Language

In a Word

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:A_view_of_a_deck_of_a_ship_in_a_rough_sea._Edward_Jeffrey_Irving_Ardizzone_Art.IWMARTLD4390.jpg

forwallowed
adj. wearied with tossing about

Misterioso

In his 1772 Treatise on the Art of Decyphering, Philip Thicknesse suggests a scheme for hiding messages in musical compositions:

https://libraries.mit.edu/collections/vail-collection/topics/communication/cryptography/

At the bottom of the page is an example. “If a musick-master be required to play it, he will certainly think it an odd, as well as a very indifferent, composition; but neither he, or any other person, will suspect that the notes convey also the two following harmonious lines from Dr. Goldsmith’s poem The Deserted Village“:

Near yonder cops where once the garden smil’d,
And still where many a garden-flower grows wild.

Thicknesse suggests that two players might even use this scheme to carry on a conversation in real time. “It is certain that two musicians might, by a very little application, carry on a correspondence with their instruments: they are all in possession of the seven notes, which express a, b, c, d, e, f, g; and know by ear exactly, when either of those notes are toned; and they are only to settle a correspondence of tones, for the remaining part of the alphabet; and thus a little practice, might enable two fiddlers to carry on a correspondence, which would greatly astonish those who did not know how how the matter was conducted. Indeed this is no more than what is called dactlylogy, or talking on the fingers, which I have seen done, and understood as quick, and readily almost, as common conversation.”

Sound Rhymes

Peculiarly English limericks:

There was a young lady named Wemyss,
Who, it semyss, was troubled with dremyss.
She would wake in the night,
And, in terrible fright,
Shake the bemyss of the house with her scremyss.

A pretty school-mistress named Beauchamp,
Said, “These awful boys, how shall I teauchamp?
For they will not behave,
Although I look grave
And with tears in my eyes I beseauchamp.”

There was a professor of Caius
Who measured six feet round the knaius;
He went down to Harwich
Nineteen in a carwich,
And found it a terrible squaius.

There lived a young lady named Geoghegan,
The name is apparently Peoghegan,
She’ll be changing it solquhoun
For that of Colquhoun,
But the date is at present a veoghegan. (W.S. Webb)

An author, by name Gilbert St. John,
Remarked to me once, “Honest t. John,
You really can’t quote
That story I wrote:
My copyright you are infrt. John.” (P.L. Mannock)

See This Sceptred Isle.

In a Word

quisquilian
adj. worthless, trivial

noncurantist
adj. marked by indifference

diversivolent
adj. desiring strife

On April 18, 1930, in place of its 6:30 p.m. radio news bulletin, the BBC announced, “Good evening. Today is Good Friday. There is no news.” It filled the time with two minutes of piano music.

In 2010 computer programmer William Tunstall-Pedoe sifted 300 million facts about “people, places, business and events” and determined that April 11, 1954, was the single most boring day in the 20th century.

He told the Telegraph, “Nobody significant died that day, no major events apparently occurred and, although a typical day in the 20th century has many notable people being born, for some reason that day had only one who might make that claim — Abdullah Atalar, a Turkish academic.

“The irony is, though, that — having done the calculation — the day is interesting for being exceptionally boring. Unless, that is, you are Abdullah Atalar.”

(Thanks, Duncan.)

Misc

  • The clock face on the Marienkirche in Bergen auf Rügen, Germany, has 61 minutes. Does this mean time moves more slowly there — or more quickly?
  • To ensure quiet, poet Amy Lowell hired five rooms at every hotel — her own and those on either side, above, and below.
  • A perplexing sentence from a letter by Dorothy Osborne, describing shepherdesses in Bedfordshire, May 1653: “They want nothing to make them the happiest people in the world but the knowledge that they are so.”
  • OVEREFFUSIVE is a palindrome in Scrabble — its letter values are 141114411141. (Discovered by Susan Thorpe.)
  • The sum of the digits of every multiple of 2739726 up to the 72nd is 36. (E.M. Langley, Mathematical Gazette, 1896)
  • I’ll bet I have more money in my pocket than you do. (Of course I do — you have no money in my pocket!)
  • In 1996 a model airplane enthusiast was operating a remote-controlled plane in Phoenix Park in Dublin when the receiver died and the plane flew off on its own. It flew five miles to the northeast, ran out of fuel, and glided to a landing … on the taxi-way to Runway 28 at Dublin Airport.

