Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Language, evolving

[Nancy, October 17, 2018. Click for a larger view.]

Today’s Nancy is a delight.

Related reading
All OCA Nancy posts (Pinboard)


Elaine and I went to a political debate last night, in which two candidates for the Illinois House of Representatives answered questions chosen by moderators from audience submissions. One direct question: are you an LGBTQ ally? The question was prefaced by a brief, clear definition of ally. One candidate answered “Yes,” spoke about bullying and discrimination, expressed a commitment to supporting LGBTQ issues, and avowed that LGBTQ people would be represented on her staff. The other candidate dodged the question of allyship. Instead, he avowed his belief in the Fourteenth Amendment, which, he said, meant that the question didn’t concern him. But then: he added that his family had had “a practicing homosexual” at dinner the other night. Good grief. Elaine and I just looked at each other. Other people looked at one another. A friend in front of us put her head in her hands. I think she was attempting to stifle her disbelief. We had just been given a reminder of where we live.

What I want to know: What was this “practicing homosexual” practicing? And why at the dinner table? And why couldn’t the candidate and his family have found someone already accomplished enough not to need practice?

Related reading
Stylebook entries for practicing and homosexual (NLGJA: The Association of LGBTQ Journalists)

[An exchange from The Honeymooners inspired this post. From “A Matter of Life and Death” (October 29, 1955): “Dr.
Norton, just exactly where do you practice medicine?“ “Oh, I don’t have to practice it, I know it.”]

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Words of the day: apricity, apricot

Paging through Ammon Shea’s Reading the “OED”: One Man, One Year, 21,730 Pages (2008), I noticed Shea noticing the word apricity::

Apricity (n.) The warmth of the sun in winter.

A strange and lovely word. The OED does not give any citation for its use except for Henry Cockeram’s 1623 English Dictionarie. Not to be confused with apricate (to bask in the sun), although both come from the Latin apricus, meaning exposed to the sun.
That’s the end of Shea’s entry. Cockeram defines apricity as “the warmeness of the Sunne in Winter.” A strange and lovely definition.

Does the word apricity prompt you to wonder about another, more familiar word? Yes, that’s right, apricot. Does that word have anything to do with apricity? No and yes.

The OED traces apricot to the Portuguese albricoque or Spanish albaricoque, later assimilated to the cognate French abricot (with a silent t). Similar words appear in Italian, Old Spanish, Spanish Arabic, Arabic, Latin, and Greek. The Latin praecoquum, “early-ripe, ripe in summer,” was an epithet and later a name for this fruit, originally called prūnum or mālum Armeniacum. The English word apricot is older than apricity.

Now here’s the fun part: the change from abr- to apr- may be the result of a mistaken etymology. In 1617 the English linguist and lexicographer John Minsheu explained the name of the fruit as deriving from Latin, “in aprīco coctus,” “ripened in a sunny place.” Oops. So apricot isn’t and is related to apricity. And what were apricots called before they were called apricots? Abrecockes, abrecox, abricocts, abricots, aphricokes, aprecox, apricocks.

Like the word apricity and Cockeram’s definition, the OED’s definition of apricot, too, is lovely and strange: “a stone-fruit allied to the plum, of an orange colour, roundish-oval shape, and delicious flavour.” Allied to the plum!

Cover stories

From The Washington Post:

As pressure mounted on Saudi Arabia to disclose what it knows about [Jamal] Khashoggi’s fate, U.S. officials began predicting over the weekend that the Saudis would inevitably admit complicity in the death of Khashoggi and claim a “botched operation,” said one person familiar with the discussions.
Was our president’s suggestion of “rogue killers” the advance effort to legitimize this cover story?

I’m reminded of what Captain Reynaud says about the courier Ugarte in Casablanca: “We haven’t quite decided whether he committed suicide or died trying to escape.”

Monday, October 15, 2018

Heroic handwriting

“I told the Ministry of Foreign Affairs it was a matter of humanity. I did not care if I lost my job. Anyone else would have done the same thing if they were in my place”: Chiune Sugihara saved lives with his handwriting.

Decorate, diagram

[Peanuts, October 18, 1971.]

Yesterday’s Peanuts is today’s Peanuts. But does anyone still diagram sentences Reed-Kellogg style? The book to read on these matters is Kitty Burns Florey’s Sister Bernadette’s Barking Dog: The Quirky History And Lost Art Of Diagramming Sentences (2006).

NPR, sheesh

Such deference this morning, NPR. Donald Trump wasn’t “making an argument” about climate change in his 60 Minutes interview. He was making an unfounded assertion: “Something’s changing and it’ll change back again.”

Related reading
All OCA sheesh posts (Pinboard)

[Argument: “a coherent series of reasons, statements, or facts intended to support or establish a point of view.” Assertion: “a declaration that something is the case.” Definitions from Merriam-Webster. The meanings of the two words make my statement about Trump an argument, not an assertion.]

Hallmark “trees”

The sappy, saccharine Hallmark movie Falling for Vermont has everything: a Famous Author, a cozy bookstore, a gazebo, even a “town meeting.” It’s a bit like Gilmore Girls with amnesia. That is, the protagonist has amnesia, not the movie itself.

An additional treat: the opportunity to watch for the same four or five gold- and orange-leafed artificial trees as they travel from scene to scene to scene to signify fall. Look, here come two of the trees now.

We saw most of Falling for Vermont last night. Me: “This has another hour to go.” Elaine: “That’s not a problem.” The movie airs again on October 20.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Main Streets

[Zippy, October 14, 2018.]

In the final panel of today’s Zippy, Griffy proclaims Main Streets “th’ antidote to strip mall America.” I love it. As Elaine will attest, I still fantasize about coming across a thriving downtown in some long-lost midwestern city. The closest we’ve ever come to it was in Jackson, Ohio, though that wasn’t close enough for me. Not downtown-y enough. Not Twilight Zone-y enough.

There’s a clue to location in today’s strip: the yellow sign reads “Waureg . . . otel.” That’s the Wauregan Hotel in Norwich, Connecticut. Here’s a view of Broadway from Griffy and Zippy’s perspective. Sigh.

Related reading
All OCA Zippy posts (Pinboard)
Main Street, Hackensack, New Jersey

Old barber, old joke

“I eat thin spaghetti, so I don’t get fat”: Anthony Mancinelli, 107, is the world’s oldest barber.