Sunday, April 26, 2009
Thursday, April 23, 2009
On this topic, I found an amusing YouTube video, "Houston, We Have a Solution".
On another note, there are plans underway for a musical about the life of Jade Goody. No, I am not making it up. What I want to know is if they can have a musical about Jade Goody, what about Princess Diana? Or Anna Nicole Smith? Or anyone else who spent unhealthy amounts of time in the public limelight only to die a tragic death? Where's the sense of equality? Or, maybe they should just not bother.
Beki's telling me off for moaning because I ate a whole bar of chocolate and now feel sick. Lucy was being nice (which is worth being recorded for prosperity), but as soon as I started writing it, she stopped. Never mind. According to Lucy, I'm a geek. She might be right, though. In other news, I hardly slept because some wacko was playing very repetitive music till four in the morning. Ok, I'm off to revise.
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
And now for today's enigmatic etymology: asparagus
Asparagus, the vegetable, comes from the greek word asparagos. However, folk etymology has resulted in various variants of the name, such as 'sparrowgrass', or even 'asper grass' or 'spar grass' due to the resemblence of these pronunciations to the Greek. Folk etymology has also led to other corruptions in English, such as the silent 's' in island. The word comes from Medieval English iland from ieg ("island") + land, but because of its similarity to 'isle', which derives from Latin via Old French, an "s" was inserted. False etymology has even led to the resignation of a US public official, who used the word 'niggardly' and was accused of racism because of its similarity to the N-word. Although the origins of the former are unclear, it precedes the latter, which derives from the Latin word niger, meaning "black". In a similar vein, a paediatrician in Wales had her car and house vandalised by vigilantes confusing her profession with the word 'paedophile'. After the murder of Sara Payne in 2000, the News of the World, a newspaper not worth the wood pulp it's printed on, launched a name and shame campaign that led to a witch hunt including, as well as the attack against the doctor, driving five innocent families from their homes in Portsmouth.
Sunday, April 19, 2009
In other news
I'm going back to Paris tomorrow. For the last time! Soon, I'll be leaving. How tragic.
There are several words which come from place names, even though their links with that place may well not be that evident. Here are some examples.
- Turkey: although arriving from North America, the origins of these large birds of the order Meleagris seem to have escaped Europeans. In several European languages, the bird is named after a place where it isn't actually from. Apart from the English naming it after the country occupying the Anatolian peninsula, confusing it with the similarly named bird the turkey fowl, the French named the bird dinde ("from India", or d'Inde) and the Portuguese named the bird peru. A similar geographical inaccuracy arose in the word gypsy. Although gypsies, or the Romani, most probably come from India, the name reflects the belief that they came from Egypt.
- Brummagem: This word can be used as either a noun or an adjective, and describes something that is showy but worthless, or a counterfit. It comes from a local pronunciation for the English city Birmingham, where counterfit coins were made in the 17th century.
- Milliner: A milliner is a hat-maker, and his trade is millinery. This word derives from the word "Milaner", or an inhabitant of Milan, a city that is still today renowned for its fashion industry.
- Denim: The hardy fabric derives its name from another fabric, serge, which was manufactered in the French town of Nîmes. It was thus called serge de Nîmes, which was shortened to denim. Denim is most associated with clothing like jeans. The word jean itself derives from the French word for Genoa (Gênes). Another item of clothing made from denim, dungarees, possibly derives its name from an Indian village Dangidi, or from the Dongari Killa fort, both in or near modern-day Mumbai.
- Also named after Mumbai is the Bombay duck, which, despite its name, is not a duck but a type of fish.
And that's all for now.
I personally feel sorry for the girl at 1:23 who rolls her eyes incredulously. She's been pointed out individually, but she was only doing what everyone else was doing. But Susan's story is a perfect example of the old saying, "Don't judge a book by its cover."
Saturday, April 18, 2009
The next day, I arrived in Angleterre. Since being back, I haven't done too much: I've visited relatives, seen friends, done some clothes shopping. Thomas's girlfriend visited for several days (having left about half an hour ago), and this was the first time I've properly met her. I apparently met her once before she and my brother were going out (I hate that expression), but I'll be damned if I can remember.
Since I like words, I think I'll add an 'enigmatic etymology' to the odd entry, following my post from eons back of the same name. Today's word is: cretin. The word means:
- a person suffering from cretinism.
