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1  General Category / Words / Re: Professor Anne Curzan’s Talk on What Makes a Word Real on: August 19, 2019, 05:40:42 AM

There's also Germany, which is another nation with a prescriptive basis for its language, in the form of the first volume of Duden, the massive dictionary of the German language. that first volume bears the title Die Deutsche Rechtschreibung (German Orthography), and defines the basics of German syntax and grammar. The remaining volumes are devoted to spelling, pronunciation, etc. It's now in its 27th edition, and is a behemoth of a written work - now in twelve volumes. This work has had the official backing of the German government for decades.
2  General Category / Words / Re: Nepenthe on: August 05, 2019, 12:04:15 PM
I'm aware of a taxonomic Genus of pitcher plants called Nepenthes, but I've never seen the word without the terminal 's'. The only place it's appeared in my latest search, is, oddly enough, in the discussion of the etymology of the generic epithet for those plants, where nepenthe, in Greek literature, is a fictional amnesia potion to dispel sorrows. But oddly enough, the original Greek includes the terminal 's' (or, more correctly, the terminal sigma), viz., νηπενθές.

Indeed, when Linnaeus first classified this group of plants, he chose the generic name Nepenthes for them, because he regarded them as a special delight for botanists. From an article published in Journal of the Royal Horticultural Society in 1897 by Harry James Veitch (go here, and in the page list at the left, select page 229), we learn the following:

In the eighteenth century the Nepenthes were brought within the domain of science by Linnaeus, at a very early period of his distinguished career. The only species known to him was distillatoria, of which he gives a minute and accurate description in his " Hortus Cliffortianus," and to him, of course, we owe the selection of the name Nepenthes for the designation of the genus. The selection is a remarkable one ; the word is of Greek origin, and occurs in Homer's Odyssey, Book IV., line 221, where it means a freeing from or causing an oblivion of grief. The passage has been thus translated : — " She (Helen) threw a drug into the wine, from which they drank that which frees men from grief, and from anger, and causes an oblivion of all ills." Linnaeus gives a perfectly satisfactory reason for the selection of this singular word for a plant name. Alluding to the pitcher, he writes : — " If this is not Helen's Nepenthes, it certainly will be for all botanists. What botanist would not be filled with admiration if, after a long journey, he should find this wonderful plant. In his astonishment past ills would be forgotten when beholding this admirable work of the Creator." Curiously enough, Mr. Burbidge, who at the time was on a mission for us in Borneo, seems to have realised Linnaeus' sentiment on making the ascent of Kina Balu, in company with Mr. P. C. M. Veitch in 1877, when they first came upon the magnificent species which grow on that mountain, for he tells us * " All thoughts of fatigue and discomfort vanished as we gazed on these living wonders of the Bornean Andes. To see these plants in all their health and vigour was a sensation I shall never forget."

If we turn to that cited work, namely Hortus Cliffortinaus, written by the esteemed Linnaeus himself, which can be downloaded from here as a PDF, page 431 of the original (page 433 in the PDF file) provides the original Latin text cited by Veitch in his above article, viz:

... cum enim si haec non Helene nepenthes, certe Botanicis omnibus erit. Quis Botanicorum longissimo itinere profectus, si mirabilem hanc plantam reperiret, non admirante raperetur, totus attonitus, praeteritorum malorum oblitus, mirificam Creatoris manum dum obstupescens adspiceret?

A slightly more literal translation, would be:

For if this is not the Nepenthes of Helen (of Troy), it will be certainly for all botanists. Who among botanists, after pursuing the longest journey, upon procuring this plant, would not be carried away in admiration, totally astonished, previous maladies banished, rendered senseless upon beholding this wonder of the Creator's hand?

Seems as though I haven't let my old Latin classes seize up completely from the rust of disuse yet ... Smiley

It's also a testament to the ability of even a thoroughgoing scientist such as Linnaeus, to launch into ecstatic prose when the occasion warrants!

3  General Category / Whatever / Re: Odd use of verb 'to see'. on: July 21, 2019, 09:51:30 AM
Another weird one that’s definitely down to ignorance is the use of the ‘verb’ “to of”. ‘Could of’, ‘would of’, ‘should of’. Extremely common here, and probably elsewhere. I know it’s down to people hearing the contractions of those phrases (could’ve etc.) and assuming someone is saying ‘could of’ but if you try and explain that there’s no such verb as “to of” they don’t have a clue what you’re talking about.

