To clarify: The North American white-tailed deer is to be distinguished from the red deer, which looks like a smaller wapiti. The wapiti is named for its white tail; in the Shawnee language waapiti means white tail. When Europeans arrived in North America, they thought the wapiti looked like a moose, so they called it elk, because elk was their word for moose. Then, when they saw some actual moose, they had already used up their word for it (elk) and so adopted the Narragansett word for moose, which is moose. Back in Europe, a moose is still an elk.
Monday, December 23, 2013
...I woke up this morning thinking I would write a rant about Grover Cleveland, about whom I know nothing except that he was not from my hometown, Cleveland. I've tried to talk myself out of it, but it looks like my choice of topics is to write about Grover Cleveland or to keep writing about my compulsion to write about Grover Cleveland. Oh. Here's something. Both True Grit movies get Rooster's physical appearance wrong. For one thing, there's no indication that he wears an eyepatch, just that he's missing an eye. And, he resembles Grover Cleveland. Except with one eye.
Monday, December 16, 2013
Captain Sir Geoffrey de Havilland, the designer of the Gipsy Moth aircraft flown nonstop from England to Australia in 1930 by Amy Johnson, was so far as is known to this correspondent not a relative of the American cartoonist Fontaine Fox, he of the justly celebrated Toonerville Trolley. I simply cannot imagine from whence this confusion arises. While the two men were indeed contemporaries (Sir Geoffrey, 1882 - 1965; Mr. Fox, 1884 -1964), there is no evidence that they ever met, much less that there was some longstanding rivalry between them. I suspect neither was aware of the other's existence.
Monday, December 9, 2013
There's a crisis looming in the English language that demands our attention. I mean the coming word shortage. There's probably not a million words in the language, yet there are way more than a million things. And that's just nouns. Add in all the actions nouns can perpetrate and you'll need a lot more, plus adjectives and adverbs and the little words that fill in the gaps, sentence grout I call them. Just how bad is the shortage? We've already had to assign numbers to things that should get their own unique terms, like “World War” or “Sonny Boy Williamson.”
Monday, December 2, 2013
It has come to our attention that the Earth's North Magnetic Pole is not a stable point on the surface of the world, nor is it at the actual North Pole. It is in fact located in Canada, close to Ellesmere Island. Fair enough, you say, that's certainly within spitting distance and plenty good for my own navigational needs. But listen. The North Magnetic Pole is moving, at a rate of about 35 miles each year, towards Russia. And I ask you, can we afford to allow one half of our planet's magnetic poles to slip behind the Iron Curtain?