Jul. 23rd, 2017 01:32 pm
stoutfellow: Joker (Default)
A current article in Atlantic contains the following: "[T]he FSB has built an empire in the same way, making minigarchs out of rank-and-file FSB officers whose salaries don’t square with the posh lifestyles they lead." I draw your attention to the coinage "minigarch", presumably a portmanteau of "mini" and "oligarch".

Of course, that's a bastardization reanalysis of "oligarch"; an oligarchy is a state in which there are many few [1] ("oligo") powerful people ("archon"). [I am no doubt messing up the precise Greek, but the roots are common enough...] Evidently the "g" has been reinterpreted as being part of the second morpheme rather than the first. (Compare, in English, "a nadder" > "an adder", or "helicopter", originally "helico-pter" ("helix-wing"), being interpreted as "heli-copter" > "copter".)

Just an oddity....

[1] Thanks to [personal profile] ndrosen for catching my error on this one.
stoutfellow: My summer look (Summer)
There was a discussion yesterday on the American Dialect Society's mailing list. One of the regulars had heard an interesting expression used on the news, and he presented it, together with a proposed explanation of its origin. Another regular offered a different explanation, and I chimed in with yet another.

The original poster has written a brief (three paragraphs or so) article on it, and in it he cites and quotes the two of us who responded.

This is the second time in my life that I've gotten a mention in a linguistics post or article. In neither case was there anything of great moment involved; even so, I find myself inordinately pleased. (The title of this post is apropos.)

(I'm being deliberately ultravague about the actual content, because it's his article, and won't be appearing for a couple of weeks.)
stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
Seen on Twitter:
My therapist told me "Write letters to the people you hate, and then burn them." Did that, but now I don't know what to do with the letters.
stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
A while back (five years ago? Cripes.) I noticed an oddity about the pronunciation of the word "suspect" in the movie "The Kennel Murder Case": the cast pronounced it with stress on the second syllable, rather than the first. This is contrary to a general tendency, in English, to give short nouns first-syllable stress and short verbs second. I also brought it up on the American Dialect Society mailing list, where the discussion was interesting but inconclusive.

Yesterday, the issue came up on ADS-L again, and this time someone pointed to a 2016 podcast featuring John McWhorter, who explains what was going on and much more besides:

The relevant part begins around the 5:00 mark.

Hat Attack

Dec. 1st, 2016 12:28 pm
stoutfellow: (Winter)
How did I reach this age without having learned that "bowler" and "derby" are two names for the same kind of hat?

I've known what a derby looked like since childhood, thanks to Casper the Ghost's friend Spooky and his "doiby". I've also had a good image of a bowler, courtesy of John Steed of The Avengers. It finally occurred to me this morning to ask what the difference was. I googled both terms and got a set of images, which looked identical; reference to the actual Wikipedia articles revealed that this was not a coincidence.

I feel kind of dumb, just now. (Don't worry; it will pass.)
stoutfellow: (Winter)
Mary Chapin Carpenter's lovely elegy "This Shirt" includes the following lines:

This shirt was the place your cat
Decided to give birth to five
And we stayed up all night watching
And we wept when the last one died
Do you read "the last one" as meaning "the last one to be born", or "the last one to die"?

Booking It

Jul. 8th, 2016 05:44 pm
stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
Yesterday, being for some reason bored, I took a trip up the Great River and ordered some books.

In electronic form: Martha Wells, The Wizard Hunters (one of her Ile-Rien books; I read and enjoyed The Death of the Necromancer, so decided to dig further into the milieu); Harry Connolly, The Way into Chaos; and Ada Palmer, Too Like the Lightning. (The latter two have been recommended on File 770 and/or Making Light. F770 has been entirely too enthusiastic about getting books onto my to-get list lately....)

In paper: Bill Willingham, Wolves (the eighth book of "Fables"; I mostly buy F/SF in bit form lately, but graphic novels need more space); Eric Cline, 1177 B.C.: The Year Civilization Collapsed (I've gotten bits and snatches of info about that particular Dark Age, but this book's been recommended for pulling it all together); Alfred Crosby, Ecological Imperialism: The Biological Expansion of Europe 900-1900 AD (which just sounded interesting when I heard of it); and Viveka Velupillai, Pidgins, Creoles and Mixed Languages (creoles have been an interest of mine since a clash with Paula Sanch on the LMB list some years back; this is a more recent study than anything I already have).

The e-books are on my Kindle, though they'll have to wait their turn; the paper are scheduled to arrive next weekend or so. We shall see.

(This burst of activity is just about the only thing I've done in the last few days. Much lethargy; I don't even feel like playing Skyrim.)

(I have, however, come up with a single equation which partially answers a geometric question I'd been fussed about for a couple of months. So there's that, at least.)


Jul. 5th, 2016 05:01 pm
stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
Just now, reading Lyell, I came across a reference to repeated "insulations" of Jutland. The meaning was obvious from context: the overwhelming of the neck of the peninsula by storm and tide, turning what remained from an almost-island (pene means "almost") into a (temporary) full-fledged island. This was a usage I hadn't encountered before, so I checked the dictionary. Apparently this was the original meaning of the word; its use in reference to electricity or heat is a metaphoric extension - a rather strained one, if you ask me, but whatcha gonna do?

