Archive for the ‘Names’ Category

Phosphorus and Hesperus

June 2, 2021

(Folded into this posting there will be some discussion of male-male sexual acts, and paintings of these, so the posting isn’t suitable for kids or the sexually modest.)

🐇🐇🐇 To greet the new month — Pride Month, though that’s no doubt an accident — my Facebook ads on 6/1, yesterday, included one new to me, for, offering giclee or canvas prints of Evelyn De Morgan’s 1882 painting Phosphorus and Hesperus:


An embodiment of complementarity: two half-brothers (sharing their mother, Eos), one (Phosphorus) lighter haired, eyes open, facing up, bearing a flaming torch aloft; one (Hesperus) darker haired, eyes closed, facing down, holding a cold torch pointing down; with their arms intertwined and their bodies aligned complementarily, in a 69, or sideways astrological Cancer, or yin-yang pattern (with Hesperus as yin, Phosphorus as yang).


Reversed meanings

May 19, 2021

In the One Big Happy strip of 4/25, Joe is being grilled by his father on the meanings of words — “defining words” being a common task for schoolchildren — and, on being challenged by the word /tæktɪks/, whose meaning is unclear to him, he proposes to break the word down into recognizable meaningful parts, from which the meaning of the whole can be predicted. A perfectly reasonable strategy, but one that is stunningly often useless.


Joe appears to have isolated the parts /tæk/, /tɪk/, and the plural /s/, but didn’t identify the first as any item spelled tack or the second as any item spelled tick; instead his attention was caught by the combination /tæktɪk/, so similar to /tɪktæk/, the trade name Tic Tac.

And went on to assign some meaning to the reversal of the two parts, reasoning (apparently) that reversing the order should correspond, iconically, to reversing (in some way) the meaning of Tic Tac. What would be the reverse of a breath mint? Well, the function of a breath mint is to sweeten the breath, to make it smell good —  so the reverse function would be to make the breath smell bad.


News from the rose garden

May 12, 2021

Mail from the Park of Roses in Columbus OH a few days ago, to say that the variety in the rose bed dedicated in my man Jacques’s memory had recently been replaced by a new variety, with an interesting name:

(#1) Grandiflora rose ‘Cardinal Song’ (from the Dave’s Garden website)

It’s all about that shade of red: the color of the bird whose song provides the name for the flower. Both the bird and that shade of red get their name from the color of a cardinal’s robes in the Roman Catholic Church.



May 1, 2021

It’s a new month, so: 🐇🐇🐇

In a moment I’ll reprise “rabbit, rabbit, rabbit” and other 5/1 associations in a posting from last year, but before that I’m going to suggest a new association: in the tradition of 3/14 as Pi(e) Day (from 3.14 as the value of pi / π) and 4/20 as Marijuana Day (from 420 as slang for smoking pot, or otherwise consuming cannabis), I suggest that 5/1 should be celebrated as Alien Encounter Day, in honor of Area 51 in Nevada. (There already is a World UFO Day, celebrated by some on 6/24, by others on 7/2.)


Alex Adams

April 29, 2021

(Some bits on sex between men, including in gay porn, so not suitable for kids or the sexually modest.)

Alexander Adams began as a pseudonym of mine for making restaurant reservations (“Arnold (Zwicky)” over the phone is perilous indeed, especially if the person taking the reservation isn’t a native speaker of English). Which turned out to be so useful that I abbreviated it to Alex Adams, sometimes just Alex, for more informal reservations — at the barbershop, at places where you leave a name with your order at the counter and then it’s used to call you when the order is ready. Eventually, I became ready to answer to the name Alex on any occasion. That was better than having to be prepared for Ronald, Harold, Donald, Alan, Alvin, Albert, Herbert, Robert, or whatever struck other people as being more reasonable than Arnold.

And Alex (Adams) gradually evolved from being just an occasional pseudonym for Arnold (Zwicky — Arnold as a problematic name is as nothing compared to Zwicky) to being the name of an alter ego. Used at first as my sex name: people engaged in casual sex with strangers sometimes exchange (first) names, usually using pseudonyms for these occasions, that is, sex names (partly to protect their identities, sometimes also using names that seem more emotionally satisfying than their real names).

