This Land Is Your Land

https://pixabay.com/en/martha-s-vineyard-docks-mooring-183271/

The Domestic Names Committee of the U.S. Board on Geographic Names has granted only five possessive apostrophes in 113 years:

  • Martha’s Vineyard, Mass., 1933. This had been designated Marthas Vineyard for 40 years until the committee restored the apostrophe after a local protest campaign.
  • Ike’s Point, N.J., 1944. Here the apostrophe was allowed because the board agreed that “Ikes Point” would be “unrecognizable.”
  • John E’s Pond, R.I., 1963. Spoken aloud, this might otherwise have been misunderstood as “John S Pond.”
  • Carlos Elmer’s Joshua View, Ariz., 1995. “Joshua” is the name of a tree and “Carlos Elmer” is the name of a photographer. The Arizona state names board argued that three given names in a row would “dilute the meaning.”
  • Clark’s Mountain, Ore., 2002. The Oregon names board asked for this exception “to correspond with the personal preferences of Lewis and Clark.”

Other place names, including Harpers Ferry and Pikes Peak, are generally stripped of their apostrophes in official federal usage (there are some administrative exceptions, such as Prince George’s County, Md.).

The committee argues that an apostrophe implies private ownership of a public place. The United States is the only country with such a policy, but the rule has been reaffirmed five times. In 2013 Jennifer Runyon of the names committee told the Wall Street Journal, “We don’t debate the apostrophe.”

(Thanks, Dave.)

Misc

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Image: Wikimedia Commons
  • ZZ Top’s first album is called ZZ Top’s First Album.
  • Supreme Court justice Byron White was the NFL’s top rusher in 1940.
  • LOVE ME TENDER is an anagram of DENVER OMELET.
  • Every palindromic number with an even number of digits is divisible by 11.
  • “In great attempts it is glorious even to fail.” — Cassius

From English antiquary John Aubrey’s 1696 Miscellanies: “Anno 1670, not far from Cyrencester, was an Apparition; Being demanded, whether a good Spirit or a bad? Returned no answer, but departed with a curious Perfume and a most melodious Twang.”

In a Word

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tenue
n. bearing, deportment

ogganition
n. snarling

A peculiar detail from the Battle of Waterloo:

As the day wore on, the French cavalry became more and more desperate, and charged repeatedly with fierce gesticulations, which became more pronounced as they were so continuously repelled. These peculiar looks and gestures of the French became so marked that when the colonel, Fielding Browne, gave the familiar order, ‘Prepare for cavalry,’ the officers would thunder out the order, and add, ‘Now, men, make faces!’

(“The Prince of Wales’s Volunteers,” Navy & Army Illustrated, Feb. 4, 1899.)

Fenceposts

To show that Gothic script could be fatiguing to read, medieval scribes invented this joke sentence:

mimi numinum niuium minimi munium nimium uini muniminum imminui uiui minimum uolunt

The snow gods’ smallest mimes do not wish in any way in their lives for the great duty of the defenses of wine to be diminished.

In Ancient Writing and Its Influence (1969), Berthold Louis Ullman and Julian Brown write, “When this is written in Gothic characters without dots for the i‘s and with v written as u, it makes a first-class riddle”:

mimi numinum script

In a Word

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oppugn
v. to attack or oppose with words

dyslogistic
adj. expressing disapprobation

digladiation
n. verbal contention

Joseph Pulitzer, of the New York World, who is referred to by Mr. Mencken as a great master of profanity in three languages, is credited with the intensified term ‘Don’t be so indegoddampendent.’ Certainly the phrase was common parlance on Park Row in my own repertorial days. Mr. Mencken adds the retort of managing editor Coates to that charge, ‘I’m under no obligoddamgation to do that and I won’t!’

— Burges Johnson, The Lost Art of Profanity, 1948

Overdone Bacon

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orville_Ward_Owen

Exponents of the theory that Francis Bacon wrote the plays attributed to Shakespeare have gone to sometimes elaborate lengths to find messages hidden in the plays. American physician Orville Ward Owen even invented a “cipher wheel” that could pass the texts under his eyes at various speeds as he looked for hidden meanings.

He didn’t find many supporters. Even Owen’s friend Frederick Mann wrote, “We are asked to believe that such peerless creations as Hamlet, The Tempest, and Romeo and Juliet were not prime productions of the transcendent genius who wrote them, but were subsidiary devices which Bacon designed for the purpose of concealing the cipher therein.”

