Issue 176, page 4

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From Dick Mackin:

I was just catching up on some back issues and saw the "tack vs. tact" item in the Curmudgeons' Corner of Issue 168. I think this is simply an example of how a word starts to be so misused and eventually it becomes accepted. The use of tact in the (incorrect) sense of changing course is probably a result of people incorrectly thinking it derives from tactic and therefore a change in tactics results in taking a different tact. It's not correct but then that's English - and that's what make it interesting enough to write a TOWFI almost every week.

"Almost every week" isn't even accurate right now!  [Blush] We hope to publish more regularly now.

From Mark Lutton:

[From last issue's Sez You...] Couldn't someone cut the seal, remove things from the container, and then apply a new seal?

The seals are serial-numbered. The new seal will have a different number and will therefore be noticed as a new seal. The ad said that the seals are serial-numbered so I thought I didn't have to point this out, but I guess I thought wrong.

We do have to have some assurance that nobody is making counterfeit seals with duplicate serial numbers. 

It's not that simple.  How often are the seals and their serial numbers checked? How many opportunities arise during a typical international (or even intermodal) transport that would allow someone to cut a seal, steal something inside the container, and replace the seal with another, before somebody came along checking the seal serial numbers?   Without answers to those questions, we still think that the question we asked about cutting the seal was entirely reasonable.  And good idea about counterfeit seals!

From Ken Hardy:

I believe that the Indian in Indian Summer means "false", as in the term Indian giver. The settlers obviously didn't trust the Indians, and the late autumn warm spell is a false taste of the recently departed summer. I was somewhat taken aback when I either learned or deduced this (I recall not when) because Indian Summer is one of my absolute favorite times of year, and the name for it caused me to form a positive association rather than a negative one. 

From David Marguccio:

Growing up in western New York State we used Indian summer to describe an unusual late autumn warm spell. The word Indian has the meaning "false" in this case. Another use of Indian in this sense is Indian giver; a person that takes back a gift. Americans historically have used Indian in this non-politically correct sense much the way the English use Welsh.  Naturally use of these terms is now discouraged. 

Yep.  Mike's Welsh, so he didn't want to admit that the Indian in Indian summer might be derogatory, as so many Welsh references are (just kidding, but he is a Brit, and Brits aren't as good with American etymology as Americans are).  See what Melanie had to say about Indian summer a long time ago. 

From Andrew Charles:

As for the gerfalcon, a connection to Greek giros "ring, circle" seems unlikely since the name comes from a Norse word for a large falcon. As use of the bird spread south the Norse name travelled with it. The shorter OED lists it under gerfalcon, with the meaning and prior origin of the first element unknown. A falcon that is known by its flight pattern is the windhover or standgale, so named because it "hovers" by facing (or standing) into the wind so that it can more easily see the movement of the voles and mice it hunts. It's this prey for which it is also named mousehawk, although its more common names now are kestrel and staniel, both in reference to the bird's harsh cry. Staniel developed from an OE word meaning "stone-gale", the gale here being an old word meaning to "sing" or "cry out" (similarly the nightingale is a night-singer). The OE word is also the source (by folk etymology) of the more recent standgale

Actually, the origin of the gyr- element of gyrfalcon has been suggested (leave it to TOWFI to find it, even if it is a bit late), though it is not Greek giros as we said last week.  However, Giraldus Cambrensis was one of the first to suggest the giros connection way back in 1188.  [Cambrensis means "of Wales", and Mike is from Wales - this week's theme, apparently.]  

What is believed to be the source of gyr- is Old High German gir "vulture", which derives from a root meaning "greedy".  So Germanic speakers felt that the gyrfalcon looked and/or acted like a vulture, and they so named it.  Learn more about the gyrfalcon at The Raptor Center's web site.

We'll correct that issue (Issue 174).

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Last Updated 11/10/02 10:27 PM