mewithoutYou - Ten Stories: The Glossary

The new album from mewithoutYou, entitled Ten Stories, is a concept album about a circus train crash and the dark and philosophical adventures of the animals that escape (or don’t) in the aftermath.  Aaron Weiss uses typically detailed and mysterious lyricism, and thus I thought a glossary for the phrases and names of plants and animals and even fabrics that he throws at you might be valuable.  This is best used when listening to the album and reading along in the lyrics booklet.

February 1878

Trout Creek

Trout Creek is a census-designated place in Sanders County, Montana

Cedar Lake

A lake in the Flathead National Forest in Montana

North Pacific Union Rail

A railroad run by Union Pacific

Rip spot

A repair track used for minor repair of train cars


The pivoting hook like casting that fits into the head of a coupler and rotates about a vertical pin to either the open position (to engage a mating coupler) or to the closed position (when fully engaged).


In a steam engine, the firebox is the area where the fuel is burned, producing heat to boil the water in the boiler.


Locomotive engineer.


The load the hopper was carrying in this particular case.


An open top car with hinged trap doors and inclined floors which permits quick unloading of bulk commodities.

Ash cat

Slang term for the crew member whose job it is to keep the fire and steam up in a steam locomotive, and who is responsible for the operating condition of power units on diesel and electric engines.

Diamond stack

A diamond-shaped smoke stack, usually associated with 19th Century locomotives. 


A four-sided spinning top, played with during the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah.


Topiary is the horticultural practice of training live perennial plants by clipping the foliage and twigs of trees, shrubs and subshrubs to develop and maintain clearly defined shapes.

Grist for the Malady Mill


A national park in Montana.

Clark’s Fork

The Clark Fork is a river in the U.S. states of Montana and Idaho, approximately 310 miles long

Blackfoot Reservoir

A reservoir on the Blackfoot River, a tributary of the Snake River in the U.S. state of Idaho.

Grist for the mill

The proverb “all is grist for the mill” means “everything can be made useful, or be a source of profit.”


A rail spike (also known as a cut spike or crampon) is a large nail with an offset head that is used to secure rails and base plates to railroad ties in the track.

Brass hat

a person in a high position, especially a top-ranking army or navy officer.

Casey Jones

John Luther (“Casey”) Jones was an American railroad engineer from Jackson, Tennessee, who worked for the Illinois Central Railroad (IC).  His dramatic death, trying to stop his train and save lives, made him a hero

Badger Pass

Badger Pass Ski Area is a small ski area located within Yosemite National Park.


Flagstaff is a city located in northern Arizona, in the southwestern United States.


The fretboard is a part of most stringed instruments. It is a thin, long strip of material, usually wood, that is laminated to the front of the neck of an instrument and above which the strings run.


Tilia is a genus of about 30 species of trees native throughout most of the temperate Northern Hemisphere. They are generally called lime in Britain and linden or basswood in North America.

Frog switch

The frog, also known as the common crossing (or K-Rail in Australian terminology), refers to the crossing point of two rails.

East Enders Wives

Roe River

The Roe River runs between Giant Springs and the Missouri River in Great Falls, Montana, United States.

Salt fire

A colored fire commonly used as a pyrotechnic effect in stage productions, fireworks and by fire performers the world over.

Tea leaves

Tasseography (also known as tasseomancy or tassology) is a divination or fortune-telling method that interprets patterns in tea leaves, coffee grounds, or wine sediments.

Atmospheric tides

Atmospheric tides are global-scale periodic oscillations of the atmosphere.


Lent is an observance in the liturgical year of many Christian denominations, lasting for a period of approximately six weeks leading up to Easter. In most Western denominations Lent is taken to run from Ash Wednesday to Maundy Thursday (Holy Thursday) or to Easter Eve. The traditional purpose of Lent is the preparation of the believer—through prayer, penance, repentance, almsgiving, and self-denial.

Foxtail pine

The Foxtail Pine (Pinus balfouriana) is a rare pine that is endemic to California, United States, where it is found in two areas with a separate subspecies in each, the typical subsp. balfouriana in the Klamath Mountains, and subsp. austrina in the southern Sierra Nevada.

White Star Line

The Oceanic Steam Navigation Company or White Star Line of Boston Packets, more commonly known as just White Star Line, was a highly prominent British shipping company


Queensland is the second-largest and third-most populous state of Australia, located in the northeast of the country.


In literature, an elegy is a mournful, melancholic or plaintive poem, especially a funeral song or a lament for the dead.


