About

I'm Mike Pope. I live in the Seattle area. I've been a technical writer and editor for over 30 years. I'm interested in software, language, music, movies, books, motorcycles, travel, and ... well, lots of stuff.

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Go off, you young people, and make a disgrace of yourselves. It will make you better citizens in the end.

— Garrison Keillor



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Blog Statistics

Dates
First entry - 6/27/2003
Most recent entry - 9/26/2020

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Posts - 2627
Comments - 2636
Hits - 2,303,877

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Entries/day - 0.42
Comments/entry - 1.00
Hits/day - 365

Updated every 30 minutes. Last: 7:33 AM Pacific


  07:02 PM

Imagine that there's a big family reunion and you're charged with making dinner arrangements. You book a room at that Italian place you always go to. It's not your favorite by a long shot, but it's the one that everyone likes. After dinner, though, you're talking to some of your cousins, and you find out that actually hardly anyone likes that place. But you've all been going there because people thought everyone else really liked it.

This is a situation described by a term I learned this week: pluralistic ignorance. This is the idea that you think many others in the group hold different beliefs than you do. As one article puts it, it's the difference between actual norms in the group (what people really think) and perceived norms (what we believe others in the group think). Or to put it more succinctly, "When group members conform to what they think others want, they may end up doing what nobody wants." (The Wikipedia article on pluralistic ignorance cites the story of the Emperor's New Clothes as an example.)

Pluralistic ignorance can have unimportant consequences, like where the family goes for dinner. But it's often negative: in a group, it can prevent people from speaking up—for example, to ask a question, because they wrongly imagine that everyone else already knows the answer. It can lead people to believe that they're "different" and lead to things like impostor syndrome.

I think (I don't remember now) that I ran across this term while reading about the recent protests. The protests unmasked some pluralistic ignorance; when the protests turned out so big, many people discovered a heretofore unsuspected number of their friends and neighbors who thought like they do. Even support for an unpopular political candidate is subject to pluralistic ignorance; arguably, it helps explain the difference between the predictions and the outcome of the 2016 US election.

Surely one result of the internet is that it can help overcome pluralistic ignorance—you might think your views represent a small minority, but you can learn that there are others who think like you do. Maybe not in your family, or classroom, or workplace, or neighborhood, but Out There, at least.

For origins, a word whose history I learned from Edward Banatt on Twitter: reluctant. There are almost no words in English that are related, which is why it's not obvious what it means. Some spelunking in the OED learns me that there was a verb, now obsolete, to reluct, which meant "to fight against." This begins to reveal the story.

The re- prefix is "against." And the -luct part is part of Latin reluctari, meaning "to struggle against, resist." Like, I'm reluctant about (i.e., struggle against) getting out of bed in the morning.

As I say, there aren't English cognates readily at hand. But there are some in other Latin-derived languages. For example, the luct stem shows up in Spanish as luchar, "to fight." Are you a fan of the Mexican sport-theater known as lucha libre? Well, those fighters are—heh, heh—very reluctant. Get it?

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  08:54 PM

I picked up a fun word from Twitter recently: infit. The meaning is clear once you understand the context, which is … contemporary.

When you dress for an occasion, you put on what? An outfit. Let's take a look at that word for a moment. An outfit is what you wear when you are equipped for something; the -fit part pertains to being fitted. The out- part does not in this case have a sense of "external" (outland, outbreak) or "exceed" (outdo, outlive). Instead, it seems to mean something like "completion": an outfit is a complete set of clothes or equipment.

But folks have come up with this nominal opposite to outfit, namely infit. What's an infit? It's what you wear indoors, and specifically, what you wear while hanging around inside under quarantine:

The clever part to me is in reanalyzing the out- part of outfit to mean "outdoors" so that the in- part of infit can mean "indoors." I'm easily amused that way, I guess.

I should acknowledge that infit is also used with other meanings:

  • There's an InFit app where the -fit part refers to "fitness," so a lot of the #infit hashtags on Twitter show people doing active-y things. There's a related #InFitness hashtag (often #InFitness&InLife)
  • According to a dubious entry in the dubious Urban Dictionary, infit is an outfit that's "in," meaning "stylish." We'd need more than that contributor's word for it though.
  • On Twitter, infit is also a surprisingly common typo for unfit.

On to origins. Who among us has not been obliged to write an essay, yea, verily, perhaps even the famed five-paragraph essay? But where does the word essay come from?

