stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
Apparently hashtags of the form #notall(category) have become popular on twitter: #notallmen, #notalllibertarians, etc.

Obviously they are intended to be parsed as not-all-(category), but I find myself irresistibly tempted to read no-tall-(category).

What? I'm not quite 5'5", and I have dreams....
stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
It's been a while since I ordered anything from Amazon, but I put in a new order last week, and a box-o-books arrived today. In it:

The Science of Art: optical themes in western art from Brunelleschi to Seurat, by Martin Kemp; recommended - or at least mentioned - on the Bujold list by LMB herself.

Capital in the Twenty-First Century, by Thomas Piketty; it's been a hot topic on the political blogs I read for quite some time. It's definitely a tome, but should be interesting.

Math Girls, by Hiroshi Yuki; it's described as "[c]ombining mathematical rigor with light romance".

The Secret Life of Pronouns, by James Pennebaker, which is apparently about discoveries from the relatively new field of corpus linguistics in the computer age.

Homelands, by Bill Willingham, the next volume (5? I don't recall) in his "Fables" series of graphic novels.

I also picked up electronic copies of some SF/F - Through Struggle, the Stars by John Lumpkin, New Amsterdam #1 by Elizabeth Bear, The Disappeared by Kristine Kathryn Rusch - and also Wizard of the Crow, by Ngugi Wa'Thiong'O. (I'm not sure where I ran across that last one or how it got on my to-get list, but it does look intriguing.)

I'll probably start with Homelands; it's probably the lightest thing I bought.
stoutfellow: (Winter)
Is it really that hard to remember?

"-eth" is third person singular: "he thinketh".
"-est" is second person singular: "thou thinkest".

Is it really that hard to remember?

:wanders off grumbling to self:
stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
1. I've been reading Pepys' Diary for some time now, and have noticed a few differences between his 17th century language and that of today. One of the more striking is the use of "in the room of" where today we would probably use "in (the) place of". Thinking about it, "in the room of" sounds odd in context, but that's largely because "room" still has its full semantic weight. In "in place of", "place" has largely been bleached of meaning; we don't think of a literal place when we use the phrase. If "in the room of" had survived instead, it's likely that the same bleaching would have taken place. ("Instead of" - "in (the) stead of" - is an example of the same process carried to its limit, aided by the fact that "stead", as an independent word, is pretty much extinct; it only survives here, in "steady", in "homestead", and in a few similar constructions. Compare also "in lieu of"; corresponding constructions exist in French, German, and Latin to my knowledge, and presumably in many others - it seems a fairly natural one.)

2. In my day, the standard serious or mock-serious threat of violence involved punching someone in the nose. I notice, though, that the neck seems to be the preferred target nowadays. (I don't think I've heard it spoken, but I've seen it in print a lot.) The Illusion of Recency may be at work, but I really don't recall that version from more than a few years ago. (Why the neck? It seems to me to be harder to hit, and less likely to cause satisfactory results, than the nose, unless you go for the throat - and "punch in the throat", which I've also encountered, is a much more serious threat.)


May. 2nd, 2014 10:20 am
stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
1. Yesterday, someone unidentified left a pound of Ethiopian coffee beans in my pigeonhole. It can't be a bribe, since it was unsigned, but it had to come from someone who knew that I like that particular strain. Not many people around here do....

2. Several times lately the dogs, going out in the yard for a romp, have surprised a rabbit. So far, it's always managed to escape, but I fear me a fur-and-blood moment at some point.

3. I gave my last lecture of the term last night. I'm not tremendously pleased with my performance this semester, though there were some good moments. Losing a week to the hospital didn't help, of course. I did manage to squeeze in a highly-compressed account of the Logicist/Formalist/Intuitionist dispute in my Math 400 class, at least. I've handed out the take-home final in differential geometry, and I'll probably write the finals for the other two classes today.

4. The Skyrim database project is proving surprisingly challenging. Among other things, I want the database to keep track of which quests my character is currently engaged in and which could be entered upon immediately; the prerequisites to the various quests differ enough in kind to make this a bit difficult. (You must have completed this quest / attained this skill level / completed any three quests from this list / started this quest and not finished either of these two / started but aborted this quest / found your way into this location / entered this city four times ....)

5. I'm rereading Captain Vorpatril's Alliance, and it occurs to me that Ivan and Tej could have presented a valid argument in favor of their divorce suit, namely, the fact that the marriage took place under duress. Of course, the fact that Tej stayed with Ivan for weeks afterward might have vitiated the argument; but, then again, there were the bounty-hunters....

6. It's a mistake I've made myself, but the word is "frustum", not "fustrum" or "frustrum". (Feeling a bit frustated, me.)


Mar. 30th, 2014 08:19 pm
stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
It's been a while since my last visit to Amazon, so I went in today. First off, I ordered some albums - The Complete Dunhill/ABC Hit Singles by the Grass Roots, What It Takes: The Chess Years by Koko Taylor, and Open by the Blues Image. Then the books....

