Sunday, 30 September 2007

Photo Naming Strategy (another)

Keep the original name for photos - for scanned images give each image a permanent "ID number".

I assume you would like to be able to view the photos in chronological order - that part can be added to the file name then or later.

The final file name would then be in this form "Year_DateSequenceNumber_IDxxxx. jpg":

1950_020_ID1523. jpg

1950_021_ID1026. jpg etc. etc.

FWIW when I scanned my photos I used the first part (1950-020. jpg) as the "file ID" and later found some photos were in the wrong year. I can't change that easily and I can't put them in sequence. . .   Using an independent ID (tracking number) allows you change the year and the date sequence.

You might want to add names and/or occasions at the end (the KISS approach).

1950_020_ID1523_CousinStanley. jpg

1950_021_ID1026_GrandCanyonTrip. jpg

You may want to do more. . .   I use a spreadsheet with info about each photo (who, where, occasion, notes/comments) and am now creating individual HTML files for each photo - then grouping them on PHP web pages for viewing - using EasyPHP.

from usenet

Lang may yer lum reek

Lang may yer lum reek", is Scots for "long may your chimney smoke" - in other words, may you live long and prosper.

Thursday, 27 September 2007

Words with 3 consecutive identical letters

wallless - without walls
headmistressship - the position of headmistress

Bingo Lingo

Butlins have recently updated their slang terms for bingo numbers. Robert 'waiting for one number" Meddes waves goodbye to Tom Mix et al.

Tom Mix - number 6 of course: noted silent actor and still able to conjure up images of lantern jawed cowboys in bingo players of a certain age, usually 90+. Consequently, to a lot of people today, Tom Mix is about as well known as whoever it was that won last year's Big Brother. It's because a lot of these bingo terms are lost on today's dabber- wielding punters, that professor Charlie Blake has updated the slangy parlance of Butlins' denizens, to incorporate more modern terms. So, instead of 'half a crown' for 26 (i. e. two and six) we now have Hans Blix. Number 8, formerly garden gate, is now preceded by Pop Idol hamster-boy Gareth Gates. In place of two little ducks (22 quack-quack) we're left with Tom Cruise. Now, I can get away with Hans Blix for 26, Gareth Gates for number 8, hmm .. But Tom Cruise, 22? Piss off. I've never heard such an imperfect rhyme since Ronan Keating tried to couple 'kissing' with 'condition'.

The old Bingo Lingo is almost a snap-shot of post-war Britain with its casual sexism ('7 and 6, was she worth it?' 7 and 6 being the price of a marriage licence) and under-the-counter naughtiness. There's no definitive list of calls - with varying rhymes and allusions for each number - but wherever you look there are hints of sex. Legs eleven (11) and dirty Gertie (30) both have a dash of slap and tickle about them as does 'the Brighton line' (59) with its air of stolen weekends away in the countries romping capital. I prefer these subtler suggestions of sex to professor Charlie Blake's update which thrusts 'J-Lo's bum' to the fore (41- another imperfect rhyme unless you're from Nottingham). And I suppose 'never been kissed' (17) has been replaced with 'two kids and another on the way'.

Its only a matter of time before the powers that be realise that, like the Conservative party, their core audience is increasingly ageing and so try to re-brand the whole package. I for one am not relishing the desperate attempt to lure the hip r'n'b crowd wit the promise of a quick game of Blingo.

From The Crack, NE England Student Magazine

Monday, 24 September 2007

Thus I leave them; thus I always find them; thus they wear their time away, from year to year.

The last line of David Copperfield, by Charles Dickens

Liebig's Law of the Minimum

Liebig's Law of the Minimum, often referred to simply as Liebig's Law or the Law of the Minimum, is a law developed in agricultural science formulated by Justus von Liebig. It states that growth is controlled not by the total of resources available, but by the scarcest resource. It was originally applied to plant or crop growth. It was found that increasing the amount of plentiful nutrients did not increase growth. Only by increasing the amount of the limiting nutrient (the one most scarce in relation to "need") was growth of a plant or crop improved.