(Thanks, Brian and Breffni.)

In a Word

toffs and toughs

fastuous
adj. haughty, arrogant, pretentious, or showy

alabandical
adj. barbarous, uncivilized

floccipend
v. to regard as insignificant or of no account

In 1937 photographer Jimmy Sime caught sight of five boys outside Lord’s Cricket Ground during the annual Eton vs. Harrow match. Peter Wagner and Tim Dyson were Harrow students awaiting a ride to the Wagners’ country home in Surrey, and George Salmon, Jack Catlin, and George Young were working-class boys who had spent the morning at the dentist and hoped to earn some money running errands at Lord’s.

Sime’s photo filled three columns of the News Chronicle‘s front page on July 10 under the headline “Every Picture Tells a Story.” It has been reprinted widely since as an illustration of the British class system, sometimes with the title Toffs and Toughs.

In 1998, journalist Geoffrey Levy tracked down Young and Salmon, then in their 70s, and asked whether they’d resented the Harrow boys. “Nah,” Young said. “We had our lives, they had theirs.” Salmon said, “In those days you accepted what you were and what they were, and got on with it.”

Me, a Name I Call Myself

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:US_Navy_030513-N-2069B-001_Students_and_faculty_from_both_Akers_and_R.J._Neutra_Elementary_Schools_aboard_the_Naval_Air_Station_Lemoore,_Calif.,_show_their_appreciation_for_the_members_of_the_U.S._military.jpg

It seems a bit arrogant that those of us in the United States refer to ourselves as “Americans” when more than half a billion other people live in the Americas. But what should we call ourselves instead?

“You have properly observed that we can no longer be called Anglo-Americans,” noted Thomas Jefferson in a letter after the Revolution. “That appellation describes now only the inhabitants of Nova Scotia, Canada, &c. I had applied that of Federo Americans to our citizens, as it would not be so decent for us to assume to ourselves the flattering appellation of free Americans.”

What’s a better term? In 1992 Columbia University etymologist Allen Walker Read compiled a list of suggestions that have been made over the years:

  • United Statesards
  • United Statesese
  • Unisians
  • United Statesians
  • Columbards
  • United Statesmen
  • United Statesers
  • Statesmen
  • Staters
  • Unistaters
  • Usarians
  • U.S. men
  • Usonians
  • Usonans
  • Ustatians
  • Uessians
  • Unessians
  • Statesiders
  • Statunitensi
  • United Stateans
  • Unistatians
  • Unitedstatians

Perhaps we’re all counterfeit: In early usage “Americans” applied not to European colonists but to the native Indians whose territory they were invading. John Locke wrote in 1671: “So if you should ask an American how old his son is, i.e., what the length of duration was between his birth and this moment, he would … tell you his son was 30 or 40 moons old as it happened.”

(Allen Walker Read, “Derivative Forms From the Name United States,” paper read at the 31st annual Names Institute sponsored by The American Name Society, Baruch College of The City University of New York, May 2, 1992.)

