Issue 191, page 4

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From Bruce:

Regarding the inquiry about the word jimmy last week. My late Grandfather, a builder/bricklayer, would always correct me when I referred to a jimmy as a crowbar. He insisted that a crowbar was a six foot long iron bar used to break up hard ground or concrete. (He also insisted I use one. They get really hot in summer. They are always heavy.)

He always referred to a jimmy as a pinch-bar. (Of course, he insisted I use one of these too.) I have checked a few dictionaries, and they agree that a crowbar is a short iron bar, usually bent slightly, with a chisel-like end. So, what do you call what I have been taught to call a crowbar?

He was also particular about what was concrete and what was cement: cement being one of the ingredients of concrete.

Your crowbar is our crowbar.

From Andrew Charles:

"Sort of makes one wonder why GMC named a truck the Jimmy. Guess they were thinking of James and not lockpicking!"

The Jimmy SUV (renamed Envoy recently) was named after larger 2½ ton 6x6 GMC trucks widely used during WWII, "affectionately known as 'Jimmys'," presumably derived from the company name.

Several readers wrote in to tell us this.  Thank you all!  We should've just looked up the darn thing ourselves instead of guessing!  Shame on us. 

From Steve Parkes:

Hey, *I've* selected your site as one of the best on the Internet, too! As I don't have a website myself, I simply tell all my friends to check you out.

And thanks for teaching me a new word today: xeriscape. Now that global warming seems to be taking away all our traditional English summer rain and handing it back in winter, it's a word that is likely to catch on over here.

PS Spell-checker suggests periscope for xeriscape; not a lot of use if there's no water, I'd have thought!

Haha! Thanks for the kind words, Steve. 

From Roger Whitehead:

1. Re: "Who Knew?" This looks to me like an elaborate leg pull. I read it as having been written in the spirit of "1066 and All That".

2. Pity Me is a village just north of Durham, on the road to Chester-le-Street. (Have fun with that one!)

Hmm, we didn't see any similarity between the e-mail Who Knew? and that wonderful book 1066 and All ThatWho Knew? is entirely too lame and entirely too many people believe it as fact (just do a Web search).  And read on about Pity Me's etymology.

From Chris:

To answer the query about the place name Pity Me (Towfi 190), it is a village near Durham City in the north-east of England.  The name is thought to derive from petit mer, " little lake".  It's about 16 miles south of Wide Open, and not far from the villages of No-Place and Quaking Houses. 

From Clint Jurgens:

Try this link:

Besides Pity Me (allegedly from French Petit Mer) other nifty town names (Blakehopeburnhaugh, Cottonshopeburn Foot, Crackpot, Fangfoss, Scagglethorpe, Blubberhouses, Slape Wath, Wetwang, Great Fryup and more!) are mentioned.

Splendid! And let's not forget Nether Wallop.

From Helen:

Poor Dick Timberlake! the problem I think stems from people's uncertainty about how to pronounce X at the beginning of a word. They hear the word, they see the word... it's new to them, and someone explains, as Dick did, about its origins.. and they make the connection between xeriscape , and XEROX®, or xerography (dry writing) - and the O of Xerox get planted in their mind... the word is something like Xerox®, with scape like landscape at the end, and voila, xeroscape is what comes out of their mouth.

Give up Dick, xeriscape is doomed. In an other 50 years, it will be spelled xeroscape, and everyone will know what it is; copying a landscape style from the natural landscape in the surrounding area! - you know Xero, like in a Xerox® copier, and scape like in landscape

Nyuk nyuk! 

From Ross Henderson:

I may have missed your erudition regarding jeans (as in denim pants). I always understood the derivation of denim was "de Nimes" (France); I would be interested to know how it moved to Genoa.

What you missed is that denim (etymologically "of Nimes") and jeans (etymologically "of Genoa") are two different words which originally applied to different fabrics.

From Joseph Chiaravalloti:

Then there are the inner ear bones: malleus, incus, and stapes.

Joseph's comment pertains to last week's e-mail newsletter (Sign up!  It's free!) discussion of incuse (among others), which comes from Latin incus "anvil".  We mentioned that the anvil-shaped cloud often capping a cumulonimbus is called incus.  And yes, there are the inner ear bones named in Latin which, in English, are hammer, anvil and stirrup.

From Dawn:

If no one has mentioned this yet: lupine got its wolfish name by being misunderstood. It's often found growing alone in poor soil, and was therefore thought to be a devourer of soil nutrients. In fact it's a legume, with root nodules that play host to nitrogen-fixing bacteria, allowing it to colonize infertile soil and improve it until other plants can grow there (and compete with it, or at least make it less conspicuous.) 

I believe there are places where lupine seeds are used as food, though they can be poisonous in large quantities. (So can fava beans, I think.) There is or was a project to breed non-toxic lupines for human consumption.

Thanks for the info on the lupine (or lupin in the British version) but fava beans... poisonous? Heaven forfend! 


Or read last week's issue to see what all of these people are talking about!

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