Yet another etymological surprise: essay is related to the word assay, which means "to examine or analyze." I don't think I'd use assay in a generic sense of examining a thing; I think of it as something done to or with, dunno, gold ore or something. And there is definitely a metallurgical sense of assay.

The verbs essay and assay were originally variations of the same idea, both referring to "test." Or if I read the OED right, to essay was a variant on to assay, which was based on French essayer; essay is actually the older form.

The word essay for the written form was apparently first used by the French writer Montaigne, who wrote a bunch of them. With his essays, Montaigne was indeed testing ("trialling") ideas. As per the article in Wikipedia, his essays …

did not aim to educate or prove. Rather, his essays were exploratory journeys in which he works through logical steps to bring skepticism to what is being discussed.

Apparently Francis Bacon brought both the idea and the word into English in his 1597 book Essayes. There is no particularly formal definition other than that it's usually in prose. If for some reason you have a teacher who insists that you write an essay that follows a rigid format, you can quote Samuel Johnson at them, who described an essay as "an irregular undigested piece." That should quiet them down.

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  11:06 AM

The new words are coming fast and furious these days. Tony Thorne and Nancy Friedman have been tracking Covid-related terminology. But that was last week's news.

This week it's about protests. I saw a couple of related terms that emerged this week: optical allyship and ally theater. My understanding is that these mean essentially the same thing, namely talking the talk but not walking the walk. Another term is performative allyship. The term optical allyship was apparently invented at the beginning of May by Latham Thomas, who was observing that doing something like posting allyship messages on social media can look like allyship but isn't by itself the whole story.

There are some interesting things to examine here. First, there's allyship. There's a neutral definition ("The state or condition of being an ally"), but in the context of optical allyship it's defined this way:

Allyship is an active, consistent, and arduous practice of unlearning and re-evaluating, in which a person holding systemic power seeks to end oppressions in solidarity with a group of people who are systemically disempowered.

The disempowered in this context can be any minority, including LGBTQ people and people of color. (There are initiatives where I work for people who want to learn and practice allyship, which is good, because tech has its issues with privilege.)

Then there's the optical part. Optics has referred for a while to the appearance of a thing, as in the phrase bad optics. Ben Zimmer wrote a column 10 years ago in which he found a member of Jimmy Carter's administration in 1978 saying "It would be a nice optical step." It's easy to unpack optical allyship as someone who only appears to be doing allyship.

I'm not aware offhand of other optical-type compounds like this (and I can't devise a search that finds such compounds), but I can see it being productive in forming new "only the appearance of" terms.

I also mentioned the synonym ally theater. This was reminiscent to me of the term security theater, which was coined by the security expert Bruce Schneier. Security theater refers to measures that look like they're providing security but aren't particularly effective—except perhaps at making people feel more secure. (The example people usually point at is TSA checks in airports.) Thus also ally theater, which might make people feel good, but is not very effective.[1]

If you're interested in non-optical allyship, a web search will give you plenty to read. And if you know of other optical-type compounds or more [concept] theater terms, let me know.

Ok, origins. This week it's percolate. When I was a wee lad, people made coffee using a percolator, a method that ends up boiling the coffee, which probably makes a lot of people today shudder. There's also of course a metaphoric sense of "spread gradually."

The origin is almost clear from the word, it turns out. The per- prefix means "through." And the -colate part is "to strain." It's pleasing to me that we've seen this root before, in the word colander! Who knew. Although in the case of percolate, the word doesn't have that "excrescent N" that somehow found its way into colander.

And speaking of origins, here's another quickie word origin, one that's been in the new this week: loot (via Nancy Friedman) and looter (via Ben Zimmer in the WSJ, paywall).

[1] I have a grumpy feeling that some part of what we're seeing with the anti-COVID measures is "hygiene theater."

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  07:47 AM

Today's new-to-me word was interesting to me in part because of the context in which I found it. I was reading a TPM article about this week's executive order that pertains to social media, and I saw the sentence "Trump revealed the kayfabe of the whole exercise." I wasn't sure I'd seen kayfabe before; it certainly doesn't come up much in my political readings.

The term apparently originated in the world of all-star a.k.a. professional wresting. This is a type of sport—and I suppose that label is questionable—in which the participants seem to be engaged in a contest, but which is more of a performance. An important part of the culture of professional wrestling is that it pretends to be real; to paraphrase a different type of sport, the first rule of the sport of professional wrestling is that everyone pretends it's a real sport.