Head Trauma

Unfortunate newspaper headlines, collected by Robert Goralski for Press Follies, 1983:

TOWN OKS ANIMAL RULE (Asheville Citizen)
TRAVIS MAN DIES AFTER ALTERATION (Sacramento Bee)
INDIAN OCEAN TALKS (The Plain Dealer)
JUVENILE COURT TO TRY SHOOTING DEFENDANT (Deseret News)
TRAIN ROLLS 0 MILES WITH NO ONE ABOARD (New York Times)
LAWMEN FROM MEXICO BARBECUE GUESTS (San Benito [Texas] News)
FLIES TO RECEIVE NOBEL PRIZE (New York Times)
CARTER TICKS OFF BLACK HELP (San Francisco Examiner)
MAULING BY BEAR LEAVES WOMAN GRATEFUL FOR LIFE (Herald-Dispatch, Huntington, W.Va.)
SILENT TEAMSTER GETS CRUEL PUNISHMENT: LAWYER (The Home News, Brunswick, N.J.)
MANCHESTER MAN BURSTS, HALTS TRAFFIC (Hartford Times)
SKELETON TIED TO MISSING DIPLOMAT (Philadelphia Evening Bulletin)
POET DOESN’T WANT AUDIENCE OF ILLERATES (Raleigh Times)
GLASS EYE IS NO HELP IN IDENTIFYING CORPSE (Deseret News)
FORMER MAN DIES IN CALIFORNIA (Freemont County [Calif.] Chronicle News)
MATH IMPROVEMENT INDICATES LEARNING IS TIED TO TEACHING (New York Times)
PAIR CHARGED WITH BATTERY (Denver Post)
TUNA RECALLED AFTER DEATH (Chicago Daily News)
TWO CONVICTS EVADE NOOSE; JURY HUNG (Oakland Tribune)
JERK INJURES NECK, WINS AWARD (Buffalo News)
TEACHERS’ HEAD GOES OFF TO JAIL (Sarasota Herald-Tribune)
SIX SENTENCED TO LIFE IN CLARKSVILLE (Nashville Banner)
POPE LAUNCHES TALKS TO END LONG DIVISION (Pomono Progress Bulletin)
A GRATEFUL NATION BURIES SAM RAYBURN (New York Herald Tribune)
SHOUTING MATCH ENDS TEACHER’S HEARING (Newsday)
DOCTOR TESTIFIES IN HORSE SUIT (Waterbury Republican)

Some are inspired: When the New York Times reported that a mansion-hunting Aristotle Onassis had visited Buster Keaton’s former estate, it chose the headline ARISTOTLE CONTEMPLATING THE HOME OF BUSTER.

In a Word

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Death_star1.png

interfector
n. a death-bringing planet

mundicidious
adj. likely or able to destroy the world

In 2012 an online petition urged the Obama administration to build a Death Star like the one in Star Wars. The campaign amassed 25,000 signatures, enough to require an official response, and it fell to Paul Shawcross, chief of the Science and Space Branch at the Office of Management and Budget, to reject the project. He gave three reasons:

  • The construction of the Death Star has been estimated to cost more than $850,000,000,000,000,000. We’re working hard to reduce the deficit, not expand it.
  • The Administration does not support blowing up planets.
  • Why would we spend countless taxpayer dollars on a Death Star with a fundamental flaw that can be exploited by a one-man starship?

In a Word

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Johann_Heinrich_F%C3%BCssli_052.jpg

decubation
n. the action of lying down

decubitus
n. the manner or posture of lying in bed

Orthography

One afternoon, in mood très gai
Because of paying the gourmet
(I’d taken wine with déjeuner —
A light and lilting Beaujolais —
Plus biscuits, cheese, and pousse-café),
I dared a blazing sun, à pied,
To pay a little visit chez
Miss Janet, who said “You OK?
You may have had a coup de soleil.”

Said I, “I’ve writ a poem, J.,
With no last letter twice in play
And yet the whole thing rhymes with a.”

— Willard R. Espy

(“The trick would, of course, be impossible without using Anglicized French terms.”)

