Oddly Unlikely Animals – WIF Oddities

Leave a comment

Living Things That

Shouldn’t Exist

(But Do)

Restricted or enabled only by the bounds of natural selection, nature has proven that a vacuum is hard to maintain. While some types of creatures might seem fit for science fiction or simply defy our imagination, the natural world holds a place for creatures that defy common sense or human expectation in existing. Discover poisonous birds, freshwater sharks, plant-eating spiders, and other animals that just don’t seem right, but are out there waiting to expand your concept of life.

10. Pitohuis, the Poison Birds of New Guinea

A bird is the last thing to come to mind when we think of poisonous animals, but the different species of Pitohui from New Guinea are toxic feathered beauties from the rain forest, to be approached with great care. A poisonous bird: What will they think of next? Native to the rain forest environments of New Guinea, the Hooded Pitohui is correctly termed as a poisonous species, rather than a venomous species as a highly dangerous batrachotoxin is present throughout the bird’s feathers, skin and flesh. The bird’s toxicity became apparent in 1989 when a California Academy of Sciences based researcher named Jack Dumbacher who had set out to study birds of paradise in Papua New Guinea noticed burning pain in his hands when scratched by the peculiar Pitohuis caught in nets originally intended to catch birds of paradise for closer inspection.

The toxins that make up the chemical arsenal of these birds are in fact the same lethal compounds found in poison dart frogs notorious for being capable of killing predators and humans alike. Exactly why the birds possess this toxicity remains a matter of scientific interest, with associated speculation that the bright colors of these birds warns potential predators of their chemical laden bodies. The process by which pitohui toxins concentrate also formed a subject of scientific curiosity that was solved by Dumbacher when he went back to the rainforest and in collaboration with locals was able to determine that the source of the toxins consisted of poison-bearing beetlesthat the birds consumed in quantity.

9. Ocean Lizards

Lizards represent the hot desert in the minds of most people to a great degree, or at least a sunny, perhaps dusty garden path or tree trunk in a warm tropical jungle. Yet, a member of this vast and diverse group of small dinosaur lookalikes has done the unimaginable and become marine, basking on wave splashed rocks and foraging under the surf. Native to the Galapagos Islands and surrounding waters, the large and colorful Marine Iguana is a lizard that has mastered the sea, hauling out on rocks like a sea lion in between dives below the waves, where they forage on marine algae and seaweeds chewed off the surface of submerged rocks.

 The plant-based diet is easily harvested with the help of the iguana’s razor like teeth. Efficiency is key to Marine Iguana survival, as meals must be gathered quickly to prevent chilling and loss of heat energy. Measuring over 3 feet in length and weighing up to 22 pounds, the Marine Iguana is the only ocean-going lizard on the planet. Large groups of breeding females jockey for space in the breeding season, while males fight fiercely for a chance to mate with the female of their choice. The dinosaur-like creatures are normally blackish or grey-ish in color, but the males stand out with its greenish and reddish hues that come into color during the breeding season, signalling dominance and urging females to select them as mates.

8. Freshwater Sharks

Freshwater might seem like a place to swim safely without fear of sharks, but a population of Bull Sharks, a species known to have caused human deaths lives in Lake Nicaragua, while several species of river shark patrol fast moving waters in parts of Asia and Oceania, including Australia. Bull Sharks are a primarily ocean going species, but a population oddly yet naturally established in Lake Nicaragua ensures that swimming in a lake is not a guarantee of safety from shark attacks. While normal marine bull sharks are known to travel temporarily up rivers, the true river sharks belonging to the genus Glyphis are rare, at risk species characteristic of rivers and in some species, estuarine waters.

The Ganges Shark is the most closely associated with river habitats, while the Northern River shark and Spear-toothed Shark inhabit rivers and estuaries but more frequently swim in marine coastal zones. While the degree to which they travel in saltwater varies, what these sharks have in common is complete mastery of freshwater environments, with the Ganges shark being especially comfortable far upstream from any source of saltwater. The Bull Sharks that inhabit Lake Nicaragua are not a separate species, but as a population have admirably adapted to the purely freshwater environment of the lake. In order to survive, they draw upon their ability to excrete urine at a higher rate than normal to allow proper osmosis in their lifelong freshwater environment.

7. Meat-Eating Parrots

The Kea of New Zealand is an endangered parrot that acts like a hawk or vulture, eating the young of shearwater chicks and scavenging mammal carcasses. Superficially cute and cartoonish with huge “gooey” eyes, the Kea is the only alpine species of parrot in the world, able to handle cold winds, snow and low temperatures for prolonged periods of time. Their physical adaptations include the ability to soar like a raptor, effectively insulating, thick feathers and exceptionally sharp, hooked beaks that make them adept opportunistic harvesters of meat. Attacks on live mammals are also known to have occurred, especially presenting a concern in the context of livestock management.

Because of the tendency for Kea to sometimes prey on vulnerable sheep, wounding them and removing fat and tissue with their sharp bills, a bounty was placed on the birds, which are now protected but still classed as vulnerable. When not feeding on meat from carrion or live prey or searching for plant material, Kea may use their scythe-like bills to extract juicy grubs from the soil, drawing upon their high quantities of nourish fat and proteins. Brown and green in color at rest, the Keas may seem disappointingly dull to first time observers searching for these parrots, but offer a surprise when viewed in flight from beneath with their bright red wing linings and graceful maneuvers as they search for their next meal.

6. Bipedal Antelopes

Humans might have a near monopoly on mammalian bipedalism and antelopes seem to be the very definition of a quadruped. Yet, the slender Gerenuk, with a name that originates from the Somali word for “Giraffe-necked” defies ungulate normality as an antelope species that feeds in bipedal mode.  The silhouette of the species is unique among all mammals, crossing a stretched version of the typical ungulate body with an almost primate like-vertical stance. While Gerenuk feeds, the front legs awkwardly extend forward into the air. Standing on its spindly hindlegs to reach heights of almost 8 feet,this near threatened ungulate presents a bizarre sight in the grasslands of East Africa, browsing on leaves, berries, buds and flowers that other species cannot reach, especially Acacia leaves.  

The ability to stand upright adds to the Gerenuk’s already long legs and almost ridiculous looking, lengthened, skinny neck in allowing them to reach edible plant material well beyond the reach of most other antelope species, from which they also derive most of their water. With the remarkable occurrence of bipedalism in a hoofed mammal species attracting scientific curiosity, investigation into Gerenuk physiology has revealed interesting adaptations that facilitate and indicate significant evolutionary commitment to bipedal capabilities in this species.  Specifically, Gerenuks have smaller lumbar spinal protrusions, known as processes, allowing increased inward curvature of the spine required to stand upright for prolonged periods of time.

