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 seventh half of our collection of excerpts.
Europeans were at first suspicious of the bitter dark beverage. A satirist whose name has been lost to history commented that it looked “cough-y”, that is, like something coughed up by a sickly patient. Spelling not being standardized at the time, this term caught on in the variant form “coffee.”
... and after that unfortunate and yet hilarious incident with a particularly tricky Algonquian dataset and a room full of coffee-
(cf. T-tests, which come to us from a rather more polite meeting of similar linguists in London, where the cleaners took weeks to get the disbelieving sprays of Earl Grey out of the carpet.)
Before the discovery of germs and viruses, people commonly believed that diseases were caused by smoke or bad smells. Diseases common in winter were blamed on the large amounts of smoke rising from chimneys, and one of these was consequently referred to as “flue sickness,” or later just “the flue.”
As 1936 drew to a close, colonialism and the reign of King Edward VIII were both showing signs of collapse. As a final two-
“Chad, you’re my best mate. You get a country! Libby, er, you get a country! I’d like to name a country after, er, Wanda. Ken, ya get a country too. Sue, Dan... look, I’m running out of countries, but can you share one between the two of you? Maybe if you’re lucky it will split up later. Al, Jerry, er... same sitch. Hey, has anyone seen Moe and Rocco? I’m running out of countries here!”
The “bell curve” was named by Ivan Pavlov, because it reminded him of the path traced out by a dog’s wagging tail when a bell was rung.
Calculating the standard deviation was also hard, so hard in fact that young statisticians would try to convince their parents that they weren’t well enough to go to work when it was their turn to calculate it. Cries of “I’m sick, ma!” soon turned into “sigma” over time.
To oppose someone is to verse (v.) them, and the act of opposing is versation (n.). Paul Grice teaches us that communication should be cooperative, so non-
Crop failures caused a lot of stress for peasant farmers, who could often be seen clutching their heads and lamenting “My grain! My grain!”
Some galliform birds were called “Grice fowl” because their complex courtship dances reminded ornitholinguists of the elaborate and rule-
When Jeremiah Cope first worked out how to use lenses to better see stars, not everyone was pleased. One ruffian was so unimpressed, he told poor Jeremiah that only a donkey would be interested in his invention with the words “Tell ass, Cope” and the name stuck.
Before it was constituted as a country, those from the territory now called Poland were called Pol-
And lo, there was great constipation upon the land due to rich diets. So much so that a new case was invented called the Laxative. After many years of groaning, speakers eventually adjusted their pronunciations, causing the Great Bowel Shift. Later linguists felt this accident was too atheoretical and swapped the b for a v.
More to come...