Your word of the day

This one apparently coined by D. F. Wallace in Infinite Jest, p. 177:

Formication, n., the condition of being infested with ants, in usage typically of the hallucinatory variety. Did I experience yes some ~ in detox? I did. (ibid)

There are some truly wonderful words in the English language.

On an unrelated thought: Just got back from a very nice Passover seder at the house of some friends of the family. Nice people, good food, and a great deal of singing. I do not know nearly enough of the old folk melodies, mostly since I didn’t grow up in a kibbutz where these things were omnipresent.

High point of the evening: Had gadia, one of the standard songs for the evening, complete with an illustrative shadow puppet show. The puppet representations of God and the angel of death were quite interesting, and the sound effects (added by the audience) just made it all work.

Published in: on April 16, 2003 at 22:22  Comments (10)  

Observations on words

[From some thoughts while slightly inebriated, last night]

The news story of the apocalyptic carp – the one which started to spout revelations in Hebrew in New York – was described as “ichthyological theology,” that is, Deus ex Piscem. In Hebrew one may refer to this as “Torah min hamayim” – Torah from the waters, as opposed to the more common Torah min shamayim, coming from the skies. (This is because “sky” – “shamayim” is actually a degenerated compound word, “sham-mayim”: there-water. “Sun” – “shemesh” – similarly degenerates from “sham-esh,” there-fire. This is a very old degeneration, probably predating Hebrew)

Ichthyological theology should not be confused with eschatological scatology (“Oh, shit. There goes the planet.”) nor scatological eschatology. (“Well, the world seems to be going to shit today…”)

On the subject of other word constructions, as I was discussing with hansandersen and doublefeh on the way home last night, Greek particles are fun. And there are some words that need to come into more widespread use: not just mythology but logomythy, the lore of learning, the secrets I tell my students about how to survive in physics; topology and topography need to be supplemented by topomythy, place-lore, not just an area knowledge but the stories of a locale; similarly mythography, the charting of legends, which keeps track of the ley lines and so on, and its linguistic dual graphomythy, the lore of mapmaking.

English is a great language.

Correction: It occurs to me that logomythy shouldn’t be the lore of study, but word-lore itself: that is, the content of this posting.

OK, I need to stop trying to avoid work now.

Published in: on March 16, 2003 at 11:39  Comments (17)  
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In Kaddish (one of the core Jewish prayers, a general statement of the blessing of the Name,
which is medieval in origin and in Aramaic) the name is said to be “blessed beyond all prayers
which are uttered in the world.” (da’amiran bealma)

However, this (standard) translation doesn’t quite seem correct. Da’amiran, which is usually translated
as “which are uttered,” should really be translated as “which can be uttered.” (Aram. “Da” =
Heb. “she,” which; aram. “-an” = heb. “-im,” plural suffix; “amir,” in both Aram and Heb., is the
adjectival form of “le’emor,” to utter, and thus means “utterable.”)

Or am I mistranslating the suffix? Hmm, not sure…

This has been another useless fact.

Published in: on March 3, 2003 at 11:23  Comments Off on Aramaic  
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Oh, bugger!

Well, I was reading Gonick’s Cartoon History of the Universe, volume 3,(which is very much worth reading, by the way; it’s even more full of good stuff than the first few volumes, and has quite a few more dirty jokes) when I came across a discussion of the origin of the word “bugger.” Now, not many history books talk about this (it originates with the Albigensian heresy), but since Gonick doesn’t give the whole story, and since I’m avoiding work (I’m holding office hours right now, does it show?) I figured I would insert a discourse here on…

Sodomy as political protest

Published in: on October 13, 2002 at 11:19  Comments (21)  
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