etymology lesson I

From the Online Etymology Dictionary:

bunny – 1690, dim. of Scottish dialectal bun, pet name for “rabbit,” previously (1587) for “squirrel,” and also a term of endearment for a young attractive woman or child (1606). Ultimately could be from Scottish bun “tail of a hare” (1538), or from Fr. bon, or from a Scand. source. The Playboy Club hostess sense is from 1960. The Bunny Hug (1912), along with the foxtrot and the Wilson glide, were among the popular/scandalous dances of the ragtime era.

Thanks to Adrienne for making me look this up.


Yesterday I went to my friend Alexandra’s house for lunch with her, her father, and her grandmother, where she cooked up a storm — the heartiest lunch I’ve had in a while. Afterwards her father made some Turkish coffee in an Ibrik, which was quite tasty. He told me that he had some mp3 samples of his music on his homepage, which I’m listening to at the moment. I really need to go to CNMAT more often — I miss the computer and contemporary music scene.

After lunch we helped Alexandra with her Romanian flashcards. Romanian orthography is very complicated — in the 19th century they switched from Cyrillic to Roman letters in an attempt to assert nationalistic pride in their Roman heritage (Romanian is a Romance language). When they were under Soviet influence, the orthography was changed to make it more Slavic, although they stopped short of moving back to Cyrillic. Now that they are out from under the boot, the orthography has switched back to the pre-Soviet spellings. As as result, the contemporary student of Romanian must learn alternate spellings for many words, and many words have interesting stories behind them, like cerneala, which means ink and comes from the Russian word for “black.” Or so I was told.

It’s fun to learn new things, even if they are of dubious use…


Back when I took Sanskrit, our professor mentioned other related languages in the Indo-European language family, and my interest was piqued. I picked up a copy of Baldi’s book on IE languages, and one of the ones that came up that I had never heard of was Tocharian, a language with some documentary evidence in Central Asia. A guy from my class actually ended up taking Tocharian, masochist that he is. I always wanted to learn more, but was too lazy to do the painful linguistics paper reading until this essay came to my attention. It’s worth a skim, just to learn something about ancient Central Asia, a subject which is rarely dealt with in general history courses.

article question

Suppose I have a phrase, like “measure-preserving transformation” which I abbreviate by “MPT.” Would I then say “T is a MPT” or “T is an MPT?” My gut instinct is that I would write the former and speak the latter, but that’s inconsistent. It’s probably the latter, since it’s “em pee tee,” right?


Apparently in Minnesota they say “Duck Duck Grey Duck,” which is somewhat absurd to me. It’s “Duck Duck Goose.” Perhaps the Harvard people who did the Soda/Pop/Coke survey know more about it and can give an authoritative answer. Another variation is “Goose Goose Gander.” You get your choice of -ists: racist (grey duck), sexist (gander) and speciesist (goose).


The M-W Word of the Day today is “galumph” — a fine word to be sure, but the quote they used to illustrate it is from Jonathan Lethem’s Motherless Brooklyn, one of my favorite recent reads from one of my favorite authors. There are the authors whose books you read on a recommendation from a friend, because they were a gift, or because they were well-reviewed. But there is something special about walking into a bookstore, browsing the shelves aimlessly, picking out a book by an author completely unknown to you, buying it anyway (you can always sell it back), and then falling madly, totally in love with the words. Lethem was like that for me — I don’t think he’s perfect, but as the song goes “with all your faults, I love ya still. It had to you be you, wonderful you, it had to be youuuuuuuuu!”


I found out today that Berkeley has a palontology museum that is a federal repository and the 4th largest collection in the country or something. This is awesome! I’m gonna have to go sometime and check it out.

The OED word of the day is “AOR,” or album oriented rock. Again: who picks these words? What ever happened to learning obscure vocabulary like “gemellion — One of a pair of basins used for washing the hands before meals, the water being poured over the hands from one basin and caught by the other; hence, any decorative basin?” Apparently the word of the day is supposed to turn you into a musical hipster. I just wish they would kick it old school.