So the name Alex (Adams) was invested with transgressive sexiness for me, and eventually became the name of my alter ego in writing participant-observer accounts of sex between men, as well as continuing as a more innocent pseudonym; in effect, the everyday Alex Adams developed a subterranean sex life that he then began exposing to the world.

Then it turned out that since Alex Adams is such an ordinary, regular-guy name — one like Eric Carter, Chris Tyler, Paul Walker, and Brad Mason, all attested pornstar names — it’s been adopted by gay pornstars at least twice, including one of some fame in the business, who was active in gay porn from 2012-15.


Reader, Writer, Arithmeticker

April 20, 2021

The 3/24 One Big Happy, in which Ruthie’s brother Joe (rebelling against school, after his discovery of appalling “chapter books” — all words, no pictures!) goes on a spree of –er words:

The extremely versatile N-forming derivational suffix –er, with N bases like arithmetic and V bases like read (including, in the last panel, the problematic base tidy up, a V of the form V + Prt)


Calvin becomes a personage

April 6, 2021

Two Calvin and Hobbes cartoons recently — yesterday and today (originally from 4/8 and 4/9/91) — in my comics feed, in which Calvin takes on a title (the epithet the Bold) and adopts illeism (referring to himself in the third person):



Yes, it’s all about linguistics.



March 29, 2021

Another chapter in the design of everyday objects — objects crafted to perform their functions well, and to provide pleasure to the user or the viewer. The occasion is the early summer sprucing up of my front patio, just outside the big windows by the table where I work, providing me, during my long months in pandemic isolation, with the visual satisfactions of a substantial container garden and temptations for birds and squirrels (and, alas, a small but tenacious colony of roof rats).

Now it is finally both warm and usually dry, and I’m mostly recovered from my reactions to the Pfizer vaccine: notably, an unfortunate interaction — twice — between the vaccine and my osteoarthritis that caused many of the finger joints on my right hand to swell painfully, making that hand virtually unusable.

But now I can begin coping with the mess that the patio has become, including trimming and pruning the plants, cutting out the old wood, and chopping up the plants that have died. So I discover that my secateurs, or pruning shears, had gotten exposed to our rainy season and needed replacing. With an object much like this excellent tool from the local Ace Hardware:

(#1) Ace anvil pruners

On anvil vs. bypass pruners, see below. But first, on the terms secateurs, pruning shears, and pruners.


Zippo, the comic strip

March 25, 2021

The 3/14 Zippy strip shows Claude and Griffy (and eventually Zippy too) caught up in what seems to be affixoid attraction (similar to word attraction), an irrational appreciation of or enthusiasm for a particular word-part — in this case, the word-final element –o (whatever its source might be):

(#1) All of the panels except the fourth are framed as two-person exchanges, in which the second is a response to the first: offering a competing alternative (panel 1), trading insults (panels 2 and 3), or expressing appreciation (panel 5)


No-name joints

March 6, 2021

Two mornings ago, I awoke feeling generally good and energetic, but very painfully afflicted by osteoarthritis, in both shoulders and both elbows and both wrists and all the joints of both hands — but worse in my already damaged right hand, and especially in its middle (and otherwise least damaged) finger, and especially in the top joint of that finger, just under the fingernail, which was swollen and reddening. Swollen so much I couldn’t straighten it out.

Then, while I was getting my first mug of tea, an operation that requires holding a mug under a spout as it fills with very hot water, I realized, simultaneously, that I was incapable of holding onto the mug as it filled and so was about to drop the whole thing on the floor (I immediately set it down and switched to doing everything with my left hand, which was agonizing but achievable); and that I had no ordinary name, or even a fancy anatomical term, for that swollen and screamingly painful joint on my right hand. I had a description — “the top joint of that finger, just under the fingernail” — but no name; in fact, I had no name for any of the hand joints other than those at the base of the fingers: the knuckles, in my usage.

It was somewhat worse yesterday, though I could use a mouse and type, cautiously, with my right index finger. I took a photo, using my iPad — a minimal instrument, and very hard to manage for using an afflicted left hand to shoot a worse-afflicted right hand. Not a triumph of the photographer’s art, and better at showing some of the devastation of ulnar nerve damage (the useless, permanently contracted little finger, the pit of vanished muscle between my thumb and index finger) than the terribly swollen joint on my middle finger: