Monday, October 11, 2004

My latest Tribune language column: On the juicy roots of food words, and why English is a sampler platter of other languages.
temp link/perm.preview

Here's AHD on "cappuccino" and the Capuchins:

The history of the word cappuccino exemplifies how words can develop new senses because of resemblances that the original coiners of the terms might not have dreamed possible. The Capuchin order of friars, established after 1525, played an important role in bringing Catholicism back to Reformation Europe. Its Italian name came from the long pointed cowl, or cappuccino, derived from cappuccio, “hood,” that was worn as part of the order's habit. The French version of cappuccino was capuchin (now capucin), from which came English Capuchin. The name of this pious order was later used as the name (first recorded in English in 1785) for a type of monkey with a tuft of black cowl-like hair. In Italian cappuccino went on to develop another sense, “espresso coffee mixed or topped with steamed milk or cream,” so called because the color of the coffee resembled the color of the habit of a Capuchin friar. The first use of cappuccino in English is recorded in 1948.

Here's more on Mocha, Yemen. Here's an e-mail from etymology expert Anatoly Liberman on whether "cream" was a blend of "cramum" and "cresme," as dictionaries speculate.

As for "burrito," The Washington Post speculated in 1998 that the name comes from a Spanish saying (presumably intoned by burrito-eating ranchers and miners): "If I had a horse, I would go make my fortune, but I only have a little donkey." More Spanish food words and loan words. Here are some more French food words. Here's a page on the Turks and the history of coffee, and here's a page on the history of sushi (couldn't find the translation of the word). Finally, a list of instances of the presumed Hebrew root of "cider" ("shekar" for "strong drink," via the Greek “sikera”) in the Bible (including Ezekiel 44:21: "Neither shall any priest drink wine when they enter into the inner court.")

I wondered why Dick Cheney found it necessary to use pandemic to clarify epidemic in the VP debate:

Well, this is a great tragedy, Gwen, when you think about the enormous cost here in the United States and around the world of the AIDS epidemic [em dash] pandemic, really. Millions of lives lost, millions more infected and facing a very bleak future.

M-W defines "epidemic" as "an outbreak or product of sudden rapid spread, growth, or development," and "pandemic" as "a pandemic outbreak of a disease," and the adjective as "occurring over a wide geographic area and affecting an exceptionally high proportion of the population." (Both words can be n or adj.) So an epidemic can be concentrated, while a pandemic can be national in scope. Cheney doesn't bring much care or concern to his use of words, so this subtle distinction was surprising.

debate tranx's: Pres 9/30, VP 10/5, Pres 10/8

- more on values from William Saletan in Slate:

Most Democrats, including Kerry, duck and cover when Republicans bring up values. Not Edwards. He knows the language and loves to turn it against the GOP. The word "moral" was used twice in this debate. The word "value" was used three times. All five references came from Edwards. He denounced the "moral" crime of piling debt on our grandchildren. He called the African AIDS epidemic and the Sudan genocide "huge moral issues." When Ifill asked him about gay marriage, he changed the subject to taxes. "We don't just value wealth, which they do," said Edwards. "We value work in this country. And it is a fundamental value difference between them and us."

- Among the "malapropisms, solecisms, gaffes, spoonerisms ... truisms," and other Bushisms highlighted in this Slate piece are "Hispanos," "resignate," and "transformationed". Says Slate's Jacob Weisberg: "the symptoms point to a specific malady--some kind of linguistic deficit akin to dyslexia--that does not indicate a lack of mental capacity per se." Says his wife Laura: "He doesn't like to overthink." Also see LL on Weisbergisms

- "To laughter, Mr. Bush said that Mr. Kerry would impose "Hillary care'' on America ... unlike what Mrs. Clinton proposed in 1993, it would not create any big new federal bureaucracy and would retain the current employer-based system, and Mr. Kerry said he was averse to any kind of national health care plan." NY Times

- "It is a truism of American politics that the more optimistic candidate wins, and Kerry has good reason to fear joining the line of Democrats-Jimmy Carter, Michael Dukakis, Al Gore-whose careers were cut short by insufficient ebullience. New Yorker

- Jon Stewart called Cheney's comment in the debate that "If I had it to recommend all over again, I would recommend exactly the right same course of action" a case of 20-20 blindsight. (Later in that show, he asked Bob Schieffer why, after Abu Ghraib, etc., only Rathergate "gets a -gate."

Update: Stewart on 60 Minutes: "I can't believe that the National Guard memo scandal is the only scandal in four years that has gotten elevated to the status of having a gate attached to it," says Stewart. "Rather-gate. For God's sake, we launched a war based on forged documents. That doesn't get a gate. How do you not get a gate outta that?"

- From Newsweek: Though the 2007 French presidential election remains a long way off, early political jockeying is already taking place-in bookstores. Mixed in with nearly 700 new autumn releases are more than a half-dozen books by France's most popular or powerful politicians, known as presidentiables. (What is the French word, I wonder?)

- Andy Rooney said he'd like to see debates between the presidential candidates' wives and the vice presidential candidates' wives. The graphic for the latter read "Vice Presidential First Ladies Debate." Shouldn't that be Second Ladies, just as the veep's plane is Air Force 2?