The term “rosary” denotes the prayer beads used to count the series of prayers that make up the rosary, as well as the sequence of prayers.

Cardiff Giant

Ragged Robbins

Lychnis flos-cuculi, commonly called Ragged Robin, is a herbaceous perennial plant in the family Caryophyllaceae. It is species is native to Europe, where it is found along roads and in wet meadows and pastures.


the pedestal, plinth, or base of a column, pier, or statue


A boxtop, in the context of being a proof of purchase, is understood to be the upper portion of a product box, detached, and mailed as part of a claim for a radio premium or other advertising offer.


Artemisia absinthium (absinthium, absinthe wormwood, wormwood, common wormwood, green ginger or grand wormwood) is a species of wormwood, native to temperate regions of Eurasia and northern Africa.  It is an ingredient in the spirit absinthe, and also used for flavouring in some other spirits and wines, including bitters, vermouth and pelinkovac.

Snake oil

The phrase snake oil is a derogatory term used to describe quackery, the promotion of fraudulent or unproven medical practices. The expression is also applied metaphorically to any product with questionable and/or unverifiable quality or benefit. By extension, the term “snake oil salesman” may be applied to someone who sells fraudulent goods, or who is a fraud himself.


Sycophancy is obsequious flattery

Out at elbows

Wearing clothes that are worn out or torn; poor.


A citadel is a fortress protecting a town, sometimes incorporating a castle.

Cardiff giant

The Cardiff Giant was one of the most famous hoaxes in United States history. It was a 10-foot (3.0 m) tall purported “petrified man” uncovered on October 16, 1869 by workers digging a well behind the barn of William C. “Stub” Newell in Cardiff, New York.

Potter wasp

Potter wasps (or mason wasps) are a cosmopolitan wasp group presently treated as a subfamily of Vespidae, but sometimes recognized in the past as a separate family, Eumenidae.  The name “potter wasp” derives from the shape of the mud nests built by species of Eumenes and similar genera. It is believed that Native Americans based their pottery designs upon the form of local potter wasp nests.


Megalomania is a psycho-pathological condition characterized by delusional fantasies of power, relevance, or omnipotence.

Elephant in the Dock


A wooden framework on a post, with holes for the head and hands, in which offenders were formerly locked to be exposed to public scorn as punishment.


A cavalcade is a procession or parade on horseback, or a mass trail ride by a company of riders.


Kalispell is a city in and the county seat of Flathead County, Montana, United States.


A tool for restraining a horse’s ambling

Hobble skirt

The name was given in reference to the device used to restrain, or hobble, horses.

Samovar pot

A samovar is a heated metal container traditionally used to heat and boil water in and around Russia, as well as in other Central, South-Eastern, Eastern European countries, Kashmir and in the Middle-East.

Scottish oatcakes

An oatcake is a type of cracker or pancake, made from oatmeal, and sometimes flour as well.


A haversack is a bag, usually carried by a single shoulder strap.

Basket-hilt sword

The basket-hilted sword is the name of a group of early modern sword types characterized by a basket-shaped guard that protects the hand.


Queen Anne’s lace

Daucus carota (common names include wild carrot, (UK) bird’s nest, bishop’s lace, and (US) Queen Anne’s lace) is a flowering plant in the family Apiaceae, native to temperate regions of Europe, southwest Asia and naturalised to North America and Australia; domesticated carrots are cultivars of a subspecies


Solanaceae is a family of flowering plants that includes a number of important agricultural crops. Many species are toxic plants.


The eggplant, aubergine, melongene, brinjal or guinea squash (Solanum melongena) is a plant of the family Solanaceae (also known as the nightshades) and genus Solanum.


A promontory is a prominent mass of land that overlooks lower lying land or a body of water (where it may be called a peninsula or headland).


Common sorrel or garden sorrel (Rumex acetosa), often simply called sorrel, is a perennial herb that is cultivated as a garden herb or leaf vegetable (pot herb). Other names for sorrel include spinach dock and narrow-leaved dock.


Saffron (pronounced  /ˈsæfrɒn/) is a spice derived from the flower of Crocus sativus, commonly known as the saffron crocus. 

Cord grass

partina, commonly known as cordgrass or cord-grass,[2] is a genus of 14 species of grasses in the family Poaceae. They are native to the coasts of the Atlantic Ocean in western and southern Europe, northwest and southern Africa, the Americas and the southern Atlantic Ocean islands; one or two species also occur on the North American Pacific Ocean coast and in freshwater habitats inland in the Americas.