5. Lake Seals

A freshwater seal species does exist and it defies the very definition of marine mammal by it’s entirely lake bound occurrence. Known locally as the Nerpa and possibly half a million years old as a species, the Baikal Seal is the only true entirely freshwater seal species on the planet, restricted to the deep and mysterious Lake Baikal, which is in fact the deepest lake on Earth. Relying on the strange looking Baikal Oilfish or Golomyankas for the majority of their diet as well as sculpins and amphipods, these aquatic carnivores are a species of uncertain origin, still presenting a mystery to biologists who have yet to precisely pin down the circumstances leading up to their establishment in the lake as an endemic species.

Lake Baikal is not only extraordinarily deep, it is also extremely cold, with ice that remains into the spring breeding season. Well adapted to their environment, female Baikal Seals have developed the ability to create ice dens,in which they take shelter and subsequently give birth, usually to one pup. A small seal, the Baikal Seal may reach just past 4.5 feet in length and weigh no more than 154 pounds in most cases. The gray colored, docile lake seals maintain breathing holes in the ice and haul out along rocky shorelines in warmer weather.

4. Plant-Eating Spiders

The concept of a plant-eating spider is something that is unlikely to have entered the minds of most people. The reality that a herbivorous spider exists is likely to surprise even many who are trained biologists or biologists in training. Residing in Southern Mexico and Central America, the recently discovered jumping spider species Bagheera kiplingi is a huge eyed, rather cute looking arachnid that lives a lifestyle running completely counter to what we generally would expect of spiders. The very epitome of a carnivorous invertebrate, spiders are notorious for trapping their prey in webs, ambushing animals from tunnels, injecting doses of venom that are sometimes strong enough to kill a human and running down small prey on foot.

In contrast, the primary component of the diet of the brown and white jumping spider Bagheera kiplingi consists of Beltian bodies, tiny, fibre-rich parcels of plant material that provide certain Acacia plants with the resources to engage in a mutually beneficial relationship with ants that feed on the Beltian bodies but defend the tree from plant eaters. The enterprising Bagheera kipling,however, feeds on the Beltian bodies “intended” for the ants, while avoiding attack by the ants through what might be termed mock predation, swiftly lunging for the Beltian bodies and then beats a hasty retreat from the advancing ants. The spiders are mostly herbivorous, but at times may feed on ant larvae.

3. Nocturnal Gulls

The owls might be the first and only category of birds recalled when nocturnal avian species are brought up. Yet, a little known and unlikely marine bird from the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador and Malpeno Island, Colombia has fully mastered the night sky through an incredibly strange detour in evolutionary history.  Foraging above the moonlit waves, the Swallow-tailed Gull sees in the relative darkness well enough to navigate and capture their fish and squid prey by moonlight, resting and tending to the young by day.

With ghostly pale spots on its plumage, a dark head and fleshy red tissue circling the eye, the Swallow-tailed Gull is the only truly nocturnal seabird on the planet. The strange looking gulls are equipped with extra large, darkened eyes containing a layer of reflective tissue that bounces light back through the retina to the bird’s photoreceptor cells, aiding it in seeing well while hunting at night. Biochemical adaptations include reduced melatonin levels, a sleep inducing hormone found in higher quantities in all other gulls. Heading out at night in large flocks, the night gulls swoop down to seize squid, small fish and any other invertebrates in reach in their prominently hooked bill before returning to their nesting colonies.

2. Fishing Cats

It is a well established fact in the minds of most that cats detest water, yet there is a species of feline from Asia so committed to an aquatic lifestyle that dramatic physical adaptations have defined its evolutionary history. Instead of shying away from water, the appropriately named Fishing Cat from South Asia and Southeast Asia inhabits wetlands, mangrove swamps and the edges of rivers and streams where they hunt for fish, catching aquatic prey with their sharp claws or seizing prey in their teeth during opportunistic dives into watery feeding areas.

Not afraid of water, the cats have a variety of physical adaptations that give them mastery of the water as some of the most skilled swimmers among predatory mammals. Fish eating cats have short tails, powerful muscles and the ability to walk in mud without sinking and excellent paddling and diving ability, allowing them to plunge deep into the water to capture fish, which forms the major portion of their diet. A thick, short fur base layer of fur insulates the cats from wet and cold when in the water, while longer hairs provide camouflage. An underwater surprise attack approach to hunting waterfowl, where the cats grab swimming birds by the feet from below has also been reported and ranks among the eeriest ways that a mammal can hunt birds.

1. Vegetarian Vultures

Vultures are the quintessential carrion scavenger and often carry a distasteful association with death in human minds. Yet, a quirky vulture widely distributed across sub-Saharan Africa stands out in total rebellion against vulture ways. Through yet another unlikely and incredibly specific jog in the evolutionary history of modern fauna, the appropriately monikered Palm-nut Vulture has adapted to a diet centered primarily upon plant material, focusing its foraging on the fruits of the Kosi Palm, Date Palm and Acacia. To feed, the Palm-nut Vulture opens the kernels before extracting the nutritious, fatty meal inside each palm kernel utilizes its massive bill to crack fearsome beak to break open its palm kernel “prey” and strip fruit flesh.

At just two feet long, with a wingspan under five feet wide, the black and white bird with bright fleshy facial patches is actually the smallest Old World vulture species in the world. The plant eating raptor’s small size and agility, coupled with talon bearing, powerful feet facilitate its impressive foraging gymnastics, where it hangs upside down like monkey from palm branches, accessing its food. The entirely vegetarian source of protein forms the bulk of the natural food supply for this bizarre bird of prey, up to 92 percent of the juvenile diet and 58-65 percent of the diet of adults. Fish, insects and occasionally, bats supplement the palm nut, fruit and seed diet of this bird.


Oddly Unlikely Animals

– WIF Oddities

World Wide Words Issue 915 – WIF Style

Leave a comment

WIF Grammar 101-001

World Wide Words

Issue 915

from Michael Quinion

Feedback, Notes and Comments

letter-to-editor

Vigintillion. Following my piece on this and other words for big numbers, all ending in -illion, Steven Burkeman wrote, “Your piece calls to mind the (sadly, probably apocryphal) story about President George W Bush who, on being told by Donald Rumsfeld that three Brazilian soldiers had been killed in Iraq, looked shocked and close to collapse, then pulled himself round, and nervously asked ‘How many millions in a brazillion?’”

