The Idler's Glossary, by Joshua Glenn,


The Idler's Glossary, by Joshua Glenn, "playfully explores the etymology and history of hundreds of idler-specific terms and phrases, while offering both a corrective to popular misconceptions about idling and a foundation for a new mode of thinking about working and not working" is now available on Amazon.

The publisher asked me for a blurb to put on the back cover. Here's what I sent them:

The Idler's Glossary is wonderful! I opened it, set it over my eyes, and took a delightful two-hour nap. Thank you so much.

Here are a few examples from this worthy tome, which is illustrated by the stupendously talented Seth:

bootless: Must every non-useless, non-unprofitable activity involve wearing boots? Quite the contrary, wouldn't you say? Let's start using "slipshod" to mean any activity which is not an end in itself. See: FLIP-FLOP, SLIPSHOD.

bored: Being bored [a term which appeared suddenly, out of nowhere, among the smart set in the 1760s] is the condition–which Guy Debord called the "worst enemy of revolutionary activity"–of being too restless to concentrate, but too apathetic to bust a move. Fortunately, unless one's boredom becomes magnified to a sort of frustrated world-rejection, it's just a mood... and soon passes. Also note that Lin Yutang says that "philosophy began with the sense of boredom," since both involve dreaming wistfully of an ideal world. See: ACEDIA, APATHETIC, ENNUI, SPLEEN.

bum: Like "queer" or "bitch," this term for a wandering mendicant has long since been re-appropriated, as in the song, "Hallelujah, I'm a Bum." As opposed to the guy who sits in the same spot every day asking for a hand-out, the bum [from the German for "saunter"] roams freely throughout the city, the country, the planet: He is king of the road. See: BEGGAR, LOAF, SAUNTER.

cadger: Cadging, the ancient art of imposing upon the generosity of others, is an essential skill for the would-be idler, since poverty is the easiest way to obtain a great deal of free time. According to Henry Miller, who calls it "mooching," when performed without squeamishness or reservations, cadging is both exhilarating and instructive. So long as a cadger [from the Scandinavian word for "huckster"] is generous in turn (though not necessarily in kind), he ought not to be considered a deadbeat, freeloader, or sponger. See: BEGGAR, SCROUNGER.

The Idler's Glossary


  1. I do have to criticize the idling technique of the chap on the front cover. Not only is he still wearing his shoes, but that chair is not at all suitable for proper long-distance idling. Without a proper headrest, he’d be cramping in no time. Amateur.

  2. Your blurb reminds me of this funny sentence in a letter from Groucho Marx to S.J. Perelman: “From the moment I picked up your book until I put it down, I was convulsed with laughter. Some day I intend reading it.”

  3. Is the point of the book to promote etymological ignorance and misinformation?

    A decently idle word-lover can tell you without checking that bootless has nothing to do with footwear, and everything to do with booty.

  4. I consider this an excellent background source for a brief autobiography to write for my grandchildren. It’s (yawn) something to consider, I guess. Maybe.

  5. You never mentioned the art, by Seth, no less. He of Mr X fame- a very very fine comic published by Vortex in the 80s

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