Liebig's Law has been extended to biological populations. For example, the growth of a biological population may not be limited by the total amount of resources present throughout the year, but by the minimum amount of resources available to that population at the time of the year of greatest scarcity. The growth of a population of animals might depend not on how much food was available in summer; rather on how much food was available in winter.


CDAY Calendar Almanac

What happened on your birthday? What happened on this day in history? CDAY reports events and birthdays and displays the date in different calendar systems.


CDAY WX is a graphical application for Windows and Linux suitable for most end-users. It includes the calendars and the almanac.


CDAY was inspired by Chesiresoft Calendar-Almanac, which was inspired by Patrick Kincaid's famous TODAY/PC (1986-1993). Earlier still, Mike Butler wrote TODAY for IBM VM/CMS in PL/1 (whatever that is).

Go to source: CDAY Calendar Almanac

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Only in Britain ...

Being British is about driving in a German car to an Irish pub for a Belgian beer and then travelling home, grabbing an Indian curry or a Turkish kebab on the way, to sit on Swedish furniture and watch American shows on a Japanese TV.

Oh and only in Britain can a pizza get to your house faster than an ambulance.

Only in Britain do supermarkets make sick people walk all the way to the back of the shop to get their prescriptions while healthy people can buy cigarettes at the front.

Only in Britain do people order double cheeseburgers, large fries and a DIET coke.

Only in Britain do banks leave both doors open and chain the pens to the counters.

Only in Britain do we leave cars worth thousands of pounds on the drive and lock our junk and cheap lawn mower in the garage.

Only in Britain do we use answering machines to screen calls and then have call waiting so we won't miss a call from someone we didn't want to talk to in the first place.

Only in Britain are there disabled parking places in front of a skating rink.

from uk.rec.humour

And, to our bitter grief, with a smile and in silence, he died, a gallant gentleman.

The last line of Dracula, by Bram Stoker

Sunday, 16 September 2007


A nonce word (from the 16th-century phrase "for the nonce," meaning "for the once") is a lexeme created for temporary use, to solve an immediate problem of communications. Someone attempting to describe the excess water on a road after a storm was heard to call it a "fluddle" -- she meant something bigger than a puddle but smaller than a flood. The newborn lexeme was forgotten (except by a passing linguist) almost as soon as it was spoken. It was obvious from the jocularly apologetic way in which the person spoke that she did not consider "fluddle" to be a "proper" word at all. There was no intention to propose it for inclusion in a dictionary. As far as she was concerned, it was simply that there seemed to be no word in the language for what she wanted to say, so she made one up, for the nonce. In everyday conversation, people create nonce-words like this all the time.

David Crystal, British linguist, _The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language_, 1995

Thursday, 13 September 2007


The word "grin" derives from the Old English grinning, to grimace; or to even older Germanic cognates for "mutter," "grunt," "groan" and "howl".

"Grin" in the UK still carries a lingering undertone of that older usage. Indeed, the Concise Oxford leans a little that way, defining "grin" as "show teeth, esp. in amusement or pain or in forced or unrestrained or vacant smile."

But the American Heritage Dictionary defines "grin" as, "to smile broadly, often baring the teeth, as in amusement, glee, embarrassment, or other strong emotion." Clearly, when the word crossed the Atlantic (to the US, at least), it lost its connections to the more negative root words.

10 Minute Mail

Clicking on the link below will enable you to get a temporary e-mail address. Any e-mails sent to that address will show up automatically on the web page. You can read them, click on links, and even reply to them. The e-mail address will expire after 10 minutes.

Why would you use this? Maybe you want to sign up for a site which requires that you provide an e-mail address to send a validation e-mail to. And maybe you don't want to give up your real e-mail address and end up on a bunch of spam lists. This is nice and disposable. And it's free. Enjoy!

The British Constitution

A constitution is a set of laws on how a country is governed. The British Constitution is unwritten, unlike the constitution in America or the proposed European Constitution, and as such, is referred to as an uncodified constitution in the sense that there is no single document that can be classed as Britain's constitution. The British Constitution can be found in a variety of documents. Supporters of our constitution believe that the current way allows for flexibility and change to occur without too many problems. Those who want a written constitution believe that it should be codified so that the public as a whole has access to it – as opposed to just constitutional experts who know where to look and how to interpret it.

