Archive for the ‘Holidays’ Category

Lamb ham and the seder plate

April 3, 2015

Today is Good Friday (on the Christian calendar) and, starting at sundown, the first day of Passover (on the Jewish calendar). A day for symbolic food.


Peeps time in Japan

March 23, 2015

As Easter approaches (April 5th this year), Peeps naturally come to mind (substantial posting on Peeps here). Peeps are endlessly versatile; here’s Grace Kang on Serious Eats, taking Peeps to Japan, in the form of Peepshi (Peeps sushi):

(Hat tip to Beth Linker.)

Yes, they’re appalling. But cute.

For St. Patrick’s Day

March 17, 2015

From Wikipedia:

“Bein’ Green” (also known as “Green”) is a popular song written by Joe Raposo, originally performed by Jim Henson as Kermit the Frog on Sesame Street and The Muppet Show and later covered by Frank Sinatra and [an enormous number of] other performers.

In the Muppets version, Kermit begins by lamenting his green coloration, expressing that green “blends in with so many ordinary things” and wishing to be some other color. But by the end of the song, Kermit recalls positive associations with the color green, and concludes by accepting and embracing his greenness.

The Pides of March

March 15, 2015

Yesterday was Pi Day — a particularly good one, 3/14/15 in American date format (for 3.1415) — and today is the Ides of March. So: the Pides of March.

Pi (that is, π) is a transcendental number (in a special mathematical sense of transcendental). Now, a few words about different kinds of numbers.

We start with the natural numbers, the ones we use for counting things: 1, 2, 3, 4, … Everything else is an extension from these: zero (0), fractions, negative numbers, imaginary (vs. real) numbers, complex numbers, irrational (vs. rational) numbers, transcendental (vs. algebraic) numbers, and more.

Most people deal with only a few of these types, and then usually in the context of calculating values for practical purposes, like calculating the area of a circle (A = πr2). For these purposes, we can restrict ourselves to non-negative real numbers, which will be dealt with in computations via decimal fractions.

The universe of these numbers:

1. rational numbers, expressible as the quotient p/q of two integers (q ≠ 0), with two subtypes as decimal fractions;

1a. terminating decimals, like .1 (for 1/10), .2 (for 1/5), and .5 (for 1/2);

1b. repeating decimals, like .142857142857142857… i.e. .142857, with an underline marking off the repeated part (for 1/7); for practical purposes in computations, approximations will be necessary (say, .14 for 1/7);

2. irrational numbers, not so expressible (so their decimal expansions will be non-terminating and non-repeating, and approximations will be necessary for practical purposes in computations), with two subtypes:

2a. algebraic irrationals; an algebraic number is the root of a polynomial equation with rational coefficients. For example, √2 ( = 1.414…), the positive root of x– 2 = 0.

2b. transcendental irrationals, ones that are not algebraic, like π ( = 3.1415…).

It took some considerable time for people to accept the existence of irrational numbers. Pythagoras balked at the idea. Now it turns out that most numbers are irrational, and indeed, nearly all numbers are transcendental. Most of us just don’t have to deal with many of them.

(Teachers often give approximations to irrationals for the purpose of computation; 22/7 or 3 1/7 is sometimes suggested as a approximation to π for these purposes, and then since 1/7 = .142857, you might want to approximate that, as 3.14 or 3.143.)

NGD ’15

March 3, 2015

National Grammar Day comes around again tomorrow (along with Opal Eleanor Armstrong Zwicky’s birthday, the 11th). To recognize the occasion, Dennis Baron has posted an entertaining piece (“Why is National Grammar Day different from all other days?”) on his blog.


St. David’s Day

March 2, 2015

Yesterday (March 1st) was the first of this year’s Saint’s Days of the Lands of the British Isles: Saint David, patron saint of Wales. Land of the leek and the daffodil and the Red Dragon national flag (see my 3/1/12 posting “Take a leek” for some discussion of these symbols).


The Year of the yáng

February 19, 2015

Today begins the Chinese New Year. But there’s a problem in saying just what animal it’s the year of. The question has been widely covered in the general media, for instance in “Chinese new year: Is it the year of the ram, sheep or goat?” (by Zachary Davies Boren) in today’s The Independent; and in Victor Mair’s Language Log piece of the 15th, “Year of the ovicaprid”; with some extra information from a Wikipedia entry on the zodiacal goat. It all turns on the Chinese word yáng 羊.


The Ides of February

February 16, 2015

We’re in the mid-February crush of holidays: the Feast of Lupercalia (13th-15th), Valentine’s Day (14th), Presidents Day in the U.S. (16th, today), and the movable feast of Mardi Gras (17th this year). Lupercalia coincides with the ides of February; time to sacrifice goat and dog.


Valentine moose-knuckle

February 14, 2015

(Not much about language)

From Channel 1 Releasing, an ad for a Valentine Day’s special of porn:

Puns are a standard feature of Valentine Day’s greetings: here heart-on (referring to the heart-covered briefs) and hard-on (referring to their contents), differing in stop voicing.

A forest of symbols in a time of love

February 14, 2015

Vatentine’s Day sets off an avalanche of greeting cards, from the sloppily sentimental through the joking — lots and lots of puns — to the off-color and the openly insulting. Just about any emotion you can imagine can be packaged into a Valentine’s Day card. Here’s one from a friend to me this year, with a pun (“Love you a bunch!”) and a penguin: “just a bit twee”, the sender wrote, but adding in mitigation that at least it had a penguin:


And then we get this remarkable object, a veritable forest of sexual imagery:




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