Solipsism ( /ˈsɒlɨpsɪzəm/) is the philosophical idea that only one’s own mind is sure to exist. The term comes from the Latin solus (alone) and ipse (self). Solipsism as an epistemological position holds that knowledge of anything outside one’s own mind is unsure. The external world and other minds cannot be known, and might not exist outside the mind. As a metaphysical position, solipsism goes further to the conclusion that the world and other minds do not exist. As such it is the only epistemological position that, by its own postulate, is both irrefutable and yet indefensible in the same manner. 

Fox’s Dream of the Log Flume

Gadarene Swine

The Gadarene swine refers to a story in the New Testament that occurs in Mark 5:1-13 . Jesus meets a man who is possessed by devils. Jesus orders the devils to come out of the man. They beg him to send them into a nearby herd of 2000 pigs. Jesus does so, and the swine immediately jump off a cliff into the sea, where they drown.

Anchor bends

The Anchor Bend is a knot used for attaching a rope to a ring or similar termination. Its name originates from the time when “bend” was understood to mean “tie to”, and not restricted to knots that join rope ends.


Asbury Park is a city in Monmouth County, New Jersey, United States, located on the Jersey Shore and part of the New York City Metropolitan Area.


In marine navigation, a bearing is the direction one object is from another object, usually, the direction of an object from one’s own vessel

Log flume

Log flumes (colloquially known as “log rides”) originally referred to a special construct used to transport lumber and logs down mountainous terrain to a sawmill by using flowing water. Today, however, the term is also used to refer to an amusement ride consisting of a water flume and artificial hollow logs or boats. Passengers sit in the logs, which are propelled along the flume by the flow of water.


The Shetland sheep is a small, wool-producing breed of sheep originating in the Shetland Isles, but now also kept in many other parts of the world.


The Dorset or Dorset Horned breed of sheep is known mostly for its prolific lambing. It has been known to produce two lambing seasons per year: bred in May for lambs finished by the holidays, and bred again immediately after the first lambing to produce again in March or April.


The Thaler (or Taler or Talir) was a silver coin used throughout Europe for almost four hundred years.

Nine Stories

land grants

A land grant is a gift of real estate – land or its privileges – made by a government or other authority as a reward for services to an individual, especially in return for military service.

Homesteading law

A homestead act was one of three United States federal laws that gave an applicant ownership at no cost of farmland called a “homestead” – typically 160 acres (65 hectares or one-fourth section) of undeveloped federal land west of the Mississippi River.

Dodge Summit

Dodge Summit is a populated place located in Lincoln County, Montana.

Athabasca Falls

Athabasca Falls is a waterfall in Jasper National Park on the upper Athabasca River, approximately 30 kilometres south of the townsite of Jasper, Alberta, and just west of the Icefields Parkway.


The four species of Avocets ( /ˈævəsɛt/) are a genus, Recurvirostra, of waders in the same avian family as the stilts.


The 15-20 species of small passerine birds in the gnatcatcher family occur in North and South America (except far south and high Andean regions). Most species of this mainly tropical and subtropical group are resident, but the Blue-gray Gnatcatcher of the USA and southern Canada migrates south in winter. They are close relatives of the wrens.


The Holocentridae is a family of ray-finned fish, belonging to the order Beryciformes with the members of the subfamily Holocentrinae typically known as squirrelfish, while the members of Myripristinae typically are known as soldierfish. In Hawaii they are known as menpachi. They are found in tropical parts of the Indian, Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, with the greatest species diversity near reefs in the Indo-Pacific.

Charlotte Corday

Marie-Anne Charlotte de Corday d’Armont (27 July 1768 – 17 July 1793), known to history as Charlotte Corday, was a figure of the French Revolution. In 1793, she was executed under the guillotine for the assassination of Jacobin leader Jean-Paul Marat, who was in part responsible, through his role as a politician and journalist, for the more radical course the Revolution had taken. More specifically, he played a substantial role in the political purge of the Girondins, with whom Corday sympathized. His murder was memorialized in a celebrated painting by Jacques-Louis David which shows Marat after Corday had stabbed him to death in his bathtub. In 1847, writer Alphonse de Lamartine gave Corday the posthumous nickname l’ange de l’assassinat (the Angel of Assassination).