Amendments to Britain’s unwritten constitution are made the same way – by a simply majority support in both Houses of Parliament to be followed by the Royal Assent.

The British Constitution comes from a variety of sources. The main ones are:

  • Statutes such as the Magna Carta of 1215 and the Act of Settlement of 1701.

  • Laws and Customs of Parliament; political conventions

  • Case law; constitutional matters decided in a court of law

  • Constitutional experts who have written on the subject such as Walter Bagehot and A.V Dicey.

There are two basic principles to the British Constitution:

  • The Rule of Law

  • The Supremacy of Parliament


Cap or Hat?

Cap - A usually soft and close-fitting head covering, either having no brim or with a visor.

Hat - A covering for the head, especially one with a shaped crown and brim.

Wednesday, 12 September 2007

"Pieces of eight! Pieces of eight!"

Oxen and wain-ropes would not bring me back again to that accursed island; and the worst dreams that ever I have are when I hear the surf booming about its coasts or start upright in bed with the sharp voice of Captain Flint still ringing in my ears: "Pieces of eight! Pieces of eight!"

The last line of Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson

Socrates, Plato & Aritotle


Socrates was born in the mid 400's B.C He taught philosophy and taught Plato. Before 400 B.C., he began questioning Athenian values, laws, customs, and religion. In 399, he was brought to trial and found guilty of treason to the gods. He was sentenced to death. His teachings were written down by his student, Plato. He was the first to make a clear distinction between the body and soul, placing a higher value on the soul. He had a noble life, and his calm acceptance of death made him a model for other philosophers to follow.


Plato, one of the most famous Greek philosophers, was born in Athens. Plato wanted to be a politician, but he was repelled when his cousin Critias and uncle Charmides became dictators of Athens,and they invited him to join them. He said they had " cruel, unethical practices". In 403 B.C., democracy was restored to Athens. Plato then tried to get involved in politics, but was repelled again when his friend and teacher Socrates was sentenced to death in 399 B.C. Plato left Athens after Socrates was killed. He returned in 387 B.C., and founded a school of philosophy called the Academy.  The Academy was held in a grove of trees that the Greek hero Academus lived. It was considered the first university by many people.


Aristotle was born in Stagira. When he was 18, he attended the Academy, where he was a student for 20 years. He was known as "the intelligence of  the school" and "reader". In 347 B.C., when Plato died, Aristotle joined a group of Plato's disciples that lived with Hermias, a former Academy student. He stayed for three years and married Hermias's adopted daughter, Pithias. In 343 or 342 B.C., Philip II of Macedonia asked Aristotle to supervise the education of his son, Alexander, who later conquered Greece. After he conquered the Persian empire, he became known as Alexander the Great. Alexander studied under Aristotle until his father, King Philip, was assassinated and he became king of Macedonia. Aristotle returned to Athens in 334 B.C. and founded the Lyceum, a school of philosophy. HE and his followers were called "peripatetic", which means "walking around". Aristotle taught while he was walking. After Alexander the Great died in 323 B.C., Aristotle was charged with impiety, which was a lack of reverence for the gods, by the Athenian people. The Athenians resented his friendship with Alexander, who conquered them. Aristotle went to Chalcis, remembering similar charges against Socrates in 349 B.C. He died one year later in Chalcis.


How smart is your right foot?

Just try this.

It is from an orthopedic surgeon............

This will boggle your mind and you will keep trying over and over again to see if you can outsmart your foot, but, you can't. It's preprogrammed In your brain!

1. While sitting at your desk, lift your right foot off the floor and make clockwise circles.

2. Next, while doing this, draw the number "6" in the air with your right hand. Your foot will change direction.

I told you so!

And there's nothing you can do about it!

You and I both know how stupid it is, but before the day is done you will try it again.

Tuesday, 11 September 2007

Banshee / Wailing Banshee

A banshee is an Irish myth. A ghost that protects an Irish family throughout eternity without showing itself, unless someone in the family dies. Since the banshee can predict the future, it knows who is going to die beforehand. So it mourns under the moonlight, with cries more like the wind and shows itself to someone in the family (preferably the one who isn't going to die). It gets so sad because it is a part of the family. See

Her Scottish counterpart is the Bean Nighe ("washer-woman"). See

Clic - ICON tool

Generate stunning quality icons in true color (24 bit, 16.7 million colors) with transparency. Screen Capture grabs an icon from anywhere on screen in realtime, or Paste to Fit auto resizes your picture. So simple! Internet authors create your favicon.ico for website representation.


Epistemic Contextualism

Epistemic contextualism (EC) is a recent and hotly debated position. In its dominant form, EC is the view that the proposition expressed by a given knowledge sentence (‘S knows that p’, ‘S doesn't know that p’) depends upon the context in which it is uttered. What makes this view interesting and controversial is that ‘context’ here refers, not to certain features of the putative subject of knowledge or his/her objective situation, but rather to features of the knowledge attributor(s)' psychology and/or conversational-practical situation.

For instance - Suppose we are interested in whether Jones, an ordinary non-medically trained person, has the general information that polio is caused by a virus. If his response to our question is that he remembers the paper reporting that Salk said it was, then this is good enough. He has performed adequately given the issue-context. But suppose the context is an examination for the M. D. degree. Here we expect a lot more. If the candidate simply said what Jones did, we would take him as being very deficient in knowledge. Thus relative to one issue-context a person may be justified in believing, but not justified relative to another context.

See the full article at

Monday, 10 September 2007

Boundary Puzzles

Imagine ourselves traveling from Maryland to Pennsylvania. What happens as we cross the Mason-Dixon line? Do we pass through a last point p in Maryland and a first point q in Pennsylvania?

Consider Aristotle's own riddle about motion: At the instant when an object stops moving, is it in motion or is it at rest?

Or consider the dilemma raised by Leonardo in his Notebooks: What is it that divides the atmosphere from the water? Is it air or is it water?

Or, again, consider Peirce's puzzle: What color is the line of demarcation between a black spot and its white background?

When exactly did the industrial revolution begin? When did it end? (Where did it take place?)

Extracted from

Postel's Law

In the 1981 RFC that defines the Transmission Control Protocol, RFC 793, American computer scientist Jon Postel set forth a robustness principle (known otherwise as Postel's law) imperative:

   Be conservative in what you do; be liberal in which you accept from others.

The principle suggests that Internet software developers carefully write software that adheres closely to extant RFCs but accept and embrace input from others that is not wholly consistent with those RFCs.

Sunday, 9 September 2007

Peas & Corn


I was eating a meal of chicken, peas and corn with a Japanese person. She could understand why it was correct to say "chicken" instead of "chickens", but asked me to explain why we say "peas" but not "corns". To her they look very similar - just one vegetable is green, and the other is yellow. I came up with a few attempts at an explanation, but never a satisfactory one. Can anyone help me?

Answer #1

Yes, the pea is an anomaly because of the history of the word. I think, in general, that whether we choose the singular or plural of a food depends on whether we are thinking of it as an object or as an uncountable substance. "Chicken" is usually singular but a bird that is small enough for a dish to contain several, served whole, could well be used in the plural - quails, for example.

Cereals tend to be used in the singular, I assume, because the individual grains are too small for us to think of them as singular objects. This thus applies to corn (maize) even though it has relatively big pieces - about the same as a pea, as it happens. I use the plural "corns" for baby corn cobs but I don't know if that's usual. (I'm not sure, BTW, that maize should really be called a cereal, although cornflakes are the archetypal breakfast "cereal".)

Answer #2

The individual pieces of corn are called "corn kernels" aren't they? They are not called "corns" in the plural, because the word "corn" does not refer to an individual piece. I would suggest the anomaly comes about because corn can be served both on the cob, where it doesn't make sense to think of it in terms of little pieces, and as a pile of kernels taken off the cob.

from usenet

Complete Freeware Collection

Why Spend Big Money On Software?

In fact, why even spend any money at all? The “Complete Freeware Collection” is a collection of choice freeware applications which, when combined, make for a computer software package to meet any and all of your day to day software needs.

The whole idea behind creating this not so much to create a “best freeware” list, but rather to illustrate that when you get right down to it, all you really need to purchase, is an operating system. After that, you really do not have to spend one cent on software.

Saturday, 8 September 2007

Photo Naming Strategy

I always save edited copies with a new name using a simple naming code that lets me know what I did to it.

I keep the original file name so they are in numeric sequence and in a group, but I add letters and numbers to the end such as... "c" for cropped, "a" for adjusted (brightness contrast, color balance type changes), "r" for resized, "s" for sharpened, and I might have a sequence number after each of these if I had more than one crop for example.

So if the original file was Img_4587.jpg, then my saved edited version might be Img_4587c2ars.jpg, and at a glance I can tell that was a second crop and has been edited for color contrast etc, and has been resized and sharpened.

A copy I saved for printing might be named "Img_4587c2a.png" (not resized, and needs sharpening before printing, but don't want to sharpen before resizing).

The order of letters is also the order in which I perform the edit.

from usenet


Q: Does anyone know the origin of the word "soccer"? The origin of the word "football" is obvious, but why do British people sometimes call the game soccer?

A: Actually, it's usually Americans and Australians who call it "soccer", as they have their own sports that they prefer to call "football"!

But, that aside, the term is of British origin. It comes from Oxford university slang of the 1930s, which was notable for abbreviating words and then adding "er" to the end of them. "Football", in this system, obviously mutates to "footer"; and that, or its variant, "footy", is still commonly used as well. But there is more than one form of football. The two most common in Britain are Association Football, which is the round ball game, and Rugby Football, which is the oval ball game. So, in the slang usage, these became "soccer footer" and "rugger footer", or simply just "soccer" and "rugger".

Friday, 7 September 2007

The Mason-Dixon Line

Literally, the Mason-Dixon Line (or "Mason and Dixon's Line") demarcated state boundaries between the Province of Pennsylvania, the Province of Maryland, Delaware Colony and parts of Virginia Colony in colonial North America and between their successor-state members of the United States.

Symbolically, the line became the boundary between the North and South, particularly with respect to slavery. Pennsylvania abolished slavery early while Delaware and Maryland remained slave states until the American Civil War.


Due to an incorrect map, the royal charter granted Maryland the territory north of the Potomac River up to the fortieth parallel, which would put Philadelphia, the major city in Pennsylvania, within Maryland. The Calvert family, which controlled Maryland, and the Penn family, which controlled Pennsylvania, engaged two British surveyors, astronomer Charles Mason and surveyor Jeremiah Dixon, to survey what became known as the Mason-Dixon line which would form the boundary between their two colonies. They ran this line for 244 miles (392 kilometres) between 1763 and 1767, until a group of Native Americans forced them to quit their progress westwards. This boundary between Pennsylvania and Maryland was resurveyed in 1849, then again in 1900.

Mason and Dixon's survey also fixed the boundary between Delaware and Pennsylvania and the approximately north-south portion of the boundary between Delaware and Maryland. Most of the Delaware-Pennsylvania boundary is an arc, and the Delaware-Maryland boundary does not run truly north-south because it was intended to bisect the Delmarva Peninsula rather than follow a meridian. However, the Maryland-Pennsylvania boundary is a true east-west line. The line also traced the border between Pennsylvania and West Virginia (originally part of Virginia).



NetMeter is a small, customizable network bandwidth monitoring program for Windows. It shows upload and download speeds, along with cumulative weekly and monthly volumes and projected values. Freeware.

Odd Opposites

Why are a wise man and a wise guy opposites?
Why do overlook and oversee mean opposite things?
If pro is the opposite of con, is progress the opposite of congress?

Thursday, 6 September 2007

The Clumsy Waiter

A waiter serving dinner slips, and spills gravy on a guest's white silk evening gown. The guest glares at the waiter, and the waiter declares "I'm sorry. It was my fault." Why did the waiter say that he was at fault? He knew that he was at fault, and he knew from the guest's angry expression that she knew he was at fault. However, the sorry waiter wanted assurance that the guest knew that he knew he was at fault. By saying openly that he was at fault, the waiter knew that the guest knew what he wanted her to know, namely, that he knew he was at fault. Note that the waiter's declaration established at least three levels of nested knowledge.