This see-through illusion is referred to as kayfabe. As the Wikipedia article on it says, kayfabe is the suspension of disbelief that surrounds all aspects of wrestling, from the actual performances to the personas and supposed rivalries. As near as anyone can tell, the word kayfabe is a Pig Latin version of the word fake, used to (supposedly) hide the word fake from outsiders.

Back to the TPM article. Here's the full context:

Appearing with Attorney General Bill Barr, Trump revealed the kayfabe of the whole exercise: “If you’re gonna have a guy like this be your judge and jury, I think you shut [Twitter] down, as far as I’m concerned,” he said, referring to Twitter’s fact checks.

I think that the writer is suggesting that the executive order is theater, that everyone—including the participants—knows that this gesture is about playing to the fans. It can be a bit hard to tell, though, in contemporary politics. In professional wrestling, when the match is over, everyone goes home and nothing changes. We'll see about this EO.

Origins question for you: is it weird that the word irony includes iron? Surely the metal can have nothing to do with irony as "conveying the opposite of a literal meaning"?

No, whew. Irony comes originally from Greek eironeía, which means something like "dissimulation"—feigning ignorance. We got the iron-ical spelling from French via Latin, which had pre-borrowed the word from Greek for us.

The sense of irony as a way of being witty goes all the way back to the Romans. But the original Greek sense wasn't just about saying "I love it when it rains on the day I want to go hiking." For example, Socratic irony is a technique in the Socratic dialogues (I guess?) where someone pretends ignorance not to be funny, but to lure them into showing their ignorance.

I guess I'll note that there actually can be iron in irony, as I learned when I looked up the word; you can use irony to mean "iron-like" or "containing iron." The OED has a cite for this sense from 2009 ("the irony taste of blood"). People do get a little confused at times about what irony means, but I doubt they'd get these two senses mixed up.

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  01:32 PM

When there are attention-getting events like COVID/Covid/covid, it's natural that technical vocabulary leaks into popular media. For example, a friend of mine asked me why it's the novel coronavirus, and the best explanation I had was that the "novel" appellation was used by virologists and epidemiologists and had made its way (probably unnecessarily) into news stories.[1]

In this vein, while reading an article in the New Yorker recently, I ran across the word nosocomial. Granted, they were using quotation marks and explaining the term, so they weren't trying to sneak it past us or anything. But still, when have we previously seen this term? Outside specialty literature, I mean.

Nosocomial refers to an illness that's spread in a hospital; "hospital-acquired." I could not guess from looking at nosocomial what it could mean. It's ultimately Greek; the constituent parts are noso, meaning "illness," and kom, meaning "care."

As with many infections, putting a lot of people into proximity[2] has the unfortunate tendency to make it easy for the infection to spread. Thus the nosocomial coronavirus, which has had high incidence in places like nursing homes and, yes, hospitals.

Hospitals are a particularly insidious vector because the healthcare professionals treating patients in one hospital can easily spread it to another one. This means that the concept of nosocomial spread is related to iatrogenic, meaning you got sick from a doctor. I am reminded of a book I read not long ago, The Butchering Art, about Joseph Lister's efforts to introduce antisepsis to medical procedures in Victorian times. In those days, one place you definitely did not want to be treated was in a hospital.

Update: I asked my wife, who's in healthcare, if she knew nosocomial. "Oh, yeah," she said.

For origins this week the word soldier. It doesn't appear to have obvious cognates that suggest where we got it from. So off we go to the dictionary.

Not surprisingly, the -ier ending tells us that it's from French. The sol- part is the interesting bit: it's a historical word that used to refer to a type of French money or coin. It goes back to the name of a Roman coin, the solidus, whose name is indeed related to the word solid. You want people to soldier for you, you'd better pay them with some solid money.

The French sol does have a modern descendant, namely the French sou. I guess that the sou is not in use anymore, but it does retain a metaphorical sense of "a coin or thing of very little value," sort of like the British use of farthing (?).

Anyway, a soldier is essentially someone who's paid for military duty. Not to be confused with a mercenary, who gets paid to soldier for other people, which is to say, whose loyalty is to the sol, not to the person/country/entity that's paying it.

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[1] Decades of technical writing have hammered into me the value of using the vocabulary of your audience.

[2] I would have written "close proximity," but that would earn me an editorial spanking: pleaonasm.

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  04:14 PM

I learned at term at work this week that's another example where I was familiar with the idea, but didn't know there was a name for it. The term is the XY problem. It takes a slight bit of explanation.