-From the Washington Post:

Federal regulation of the $2 trillion consumer credit industry may hinge on how the Supreme Court chooses to interpret a single word. ... Donald B. Ayer, representing Alexandria-based Koons Buick Pontiac GMC Inc., told the court that it is "utterly clear" from the context and history of the law that Congress intended to set a $1,000 cap on how much consumers could win by suing for alleged violations of TILA by car dealers -- and that it used the term "subparagraph" to lump such cases together with others subject to the cap.

-The Chronicle of Higher Ed on sovereignty as the S-word of world politics.

-From the NY Times Mag:

Meanwhile, the market for functional foods, a broad category that includes everything from calcium-fortified orange juice to cholesterol-lowering Benecol spread to drinkable supplements like Ensure, has been increasing by up to 14 percent annually. Though Mars might like us to think otherwise, chocolate could never pass as a functional food, because of its high levels of fat and its high number of calories.

-2Blowhards on gentrification in Brooklyn and what it calls the word's pejorative origins in 1960s London.

-In his column this week, Martin Marty quotes Emory University's Robert M. Franklin talking about African-Americans' non-marital birth rate. Hadn't heard that one, but as long as it isn't ambiguous (birth rate of babies who aren't married?), it's a good substitute for "out-of-wedlock" (wedlock means marriage, but it's used almost exclusively now in the context of unmarried partners--regrettably, I think).

- What is lamping? From the Guardian:

Lamping is a form of pest control involving the shooting of foxes and ground game at night with the aid of powerful lights. Hunters' lamps can illuminate areas up to 300 metres away, and are sometimes fixed to a vehicle. The reflection of the lamp light in the eyes of the quarry startles them and helps direct the lampers' aim.

-Saw this slogan on the Crain's building here in Chicago yesterday. I'd like to make it a sentence (by adding "Crain's is...") and diagram it. Where the Who's Who Read What's What.

-Geoff Pullum at LL

The idea that you can distinguish a clockwise from a counter-clockwise circular loop by saying that one goes to the west and the other doesn't is more than just wrong, it's a screamingly obvious geometrical impossibility.

-The Trib's Rick Morrissey on "one of the most amazing quotes in the annals of sports":

"I resent the inference that I'm not prepared," [Dominican Republic native Sammy Sosa] told the Sun-Times. If Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld were quoted as saying, "Sup, Dawg?" it wouldn't be weirder than Sosa being quoted as saying, "I resent the inference …" Either Sosa needs better advisers and stenographers or else he needs to forget baseball and start teaching honors English, he's suddenly that good with the language.

-From a book of Australian profanity:

Eat breakfast backwards, to, v. - To vomit
Dead heat in a zeppelin race, phr. - Large breasts
Passhole, n. - The person who drives slowly for miles but speeds up the minute you try to pass

-The Complete Review on English PEN's seminar on translating fiction, featuring its 2004 Translation Prizes. Related articles: Arabic lit not being read in the West, and German lit gets a bad rap.

-Language-related Onion stories:

CANTON, OH-QT2D-7, an 11-year-old electric assembly-operations robot, was laid off Monday when the Lawn-Boy plant that has employed him relocated its manufacturing headquarters to New Delhi, India. "Query: What am I going to do now?" QT2D-7 said, panning its infrared eye across the empty parking lot outside the factory where it had worked every day for more than a decade. "Observation: I've never known anything but assembling lawnmowers. Query: Just like that, they throw me out?" x

Ad Exec Doesn't Care What Proverb Actually Means
CHICAGO-Leo Burnett Agency creative executive Patrick Bergman authorized the use of a common proverb in a Subway ad campaign in spite of the fact that the phrase's true meaning undermines the intent of the ad, the 41-year-old reported Monday. "The ad slogan 'Who says there's no such thing as a free lunch?' was perfect for Subway's free-sandwich giveaway," Bergman said. "Who cares if, technically, the customer had to buy 12 sandwiches to get one free? People know the phrase, and they respond to it." Bergman last misused a proverb two weeks ago, when he put "haste makes waste" in an ad encouraging people to hurry to a 12-hour Macy's white sale. x

-I mentioned the phrase sold them a lemon [i.e. a junky car] to my wife, and she said, "I like lemons!" Do lemons generally have more negative connotations than positive? Obviously, they're sour, but they don't suffer approval ratings as low as, say, green vegetables.

- From

A very uncommon word today, but what a glorious quotation for it!
smaragdine- of or pertaining to emerald; resembling emerald; of an emerald green

As I trod the trackless way
Through sunless gorges of Cathay,
I became a little child,
By nameless rivers, swirling through
Chasms, a fantastic blue,
Month by month, on barren hills,
In burning heat, in bitter chills,
Tropic forest, Tartar snow,
Smaragdine archipelago,
See me --- led by some wise hand
That I did not understand.
Called on Him with mild devotion,
As the dewdrop woos the ocean.
- Aleister Crowley, Aha!

- From KPVI TV: "Scholars, academics if you will[??], tell us that there are many ways to communicate through language: English, the language of business; Russian, the language of debaters; French being the language of lovers; and Spanish, the language of God."

-Lines from a recent spam message:

ambushgirtharduousbasinjoysutureyatesderbytam bellboy gimbal audition coppery commonweal multiplicity practitioner cortex crupper headline vertigo triatomic verbal janus easel upholstery feeney mirth lady cormorant peppy hedonism italy decompile eurasia dilapidate zeal domino

(See 3rd item here from my B&C blog)

-LL observes the death of Derrida. (LL on Mencken on the fatuities of journalism; LL on journalists and math.

Previous column and inflections

No comments: