Tag Archives: aisha sloan




Here we are: post #2 of nonfiction november. The word is split and we are delighted to have a piece by Aisha Sabatini Sloan.


split (split),  v.t.  [SPLIT or obs. SPLITTED (-id), SPLITTING], [MD, splitten; akin to MHG. splizen; IE. base *(s)plei-, to split, crack],  1.  to separate, cut, or divide into two or more parts; cause to separate along the grain or length; break into layers.  2.  to break or tear apart by force; burst; rend.  3.  to divide into parts or shares; portion out: as, they split the cost of the trip.  4.  to cause (a group, political party, etc.) to separate into divisions or factions; disunite.  5.  in chemistry, a) to break (a molecule) into atoms; separate the components of.  b)  to produce nuclear fission in (at atom or atoms).  v.i.  1.  to separate or divide lengthwise into two or more parts; separate along the grain or length.  2.  to break or tear apart; burst; rend.  3.  to separate or break up through failure to agree, etc.  4.  [Colloq.], to divide something with another or others, each taking a share: as, winners split.  5.  [19th –c Slang], to inform on an accomplice; peach.  n.  1.  the act or process of splitting.  2. the result of spitting; specifically, a) a break; fissure; crack; tear.  b) a breach or division in a group, between persons, etc.  3.  a splinter; sliver.  4.  a single thickness of hide split horizontally.  5.  a flexible strip of wood used in basketmaking.  6.  a confection made of a split banana or other fruit with ice cream, nuts, sauces, whipped cream, etc.  7.  often pl.  the feat of spreading the legs apart until they lie flat on the floor, the body remaining upright.  8.  [Colloq.], a) a small bottle of carbonated water, wine, etc., half the usual size, often about six ounces. b) a drink or portion half the usual size. c) a half pint.  9.  [Slang], a share, as of loot or booty. 10.  in bowling, an arrangement of pins after the first bowl, so separated as to make a spare almost impossible.  adj.  1. divided or separated along the length or grain; broken into parts.  2.  sixteenths, and not in eighths: said of a quotation smaller than the normal trading unit.—SYN. see break.



That night, I watched a woman nudge her husband, who seemed to have broken his leg. He followed her gaze and looked with horror at a man nearby, who had two metal clamps sticking out of his neck. It was hard to tell if the clamps were supposed to be there, or if he’d been impaled. When the man with the broken leg was finally called and his wife wheeled him away, the man with the clamps looked at us and muttered, “That looked bad.” Hannah held her middle and I read to her from an article about Kanye and Kim.


The next day, on the emergency room’s TV screen, a CNN anchor reports on the typhoon in the Philippines, about a moment when “the dust died down.”


When I am not craning my neck to look at the television screen, I am trying to read Karen Armstrong’s biography of the Buddha. He left home when his son was born. The Buddha was worried that his attachment to the people he loved would bind him to a life of sorrow: “Some of the monks used to compare this kind of passion and craving for perishable things to a ‘dust’ which weighed the soul down and prevented it from soaring to the pinnacle of the universe.”


A scream from the children’s waiting room sounds just like a parrot, irritating the woman with a swollen neck. Months ago in my notebook, I wrote, “Limbo allows for enlightenment, but if you’re not prepared, you’ll experience it as projection of all your demons.”


Across from us, a woman laughs at her own confusion. The sound of a bottle falling in the vending machine was just like that of a body hitting the floor in a hallway or bathroom. After absorbing the shock of the sound, our eyes meet and we giggle, a moment I’ve been craving for hours. This atmosphere is vaguely competitive. People scan one another for injury as they wait for their names to be called. Before we gave up and left last night, we had been waiting for three and a half hours. Some people had been waiting for nine.


Hannah said it felt like her stomach was being sliced by knives. For three and a half hours, her face switched back and forth between the way the cartoon face looks at numbers nine and ten of the pain scale. And then, the knives stopped. Everybody has heard a story of a ruptured appendix: the sudden end of pain opening out into a body full of poison. So upon waking, we get dressed, pack a lunch, and come back.


CNN discusses what we have to worry about next. “Disease,” somebody says, “a secondary disaster.”


“Suppose,” the Buddha said, “I start to look for the unborn, the unaging, unailing, deathless, sorrowless, incorrupt and supreme freedom from this bondage?”


A nurse calls for a man who does not hear her. When she asks him point blank if he is who she’s looking for, he says yes. “Let me help you, my friend,” she says, her tone softening as she saunters behind his wheelchair and begins to push.


Earlier, CNN featured an interview with Sarah Palin. She was trying to explain why it wasn’t racist for her to use the word “slavery” to talk about Obama’s health care law. The night before in the ER, Hannah asked if she could help a woman with dyed red hair. She looked confused, facing the men’s bathroom with her temporary wheelchair and all her belongings on the floor. “I’m just trying to get away from the sound of Piers Morgan’s voice,” she said, as Hannah grabbed her purse and I picked up her steaming cup of hot chocolate, following her to the other side of the waiting room.


