August 2006 Archives

Scouser

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A "Scouser" is a person from Liverpool; which is to say, a Liverpudlian. According to MW3, the name is due to "lobscouse" (a meat and vegetable stew) being popular in Liverpool.

railfan

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The Wikipedia entry for railfan contains a small trove of unfamiliar-to-me words.

The term itself has the meaning you'd probably expect: someone who's interested in railroads. But the article also defines such terms as "FRN" (Fucking Rail Nut); "grizzers," "gricers," and "gunzels" (all terms for railfans); "bashers" (who like actually riding the trains); "stoats" and "veg," who spend their time mainly at one station; and more.

See also the articles on US railfan jargon and UK railfan jargon.

STFW

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I've known the phrase "RTFM" for many years, and I've been using the phrase "TSOR" for about three years, but I had never previously encountered "STFW."

At first I thought it was a variant on "STFU" ("Shut The Fuck Up"), but from context that clearly wasn't right. (The context was ESR's How to Ask Questions the Smart Way, which I just saw for the first time even though it's apparently been around for years.) Then the document expanded the acronym: it stands for "Search The Fucking Web."

Sort of like TSOR, but blunter.

. . . I'm obliquely reminded to mention that a few years ago, a tech-writing group that I was in named a server "wtfm"--which, of course, stood for "Write The Fucking Manual."

fuller

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I had heard of fuller's earth before, but I had always thought it was named after someone named "Fuller." (Doesn't "Fuller's Earth" sound like the name of a science fiction novel?)

Anyway, so it turns out "fuller's earth" is called that because it was formerly used by fullers. What did they do with it? Why, they fulled, of course. And what's "fulling"? I'm glad you asked.

To "full" (MW10, entry 5, transitive verb entry) is "to shrink and thicken (woolen cloth) by moistening, heating, and pressing." You might guess it's called that because of something to do with filling the cloth in some way, but apparently not: this "full," which appears to be a homomorph of the more common word spelled the same way, derives from Latin "fullo" (by way of Anglo-French). (Whereas "full" in the sense of "having as much as will fit" comes ultimately from Greek plErEs. Sez MW10.)

I'm guessing that fuller is one of those now-obsolete professions (and presumably the surname "Fuller" comes from the profession), but I don't really know.

It turns out that fulling is also known as waulking in Scotland, where the songs waulkers sang while waulking are known as waulking songs. Not to be confused with walking songs, of course; such confusion would be fullish.

tranche

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A "tranche" is "a division or portion of a pool or whole," sez MW11; apparently "pool" in this context refers to finance. And "tranche" apparently has a very specific meaning in the context of bonds.

And "tranch de vie" is French for "slice of life."

psephology

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Psephology is an old-fashioned term for "the statistical study of elections," according to Wikipedia, which notes that the term was "coined (from the Greek psephos, 'pebble', which the Greeks used as ballots) in the United Kingdom in 1952 by historian R. B. McCallum."

cyberpathy

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In the roleplaying game Paranoia, a character could have a mutant power called "machine empathy," which caused machines (including computers) to like the character. Apparently in comic books these days, a similar superpower--the ability to psionically interact with computers--is called cyberpathy or (in the 2003 TV series Jake 2.0) technopathy.

Apparently "cyberkinesis" and "technokinesis" are other synonyms for the same thing.

pash

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A submission recently used the phrase "pashing off"; from context, it was clearly Australian slang for something in the general vicinity of either kissing or making out. WordWeb Online says to pash is to "Kiss, embrace, or fondle with sexual passion"; Urban Dictionary says pashing is "heavy duty kissing between teenagers"; Free Dictionary says a pash is "a romantic infatuation" or "the object of such an infatuation," and that it's short for "passion." (That last pair of definitions sounds to me like it matches US use of "crush," which can be either the feeling you have or the person who you have that feeling about.)

Versatile word! I suppose you could say "I had such a pash for my pash that we started pashing."

metrication

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I just learned that the process of going metric is called metrication.

Also, that there's a traditional Chinese unit of time, the ke, which was traditionally equal to 1/100 of a day, or approximately 15 minutes.

Also that there are only three remaining nations (according to Wikipedia, anyway) that don't widely use the metric system: the US, Liberia, and Myanmar.

And that in some stretches of Interstate 19 in Arizona, "distances are given in hundreds or thousands of meters, and not miles or even kilometres."

While I'm here, I may as well mention that the US Navy (again according to Wikipedia) measures distances in "kiloyards."

tanto

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I was familiar with the katana (the long Japanese sword used by samurai) and the wakizashi (the shorter second sword also used by samurai), but I was previously unaware of the tantō, which was the even shorter knife or dagger that was sometimes used with the other two. Wikipedia says, among other things, that it "was a favorite weapon of the ninja."

henotheism

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Every so often I just stop posting here. I'm not sure why; I continue to see new words, I just go a few days without posting one and then I've lost momentum, and then I go weeks without posting.

So, apologies again for the hiatus. Here's a new word.

According to Wikipedia:

Henotheism (Greek [...] "one god") is a term coined by Max Müller, to mean devotion to a single "God" while accepting the existence of other gods. Müller stated that henotheism means "monotheism in principle and a polytheism in fact."

See also "monolatrism" and "kathenotheism," which are also discussed in the henotheism article. I especially like the latter term, which the article translates as "one god at a time"; sort of the serial monogamy of religious belief, I guess.

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