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General Ignorance

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21824.  Mon Jun 20, 2005 10:49 am Reply with quote

At the risk of sounding ultracrepidarian…

One thing about this that has been troubling me slightly is the fact that if you had a word “ewt” which is pronounced like the last 3 letters of “newt”, the correct indefinite article would be ‘a’ rather than ‘an’.

Middle English neute, from a neute, alteration of an eute, variant of evete, from Old English efete.

My take on this is that the original word was “eute” rather than “ewt” and probably pronounced something like “oot” or “oyt”, the word newt being a slight variation on that.

So we’re talking “a norange eute”. A little pedantic I know, and I may be stating the obvious, but without that step it doesn’t make sense to me.

21831.  Mon Jun 20, 2005 4:12 pm Reply with quote

It seems to make even less sense than that: apparently they were "efts" before they were "ewts". I wonder whether the rarity of efts/ewts/newts is an issue here: nobody ever saw them much, so the word was hardly used, and so it made big, etymologically bizarre jumps when it developed.

I'm aware that this suggestion has little to commend it.

21846.  Tue Jun 21, 2005 2:53 am Reply with quote

Another word coming into the newt/orange category is lute. The instrument is known in Arabic as ud, or, with its definite article, al'ud, so here the transferred letter has come from the original language, not English.

Yet another - adder. Originally "nadder" [cf. Welsh neidr (snake)].

Even more:

Auger (nafugar)
Apron (naperon)
Umpire (noumpere).

As kids we always backformed umpire into a verb "to ump" ("Can I ump next?"). This leads me to musing over the new word for birdwatching - birding. This presumes a verb "to bird", which strikes me as rather absurd, pardon the Fowler's Jingle.

I bird.

I birded yesterday.

21852.  Tue Jun 21, 2005 4:27 am Reply with quote

"As kids we always backformed umpire into a verb "to ump" ("Can I ump next?"). "

Wait a minute - you *wanted* to umpire??

21856.  Tue Jun 21, 2005 5:20 am Reply with quote

Absolutely! You got to stand still instead of all that tedious running about, and catching, throwing and hitting things.

I forgot to mention that I had cricket in mind - I wouldn't have umped in a game of tennis.

21869.  Tue Jun 21, 2005 8:04 am Reply with quote

Apparently, in Bill Bryson’s “Short history of nearly everything,” he writes: “We are so atomically numerous and so vigorously recycled at death that a significant number of our atoms - up to a billion for each of us, it has been suggested - probably once belonged to Shakespeare.”

Is this realistic? If so, how about the question: “Alan: are you Shakespeare?”

21870.  Tue Jun 21, 2005 8:24 am Reply with quote

This site purports to have done the calculations and comes up with the figure 200 billion.

However I have not had time to check the figures, so I would advocate a little caution.

Thus there are about 200 billion Shakespearean atoms in each of us. We all have quite a bit of Shakespeare in us. Of course, if some of the bard's waste did not disperse, higher concentrations of his atoms are likely to be located in the United Kingdom. Hence, Brits can claim to have more Shakespeare in them, which seems reasonable from social and biological points of view anyway and should make them jolly happy. Not to intentionally deflate their egos, however, pigs and other grazing animals of the United Kingdom should be able to claim to have even more of the Shakespeare's atoms in them. And of course, a few choice atoms do not a genius make.

I wonder whether using another dead celebrity rather than Shakey might lead to more laughs?

21872.  Tue Jun 21, 2005 9:31 am Reply with quote

Why would grazing animals have more than humans?

21875.  Tue Jun 21, 2005 10:54 am Reply with quote

I’ve got a bit of an idea about the word “muggle” in that before JK Rowling came along it seems that it was jazz-slang for someone who smoked marijuana.

Not quite sure how it could be worded, but something comparing Harry Potter to Prince Harry could work. My main problem is that I don’t know anything about the books, and probably even less about the drug.

Just thought I’d throw the idea in the air see if anyone can take it up.

21877.  Tue Jun 21, 2005 11:53 am Reply with quote

eggshaped wrote:
it seems that it was jazz-slang for someone who smoked marijuana.
It might be relevant that there are many other definitions too - this from A Word a Day -
The OED lists a number of senses for this word (resembling a fish tail; a young woman; marijuana) spanning the 13th to 20th century.

21885.  Wed Jun 22, 2005 3:58 am Reply with quote

I might be a bit late with this, but if you’re going with the Shakespeare thing, this could be quite interesting. According to this report, in the cell department we are outnumbered by bacteria, fungi and viruses.,1286,65252,00.html

Most of the cells in your body are not your own, nor are they even human. They are bacterial. From the invisible strands of fungi waiting to sprout between our toes, to the kilogram of bacterial matter in our guts, we are best viewed as walking "superorganisms," highly complex conglomerations of human cells, bacteria, fungi and viruses.

That's the view of scientists at Imperial College London who published a paper in Nature Biotechnology Oct. 6 describing how these microbes interact with the body. The scientists concentrated on bacteria. More than 500 different species of bacteria exist in our bodies, making up more than 100 trillion cells. Because our bodies are made of only some several trillion human cells, we are somewhat outnumbered by the aliens. It follows that most of the genes in our bodies are from bacteria, too.

I wanted to post this ASAP, so haven’t done any background on it. But I think it could be a good course to pursue, and it links with ‘c’ for Cell.

21963.  Fri Jun 24, 2005 9:44 am Reply with quote

A late postscript to the War of the Worlds mass panic, just for the interest of the assembly: the August 2005 issue of Fortean Times (FT199, pp42-47) carries another piece on the Wells/Welles business - and this time it supports the counter-revisionist view ... sort of. “For one hour, many people thought they were under attack by Martians,” it says, and “What is undeniable is that in the reported attack zone of greater New York and New Jersey, at least several hundred, if not thousands, of residents, became panicky.”

On a quick flick through, this looks like the most authoritative piece yet on the subject, and it also covers Father Knox’s show.

21978.  Fri Jun 24, 2005 11:42 am Reply with quote

I just thought I'd post here that fleeces are made from plastic bottles. I really didn't know that till recently.

24546.  Thu Sep 22, 2005 4:15 am Reply with quote

Yet another ps to the War of the Worlds panic ...

Fortean Times issue 202, p 8, reports as follows:

"When a tornado flattened trees and destroyed property, people in the remote Siberian region of Khabarovsk fled their homes in panic, thinking aliens were invading. Officials from local emergency servives blamed the panic on a recent showing of 'War of the Worlds,' the Tom Cruise blockbuster."

So, no matter what version of the Wells-Welles story is involved, the result is (allegedly) the same. Which makes me wonder: is it *only* WotW that does this? Anybody know of any non-WotW panics? Do rich people rush out of their country houses, screaming, after seeing Agatha Christie films, for instance?

30535.  Fri Nov 11, 2005 5:57 am Reply with quote

not sure if alot of people know this

Q: What is a calorie?

Forfeit: Amount of fat in food

Actual answer: By definition, one calorie is the energy needed to increase the temperature of 1 g of water by 1 °C at 15 °C under standard atmospheric pressure (760 mmHg). This unit of energy is equivalent to about 4.185 J.


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