Now, they talk about women and children begging in the streets of the Philippines, though the streets are becoming increasingly dangerous. “That seems odd,” I say, looking at the footage of wood planks and discombobulated faces. “Everything is the street now,” Hannah says, finishing my thought.


Armstrong writes, “Adam and Eve lived in harmony, unaware of their sexual difference or of the distinction between good and evil. It is a unity that is impossible for us to imagine in our more fragmented existence, but in almost every culture, the myth of this primal concord showed that human beings continued to yearn for a peace and wholeness that they felt to be the proper state of humanity.”


We all gaze at the ultrasound together. It looks like we’re looking up through the ocean at the water’s surface. “Some see monsters, some see animals,” the sonographer laughs. “I only see organs.” She has an Eastern European accent. It makes me anxious to look at all these murky, unidentifiable shapes, so I sit down and hide from the screen behind the sonographer’s body.


“How long did it take you to you get used to the sound of screaming?” I ask the woman who pushes Hannah’s stretcher from one room to the other. She responds, unphased, “I have two kids, so.”


Outside, there are cop cars. I think of the little boy who was staring at us the night before. He had come in with a family flanked by policemen. He and his sister were left alone in the waiting room for close to an hour while their family disappeared behind closed doors. All of the sudden, the children stood up from their seats. As if on cue, the double doors opened. Two adults came to retrieve them.


As I drive to the Vietnamese restaurant for our dinner, it feels later than it is. I feel nostalgic for the ER now, and hurry to get back to it.


While I am not in the room, the doctor comes to check in on Hannah, and takes a phone call about another patient. “The bullet went in his back and came out of his neck,” she reports when I return.


I live across the street from the hospital, and often bike through the emergency room’s parking lot on my way home from work. Each time, I think with a commuter’s impatience about how long someone is pausing at the stop sign, sometimes shouting out loud.


Today at work, I was nicer to my students. Not on purpose, but out of exhaustion or surrender. As I traveled through the ER’s parking lot, peering into the newly arrived ambulances, I experienced the space anew. As a point of fracture. Something swollen. A kind of seam.




aishaAisha Sabatini Sloan grew up in an apartment building five miles from the ocean. Because the blue condo at the end of the block with porthole style windows was built around the same time that she was born, she always assumed she was going to be given one of the apartments for free.



And a little something extra: here is an oddly appropriate Volvo Ad–featuring Jean Claude Van Damme, two semis, and a soundtrack of Enya–that just came out this week:


Filed under nonfiction november

the dictionary project author interview: aisha sabatini sloan


It’s the fourth Wednesday of June and time for another author interview at the dictionary project. Enjoy the wit and words of Aisha Sabatini Sloan!




1. Please share a memory/story/thought in relation to a dictionary/dictionaries:

When I went to Lisbon last year, I brought a very pretty, pink pocket dictionary for Portuguese. I never opened it. The only word I managed to remember the entire trip was “obrigada,” which means “thank you very much.” I couldn’t even say “hello.”  I love languages, and normally enjoy learning new words, so I can’t figure out what happened to me to prevent me from even trying. It makes me wonder about what they say, how your brain sort of shuts off to learning new languages after your late twenties. I am determined to overcome  this, though, especially if it means that I have to move overseas, or marry someone for whom English is not their first language.

2. What is your current favorite word?



3. What, in your opinion, is the most obnoxious/insidious/annoying word?

No. Although, this was my first word.


4. Please respond to the following words and definitions, picked exclusively and randomly for you:

L, l  (el),  n.  [pl. L’s, l’s, Ls, ls (elz)],  1.  the twelfth letter of the English alphabet: from the Greek lambda, a borrowing from the Phoenician: see alphabet, table.  2.  the sound of L or l: in English, it is normally a voiced alveolar continuant formed by the tongue apex, IPA [l]; in many words, l  preceding f, k, m, and v is silent (e.g., half, balk, calm, and salve) ; in most varieties of American speech, final and preconsonantal l  (e.g., feel, field) has the cavity friction, and hence the sonority, associated with vowels.  3.  a type or impression for L or l.  4.  a symbol for the twelfth (or the eleventh if J is omitted) in a sequence or group.  adj.  1.  of L of l.  2.  twelfth (or eleventh if J is omitted) in a sequence or group.


“A voiced alveolar continuant formed by the tongue apex.” Lovely. I am having trouble thinking of a word that starts with ‘l’ that I don’t like. Lilt. Languid. Lyrical. Laughter. Lounge. Laura Linney. I think this is the letter that best describes how I’d like to spend the next several months of my life. Months? Years. The rest of my life. Don’t tell me about the word that starts with ‘l’ that means genocide right now I don’t want to hear it. OK, shoot. Lynch. There is no perfect letter.



aye  (ā),  adv.  [ME. ai. ay  <  ON. ei], [Archaic], always; ever.


