The SpecGram Archive Elves recently made another large collection of documents available to the XQK Directorate, leaving them on our doorstep in black plastic sacks in the middle of the night. In order to avoid any more unfortunate incidents involving a cucumber, a marmot, or the Director’s favorite coffee mug, we were given the task of cataloging these documents. Going through the collection, we have found again that, while apparently lacking provenance (which the Archive Elves still attribute to a bizarre set of circumstances obscurely alluded to in editorials passim), they shed unexpected light on the origin of several well known words and phrases. Note that some entries contradict others. Etymology is like that.
Here we publish the third half of our collection of excerpts.
Once thought to be a mathematical or statistical measure, error bars actually testify to the difficulty of doing computational linguistics. Programmers who were faced with yet another compiling issue would drown their sorrows in local beer establishments, hence them gaining the name “error bars”. The size of the bars found on papers simply shows how much time was spent out of the office.
Since beer was the beverage of choice when the maths was out by a factor of ten or more, young programmers tended to shout for “an order of Magner’s, dude”, which eventually became the modern “order of magnitude”.
A group of paleontologists researching trilobites in the Burgess Shale was running short on tea, so they had to dilute their morning drinks with a lot of milk. They called this mild beverage “Cambrian Tea” or “Cambric Tea.”
While the origins of the ocarina are lost in the mists of time, we do know that it takes its English name from the rough shape it shares with the bagpipes played at Hampden Park, the usual home stadium of the Scottish national football team. The regularity of the team achieving disappointing results and the local dialect have rendered this the original “och” arena.
Observing the long, twisting shape of this enigmatic virus, one doctor commented that it looked like “a bola.”
Amsterdam has long been famous for its red-
Remarkably, “Holland”, pars pro toto synecdoche for the Netherlands, has a similar origin, though it has been partially obscured by sound change...
With breakfast universally recognized as having some of the most delicious foods at the table, it briefly was all the rage to make “jokes” about fancy suppertime ingredients desiring to become part of the humble yet venerable breakfast pantheon. Most of the sayings were short-
... those who set out on long, dangerous sea voyages in pursuit of these giant cetaceans were stereotyped as loud, rowdy, and somewhat mentally unstable. They often appeared as stock comedy characters in plays, stumbling drunk and often singing terribly at high volume. So these men became known as “wailers.”
A small, portable cooking device was then developed for use on cruise ships, and since it was capable of functioning on the high seas in turbulent conditions, it was known as the “wave oven.” Due to its convenience, this device later caught on in home kitchens. It was one Mike Rowe who perfected the familiar countertop version that originally bore his name
These rag dolls were sold for a price of 100 pennies
Those bandits who slept beneath the open sky were particularly known for their cruelty, and were known as roofless men.
More to come...