Richard Friedberg noted that in discussions of computer storage capacity the terms for big numbers don’t stop with the yotta- prefix (10 24). Some sites list xenottabyte (1027), shilentnobyte (1030), domegemegrottebyte (10 33), icosebyte  (10 36) and monicosebyte (10 39) as continuations of the established set. I can’t find out who invented these, nor anything about their etymology. They appear rarely, either in lists of numbers big enough to boggle the mind or as indications of numbers that are likely to be needed if data storage continues to increase at its current rate. All appearances are within the past six years, though one source claims to have obtained it from a 1996 webpage.

My school maths teacher would be saddened to see me describe vigintillion as 10 followed by 120 zeros (10120). It should of course be 1 followed by 120 zeros. Similarly for all other numbers expressed as powers of 10. Thanks to all the numerate readers who pointed that out.

Vertical file.

Many readers told me, following my snippet about this term used by the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, that it is well known to them, but most often for a standard method of storing documents in a filing cabinet. However, Pete Jones wrote, “I was a European Commission official from 1974 to 2005 and can assure you that vertical filing as a euphemism for binning something was in use then. Boris Johnson’s dad worked at the Commission for a while, so might have passed the expression on.” Anneli Kavald and several other readers suggested: “One possible source is that it’s a word-by-word translation of the French classement vertical , meaning to put something directly in the dustbin.” I had asked Boris Johnson about his usage when writing the original piece; a reply eventually came from his executive assistant, who said that the mayor meant “the report won’t be acted upon and will languish on some dusty shelf for years to come”.

Some who wrote mentioned that the wastepaper basket was known to them as the round file or the circular file and others that dropping a document in it was filing it in bin 13. Why 13? Was it superstition that led to its use?

Hingle. Tony Long, who mentioned his foster father had been a professional poacher, commented, “To us in East Sussex, a hingle was a snare that lifted the victim out of the reach of passing stoats and foxes. Some locals used it for any kind of trap involving a trigger. None of us would have called an ordinary loop-prop-and-peg snare a hingle. This seems to fit with the ‘hinge’ link quite well.”

Latrinalia

Graffiti-001

A newspaper report in July 2015 about the reopening of long abandoned and forgotten Second World War tunnels in the white cliffs of Dover mentioned the latrinalia that had been found there.

We may correctly surmise that the word is linked to latrine. The -alia suffix indicates a collection, often implying triviality — a good example is marginalia and   latrinalia was presumably created by analogy with it. Latrinalia is graffiti on lavatory walls.

Latrine is from Latin. The Romans have bequeathed us much scatological or bawdy text on lavatory or brothel walls. Many have been recorded in Pompeii and Herculaneum, preserved by the eruption of Vesuvius in AD79 that buried the towns in ash. Most are too rude for this column but this one is in the Casa della Gemma (the House of the Gem) in Herculaneum: “Apollinaris, medicus Titi Imperatoris hic cacavit bene.” (“Apollinaris, doctor to the emperor Titus, had a good crap here.”)

Despite their seeming fondness for graffiti, I’m told the Romans didn’t have a specific word for writings on walls, but called them just writings, sometimes trivial or offensive writings (Latin taedia; we get tedium from the same source, though in classical Latin taedium could also mean an object of loathing or disgust).

So latrinalia is modern. It was coined by the late Alan Dundes, a pioneering academic folklorist at the University of California, Berkeley. He wrote — among much else — about the homosexual symbolism of American football, the Bible as folklore and the social significance of jokes. He showed that folklore isn’t found only in ancient ritual, fables and superstitions but in contemporary cartoons, poems and lore such as urban legends.

Dundas coined latrinalia in his 1966 paper Here I Sit — A Study of American Latrinalia. Archaeologists and folklorists use it for this subset of graffiti, though the general public hardly knows it.

How are you saying that?

Widespread broadcast coverage of the flyby of Pluto by the New Horizons spacecraft led to criticism of the pronunciation of the name of the planet’s largest and innermost moon, Charon. Officially, it’s from Greek mythology, the name of the ferryman who conveyed the souls of the departed across the river Styx into the underworld, whose god, Hades, was often euphemistically called Pluto, the rich one (hence plutocracy) because of all the good stuff that comes from the earth. So Charon ought to have an initial k sound, as the dictionaries firmly say. But some astronomers pronounce it with an initial sh.

The reason lies in the story behind its naming by the American astronomer James Christy, who discovered the moon in 1978. He suggested modifying his wife’s name, Charlene, by adding -on to its first element to match the names of elementary particles like proton and meson. Hence, Charon. He wasn’t well up on Greek mythology and was surprised and pleased to find that it fitted neatly. The International Astronomical Union (IAU), arbiter of celestial nomenclature, preferred the Greek mythological origin to the personal one and so implied the word should have an initial k sound. But many American astronomers, those in the New Horizon team especially, know where the name really came from and say it with initial sh as an in-joke, to the annoyance of classically aware listeners unaware of the story.

Pluto has five known moons, the others being Styx, Nix, Kerberos and Hydra. Nix is also spelled Nyx, the Greek goddess of the night, the mother of Charon. Hydra is the nine-headed monster slain by Hercules, the nine referring to Pluto being the ninth planet in the solar system. A related beast guarded the entrance to the underworld, the three-headed watchdog whose name is spelled in English as Cerberus and said with an initial s. In that spelling, it came second in a public poll in 2013 to name the moons. But the IAU prefers the classical Kerberos so it’s always pronounced with an initial k.

Gulled?

Reports in British newspapers these past few days have featured the menace from seagulls, particularly in Cornwall. Earlier this month a dog was killed by a seagull in that county and a tortoise died after being flipped over and pecked to death. The birds are brazen in grabbing food from visitors and in doing so have caused injuries. Young people have taken advantage by inventing a game called gull running. It’s said to have started in Whitby but has since spread to other seaside towns. One person holds food above their head — usually fish and chips — and runs a set course. The winner is whoever can run the furthest without a seagull grabbing the food.

One correspondent to my newspaper was less concerned about the physical injuries the birds can cause than about the purity of language. There are no such things as seagulls, he argued. In the UK there are herring, great black-backed, lesser black-backed, black-headed and common gulls and the kittiwake, but something called a seagull doesn’t exist. A touch pedantic, perhaps? We may be sure it won’t change his view to be told that English has had seagull as a popular collective term since medieval times.

