May 2004 Archives
Eponyms of Women: bloomers; Typhoid Mary; Johnny Appleseed; magdalen; Alice blue; Shirley Temple; catherine wheel; Thatcherism
"Dutch" Phrases: Dutch treat; Dutch reckoning; Dutch widow; Dutch wife; Dutch courage; Dutch defense; Dutch comfort
Not Azygous: Shy Spouse-words: azygous; cisatlantic; ullage (bunghole); pecunious; dystopia (edenic, roseate); nocent; clement
Eponyms of Women (Week of May 3, 2004)
Most eponyms are the names of men. This week we will present a group of varied eponyms that are the names of women.
bloomers women's loose trousers gathered about the ankles and worn under a short skirt
[after Amelia Jenks Bloomer (1818-1894), U.S temperance and women's rights reformer and editor, who promoted the outfit]
William L. Shirer, The Rise And Fall Of The Third
Reich, quoting SS General Juergen Stroop, who put down the
"The Jews [Stroop wrote] no longer had any intention to resettle voluntarily. Whereas it had been possible to during the first days to catch considerable numbers of Jews, who are cowards by nature, it became more and more difficult. Over and over again new battle groups consisting of 20 to 30 Jewish men, accompanied by a corresponding umber of women, kindled new resistance." The women, Stroop noted, had the habit, he said, of "firing pistols with both hands" and also of unlimbering hand grenades which they concealed in their bloomers."
A reader notes: Bloomers became popular as a result of the bicycle craze of the late nineteenth century. Women took to bicycling as a pre-women's lib liberator - no longer stuck in the house. However, skirts and bikes didn't mix, so some form of modest but bike-friendly clothing was needed - thus Bloomer's invention!
Typhoid Mary one who, by circumstances, spreads something undesirable
[Contrast the bonus word, though not listed in dictionaries as a word]
bonus word: Johnny Appleseed one who seeds and spreads something desirable
[Mary Mallon (1869?1870?-1938), a seemingly healthy Irish cook, was a carrier who spread typhoid. John Chapman (1774?-1845) wandered up and down the Ohio River valley in U.S., sowing apple seeds and tending the trees.]
no matter how many firewalls and antivirus scanners you
install, it takes only one Typhoid Mary computer to infect a
Robert Vamosi, CNET News.com (UK), April 16, 2004
Most of the time he wandered from one American university to another the Johnny Appleseed or Typhoid Mary of deconstruction, depending on your point of view.
Adam Gopnik, Paris to the Moon
Some people are Typhoid Marys of stress, and just being around them can fatigue you.
Maria Simonson, Ph.D., Sc.D., Director, Health, Weight and Stress Program, Johns Hopkins
The world is going mad at an accelerating rate and television is the Typhoid Mary of this madness.
Edward Robb Ellis, N.Y. Times, Feb. 25, 1981
magdalen (oft. cap.) 1. a reformed prostitute 2. a house of refuge or reformatory for prostitutes
[biblical Mary Magdalene, considered to be the repentant sinner forgiven by Christ, Luke 7]
Her heros ceased to be the world's favorites, and became
such as ... Abby Gibbons, who for thirty years has made Christmas merry for two
hundred little paupers in a city almshouse, beside saving Magdalens
and teaching convicts.
Louisa May Alcott, Rose in Bloom
Dodge is an optimistic writer. He understands that if we're willing to try it, to trust ourselves and trust each other, then freedom is the most wild crazy fun. We'd really better make sure we've got a firm grasp on what's going to happen if we choose to live permanently stoned with a Polish magdalen in a jerry-built Black Hills rock fort (and refuse to pay taxes). But if we've got a handle on that, then we're ready to go. Why should anyone tell us not to do it?
London News Review, April 4, 2004, reviewing Not Fade Away by Jim Dodge
I surrender! This theme is impossible! Almost every day, the woman who give us the day's eponym is so remarkable that I want to research and write a long essay telling you about her.
Alice Roosevelt Longworth (1884-1980), the independent, wild-thing daughter of turn-of-the-century US President Theodore Roosevelt, was a genuine popular sensation who kept that celebrity all her long life. Her motto was, "If you don't have anything nice to say, come sit by me." It's well worth looking at her biography and pictures.
