And We're Done Here!

Well, I'm finally FINISHED transferring everything over to the NEW and IMPROVED Butter Lamb Reference Library Site. This means, now that the old stuff is restored, I can start posting new stuff ... and I have a lot of new stuff planned! 

Please check out the NEW BLRL SITE here.

(Besides, I'm not sure how long the page you're looking at right now will remain,
so visit and bookmark the new site soon!)

I have to say, I'm pretty pleased with how things are looking and I should have done this a long time ago. See what I mean for yourself. 

Click the link above!

The Butter Lamb News - Issues (Current and Back)

Looking for the skinny on what's in the next issue of The Butter Lamb News? Want to know what was in issues you might have missed? Looking for PDFs of past issues? If you answered "yes" to any of those questions, then you've come to the right place! Now stop talking to yourself and read on!


Current Issue:

Issue #4 - Issue #4 of the BLN is bigger and better than ever thanks to a new, larger format and color ink cartridges. And then there's the content! If you thought this shit was nerdy before, well then get a load of this issue! (16 pages, 8.5 X 11, full color)

*** You can get a PDF of this issue right here! ***


  • My Choice for Word of the Year? "Stop" - References don't need to pander to the Twitterverse or chase the digital-age currency of clicks, likes, and shares by latching on the latest, most fire AF slang because, they have not lost any their relevance. This is how I know.


  • Dictionaries and References in the News - Time operas; Removing words from the dictionary; Weed slang; Oxford to release dictionary of African-American English; dictionary of Gen Z dating terms; Merriam-Webster adds a bunch of new words; and the famed Kripke Collection finds a new home; and dictionary lovers waxing philosophic.


  • New Words and Phrases (or words and phrases new to me) - Productivity paranoia, loud laborer, boyfriend air, wife guy, mufti, snackification movement, appurtenances, beetle-browed, eigengrau, fin-de-siecle, and grisaille, labile, lemniscate, and lunule.


  • Reference- (and reference like) and Word-Related Publications Received - Anachronisms, Hypno Video, Just a Jefferson, Ritual View, and Word of the Day


  • Plus, new Arrivals to the Butter Lamb Reference Library and a slew of reader letters!

Back Issues:

Issue #3 - Bigger than issue #2 (but not quite as big as issue #4), the third installment of the BLN gives you even more bang for your buck (which is a funny thing to say about a free newsletter). This issue's contents run the gamut (what the fuck is a gamut?) from tips on how to make the most of your references (with a little help from John McPhee) and reader letters to references in the news and new words. Dig it! (32 pages, half-size legal, B+W)


*** You can grab a PDF of this issue right here! ***


  • Let References Help: In addition to telling us what words mean, a good dictionary can also help us choose the best word … or so says John McPhee


  • Reader Letters … or letter


  • New Words and Phrases (or Words and Phrases new to me): Newfangled workplace words, psychological disorders, and other words and phrases of interest from "book shy" to "bezoar."


  • Dictionaries and References in the News: Dictionaries banned in prison, threats against Merriam-Webster for tinkering with gender-related definitions, school districts rejecting dictionary donations, and the number of words invented by Shakespeare in question


  • New Additions to the BLRL: Dictionaries of literary symbols, word origins, proverbs, war, "rediscovered" words (not), and the future in America.


  • It Came from the PO Box: Zine reviews


  • And a trip down memory lane … or so I thought … in The Last Word 




Issue #2 - This issue continues the trend launched by the BLN's speculative first issue! But if you think issue #2 steps out cautiously, forget it! The contents of Issue #2 deliver some "tough lessons" from dictionaries and then rage on with diatribes about the (modern) insult "basic" and other hot button words. Check it out! (24 pages, half-size legal, B+W)


*** You can grab a PDF of this issue right here! ***


  • More on descriptivism vs. prescriptivism … through the lens of Star Wars


  • Reader letters on tax tokens, reactions to cheugy, problems with my punctuation, and more.