In a Word

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Gr%C3%BCtzner_Benediktinerm%C3%B6nch_mit_Wein_beim_Fr%C3%BChschoppen.jpg

abbey-lubber
n. a monk living in idleness and self-indulgence

In a Word

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:BitterkaelderSoed.jpg

diffidation
n. a severing of peaceful relations

clarigation
n. a recital of wrongs before declaring war

A Universal Language

The Swedish pop group Caramba has an odd claim to fame — their eponymous 1981 album consists entirely of nonsense lyrics. No one’s even sure who was in the band — the album sleeve lists 13 members, all using pseudonyms. It was produced by Michael B. Tretow, who engineered ABBA’s records, and singer Ted Gärdestad contributed some vocals, but these are the only two participants who have been named.

The band broke up (apparently) after the first album, so we’ll never get more of this. Here are the lyrics to the single “Hubba Hubba Zoot Zoot”:

Hubba hubba zoot zoot
Num
Deba uba zat zat
Num
A-hoorepa hoorepa a-huh-hoorepa a-num num
A-num
Hubba hubba zoot zoot
Num
Deba uba zat zat
Num
A-hoorepa hoorepa a-huh-hoorepa a-num num
A-num
Hubba hubba zoot zoot
Deba uba zat zat a-num num
Hubba hubba zoot zoot
Deba uba zat zat a-num num
A-hoorepa hoorepa a-huh-hoorepa a-num num
A-hoorepa hoorepa
HAH
A-huh-hoorepa a-num num
A-num
Hubba hubba zoot zoot
Deba uba zat zat a-num num
Hubba hubba zoot zoot
Deba uba zat zat a-num num
A-hoorepa hoorepa a-huh-hoorepa a-num num
A-hoorepa hoorepa a-huh-hoorepa
HAH
A-num num
A-num
Hubba hubba zoot zoot
A-huh zoot a-huh
Deba uba zat zat a-num num
Hubba hubba zoot zoot
Deba uba zat zat a-num num
A-hoorepa hoorepa a-huh-hoorepa a-num num
Num
A-hoorepa hoorepa a-huh-hoorepa a-num num
Deba uba zat zat
A-hoorepa hoorepa a-huh-hoorepa a-num num
a-num
Hubba hubba zoot zoot
deba uba zat zat
HAH
A-hoorepa hoorepa a-huh-hoorepa a-num num
A-num
Hubba hubba zoot zoot
Deba uba zat zat a-num num
Hubba hubba zoot zoot
Duuh
Deba uba zat zat a-num num
A-hoorepa hoorepa a-huh-hoorepa a-num num
A-hoorepa hoorepa a-huh-hoorepa a-num num
HAH
A-num
Hubba hubba zoot zoot
Deba uba zat zat a-num num
Hubba hubba zoot zoot
Deba uba zat zat a-num num
A-hoorepa hoorepa a-huh-hoorepa a-num num
A-hoorepa hoorepa a-huh-hoorepa a-num num
HAH
Hubba hubba zoot zoot
Deba uba zat zat a-num num
HOH
Hubba hubba zoot zoot
Hubba hubba mo-re mo-re
Deba uba zat zat a-num num
A-hoorepa hoorepa a-huh-hoorepa a-num num
A-hoorepa hoorepa a-huh-hoorepa a-num num
A-num

(Thanks, Volodymyr.)

In a Word

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:MawsonMcKayDavid.jpg

interturb
v. to disturb by interrupting

In late 1908 Douglas Mawson, Alastair Mackay, and Edgeworth David left Ernest Shackleton’s party in hopes of discovering the location of the South Magnetic Pole. On Dec. 11, while Mackay left the camp to reconnoiter, David prepared to sketch the mountains and Mawson retired into the tent to work on his camera equipment:

I was busy changing photographic plates in the only place where it could be done — inside the sleeping bag. … Soon after I had done up the bag, having got safely inside, I heard a voice from outside — a gentle voice — calling:

‘Mawson, Mawson.’

‘Hullo!’ said I.

‘Oh, you’re in the bag changing plates, are you?’

‘Yes, Professor.’