Alice blue a pale grayish-blue color, supposedly the color of Alice's eyes
The color became a fashion craze, described in this hit song from 1919 (and shown in the link).
In my sweet little Alice blue gown,
When I first wandered down into town,
I was so proud inside,
As I felt every eye,
And in every shop window I primped, passing by.
A new manner of fashion I'd found,
And the world seemed to smile all around.
'Til it wilted, I wore it,
I'll always adore it,
My sweet little Alice blue gown!
Shirley Temple (or 'Shirley Temple cocktail') a nonalcoholic drink, for children who want to have a "cocktail" with the adults. It is grenadine syrup and ginger ale, garnished with a maraschino cherry. It has a sweet taste flavor and a reddish color, for a child's taste.
[After Shirley Temple, child star of 1930s movies]
The trip to the [Rose Valley] falls is a little like a Shirley
Temple cocktail-colorful and exciting, but with no possible hazard in
Ann Marie Brown, California Waterfalls
She cleared some businessmen out of our seats and dispatched a waitress to take our orders.
"Boodles martini, very dry, straight up with a twist," I said.
"Single malt Scotch. Warm."
"I'd like a Shirley Temple, please." Shikra smiled so sweetly that the waitress frowned, then raised one cheek from her stool and scratched. If the woman hadn't fled it might have gotten ugly."
Michael Swanwick, The Dragon Line
catherine wheel a firework that forms a rotating wheel of colored flames (a/k/a 'pinwheel')
[After Saint Catherine of Alexandria, died A.D. 307, who was condemned to be tortured on a wheel.]
[T]he bells and whistles were out the window and two
football teams were going to simple down and play bone and muscle football. ...
Berrigan got hit so hard by Justin Hodges that his chest remained where it was
while his legs kept running in front of him, and his body seemed to spin as if
he was on a catherine wheel.
Paul Kent, Blood and guts like the old days, The Daily Telegraph (Australia), April 10, 2004
The week marked the 25th anniversary of Margaret Thatcher's election as Prime Minister of Great Britain. Some dictionaries list her name as a eponym.
Thatcherism the political policy of Margaret Thatcher
But what "political policy" is that? Perhaps our Brits, to explain that to us, will find this an apt time to reflect back upon her influence.
I've never understood what Thatcherism was. To me, I was
a member of a Conservative government pursuing Conservative policies under a
Michael Heseltine, a former Conservative cabinet minister who served under Thatcher
From the Securities Markets (Week of May 10, 2004)
Google, the company, is planning to sell its corporate stock to the public for the first time. That initial public offering is creating quite a stir, so this is an apt week to enjoy some words from the world of stocks and bonds.
IPO a corporation's first offer to sell stock to the public
[acronym for initial public offering]
Google Inc.'s initial
public offering has a lot of people salivating for a piece of the
action -- an appetite that the Internet search engine leader hopes to satisfy
by inviting the masses to the bidding table.
While an egalitarian auction may sound like a refreshing change after years of shady brokerage dealings, the approach could backfire if Google can't meet the intense demand or the bidding pushes the IPO price so high that the shares are perched to topple once they begin trading.
For now, most IPO and technology observers are applauding Google for being bold enough to challenge the status quo with an unorthodox system that could empower individual investors.
CNN.com, Google stock auction: IPO revolution or disaster?, May 11, 2004 (this very morning)
What is "unorthodox" about Google, Inc.'s IPO? We'll talk about that in the next few days.
Google Inc. is using an unorthodox system. What is the orthodox one?
underwriter one who buys a stock or bond issue from a company, to resell it to investors.
(In other words, a middleman, buying the stock in bulk and selling it at retail.)
More generally, underwrite to assume risk, as when offering an insurance policy or bringing a corporation's new securities issue to the public
Underwriters will often price the stock low and place it with their favored customers.
In traditional IPOs, underwriters help fix
the number of shares a company will sell and set the offering price, with
favored clients often reaping the benefits of a big first-day run-up in the
Ruth Simon and Elizabeth Weinstein, Investors Eagerly Anticipate Google's IPO, Wall Street Journal, April 30, 2004
Chinese wall strict confidentiality rules within a securities firm, barring disclosure of certain information between departments.
