Archive for the ‘Languages’ Category

wine : oenophile :: beer : X

September 26, 2023

We start with wine, a drink whose enthusiasts, knowledgable fans, aficionados, connoisseurs, and the like are legion, so not surprisingly we have a name for them, with alternative spellings: oenophiles / enophiles. Beer is equally appreciated and enjoyed by many, but there are relatively few beer connoisseurs. But, even if there are few of them, they presumably have a name — maybe an obscure one, but a name nevertheless. What’s the solution to this proportional equation?

wine : oenophile :: beer : X

It turns out that there are (at least) two solutions for X, one Latin-based (like vinophile for wine, which is so rare that it doesn’t make it even into the OED), the other Greek-based like oenophile (Greek to accord with the Greek second element –phile). You’re unlikely to have come across either of them, but the second, Greek-based one, is especially delicious for me, because it’s a Z -word (like Zwicky), and because it came to me through a Facebook friend, Martyn Cornell.


Japanese symbolic culture, inscribed on León’s arm

September 8, 2023

About my friend (and former caregiver) León Hernández Alvarez (hereafter, LH) and the tattoos covering his left arm, from wrist to shoulder, reflecting his deep sympathy with the symbolic culture of Japan. Here’s LH in a face shot that will serve as an introduction to his text (as I edited it for compactness) taking us on a tour of the ink, along with seven photos he took to accompany the text (as I cleaned them up for presentation here):

(#1) LH showing off the arm (and the muscles he’s developed at the gym)

After most sections of LH’s text (which I’ve boldfaced), there’s some background material about the things depicted in the tattoos, with some photos from real life.

I hope to post separately about LH, including some about his personal qualities, but here I offer four important pieces of biographical data: LH is in his early 40s, he’s Mexican (here on a work visa), he has an MBA and a previous history working in business in Mexico, and (like me) he’s gay.


Turkish Neutrogena

September 7, 2023

Neutrogena hand cream (for dry or chapped hands), specifically. Which I’ve used as a moisturizer for dry skin and a healing cream for abraded skin, on various parts of my body (especially as an adjunct to the coconut oil I use daily on my feet, legs, hands, and arms); it comes in almond-scented and unscented versions. Unremarkable until recently. But yesterday it excited the interest of four linguists, in exchanges on Facebook.

Set off by Monica Macaulay:

— MM: This is a new one on me. I ordered some Neutrogena lotion and the picture looked like what I’m used to, but look what came!!! Is that Turkish? Something went awry with the space-time-language continuum? I’m very puzzled.

(#1) EL KREMİ in its tube

— Geoffrey Nathan: Definitely Turkish — i’s without dots, c-cedillas, s-cedillas. No idea what it means, however. Just remembered — eller means ‘hands’. From a morphology problem.

— AZ [who, once a teacher of introductory morphology, also recognized eller]: Had the same experience a little while back. The lotion seems to be unchanged, but the packaging was a surprise.

— MM > AZ: Really?!? So this is a known unknown? Very, very strange.

— AZ > MM: Well, known to me. You’re only the second person in my experience to have gotten Neutrogena in Turkish.



August 21, 2023

In today’s Wayno / Piraro Bizarro: croissants as a characteristically French pastry; then pulling out the ANTS part of the spelling CROISSANTS (never mind how this word is actually pronounced, in either French or English) for a far-fetched pun, with two ants — the insects — exemplifying characteristics of the stereotypical Frenchman (Wayno’s title is “The French Bugs”):

(#1) Breton striped shirts, or marinières; berets; a pungent cigarette in a cigarette holder for Ant 1; a mustache (curled at the tips), French scarf, glass of wine, and baguette for Ant 2 (if you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 2 in this strip — see this Page)



August 11, 2023

In the current issue of the New Yorker, in the Talk of the Town section, a Paris Postcard by Lauren Collins: on-line on 8/7, with the title “Bartender, There’s a Beer in My Wine: Paris has been blanketed by posters for vière, a mix of vin and bière drunk from a wineglass, whose name, its creators say, started out as a joke”; in print on 8/14, with the title “Vière here” — about the hybrid beverage with a portmanteau name. Beginning:



August 3, 2023

From Steven Levine, reporting from Amsterdam, on Facebook this morning:

If you have time to learn only one Dutch word, I’d say wildplassen makes an excellent candidate.

(#1) Du wildplassen ‘wild pissing’, with Du wild in the sense ‘free, loose’ (yes, it also has the sense ‘savage, fierce’, and that adds to the excellence of the signage)


The lost penguin art

July 24, 2023

I wrote to Sally Thomason in e-mail earlier today:

While I have been recuperating (slowly) from gallbladder surgery, I have a wonderful helper León [León Hernández, in full León Hernández Alvarez] who does many useful thngs for me, though working from pretty rudimentary English. But his great passion is housecleaning, at which he is a remarkable demon. He is even able to dust things and put them back exactly where they were before (whether or not that’s where he would have put things). Having (I thought) cleaned everything there was, today he embarked on moving all the pieces of furniture in the living room and cleaning underneath them. Finding, in the process, a large range of lost things: long-dead pens, a lot of change, a knitting needle for thick yarn (which I didn’t recognize, but León immediately announced was a goncho, and we had to look that up together) (We do a lot of on-line searching together, especially about the trees and flowers we encounter on our neighborhood walks).

And a great prize: your first penguin doodle from many years ago, in a small frame, much bleached by time but still elegant and adorable. León has learned to live in Penguinland, and ManSexLand too — but by random good fortune, he’s gay himself, so the ManSex all over the place is just entertaining. However, he immediately appreciated your doodle as a work of art, and was so delighted to have found it under one of the couches that he brought it to me while I was shaving in the bathroom. I currently have its larger successor on display on the desk in my study, and we have now added the smaller one next to it.

