About

I'm Mike Pope. I live in the Seattle area. I've been a technical writer and editor for over 30 years. I'm interested in software, language, music, movies, books, motorcycles, travel, and ... well, lots of stuff.

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I would have to say that most instructions I come across are unimportant and some are harmful. Most instructions I get about software development process, I would say, would be harmful if I believed them and followed them. Most software process instructions I encounter are fairy tales, both in the sense of being made up and in the sense of being cartoonish. Some things that look like instructions, such as "do not try this at home" or "take out the safety card and follow along," are not properly instructions at all, they are really just ritual phrases uttered to dispel the evil spirits of legal liability.

James Bach



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Blog Statistics

Dates
First entry - 6/27/2003
Most recent entry - 9/19/2017

Totals
Posts - 2452
Comments - 2558
Hits - 1,984,101

Averages
Entries/day - 0.47
Comments/entry - 1.04
Hits/day - 382

Updated every 30 minutes. Last: 8:46 PM Pacific


  12:03 PM

Sure, I'll go for three weeks in a row. It's a streak! This Friday we have, as in weeks previous, a word new to me and a surprising (again, to me) eymology. (Plural today: etymologies.)

Word: schooliness, adjectival form schooly. This comes from Clay Burell, who writes about being a teacher. Burell doesn't precisely define the term—in fact, he invites others to propose definitions—but suggests that it means something like "of and for school, but with no other intrinsic value." It's a kind of insititutional opposite of what we'd really want school to teach—critical thinking, imagination, creativity. For example, he experimented with having his students blog, but blogging became schooly: "just another way to turn in homework." This extends to extracurriuclar activities that students undertake primarily to pad out their college admissions. Burell acknowledges that schooliness echoes Colbert's term truthiness.

Ok, etymologies. These are only half-surprising, so today we get two. Both pertain to the names of dog breeds. I heard these from Helen Zaltzman on The Allusionist, her entertaining and educational podcast.

The first is poodle. This comes from the German word Pudel (pronounced just like "poodle"), which comes from the same root that gives us puddle. Because poodles are water dogs, hey! I don't know why, but I find this inordinately amusing. Perhaps because my early reading experiences involved text like this:
When beetles
fight these battles
in a bottle
with their paddles
and the bottle's
on a poodle
and the poodle's
eating noodles

... they call this
a muddle puddle
tweetle poodle
beetle noodle
bottle paddle battle.
(From Fox in Sox, thank you Dr. Seuss.)

And the second breed is basset hound. Short story here is that basset is related to base (also bass), because basset hounds are low to the ground. Funny.

As an aside[1], the other famously low-slung dog is a dachshund, which has a more scenario-oriented name: Dachs is the German word for badger, which is what those dogs were bred to hunt. Hence their demeanor, which tends toward the confrontational. Please, for the love of all things language, do not pronounce this as "dash-hound." It's "ducks-hoond," ok? Thank you.

[1] I'm not counting this as a surprising etymology, because it isn't surprising to me. :-)

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