(A figurative "wall" between departments, to prevent illegal use of insider information, when the firm is "wearing many hats". Investopedia notes: "Following the crash of 1929, the U.S. Government sought to provide a separation between investment bankers and brokerage firms. Named after the 'Great Wall of China,' this barrier was intended to limit the conflict of interest between objective analysis and the desire to have a successful stock offering (or IPO).")
In 2003, Morgan Stanley, CSFB,
Merrill Lynch and seven other brokerages paid $1.4 billion to settle claims ...
that their stock analysts had misled investors by touting shares of companies
to win investment banking work. The ... so-called Chinese wall
separating investment bankers from the research arms of their employers had
A parallel conflict exists with some investment banks and their mutual funds, says former SEC attorney [Edward] Siedle. "The SEC has accepted this fiction of Chinese walls in many different contexts, and it is the least palatable with mutual funds, because a fund adviser wears so many hats," he says.
Citigroup Uses Mutual Funds as `Dumping Grounds' for Clients, Bloomberg, April 29, 2004
As I understand it, today's term originally was the special lingo of statisticians, but it became popularized after it was applied to the stock market.
random walk theory the view that past movement or direction of a stock's price cannot be used to predict its future movement .
[popularized by the 1973 investment classic, A Random Walk Down Wall Street, by Burton Malkiel. The basic premise of the random walk theory is that forecasting stock prices is a useless exercise.]
random walk a sequence of steps in which the characteristics (direction; size) of each step is randomly determined
"Life is a random walk, isnt
it?" he says ruminatively. "If you had told me at 18 I would end up
an estate agent, I would definitely not have believed you. I probably thought I
was going to be a scientist."
Aubrey Adams, "boss of Savills, the best-performing property firm last year", as quoted in The Times (London), April 25, 2004
This applies to stocks or commodities that have gone into
free-fall descent and then rallied briefly. If you threw a dead cat off a
50-story building, it might bounce when it hit the sidewalk. But don't confuse
that bounce with renewed life. It is still a dead cat.
Raymond F. DeVoe Jr. at the investment firm of Legg Mason Wood Walker
Quinion, citing WordSpy, lists this as the earliest print-use yet found, but WordSpy has now documented it back to a December 7, 1985 quote. And the text of that quote clearly shows that the term was already common stock-market jargon. As of last summer one major print dictionary, Webster's Collegiate, added the term.
'Dead cat bounce' could be applied to a temporary bounce in a downtrend apart from the stock market. That natural extension is rare, but perhaps we will see it used to describe swings of fortune in the US presidential campaign.
The early days had been a long time ago. Their love had
risen, then fallen like a dead cat thrown from an apartment building. Their new
lift on life was a dead cat bounce. He was a drug dealer.
Robert Bingham, Lightning on the Sun: A Novel
Earlier we asked, "What is "unorthodox" about Google, Inc.'s IPO?"
The answer: "In a sharp break
with tradition, Google will offer shares through a process modeled after a Dutch
Wall Street Journal, April 30, 2004, as cited above for "IPO" and "underwriter".
Dutch auction an auction in which an item is initially offered at a high price that is progressively lowered until a bid is made and the item sold.
In the traditional Wall Street
underwriting, the lead bankers set a price well below the level of actual
demand in an effort to assure buyers a quick and easy profit. [They then] dole
out shares to their favored clients.
Google, to its credit, is not going to play this game. Google will sell shares using a "Dutch auction," buyers bidding for a fixed number of shares. Bids are accepted from highest to lowest with the price set at the level needed to sell all the available shares.
Jeffrey R. Scharf, Santa Cruz Sentinel, May 9, 2004
The company [Google] will use a so-called Dutch auction to go public. A Dutch auction allocates the stock based on popular willingness to pay a price determined through a public bidding process. The underwriters can't give preferential treatment, even to friends and family, who, like everyone else, have to bid to win allocations.
Greg Morcroft, CBS.MarketWatch.com, April 29, 2004
"Dutch" Phrases (Week of May 17, 2004)
This week we'll look at an etymological question in 'Dutch' terms such as yesterday's 'Dutch auction'.
Nation-names are often used as derogatory epithets. 'Dutch' is no exception: OED gives as one definition "characteristic of or attributed to the Dutch, often with an opprobrious or derisive application." "Since 1608, Dutch has been "'an epithet of inferiority'," says Etymology On-line.
Interestingly, as we'll see this week, many 'Dutch' terms have the specific sense of phony; not the real thing," rather than other sorts of derision. For example, a Dutch treat is "no treat at all".
Dutch treat an outing, as for dinner or a movie, in which each person pays his or her own expenses; no one is treated.
If he asks to go Dutch treat on your date,
don't stand on ceremony. Dump him immediately.
Helen Gurley Brown, Sex and the Single Girl, as quoted in Regina Barreca (Editor), The Penguin Book of Women's Humor
Dutch reckoning a bill given as a flat amount due, without details or breakdown [that is, no reckoning at all]
(also, say some, a bill that is raised if one disputes it)
DUTCH-Reckoning, or Alte-mall; a verbal or lump Accompt, without
Particulars; as brought in at the Spunging-Houses, at Bawdy Houses,
and other such like Places of ill Repute.
Dictionary of Thieving Slang, 1737
Methinks I am fond of such a dealer as this, who mends every day upon our hands, like a Dutch reckoning; wherein if you dispute the unreasonableness and exorbitance of the bill, the landlord shall bring it up every time with new additions.
Jonathan Swift, The Drapier's Letters
A spunging-house was apparently a temporary lock-up. See Early 18C Newspaper Rpts; Women of Pleasure, at bottom of left column.
I'd said, "This week we'll look at an etymological question," and that question is, "How did these 'Dutch' epithets arise, and why?" OED says that 'Dutch', meaning of characteristic or attributed to the Dutch, is "often with an opprobrious or derisive application, largely due to the rivalry and enmity between the English and Dutch in the 17th c." This is the standard view. We'll evaluate it over the next few days.
Yesterday's word dates comes that century's end (OED has a 1700 cite), and today's word from its start.
Dutch widow a prostitute [but as noted below, the definition may have changed]
Hoard: What is that Florence? A widow?
Drawer: Yes, a Dutch widow
Drawer: That's an English drab, sir; give your worship good morrow.
Thomas Middleton, A Trick to Catch the Old One, (1606)
Compare Dutch wife, which a dictionary politely defines as "a firm bolster used in bed to support the upper knee while somebody is sleeping on his or her side." [from the practice in the hot and humid Dutch colony of Java; the pillow would soak up sweat]. If you note that a pillow "to support the upper knee" would be placed between the legs, you will understand why it might be referred to as a "wife".
Diary of Paul W. Eckley, Jr., WWII pilot, of his time in
... place is OK. Beds are good. You would get a kick out of seeing the woman I sleep with every night... Dutch widow. It is a long pillow that you can wrap yourself around and think you are with what you aren't. I've got a good imagination too. It is like a full duffel bag.
computer bulletin board, Singapore:
Pregnancy snuggle pillow: I am finding it difficult to get comfy at night with my bump and have heard that you can buy a long sausage shaped pillow to wrap yourself around that can be very comfy. I think some people call them a "Dutch widow" pillow. Any ideas where I might find one?
Continuing the etymology question. Facts on File agrees with OED, saying that the practice of anti-Dutch epithets traces from "the bitter hostilities between England and Holland in the 17th century, when the Dutch colonial empire threatened to usurp Britains own ... Below is a short list of abusive terms using the word. Though it runs to some 60 expressions, surely a complete list would more than triple this amount. All of these terms but a few are derogatory." (Facts on File Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins)
But does that theory make sense? The bitter Anglo-Dutch rivalry presumably ended no later than the 1688 "Glorious Revolution", in which a Dutchman was given the English throne as King William III, which would end any vogue for anti-Dutch epithets. Yet the vast majority of those epithets arose after that date. We will inquire further.
Dutch courage courage acquired from drinking liquor.
Mr MacDougall said, `We've finished the whisky. Fancy
that now. Just when you need your Dutch courage most.'
Carter said, 'I came armed as well, but I drank most of it in the plane. There's only one glass left in the flask."
'Obviously our friend here must have it,' Mr MacDougall said. 'His need is greater than ours.'
Graham Greene, Our Man in Havana
We noted yesterday that most 'Dutch' epithets are first recorded far later than OED's etymology would suggest.