- a stupid, obtuse, or mentally defective person. (dictionary.com)
Although the etymology is somewhat disputed, the most commonly accepted theory, is that, deriving from French, the word ultimately has the same origins as the English word 'Christian'. Does this mean that all Christians are cretins (or vice versa)? Well, not really. The word 'christian' gained the meaning of 'cretin' via the following route. In Franco-Provençal, a language spoken in the south of France and northern Italy, the word creitin/crestin (Christian) gained the more general meaning of 'person', since everyone in the area was a Christian. In a similar vein, to ask someone in Greece if they're Greek, you can ask if they're Orthodox. The form creitin then began to be applied to people with mental handicaps (apparently cretinism was common in the south of France), to highlight their humanity despite their disability. It then became adopted in standard French to refer to someone suffering from cretinism, a condition of stunted physical and mental growth due to a lack of thyroid hormones as a foetus, or a lack of intake of iodine. After this, cretin became a term to describe a stupid person, but has now become one of the several words associated with deformities (spastic, idiot, dumb) to have become politically incorrect to use.
Tuesday, April 07, 2009
I always feel restless for a few days before travelling; right now I feel homesick, even though I'm going home tomorrow. It's odd, because I hardly ever feel homesick when a departure home isn't imminent.
My local supermarket, Auchan, has changed its name to Simply Market. The Académie française must be apoplectic about this; not only is it a corruption of the French language, but it doesn't even make sense in English. Its new slogan is "Be happy ! Be simply.", which is translated, as required by the loi Toubon, as "simplement heureux". At least the translation makes grammatical sense. I first read it as "be happy, be simple", and thought it was an instruction to reject consumerism and live as a Mennonite, which would have been inspiring if it were true. I don't particularly understand the French's obsession with dubious English (un people, le shampooing...), but it looks like it's here to stay.
Friday, April 03, 2009
Having two friends here over the weekend was really cool, but very tiring. We did a heck of a lot, but the highlights for me was going to Dans le Noir?, a restaurant where you eat in pitch darkness, so you can experience what it is like to be blind. All the waiters are blind, and the menu is a surprise, so you don't know what you're eating until they tell you at the end. Of course, you can specify the menu to some extent, such as no fish or nuts. But the food was good, and also varied; both the main and the dessert was really an ensemble of several smaller dishes, so there was a range in taste and texture, which made the experience even more interesting. There was definitely something that everyone on the table loved, and something they hated. I'd definitely recommend it; even though it's quite expensive (38€) it's a worthwhile experience, and something I'll remember. There's one in London too.
The other experience I really enjoyed was going inside the Palais Garnier, as I've seen the outside, which is beautiful, but I've never been inside. Going around it definitely makes me want to go to the opera, so afterwards, we decided to plan a trip to the Royal Opera House in London for this summer! And on another note, I mentioned in passing, "I'd like to go to Italy". Within an hour at most, Ali was saying, "So, when we go to Italy...". I told her she'd have to arrange it! Should be fun!
On Wednesday, I went to see an interesting film with Natasha, The Burning Plain, directed by the scriptwriter for Babel, which was a very good film, but unfortunately I lost my bag somewhere that evening. And even more unfortunately, I was borrowing a book from someone, which was in the bag, so I'm going to have to buy another copy. It's very annoying, since I've been really good about not loosing things in Paris, but in the last two/three months I've lost quite a lot of things. Either it's just that things always seem to come in groups, or it's the stress of it being my last semester at uni.
On another note (my last, I promise), on my brother's blog, he talks about Christians who refuse to support non-Christian charities. Thomas expressed his disappointment much more tactfully than I am going to: I think that this is appalling. It's narrow-minded and unbiblical. Christians are called to support justice for everyone, and in everything we do. Social justice isn't a pick-n-mix affair, it should be our way of life. We can't choose to let children be abused in a country which isn't Christian, or not to support a charity because it isn't Christian, we should fight justice where we see it whenever we can. Of course, we can't support every charity in the world, but if there is a situation where we can make a stand, we should, regardless of who we are making a stand with. If his friends said, "I'm not going to support this charity, because it's not Christian, but I'm going to do this instead," then fine. But not doing anything is definitely worse than doing something with non-Christians. Others might be making a stand because of humanist values; Christians should make a stand because we are standing for justice. And as my brother says, our God is a God of justice.