Ah yes, the failure to distinguish between "have" (the auxiliary verb" and "of" (the preposition). I find this one irritating too. Smiley

Makes you wonder what horrors some of the modern "txt spk" generation would have inflicted upon a language such as Greek. Cheesy
4  General Category / Whatever / Re: Odd use of verb 'to see'. on: June 28, 2019, 01:36:22 AM
Anyone who spends time learning either Latin or Classical Greek, becomes familiar not only with the "reference standard" grammar and vocabulary, but with various idioms that would make an elementary student wonder what was being expressed via that idiom.

Though if you want a real challenge, try mastering Classical Greek as it would have been presented to a Greek pupil learning the written language back in the 5th century BCE. this is a serious challenge, because at that time, Greek was written ENTIRELY IN CAPITAL LETTERS (small letters were a later invention), with no gaps between words, and no punctuation.

This makes matters especially troublesome, because Classical Greek is a completely inflected language. It uses spelling changes to denote the grammatical function of words, with entire systems of such changes covering such details as number and case for nouns, or number and person for verbs. Since word endings in Classical Greek are frequently a critical determinant of meaning and context, you can imagine the hilarity that can ensue when those endings run into the beginning of the next word, without any indication of where the word breaks are in a sentence. Small letters, the emergence of punctuation, and the use of accents to denote the intonation used when speaking, were all later inventions.

One of the idioms therein, centres upon the fact that the verb 'to be' is sometimes omitted from a sentence, even when its omission adds confusion to understanding. Poetic works are particularly susceptible to this putting in an appearance, right at the very spot that appears purpose designed to make life exasperating for a translator.

Even though Greek is considered to be a conservative language in terms of its evolution, with both grammar and vocabulary basics having remained remarkably stable for 3,000 years, and the existence of a literature continuity that is the envy of several other languages, modern Greek has recently introduced some oddities, such the the near-abandonment of the dative case for nouns. Though as far as I can ascertain, it still maintains its weird (to an English speaking person, at least) approach to verbs. I shall now explain further.

English verbs (taking their cue from Latin), are based primarily upon tense as a determinant of meaning. Tensed verbs use time at which the verb action took place as the primary determinant of grammatical structure. Hence, taking the relevant cue from Latin, English has verbs that are conjugated into present, future, imperfect, perfect, future perfect and pluperfect tenses (along with some expansion from this basic set of six tenses as English evolved). Present and future are pretty much self-explanatory. Imperfect and perfect refer to actions that started in the past, but either continued into the present without ceasing (imperfect) or continued to the present and ceased there (perfect) - at least, this was the inference arising from the Latin origins of the English verb tense system. Future perfect is a bit of an oddity - it refers to a future action considered from a reference point located further in the future, and from which time that action will actually be in the past. Pluperfect basically considers an action that is, for want of a better phrase, deeply historical from the standpoint of conversation.

Greek verbs use an entirely different system as the determinant of meaning. Greek verbs are based upon aspect, namely, consideration of the verb action as a single, discrete action in some (frequently unspecified) moment of time, or as a process. Although Greek verbs have a present aspect and a future aspect, with largely appropriate coupling to time, they also have an imperfective aspect, a perfective aspect and an aorist aspect, which are sometimes annoyingly fluid with respect to their temporal reference, and concern themselves primarily with the verb action as continuing or completed. You can imagine the fun and games that arise for newcomers used to tenses, when this hits them. Smiley

Then to throw an even bigger spanner in the learning works, Greek isn't content to have two voices for verbs - active and passive. No, Greek also has a middle voice, which, just to confuse you, uses exactly the same grammatical forms as the passive voice, but has to be inferred from context. To throw you off even further, some verbs are active in voice but middle/passive in form, and you have to learn these the hard way.

As an illustration of the sort of usage this little lot was put to, take, for example, the Greek verb δικάζω, the verb which means "to apply the law" - basically, to conduct litigation. in the active form just given, δικάζω bears the meaning of presiding over the case as a judge, from a presumably impartial standpoint, with the intention of ensuring that the law in a given case is properly applied. The middle form, δικάζομάί, on the other hand, means to pursue litigation from the standpoint of the litigants, and their pursuit of benefit from that litigation. This distinction between lofty objectivity and mercenary self-interest appears in the same manner in several other Greek verbs, but δικάζω is probably the canonical example. Just to throw an even bigger spanner in the learning works, the form δικάζομάί, used above in the middle voice, is also used unchanged for the passive voice (i.e, asking whether the law was properly applied), and has to be inferred from context.

Toss into all this, idioms arising from various key contributors to Greek literature (Homer being a rampant source thereof), and you have some idea what sort of linguistic fun and games awaited the citizen of Classical Greece.
5  General Category / Words / Re: Hey, dude on: June 26, 2019, 02:44:16 PM
Meanwhile, if you find yourself hankering for an ocean front in Meadow Lane, Southampton ... fancy writing out a cheque for that amount? Bill Gates and the Sultan of Brunei need only apply.
6  General Category / Words / Re: Hey, dude on: June 26, 2019, 02:39:42 PM
All depends, as the real estate agents say, on three things: location, location, and location.

In most places, that would have been able to purchase a nice house.

Nowadays, that wouldn't even buy you a toilet in The Hamptons, let alone the whole house. According to this article, the median price for a house in parts thereof is now $5.6 million. Bridgehampton, for example, apparently has 203 properties listed for sale, and the median price there is around $4.6 million. Here's an example of what $4.6 million gets you there.
7  General Category / Words / Re: Hey, dude on: June 13, 2019, 05:45:17 PM
Fascinating - especially the origin of 'silhouette' and the side note on the origin of 'mob'.

Thank you Mike.

Speaking of silhouette, Lamborghini made a car called the Silhouette in the late 1970s. It was a version of the Urraco with a removable roof panel. Here's a photograph of one.

If you wanted one at the time, it blew a £13,600 hole in the wallet. You could buy a Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow for less money back in 1978, or alternatively buy a 3-bedroom semi-detached house (though not in London - even then, house prices were inflated in the capital, but not to the ridiculous extent they are now).

In the US market, one of these cars would cost $27,000 back in 1978. I'll let the Americans here tell us all what you could get for that money in 1978, as they know far better than I do about this. Smiley

8  General Category / Whatever / Re: Nature pics on: May 31, 2019, 06:48:53 AM
That's almost certainly a mere coincidental pairing. The larvae look as if they're moth larvae of some sort, and the large black insect is a Tipulid crane fly. Crane flies are short lived as adults, and many do not feed at all in the adult stage. Furthermore, crane fly larvae are rather diverse - some are terrestrial (known as "leatherjackets", and eaten by insectivorous birds), while others are aquatic, the aquatic larvae being found in fresh water, brackish and even some fully marine habitats. The terrestrial larvae are usually feeders upon various plant roots, and some species can become agricultural pests because of this behaviour. Aquatic larvae will feed upon pond bottom detritus, aquatic plants, and a few have transitioned to become carnivorous, feeding upon Daphnia and copepods among other organisms. None of the crane flies exhibit parasitism during any part of their life cycles, so those larvae in your photo are perfectly safe.

Your photo also shows in excellent detail, a feature common to all Diptera - the halteres. These are modifications of the second pair of wings, and in your photo appear as those glass-like strands ending in a blob. These are balancing organs used for orienting the insect in flight. All Diptera have halteres, but these organs are more conspicuous in some flies than others, and are particularly noticeable in those flies whose halteres bear bright colouration. For example, there's a truly enormous (by the usual standards of the Family) Genus of flies living in Panama, the Genus Pantophthalmus, whose adults resemble super-sized bluebottles, and which have halteres that look as if they've been formed from extruded cornflower blue plastic! Here's a photo of one of these large flies, and you can see the blue blobs in that photo - these are the halteres.

Meanwhile, back to the crane flies. There are, wait for it, fifteen thousand species of these worldwide. The UK fauna contains approximately 300 species, but only a minority of these can be identified to species level visually - the remainder are usually dissection jobs. One of the easiest to identify is Tipula maxima, courtesy of the fact that it's almost twice the size of any other UK species, and has patterned wings to accompany its large size. Your specimen looks superficially as if it could be one of the Phantom Craneflies of the Genus Ptychoptera, in particular Ptychoptera albimana, but dissection of the specimen would be needed to be absolutely sure.
9  General Category / Whatever / Re: Nature pics on: May 16, 2019, 09:37:11 AM
My garden in Thailand is full of wonderful butterflies most of the year round;
what I want to know is how to get them to come and sit on your finger?
Believe me, I've tried many times. They just don't want to know.

In the case of your species in Thailand, you may find that dipping your finger in salt water makes them more receptive. There's a reason for this.

Basically, many tropical butterflies seek salt sources to tap into, because they live in environments where salt is relatively scarce, and doesn't migrate up their part of the food web in sufficient quantities to keep them osmotically balanced if they don't seek additional sources thereof. One major source of salt for such butterflies, is the urine of various large mammals. Whenever a large mammal urinates on the ground, butterflies of numerous species flock to the spot, and drink the urine to obtain salt.

As a corollary, if you dip your finger in salt water, you'll find that a good many tropical butterflies will happily sit on your finger drinking the salt water from your finger, and you can take photos of them while they're doing this. Of course, you need to exercise a certain gentle touch coaxing them to climb on to your finger in the first place, but the moment they sense the presence of salt on your finger, they'll become much easier to persuade in this regard.

This tip should work for butterflies right across the tropics.

Best time to try this is early in the morning, before the sun has warmed them up properly, and they're still relatively docile. Try this on a hot afternoon when they're active, and you'll simply experience more frustration, unless they're really desperate for the salt.

In the case of my Green Hairstreaks, they were still docile because they hadn't warmed up properly, and were willing to climb onto my finger until the sun had warmed them up. Once they were warmed up, however, it was "Game Over". Cheesy
10  General Category / Whatever / Re: Nature pics on: May 15, 2019, 03:18:36 PM
Second specimen sitting on my finger ...
11  General Category / Whatever / Re: Nature pics on: May 15, 2019, 03:17:55 PM
... and the extreme close up ... Smiley
12  General Category / Whatever / Re: Nature pics on: May 15, 2019, 03:17:14 PM
Another specimen of Green Hairstreak ...
13  General Category / Whatever / Re: Nature pics on: May 15, 2019, 03:16:24 PM
Latest butterfly: Green Hairstreak, Callophrys rubi ... and yes, it's posing for a photo whilst resting on my finger Smiley
14  General Category / Word Games / Re: Tilipia - new word? on: May 02, 2019, 12:31:41 PM

Just to point out at this juncture, many of the fishes previously placed in the Genus Tilapia have since been relocated to other Genera, such as Sarotherodon. There's also a brace of Genera among the African Cichlids that contain -tilapia as a suffix, such as Chromidotilapia, Astatotilapia, Chilotilapia, Coelotilapia, Cynotilapia, Cyphotilapia (the species Cyphotilapia frontosa is an expensive aquarium fish costing $200 a pop in the US), Hemitilapia, Heterotilapia, Limnotilapia, Paratilapia, Petrotilapia (the species Petrotilapia tridentiger is a beautiful purple coloured aquarium fish, but one with a vicious temperament), and Xenotilapia.

There's also a brace of relations such as Alcolapia alcalicus, which lives in the waters of Lake Natron, an environment most people would consider to be completely inimical to fish life, given that the water of this lake is as as alkaline as a household ammonia solution, and has a dissolved content of sodium carbonate that would kill most other fish.

Here's an image of the nice purple Petrotilapia tridentiger:

The woefully expensive Cyphotilapia frontosa looks like this:

The Dogtooth Cichlid, Cynotilapia afra, looks like this:

And the hilariously named "Eastern Happy", Astatotilapia calliptera, looks like this:

For those who like variety among their fish, the Cichlidae contains something like 2,500 species, of which 1,700 or more are African, and 1,400 or so known from the Rift Lakes.

15  General Category / Whatever / Re: Nature pics on: April 22, 2019, 09:39:19 AM

And this tiny moth (just 4 mm long) is awaiting ID, but I'm already being told that it's possibly the wonderfully named Dyseriocrania subpurpurella ... doesn't this one have a really cute face?  Cheesy
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