For a linguaphile, reading old books has something of the flavor of an archaeological dig.
stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
The word "Arctic" is ultimately derived from the Greek word arktos, "bear"; it's a reference to the Greater and Lesser Bears, and thus to the Pole Star.

One wag at Making Light pointed out that the polar circles are thus "Bear Circle" and "The Circle Away From Bears".
stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
My History of Math students (one set of them, at least) are working on their first term papers in that class. One of them has been sending me questions about various stylistic and organizational matters; his curiosity satisfied, he thanked me for "answering my spam of emails with precision and haste".

A "spam of emails". I like that.
stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
Almost exactly nine years ago, I complained about some of the Leader names in Civilization IV. In particular, I was bugged by the name given to one of the Chinese Leaders: Qin Shi Huang. I asserted that it should have been Qin Shi Huangdi or just Shi Huangdi.

I am currently reading The Dark Forest, by Cixin Liu; it's the sequel to his The Three Body Problem, which won the Hugo for Best Novel last year. Liu himself is a native speaker of Mandarin, and the book I'm reading is a translation from that language. Part of the book involves people who have taken various historical figures as their on-line avatars. One of these is identified as... "Qin Shi Huang".

Is there something I'm missing here? Is the Qin emperor often referred to in China by that name?

Edit: It seems so. I guess I owe the Sid Meiers team an apology.
stoutfellow: (Winter)
Is "fair" better than "middlin'", or is it worse? (Or is the phrase not a range, but an approach?)
stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
I just read an interesting post from Linguist List, a review of a book by Joseph E. Emonds and Jan Terje Faarlund with the above title.

As background: in the century or so before the Norman Conquest, there were two Germanic languages spoken widely in what is now England, the West Germanic language called Old English, and the North Germanic Old Norse. The latter had been introduced by Danish invaders; the Danish kings Canute and Hardicanute even ruled all of England, a generation or two before the Conquest. After 1066, Norman French rolled over the island, and both languages pretty much disappeared from the written record. Afterward, a new Germanic language resurfaced - Middle English. As the name suggests, the standard assumption has been that it was a descendant, much modified, of Old English, but with significant Old Norse influences. (Among other things, IIRC, the third-person plural pronouns "they/them/their" are of Norse origin - and the borrowing of pronouns is a very rare phenomenon!)

The authors of the book under review propose, largely on syntactic grounds, that Middle English (and, perforce, Modern English) is best understood as a descendant of Old Norse, rather than Old English. I've read a fair bit about the development of English, but am in no way qualified to judge; still, it's quite intriguing. (There's a third contender, the theory that Middle English was a creole developed from the collision of the two older languages, but the books on creoles that I've read seem to be dubious about that one.)

The review is here:
stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
I'm currently reading Weber's Mission of Honor, and ran across a strange typographical issue. In that book, the disreputable corporation Manpower is emerging as the Big Bad. Two characters have just come to the realization that Manpower is actually a front for a much more powerful and dangerous entity, and so are referring to it using horror quotes: 'Manpower' - or, rather, their speech is being represented that way. At any rate, a point comes where one character uses the name in a possessive. Normally, that would just be "Manpower's" - but if you're using horror quotes, how can you write that? Weber opts for writing " 'Manpower's' ". (The double quotes are mine; what he actually wrote lies between.)

I find that unsatisfactory, but how else would you write it? " 'Manpower''s "? (That's two single quotes/apostrophes before the "s".) (Of course, if apostrophes and single quotes were regularly and clearly distinguished, the problem might be more tractable....)
stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
The Taos Toolbox 2015 entry on File 770 today includes various quips from a writing workshop (at Taos, natch). One of them caught my eye:
“You can’t start with an ‘Interlude’ because it’s not between anything — it’s just a ‘Lude’.”
Without reading that, I might never have realized that "interlude" is related to "prelude" and "postlude". Obvious once you notice it, but I never had.

[I also just got a one-handed grip on the mixed classes, in my research. It's slippery, and I need to get my other hand on it. Still, that's another justification for the mood-indicator on this post.]
stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
I would kind of like to know how many times in their overlapping major-league careers Jim Gott pitched to Tim Teufel, and what the results were.


Mar. 16th, 2015 08:45 pm
stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
Does the common image of a small child saying "I'm helping!" have an identifiable origin? I've seen it several times, in very different settings.
stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
I've been aware for quite a while that, despite centuries of attention to precise definitions and clear line-drawing, people actually build concepts with clear centers and fuzzy boundaries. It's not "anything on this side of the line is X, and everything on that side is not-X", but rather "anything close enough to A is X, and everything too far away from A is not-X". I hadn't recognized certain implications of that fact until I read "Let's talk about category structure and oppression!". It's a definite eye-opener, and I'll have to add cognitive linguistics to my list of things-to-look-into.

H/t to TNH at Making Light.


Feb. 9th, 2015 08:46 pm
stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
It would be amusing, I think, to name a dog "Hamilcar".

No particular reason. (He says....)
stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
Chris Christie's PAC website is named "Leadership Matters for".

LMFAO, indeed....

(H/t to Anne Laurie at Balloon Juice.)


stoutfellow: Joker (Default)

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