What once was lost has now been found, and we rejoice.

The two penguin doodles, in a photo León took for me about an hour ago:

Side by side by Thomason

Addendum. Sally is not just a good friend of very long standing, and an exceptionally talented creator of these creature doodles, but she is also an enormously distinguished colleague. I will now embarrass her by quoting excerpts from her Wikipedia page:

Sarah Grey Thomason (known as “Sally”) is an American scholar of linguistics, Bernard Bloch distinguished professor emerita at the University of Michigan. She is best known for her work on language contact, historical linguistics, pidgins and creoles, Slavic Linguistics, Native American languages and typological universals. She also has an interest in debunking linguistic pseudoscience, and has collaborated with publications such as the Skeptical Inquirer, The Encyclopedia of the Paranormal and American Speech, in regard to claims of xenoglossy.

… From 1988 to 1994 she was the editor of Language, the journal of the Linguistic Society of America (LSA). In 1999 she was the Collitz Professor at the LSA summer institute. … In  2009 she served as President of the LSA.  In 2000 she was President of the Society for the Study of the Indigenous Languages of the Americas. She was also Chair of the Linguistics and Language Sciences section of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1996, and Secretary of the section from 2001 to 2005.

… She is married to philosopher / computer scientist Richmond Thomason and is the mother of linguist Lucy Thomason. Her mother was the ichthyologist Marion Griswold Grey.

I stand in awe, while noting that she is one of the world’s nicest people, and very funny, but with a quite direct and penetrating manner that crushes foolishness and fuzziness.


SUMC moments: Dutch treat

July 2, 2023

A complex follow-up to my 6/27/23 posting “SUMC moments: the apple juice”, where I wrote:

At one point in my most recent SUMC stay we had gotten to the place where I was about to be taken off NPO (see my previous posting “SUMC moments: NPO”) and given some modest real food, but the orders to do this had not yet been issued. The head nurse (about whom more in another posting [this very posting], which will take us to India and the northeast corner of South America) took pity on me and extracted — oh great pleasure! — a tiny box of apple juice for me [from the wonderfully named apple juice company Apple & Eve].

Meanwhile I stared at Sha’s name tag, which said her name was:

Shakoentala Jagroep

I stared, baffled, by the name, with its puzzling OE spellings, until I recognized her first name in this strange spelling. Why, I asked, was Shakuntala — a name of great weight in India — spelled in this fashion? She was startled and impressed by my pronunciation, which I pronounced in Sanskrit fashion, notably with the T and L quite different from an English rendition of the name. “You said it right!”, she exclaimed. And added, cryptically, “The Dutch Empire”, but was then called away on other duties.

Later, I got to ask her what part of the Dutch Empire, guessing Indonesia, surely the biggest piece. But no: little Suriname, in the northeast corner of South America.

I will track through this history below, but first a digressive note about one of the evils of the Dutch in Indonesia.


SUMC moments: NPO

June 27, 2023

On the nurses’ board, under “diet”, it said NPO; and if you asked if you could have some juice or whatever, nurses would tell you no, you were NPO — and then maybe they’d explain that meant ‘nothing by mouth’.

Why should NPO be an abbreviation of Nothing By Mouth? If they’d once learned why, they’d forgotten, and now it was just medical jargon with this meaning, and many of them no longer realized that ordinary people might be baffled by the claim that NPO was an abbreviation for Nothing By Mouth (for which the alphabetic abbreviation would be NBM).

But it is an abbreviation. Of Latin Nil Per Os — more exactly, Nil / Nihil Per Ōs, where nil is a contraction of nihil ‘nothing’ (as in English nihilism) and ōs (the object of the preposition per) is the acc sg of the 3rd-declension ‘mouth’ noun with nom sg ōs and gen sg ōris (as in English oral).

But in any case, users of jargon — expressions associated with particular occupations or activities — are very often not aware of its in-group status and aren’t prepared to explain it to outsiders; it’s just the way you talk in this context.

bibulous (paper towels and sots)

June 1, 2023

🐇 🐇 🐇 rabbit rabbit rabbit for the 1st of June (ushering in the summer months — and Pride Month, for which even the rabbits go gay: 🏳️‍🌈 🏳️‍🌈 🏳️‍🌈)

Today’s amuse-gueule for the month is a Zippy strip (which has been hanging around on my desktop since it appeared in 10/14/19) in which the notoriously onomastomanic Zippy savors the word bibulous for the delights of its meaning a well as its pronunciation:

From NOAD: adj, bibulousformal excessively fond of drinking alcohol. ORIGIN late 17th century (in the sense ‘absorbent’): from Latin bibulus ‘freely or readily drinking’ (from bibere ‘to drink’) + –ous.

So we’ve got a specialization of drinking up to drinking alcohol; plus a metaphorical view of drinking up to refer to absorbency (paper towels drink up spills) — but the (older) ‘absorbent’ sense of bibulous is now obsolete. Never mind: Zippy loves it.

Oh yes, also from NOAD (with Zippy, but not with Griffy’s further specialization in the strip, which is not in anybody’s dictionary):

adj. verklempt: North American informal [AZ: in Yinglish] overcome with emotion: I found myself getting a little verklempt just thinking about it | he was standing at the top of the steps looking verklempt.

You can certainly be verklempt over the meanings of words, but it doesn’t follow that verklemt, the Yiddish English adjective, means ‘overcome with emotion about the meanings of words’; verklemt, the Yiddish English adjective, is (off the shelf) neutral, unspecified, uncommitted as to the cause of this extreme emotion, which could be any of an endless number of things. Once off the shelf, you can do all sorts of things with it.