Issue 137, page 4

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From Oded Dagan:

The "archaic" word NOTARIKON may be an old one - but it is still in common use nowadays in Hebrew. The Even Shoshan Hebrew Dictionary (largest and fullest dictionary of the Hebrew language) says that the word is descended from the Latin word "notarium" - quick writing - and its meaning in Hebrew is "shortened writing, writing in acronyms, addition of acronyms to words for the facilitation of remembering." As an example the dictionary gives the NOTARIKON (acronym) DZC-ADS-BAHB from the Passover Hagadda, being the (Hebrew) acronym of the ten punishments inflicted upon Egypt because they refused to "let my people go" (blood-frogs-lice etc.)

I hope you find this helpful (or, at least, interesting).

Indeed we do!  Thanks!

From Jay I. Cohen:

May I suggest my site's words page

Etymology, languages, and linguistics are several of my hobbies while project management is my profession.  I really enjoy your site. Keep up the good work!

Thanks, and you've got a fine page of word/language/writing links, Jay.

From Bradley King:

I love your site, and read it each week. Beginning with the last issue (135), I have a problem accessing the "Words To The Wise" section, aka page 2. When I attempt to click to this page, I receive an error message stating: "A DNS lookup error has occurred. The host was not found." This happens whether I click from page 1 using the "next" link, or "previous" from page 3, or even directly from the home page. This happened with both Issue 135 and with 136. 

Then, once Issue 136 was published, I went to the "Back Issues" section to catch up on Issue 135. There I found that the error was still present on page 2, and that it now occurred on all previous issues as well. (Okay, I didn't try them all, but every one I tried had the error.) I know that when I originally read Issue 133, for example, this error did not occur. Yet it now has the error in the "Back Issues" section. Once again the error is only present on page 2. 

For the record, I am using Netscape v4.7 on a machine running Windows NT. I bring this to your attention in case others are having the same experience. 

Thanks again for your informative, entertaining website.

A couple of readers have reported similar troubles.  We are investigating!

From Hugo van Kemenade:

After reading the 'How to give a pill to a cat' on the Laughing Stock page, I remember reading that before. However, the one I saw had the following post script:

How to give a pill to a dog

Wrap it in cheese!!!

Keep up the good work on the site!

Thanks, Hugo! 

From Andrew Charles:

I have just discovered your site, and I am very impressed. I am always wary of purported information on etymology, since many are very amateurish attempts at etymologizing (often erroneous back-formations or "folk" etymologies). Those devoted to names are the worst offenders, since most names have been long disassociated from the original context. 

As a new fan I wanted to add relating to some of the back issues: 

Issue 129 and 128 Persian in Hebrew. Ancient Hebrew had a root word mwt/mut for death, dying etc., and Aramaic mot (Hebrew also had gw die).  Both are used concurrently even in the oldest Hebrew literature. There may be a connection between the Semitic mt death words and the Indo-European, but it probably lies back in the ancestral Semitic/Indo-European languages. There are numerous instances of a transfer in words and concepts from one to another in that distant past. The conceptual transfer from Semitic to Indo-European illustrated by Hebrew 'adam (man) 'adamah (earth, soil) and Latin homo (man) humus (soil) is just one. 

Thank you, Andrew, for your kind words and your informative discussion.

From Anthony Stevens:

To those of us in the anti-curmudgeon camp, Bruce's indignant squeak about 'regime' showed many of the characteristics that make us chuckle. "I wish people would not use words they don't know", he says rather pompously, then parades his own ignorance.

Many people of sound education regularly use the word regime to mean not only a political system but also a specific course of action, say of diet or exercise - since the root etymology derives from 'rule' this is not very surprising. If a curmudgeon wants to present their pet doctrine of how they wished the world was organized, their only recourse to gainsay current usage is the authority of earlier usage: yet in this case even these sources underline Bruce's error. The OED, the AHD and many other reference works also reflect the diversity of meanings for 'regime' in typical usage. 

So what is actually going on here? Many native English speakers around the world are likely to find 'regime' more straightforward than the alternative. Perhaps the word 'regimen' conversely appeals to some people because it sounds more directly Latin in its form, and therefore appeals to their snobbery - in short, like so much of curmudgeonly rambling, it has little to do with linguistics and lots to do with social prestige. As Richard Hershberger so accurately suggested in the context of other data, to criticize changed contemporary use of language "is to mistake the effect for the cause". Language forms derive primarily from usage, not the other way about. 