Certain assumptions are implicit in the preceding story. In particular, the waiter must know that the guest knows he has spoken the truth, and that she can draw the desired conclusion from what he says in this context. More fundamentally, the waiter must know that if he announces "It was my fault" to the guest, she will interpret his intended meaning correctly and will infer what his making this announcement ordinarily implies in this context. This in turn implies that the guest must know that if the waiter announces "It was my fault" in this context, then the waiter indeed knows he is at fault. Then on account of his announcement, the waiter knows that the guest knows that he knows he was at fault. The waiter's announcement was meant to generate higher-order levels of knowledge of a fact each already knew.

Extracted from an article on Common Knowledge at

The short/wrong end of the stick

In the days of outhouses, often there were outhouses with multiple "holes" so that more than one person could relieve him(her)self at a time. Before the time of toilet paper, catalogs and corn cobs, a stick shaped like a shoe horn was used for "hygienic cleaning." It was rather a short spatula device with a longer handle. Well, if one person was done, he could request that the person using the adjoining hole pass the stick. Of course the person with the stick would pass it holding onto the other person by holding the long end of the stick. The recipient would therefore receive it holding the "short end of the stick."


The word means "Proud". The derivation refers to the state of the male member, which has been *manipulated* - *chuffed* - in such a way to make it so (if you see what I mean). It's a slang word from the 18th century brothels of London, of which there were many. (AIH, there are many other claimed derivations for it, and they all refer to that area of the anatomy in one way or another. A google search will no doubt reveal some.)

from uk.culture.language.english

Tuesday, 4 September 2007

Two Way Mirrors - "No Space, Leave the Place."

I thought this was quite interesting! And I know in about thirty seconds, you're going to do what I did, and find the nearest mirror. I've often heard about the two-way mirror but could never tell, so I thought you might be interested.

Do you know how to determine if a mirror is two-way or not?

This is not to scare you, but to make you aware. A policewoman, who travels all over the U. S. and gives seminars and techniques for businesswomen, passed this on.

When we visit toilets, bathrooms, hotel rooms! , changing rooms, etc., how many of you know for sure that the seemingly ordinary mirror hanging on the wall is a real mirror, or actually a two-way mirror (i. e., they can see you, but you can't see them)?

There have been many cases of people installing two-way mirrors in female changing rooms. It is very difficult to positively identify the surface by just looking at it. So, how do we determine with any amount of certainty what type of mirror we are looking at?

Just conduct this simple test: Place the tip of your fingernail against the mirror surface. If there is a GAP between your fingernail and the image of the nail, then it is a GENUINE mirror; however, if your fingernail DIRECTLY TOUCHES the image of your nail, then BEWARE, FOR IT IS A TWO WAY MIRROR!

This is because the reflecting material on a real mirror is on the BACK of the glass, but on a two way mirror it is on the FRONT of the glass.

"No Space, Leave the Place."

So remember, every time you see a mirror, do the "fingernail test." It doesn't cost you anything - just remember: "No Space, Leave the Place"

Ladies: Please share this with your girlfriends, sisters, daughters, etc.

Men: Share this with your wives, daughters, in-laws, mothers, girlfriends and/or friends.

And to my friends . . . please pass this mail on to all your online friends.

Remember: "No Space, Leave the Place."


Q. Watching earth-moving near my home the other day, I wondered why the machine doing the job was called a "bulldozer". I can see how it might be like a bull butting, but is that really where it comes from? [Jim Whittaker]

A. Sort of. But the story's surprisingly complicated.

The word is definitely American. The earliest sense had nothing to do with machinery, but referred to punishment, in particular a severe whipping applied with a bullwhip. Detailed explanations appear in several US newspapers in the latter months of 1876. All say that it came into being as a result of a determined attempt by Republicans in the Southern states, particularly Louisiana, to stop blacks from joining the Democrats by "persuading" them to take the oath of the brethren of the Union Rights Stop. This is the way it was explained in the Gettysburg Compiler of 11 January 1877:

In very obstinate cases the brethren were in the habit of administering a "bull's dose" of several hundred lashes on the bare back. When dealing with those who were hard to convert, active members would call out "give me the whip and let me give him a bull-dose." From this it became easy to say "that fellow ought to be bull-dosed, or bull-dozed," and soon bull-doze, bull-dozing and bull-dozers came to be slang words.