Let's say you're watering your garden and you notice that there's a leak in your hose. We'll call this problem X. You get out some duct tape and wrap it around the hose. We'll call this solution Y. But the duct tape doesn't stick to the wet hose. So you ask someone "How can I get duct tape to stick to a wet hose?"

Perhaps you see the issue. You have problem X and are struggling with solution Y, and you ask for help with solution Y. What you really want is help with problem X, namely how to fix the leaky hose. Thus the XY problem. As one page defines it, "The XY problem is asking about your attempted solution rather than your actual problem."

Most of the writing about the XY problem pertains to computer-y stuff. The classic example is someone writing code and asking "How can I get the last 3 characters of a filename?" when what they really want is the filename extension. If you're curious, you can read about other examples.

As I say, I was familiar with this idea. Many times over the years I've asked "What's your real question?", probably mostly at my kids. (I conveniently forget instances when it was me asking about Y.)

The XY problem is considered a problem, such as it is, because it takes longer for people to help you while they suss out what the real issue is. Like I said, the discussions I've seen of the XY problem are mostly in the realm of computers, and boy, people in that realm can be … not nice … about this.[1] (In one example, the would-be helper finally resorts to yelling: Then ASK FOR WHAT YOU WANT!) But issues with personal interaction aside, it does seem useful to know the name XY problem, because it gives one (well, me) a framework for recognizing and dealing with instances of it.

Origins. One of my FB Friends had a thought-provoking question for these times: "Why am I carrying around cash in my pockets?" Thought-provoking in several ways, one of which is making a person wonder where the word cash came from.

As Douglas Harper says, "Like many financial terms in English (bankrupt, etc.), it has an Italian heritage." The word was originally cassa, which referred to a box to keep money in—that is, a case or chest. (You can see the family resemblance.) Naturally, this goes back to a Latin word (capsa), which likewise meant "coffer."

We imported the sense of cash as a box. Very soon thereafter, the name of the container became the name of the contents, an evolution we've seen before (as with marzipan, maybe). At least, it did in English; as the OED notes, this didn't happen in other languages.[2] The "box" sense eventually became obsolete. (You might wonder, as I did, whether the word cache is related to the "box" sense of cash. Answer: no.)

The Dictionary.com site suggests that cash might be a back-formation from cashier. But they don't explain this, and it isn't in other sources, though it sounds like an intriguing story.

To get back to my Friend's question, if you are carrying cash, may I suggest that you use it to generously tip anyone who delivers things to wherever you're spending this quarantine.

[1] Some people in the computer industry aren't nice?! Whatever will we learn next!

[2] I've always found it interesting that a Spanish word for cash is efectivo, because cash surely is effective.

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  08:10 PM

For new-to-me terms, I don't usually list words whose meaning seems sort of self-evident. But this one amused me, and maybe it's not that self-evident.

The term is sleep divorce. Whatever we might think about how couples do or don't have independent interests and hobbies and lives, the default assumption in our culture is, I believe, that married couples sleep in the same bed. Why else do people have queen and king and even California king beds, if not to share?

But the sleeping habits of one person can have a negative effect on another. Different schedules? Snoring? Restlessness? Different temperature preferences? Your partner "wakes you up with nocturnal needs"?

So the idea has arisen that perhaps couples should sleep separately. Or as the term goes, they should undergo a sleep divorce. According to a survey commissioned by a sleep-products company (perhaps not perfectly unbiased?), 39% of couples would prefer sleeping separately. Apparently sleep divorce can mean just separate beds, or it can also mean—and this seems like it would be most effective—sleeping in separate rooms.

As far as I can tell, the term sleep divorce goes back at least as far back as 2013. It might go back further, but my casual research hasn't turned up any earlier cites.

Anyway, I'm not here for marital counseling, just words. So I'll let you sort out your sleeping arrangements with your partner, and good luck to you.

My origins quest today was piqued when a coworker was talking about her chickens. One of them, she said, was a bantam. I knew that bantam referred to small things, like a small chicken, and that it's a weight class for boxing. (Technically, that's called bantamweight, all one word.)

But why do we call small things bantam? The word turns out to be a toponym: a word based on the name of a place. Banten is a city on the island of Java in Indonesia; another rendering of the name was Bantam. It's not clear where the name originally came from; perhaps from one of the indigenous languages on the island.

The word started out as referring to a breed of chicken, a usage that's of course still current. The theory is that sailors picked up these "bantam" chickens when making port in Java. (Though the breed itself might have originated elsewhere.)

By the 18th century, the word bantam had developed its metaphoric sense of "small," with overtones of "cocky," as in, acting in the manner of a rooster. Boxing adopted bantamweight as a weight class in the late 1800s.