To avoid hypocrisy, perhaps we should just make sure of our criteria before we rush to judgment with such interesting phenomena ; ) Thanks as always for a fascinating site, M'n'M!

Anti-curmudgeons get equal time here at TOWFI!  (But don't forget to read this.)

From David Greenstein:

In addition to the expressions you quoted, there's one that I associate with Texas: "Big hat, no cattle."

Good one!  Here's a slight variation:

From LogicSouth:

My favorite along this line is "All hat and no cattle". I think the meaning is slightly different, but the image is certainly a strong one in the the South and West USA.

From Abdulaziz Althukair:

Former heavyweight boxing champ Muhammad Ali visited the ruins of the World Trade Center on Thursday. When reporters asked how he felt about the suspects sharing his Islamic faith, Ali responded pleasantly, "How do you feel about Hitler sharing yours?"

We thought this appropriate after our Spotlight on Arabic words in English last week, even though we've been unable to substantiate the quote attributed to Ali.

From Mark Hecker:

Regarding how some viewers see your site in the smaller, harder-to-read-italic-o's font, the modern browsers have the ability to view pages using a larger or smaller font than the site specifies. If your viewers have their browsers set to one size smaller than usual, they will observe the described problem. 

The solution is far easier than pasting your site into Word. Simply bump the text size up one notch. On Netscape (4.76), click 'Increase font' under the view menu. Using Internet Explorer, there is a 'text size' selection under the view menu. If the setting is 'medium' or larger, your site looks just as you intended. 

Keep up the good work!


From Sparky Gregory:

I was reading your discussion in Issue 135, page 4 of font oddities and I thought I'd point out one that happened to me a few days ago.  I had gotten behind in my reading, so I was going through your back issues. I was reading Issue 130, page 4, and noted the link in the letter from Tiffany about the Kilkenny cats.  So I followed the link and got both the link and a couple of pop-up add pages. I killed them off, read the target page itself, then returned back to your site with the browser back button. Once back on your site, all the pages had the smaller, hard to read font you show in the discussion in Issue 135. This was true until I exited the browser and restarted it.

I just tried reproducing the problem without success. I think the ads on the site have changed. In any case, bad behavior on the part of an advertisement link could conceivably alter the browser environment. This would be hard to reproduce since displayed ads change so often. Browser is Netscape 4.72 on Windows 98.

On another topic, thanks for fixing the "Next" links in the recent archived back issues. I hate reading page 1 of Issue 129, then page 2 of Issue 135, sometimes not noticing until much later. Any chance you can correct the older issues to the same standard? It would sure improve readability.

Thanks for that information, Sparky.  As for the "next" and "previous" links in the Back Issues, we hope we've caught all the wonky ones, now.  That problem is caused by a little trick that MS Front Page plays on us.  We try to remember the trick and fix it as it occurs, now.

From Steve Wolfman:

You asked for "toughest English words to spell"?   I occasionally stump friends with the horribly ugly word "wlatsome".

We think the main problem with that one is the pronunciation.  Once you've got that sorted out the spelling's a breeze.  

In case our other readers are unaware, there are several English words which begin wla- including wlach, wlaffe, wlak, wlappe, wlat and wlate.

Thanks for an educational and entertaining site that nonetheless avoids being edutainment!

Our pleasure!

From Jodi Schneider:

I volunteer with a Q&A service called Dr. Math ( ). We were asked "why are quadratic equations called quadratic when they only have three terms?".

 We were able to forward your answer to the asker. (So simple a connection but it would have taken me a long time to make it. The etymology of quadrate wasn't enough since it didn't explain WHY or HOW different meanings came to share that word.)

We're pleased that you found what you were looking for!

From Rob Martin:

I see from your issue 136 that Laura Osborn has trouble remembering how to spell necessary. Well, for her and thousand others like her, may I offer this rather excremental tip.  I always think of cesspits into which people used to throw their human faeces or cess. So, if you take the 'cess' from the cess pit and place it in between 'ne...' and '...ary', you end up with necessary, all thanks to human sewage!!

We imagine that few will forget that mnemonic device!  

Which reminds us of an old joke...

A farmer's wife is entertaining the vicar to tea when her husband enters.  

"Well, that's the dung-spreading finished.  I'm off to take a bath.", he says.

After he has gone, the vicar whispers "Dung is such a coarse word.  Can't you persuade your husband to say manure?"

"I don't think so, reverend.", she replies, "It's taken me thirty years to get him to say dung."


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Last Updated 10/31/01 06:19 PM