometimes terrifies me. I was having a beer with some friends in my regular pub a couple of days ago and watched a bar tender wiping the blade of a boning knife with the sharp side aimed at her hand. AHHH!

    Of course, a friend of mine who was doing research on gun safety said that most of his subjects would pick up a pistol and peer down the barrel.

  14. jrkrideau says

    @ 13 Ieva Skrebele
    If native speakers of some language cannot even pronounce some foreign word, then it might be a good idea not to add that word to this language.

    You may never have encountered what a North American English speaker can do. We can mangle a pronunciation like you would not believe and it will be accepted. Not only will English steal any word it can get its hands on, we have no problem in twisting it into something we can pronounce. Soft L, hard L, sod it, just use an English L. And so on.

    And given that we only have three main languages in NA with English as the dominant one, we get away with it. Some renditions of Rideau and Grand Prix leave me shuddering.

  15. says

    jrkrideau @#15

    We can mangle a pronunciation like you would not believe and it will be accepted. Not only will English steal any word it can get its hands on, we have no problem in twisting it into something we can pronounce. Soft L, hard L, sod it, just use an English L. And so on.

    That’s not what I was talking about in my initial comment. There actually are cases where even after all the mangling and twisting some word still remains impossible to pronounce. That’s actually pretty rare (after all, humans have impressive word-mangling abilities), but it occasionally happens. Human languages can be very different from each other. For example, Rechtsschutzversicherungsgesellschaften is a perfectly normal German word. It means “insurance companies providing legal protection.” Or Massenkommunikationsdienstleistungsunternehmen, which means “companies providing mass communications services.” German grammar works in such a way that ridiculously long words are just fine in German, there are no problems with them. However, it would be a bad idea to try to take these words and adapt them into some other language which cannot support the usage of such overly long words. That’s just one example.

    By the way, I have nothing against taking words from other languages and changing them (you may call that “mangling” if you wish) so that the edited word fits into some other language. Humans have been doing this for as long as we have existed, this is how languages develop, and it’s perfectly normal. Thus I’d say that there’s nothing wrong with this. And it’s not just English speakers who change the pronunciation of foreign words. In Latvian we even change the spelling. “Hacker” is turned into hakeris, “programmer” is programmētājs, “application” is aplikācija, “router” is rūteris, “database” is datubāze. And Latvians write the full name of the current American president as Donalds Džons Tramps. “New York” is written as Ņujorka.

  16. jrkrideau says

    @ 16 Ieva Skrebele
    Oh, now I see what you mean. Some words just don’t work in another language.
    But not to worry, English will steal the word and turn it into something useable. We are highly adaptable when we trip over a new word. It just takes longer with long words.

    We are linguistically shameless.