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 eleventh half of our collection of excerpts.
...it is said that when the butchers accidentally let some beef dry out and become excessively tough and chewy, the person who had ordered it vociferously complained, calling them “beef jerks.” But other customers actually enjoyed this new meat product, and adopted the term “beef jerk” or “jerky beef” in an act of playful reappropriation.
Asked to perform tedious and difficult analyses on the differences between the group means of a sample, frustrated students would yell things like “I wish a volcano would erupt and destroy this homework!” or “I wish an asteroid would hit the earth!” The wished-
Paul Passy also studied phonetics in the context of oral obstructions. Initial tests were done with baguettes or croissants, but subtle differences between mouthfuls rendered the data of dubious quality for scientific purposes. The switch to a uniform inedible device was less popular with all but his youngest test subjects, who loved the new Passyfier.
In the early days of the White settlement of North America, the main means of carrying anything larger than a bottle of moonshine was with pack animals. Horses, donkeys, imported wildebeest and even gnus were used as beasts of burden, whose loads would also include letters between family members to update them on progress. The Fay family took to playing jokes on each other, sending spurious missives on donkeys disguised as larger animals.
The local townsfolk on both sides got sick of this. While in the East, they used to say “no gnus is better than bad gnus”, in the West, they used to say in derision “here come those Fay gnus.” The latter term became metonymic for any unbelievable missive.
As everyone knows, it is possible to jump with relative success (i.e., minimal injury) from a first, second, or third floor window. Floors four and above, however, result in almost certain termination of life. This demarcation of death is what
When asked by a visitor to whom the plate full of tortilla chips, cheese and sauce belonged, Miguel replied, “It’s naht yours.” This was soon reanalysed to “nachos”.
Some wit whose name is lost to history quipped that an ugly shag rug looked like “your pet got run over by a car!” Whence the term “car pet” for all such items.
The general’s triumphant return was cause for celebration. The populares chanted “Eat, drink, and be Marius!” Roman speech had already acquired the Mary/
[For an even funnier, more informative book, check out Tim Pulju’s The History of Rome. —Eds.]
A fitting final example is the little-
[Note: There’s something a bit odd about this one, we can’t quite put our fingers on it. —A.P. & V. du B.]
The accuracy of Swiss clocks was legendary as far back as ancient times. The Raetians were noted for producing delicate gears with exactly the right number of teeth to make the hands spin around at the right rate. The Romans referred to the proportions of these integer-
Contrary to popular assumption, the term “pied-
More to come...