Aye? Really? This word reminds me of my friend, Radhika, for some reason, who must have been speaking with a Minnesotan accent at some point. Also of pirates, who was I talking about pirates with recently? Paula. She was saying that there were female pirates who captained ships in drag. And then she started talking about scuba diving. She and her sister and some man put on their gear off the coast of, I think it was Venezuela, and just started walking into the ocean. They were up to their knees, their shoulders, then under water. It was bizarre for her because she said it was just like going on a hike. Except that they were swimming into canyons, moving along the contour of the mountains.



(Editor’s Note: For the word knot, I actually landed on the numerical labels for a  diagram for knot pictured below)

KNOTS  1.  figure-of-eight knot; 2.  overhand knot;  3.  thief knot;  4.  half hitch;  5.  stevedore’s knot;  6.  loop knot;  7.  harness hitch;  8.  reef knot;  9.  granny knot;  10.  bowline knot;  11.  bowline on a bight;  12.  bowline with a bight;  13.  prolonge knot;  14.  clove hitch; 15.  round turn and two half hitches  16.  running bowline;  17.  slide knot;  18.  slipknot;  19.  fisherman’s bend;  20.  cat’s paw;  21.  single Blackwall hitch;  22.  double Blackwall hitch;  23.  studding-sail tack bend;  24.  magnus hitch;  25.  sheepshank;  26.  half hitch over pin;  27.  rolling hitch;  28.  studding-sail halyard hitch;  29.  timber hitch;  30.  timber hitch and a half hitch;  31.  surgeon’s knot  32.  anchor knot;  33.  long splice;  34.  surgeon’s knot;  35.  sheet bend;  36.  trefoil knot;  37.  throat seizing.  38.  outside clinch;  39.  inside clinch;  40.  double sheet bend;  41.  Englishman’s tie;  42.  single carrick bend;  43.  double carrick bend;  44.  single bowknot;  45.  double bowknot.


Knots. It’s difficult for me to even think about this word without feeling all of my energy migrate to my stomach and my heart is now definitely beating faster. The only non-negative meaning of this word seems to be an “Englishman’s tie.” I want very badly to undo this word, disempower it somehow, go up to it on the street and loosen it, even it it’s pink, so everybody can breathe better. I am tempted to add a “g” to the beginning, and then to pronounce the “g,” make the word into “ganot” or “ganat” and then just pull the tension loose. I do not like this word at all.



py·ro·lig·ne·ous  (pī-rō-ˈlig-nē-əs),  adj.  [FR. pyroligneux  <  pyro- + L. lignum, wood],  1.  produced by the destructive distillation of wood.  2.  designating or of a reddish-brown liquid (pyroligenous acid), chiefly acetic acid and methyl alcohol, obtained by the destructive distillation of wood.  3.  designating or of methyl alcohol, especially when obtained from wood.


Pyroligneous! I went to get a massage recently, and was told that, I guess in terms of Chinese medicine, my insides were on fire. I have been out of balance, vis-a-vis the five elements. I need to find a way to get more wood to feed the fire and more water to keep it from burning out of control. I say this because pyroligneous is “produced by the destructive distillation of wood.” I don’t like the idea that I’m walking around, creating methyl alcohol just by living and breathing. But it makes a lot of sense, actually. I think it’s part of the reason that I need to leave Tucson.



twig  (twig),  n.  [ME. & AS. twigge; indirectly akin to G. zweig; IE. *dwi-gho  <  base  *dwou-, two (cf. TWO): prob. with reference to the forking of the twig], a small branch or shoot of a tree or shrub.


Twig. I just used this word metaphorically a few days ago, and felt a little uneasy afterward. Now what’s this about, “prob. with reference to the forking of the twig.” Is it just me, or is it kind of cute when a dictionary says “prob”? Do you ever think about the person writing these entries? Are we allowed to see the dictionary as having subjectivity, facial hair, pajamas, even a soul? There is an old man in a room somewhere, thinking about the best way to explain the etymology of the word twig. I have affection for this man. He is so detail oriented: listen to him talk about “a small branch or shoot of a tree or shrub.” Shrub seems like such an outdated form of vegetation. I think that, wherever he is, he wants us to feel curious and optimistic about the ways of the world.






Aisha Sabatini Sloan grew up in an apartment building five miles from the ocean. Because the blue condo at the end of the block with porthole style windows was built around the same time that she was born, she always assumed she was going to be given one of the apartments for free.





Leave a comment

Filed under author interviews

live from the dictionary project presents

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


As some of you may know, the dictionary project hosted it’s first live event: the dictionary project presents! at Casa Libre on April 28, 2012.

This week, we’ll be sharing readings from the event. It’s almost like you were there! Or if you were there with us, relive it with us.

(Thanks very much to Casa Libre’s Assistant Director Tc Tolbert for providing the video!)

The first videos are the introduction to the evening as well as the readings that were produced using the word bibliomanced for the event: guava!



gua·va  (ˈgwävə),  n.  [Sp. guayaba  <  native (prob. Arawakan) name in Brazil],  1.  a tropical American tree or shrub bearing a yellowish, pear-shaped, edible fruit.  2.  the fruit, used for jelly, preserves, etc.





Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized