Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Christmas treeMy latest Tribune language column has been postponed to accommodate an illustration; it's actually a longer feature on the controversial history of the name "Windy City." It should run either Friday or next Tuesday; stay tuned.

[The blog was looking a little blah, so I put up this pic as a way to say Happy December! more pics/animation]

Meanwhile, here's a brief I submitted, that didn't run, on haymaker:

Several reports of last week's Pacers-Pistons brawl made the participating pugilists sound like farmers, describing the punches exchanged by players and fans as "haymakers." Over half the results for "haymaker" on a Lexis-Nexis search of the past week refer either to the melee in Detroit or the South Carolina-Clemson football brawl the next day.

What's hay got to do with it? The Online Etymology Dictionary says "haymaker" was probably coined for the punch's "imitation of the wide swinging stroke of a scythe" (which was used to cut hay). According to the Dictionary of American Slang, published in 1967, it originated in boxing. The earliest available citation comes from the National Police Gazette in 1906, posted at "One of those ... fellows is going to get the 'haymaker' over on your jaw."

While you don't want to find yourself on the business end of a farm implement, you have less to fear from the analogous punch. Gilbert Odd's 1983 "Encyclopedia of Boxing" defines "haymaker" as "a swinging punch, ususally a right (left for a southpaw), which is inaccurately directed: a wild delivery that comes a long way and is usually used in desperation. It should be easy to avoid."

[Sources note that the Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang has
"haymaker" in the sense of "a hard swinging blow" dated back to 1902.]

From the OED:

1. A man or woman employed in making hay; esp. one engaged in
lifting, tossing, and spreading the hay after it is mown.

14.. Voc. in Wr.-Wülcker 582/36 Fenissa, a heymakere. 1528 MS. Acc.
St. John's Hosp., Canterb., For mete & drynk for the hay makers. 1590
GREENE Never too late (1600) 103 A womans smile is as good to a Louer,
as a sunshine day to a haymaker. 1770 WESLEY Jrnl. 28 July, A shower
brought all the haymakers home. 1853 LYTTON My Novel I. iii, For the
refreshment of the thirsty haymakers.

• Tis the season: DTTW on door buster

n. a discounted item of limited quantity intended to bring customers into a store; a sale of such items; a loss-leader. Also attrib. Categories:
Advertising. Business. English.

Also see ESPN The Magazine on the roots of "boxing ring."

LL on venti and other verbal concoctions of Starbucks:

[T]he Starbucksian marketeer who came up with the name was probably thinking of the Italian for "twenty". Or "winds", take your pick. Of course, the Italians would use the metric system, and 20 fluid ounces in metric is approximately 591.476 cc, but I don't think that cinque nove uno virgola quattro sette sei is going to make it as a product name. I guess you could round up and call it seicento.

• Ever notice how better can be ambiguous? I asked my wife how she was feeling, and she said, "I'm better." "All better?" I asked? No, but better, she had to explain. It made me realize better is idiomatic here; it really should be "best." After all, you wouldn't say "all stronger."

Update: It gets even crazier. An ad says, "With Nexium, you don't just feel better, you are better. And better is better."

• My sister gave me this notepad for my birthday a couple months ago, just took a picture of it with my new phonecam:

• I also asked my sister, a college student in Ontario, about this excerpt of native Canadian by Geoff Pullum:

"Cripes! Grade thirteen! Here's a loonie -- buy yourself a Coffee Crisp, eh?"

The approved translation is as follows.

"Man, the SAT's! Here's eighty-four cents — buy yourself a Snickers, OK?"

Lisa says: "That was entertaining. I would like to point out that I have never ever
heard the expression "Cripes" in Ontario (or anywhere else). Also, grade
thirteen and OAC's are not equivalent to SAT's. SAT's are tests, OAC's are
classes. They are more like AP courses."

• This adjective and noun phrase in the opening of this Slate's review isn't sitting right with me: "National Treasure, another Nic Cage-starring movie from blow-'em-up producer Jerry Bruckheimer..."

That may make sense--I'm not sure--but I think it's too awkward to be worth it. But I like "blow-'em-up producer." It's as good as the first phrase is bad.

• More from DTWW:

yard sale
n. in skiing or other snow-based sports, a fall or spill; a wipeout. [Perhaps from the appearance of "sporting goods spread out all over the
yard."] Categories: English. Slang. Sports. x

n. mainstream or guiding culture. [German leit 'leading (adj.); leader' +
kultur 'culture'] Categories: Germany. German. x

• I was moved to look up the etymologies of berserk (or beserk, as I thought it was spelled) and hubbub (or hubub, as I thought it was spelled)

Etymology: Old Norse berserkr, from bjorn bear + serkr shirt
1 : an ancient Scandinavian warrior frenzied in battle and held to be invulnerable
2 : one whose actions are recklessly defiant

Etymology: perhaps of Irish origin; akin to Scottish Gaelic ub ub, interj. of contempt

• Etymologies can be deceiving. For example, when I read that feign came from the Latin "fingere," the verb for "shape" (since "feign" means to "fashion an impression or shape an image," as M-W says; figure, effigy, fiction, and figment are cognates), I assumed that this is where finger comes from, too, since we use fingers to give things shape. But it's just a coincidence. From OnEtDc:

O.E. fingor, from P.Gmc. *fingraz (cf. O.S. fingar, O.N. fingr, Du. vinger, Ger. Finger, Goth. figgrs), with no cognates outside Gmc.; perhaps connected with PIE *pengke, the root meaning "five."

From M-W:
feign \FAYN\ verb
1 : to give a false appearance of : induce as a false impression
2 : to assert as if true : pretend

"Feign" is all about faking it, but that hasn't always been so. In one of its earliest senses, "feign" meant "to fashion, form, or shape." That meaning is true to the term's Latin ancestor: the verb "fingere," which also means "to shape." The current senses of "feign" still retain the essence of the Latin source, since to feign something, such as surprise or an illness, requires one to fashion an impression or shape an image. Several other English words that trace to the same ancestor refer to things that are shaped with either the hands, as in "figure" and "effigy," or the imagination, as in "fiction" and "figment."

• I also wondered if ever was a cognate of aver and very. Nope. At least not at the level of Latin; maybe P.I.E. OnEtDc again:

O.E. æfre, no cognates in any other Gmc. language; perhaps a contraction of a in feore, lit. "ever in life" (the expression a to fore is common in O.E. writings).

c.1380, from O.Fr. averer "verify," from V.L. *adverare "make true, prove to be true," from L. ad- "to" + verus "true"

c.1275, verray "true, real, genuine," later "actual, sheer" (c.1390), from Anglo-Fr. verrai, O.Fr. verai "true," from V.L. *veracus, from L. verax (gen. veracis) "truthful," from verus "true," from PIE *weros- (cf. O.E. wær "a compact," Ger. wahr "true"). Meaning "greatly, extremely" is first recorded 1448. Used as a pure intensive since M.E.

• From Michael Wittmer's new book on heaven and worldview (hey, that was my idea!)

Metaphysics ... entered our vocabulary by a fluke of history. The great philosopher Aristotle once gave a series of lectures on the nature of reality. Since these lectures on reality appeared on the shelf after his lectures on physics, one of his students began calling this branch of philosophy "metaphysics," meta being the Greek word for "after." Thus the term "metaphysics" simply means the study of reality.

Previous column and inflections

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