What is SpecGram Doing in Response to COVID-19?—The SpecGram Pandemic <s>Response Team</s> Interns SpecGram Vol CLXXXVII, No 2 Contents Partial Brexit Reverse: UK and Holland to Establish Linguistic Free Movement Area—R. Fer, N. Dumm and L. Eve

Good Enough for Folk EtymologyPart X

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, 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 tenth half of our collection of excerpts.

From I’m Dreaming of a Wight Christmas:

Legend has it that the Jutish settlement on the Isle of Wight was established by Wihtgar and Stuf.* When Caedwalla, King of Wessex, conquered the Isle of Wight in the late 7th century, he slaughtered most of its pagan inhabitants. The victory feast was a lavish affair featuring a main course of large fowl filled with bread, spices, and the flesh of the descendants of Stuf, or “stufingas”. Nowadays people are more likely to flavor their stuffing with pork than with the freshly slain corpses of their enemies, but à chacun son goût.

* “Wihtgar” is probably a corruption of a word that meant the “men of Wight”. This clearly demonstrates that some ancient historian was no better than the typical modern history student. “Who founded the Isle of Wight?” “Um, you know, Wight guys... and stuff.”

From Tales of Sherwood Forest:

Himself named after the fiercely territorial garden bird, Robin Hood made his name by redressing the resource balance and local inequalities in Nottingham. So famous were his forceful redistribution exploits that the act of taking from the rich at arrow point became known as “doing a Robin Hood.” As his reputation grew, this was shortened to “doing a Robin” and then to “Robing” or “Robinry”, from which the terms “robbing” and “robbery” are derived.

From The Commercial Uses of Elephant Parts:

The lavish founders of America’s great East Coast universities took the phrase “ivory tower” very literally, and wanted their buildings to bear façades made from finely cut elephant tusks. However, the non-rhoticity of their dialect introduced some confusion: “ivory” was easily misheard as “ivy,” so the architects were not entirely sure what to cover buildings in. The latter was also preferable on financial and logistical grounds, hence the ivy-covered walls of what became known as the Ivy League.

From How Linguistics Influenced the Lesser Sciences:

Some theories are more resilient against counterexamples than others. Syntacticians customarily use the unit of Noams to measure a theory’s resistance to discrediting data. This concept was later extended to electrical resistance. Rebracketing of the term “a Noam” turned out to be very good for the legacy of a theretofore forgotten German physicist.

... And of course, every great linguistic theory creates feelings of confusion and disbelief in those who hear it. Thus the “you what?” became the universal measure of theoretical power, which was then subject to reanalysis and spelling reform into the “watt”.

From Cryptography in the 19th Century:

Inspired by the better-known Victorian British “language of flowers,” some people used avian feathers to communicate their sentiments. For obscure reasons, the plumes of white herons were conventionally used to express remorse over inadvertently hurtful words or actions. Those who refused to admit they’d done anything wrong would say “I have no apologies to offer, nor egrets.” This was eventually reanalyzed into “no regrets.” With the onset of bird-conservation laws, the “language of feathers” died out, but the word derived from it lives on.

From 10000002 Fantastic Facts About Computers!:

This technology was originally marketed to married women who wanted to monitor their husbands’ communications, under the brand name “Wife-Eye.” It was later marketed to a broader consumer base and the spelling simplified.

... Because a “hacking” cough is a symptom of many contagious viral infections, those who transmitted computer viruses became known as “hackers.”

From Spaghetti Code: The Hidden Meanings of Italian Cuisine:

At first, these imported Mesoamerican fruits were unpopular in Europe. They only began to catch on, it is said, when a sickly child named Thomas tasted some and regained his appetiteinspiring his mother to leap for joy yelling, “Tom ate, O! Tom ate, O!”

From Ecclesiastical Curiosities of the Middle Ages:

One parish, to the north of London, was a notorious haunt of relic peddlers, where (it was said) you could buy everything from the bones of martyrs to a saint’s pancreas.

More to come...

What is SpecGram Doing in Response to COVID-19?The SpecGram Pandemic Response Team Interns
Partial Brexit Reverse: UK and Holland to Establish Linguistic Free Movement AreaR. Fer, N. Dumm and L. Eve
SpecGram Vol CLXXXVII, No 2 Contents