  • New Words and Phrases (or Words and Phrases new to me): Basic, dazzle, Gasconade, hurkle-durkle, Idioglossia, lachrymose, mission statement, and more.


  • Dictionaries and References in the News: People with low emotional intelligence use this phrase, thesaurus history, new words added to Merriam-Webster's dictionary, and who is and isn't a "victim."


  • New Additions to the BLRL: Dictionaries on rhyming, lexicography (why not?), geek slang, classical mythology, modern thought, obscure words, and dreams. I also speak of Dreyer's English and the fictional Liar's Dictionary.




Issue #1 - The zine that started it all and unleashed Big Dictionary Energy on the masses! This well-reviewed little guy set the tone for later issues with the first installments of Front Matter, Dictionaries and References in the News, New Words and Phrases, Additions to the BLRL, and more. Get a copy and see how it all began! (24 pages, digest-size, B+W)


*** You can grab a PDF of this issue right here! ***


  • Front Matter: Yes, Virginia, Dictionary Forewards can be Fascinating!


  • Dictionaries and References in the News: Defining life, the link between COVID-19 and dictionaries, and bad words and artificial intelligence


  • New Words and Phrases: Cheugy, chuffed, pflug, phub, smize (and the cult of the green M&M), and zaftig


  • New Additions to the BLRL: Dictionaries on or for the highly literate, linguistics and phonetics, the F-word, religions and secular faiths, abbreviations, books, psychoanalysis, and political thought. 

About the Butter Lamb

The Butter Lamb Reference Library (BLRL) exists to proclaim the good news of reference books as a source of trustworthy information to challenge misconception, confront willful ignorance, and provide answers to an astonishing array of questions be they serious, silly, or something in between. I am aware that reference books have lost some of their allure these days and that most folks prefer the web. Fortunately, I couldn’t care less. I maintain this attitude for several reasons. Among them is that, far too often, the information offered online is  inaccurate or incomplete (see screen capture above from actual web search of the word “anachronist,” which IS a word). Still, I can see the writing on the wall. The web isn’t going anywhere and reference books are heavy, large, and generally inconvenient. (Even some contemporary lexicographers confess they no longer use their physical dictionaries!) Thus, there’s not much reference enthusiasts like me can do about it except collect these magical texts and show them off in a museum-like setting, which is exactly what I do via the BLRL.


Why “Butter Lamb”?


In essence, a butter lamb is a wad of butter pressed into the form of a lamb. The thing about a butter lamb, though, is that it’s so much more than that. It’s a cultural artifact, a sign of material comfort, a Buffalo, New York tradition and, if you put your faith in Wikipedia, “a traditional butter sculpture accompanying the Easter meal (and a symbol of the Easter season) for many Russian, Slovenian and Polish Catholics.” They’ve even been immortalized on a t-shirt ( … er… the butter lambs, not the Russians, Slovenians, or Poles).


In their own way, butter lambs are also a nice metaphor for the English language. On the surface, the words we speak are merely assemblages of letters that mean one thing as opposed to another. But, if you’re willing to dig deeper,  you soon realize that words are so much more than tools to distinguish A from B or black from white. Words come in many shapes and forms and can be used to draw pictures that reflect reality, or, as the purveyors of double-speak show, twist the things we see and hear into forms unrecognizable. Moreover, the histories of words document their origins and evolution and show how they and, sometimes their meanings, change over time like lifeforms.


It is the aim of this blog to showcase the “butter lambish-ness” (butter lambity?) of our language, be it through personal experiences, random thoughts, excerpts from whatever I’m reading, news articles, and so on. It’s also to have a little wordy fun and spread (pun intended) some appreciation for the words we too often use with too little thought.

That’s why.


Who Is the Butter Lamb?


The BLRL is managed, and its blog is written and edited (sort of …) by me — Joe (Joe3) Smith. Fair warning: I am neither a lexicographer nor a librarian. I have, however, worked in several libraries and I am the founder of the College Park Community Library in College Park, Maryland. I have a bachelor’s degree in English (which you probably guessed), but, more to the point, I am a fan of dictionaries (and other references), a worshiper of words, a lover of books, and a publisher of books and magazines. 


Our address (should you need it for some reason) is PO Box 3067, Laurel, MD 20709.


Although the BLRL does not allow visits at this time, we do provide a word (or phrase or symbol, etc.) research service. So, if there’s something you’d like me to investigate for you, drop me a line. I am at your service.

Butter Lamb Press - Order Stuff Here


Butter Lamb Press is the publications arm of the Butter Lamb Reference Library. Anything we publish (i.e., The Ravens Way Review, Alternative Incite back issues) can be ordered online by clicking this "buy now" button.   

VERY IMPORTANT: When ordering, please be sure to:

1) specify which title and issue you want, and
2) include an email where we can reach you. 

Sometimes there are problems with the post office or delays on my end that I try to keep you aware of.




Issue #1 of The Ravens Way Review is now available!

Part review zine, part first-person account of life in a place I call Ravens Way, with a little commentary thrown in for good measure, The Ravens Way Review is sure to delight the most discerning zine readers! 

The contents of issue no. 1 include:

- What's Going On? (An Introduction)
- Unsolicited Rants about hanging out
  in parking lots to avoid people, the concept
  of evolutionary mismatch and how it might mess with
  our heads, and a lawsuit about pasta
- Longer pieces on the "derelict vessels" of Ravens Way and why my first concert was infinitely better than Becky's
- Tons of reviews
- Notes on the issue
- And a bunch more!

All in all, it'll be 40 pages (half-size legal) of entertaining and thought provoking content, all for the measly price of $4. Order yours now!





Alternative Incite magazine encourages readers to follow their creative impulses and celebrates those who do. Each issue features interviews, insightful commentary, loads of reviews, wonderful photography, and a “parting shot” that highlights people who’ve made a dent on the world by following their creativity. Although this title has ceased publication, it will never go out of print, so back issues are still available. Each one sells for $4. Get all 6 issues for $20.


SUMMER 2022 - Alternative Incite #6 features: my usual opening rants, which I package under the banner of From the Desk of Joe3; another installment of Thoughts Provoked, where I talk about "resisting the smush" and confusing status and purpose; a special episode of Notes from the Field, which includes, "Interview with a Panhandler," an except from my hopefully forthcoming book; another Producers and Consumers interview featuring self-publishing veteran Catherine Groves of Christian*New Age Quarterly; more awesome photos by my talented brother, reader letters, and a run-down of the publications I've received since publishing issue #5, and finally, a Parting Shot about a Chinese man who left it all behind to read books in a cave. Specs: 40-pages, half-sized legal.

ISSUE #5 – WINTER 2022 (current issue): Alternative Incite #5 features thoughts on being unruly in the interest of creativity; an interview with DIY veteran and humor writer Fred Wright; commentary on time management, jobs that aren’t dead yet, robot umpires, and much more; reader letters; another HUGE reviews column; killer photos (not be me); and a “Parting Shot” about a New Zealand wizard who created his own “existential universe” ! Check it out! Specs: 40 pages, size: 7 x 8.5 (half-size legal)

ISSUE #4 – SUMMER 2021: Alternative Incite #4 features thoughts on the "Memento Mori" craze, an interview with zine veteran Davida Gypsy Breier, all the usual departments and commentary you’ve come to expect, letters from readers, another HUGE reviews column featuring zinedom’s latest and greatest, intriguing photos, and a bonus “Parting Shot” interview with a young man who built a roller coaster in his backyard! Specs: 40 pages, size: 7 x 8.5 (half-size legal)


Issue #3 Spring 2021: Offers  more introductory ranting and raving about following the creative impulse, letters from (actual) readers, Thoughts Provoked by misuse of the word acedia and people who treat walking like it’s a job, more Notes from the Field — including a yarn about walking around town with a large grandfather clock, an interview with graphic designer and font maker Travis Miller, a huge review section, Dear Butter Lamb (letters from fake readers), and a Parting Shot about a man who rowed a Victorian bathtub across the English Channel. Specs: 44 pages, size: 7 x 8.5 (half-size legal)


ISSUE #2 – FALL 2020: This issue features introductory remarks about how following your creative impulses can help you cope with the bullshit, more hot takes on thought-provoking articles you (probably) haven’t read, more adventures in anachronism, interview with stand-up comic Rob Gavin and Barbershop singer Dan Hawrylczak, a HUGE review column, and a “Parting Shot” about what can happen when a man starts a ball of twine. Specs: 40 pages, size: 7 x 8.5 (half-size legal)


ISSUE #1 – SPRING 2020: This issue features an introductory rant about getting off your ass and doing the thing, hot takes on important articles you (probably) haven’t read, an op-ed about “getting off the hamster wheel,” an examination of the “new normal,” adventures in anachronism, an interview with musician Suvo Sur (who produces scores for award-winning films and podcasts), and shout out to the “Doyenne of Dictionaries.” Specs: 40 pages, size: 7 x 8.5 (half-size legal)



The object of this zine has always been to encourage readers to follow their creative impulses. There's traditionally a lot of well-written and fascinating material; plenty of stuff to keep your mind busy, as well as original photography and some cool graphics. However, Joe tells us that this will be the last issue of ALTERNATIVE INCITE. Not to worry. though -he's got a new zine title in the works! This time around Joe explains his thoughts about how people perceive his zine, some feel it's quirky, others think it's anti-technology. He also opens up about his own changing attitudes about what he wants to accomplish with his writing - hence, the new direction he intends to follow with a new project. Joe also reviews some books, articles on blogs or websites and zines Two interviews are also featured: one, with a panhandler near his home (whom the area residents would like to see evicted): and another, with Catherine Groves, who publishes the CHRISTIAN NEW AGE QUARTERLY zine. Each of the latter provide interesting insights into the minds of two diverse people in disparate lifestyles. – Ken Bausert review of Alternative Incite #6 in Xerography Debt #53.

"ALTERNATIVE INCITE encourages readers to follow their creative impulses and exercise their right to be bizarre, different, and/or peculiar in the interest of personal satisfaction and the greater good. Mostly sly (but occasionally blatant) nods to the original Star Wars trilogy, The Matrix, Jurassic Park, and the band Rush may appear throughout this publication. If you don't appreciate these cultural touchstones, then you'll just have to deal with it Alas, this is the final issue of ALTERNATIVE INCITE. t you've been enjoying this zine as much as I have over the past couple of years, this is sad news. But don't Sweat it. Joe's as busy as ever with new projects. A new magazine, ENDNOTE, İs on the way, as well as a book of essays entitled Stuck. And that's just what Joe's doing in print: he has various blogs on the go too. My favorite feature of each issue is Joe's commentary, inspired by his recent reading. about technology, happiness, fear of failure, the importance of being lazy or idle (as this helps creative people develop ideas). etc. Joe also includes a couple of thought-provoking interviews he conducted: one with a panhandler in College Park, Maryland, and another with the publisher of CHRISTIAN NEW AGE QUARTERLY. There is so much good stuff in here: a piece about a bookish hermit who was recently discovered living in a cave in China, a ton of zine reviews, letters from readers, some nice photography. I’m barely scratching the surface Back issues are still available if you missed them! – Kris Mininger review of Alternative Incite #6 in Xerography Debt #53.