There was a silence for some time. Then I heard the Professor calling in a louder tone:

‘Mawson!’

I answered again. Well the Professor heard by the sound I was still in the bag, so he said:

‘Oh, still changing plates, are you?’

‘Yes.’

More silence for some time. After a minute, in a rather loud and anxious tone:

‘Mawson!’

I thought there was something up, but could not tell what he was after. I was getting rather tired of it and called out:

‘Hullo. What is it? What can I do?’

‘Well, Mawson, I am in a rather dangerous position. I am really hanging on by my fingers to the edge of a crevasse, and I don’t think I can hold on much longer. I shall have to trouble you to come out and assist me.’

I came out rather quicker than I can say. There was the Professor, just his head showing and hanging on to the edge of a dangerous crevasse.

David later explained, “I had scarcely gone more than six yards from the tent, when the lid of a crevasse suddenly collapsed under me. I only saved myself from going right down by throwing my arms out and staying myself on the snow lid on either side.”

Mawson helped him out, and David began his sketching. The party reached the pole in January.

In a Word

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Autumn_Landscape-William_Louis_Sonntag.jpg

antelucan
adj. before dawn

finitor
n. the horizon

flavescent
adj. turning pale yellow

day-peep
n. the first appearance of daylight; the earliest dawn

Eoan
adj. of or pertaining to the dawn; eastern

Gender in Swearing

In An Encyclopedia of Swearing (2006), University of the Witwatersrand linguist Geoffrey Hughes notes that terms of vehement personal abuse seem to attach disproportionately to the male sex:

gender in swearing table

In his analysis, even terms derived from female anatomy are applied to men rather than women (at least in British usage). Terms such as bugger, motherfucker, and sod[omite] understandably derive from sexual role, but why are devil, fucker, moron, and cretin applied generally to men and not women?

“All the indeterminate terms, such as bastard, idiot, and shit, which should logically be ‘bisexual’ in application, are invariably applied only to males,” Hughes writes. (Also, strangely, there seems to be no vehement term of abuse that’s used freely of both sexes.) “However, the historical perspective shows one significant trend, namely that several of the terms, like bitch and sow, were first used of males (or of both sexes) and only later applied exclusively to women.”

Naming Change

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Canadian_Dollar_-_obverse.png

When Canada introduced its 1-dollar coin in 1987, it became known as the “loonie” for the loon on its back.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Toonie_-_front.png

When the Royal Canadian Mint introduced the 2-dollar coin in 1996, Canadians tried hard to find a comparable nickname. Though “toonie” or “twoonie” eventually won out, the list of failed suggestions included “doubloonie,” “doozie,” and the charming “moonie.”

Why moonie? Because the coin depicts the queen “with a bear behind.”

(Thanks, Ethan.)

In a Word

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Camel_artillery_iran.JPG

zumbooruk
n. a small cannon fired from the back of a camel

Bird Talk

Birder William Young notes that hobbyists who look for wild birds tend to identify species as much by their songs and calls as by their plumage. One way to memorize the calls is to translate them into familiar words and phrases. “Just as many people cannot remember lyrics to popular songs without singing the melody,” he writes, “many birders cannot remember bird songs and calls without thinking of mnemonic phrases.” Examples:

White-throated sparrow: Old Sam Peabody Peabody Peabody
Black-throated green warbler: trees, trees, murmuring trees
Black-throated blue warbler: I’m so la-zy
Olive-sided flycatcher: Quick, free beer!
White-eyed vireo: Pick up the beer check quick
Song sparrow: Maids maids maids pick up the tea kettle kettle kettle
American goldfinch: potato chip
Barred owl: Madame, who cooks for you?
Brown pigeon: Didja walk? Didja walk?
American robin: cheerily, cheer-up, cheerily
White-crowned sparrow: Poor JoJo missed his bus
Ovenbird: teacher, TEACHER, TEACHER
Red-eyed vireo: Here I am. Where are you?
Common yellowthroat: Which is it? Which is it? Which is it?
MacLeay’s honeyeater: a free TV
Common potoo: POO-or me, O, O, O, O
Inca dove: no hope
Brown quail: not faair, not faair
Little wattlebird: fetch the gun, fetch the gun