In his 1910 book Bacon Is Shake-speare, Sir Edwin Durning-Lawrence argues that the long word honorificabilitudinitatibus in Love’s Labour’s Lost is really an anagram:

HI LUDI F. BACONIS NATI TUITI ORBIS
These plays, F. Bacon’s offspring, are preserved for the world.

“It surpasses the wit of man,” he wrote, to produce another sensible anagram from the long word, and he offered a hundred guineas to anyone who could do it. A Mr. Beevor of St. Albans rather promptly sent him this:

ABI INIVIT F. BACON HISTRIO LUDIT
Be off, F. Bacon, the actor has entered and is playing.

Durning-Lawrence was taken aback, but he was a good sport: He paid Beevor his money.

(From John Michell, Who Wrote Shakespeare?, 1996.)

In a Word

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:David_Livingstone_attacked_by_a_lion_in_Africa._Lithograph._Wellcome_V0018847.jpg

succussion
n. violent shaking

squassation
n. a severe shaking

A lion attacks David Livingstone, 1843:

Starting, and looking half round, I saw the lion just in the act of springing upon me. I was upon a little height; he caught my shoulder as he sprang, and we both came to the ground below together. Growling horribly close to my ear, he shook me as a terrier dog does a rat. The shock produces a stupor similar to that which seems to be felt by a mouse after the first shake of the cat. It caused a sort of dreaminess, in which there was no sense of pain nor feeling of terror, though quite conscious of all that was happening. It was like what patients partially under the influence of chloroform describe, who see all the operation, but feel not the knife. This singular condition was not the result of any mental process. The shake annihilated fear, and allowed no sense of horror in looking round at the beast. This peculiar state is probably produced in all animals killed by carnivora; and if so, is a merciful provision by our benevolent Creator for lessening the pain of death.

The lion left him to attack his companions, who eventually dispatched it. Livingstone could never afterward raise his left arm above his shoulder; when asked by a group of sympathetic friends what he had been thinking during the attack, he said, “I was thinking, with a feeling of disinterested curiosity, which part of me the lion would eat first.”

A Loss for Words

In a 2013 study of tongue twisters, MIT psychologist Stefanie Shattuck-Hufnagel found that some volunteers who tried to say this phrase stopped talking altogether:

pad kid poured curd pulled cod

“If anyone can say this ten times quickly, they get a prize,” she said.

Another, from my notes:

She (to workman finishing bottom of flying boat hull) — Are you copper-bottoming ’em, my man?

He — No; I’m aluminuming ’em, mum.

Aerial Age Weekly, Oct. 4, 1915

Warm Words

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:An_angel_leading_a_soul_into_hell._Oil_painting_by_a_followe_Wellcome_L0030887.jpg

Writing in American Speech in 1931, L.W. Merryweather predicted that “hell fills so large a part in the American vulgate that it will probably be worn out in a few years.” He proposed that “clerical circles should take it upon themselves, as a public duty, to invest some other theological term with a shuddering fearsomeness that will qualify it as a successor to hell, when the lamentable decease of the latter actually takes place.” He counted 14 usages:

  1. Hell as “the equivalent of negative adverbs,” or as an intensifier thereof, as in the hell you say and like hell I will.
  2. As a super-superlative, as in colder than hell.
  3. As an adverb of all work, as in run like hell and hate like hell.
  4. As an intensifier of questions, as in what the hell?, who the hell?, where the hell?, etc.
  5. As an intensifier of asseverations, as in hell, yes!
  6. As an intensifier of qualities, as in to be hell on and hell of a price.
  7. As an indicator of intensified experience, as in hell of a time, get the hell, and to play hell with.
  8. In a more or less literal sense, as in wouldn’t it be hell?, go to hell, the hell with, hell on wheels, hell to pay, like a snowball in hell, till hell freezes over, and to beat hell.
  9. As a synonym for uproar or turmoil, as in to raise hell, to give him hell, and hell is loose.
  10. As a verb, as in to hell around.
  11. As an adjective, as in a hellish hurry and hell-bent.
  12. In combination with other nouns, as in hell’s bells, hell and high water, hell and Maria, hell-raiser, hell-diver, hell-bender, and hell-to-breakfast.
  13. In derivatives, as in hellion, hell-cat and heller.
  14. As a simple expletive, as in Oh, hell!

Fourteen years later, in The American Language, H.L. Mencken wrote, “Fortunately, his fears have not been borne out by the event. Hell still flourishes in the Republic, in so far as profanity flourishes at all, and every one of the combinations and permutations of it that he listed remains in use.”

(L.W. Merryweather, “Hell in American Speech,” American Speech 6:6 [August 1931], 433-435.)