True blue

Q. From Rob Nachum: I am in lexicological heaven for having found your site. Thank you. For random curiosity, I clicked on smithereens. Within the piece is a quote from an Irish Catholic signed as “True Blue”. As an Australian, true blue is equivalent to dinkum or dinky di , meaning honest or genuine. But would it be a stretch to hypothesise that your quoted “True Blue” refers to an Irish-Catholic symbolism that was transported literally and figuratively to Australia by the convicts in the late 1700s to early 1800s? Is to be true blue Australian nothing more than a convict Catholic-Irish relic?

A. There are connections between the two usages, but Australian English has much modified the usual British English sense. In Britain (as it has for the past two centuries), the term means a staunch supporter of the Conservative Party, a person of right-wing views. In Canada, it also suggests conservative opinions. In Australia, however, it instead became associated with the working class and the Labor Party and has developed from there.

The link is loyalty.

In medieval Europe blue was the colour of faithfulness or constancy, whose opposite was green. A poem of about 1450, Against Women Unconstant — some claim it was written by Geoffrey Chaucer — criticises an unsteadfast woman for being like a weathercock, that turns its face with every wind; it says, “In stede of blew, thus may ye were al greene.”

True blue starts to be recorded in the 1630s. The story used to be told that the city of Coventry in the English midlands was famous for dyeing a blue that would neither change colour nor fade in washing, and that true blue was coined to indicate a person who would likewise never alter their principles nor their allegiances. We may prefer to think that Coventry had nothing to do with the matter but that true blue was simply an almost inevitable rhyming extension whose meaning was based on the ancient associations of the colour. A proverb, first recorded around 1630, “True blue will never stain”, embodied the ideal of constancy in the figurative stain but that may have been prompted by the blue aprons traditionally worn by butchers in order not to show bloodstains.

Blue began to be associated with politics in Scotland in the seventeenth century through Scottish Presbyterians who formed the Whig party, notably to oppose Charles II being succeeded by his brother James in 1688. Their equivalents in England were the Tories, originally a term for dispossessed Irish people who became outlaws but which became a nickname for English conservatives in the following century (and, of course, is still much used). The 1810 quotation you mention places it in this context.

In Australia, the first meaning was the British one — many letters to newspapers in the nineteenth century advocating conservative views are signed True Blue. (The term was used later in the century for abstainers who joined temperance organisations.) Near the end of the century, it began to be applied to striking workers who were loyal to their comrades and steadfast in resistance. The Advertiser of Adelaide, reporting on 29 September 1890 about a strike of sheep shearers in New South Wales, quoted a telegram sent to the Shearers’ Union: “The men are true blue, and will rather be imprisoned than yield.”

The working-class associations remain (and occur also in blue-collar from the US with a different origin) but from early in the twentieth century true blue, especially in true blue Australian and true-blue Aussie, came also to refer to a quintessential Australian, straightforward, loyal and supportive of his mates.

These phrases are so widely known that they have become clichés. They’ve been shortened again to true-blue in the same sense as the originals for something characteristically Australian (“Christmas in Australia: Howzat for a true-blue celebration”, headlined The Australian in December 2014). It has also borrowed a sense from another attribute of a classical Australian — a genuine person or thing (just like dinkum, explicitly equated here in the same newspaper in May 2015: “There’s plenty of support for the true blue, fair dinkum idea”.)

American readers will be poised to tell me that true blue is common in their country, too. It describes a committed supporter of some cause or a loyal fan. In the political sense it’s often applied to the Democrats but a person can also be a true-blue Republican, loyalty being more significant than conventional party colours.

Clothing optional

My daily newspaper doesn’t often feature naked bodies — it’s not that kind of journal — so on opening it a few days ago I was mildly surprised to be faced, if that’s the right word, with a large photo of a naked guy’s bottom.

The male in the pic had been snapped while protesting against a ban on nudity in San Francisco in 2013. But the text alongside was a review of Mark Haskell Smith’s new book, Naked at Lunch: The Adventures of a Reluctant Nudist, in which he investigates non-sexual social nudism, as he is careful to describe it.

Cheeky

The most striking part of the review, ignoring the cheeky pic, were the words nakation and nakationing, both new to Brits. In context, it was obvious the words were an amalgamation of naked and vacation. That had to make it an American word; despite the increasing popularity of staycation in the UK, vacation is not the usual term for a break from work. We take holidays. (A uniregional version might help transatlantic communication. Anyone up for trying holication? We may reject vacaday as being silly.)

Nakation hasn’t achieved even the same small popularity as staycation, though it pops up from time to time. It seems to have appeared first in the Washington Post in February 2008. A piece about words for holidays cited a press release from the American Association for Nude Recreation (newsletter The Undressed Press). Their website attaches an R in a circle for a registered trademark to it wherever it appears, so presumably they invented it, though if they were hoping for big things from it they’ve been disappointed.

I also learn from the site that I’ve missed this year’s World Naked Gardening Day. Not in my rose garden, thank you.

Hands off?

A contributor to another language mailing list mentioned an announcement from Subaru about the failure of a device designed to stop the car if a frontal collision was imminent. In the light of this defect, Subaru wrote, the driver will now have to “manually apply the brake pedal”. Did this mean, the contributor asked, that manually can now also mean performed by the foot?

What was surely in the contributor’s mind was that manual and manually ultimately derive from Latin manus, hand. But as almost always there’s more to it than an argument from etymology.

As it happens, classical Latin seems not to have had a specific word for doing something by hand. The direct ancestor of our manual is Latin manuālis, something held in the hand or of a size to fill the hand. The ideas of “worked by hand” and “working with his hands” come into English a thousand years ago via Anglo-Norman French, in which manuel meant doing something with the hands but particularly physical labour rather than mental activity.

This distinction remains fundamental. As manual labour necessarily involved the hands through wielding tools, this allowed the ancient link with the source of the word to remain at the back of the mind.

The development of self-executing machinery in the past hundred years or so has led to a new sense for manually — we now contrast it with automatically. We meet this most often as a choice between automatic or manual gearboxes in cars but from as early as the late nineteenth century telephone exchanges could be automatic or manual. These days, computers often do jobs without requiring human intervention, so a sentence from What Personal Computer in 1991 makes sense: “The computer-generated statement of accounts couldn’t be used, and had to be recalculated manually.”

Conflict between this new sense and the traditional one does sometimes lead to odd phrasings. A 1942 issue of Diesel Power magazine, found by American researcher Garson O’Toole, reported: “Auto-Lite Two-Step Starting Motors are available in both manual (foot-pedal operated) and automatic (push button operated) types.” The Oakland Tribute of California noted in 1960 that “The surrey was originally operated manually by pedals.”