I've always been partial to the idea of someone or something that's small but that doesn't let this be an impediment to them. Surely bantam chickens exemplify this characteristic, so I'm happy to know how they got their name.

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  05:53 AM

We continue with our theme of mostly relevant words. Last week, an article in The Atlantic by Amanda Mull introduced us to the term disastertising. This is a portmanteau of disaster+advertising; it refers to the "pivot" by which companies adjusted their advertising to cope with the new realities of a quarantined world.

If you've seen any ads at all in the last month or two, you've probably seen a disastertisment. The ads (dis-ads?) describe ways in which the company are responding to the virus and how they're helping out their customers. For example, Mull says this about the pizza chain Domino's:

The pizza giant scrapped an ad campaign that showed customers standing close to one another, rolled out information about its hands-free food-packaging practices, and repurposed a Risky Business–themed ad to address social distancing. (Sliding around at home in your socks and underwear is all too relevant to many viewers now.)

I choose not to classify the earnest emails I get from, say, my car-insurance company about how they're "actively managing all aspects of the situation" as disastertising. I mean, they probably think that that's what they're doing—advertising—but those don't seem like ad campaigns that have been rethought so much as scrambles by the PR department to say something, anything. Then again, disastertising is such a new term, who knows how it will play out.

And speaking of new, as far as I can tell, this really is a new-new word. All the references I can find to the word are from a few days ago and point back at Mull's article. (Nancy Friedman also noted disastertising in her monthly link fest of new and interesting word stuff.) Let's hope that in the time to come, disastertising will just be a memory of a peculiar time, and that—wait, am I about to say this?—we go back to normal ol' ads.

For origins this week, I read a word history that I didn't believe until I was able to verify it in authoritative sources. The word is dunce, as in, a stupid person, as in, one who wears a dunce cap.

Surprise! Dunce is an eponym, a word based on someone's name. The person in question was John Duns Scotus (John Duns the Scot), a Franciscan philosopher from the 13th century. He was a heavy hitter, in the same league as Thomas Aquinas and William of Ockham (of "Occam's razor" fame).

But in subsequent centuries John Duns Scotus's teachings fell on hard times. For one thing, his philosophy relied on a lot of complexities ("needless entities," as the OED says) and subtle distinctions. In addition to this, followers of his school were obstinate about the "new learning" of the 16th century. Thus the term Duns men, or just Dunses, became associated first with the hair-splitting (as some saw it) of their philosophy and later with general obtuseness. From there, dunce finally settled on its current meaning of someone who's incapable of learning. Fun, no?

How about a couple of word-origin shorties this week? If you squint hard enough, you can probably make these be topical.

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  05:58 PM

I have another term this week that could be interpreted to be related to current events, you decide. The word is sadopopulism. I'll note that people of any political persuasion will probably argue that the other side engages in sadopopulism, so it's one of those terms that's handy across the political spectrum.

Sadopopulism refers to a style of governance that actively hurts the governed. Obviously, it includes the word populism, which is normally thought of as appealing to the common person (whether sincerely or for cynical political gain). But it adds the prefix sado-, which is the "combining form" of sadism, which here is used in a general sense of exhibiting cruelty.

Why would someone engage in sadopopulism? According the historian Timothy Snyder, who invented the word, "the logic of sadopopulism is that pain is a resource." You get into power by promising people things, as in traditional populism. But once you're in power, you deliberately make people suffer. Then you tell a story about how their pain is the fault of "others," however it's useful for you to define then. Did you lose your job? Those outsiders took it. Does your healthcare suck? It's because outsiders are ruining it. Are people running around doing things that you're uncomfortable with? It's those outsiders trying to destroy our traditional values. And so on.

As Snyder says:

The way politics works in that model is that government doesn't solve your problems, it blames your problems on other people. […] Not so long ago, the currency of government was achievement. Government had to do something. Now, the currency of government is discourse. Government has to make you feel worse about people around you.

In the meantime, the government of those in power is blameless. In fact, it can continue to amass power—people will willingly cede power to is—as long as people believe that it wields that power to punish the bad people who are ruining everything. Anyway, that's the theory. Snyder uses the term to frame how he sees the current US government working, but I believe I've seen evidence that it's just as much a talking point for the right when the left is in power.

For word origins this week I've got the word mafia (or Mafia, capped). We were watching an Icelandic detective show, and from among the few words we could pick out, there was "mafia." I thought dang, a word that's been adopted into Icelandic, that's a pretty successful word.

