Against Discarding Symbols from Anglicist Writing—Thik W. Trals, PhD SpecGram Vol CLXXXIII, No 4 Contents The Mann de Man Language Institute—Advertisement

Good Enough for Folk EtymologyPart III

A. Pocryphal & Verity du Bius
X. Quizzit Korps Center for Advanced Collaborative Studies

The SpecGram Archive Elves recently made another large collection of documents available to the XQK Directorate, by 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.

From The Big Book of Ways to Annoy Computational Linguists:

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”.

From A Caffeinated History:

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.”

From Scots Know Everything:

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.

From The Macroscopic Book of Microscopic Pathogens:

Observing the long, twisting shape of this enigmatic virus, one doctor commented that it looked like “a bola.”

From How the Countries Got Their Names:

Amsterdam has long been famous for its red-light district. When a young bachelor found his nether regions all atingle, he was advised to take a trip to the nether lands. While this was initially helpful for Dutch tourism numbers, the government eventually embarked on a centuries-long project to shore up its reputation by systemically lowering the country to below sea level. Nowadays most people believe the official story that the name comes from the country’s low elevation. Foreign visitors should be aware of the hefty fine for suggesting otherwise.

Remarkably, “Holland”, pars pro toto synecdoche for the Netherlands, has a similar origin, though it has been partially obscured by sound change...

From Pass the Syrup:

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-lived for good reason. “My wasabi wants to be a waffle” isn’t funny even the first time, and “My poblano would prefer to be pablum” is, per se, pure pablum. The sole exception derives from “My panko aches to be part of this flapjack”. Americans decided that this expression was A-oll korrect, and “pancakes” were born. In some parts of the US, Jack hasn’t been flapped in decades. (Fortunately, he’s reputed to be unflappable.)

From Killable Mammals of the World:

... 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.”

From The Exhaustingly Complete Encyclopedia of Kitchen Implements, Volume 10:

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“Mike Rowe’s wave oven,” or just “Mike Rowe’s wave.”

From Stuffed Animals: A Cuddly History:

These rag dolls were sold for a price of 100 penniesand were so popular at the time that this quantity of money actually came to be known as a “doll-er.”

From Outlawry Through the Ages:

Those bandits who slept beneath the open sky were particularly known for their cruelty, and were known as roofless men.

More to come...

Against Discarding Symbols from Anglicist WritingThik W. Trals, PhD
The Mann de Man Language InstituteAdvertisement
SpecGram Vol CLXXXIII, No 4 Contents