I started with a bunch of Kindle books: [personal profile] mmegaera's True Gold, a couple of Ring of Fire books (1636: The Devil's Opera and 1636: Seas of Fortune); a couple of books by Jo Walton (Half a Crown and Tooth and Claw); and, for weight, a Cambridge Studies in Linguistics volume, Morphosyntactic Change. In a more traditional format, I bought the latest Pratchett (Raising Steam), the fifth volume of Fables (The Mean Seasons), and a couple of histories: Deborah Harkness' The Jewel House: Elizabethan London and the Scientific Revolution and Orlando Figes' The Crimean War: A History.

Some things to taste now, and some things to wait for.
stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
One of my father's catch-phrases, when I was a kid, was "Smile, Luigi!", intended to jolly a moping child (e.g., me) out of the dumps. I never knew where it came from; by the time I got around to asking, his memory had faded enough that he couldn't tell me. Yesterday, it occurred to me to raise the question on the American Dialect Society mailing list, and they came through: the phrase probably comes from the old radio show "Life with Luigi", about an Italian immigrant in New York City. (I gather it was in the same vein as Leo Rosten's "H*y*m*a*n K*a*p*l*a*n" stories.) The phrase was used by Luigi's German-immigrant friend Schultz, voiced by Hans Conried.

So. One more mystery solved.

Say Who?

Feb. 4th, 2014 04:06 pm
stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
Gretchen McCulloch explains The Rules of Summoning Benedict Cumberbatch - hilariously.

(h/t to [personal profile] thnidu.)


Nov. 12th, 2013 07:19 pm
stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
Camillus, my current Skyrim character, recently ascended to the rank of Archmage of the College of Winterhold.

The NPCs pronounce the first syllable in "Archmage" as in "architecture", not as in "archbishop". I find this annoying. I've been staying away from the College because of it.

stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
A few days ago, I was listening to a song by Los Fabulosos Cadillacs, "Mi Novia Se Cayo en un Pozo Ciego". My creaky old Spanish could translate all of this except "pozo", and my Spanish dictionary wasn't at hand, so I called up Google Translate. For some reason, it was initially set to translate from Spanish to Italian; it gave, as the translation of "pozo", "bene". That seemed odd to me; when I switched to Spanish>English, it informed me that "pozo" meant "well" - from context, the noun.

All became clear. One of the meanings of Italian "bene" also translates as "well" - but the adverb, not the noun.

I have to wonder about Google Translate's algorithms.
stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
This (courtesy of LanguageLog) is cool: maps of the most popular names for girls since 1960, on a year-by-year, state-by-state basis. I note that "Jennifer" (and I have a niece by that name) ruled the roost nationwide from 1970 to 1984, leading in every state for six of those years, and suddenly dropped off the map - it hasn't won a state since!

Apparently "Isabella" and "Sophia" are the hot names the last few years....


Jul. 13th, 2013 08:45 am
stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
I am astonished.

This Ziggy cartoon makes a (feeble) joke involving the Cyrillic alphabet - and gives the Cyrillic letters their correct values! (Well, I don't recognize the second vowel in the transliteration of "crackle" - perhaps it's from some non-Russian version of the alphabet? - but other than that, it's fine!)
stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
From Dogs: Their Fossil Relatives & Evolutionary History:
("Peking" is the Wade-Giles spelling of "Beijing")
I guess pinyin has been in widespread use for long enough....

(In case you're wondering, the line appears in the midst of a discussion of when and where dogs were domesticated.)
stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
Just now, I decided to look for nearby locations that would recycle fluorescent tubes. (CFLs I already know about.) I found my way to a website offering searches on such questions. I queried on "fluorescent tubes near Edwardsville, IL", and got a little over a page of results. Alas, the nearest such site is in Fairview Heights, which is a bit too far away for me.

The list, which included thirteen items, also named locations in Seattle, Rancho Cucamonga, and Palmerton PA.

Irrelevant linguistic note: "near" originated as the comparative form of "nigh"; as the latter went out of fashion, "near" shifted to the positive position and "nearer" and "nearest" were coined for the comparative and superlative. (The superlative of "nigh" also survived, as "next".)


Apr. 17th, 2013 08:13 pm
stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
One mark of a seeker after truth is the ability to admit error. Anne Curzan shows that mark: her dictum that "on the other hand" should only appear after a use of "on the one hand" was refuted by the available data, and she conceded the point publically. Kudos.

:cue Tevye, lost in thought:
stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
Lately I've been reading Ralph Penny's A History of the Spanish Language. I'm only about a dozen pages in, but I've already run into a couple of interesting items, in the discussion of the variety of Latin spoken in Iberia.

a) Penny comments that the peripheral regions of the Roman Empire - here, Iberia and Romania - preserved some conservative features, including vocabulary, even after they had been superseded in the core areas (Gaul, Italy). One example he cites is Latin caseu, "cheese", surviving in Spanish as queso as opposed to French fromage, Italian formaggio. This set me to wondering about English cheese, which looks as if it's derived from caseu. I assumed it was a borrowing from Norman French; perhaps Normandy was "peripheral enough" to have preserved the older form? I should have been tipped off by the German cognate Käse; it turns out that the West Germanic ancestor of English, Dutch, and German borrowed caseu from Latin very early, and the current English and German words are descended from that.

b) Iberian Latin also featured some innovations of its own. One led to Spanish hermano, "brother". Latin frater is recognizable in Italian fratello and more dimly in French frère. The Spanish originated in the Latin phrase fratre germanu, "true brother" - i.e., a brother who shares both parents, as opposed to a half-brother or adopted brother. The first word was trimmed, and the second is the direct ancestor of hermano. The English phrase cousin german, for the child of one's aunt or uncle, is cut from the same cloth, and so is our germane, a metaphoric extension from literal "closely related".

