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Helping to drag America, kicking & screaming, into the Age of Enlightenment
Random Stuff XXIV
A while back my good friend Alicia told me how some people who shop at Target pronounce it "Tar-zhay" in a facetious attempt to make it sound more classy and less like a cut-rate corporate hellhole. I was highly amused, and I think this idea should be generalized with more faux-classy company names. In fact, I just came up with one, although it's more a visual gag than an auditory one:

Môtel 6

You see, the little hat ("circumflex accent") over the o gives it that continental mystique. Even better, since six is the same in French and English, you can just say it with a French accent and you'll be right on the money.

I'm in hell! I'M IN HELL!!

Hey, I discovered that the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, London, are available on line all the way back to 1665! Yes, you can—right this instant—read about the goings-on of this august body when it was populated with the likes of Isaac Newton, Robert Hooke and Robert Boyle, with cameos by such luminaries as Anton van Leeuwenhoek, Gottfried Leibniz and Giovanni Domenico Cassini.

This here is an invaluable resource. For instance, suppose I stumbled upon the first usage of the word cell in the biological sense, by Robert Hooke. Then, whenever I first used the word in a paper, I could cite it: "The plasma membrane of the mammalian cell (Hooke, 1668)...." I suppose that sort of thing annoys editors, however, so perhaps it isn't such a good idea after all.

A quick reading of the very first issue unearthed this intriguing tidbit, titled "A Spot in One of the Belts of Jupiter" (Vol. 1, p. 3):
The Ingenious Mr. Hook [presumably Robert Hooke] did, some moneths since, intimate to a friend of his, that he had, with an excellent twelve foot Telescope, observed, some days, before, he than spoke of it, (videl. on the ninth of May, 1664, about 9 of the clock at night) a small Spot in the biggest of the 3 obscurer Belts of Jupiter, and that, observing it from time to time, he found, that within 2 hours after, the said Spot had moved from East to West, about half the length of the Diameter of Jupiter.
Scientists, being the Practitioners of Natural Philosophy, in the Modern World, at this time, surely no longer Write the Accounts of their Observations, and Theories of Nature, in this baroque Manner. Is Hooke, perchance, describing the The Great Red Spot? It's impossible to say with certainty, although the described rate of rotation is consistent. Wikipedia reports that the Great Red Spot "was probably first observed by Cassini, who described it around 1665." Was Cassini in fact scooped by Hooke? Or did Hooke, hearing of Cassini's finding, merely confirm it?

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chillyrodent From: chillyrodent Date: September 15th, 2006 01:35 pm (UTC) (Link)

And Sir Newton didde saye,Cursed fruit! Dost it dare falle upon the heade of a Knight Templar? Thusly didst murmurs spread throu the crowde.

Hey, that hat looks like a little chalet roof! People would be, like, let's go get under that cozy little circumflex roof!
6_bleen_7 From: 6_bleen_7 Date: September 15th, 2006 07:42 pm (UTC) (Link)
Heh-heh—the language isn't quite that old, though I think I once read a fly genetics paper from Sir Galahad's lab.

Is it mere coincidence that in French, château has a hat? I think not!
jedibl From: jedibl Date: September 15th, 2006 05:28 pm (UTC) (Link)
The sad thing is... I'm not sure how facetious some of those people who refer to Tar-zhay are being.

Given that it does carry "trendier" stuff than K-Mart and Wal-mart...

Have you heard that there's now an official "Target Couture" line (not carried in any Target stores, but rather in haute-couture boutiques?) Sadly, Wikipedia does not seem to have an article on this phenomenon, but a google search for "Target Couture" brings up a couple of Washington Post articles about it.
6_bleen_7 From: 6_bleen_7 Date: September 15th, 2006 07:47 pm (UTC) (Link)
Really—Target Couture? I think my irony lobe just burned out.

We have to do our miscellaneous-housewares shopping at Target, as the only alternative here is Wal*Mart. I look at the crap that Target sells and think, "What utter crap!" Yet people I know who have slummed the dregs consistently tell me that Wal*Mart's wares are significantly worse.
samwibatt From: samwibatt Date: September 15th, 2006 07:32 pm (UTC) (Link)
That Royal Society thing is so cool. When I have a bit more time I will explore it mightily.

The use of commas in that passage reminds me of the writing style a lot of semiliterate people have on the 'net... you know... where the only punctuation they use... is the ellipsis...

I cut the Royal Society people some slack because spelling, grammar, and punctuation usage hadn't been standardized back then.