However, such confusions are rare (otherwise I suspect pedally would be much more often encountered) and because writers are thankfully well aware of the underlying incongruity.

elsewhere

Elsewhere
  • Last Sunday was the hundredth anniversary of the death of Dr James A H Murray, the first editor of the Oxford English Dictionary, a centenary that has gone almost unmarked, alas. Peter Gilliver wrote about the career of this extraordinary man two years ago.
  • David Bagwell tells us about a wonderful collection of maps showing where and how people swear in the US, based on the analysis of a vast compendium of geotagged Twitter messages. The maps are the result of research by Jack Grieve of Aston University in the UK and are hosted on Stan Carey’s blog Strong Language. Not for the easily offended!
  • No swearing in Oxford Dictionaries four quizzes, How Good is Your British English and equivalents for Canadian, American and Australian Englishes. Once you’ve tried one or two, have a go at your own variety of the language to see if you agree with its compilers.

Sic!

SIC

A message came from Ron Miller in Cupertino, California, telling us that the title of a recent lecture in his local public library was “Replace Your Lawn With Stephanie Morris.”

Paul Kuppinger reports that he found this sentence in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle of 11 July about the poet Adelaide Crapsey: “She never did quite receive national fame or poetic immorality.” It has, understandably, now been corrected.

“I wonder if he used one of those circus cannons?” was Loren Myer’s comment on  a headline in the Orlando Sentinel of Florida on 20 July: “Apopka man accused of shooting stepdaughter’s teen boyfriend out of jail.”

Thanks to Michael Harvey for telling us about an Australian zombie sighting in the Sydney Morning Herald of 16 July: “Teens found the woman’s body walking on north shore.”

The image of a hysterical currency came to mind on reading a BBC News item of 11 July, seen by Jeremy Evans: “EU President Donald Tusk said [the meeting] would be a ‘last chance’ for Greece to secure a deal and avoid exciting the euro.”

The Guardian hasn’t yet corrected an error in a report of 5 July about the Greek financial crisis, spotted by Dennis Felmlee: “There was evidence that large expatriates were coming back for the referendum and that most leaned towards voting yes.

World Wide Words Issue 915

(CLICK ON)

(CLICK ON)

– WIF Style

World Wide Words Issue 915 – WIF Style

Leave a comment

WIF Grammar 101-001

World Wide Words

Issue 915

from Michael Quinion

Feedback, Notes and Comments

letter-to-editor

Vigintillion. Following my piece on this and other words for big numbers, all ending in -illion, Steven Burkeman wrote, “Your piece calls to mind the (sadly, probably apocryphal) story about President George W Bush who, on being told by Donald Rumsfeld that three Brazilian soldiers had been killed in Iraq, looked shocked and close to collapse, then pulled himself round, and nervously asked ‘How many millions in a brazillion?’”

Richard Friedberg noted that in discussions of computer storage capacity the terms for big numbers don’t stop with the yotta- prefix (10 24). Some sites list xenottabyte (1027), shilentnobyte (1030), domegemegrottebyte (10 33), icosebyte  (10 36) and monicosebyte (10 39) as continuations of the established set. I can’t find out who invented these, nor anything about their etymology. They appear rarely, either in lists of numbers big enough to boggle the mind or as indications of numbers that are likely to be needed if data storage continues to increase at its current rate. All appearances are within the past six years, though one source claims to have obtained it from a 1996 webpage.

My school maths teacher would be saddened to see me describe vigintillion as 10 followed by 120 zeros (10120). It should of course be 1 followed by 120 zeros. Similarly for all other numbers expressed as powers of 10. Thanks to all the numerate readers who pointed that out.

Vertical file.

Many readers told me, following my snippet about this term used by the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, that it is well known to them, but most often for a standard method of storing documents in a filing cabinet. However, Pete Jones wrote, “I was a European Commission official from 1974 to 2005 and can assure you that vertical filing as a euphemism for binning something was in use then. Boris Johnson’s dad worked at the Commission for a while, so might have passed the expression on.” Anneli Kavald and several other readers suggested: “One possible source is that it’s a word-by-word translation of the French classement vertical , meaning to put something directly in the dustbin.” I had asked Boris Johnson about his usage when writing the original piece; a reply eventually came from his executive assistant, who said that the mayor meant “the report won’t be acted upon and will languish on some dusty shelf for years to come”.

Some who wrote mentioned that the wastepaper basket was known to them as the round file or the circular file and others that dropping a document in it was filing it in bin 13. Why 13? Was it superstition that led to its use?

Hingle. Tony Long, who mentioned his foster father had been a professional poacher, commented, “To us in East Sussex, a hingle was a snare that lifted the victim out of the reach of passing stoats and foxes. Some locals used it for any kind of trap involving a trigger. None of us would have called an ordinary loop-prop-and-peg snare a hingle. This seems to fit with the ‘hinge’ link quite well.”

Latrinalia

Graffiti-001

A newspaper report in July 2015 about the reopening of long abandoned and forgotten Second World War tunnels in the white cliffs of Dover mentioned the latrinalia that had been found there.

We may correctly surmise that the word is linked to latrine. The -alia suffix indicates a collection, often implying triviality — a good example is marginalia and   latrinalia was presumably created by analogy with it. Latrinalia is graffiti on lavatory walls.

Latrine is from Latin. The Romans have bequeathed us much scatological or bawdy text on lavatory or brothel walls. Many have been recorded in Pompeii and Herculaneum, preserved by the eruption of Vesuvius in AD79 that buried the towns in ash. Most are too rude for this column but this one is in the Casa della Gemma (the House of the Gem) in Herculaneum: “Apollinaris, medicus Titi Imperatoris hic cacavit bene.” (“Apollinaris, doctor to the emperor Titus, had a good crap here.”)

Despite their seeming fondness for graffiti, I’m told the Romans didn’t have a specific word for writings on walls, but called them just writings, sometimes trivial or offensive writings (Latin taedia; we get tedium from the same source, though in classical Latin taedium could also mean an object of loathing or disgust).

So latrinalia is modern. It was coined by the late Alan Dundes, a pioneering academic folklorist at the University of California, Berkeley. He wrote — among much else — about the homosexual symbolism of American football, the Bible as folklore and the social significance of jokes. He showed that folklore isn’t found only in ancient ritual, fables and superstitions but in contemporary cartoons, poems and lore such as urban legends.

Dundas coined latrinalia in his 1966 paper Here I Sit — A Study of American Latrinalia. Archaeologists and folklorists use it for this subset of graffiti, though the general public hardly knows it.

How are you saying that?

Widespread broadcast coverage of the flyby of Pluto by the New Horizons spacecraft led to criticism of the pronunciation of the name of the planet’s largest and innermost moon, Charon. Officially, it’s from Greek mythology, the name of the ferryman who conveyed the souls of the departed across the river Styx into the underworld, whose god, Hades, was often euphemistically called Pluto, the rich one (hence plutocracy) because of all the good stuff that comes from the earth. So Charon ought to have an initial k sound, as the dictionaries firmly say. But some astronomers pronounce it with an initial sh.

The reason lies in the story behind its naming by the American astronomer James Christy, who discovered the moon in 1978. He suggested modifying his wife’s name, Charlene, by adding -on to its first element to match the names of elementary particles like proton and meson. Hence, Charon. He wasn’t well up on Greek mythology and was surprised and pleased to find that it fitted neatly. The International Astronomical Union (IAU), arbiter of celestial nomenclature, preferred the Greek mythological origin to the personal one and so implied the word should have an initial k sound. But many American astronomers, those in the New Horizon team especially, know where the name really came from and say it with initial sh as an in-joke, to the annoyance of classically aware listeners unaware of the story.

Pluto has five known moons, the others being Styx, Nix, Kerberos and Hydra. Nix is also spelled Nyx, the Greek goddess of the night, the mother of Charon. Hydra is the nine-headed monster slain by Hercules, the nine referring to Pluto being the ninth planet in the solar system. A related beast guarded the entrance to the underworld, the three-headed watchdog whose name is spelled in English as Cerberus and said with an initial s. In that spelling, it came second in a public poll in 2013 to name the moons. But the IAU prefers the classical Kerberos so it’s always pronounced with an initial k.

Gulled?

Reports in British newspapers these past few days have featured the menace from seagulls, particularly in Cornwall. Earlier this month a dog was killed by a seagull in that county and a tortoise died after being flipped over and pecked to death. The birds are brazen in grabbing food from visitors and in doing so have caused injuries. Young people have taken advantage by inventing a game called gull running. It’s said to have started in Whitby but has since spread to other seaside towns. One person holds food above their head — usually fish and chips — and runs a set course. The winner is whoever can run the furthest without a seagull grabbing the food.

One correspondent to my newspaper was less concerned about the physical injuries the birds can cause than about the purity of language. There are no such things as seagulls, he argued. In the UK there are herring, great black-backed, lesser black-backed, black-headed and common gulls and the kittiwake, but something called a seagull doesn’t exist. A touch pedantic, perhaps? We may be sure it won’t change his view to be told that English has had seagull as a popular collective term since medieval times.

True blue

Q. From Rob Nachum: I am in lexicological heaven for having found your site. Thank you. For random curiosity, I clicked on smithereens. Within the piece is a quote from an Irish Catholic signed as “True Blue”. As an Australian, true blue is equivalent to dinkum or dinky di , meaning honest or genuine. But would it be a stretch to hypothesise that your quoted “True Blue” refers to an Irish-Catholic symbolism that was transported literally and figuratively to Australia by the convicts in the late 1700s to early 1800s? Is to be true blue Australian nothing more than a convict Catholic-Irish relic?

A. There are connections between the two usages, but Australian English has much modified the usual British English sense. In Britain (as it has for the past two centuries), the term means a staunch supporter of the Conservative Party, a person of right-wing views. In Canada, it also suggests conservative opinions. In Australia, however, it instead became associated with the working class and the Labor Party and has developed from there.

The link is loyalty.

In medieval Europe blue was the colour of faithfulness or constancy, whose opposite was green. A poem of about 1450, Against Women Unconstant — some claim it was written by Geoffrey Chaucer — criticises an unsteadfast woman for being like a weathercock, that turns its face with every wind; it says, “In stede of blew, thus may ye were al greene.”

True blue starts to be recorded in the 1630s. The story used to be told that the city of Coventry in the English midlands was famous for dyeing a blue that would neither change colour nor fade in washing, and that true blue was coined to indicate a person who would likewise never alter their principles nor their allegiances. We may prefer to think that Coventry had nothing to do with the matter but that true blue was simply an almost inevitable rhyming extension whose meaning was based on the ancient associations of the colour. A proverb, first recorded around 1630, “True blue will never stain”, embodied the ideal of constancy in the figurative stain but that may have been prompted by the blue aprons traditionally worn by butchers in order not to show bloodstains.

Blue began to be associated with politics in Scotland in the seventeenth century through Scottish Presbyterians who formed the Whig party, notably to oppose Charles II being succeeded by his brother James in 1688. Their equivalents in England were the Tories, originally a term for dispossessed Irish people who became outlaws but which became a nickname for English conservatives in the following century (and, of course, is still much used). The 1810 quotation you mention places it in this context.

In Australia, the first meaning was the British one — many letters to newspapers in the nineteenth century advocating conservative views are signed True Blue. (The term was used later in the century for abstainers who joined temperance organisations.) Near the end of the century, it began to be applied to striking workers who were loyal to their comrades and steadfast in resistance. The Advertiser of Adelaide, reporting on 29 September 1890 about a strike of sheep shearers in New South Wales, quoted a telegram sent to the Shearers’ Union: “The men are true blue, and will rather be imprisoned than yield.”

The working-class associations remain (and occur also in blue-collar from the US with a different origin) but from early in the twentieth century true blue, especially in true blue Australian and true-blue Aussie, came also to refer to a quintessential Australian, straightforward, loyal and supportive of his mates.

These phrases are so widely known that they have become clichés. They’ve been shortened again to true-blue in the same sense as the originals for something characteristically Australian (“Christmas in Australia: Howzat for a true-blue celebration”, headlined The Australian in December 2014). It has also borrowed a sense from another attribute of a classical Australian — a genuine person or thing (just like dinkum, explicitly equated here in the same newspaper in May 2015: “There’s plenty of support for the true blue, fair dinkum idea”.)

American readers will be poised to tell me that true blue is common in their country, too. It describes a committed supporter of some cause or a loyal fan. In the political sense it’s often applied to the Democrats but a person can also be a true-blue Republican, loyalty being more significant than conventional party colours.

Clothing optional

My daily newspaper doesn’t often feature naked bodies — it’s not that kind of journal — so on opening it a few days ago I was mildly surprised to be faced, if that’s the right word, with a large photo of a naked guy’s bottom.

The male in the pic had been snapped while protesting against a ban on nudity in San Francisco in 2013. But the text alongside was a review of Mark Haskell Smith’s new book, Naked at Lunch: The Adventures of a Reluctant Nudist, in which he investigates non-sexual social nudism, as he is careful to describe it.

Cheeky

The most striking part of the review, ignoring the cheeky pic, were the words nakation and nakationing, both new to Brits. In context, it was obvious the words were an amalgamation of naked and vacation. That had to make it an American word; despite the increasing popularity of staycation in the UK, vacation is not the usual term for a break from work. We take holidays. (A uniregional version might help transatlantic communication. Anyone up for trying holication? We may reject vacaday as being silly.)

Nakation hasn’t achieved even the same small popularity as staycation, though it pops up from time to time. It seems to have appeared first in the Washington Post in February 2008. A piece about words for holidays cited a press release from the American Association for Nude Recreation (newsletter The Undressed Press). Their website attaches an R in a circle for a registered trademark to it wherever it appears, so presumably they invented it, though if they were hoping for big things from it they’ve been disappointed.

I also learn from the site that I’ve missed this year’s World Naked Gardening Day. Not in my rose garden, thank you.

Hands off?

A contributor to another language mailing list mentioned an announcement from Subaru about the failure of a device designed to stop the car if a frontal collision was imminent. In the light of this defect, Subaru wrote, the driver will now have to “manually apply the brake pedal”. Did this mean, the contributor asked, that manually can now also mean performed by the foot?

What was surely in the contributor’s mind was that manual and manually ultimately derive from Latin manus, hand. But as almost always there’s more to it than an argument from etymology.

As it happens, classical Latin seems not to have had a specific word for doing something by hand. The direct ancestor of our manual is Latin manuālis, something held in the hand or of a size to fill the hand. The ideas of “worked by hand” and “working with his hands” come into English a thousand years ago via Anglo-Norman French, in which manuel meant doing something with the hands but particularly physical labour rather than mental activity.

This distinction remains fundamental. As manual labour necessarily involved the hands through wielding tools, this allowed the ancient link with the source of the word to remain at the back of the mind.

The development of self-executing machinery in the past hundred years or so has led to a new sense for manually — we now contrast it with automatically. We meet this most often as a choice between automatic or manual gearboxes in cars but from as early as the late nineteenth century telephone exchanges could be automatic or manual. These days, computers often do jobs without requiring human intervention, so a sentence from What Personal Computer in 1991 makes sense: “The computer-generated statement of accounts couldn’t be used, and had to be recalculated manually.”

Conflict between this new sense and the traditional one does sometimes lead to odd phrasings. A 1942 issue of Diesel Power magazine, found by American researcher Garson O’Toole, reported: “Auto-Lite Two-Step Starting Motors are available in both manual (foot-pedal operated) and automatic (push button operated) types.” The Oakland Tribute of California noted in 1960 that “The surrey was originally operated manually by pedals.”

However, such confusions are rare (otherwise I suspect pedally would be much more often encountered) and because writers are thankfully well aware of the underlying incongruity.

elsewhere

Elsewhere
  • Last Sunday was the hundredth anniversary of the death of Dr James A H Murray, the first editor of the Oxford English Dictionary, a centenary that has gone almost unmarked, alas. Peter Gilliver wrote about the career of this extraordinary man two years ago.
  • David Bagwell tells us about a wonderful collection of maps showing where and how people swear in the US, based on the analysis of a vast compendium of geotagged Twitter messages. The maps are the result of research by Jack Grieve of Aston University in the UK and are hosted on Stan Carey’s blog Strong Language. Not for the easily offended!
  • No swearing in Oxford Dictionaries four quizzes, How Good is Your British English and equivalents for Canadian, American and Australian Englishes. Once you’ve tried one or two, have a go at your own variety of the language to see if you agree with its compilers.

Sic!

SIC

A message came from Ron Miller in Cupertino, California, telling us that the title of a recent lecture in his local public library was “Replace Your Lawn With Stephanie Morris.”

Paul Kuppinger reports that he found this sentence in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle of 11 July about the poet Adelaide Crapsey: “She never did quite receive national fame or poetic immorality.” It has, understandably, now been corrected.

“I wonder if he used one of those circus cannons?” was Loren Myer’s comment on  a headline in the Orlando Sentinel of Florida on 20 July: “Apopka man accused of shooting stepdaughter’s teen boyfriend out of jail.”

Thanks to Michael Harvey for telling us about an Australian zombie sighting in the Sydney Morning Herald of 16 July: “Teens found the woman’s body walking on north shore.”

The image of a hysterical currency came to mind on reading a BBC News item of 11 July, seen by Jeremy Evans: “EU President Donald Tusk said [the meeting] would be a ‘last chance’ for Greece to secure a deal and avoid exciting the euro.”

The Guardian hasn’t yet corrected an error in a report of 5 July about the Greek financial crisis, spotted by Dennis Felmlee: “There was evidence that large expatriates were coming back for the referendum and that most leaned towards voting yes.

World Wide Words Issue 915

(CLICK ON)

(CLICK ON)

– WIF Style

WORLD WIDE WORDS Issue 889 – WIF Style

Leave a comment

 

ISSUE 889

ISSUE 889

 

(hover)

(hover)

World Wide Words

Issue 889: Saturday 2 August 2014

Feedback, Notes and Comments

Pleasant gales. Following up the comment last week by Pat Spaeth about a poem with the line “A pleasant gale is on our lee”, arguing that there can be no such thing as a pleasant gale at sea, readers pointed out that the meaning of gale hasn’t always been the same as our modern one. The Oxford English Dictionary notes Dr Johnson’s definition, “a wind not tempestuous, but stronger than a breeze”, and records that in poetical language it could mean a gentle breeze.

Several readers mentioned a well-known example in Alexander Pope’s poem Summer: “Where-e’er you walk, cool gales shall fan the glade”. The OED also has several early examples in seafaring contexts of pleasant gale. In An Accidenc! e, a book for young seamen of 1626, John Smith gave a set of names for winds of increasing strength: “A calme, a brese, a fresh gayle, a pleasant gayle, a stiffe gayle”. John Robertson’s The Elements of Navigation of 1772 asserted that “A common brisk gale is about 15 miles an hour.” On the Beaufort scale, a moderate gale (force 7) is at least twice that speed and a whole gale (force 10) averages about 60 mph, which seems to confirm that a gale now blows more fiercely than it used to.

Blooper. As expected, readers corrected my knowledge of baseball. Professor Laurence Horn emailed from Yale: “Not to rub it in, but your modesty about your baseball expertise is, I fear, as well-deserved as it is becoming. A blooper (aka Texas leaguer) is not an embarrassing error for the fielders, or at least not necessarily.” Richard Hershberger explained, “It is a poorly hit weak fly ball that ordinarily would be easily caught, but through luck lands where no fielder can reach it. The embarrassment is to the batter, as nobody makes such a hit on purpose. The embarrassment is, however, considerably lessened by getting on base safely.”