We know for sure that word mafia comes from Sicily. This is an island near the Italian mainland[1] where they of course speak Italian (an Italian dialect, anyway). But the island was occupied for a couple of centuries by the Arabs, so there is some mixed linguistic heritage there.

There is a set of related words: not just mafia, but also mafioso (-osa for the feminine, -i for the plural). The theory is that the original was mafiusu, and Mafia is a "re-formation" or backformation from that word.

This is where things get hazy. The OED suggests somewhat conservatively that mafiusu might be a blend of words that meant "scoundrel" and "cheat." Douglas Harper suggests that the mafiusu has connotations of "bully, arrogant, but also fearless, enterprising, and proud." There's a theme here of "spirit of hostility to the law." The modern sense of Mafia as a criminal enterprise might come from the title of a 19th-century play I mafiusi di la Vicaria ("The Mafiosi of the Vicaria") about a gang of prisoners. All of this insight comes from Diego Gambetta, an ethnologist who studied the Mafia.

This still doesn't entirely resolve where the word ultimately comes from. People propose an Arabic source, but there are different ideas about which word in Arabic exactly mafiusu came from. The Wikipedia article on Mafia lists seven (!) Arabic words as possible sources, including words meaning "exempted," "cave," "excessive boasting," "rejected," "protection," and a couple of others.

You can see how a concept like "[the] rejected" might be taken up proudly by an outgroup to describe themselves (a process known as reappropriation). And boy, surely among the most out of out groups is the mafia. Even in Icelandic.

[1] Sicilia īnsula magna est, as my Latin textbook informs me.

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  07:13 PM

Today's new-to-me word isn't entirely new to me, but I did learn something interesting about it. Does that count?

The word is washlet. What's a washlet? Well, it's a relative of the bidet (bee-DAY), which is a standalone fixture in a bathroom that you use to wash your nether parts after doing your business. Bidets are surprisingly rare in the US, which is one reason we had the Great Toilet Paper Panic about a month ago.[1]

Bidets can also be hard to fit or retrofit into a bathroom, because they require plumbing, not to mention enough room for another floor-mounted fixture. Enter the washlet. Or technically the Washlet, because the name Washlet is a trademark of Toto, a Japanese toilet company. The Washlet is a device that you can fit onto an existing toilet, replacing the seat, that has bidet-type functionality: wash, dry, etc. Unlike bidets, washlets can be pretty easy to retrofit, because they can use the plumbing that's already in use for your toilet.

A picture will help:

Traditional bidet on the left; Washlet on the right

Why am I yammering on about this? Because I think the word washlet is being genericized to refer to any washing-type device that fits onto a toilet. You won't see most manufacturers use the word—they're careful to use terms like bidet seat or spa because, as noted, Washlet is a trademark. But some do: example, example, example. And ordinary speakers have no compunctions about brand names ("Let me google that," "Do you have a kleenex?"). This became clear to me when I was listening to a podcast where the topic came up, and where one of the hosts explicitly said that a washlet is "the technical term for toilet seats that have got the stuff built into them." There you go.

This duty having been discharged, let me turn my attention to origins. Where does the word sugar come from? What about candy? Interestingly, from the same place.

Sugar cultivation started in India, so it's not surprising the sugar derives ultimately from a Sanskrit word sharkara that referred to grit or gravel or pebbles. From there it moved to Persian (shakar) and Arabic (sukhar) and then spread into the Mediterranean and Europe. Something I hadn't realized is that saccharine is basically the same word, this time from Greek.

A slight mystery is how English ended up with a -g- in the middle of the word. We have a few examples in English like it (flagon from French flacon), and there was a late Latin word zugurum. But nothing certain. It's also not 100% clear why we pronounce the word sugar with an sh sound, but the theory is that the u used to be long and the word underwent a process that also gave us sure.

And then there's candy: also from Sanskrit (khanda), which meant "piece of sugar." The word moved along the same trade routes that sugar did—Persian, Arabic, Romance languages, us. A fun fact is that the term was originally sugar candy and referred specifically to the crystals (compare rock candy). In medieval times it came to refer to sugar processed during cooking. I guess I also mostly knew that it's primarily Americans who use candy as a general term for confections made of sugar; the Brits use sweets.

More Useful Facts for your indoor life! You're welcome. :)

[1] I highly recommend (again) the book The Big Necessity by Rose George, which is all about engineering the unpleasant but all-too-necessary infrastructure for dealing with human waste.

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