Interesting, too, how a lot of Nouns are capitalized, sort of a Throwback to the Roots of the English Language in the Germanic.

You should totally cite Hooke for the coining of the term "cell" (though I thought Van Leeuwenhoek had come up with it). Maybe not in a final draft of a paper, but have it in there long enough for some reviewer to object to it before yanking it. If you do that, I promise to write a paper referring to Electro-Mechanical Computing Machines.
6_bleen_7 From: 6_bleen_7 Date: September 15th, 2006 07:59 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh yeah, I knew that spelling, etc. wasn't a big deal back then—I was making fun of the writing style that was in vogue. The passage about Jupiter has caught the decline of capitalizing nouns about halfway along: only the most important Nouns are capitalized, leaving the minor ones to sulk in obscurity.

van Leeuwenhoek was the first to describe objects of cellular size, but Hooke coined the term "cell" to describe the structure of cork (which looks like a prison block under the microscope, though I believe he was referring to monks' chambers).

Ellipses? We've got ellipses!
samwibatt From: samwibatt Date: September 15th, 2006 10:31 pm (UTC) (Link)
I figured you were aware of the non-standardization of English in those dez, I just didn't say what I meant to say very well, which was that I too get a kick out of how they wrote (while realizing there was no real stylebook).

As you say, it looks like Nouns which get some Focus are the capitalized ones; e.g. Spot, Telescope, &c., while the incidental ones aren't.

Re: Tarzhay, I first heard that when I first got to Redlands in '85 and a friend of mine worked for a Target in nearby Rialto, CA. I'd never heard of the store before that, since they hadn't made it into Utah yet.

Re: Screamingchild Airways, Shudder. Southwest now sort of has a reputation for being packed with shriekers, which may just be because they're a cheap airline that flies into and out of Utah a lot. Happily, I haven't had much problem with screaming kids on aeroplanes. I narrowly escaped a much worse kid-related annoyance on the flight chalain and I took back from London; they were unable to seat us together, and he was the one stuck next to Bursting Diaper Baby whose mom wanted to watch the in-flight movie more than she wanted to deal with BDB.
samwibatt From: samwibatt Date: September 15th, 2006 10:39 pm (UTC) (Link)
Interesting - look what you get if you pull out just the capitalized Nouns in that excerpt:

Hook Telescope Spot Belts Jupiter Spot East West Diameter Jupiter

(not including the bit in parentheses).

Actually not a bad precis.
6_bleen_7 From: 6_bleen_7 Date: September 17th, 2006 03:21 am (UTC) (Link)
Do you think italics are merely reserved for the really important Nouns, or do they have an additional function?
samwibatt From: samwibatt Date: September 17th, 2006 04:02 am (UTC) (Link)
I could see them being reserved just for the really important Nouns. If you read only the italics, you'd get Belts Jupiter, which is the very core of what's being discussed.
samwibatt From: samwibatt Date: September 17th, 2006 04:03 am (UTC) (Link)
Rather, Hook Belts Jupiter Jupiter, which is even better.
6_bleen_7 From: 6_bleen_7 Date: September 17th, 2006 04:17 am (UTC) (Link)
ROFFLE! Whack! "Aaaagh!" Whack! "Noooo!"
samwibatt From: samwibatt Date: September 22nd, 2006 05:36 am (UTC) (Link)
6_bleen_7 From: 6_bleen_7 Date: September 22nd, 2006 06:19 am (UTC) (Link)
Ooooh, look at those planets, they're so grooooo-deeeeee!
6_bleen_7 From: 6_bleen_7 Date: September 17th, 2006 03:29 am (UTC) (Link)
Heh-heh, I've noticed that all flights involving SLC have an unusually high concentration of shriekers (two frequencies: "EEEEEE!" and "EEEEEE!" about a half-step lower), but yeah, Southwest's low fares really attract the famblees. Paradoxically, I like Southwest best despite this fact, because all the screamers pre-board, and sit right up front; and with my "A" boarding pass I deliberately sit way in the back. Then, I haul out my Bose QuietComfort headphones, spin up some Vivaldi, and I'm happily ensconced in my inner sanctum. I really enjoy my Bose headphones: they work so well against jet-engine noise that if I take them off during the flight the background roar is deafening. Unfortunately, they don't work nearly as well against lower-frequency, modulated noise like kids yelling just for the hell of it, or the business droid in the next seat trying to sound important on his cell phone right until the moment of wheels-up.
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