Jeremy Shaw and Roger Johnson asked about the closely similar but independently created bloomer, known in Britain and Australia, though now rather dated. The evidence suggests that it appeared in Australia in the late nineteenth century as a contraction of blooming error, where blooming is a much older euphemism for bloody. Its earliest record is in the Dictionary of Slang, Jargon and Cant by Albert Barrère and Charles Godfrey Leland, published in Edinburgh in 1889. They say that it began as Australian prison slang.

Véraison. I made a minor blooper or bloomer myself last week by suggesting that the creation of véraison was influenced by raisin, grape. Readers told me that the word is indeed derived from the obsolete French verb vérir, as I explained, but by adding the agent suffix -aison. Any similarity to raisin is accidental.

Epilimnion

Have you ever swum in the warm water of a lake in summer and found when treading water that your feet suddenly became uncomfortably cold? If so, you experienced something that limnologists, experts on lakes, describe by the rather splendid and poetic-sounding pair epilimnion and hypolimnion.

When the sun heats a smallish body of water, the topmost layer of water warms up, but because warm water is less dense than cold, it stays on top. That top area is the epilimnion.

The cold water below it, which may not warm up much during the summer if the lake is at all deep, is the hypolimnion.

The root of both epilimnion and hypolimnion is the classical Greek limnion, the diminutive of limne, a lake. Limnologist and the subject of study, limnology, are very closely related — they derive from limne. Epi- is Greek for upon or above, while hypo- is from Greek hupo, under.

The epilimnion and hypolimnion are separated by a thinnish layer where the temperature drops quickly. You might guess this is sometimes called the metalimnion (Greek meta-, with or across), though it’s commonly referred to as the thermocline.

Most examples of epilimnion are in scientific contexts, though it also crops up very occasionally in SF:

The brown sphere was spotted after some days by a prowling ameba, quiescent in the eternal winter of the bottom. Down there the temperature was always an even 4°, no matter what the season, but it was unheard of that a spore should be found there while the high epilimnion was still warm and rich in oxygen.
Surface Tension, by James Blish, 1952.

Wordface

Such odd. Much cute. So passing fad. The internet phenomenon of doge has been fashionable for some months now and has attracted the interest of linguists. It originally tagged pictures of the Japanese dog breed shiba inu (in multicoloured Comic Sans font), so the name is a deliberate misspelling of dog (no link with the one-time ruler of Venice; don’t ask how it’s said as wars have been started over less and the consensus seems to be “any way you want”). Doge pairs a modifier and a noun to create a dissonant phrase. The main doge modifiers are much, many, so, very, such, plus three words that can be used by themselves: wow, amaze and excite. Typical phrases are very eat, <em!>much grumpy, so trick, which usually have meaning only when written on a photo. But I found a retelling of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet in doge, which begins:

What light. So breaks. Such east. Very sun. Wow, Juliet.
What Romeo. Such why. Very rose. Still rose.
Very balcony. Such climb.
Much love. So propose. Wow, marriage.

What interests linguists is that it’s much more than just bad English. It has a strict grammar that deliberately subverts the standard one. You have to have a sophisticated intuitive understanding of English to write good doge. A newbie user wrote “Much respect. So noble” and was immediately corrected because it was too conventional — it should be “Much noble. So respect.” An article in the Daily Telegraph in February was headlined, “Doge: such grammar. Very rules. Most linguistics. Wow”, which pretty much sums it up.

Barred entry. Angry items have appeared in British newspapers about the phenomenon of poor doors in London. The developers of blocks of luxury flats in the capital are required to set aside part for lower-income families, under the title of affordable housing. The press was commenting on the practice of providing separate entrances to such flats, without the reception and concierge facilities provided to richer tenants and even separating rubbish disposal and postal deliveries. The term poor doors, a neat rhyming construction, is said to have been coined in 2013 for the same phenomenon in New York.

Nail

Q From Peter Heimler: One word that has always puzzled me is nail. Why is the thing on the end of our fingers called the same as the thing that fixes wood together? It would end years of wondering if you would be so kind as to get to the bottom of this.

A The connection is ancient. It appears in one of the earliest documents in English, dating from the early eighth century.

The text, in the Parker Library at Corpus Christi College in Cambridge, has become known as the Corpus Glossary. It’s a list of Latin words with their Old English equivalents. Nail is included twice in its Old English form naegl, once to translate a variant of the classical Latin unguis for a finger or toe nail, the other the words paxillum and palum for a wooden pin or peg.

The experts say that naegl derives from a prehistoric Indo-European root that became not only unguis but also Greek onux and other words of the same meaning in most of the languages of Europe.

The original senses of the Latin and Greek words could be a finger or toe nail, but both were also used for the horny endings of the toes of cattle, horses, birds and other beasts, for which we now have the separate words hoof, claw and talon.

A link in shape between claws and pointed fasteners of wood or metal seems to have been established in prehistory, centuries before it was written down in the Corpus Glossary.

Sic!

• Catherine Pantsios and Keith Underwood mentioned a New York Times article on 27 July about marketing toys to diverse demographics: “‘Right now there are more multicultural children being born under the age of 5,’ said Lisa Williams, chief executive of World of EPI.”

• The Northbrook Tower, which covers a suburb of Chicago, intrigued Douglas Downey on 24 July: “Smeltzer said the fire was distinguished ‘within the first 10 minutes’ of arrival by utilizing two hose lines.”

• David Coe told us about a brief story in the Sarasota Herald Tribune of 30 July about Crayola Inc that mentioned: “Mike Perry, the 111 year old company’s chief executive officer.”

• A front-page story in the Comox Valley Echo of 29 July caused Peter Blackmore to wonder how the aircraft ever got off the ground: “The fights follows [sic] the success during the Shellfish Festival in June when more than 100 people took to the sky in one of the company’s 14-seat DHC-3 Single Otter planes.”

• Joel Berson reported on another list that Trader Joe recently issued a recall notice for its California stone fruits, listing the products concerned with the helpful heading “Sold Individually (by the each)”.

• Thanks to Nick Willmott we know that the BBC online news for South West Wales of 25 July had this quote: “We have some really rampant gulls in Tenby, viciously attacking people with ice cream or chips.”

• Lynn Whinery found this caption on the CNN website on 31 July: “A truck carrying an unsecured ax flew through the windshield of the vehicle driving behind it down the highway. Luckily, no injuries.”

WORLD WIDE WORDS Issue 889 – WIF Style