Origins of Band Names
THE BEATLES - A few stories floating around about this one.. Stuart Sutcliffe came up with THE BEETLES in 1960, which was evidently a play on Buddy Holly's CRICKETS. They went by THE QUARRYMEN and THE SILVER BEETLES awhile later, then shortened and mutated that to THE BEATLES. Lennon and Sutcliffe may have also been influenced by the film "The Wild One", which featured a motorcycle gang called the Beetles. John Lennon is generally credited with combining Beetles and Beat to come up with THE BEATLES spelling. Lennon was also fond of saying he had a vision as a child of a flaming pie in the sky that said "You are Beatles with an "A"...
DOORS - From a William Blake quote "If the doors of perception were to be cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, infinite". The Aldus Huxley's novel "The Doors of Perception" was probably also inspired by the same quote. Before the DOORS.. Robbie Krieger and John Densmore were the PSYCHEDELIC RANGERS.. Ray Manzarek started a band called RICK AND THE RAVENS with his two brothers. Morrison and Densmore later joined RICK AND THE RAVENS.. Krieger joined after they called themselves the DOORS.
ROLLING STONES - From the MUDDY WATERS song "Rolling Stone". The name was suggested by Brian Jones.
(extract from the "HeathenWorld" site)
The Death Beat
Carolyn Gilbert has no trouble remembering where she was when she came up with what, in all modesty, she still regards as an excellent ideathe First Great Obituary Writers' Conference.
"I just said it as a lark," she told me not long ago, when I called to inquire about the upcoming Fourth Great Obituary Writers' Conference. "I'm not even sure what I meantwhether I meant great obituaries, great writers, or great conference." The first one, which took place on a May weekend in 1999, in Archer City (the north-central-Texas destination made famous by the film version of Larry McMurtry's novel "The Last Picture Show"), was a strictly Texas event, to which only obituary writers and editors from the state's major dailies were invited. The Honorable Jerry Buchmeyer, Gilbert's federal-judge friend, gave a speech, sharing selections from his vast collection of obituaries. He also recited excerpts from a compendium of euphemisms for "died": "was ushered to the angels," "passed from this plane to a higher plane," "made his transition," "passed into life's next adventure," "received his final marching orders," "departed this life on his Harley-Davidson," "graduated to phase two of God's eternal plan," "became a handmaiden of God," "was royally escorted into her heavenly home," "teed up for Golf in the Kingdom," andmy favorite"went fishing with Christ!! on Friday."
(extract from the "New Yorker" site, article by Mark Singer)
25 Years of Yearbook Quotes: Hall of Fame, Shame
Senior yearbook quotes can run from the profound to the strangely
zen to the utterly clueless.
It takes 13 years of schooling to get this far. No, not high school
graduation ... the senior quote.
Surely, you've seen 'em - those choice words of collective wisdom
that graduating high school seniors submit for publication beneath (or
around) their yearbook pictures as something of a defining statement
about their entire high school existence.
Typically solicited by yearbook staffers near the beginning of the
school year, senior quotes often pack more creative punch than the
mostly unoriginal ramblings (''Have a nice summa! Wish I had a chance
to know u better'') scribbled in the pages once yearbooks are in
Senior quotes can run the gamut from the profound (''Trust in God,
but lock your car'') to the strangely zen (''Summer breeze ... makes
me feel fine'') to the utterly clueless (''Toga! Toga! Toga!''). Most
of the time, though, they're just plain entertaining.
Research at the offices of a yearbook publisher, in a variety of
2002 annuals and at the State Library revealed that senior quotes have
changed very little over the past 25 years.
Starting with 1977, we collected senior quotes in every decade.
Student names and high schools (though not misspellings) have been
deleted to protect the potentially embarrassed.
1977: ``So little done. So much to do.''
1987: ``I don't want to own the little pink house ... I want the entire suburb.''
1997: ``The only way success comes before work is in the dictionary.''
2002: ``Remember this face!! In a few years I'll be your boss.''
1977: ``We've only just begun! Butterflies are free!''
1987: ``Just a dream and the wind to carry me and soon I will be free.''
1997: ``Always shoot for the moon, so if you miss you'll still be among the stars.''
2002: ``I know it hurts to say goodbye but it's time for me to fly.''
The Truth Is Out There
1977: ``'Star Trek' lives!
1987: ``Beam me up Scotty ... no intelligent life down here.''
1997: ``Scully, Mulder and me! 'X-Files' rokz!''
2002: ``Buffy! Buffy! Buffy!''
The Ones Not To Keep In Touch With
1977: ``If you mess with the best then you die like the rest.''
1987: ``REDRUM! REDRUM!'' (Murder spelled backward as in ``The Shining'')
1997: ``Have you ever danced with the devil in the pale moonlight?''
2002: ``I am The Chad!''
1977: ``Love can grow in all kinds of weather, if it's planted by two hearts together.''
1987: ``Perhaps I'm not a knight in armor bright, but I will love you day and night.''
1997: ``If you love something set it free. If it comes back to you, it's yours. If it doesn't, it was never meant to be.''
2002: ``The mind forgets but the heart always remembers.''
The Music Fan
1977: ``'And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.' - Lennon/McCartney''
1987: ``'It's time to rock a rhyme to rock a rhyme that's right on time, it's tricky!' - Run D.M.C.''
1997: ``'I don't question our existence. I just question our modern needs.'- Pearl Jam''
2002: ``'Don't be a hard rock when you are really a gem.' - Lauryn Hill''
The Herbal Enthusiast
1977: ``Grows on mountains ... naturally.''
1987: ``Boogie Boarding is like smoking, it feels good no matter how many times you've done it.''
1997: ``I'm having a fly day 'cause maryjane's on her way.''
2002: ``I said NO TO DRUGS but they didn't listen.''
The Eternally Happy
1977: ``A smile is the light in the window of your face that tells everyone your heart is home.''
1987: ``Remember to smile 'cause it takes 14 muscles to smile and 72 to frown.''
1997: ``If u don't have a smile, i'll give u one of mine.''
2002: ``Stay sweet, stay cool, but most of all, stay you!''
1977: ``Space is not the final frontier, it's what you have between your ears.''
1987: ``12 years of hard and boring labor, for what?!!''
1997: ``The trouble with a rat race is that even when you win, you're still a rat.''
2002: ``What life does not give you, TAKE!''
1977: ``Contrary to popular belief, I did do some work.''
1987: ``Surprise! I made it!''
1997: ``See mom ... I told you no worry.''
2002: ``I dunno nothing ... so no ask me.
1977: ``Frampton comes alive!''
1987: ``Ozzy rulz!''
1997: ``Metallica ... amen!''
2002: ``Linkin Park rules!''
1977: ``Conform and be dull.''
1987: ``Why be normal?''
1997: ``Dear God, please make me a bird so I can fly far, far, far away from here.''
2002: ``Truthfully, I'm not going to miss any of you.''
1977: ``Football boyz RULE!''
1987: ``If it wasn't for sports and lunch, I wouldn't have come to school.''
1997: ``Soccer boyz RULE!''
2002: ``CHEERLEADING IS A SPORT!''
1977: ``The past has passed. The present is passing. The future is approaching.''
1987: ``Let the good times roll let them leave you in the air Morey boogie rules no townies Jesus Lives!!''
1997: ``I'm tone, brutally tone and even when I'm not, I look toned.''
2002: ``I am Godzilla. You are Japan.''
(from "The Honolulu Advertiser", article by Derek Paiva, carried on Gannett)
Martha Barnette's Funwords
Welcome to Funwords, a celebration of unusual words and the fascinating stories behind familiar ones. (More about tragus, footled, and snollygoster in the archive.)
Funwords is also home to some of my other work, including my latest book, Ladyfingers & Nun's Tummies: A Lighthearted Look at How Foods Got Their Names (Vintage). Here you'll also find the story of how I got into all this -- and how to start off on your own etymological romps through the English language.
This month I'm titivating the site -- and hoping I won't have a banana problem -- so please drop by again soon. (Titivate? Banana problem? More about these useful terms here. If you have a question about another word or phrase, ask in our discussion forum!)
My latest book, Dog Days and Dandelions: A Lively Guide to the Animal Meanings Behind Everyday Words,will be published by St. Martin's Press in Winter 2003. More about that soon, but suffice to say it'll be a great gift for anyone who loves words or animals -- or better yet, both! Drop me a line if you'd like to be notified when Dog Days is available.
(extract from Martha Barnette's "Funwords" site)
Speak better with a snip of the tongue
SEOUL - In a swank neighbourhood renowned for designer boutiques and plastic surgery clinics, anxious parents drag frightened toddlers into Dr Nam Il Woo's office and demand that he operate on the children's tongues.
'Parents are eager to have their children speak English, and so they want them to get the operation,' said Dr Nam, who performs about 10 procedures a month, almost all on children younger than five, in his well-appointed offices in the Apkujong district here.
'It is not cosmetic surgery. In some cases, it really is essential to speak English properly,' he said.
In this competitive and education-obsessed society, fluent and unaccented English is the top goal of language study and is pursued with fervour.
Linguists sneer at the idea that South Koreans' tongues are too short to speak English properly, pointing to the unaccented speech of hundreds of thousands of Korean Americans.
As Seoul National University linguist Lee Ho Young noted: 'OK, since Westerners are taller, they might have longer tongues. But this operation lengthens the tongue by only a millimetre or two and that has nothing to do with it.'
Some say the real problem for South Koreans, as for Japanese, is that their languages make no distinction between Ls and Rs, and so they cannot detect the difference.
(extract from the "Straits Times" site, story by "The Los Angeles Times")
Naming the Saints
A comprehensive list of Saints' names, their meanings, their Feast Days, and tidbits of information about who each Saint is and what was remarkable about their lives.
J. K. Rowling has a way with words. The Harry Potter books are full of fantastic names and terms that she seems to conjure up from nowhere. Often they have more to them than meets the eye. This page is about some of the words and meanings that might have been in Ms. Rowling's mind as she chose her eldritch vocabulary.
According to published interviews, J. K. Rowling was born in Chipping Sodbury, near Bristol, in the west country of England. (She thinks that the funny sound of her birthplace may have contributed to her love for curious-sounding words in later life.) She lived in the vicinity of Bristol until she was nine, when her family moved across the Severn River to Tutshill, a small village where she was able to play in the woods. She went on to college at the University of Exeter, in the county of Devonshire, still in the west of England. Later, she lived in Portugal and France. She learned enough French to teach the language. She has remarked that she's partial to saints' names. All of these facts are clues to the inspiration for her namings.
Some of her invented words seem to be portmanteau words. In "Through the Looking-Glass," Lewis Carroll's second Wonderland book, Alice finds a mystifying poem named "Jabberwocky." She asks Humpty Dumpty to explain it. He takes it word by word: "'slithy' means 'lithe and slimy'. 'Lithe' is the same as 'active'. You see it's like a portmanteau [suitcase] - there are two meanings packed up into one word."
Another way of forming new words is by spoonerism. The Reverend William Archibald Spooner was a dignified clergyman who had an unfortunate mental quirk. He would unintentionally switch the initial sounds of two words in his sentences, often with ludicrous results. Some of the stories told about him may be made up, but they're certainly funny. He supposedly told a student, "You have deliberately tasted two worms and you can leave Oxford by the town drain" (wasted two terms, down train). He proposed a toast to "our queer old dean" (dear old queen). In a sermon, he said, "We all know what it is to have a half-warmed fish within us" (half-formed wish). He stated, "the Lord is a shoving leopard" (loving shepherd). He tactfully warned a woman who had chosen a reserved seat, "Mardon me, padam. This pie is occupewed. May I sew you to a sheet in the cheer of the rurch?"
(extract from Gwillim Law's "Wizard Words" page)
Arda, or Ardor: Getting to the Root of Tolkien's Tongues
From his earliest childhood on, John Ronald Reuel Tolkien took an extraordinary interest in old ways of speaking: By age eight he was reading scholarly publications on the Celtic languages of Britain; in high school he joined a society that held debates in Latin, but, finding these insufficiently challenging, he amused himself by giving speeches in Greek, Gothic, and Anglo-Saxon. He studied Old Norse at Oxford, and returned there as professor of Anglo-Saxon. He prepared an edition of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight that is still used by students today. Formidable though his scholarship was, what really distinguishes Tolkien from other linguists is his capacity to enjoy language. As a junior professor at the University of Leeds, he founded the Viking Society, whose members drank beer and sang Old Norse sagas; he began his lectures on Beowulf by standing silently in the classroom, until, when no one expected it, he shouted Hwt! (Old English for "listen," though some students understood it as Modern English "Quiet!") and declaimed the opening stanzas of the poem as if he were a bard in a mead hall. Tolkien derived immediate aesthetic pleasure from the sound of foreign words. A Welsh name on the side of a delivery truck could make him swoon; as for Finnish, he writes, "It was like discovering a complete wine cellar filled with bottles of an amazing wine of a kind and flavour never tasted before. It quite intoxicated me."
Quenya (which was modeled on Finnish) sprang from this intoxication; so did Sindarin (modeled on Welsh). Unlike Finnish and Welsh, though, the Elvish languages have no native speakers. Everyone who encounters them confronts their aesthetic qualities first of all, and only afterward discovers that, for example, I lemp roccor caitaner nu i alta tasar means "The five horses lay under the big willow." And everyone is intoxicated. Tolkien's languages are beautiful, but their beauty does not account for their popularity; if he had created Quenya and Sindarin and let them be, we would have, at best, a pair of mellifluous alternatives to Esperanto, though with vastly more complicated grammars. Tolkien's genius was to assume that his made-up languages were related. This relation gave rise to everything for which he is now remembered, from the Hobbits and their hairy feet to Galadriel and her stiff knees. "What I think is a primary 'fact' about my work," Tolkien wrote, "[is] that it is all of a piece, and fundamentally linguistic in inspiration. The invention of languages is the foundation. The 'stories' were made rather to provide a world for the languages than the reverse." In other words, Sindarin doesn't exist so that Aragorn and Arwen can coo to one another. Aragorn and Arwen exist because Sindarin needs speakers; and all of Middle-Earth came into being to account for Sindarin's derivation from Quenya.
Tolkien believed that the impulse to make languages was widespread, particularly among children. His cousins Marjorie and Mary Incledon, for example, came up with Animalic, in which the names of animals stood for common words: Dog nightingale woodpecker forty meant "You are an ass." At age 13, Tolkien found their language easy to learn, and helped them to make another, Nevbosh ("New Nonsense," in Nevbosh), with more complicated rules: more fun to invent, less fun to speak. (This is often the case: Invented languages are not for speaking in; they are objects in their own right. And this is a good thing, for, if Tolkien is right about the ubiquity of the language-making impulse, it's only the need to speak to one another occasionally that holds the number of our languages in check.) When Nevbosh grew dull, Tolkien left his cousins behind and invented Naffarin, of which only a few phrases survive-for example, O Naffarinos cut vu navru cangor-alas, with no translation, nor any way of making one.
And so on, down to Quenya and Sindarin. Few children go as far as Tolkien did, but many begin on the same path. We are born wanting to make sense, but to make it in our own way, for ourselves first of all-and this is the root of our nostalgia for Tolkien: His work is suffused with the childish belief that your own peculiar way of talking about things is good, and that it is enough.
(extract from the "Village Voice", article by Paul LaFarge)
The Phobia List
The word phobia is Greek, therefore any word that is connected to it should be Greek. To coin a new phobia name, it is proper to follow this rule. The rule has been broken many times in the past especially within the medical profession which is steeped in Latin and often, when forming a name for a phobia, they have dipped into what they know and have used a Latin suppletion affixed to the Greek stem to form their names. The language pundits frown on this but it has happened time and time again over the years and these words have become accepted. There are a number of these words used daily. Television is one such word, tele from Greek, meaning distant, and vision from Latin, meaning a seeing.
On The Phobia List, I only use names that appear in a reference book. Someday I may put together the list of names that I can't validate.
If you are interested in sending a phobia name to me, please send the reference for it. If it's one that you've created, let me know. And if it's just for fun, thanks. I can always use some fun.
(extract from the "Phobia List" site)
Australian in Court to Keep Catchy Moniker (Other)
A disgruntled Australian father who five years ago
legally changed his name to Prime Minister John Piss the Family Court and Legal Aid on Tuesday began a court case in Melbourne to keep his lengthy handle.
The 56-year-old father of four already has a driving licence bearing his new name, as well as a bank account and medical records.
He is in court fighting to have his new name appear on his passport.
The passport office claims the name is offensive because it contains an expletive, and a title not legitimately acquired. The case is complicated because there is no law stipulating what name an Australian citizen can take.
(extract from "Deutsche Press Agentur")
Librarians Debate Internet Filters (Current usage/news)
As lawyers in federal court this week debated whether Internet filters for public library computers should be mandatory, librarians argued the law unfairly blocks out legitimate Web sites like those of House Majority Leader Dick Armey and pro golfer Fred Couples.
"We got a call this week from someone supporting the lawsuit whose last name was something like Hancock. He said he publishes work on the Internet and can't access it sometimes on certain computers," said Penny Hummel, a spokeswoman for Multnomah County, Ore.
The Multnomah County library and the American Library Association argue the Children's Internet Protection Act of 2000 is an imperfect technology that can inadvertently block access to information about individuals whose names are erroneously but inextricably associated with sex.
Former U.S. Rep. Dick Swett is one of those people. "This is something I've had to contend with my whole life," the New Hampshire resident said wearily. "Why should I be penalized if the rest of the world's mind is in the gutter?"
The same goes for anyone looking up the Earl of Essex or Sussex, or drama students interested in Dick Van Dyke, Dick Clark and the cult 70s movie Shaft. Science students might want to research prickly heat or, on a more serious note, breast cancer.
The librarians argued filters also block information about American Indian groups because of references to peyote - a plant used in native religious ceremonies but banned in many states for its hallucinogenic properties. They also argued certain filtering software protocols have been set up with political or religious biases.
Nancy Willard, a research associate at the University of Oregon who recently released a report on the issue, said she was "blown away" after discovering some of the filtering software blocks sites containing references to witchcraft, homosexuality and anti-government groups.
The librarians don't want to do away with the filters altogether. But they do argue patrons should have a choice between filtered and unfiltered Internet access.
(extract from the "FOXNews" site, article by Jennifer D'Angelo)
Kevin's Word Lists Page (Other)
The methodology of the project is to record and correlate the words listed in a number of small dictionaries. The number of dictionaries so recorded is now 12, comprising 8 ESL (English as a Second Language) dictionaries and 4 "desk dictionaries". The dictionaries chosen vary widely by publisher, by style, by completeness and by depth. In this version of 12dicts, all of them are dictionaries of American English (three from British publishers). The smallest of them contains about 20,000 entries, and the largest 46,000. (All totalled, there are about 75,000 entries, many of which appear in only a single dictionary.) All but two of them were published in the last six years.
(extract from Kevin Atkinson's word list page)
The Scratch Robot (Accents and speech)
Send an e-mail to [the Scratch Robot]. The robot will analyse your message and convert it to sound by scratching the disc. Within 24 hours you will be able to listen to your own audio e-mail.
(extract from the "Scratch Robot" site)
Corpus-Based Computational Metaphor Analysis (Current usage/news)
I am a grad student at Brandeis doing a Ph.D. with James Pustejovsky. My thesis is "A corpus-based computational model of conventional metaphor detection and analysis." (I'll make a copy available on-line when its done, or you can email me for one.) In this work, I find metaphors through gradients in selectional preferences between domains, where data for selectional preference learning is obtained by shallowly parsing a great quantity of domain relevant documents pulled from the Internet. In essence, give the system two domains and some keywords to characterize them and it will give you a list of the metaphoric mappings between the two domains, the relationships between them, and the predicates that mediate them.
You can download the complete thesis or the journal article , submitted to computational linguistics. You can also download a pdf version of the journal article.
For students of metaphor, its useful to be able to find conventional metaphors automatically. This allows the existence of a metaphor to be confirmed with more objectivity than intuition affords. Substantial effort has been put into building catalogs of metaphors, but this tool opens the possibility of a more nearly exhaustive list. Also, metaphors could be tracked across time, sub-culture or domain.
From the computational linguistics point of view, its interesting that a subtle semantic phenomenon like metaphor can be detected from a great mass of text, an inaccurate parser, and an inevitably incomplete ontology.
From a data-mining perspective, my work is an example of mining the Internet for complex, structured semantic information concerning objects about which virtually nothing is known to start with.
(extract from Zachary Mason's page)
Open Brackets: Lost in Translation (Other)
Having spent the afternoon in a stuffy meeting with a flirtatious and tabula rasa thanks to Prozac co-ordination Manageress (no, not cordination: what manner of wankery is this from the New Yorker and others? You can't just toss in a dieresis without warning) who bears an unnerving resemblance to Bullwinkle... I can do no better than to offer up a few fine word links...
(extract from Gail Armstrong's "Open Brackets" site)
Human Spell Check (Spelling)
GRAMMAR GOOF: OK, they're not the core mission, but they're as maddening as misspellings, so here's a goodie/baddie from the NY Times (via Yahoo! News)...
SOMEONE SHOULD BE FEELING SHEEPISH: What an odd Olympic weather forecast ...
If you find a Web flub (for-profit sites only, please),e-mail details (include URLs, plus screen grabs if possible). Thanks! We'll credit you by name! (But if you want to be anonymous -- finking on your company Webmaster, etc. -- that's OK, too.)
(extract from the "Human Spell Check" site)
Online Encyclopedia of Graphic Symbols (Definitions)
SYMBOLS.com contains more than 2,500 Western signs, arranged into 54 groups according to their graphic characteristics. In 1,600 articles their histories, uses, and meanings are thoroughly discussed. The signs range from ideograms carved in mammoth teeth by Cro-Magnon men, to hobo signs and subway graffiti.
How Do You Say 'Oops' in French? (Other)
Americans are routinely criticized around the world for an inability to manage any language but English. A sign outside the Main Media Center in downtown Salt Lake City is sure to give ammunition to such critics.
The sign is printed in English and French, the two official languages of the International Olympic Committee. In big letters, in English, it offers directions to an "East Gate" and a "South Gate." In French, in smaller letters underneath, both "East Gate" and "South Gate" are inexplicably referred to as "Porte Nord."
"Nord" is French for "north."
(extract from the "LA Times")
The Maledicta Press (Other)
This Web site specializes in uncensored language research protected by the First Amendment. If you are under 21 years of age, immature, a legal scumbag, a shallow journalist, a p.c. creep, or offended by words, just go away.
(extract from Dr Amin's site)
NOTE: Dr Amin is a regular contributor in the alt.usage.english news group.
Supertitles Are Starting to Become Part of the Act (Current usage/news)
SUPERTITLES: salvation, or the end of opera as we used to know it? A generation ago, when the appearance of simultaneous translations of foreign-language librettos above the stage had the interested public at daggers drawn, the critic David Hamilton spoke a judicious word: "They're the right answer to the wrong question."
"The right question isn't 'what do the words mean?' " Mr. Hamilton elaborated recently. "It's 'what is the character expressing?' And the only way you'll really experience that is by understanding the words as they come to you, together with the music, from the lips of the singer. Supertitles drive a wedge between words and music. You understand what you read, but what you're hearing is just sound."
An unassailable analysis of the first-generation title, still the most prevalent type. By now captions of various sorts (above the proscenium, on a personal display screen or elsewhere) have shown unexpected creative potential.
Whatever their inherent shortcomings, most of us appreciate running translations of foreign dialogue (and even transcriptions of English). On Thursday at the Metropolitan Opera, count on usage approaching 100 percent for the company premiere of Prokofiev's epic "War and Peace," adapted from Tolstoy. Long, unfamiliar, based on a classic literary source few in the audience are likely to know as well as they should, the opera puts the advantages of captions in bold relief, but also their drawbacks.
A great deal of demystification at the price of an unquantifiable loss: that is the bargain opera audiences have struck. Happily, titlists like Ms. Haddad and her colleagues at the Met and other major houses are operating, for the most part, to a standard of transparency and stylistic suitability without which the technology would not have survived. Consider the case of the soprano Eva Marton at a dress rehearsal of Puccini's "Tosca" at the Houston Grand Opera in 1984. In Act I, Tosca, the quintessential diva, directs her picture-painting lover to change the eyes of the Madgalene on his easel from blue (like his model's) to dark (like Tosca's).
Literal to a fault, the caption read, "Give her black eyes." The audience roared. Ms. Marton, not amused, flounced off stage, refusing to perform unless the titles were switched off. Within a few short seasons, an artist taking that line would have been burning her bridges. Nothing will drive out titles now. And if fear of ridicule cannot make a great stylist of every titlist in the field, extra layers of editorial scrutiny sift out the truly egregious boo-boos. Technical glitches - titles that drop out or appear out of synch, system error messages from the computer - are a separate can of worms.
A NEW chapter in the history of the caption began last month. At the annual master classes and related events organized by the Marilyn Horne Foundation, supertitles were introduced in the context of the song recital. As it happens, Ms. Horne saw the Sellars "Tannhuser" and remembers it as "a bit much." And she freely confesses that in her operatic heyday, she had mixed emotions about supertitles.
"I wanted the audience's attention to be riveted on me," she said in a recent conversation. "What prima donna wouldn't? I hate to say it, but supertitles give audiences a chance to be a little lazier. Still, they've been a huge boost to opera. The technology today allows us to work with titles much more easily and fluently than ever before. If they can give a shot in the arm to our recitals, that's something we have to experiment with. We have to see where this will take us."
(extract from "The New York Times" site, article by Matthew Gurewitsch)
The most beautiful words in the English language (Other)
Wilfred Funk's list of the most beautiful words in English: ASPHODEL, FAWN, DAWN, CHALICE, ANEMONE, TRANQUIL, HUSH, GOLDEN, HALCYON, CAMELLIA, BOBOLINK, THRUSH, CHIMES, MURMURING, LULLABY, LUMINOUS, DAMASK, CERULEAN, MELODY, MARIGOLD, JONQUIL, ORIOLE, TENDRIL, MYRRH, MIGNONETTE, GOSSAMER, ALYSSEUM, MIST, OLEANDER, AMARYLLIS, ROSEMARY. [Alysseum may be a misspelling of alyssum, but this is how the word appears in Paul Dickson's Words.]
According to James Joyce, CUSPIDOR is the most beautiful word in English [Dickson].
In A Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (page 86), Annie Dillard writes: "My friend Rosanne Coggeshall, the poet, says that 'sycamore' is the most intrinsically beautiful word in English" [Sarah Gossett].
(extract from "A Collection of Word Oddities and Trivia
The point outscores musicals (Grammar)
Teachers of grammar have long cautioned against the overuse of the exclamation point, noting that if employed too frequently, it tends to lose its importance.
Broadway hasn't always taken heed, though, boasting nearly two dozen musicals with exclamation points. But just how many actually deserve this distinction?
A look back through the decades reveals that some -- "Red, Hot and Blue!" (1936), "Look Ma, I'm Dancin'!" (1948) and "Oh, Captain!" (1958) -- failed to achieve substantial runs. With each running less than six months, the addition of an exclamation point to the title was perhaps ill advised.
An attempt to blend Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night" with the music of Duke Ellington likewise failed to excite audiences. "Play On!" (1997) did anything but what its title suggested.
Conversely, "Oklahoma!" (1943) and "Hello, Dolly!" (1964) together amassed more than 5,000 performances and remain two of the most popular musical theater titles in the catalog. The evergreen "Oklahoma!" returns to Broadway this spring for the first time since 1979.
This exclamation mark phenomenon isn't restricted to the United States. England's contributions have included "Oliver!" (1960, United States 1963) and "Oh, What a Lovely War!" (1963). South Africa introduced American audiences to "Sarafina!" (1988).
The trend of adding exclamation points to show titles apparently began in 1924 with "Lady, Be Good!" No decade since has failed to include at least one such musical, the most recent being the ABBA-inspired "Mamma Mia!" (2001).
Adding punctuation to a show's title may be a useful marketing tool, but as documented here, such obvious embellishments are often an attempt to compensate for shortcomings that will almost certainly undermine the musical's success.
(extracts from "The Point Outscores Musicals", Rick Rogers, "The Oklahoman")
Whack or wack? (Etymology)
Before the sun rises (and I succumb to the deep, dark slumber of the unliving), I wanted to discuss a bit of etymology.
The word is "wack." It's a Hip Hop thing. It means "not fly" or "not fresh" or just plain bad, dumb, wrong, stupid, messed up. That's my understanding, anyway. I don't know the origin of the word.
It's not "whack." Or "whacked." That's a WHord that WHite people WHo don't pay attention to song lyrics have been using and misspelling. Typical. "Out of whack" and "whacked out" are old euphemisms. They mean somewhat similar things, but they are not the same as "wack." My thought is that they might be related to hitting devices to make them work, as on old TV shows, but that's speculation on my part. "Give it a whack."
(extract from the "ChaoSpirals" blog)
This is aaronland (Definitions)
Aaron Cope's blog gives a random slang word of the day and a "dictified dictionary.com" word of the day
Use Bizarre Metaphors (Other)
When you go to meetings, you can get very tired of the old useful metaphors. "Send it up the flagpole...,"
"Can't see he forest...," "Too busy cutting down trees..." blah blah blah. So instead, at your next meeting, start using surreal metaphors. The idea is to come up with a phrase that sounds like it really ought to mean something, then move on like everyone should know what you mean:
"That's like feeding a creampuff to a zombie."
"You don't want to be caught measuring eagle droppings with toothpicks."
Even phrases like these could have meaning, but the best way to play is to use them completely out of context. For instance, you are discussing a server upgrade, and someone proposes to try Linux. You say, "We shouldn't give agriculture lessons to peanuts." It seems completely profound, but it is meaningless. You will blow everyone away...
(extract from the "Half-baked" page)
Cliche Finder (Other)
Have you been searching for just the right cliche to use? Are you searching for a cliche using the word "cat" or "day" but haven't been able to come up with one? Just enter any words in the form below, and this search engine will return any cliches which use that phrase...
(from the "Cliche Finder" Page)
www.We Made Out in a Tree and This Old Guy Sat and Watched Us.com (Recreation/puzzles/offbeat)
This site is dedicated to the English language, that complex tongue spoken by a large chunk of the world's population and by several communities in the American South.
Specifically, it's dedicated to unusual quotes, strange statements, bad writing and other oddities of the language. Things that are funny because of the specific choice of words. Things that sound great because of the context, or that sound even better when given no context at all. (Like the name of the site, for example.)
We're still pretty loose on what belongs on this site and what doesn't. You can suggest things, and we'll tell you if we agree. We probably will.
(extract from the "wemadeoutinatree..." site)
Did jurors or 'poetry' acquit the accused? (Current usage/news)
In a phone interview, he told United Press International that Black prevailed through the use of "creative, improvisational poetic structures." But he also noted the importance the defense counsel placed on picking older, conservative women jurors.
Matoesian is author of "Law and the Language of Identity: Discourse in the William Kennedy Smith Rape Trial," a book burdened by postmodernist academic jargon and feminist theory. It also is rich in factual detail, not all of which supports Matoesian's thesis that Black won the case because he was "most poetic."
Matoesian said he studies how language operates in the courtroom, particularly in rape trials. He spent a day with Black going over the case. "Legal outcomes" result from who uses language best, he said. "I don't think many people use it better than Roy Black," he remarked, calling the lawyer "the premier criminal trial attorney in Miami."
(extract from "Did jurors or 'poetry' acquit the accused?" by Lou Marano, UPI)
The alternative FAQ For alt.usage.english (Recreation/puzzles/offbeat)
Aue's Peter Moylan provides an "alternative" FAQ for the aue newsgroup.
The English to Geordie Translator (Recreation/puzzles/offbeat)
Alreet lads an lasses. Welcome to The English to Geordie translator. But whats a Geordie you may be asking yourself, the site Geordie Passions is a scrap book of Geordie culture which will help explain more, but in essence its them canny fowk from the North East of England sometimes wrongly but understandably mistaken for Scots or Irish to the unaquainted.
Certain phrases are converted quite well, but the translator simply cannot cope with parts of the dialect such as putting the words "Man" , "Like" and "Ye knaa's" anywhere in a sentence and the fact that we really have a different way of expressing things.
(extract from the "English to Geordie Translator" site)
Even pros struggle with corporate re-naming game (Current usage/news)
Cingular, Sensient, Verizon, and Diageo are nowhere in the dictionary but the words are lighting up billboards, televisions and stadiums as names of multinational corporations.
The explanation for the unconventional spellings? In the recent rush of companies changing their images, corporate naming specialists are facing a dilemma: No more names.
The recent spate of mergers, spin-offs and newly-formed dot-coms have sent naming firms scrambling for their word histories and Scrabble tiles, searching for evocative neologisms like Lucent and Accenture.
The only problem? As firms scrape the bottom of the barrel, consumers often hate the new names.
"We tell our clients to prepare for the backlash," said Steven Addis, chief executive of the San Francisco-based branding firm Addis.
"You ignore it," said Tony Spaeth, an independent identity consultant. "Companies are forced to settle for names that take some getting used to. The best names sound bad at first because they're distinctive."
(extract from "Even pros struggle with corporate re-naming game" by Adam Pasick, Reuters)
Synecdoche in Music (Other)
First let me clarify what I mean by "synecdoche," a term that has proved contentious in the literature of rhetoric and linguistics over the past forty years. Despite sometimes violent disagreement of detail, it is generally agreed that synecdoche is part of a central figural space of language which also includes metaphor and metonymy (Levin 1977). Samuel Levin has identified two types of synecdoche, the genus-species relation (or "member-class ensemble") and the part-whole relation (or "logical sum"); for example, the set [apple::macintosh, Rome, delicious, etc.] suggests the genus-species, while the set [apple::seeds, stem, core, skin, etc.] suggests the part-whole relation. Levin regarded the former as semantic, the latter as encyclopedic (Levin 1977:103). I prefer to view this opposition as a continuum between semantic and encyclopedic, for the element of the semantic can never be "distilled" from the encyclopedic. Thus I focus on the latter in this paper. The three famous chords we first heard demonstrate the encyclopedic signification of reference [bonus points given for reference to Tippett, 3rd Symphony, or Shostakovich, 15th Symphony!]; member-class synecdochic signification in music may be seen in examples of references to a general style. To take a recent study of music and meaning particularly pertinent here, Nicholas Cook has considered how the first 38 measures of the overture to Mozart's Marriage of Figaro function meaningfully as background music to a TV commercial, a Volvo ad (Cook 1994); that is, he showed that the associative nature of the music was held by the ad makers to be strongly conducive to producing the effect "I want to own a Volvo." Although Cook does not break down the interpretation according to varieties of listeners, it is clear that the meaning of the quotation is still effective, even if the listener had never heard Figaro before. Features of the music such as its style and mood, features admittedly apprehended through experience of music in society, enable the listener to place it as a member of a class (e.g. "classical," "cheerful," etc.); precisely the intent of the ad writers.
(extract from "Synecdoche in Music" by Robert Judd)
Noam Chomsky interviewed by the British Broadcasting Corporation (Current usage/news)
QUESTION: But there was the shift from simply finding out the rules of language for its own sake. You were looking at it in a different way.
CHOMSKY: You could put it that way, but I would also say that there was a shift with regard to finding the rules of language at all. Traditional linguistics did not try to find the rules of language. It thought it was doing it but as soon as you took a close look at what was happening, you saw that it wasn't really doing it at all, it was just giving a certain amount of information which could be used by somebody who already tacitly knew the rules of language, to sort of add in the rest.
Let me take a simpler case. Take a look at the Oxford English dictionary and look up the meaning of some word you don't know. Well, it gives you lots and lots of information. Does it give you the meaning of the word? It doesn't even come close to giving you the meaning of the word. As soon as you start studying what every three year old knows about words, you find that the meanings given in the Oxford English dictionary simply are hints for someone who has all that knowledge intrinsically. Those hints will tell you "okay, it's this word not that word" but most of the knowledge isn't even addressed and if you want to understand what the language really is, well, you have to address the knowledge that's tacitly presupposed. If your purpose is to provide something useful for someone who already knows the language, well, then do it exactly the way it's been done. But these are different goals.
(extract from the "Monkey Fist" page)
Censorship at World Scrabble Championships (Recreation/puzzles/offbeat)
The 2001 World Scrabble Championships took place December 13-17 in Las Vegas. 88 players from 40 countries competed in the prestigious biannual event, and Scrabble junkies around the world could follow the proceedings at the National Scrabble Association's website. Among the offerings at the NSA site are play-by-play transcriptions of select games from each round.
But unbeknownst to most viewers, some official NSA game transcriptions have been subtly altered to remove offensive words that had been played on the board. Some members of a Scrabble discussion mailing list noticed one such alteration, which led to mild protests of the censorship. The NSA webmaster responded on the list, stating that the alterations were "deliberate, and part of policy since the inception of the NSA web site."
(extract from the Daze Reader site)
The Etymology of First Names (Etymology)
It is not known when humans first began using names though the practice is certainly very old, probably extending far into prehistory. Although all cultures use names, naming customs vary greatly from people to people. In some cases they are very simple, such as those of many Indonesians who use just a single name. On the other hand, traditional Chinese naming practices were very complex. Chinese males were given different names at various points in their lives, in addition to a surname and sometimes a generation name.
Names serve several purposes. Most importantly they help distinguish us from one another. Imagine how difficult it would be to refer to people if we did not use names. Instead of saying Bob one would have to say something like the short red-headed man who lives down the street. Some names carry information about our roots, such as family or clan names. They are generally inherited. Names can serve other purposes as well, such as the Chinese generation name which identifies the generation of the bearer, or the names used by some African cultures which describe the order in which siblings were born.
Given names, what westerners call first names, are generally bestowed at some point after the birth of the child. This website looks at the etymology (i.e. the linguistic origin, or meaning) and history of all types of given names.
(extract from the "Behind the Name" site)
The Etymology of "Rock and Roll" (Etymology)
Due to the prejudices of the times Freed began calling the rhythm and blues records he played Rock "n" Roll. What is ironic that term Freed was using to make rhythm and blues more acceptable to a white audience, was slang for sex in the black community.
(extract from "The History of Rock" site)
Glossary of lesser-known technical terms (Recreation/puzzles/offbeat)
MAPS -- "Mass Automatic Protest Storm"
Concerned that the net is in danger of being overwhelmed by unsolicited commercial email ("UCE" or "email spam"), some disgruntled recipients of said unsolicited email have taken to emailing angry letters, usually with copies of the offending email attached, to admin@, abuse@, support@, root@, postmaster@, webmaster@, info@, etc@, at each and every domain listed in the path, their own ISP, any other recipients listed in the header, any domains or individuals mentioned in the original letter, and enough other random individuals and mailing lists to make sure that the net becomes overwhelmed by complaints about unsoliced commercial email first.
(extract from "The Glossary of lesser-known technical terms")
The Etymology of "Foo" (Recreation/puzzles/offbeat)
Approximately 212 RFCs so far, starting with RFC 269, contain the terms `foo', `bar', or `foobar' as metasyntactic variables without any proper explanation or definition. This document rectifies that deficiency.
(extract from the Network Working Group Page, RFC 3092, date 1 April 2001)
The Decline of Speech. A Modest Proposal (Language history)
Traditionally, speaking well was regarded as proof of a good education. It was also important in the theater and in the liturgy, as the inclusion of rhetoric in the medieval trivium shows. To reach a theater audience or a congregation, clear speech was essential. Bhnensprache, stage language, unified spoken German.
The fact that the court and the upper classes spoke the standard language inevitably led to snobbery and the popular resentment of it. The worst case was England, where certain forms of speech were U or non U, U standing for upper class. "I'm pleased to meet you" was non-U. U required that you say "How do you do", even though the non-U greeting makes much more sense. The expression "King's English" was displaced by "Oxford English," or "BBC English," since the BBC spread the standard throughout Britain.
There are demands for a standard spoken English. I suggest that phoneticians study its variants using two criteria. Which is the clearest and the most euphonic? Would someone please take up this challenge?
(extract from Ronald Hilton's page, "The Decline of Speech. A Modest Proposal")
The oldest English words and their dates of usage (Language history)
Town AD 601-03, Priest 601-04, Earl 616, This 670, Streale 680, Ward 680, Thing 685-6, Theft 688-95, Worth 695, Then 695-6.
English Tongue Twisters (Recreation/puzzles/offbeat)
How many boards Could the Mongols hoard If the Mongol hoards got bored?
How can a clam cram in a clean cream can?
How much wood could Chuck Woods' woodchuck chuck, if Chuck Woods' woodchuck could and would chuck wood? If Chuck Woods' woodchuck could and would chuck wood, how much wood could and would Chuck Woods' woodchuck chuck? Chuck Woods' woodchuck would chuck, he would, as much as he could, and chuck as much wood as any woodchuck would, if a woodchuck could and would chuck wood.
(extracts from "1st international Collection of Tongue Twisters" page)