Further, they are not just at the wrong time; they are also at the wrong place, many of them first recorded outside of England. One authority, rejecting the OED view, says, "Various derogatory expressions compounded of Dutch, such as Dutch courage (1812) and Dutch treat (1887) are, according to the OED, largely a legacy of the commercial rivalry between the Dutch and the English in the 1600's and 1700's; however, the latter formations are more likely to be simple random references as found in any language, or in some cases the result of contact between the Dutch and other settlers in America ... For instance, Dutch courage and Dutch treat, first recorded in American English." (Chambers Dictionary of Etymology)
But today we will enjoy a term first found in England, fairly early on. You'll find here a very provocative "battle of the amorous kind", ending with our hero's surrender to a woman's charms.
Dutch defense surrender
To confess the truth, I am afraid Mr. Jones maintained a
kind of Dutch defense, and treacherously delivered up the
garrison, without duly weighing his allegiance to the fair Sophia.
Henry Fielding (17071754), Tom Jones (1749) Bk. ix. ch. v.
[OED gives the wrong chapter]
Dutch comfort cold comfort (as in the 'comforting' reflection, "After all, it could be worse").
Rare. I found barely any recent examples. The best, below, uses the term somewhat differently.
"We don't have a place to put our robes on. There's
no place to hang up our coats, or to lay down our briefcases! We have been
mistreated by this tribunal!" The scene is the courtroom at Arusha in
Tanzania. The trials taking place here, before a United Nations tribunal, are
for the murder of hundreds of thousands of people in neighbouring Rwanda in 1994.
Much more time and energy seems to be consumed with complaints about how badly
the court works. ... The best lawyers and judges are also more willing to work
in Dutch comfort than to go to down-at-heel Tanzania.
Judging genocide, The Economist, June 14, 2001
Not Azygous: Shy Spouse-words (Week of May 24, 2004)
Many words come in natural pairs: father/mother, up/down, and many plus-and-minus pairs like sense/nonsense. But some words look as if they should have a mate, but they lack one. For example, a person can be 'nonchalant', but he cannot be 'chalant'. Perhaps we could call such an unpaired, unmated word an azygous word.
azygous not one of a pair; single; the azygous muscle of the uvula
[Greek a- lacking + zygon yoke. But mostly medical. I do not know if 'azygous' has been used to describe unpaired words.]
A word with a mate (like a person) should not be allowed to feign being single! Many common words might seem azygous but in fact have mate-words, not well-known. This week we'll give some of those shy, retiring spouses their fair publicity.
cisatlantic on this side of the atlantic (the mate of 'transatlantic')
As with any translation, ... rote rendering from US to
British English will result in false and needlesss mutation: the New York
Underground is just as nonsensical as the New York Mιtro or, for
that matter, the London Subway. This holds for spelling variations as
well: Pearl Harbour, Piers Ploughman, and first draught of a letter
are all well-meaning but meaningless attempts at cisatlantic
R. M. Ritter, The Oxford Guide to Style
Today's word is the mate of overflow.
ullage the amount that a container (a bottle, cask, tank, etc.) falls short of being full; also, the amount lost by leakage, evaporation, etc. in shipping or storage.
[ultimately from metaphor that the bunghole is the 'eye' of a cask: O.Fr ouil eye, from L. Question: wouldn't 'mouth' make more sense?]
The word is largely confined to wines and to shipping (plus occasionally in engineering or safety contexts for important vapor pressures in the ullage area). Figurative use is rare; example below.
An important detail when buying wine at auction is the
fill level -- how much of the wine remains in the bottle after ullage,
or evaporation. Over many decades, the fill level can drop down the bottle
neck, even to the "shoulder."
T.J. Foderero, Newark (New Jersey) Star-Ledger, May 12, 2004
By and large, the British have handled the end of Empire well, bowing to the inevitable with relatively little fuss. In their gloomier moments, the English tend to think that all that remains of their contribution to the world is a little ullage the names of a few grand hotels, the international codifications of time and place, fathoms and uniforms, and the fact that English is the language of third millennium.
Jeremy Paxman, The English: A Portrait of a People (quote edited)
bunghole a hole in a cask, to empty or fill it
pecunious abounding in money; wealthy; rich
Mate of the better-known impecunious habitually without money; penniless. Today's quote tells of a virtuous maid who received the blessing of a fairy, who decreed, "Henceforth at every word shall slip / A pearl or ruby from your lip!"
And so it was, the cheerful blonde / Lived on in joy and
And grew pecunious, beyond / The dreams of avarice!
And to a nice young man was wed, / And I have often heard it said
No other man who ever walked / Most loved his wife when most she talked!
Guy Wetmore Carryl, How Rudeness and Kindness were Justly Rewarded
Carryl is echoing Samuel Johnson's remark on the sale of Thrale's Brewery, 1781: "We are not here to sell a parcel of boilers and vats, but the potentiality of growing rich beyond the dreams of avarice. " (avarice excessive or insatiable desire for wealth)
dystopia an imagined world in which life is extremely bad (an anti-utopia); also, a work describing such a place or state: dystopias such as "Brave New World"
The possibilities inherent in the ongoing revolutions in
biotechnology swing swiftly between utopian dreams and dystopian
nightmares--between worlds of Brobdingnagians with life giving gifts and worlds
of Lilliputians whose human nature has been irrevocably shrunken. So will
biotechnology result in an Edenic paradise or a "Brave New
Charles Rousseaux, Biotech Advances and Its Dangers, Washington Times, December 15, 2002
Nostalgia is one of the most powerful of all political forces. For many, Stalinist Russia was a dystopia, hell on Earth yet now that is forgotten by many people who "remember" something different, absurdly roseate.
Simon Sebag Montefiore, Los Angeles Times, May 14, 2004
edenic of or like a paradise
roseate overly optimistic; "viewing the world through rose-colored glasses"
[I'd think that 'roseate' and 'optimic' refer assessing the future, and it is a misuse to apply either word, as in the example above, to a rosy view of the past. Comments?]
nocent 1. causing harm; 2. guilty
The two meanings are thus the opposites of innocuous and innocent.
The 'harmful' sense is closer to the Latin root (maxim: Quae nocent docent; That which hurts teaches), but the 1600s usage was 'guilty' (... preserve the innocent, and punish the nocent Sir Edw. Coke, House of Commons, 28 April 1621). More currently:
The University of California's plan to abandon the SAT as
a basis for admission has sent shock waves through higher education. ... we
find it ill advised and potentially nocent to our national
L. Douglas & A. George, The Chronicles of Higher Education, May 10, 2002
This Board does not approve of any public body selectively choosing to hide information which it considers detrimental to its determinations, thereby hampering the ability of any reviewing entity, such as this Board, to accurately and confidently evaluate the matter before it. Whether bolstering or nocent, all evidence presented to or considered by the Budget Commission must be certified to this Board.
Ohio Bd of Tax Appeals, 2/26/1999, Green Twp. v. Gallia Co. Budget Comm. (excerpted)
Shakespeare used forms of the word 'guilty' over 100 times, but he never used 'nocent', so the word was presumably rare even in his day. Milton used it in Paradise Lost, but only (I submit) because the meter forced it upon him: he wants to say 'innocent' but needs to accent the second syllable rather than the first. The snake in Eden was innocent before the Devil him:
Not yet in horrid shade or dismal den,
Nor nocent yet; but, on the grassy herb
Fearless unfeared he slept.
clement 1. of persons or behavior: tending to be lenient or merciful. 2. of weather: mild
'Clement is akin to 'clemency'. Our example quotation puns, using the word in both senses.
Top events like the Olympic Games and Euro 2004 will be
hoping that the weather turns out to be more clement than the
notoriously fickle insurance market. Major sports events have become
multi-billion dollar, profit-making showcase enterprises, making ever more
costly financial protection against cancellation a must.
Agence France Presse, in Channel News Asia, Sports events grapple with costly, real-life insurance market, 30 May 30, 2004
Just as 'clement' has two senses, so does 'inclement'. The familiar meaning is 'inclement weather,' the unfamiliar meaning is 'without mercy; devoid of tenderness,' as an inclement judge.
Anecdote: A Roman official steadfastly denied a criminal charge against him. The inclement judge, irritated that there was scant evidence for the charge, irritated, turned to the emperor, Julian, and demanded, "Can anyone ever be proved guilty if it is enough just to deny the charge!?" "Can anyone ever be proved innocent," Julian replied, "if it is enough just to accuse him?"
This word is a sad example of how dictionary-sites uncritically copy from each other. If you google the phrase "the harse sentence of an inclement judge," you will find it repeated from one dictionary to another.