By the early 1880s, to "bulldoze" was to intimidate or coerce by violence, specifically the threat of a flogging. A "bulldozer" could be a bully, an intimidator, or a member of a vigilante mob. It could also refer to a type of gun, presumably seen as a usefully intimidating device.

The next step occurs around the end of the century. We start to get references to "bulldozer" being the name for various items of equipment. The earliest is for a machine in a blacksmith's shop for bending big pieces of metal. There's no way to tell whether this sense appeared independently or had been borrowed from the earlier ones, but the ideas are sufficiently similar to presume a link of some sort.

In 1910, a Pennsylvania news report said a boat had been bought to scrape out and clean the channels of a canal. This came with a bulldozer - from the description a device for mounting on the bows of the boat - to break up heavy ice in winter. Crude early mule-powered earth-movers were also said to be fitted with such a bulldozer (the problem, it was said, was getting the mules to go backwards ready for the next stroke).

As you can imagine, in time "bulldozer" for the pusher device at the front of a machine became confused with that of the machine that did the pushing. But the first cases of "bulldozer" for a tractor fitted with one appear only at the end of the 1920s and are usually linked with the then new Caterpillar tractors. After that, of course, a retronym had to be invented to describe the item once called by that name, and "bulldozer blade" came into existence.

World Wide Words is copyright (c) Michael Quinion 2006. All rights reserved. The Words Web site is at .


1940s slang, from Italian capisci? "do you understand?" (also coppish, kabish, capeesh, etc.).


Monday, 3 September 2007

Did you know?

That Shaw named the character Henry Higgins in Pygmalion after the co-owner of a department store in Peckham?

Or that the letter "o" in words such as "come", "love", "one", and "son" ought to be "u" but that medieval scribes changed it to avoid a chain of identical downward strokes that were difficult to read?

Or that the patron saint of booksellers, St John of God, is also - shades of Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 - the patron saint of firemen?

Or that a parrot was the last surviving speaker of one South American language?

Or that the towns of Welshpool and Llanfair PG - the one on Anglesey with the 58-letter name - were both renamed by railway companies? (The former was originally just Pool, renamed to avoid confusion with Poole in Dorset, the latter was formerly Llanfair Pwllgwyngyll and was gifted its overweighted name as a tourist attraction.)

[ David Crystal, By Hook or By Crook: A Journey In Search of English; published by HarperPress on 1 May 2007; hardback, pp314; ISBN-13 978-0-00-723558-2; ISBN-10 0-00-723558-5; publisher's price GBP16.99.]

World Wide Words is copyright (c) Michael Quinion 2007. All rights reserved. The Words Web site is at

Escoffier / Eponymous Foods

At the London Savoy, Escoffier created many famous dishes. For example, in 1893 he invented the Pêche Melba in honour of the Australian singer Nellie Melba. Another of his creations (copied from Antoine Carême, according to some anecdotes) was Tournedos Rossini, in honour of the Italian composer Gioacchino Rossini.


No more silly names?

Venezuela's National Electoral Council last week proposed a Bill that would prevent parents giving their offspring "names that expose them to ridicule, are extravagant or difficult to pronounce" ...

See full story at

Sunday, 2 September 2007

End of Tolkien's Bournemouth house

A POOLE bungalow once the home of JRR Tolkien is to be demolished.

The bungalow in Lakeside Road was where Tolkien retired with his wife  
Edith in 1968 after his two best-known works, The Hobbit and the Lord of  
the Rings trilogy, had already made him famous.

An application by Cranbrook Homes (Southern) Ltd for outline planning  
permission for two four-bed family homes on the site breezed through  
planning at Poole council on Monday.

James Dean, director of Cranbrook Homes said he was not aware of the  
building's history.

He said: "It's going to be replaced with two superb contemporary houses.  
In the light of what you've just told me, perhaps one of them should be  
called Tolkien."