ALTERNATIVE INCITE (tag line/ slogan): "Follow the creative impulse] exists to encourage readers to follow their creative impulse and exercise their right to be bizarre. different, and/or peculiar in the interest of personal satisfaction and the greater good. Unfortunately, this is the last issue of ALTERNATIVE INCITE II certainly miss correcting my husband's pronunciation of this zine when he brings in the mail, but not as much as l’ll miss the zine itself. Besides the usual provocative essays and zine reviews, this issue features interviews with Catherine Groves of CHRISTIAN NEW AGE QUARTERLY and one with a panhandler. And what are the odds that an article called "What are the Odds?" would not be interesting? Joe will be producing a new magazine in the near future, so be on the lookout. And, although this will be the last issue, Joe assures us that it will never go out of print, so go ahead and treat yourself! – Markell Raphaelson West review of Alternative Incite #6 in Xerography Debt #53. 

I do love a half-legal, text-heavy zine it reminds me of the mid-to-late 1990s zine era. Since half- legal zines usually weigh more, need a larger envelope, and postage rates have gone up, this size zine is becoming a rare find. ALTERNATIVE INCITE'S mission is to encourage people to follow their creative impulses and celebrate those who do. So of course the issue begins with a cheery essay about how we're all going to eventually die. But that's not a bleak lament, it's a call to action to light a fire under your sorry ass and get to work on your creative projects! You can't walt for inspiration to work on the projects you want to do. you need the discipline to work on it regularly (daily if you can), It's encouraged me to stop carrying around my next zine project notes from place to place, and actually open the notebook and put scheduled dally time toward it. There are observations on working from home the idea of "laziness", quitting, and writers  (note: one day I will produce a zine on one of the four typewriters I have, most likely the beautiful red, heavy, all steel BM Selectric) There are  interviews with our estimable XD editor Davida,  and a kid who bult a small roller coaster in his  backyard. The issue rounds out with a healthy letter section and zine reviews. Al #4 provides the inspiration I desperately have been missing for the past year. A.J. Michael review of Alternative Incite #5 in Xerography Debt #52.

There is something so fulfilling about this zine. Lengthy, thoughtful columns and a message of hope genuine encouragement, with a mellowing touch of pragmatic snark. Essays, reviews responses to articles, and interviews with creators. Highly recommended. – Davida Gypsy Breier review of Alternative Incite #5 in Xerography Debt #52.

I raved about ALTERNATIVE INCITE #3 in the last issue. This really is one of the best new zines out there. It is substantial and well-written. This issue tackles the phrase Memento mori, getting in trouble, impatience, typewriters, and more. Recommended. (Disclosure: I am part of the more. I did an interview with Joe about why l make things) Davida Gypsy Breier review of Alternative Incite #4 in Xerography Debt #51.

This zine is lovely. It’s 44 pages of the author and contributors encouraging people to be creative. It isn’t simply about producing, it is about enjoying the act of creating and that includes daydreaming/doing nothing/thinking/walking. There is also an element of perzine and learn about the editor’s woodworking and strange experiences attempting to get furniture from Craigslist. We also learn about his art project involving a cheap grandfather clock. Solid [letters] section. Thoughtful response to an article in The Conversation, taking the writer to task for not doing better research. Well-written, well-designed, well-worth your time.” – Davida Gypsy Breier review of Alternative Incite #3 in Xerography Debt #50.

This is an engaging publication, with eye-pleasing fonts and intriguing photographs. It is insightful enough that I keep thinking of it as Alternative Insight, but I am mistaken! Alternative Incite is well worth the requested $[4]! – Markell Raphaelson West, review of Alternative Incite #1 in Xerography Debt #49

Expertly assembled with high quality printing standards and reproduction of photos. It’s uniqueness comes mainly from the content and subject matter of the articles within; I found the writing and presentation to be excellent. – Ken Bausert, review of Alternative Incite #1 in Xerography Debt #49

Hopefully, lots of people will find $[4] to send Joe, get the zine, and then find themselves creatively inspired. – Fred Argoff, review of Alternative Incite #1 in Xerography Debt #49

This is the most well-organized and clean-looking zine I’ve read. – review of Alternative Incite #2 in Razorcake, Issue #121

Well written through out … great photography and image production… – review of Alternative Incite #1 in Node Pajomo (Issue 2.6, March 2021)