E-MAGAZINE 683: SATURDAY 27 MARCH 2010
1. Feedback, notes and comments
Hyetal After my item about this word last time, several readers, well versed in classical Greek mythology, mentioned the Hyades, a star group named after the five daughters of Atlas, half-sisters to the Pleiades. After the death of their brother, the weeping sisters were changed into a cluster of stars which became associated with rain because their heliacal coincided with the spring rains. Unromantically, Oxford dictionaries argue that Hyades might instead derive from hus, a pig, since the Latin name of the group is Suculae, “little pigs”.
Fipple Having written last week about the fipple, an essential component of instruments such as whistles and recorders, Mike Nease pointed me to chiff. This turns up in several places online in partnership with “fipple”. Oxford Music online explains that it’s the little noise that occurs at the beginning of notes played on various wind instruments, caused by a transient distortion that’s sometimes called articulation. The term is most often used in reference to pipe organs. Where the word comes from is unrecorded, though it may be significant that a small British bird is called the chiff-chaff, from an imitation of its call.
2. Turns of Phrase: 3D fatigue
Films in 3D are the latest wheeze to get bums on seats in cinemas and 3D-TV is now technically available if you can afford the set and can find something to watch on it. However, a problem has surfaced: eyestrain. Some filmgoers say that viewing movies using special glasses is causing them eye problems, headaches and nausea.
The term 3D fatigue (also 3-D fatigue) is new: it started to be used in blogs and reviews in the autumn of 2009, after the 3D films Coraline and Up were released but before Avatar. The trouble is far from new, however, since it was one reason why the last try at producing 3D films, back in the 1950s, failed to catch on.
Following the recent spate of 3D films, with many more to come, some moviegoers have borrowed 3D fatigue to refer to boredom with the technique, which they argue adds technical spectacle without enhancing storylines.
It appears entertainment can be bad for our health. A UC Berkeley vision scientist is calling attention to what he calls “3D fatigue.” His research shows [that] if 3D movies or television is done badly, it strains the viewer’s eyes.
ABC News, 24 Feb. 2010.
Viewers are also likely to be concerned about health problems, particularly the so-called “3D fatigue” caused by viewers’ eyes becoming tired. Manufacturers claim new technology has eliminated such problems.
Daily Mail, 11 Mar. 2010.
Guddlers live in difficult times, since the activity that goes by the name of guddling is illegal in many places, including the UK and most US states.
It’s a method of fishing that requires only the bare hands, hence convenient for poachers who find rods and tackle both cumbersome and revealing. It’s also called tickling and is linked in particular with fishing for trout. In parts of North America its practitioners call it noodling, though they usually reserve it for hunting catfish, beasts so well equipped to fight back that to do so is to engage in an extreme sport.
Trout guddling requires patience and skill:
There had been a swift and noiseless rush underneath the stone; a few grains of sand rose up where the white under part of the trout had touched it as it glided beneath. Slowly and imperceptibly Winsome’s hand worked its way beneath the stone. With the fingers of one hand she made that slight swirl of the water which is supposed by expert “guddlers” to fascinate the trout, and to render them incapable of resisting the beckoning fingers.
The Lilac Sunbonnet, by S R Crockett, 1894.
The verb guddle has been most associated with Scotland, and may be derived from Gaelic, though its antecedents are obscure.
4. What I've learned this week
Mathematical crocheters triumph
Men who eat veg Slate Magazine called it “a ridiculous new term”. That was provoked by a piece in the Boston Globe on 24 March about American men who have decided to eschew the traditional diet of pizzas, burgers and fried food and go vegan. The Globe article says they are “the new face of veganism: men in their 40s and 50s embracing a restrictive lifestyle to look better, rectify a gluttonous past, or cheat death.” Newser.com wrote, “They don’t match the cultural mainstream of veganism — they’re disinclined to proselytize, and espouse little of vegetarianism’s new-age vibe or veganism’s crust-punk ethos.” The term the Boston Globe created? hegan. The piece implies that it’s a blend of he plus vegan.
5. Questions and Answers: Wild West
[Q] From Robert Englund: On a recent episode of a BBC panel quiz programme (apologies for my not being able to remember which one) we learned that the phrase Wild West was coined, not by Frederic Remington, not by Zane Grey, but by Charlotte Brontë. Can this possibly be right?
[A] This sounds very much like the smart-aleck QI, hosted by Stephen Fry. The initials stand for “Quite Interesting”, a mild misnomer.
In one sense, the answer is correct, since at the moment the first citation for Wild West in the Oxford English Dictionary is dated 1849 and is from Charlotte Brontë’s novel Shirley: “What suggested the wild West to your mind?” In another sense, it’s utterly inaccurate.
My own research finds this, for example:
He was the first white man in Old Kentucky, and the wide wild west is full of his licks.
The Literary Chronicle and Weekly Review, 19 Jul. 1823. The article is an extract from Memorable days in America by William Faux and this comment is about Daniel Boone.
By the 1830s, Wild West had become moderately well known in the US and was becoming so in the UK. For Charlotte Brontë to employ it in 1849 is unsurprising — the term by then was well established on both sides of the Atlantic.
• “My local supermarket,” e-mailed Eric Marsh from Queensland, “was recently selling profita rolls. Well, they were round and they presumably don’t sell at a loss.”
• Sometimes a writer’s professional vocabulary can appear inappropriately. Teresa Goodell found this in some meeting minutes at the school of nursing where she works: “Students will communicate relevant committee actions to other students and act as lesions between the faculty and student body.”
• Robert Nathan e-mailed, “These fatal slayings are the very worst kind.” He had seen a sad story in the Daily News Wire Services over a headline which appeared in numerous American newspapers: “Police search for gunman in fatal South Park slaying”.
• “Don’t let your children get anywhere near these Romeo champions,” Ken Afton warns us. He was responding to another headline, this time in the Romeo Observer of Michigan: “Romeo champions cause of childhood cancer in big way.”
• I was browsing the developer pages for the Mozilla Firefox browser the other day and encountered a heading in a list of new features: “Web workers can now self-terminate.” Thankfully, it was referring to software agents, not human ones.
7. Copyright and contact details
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