Tolkien lived in the three-bed bungalow, which backs onto Branksome Chine,  
until his wife's death in 1972 when he moved back to Oxford. Although no  
real evidence of his ownership remains, the beams which formed part of his  
study are still visible.

It came on the market for £1 million in November, sold by the person who  
bought it from Tolkien himself. The author, who died in 1973, is said to  
have found respite from his growing fame there and at the Miramar Hotel,  
Bournemouth, which he and his wife frequently visited. A commemorative  
plaque can be seen on the front of the hotel.

from rec.arts.books.tolkein

Nice collection of holes

Had this sent to me... seen some before but interesting anyway:

Abandoned Tunnels & Vast Underground Spaces

from uk.rec.subterrannea

Nietzsche on Monsters

Whoever fights monsters should see to it that he does not in turn become a monster.

--Friedrich Nietzsche

Socialism, Communism & Fascism

In very broad strokes, socialism is an economic system in which "the means of producing and distributing goods is owned collectively or by a centralized government that often plans and controls the economy." In modern societies, socialism often attempts to eradicate class divisions. While the word "socialism" is sometimes used interchangeably with "communism," the two aren't the same -- communism is a more extreme form of socialism.

Communism advocates the "collective ownership of property and the organization of labor for the common advantage of all members." While communism is first and foremost an economic system, it's also a political ideology that rejects religion. And just as communism is a form of socialism, Marxism, Maoism, and Leninism are branches of communism.

Like socialism and communism, fascism uses a central authority to maintain control, but "terror and censorship" are common. It results from economic failure in democratic political systems. Interestingly, while socialism and communism are both on the left end of the political spectrum, fascism contains elements of both "left and right ideology" and rises from economic collapse. The most famous fascist was Italian dictator Benito Mussolini. That ought to tell you it's not a good way to run a country.

Saturday, 1 September 2007

Things that are difficult to say

Things that are difficult to say when you're drunk . .

a) Innovative

b) Preliminary

c) Proliferation

d) Cinnamon


Things that are VERY difficult to say when you're drunk .. .

a) Specificity

b) British Constitution

c) Passive-aggressive disorder

d) Transubstantiate


Things that are DOWNRIGHT IMPOSSIBLE to say when you're drunk ...

a) Thanks, but I don't want to sleep with you.

b) Nope, no more booze for me.

c) Sorry, but you're not really my type.

d) No kebab for me, thank you.

e) Good evening officer, isn't it lovely out tonight?

f) I'm not interested in fighting you.

g) Oh, I just couldn't - no one wants to hear me sing.

h) Thank you, but I won't make any attempt to dance, I have zero co-ordination.

i) Where is the nearest toilet? I refuse to vomit in the street.

j) I must be going home now as I have work in the morning.

The Symptoms

"Doctor, doctor, I've got problems with my hearing."

"What are the symptoms?"

"They're those yellow people on TV."

from uk.rec.humour

Nerd, Geek or Dork?

We've been called all three, and to be honest, we always assumed they meant the same thing. However, according to the cool kids, there are differences.

Official definitions for nerd, geek, and dork each use the words "inept" and "foolish." Nerds have the added distinction of being "unattractive." Ouch. While it's hard to argue with the dictionary, we sought out definitions from the Internet at large.

According to, nerds are people of above-average intelligence who place little importance on their appearance. Nerds are often aware of their status, but they don't mind. In fact, many take pride in the putdown, as it means they're smart and not wrapped up in superficial worries.

Geek is a more specific term. Back in the day, geeks worked at carnivals, and (according to the dictionary) "bit the heads off live chickens." Thankfully, the term now has a different connotation. Like nerds, geeks are smart, but they tend to focus more on technology. As Urban Dictionary explains, these are the people you make fun of in high school and later work for as an adult.

Being called a "dork" is the biggest insult of the three. There's no way you can spin it into something positive. After all, even the dictionary writes that dorks are "stupid" people. And to make matters worse, dorks assume they're cool. Oh, and they smell, too.

So, to sum things up, if someone calls you a geek or a nerd, thank them. If someone calls you a dork, consider going back to school and investing in some new deodorant