The California quail says Chicago, the long-tailed manakin says Toledo, and the rufous-browed peppershrike says I’M-A-RU-FOUS-PEP-PER-SHRIKE. “Once when I was staying at [birding author Graham Pizzey’s] home, a Willie-wagtail sang outside my bedroom window around 3 A.M. and seemed to say I’m trying to an-NOY you.” Young’s full article appears in the Winter 2003 issue of Verbatim.

In a Word

guttatim
adv. drop by drop

supernaculum
adv. to the last drop

stillatitious
adj. falling in drops

quantulum
n. a small amount or portion

“The Mostly German Philosophers Love Song”

By Colorado classics teacher Jeremy Boor:

MP3, lyrics, and chords are on his website.

Palinmorses

Morse code palindromes, contributed by reader Dave Lawrence:

ANNEXING ·- -· -· · -··- ·· -· --·
BEEFIEST -··· · · ··-· ·· · ··· -
DEFOREST -·· · ··-· --- ·-· · ··· -
ESTHETES · ··· - ···· · - · ···
FINAGLED ··-· ·· -· ·- --· ·-·· · -··
HEARTIES ···· · ·- ·-· - ·· · ···
HECTARES ···· · -·-· - ·- ·-· · ···
INDEBTED ·· -· -·· · -··· - · -··
INTERNAL ·· -· - · ·-· -· ·- ·-··
INTUITED ·· -· - ··- ·· - · -··
RECENTER ·-· · -·-· · -· - · ·-·
SATIATES ··· ·- - ·· ·- - · ···
SEVENTHS ··· · ···- · -· - ···· ···
SHEEPISH ··· ···· · · ·--· ·· ··· ····
SOPRANOS ··· --- ·--· ·-· ·- -· --- ···
SUBHEADS ··· ··- -··· ···· · ·- -·· ···
WAVERING ·-- ·- ···- · ·-· ·· -· --·
WRECKING ·-- ·-· · -.-· -.- ·· -· --·
ANTICKING ·- -· - ·· -·-· -·- ·· -· --·
FOOTSTOOL ··-· --- --- - ··· - --- --- ·-··
FRESHENED ··-· ·-· · ··· ···· · -· · -··
INCIDENCE ·· -· -·-· ·· -·· · -· -·-· ·
SATURATES ··· ·- - ··- ·-· ·- - · ···
SIDELINES ··· ·· -·· · ·-·· ·· -· · ···
INITIALLED ·· -· ·· - ·· ·- ·-·· ·-·· · -··
INTERSTICE ·· -· - · ·-· ··· - ·· -·-· ·
RESEARCHER ·-· · ··· · ·- ·-· -·-· ···· · ·-·
WINTERTIME ·-- ·· -· - · ·-· - ·· -- ·
ANTIQUATING ·- -· - ·· --·- ··- ·- - ·· -· --·
INTERPRETED ·· -· - · ·-· ·--· ·-· · - · -··
PROTECTORATE ·--· ·-· --- - · -·-· - --- ·-· ·- - ·
INTRANSIGENCE ·· -· - ·-· ·- -· ··· ·· --· · -· -·-· ·

He notes that, perhaps fittingly, the word with the longest run of dots is OBSESSIVE, with 18: --- -··· ··· · ··· ··· ·· ···- ·

In a Word

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Priest_Nichiren_praying_under_th_storm.jpg

bedrabble
v. to make wet and dirty with rain and mud

Our change climatic
We think acrobatic
And sigh for a land that is better —
But the German will say,
In a very dry way,
That the weather with him is still Wetter.

— J.R. Joy, Yale Record, 1899