This book looks like it'll be fun.
stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
Yesterday, I had to do quite a bit of shopping after work, so I left my shoulderbag (and its books) at home, instead carrying a pocket-book - by which I mean a book small enough to fit in my trouser pocket. I chose to begin rereading R. M. Meluch's The Myriad, the first book in the Tour of the Merrimack series. I've already reviewed the book once before, but on this reading a couple of items have snagged my attention.

First, a grumble. As the Merrimack approaches the T'Arra system, the captain is upset: "John Farragut could not get an answer to a question as simple as how three planets separated by ten, twenty, and forty-three light years were communicating." Brownie points for anyone who can pick out why that sentence bugs me.

Second, a puzzlement. Later, after the disappearance of Alpha Flight1, Augustus is pessimistic: "Their oxygen is running out right now. Dakota Shepard is an air sucker. He's already out. The women might last two more hours. After that, they're the sky pilot's flight." I've only encountered the phrase "sky pilot" in one other place, the song of that title sung by the Animals. There, it refers to a military chaplain. My first impression of Augustus's comment was that he's referring to God; on reconsidering, I can see that he might mean "chaplain", but it's not clear. In any case, it's military slang; any of the ex-military on my FL (or in my family...) care to comment?

1. No, not that Alpha Flight. This is part of the Merrimack's complement of fighters.


Sep. 8th, 2012 04:23 pm
stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
1. I learned, this past week, a couple of etymologies. "Stroppy" (a la Steve Irwin) is apparently derived from "obstreporous" (no real surprise there, I guess), and "ornery" originated as a modification of "ordinary". I can see the latter phonetically, but how you get from here to there semantically is puzzling.

2. Most of my Amazon order arrived today - all but the Connelly (Arab Folk Epic and Identity) and the Mazrui (The Africans: A Triple Heritage). I think I'll make Algebraic Set Theory my next bus book, after I finish Horseshoe Crabs and Velvet Worms.

3. I think I saw Buster limping a bit this afternoon, favoring his left foreleg. I've been watching since, but I can't tell whether it's continued, and visual and tactile examination of both forelegs didn't reveal anything. (Nor did he display any signs of pain during the latter.) I'll keep an eye on things.

4. It continues to amuse me how many of Warner Brothers' classic cartoon characters have speech impediments of one kind or another. The only major ones I can think of who don't are Bugs Bunny and Yosemite Sam. Even Foghorn Leghorn has an occasional stammer. (I assume the explanation is that Mel Blanc used impediments as a tool in establishing distinct character voices, but it's still funny.)

5. I've listened to several of the songs from Springsteen's Wrecking Ball album lately; I found "Death to My Home Town" striking, especially in comparison with his earlier "My Hometown". The latter is a song of despair; the former, though it deals with the same general topic, is angry, pinning the blame for the town's decline squarely on a specific group of villains.
stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
Prompted by a reference in Dunnett's Race of Scorpions, I just looked up the etymology of "pioneer". It turns out that the root "pion-" comes from the same root as "pawn", or foot-soldier. A pioneer, originally, was a guy who went out ahead of the infantry and made sure they could get through - laying down roads, building bridges, generally doing the things an army engineer does. Its extension to people in Conestogas and to innovators of all kinds seems straightforward; but I wouldn't have guessed its origins.
stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
After a little poking around, and some discussion on the American Dialect Society mailing list, I have a hypothesis about the pronunciation "susPECT" of the noun.

Item: "The Kennel Murder Case" (1933) was directed by Michael Curtiz and starred William Powell. Powell was one of the three characters who used that pronunciation; the other two were lesser lights.

Item: In "The Thin Man" (1934), directed by W. S. Van Dyke, Powell again used that pronunciation. So did his co-star, Myrna Loy.

Item: Curtiz also directed "Casablanca" (1942), in which Claude Rains, memorably, said "SUSpects".

Item: In 1933, Powell was already an established star. Curtiz had considerable experience as a director (much of it in his native Hungary), but had not become a big name. ("The Kennel Murder Case" was his first big hit.)

Hypothesis: Powell was the vector. The pronunciation "susPECT" was an idiosyncracy of his, which he enforced by his star power.

(It may not have been an idiosyncracy. One ADS-L correspondent asserts that his mother was an Irish immigrant, and that he might have learned it from her. I can't confirm the statement about his mother, and The Oxford Guide to World English doesn't mention this stress-change in connection with Irish English. Neither of these, of course, is conclusive.)

ASIDE: "Make Yours a Happy House" is apparently the official title of the current song, even though throughout the singers say "happy home".


stoutfellow: Joker (Default)

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