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.

Read more ...

Blog Search


(Supports AND)

Google Ads

Feed

Subscribe to the RSS feed for this blog.

See this post for info on full versus truncated feeds.

Quote

[T]he biggest reason we write unclearly is our ignorance of how others read our writing. What we write always seems clearer to us than it does to our readers, because we can read into it what we want readers to get out of it. And so instead of revising our writing to meet their needs, we send it off as soon as it meets ours.

Joseph M. Williams, Style: Ten Lessons in Clarity and Grace



Navigation





<October 2019>
SMTWTFS
293012345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
272829303112
3456789

Categories

  RSS  
  RSS  
  RSS  
  RSS  
  RSS  
  RSS  
  RSS  
  RSS  
  RSS  
  RSS  
  RSS  
  RSS  
  RSS  
  RSS  
  RSS  
  RSS  
  RSS  
  RSS  
  RSS  
  RSS  
  RSS  
  RSS  
  RSS  
  RSS  
  RSS  
  RSS  
  RSS  
  RSS  

Contact Me

Email me

Blog Statistics

Dates
First entry - 6/27/2003
Most recent entry - 10/11/2019

Totals
Posts - 2580
Comments - 2621
Hits - 2,177,426

Averages
Entries/day - 0.43
Comments/entry - 1.02
Hits/day - 366

Updated every 30 minutes. Last: 3:34 AM Pacific


  06:38 AM

Today’s word is not just a word, it’s a kind of PSA. The term is Dutch reach. It might be known to many people already, but I just saw it on Twitter.

Dutch reach is a way to open your car door (from inside) by using the far hand to reach over and grab the handle. So if you’re on the (American) driver’s side, you reach over with your right hand to open the door. Obviously this is not intuitive; people normally open a car door using the hand that’s closest to that door.

The point is to more or less force you to look behind you. You do this to see if there are any bicyclists coming up behind you, and to help you avoid opening the door into their path, known to bicyclists as being doored, which can really injure a bicyclist going at speed. You can read more at a site devoted to teaching this technique.

I think I found this term interesting because the adjective Dutch in English was, historically speaking, sometimes used in “opprobrious or derisive” ways, to quote the OED. Dutch treat, Dutch uncle, Dutch courage, Dutch auction (see comment by Eric!): these are not terms of admiration. For example, a Dutch treat is when you pay your own way, meaning it’s no treat at all. This is a linguistic legacy of the great British-Dutch rivalry of the 1600s. (Remember that New York was originally New Amsterdam.)

But Dutch reach is a term that, if not necessarily admiring, is at least neutral. It’s a nod to Holland’s famously bicycle-friendly culture and, in this case, a Dutch that’s worth adopting.

Origins. The other day I was reading about the history of type and the author mentioned that some early typefaces were designed to emulate handwriting, or cursive writing. Interestingly, cursive has basically only one meaning: flowing handwriting, or type intended to look like it.

Take a moment to consider what the word cursive means and where we got it. Ready? We seem to have gotten it from the Latin word cursivus, meaning “flowing.” So far, so obvious. The fun part is that the Latin word is in turn based on the past form of the word meaning “to run” (correr in Spanish). So cursive handwriting is writing that runs, which I suppose is apt when compared to block printing (or carving in stone).

As with so many words with classical roots, cursive has many cousins. A short list includes courier, corridor, carriage, curriculum, excursion, and intercourse. That’s a whole lot of running.

Bonus origin. Yesterday was Pi Day (3.14 in the American convention of month then day). Ever wonder why we use the term pi for the ratio of circumference to diameter? The Welsh mathematician William Jones apparently introduced the word in the early 1700s as short for "periphery," and it and the pi symbol (π) were popularized by Euler.

Like this? Read all the Friday words.

[categories]  

[2] |