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September 08, 2017  |  Friday words #87  |  2316 hit(s)

Four-day workweeks are great, but boy, Fridays do come upon one suddenly. Not that I'm complaining. And there's no shortage of words. So.

Today's new-to-me word is stylometry, which I ran across in an article about Satoshi Nakamoto, the exceptionally mysterious creator of Bitcoin. Stylometry is the study of individual style in text or music or art, often involving statistical analysis. It can be used to study individual creators or to contrast multiple ones. It tends to become newsworthy when it's used to unmask an anonymous or pseudonymous creator; an example that many people might remember was when stylometric analysis was used to determine that the author "Robert Galbraith" was actually J. K. Rowling.

The word is older than I would have guessed. The OED's first entry is for 1945. The Ngram Viewer appears to record instances as early as 1898, although those might refer to a slightly different thing. (It would be astounding if I were able to find an example that antedates the OED.)

As a bonus today, here's a technical term that I recently learned: slugify. This refers to turning a set of words into a string that's suitable for use in a URL. For example, slugification turns "Friday words Sep 8, 2017" into "friday-words-sep-8-2017". The process converts words to lowercase and removes punctuation and uses special characters (often hyphens) as word delimiters. The "slug" part of slugify comes from slug, a term used by web designers, and which comes from journalism: slugs are (short) names that identify articles that are in production. I find some speculative talk that this usage emerged from typesetting (a slug of metal). This seems interesting (and not incorrect); if I had more time, I'd investigate more.

I was riding on the bus the other day and passed a place that advertised Yacht Sales. I wasn't tempted to buy a yacht, but it did make wonder where the word had come from. I started with two fuzzy ideas. One was that the Germans have the word Jacht, which means the same thing. (In German, the letter J is pronounced like a Y.) I also know that we've picked up nautical vocabulary from the Dutch (skipper, boom). Was yacht therefore a Dutch word?

Yes! So I can't count this as entirely unexpected etymology. But there was an unexpected twist. We did indeed import the Dutch word jaghtschip. The schip part is pretty clear, but what's jaght? Well, that derives from the Dutch word jagen, which means "to hunt": a yacht-ship was a hunting ship. (Obviously, its meaning has evolved in English.) This means that yacht is related to the name J├Ągermeister, the booze, which is a German name meaning "master of the hunt," i.e. "hunt-master." Please feel free to enjoy Jager-bombs on your yacht, with my compliments.

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