Steele Dakota’s Sandhill Crane

Welcoming visitors to the city of Steele, North Dakota, the World’s Largest Sandhill Crane, A.K.A. “Sandy”, stands at attention on the Interstate 94 side of the Lone Steer Motel/Cafe. Completed in 1999 by Arena, North Dakota resident James Miller, the World’s Largest Sandhill Crane weighs in at 4.5 tons and extends to 40 feet in height. Constructed of rolled sheet metal welded onto a steel inner frame, the crane was actually built in three separate sections - the body in one section, the neck and head in another, and pipes were fitted to make the legs. Currently, the area surrounding the crane is populated by numerous native grasses, flowers, and trees.


Paiute ( /ˈpaɪjuːt/; also Piute) refers to three closely related groups of Native Americans — the Northern Paiute of California, Idaho, Nevada and Oregon; the Owens Valley Paiute of California and Nevada; and the Southern Paiute of Arizona, southeastern California and Nevada, and Utah.

Mormon Rain

"Mormon Rain" is what is commonly known as "dust". Refers (according to  an astute source) to the fierce dust storms that the Mormon pioneers  endured on the trek west.

Clubfoot Lane

George Lane, better known as Clubfoot George, was an alleged outlaw who was hanged on January 13, 1864, in Virginia City, Montana. Lane was later alleged to be a member of a criminal gang known as the Gang of Innocents and sentenced to death. The execution was carried out by the Montana Vigilantes, a committee which functioned during Montana’s gold rush in 1863 and 1864.


Lodgepole Pine, Pinus contorta, also known as Shore Pine, is a common tree in western North America.  Like all pines, it is evergreen.


Possibly refers to the Barn Owl (Tyto alba), the most widely distributed species of owl, and one of the most widespread of all birds.


Inclined to love; having a propensity to love, or to sexual enjoyment; loving; fond; affectionate; as, an amorous disposition.


A charlatan (also called swindler or mountebank) is a person practicing quackery or some similar confidence trick in order to obtain money, fame or other advantages via some form of pretense or deception.


An eremite is a hermit; a religious recluse, someone who lives alone.


The Arfak Mountains are a mountain range found on the Bird’s Head Peninsula in the Province of West Papua, Indonesia.


The Brown Sickbill, Epimachus meyeri is a large, up to 96 cm long, dark blue and green bird-of-paradise with highly iridescent plumages, a sickle-shaped bill, pale blue iris and brown underparts. The male is adorned with ornamental plumes on the sides of its rear and a huge sabre-shaped central tail feathers that are highly prized by natives. The female is a reddish brown bird with buff barred black below. The Brown Sicklebill is distributed to the mountain forests of New Guinea.


Tangier is a city in northern Morocco. It lies on the North African coast at the western entrance to the Strait of Gibraltar where the Mediterranean meets the Atlantic Ocean off Cape Spartel.


The Battle of Appomattox Court House, fought on the morning of April 9, 1865, was the final engagement of Confederate States Army General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia before it surrendered to the Union Army under Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, and one of the last battles of the American Civil War.

Jacob’s Ladder

Jacob’s Ladder (Hebrew: Sulam Yaakov סולם יעקב) is a ladder to heaven that the biblical patriarch Jacob dreams about during his flight from his brother Esau. It is described in the Book of Genesis.

Fiji Mermaid

Fiji Mermaid

The Fiji mermaid (also Feejee mermaid) was an object comprising the torso and head of a juvenile monkey sewn to the back half of a fish, covered in papier-mâché. It was a common feature of sideshows, which was presented as the mummified body of a creature that was supposedly half mammal and half fish, a version of traditional mermaid stories.


Macramé or macrame is a form of textile-making using knotting rather than weaving or knitting. Its primary knots are the square knot and forms of “hitching”: full hitch and double half hitches. It was long crafted by sailors, especially in elaborate or ornamental knotting forms, to decorate anything from knife handles to bottles to parts of ships.


Terns are seabirds in the family Sternidae, previously considered a subfamily of the gull family Laridae. They form a lineage with the gulls and skimmers which in turn is related to skuas and auks. Terns have a worldwide distribution.


Ersatz means ‘substituting for, and typically inferior in quality to’, e.g. ‘chicory is ersatz coffee’. It is a German word literally meaning substitute or replacement.  Although it is used as an adjective in English, Ersatz can only function in German as a noun on its own, or as a part in compound nouns such as Ersatzteile (spare parts) or Ersatzspieler (substitute player). While the English term often implies that the substitution is of unsatisfactory or inferior quality (“not as good as the real thing”), it does not have this connotation in German.


Harlequin is the most popularly known of the zanni or comic servant characters from the Italian Commedia dell’arte and its descendant, the Harlequinade. The Harlequin is also known to be a type of clown.


Paraffin wax is mostly found as a white, odorless, tasteless, waxy solid.  It is insoluble in water, but soluble in ether, benzene, and certain esters. Paraffin is unaffected by most common chemical reagents but burns readily

Loom in the heir

In popular usage, an heirloom is something, perhaps an antique or some kind of jewelry, that has been passed down for generations through family members

Bear’s Vision of St. Agnes

Timber hitch

The timber hitch is a knot used to attach a single length of rope to a cylindrical object.


The word ‘albatross’ is sometimes used metaphorically to mean a psychological burden that feels like a curse. It is an allusion to Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (1798)

Braided crown

A crown braid, crown plait or “Yulia” is a traditional Ukrainian hairstyle usually worn by women with long hair consisting of a single braid wrapped around the head, as the trademark hairstyle worn by Ukrainian political Yulia Tymoshenko. It is also similar to some of the hairstyles worn by Frida Kahlo.


Anabaptists are Protestant Christians of the Radical Reformation of 16th-century Europe, although some consider Anabaptism to be a distinct movement from Protestantism.  The Amish, Hutterites, and Mennonites are direct descendants of the movement. The name Anabaptist is derived from the Latin term anabaptista, or “one who baptizes over again.” This name was given them in reference to the practice of re-baptizing converts who already had been baptized as infants.  Anabaptists required that baptismal candidates be able to make their own confessions of faith and so rejected baptism to infants.

Carriage hats

Type of fur hat worn in the 1800s.

Venetian masks

Masks have always been a central feature of the Venetian carnival; traditionally people were allowed to wear them between the festival of Santo Stefano (St. Stephen’s Day, December 26) and the start of the carnival season and midnight of Shrove Tuesday. They have always been around Venice. As masks were also allowed on Ascension and from October 5 to Christmas, people could spend a large proportion of the year in disguise. Maskmakers (mascherari) enjoyed a special position in society, with their own laws and their own guild.

Shepherd’s check

A pattern of small even black-and-white checks; also : a fabric woven in this pattern —called also shepherd’s plaid.


Herringbone describes a distinctive V-shaped weaving pattern usually found in twill fabric. It is distinguished from a plain chevron by the break at reversal, which makes it resemble a broken zigzag. The pattern is called herringbone because it resembles the skeleton of a herring fish. Herringbone-patterned fabric is usually wool, and is one of the most popular cloths used for suits and outerwear. Tweed cloth is often woven with a herringbone pattern.

St. Agnes

Agnes of Rome (c. 291 – c. 304) is a virgin–martyr, venerated as a saint in the Roman Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church, the Anglican Communion, and Lutheranism. She is one of seven women, excluding the Blessed Virgin, commemorated by name in the Canon of the Mass. She is the patron saint of chastity, gardeners, girls, engaged couples, rape victims, and virgins. She is also known as Saint Agnes and Saint Ines. Her memorial, which commemorates her martyrdom, is 21 January in both the Roman Catholic calendar of saints and in the General Roman Calendar of 1962. The 1962 calendar includes a second feast on 28 January, which commemorates her birthday. Agnes is depicted in art with a lamb, as her name resembles the Latin word for “lamb”, agnus. The name “Agnes” is actually derived from the feminine Greek adjective “hagnē” (ἁγνή) meaning “chaste, pure, sacred”.

Dogtooth violet

Erythronium dens-canis (common name Dog’s tooth violet or Dogtooth violet) is a small herbaceous flowering plant in the Liliaceae, native to Europe, where it is the only naturally occurring species. It produces a solitary white, pink or lilac flower at the beginning of spring.


The carronade was a short smoothbore, cast iron cannon, developed for the Royal Navy by the Carron Company, an ironworks in Falkirk, Scotland, UK. It was used from the 1770s to the 1850s. Its main function was to serve as a powerful, short-range anti-ship and anti-crew weapon.

Acorn mast

Mast is the “fruit of forest trees like acorns and other nuts”. It is also defined as “the fruit of trees such as beech, and other forms of Cupuliferae”. Alternatively, it can also refer to “a heap of nuts”. More generally, mast is considered the edible vegetative or reproductive part produced by woody species of plants, i.e. trees and shrubs, that wildlife species and some domestic animals consume. It comes in two forms.