Thursday, 18 February 2016
Two new-to-me terms this Friday, and another unexpected etymology.
First new term. The other day I was whining on Facebook that I really hate it when people chew loudly, and someone told me that this meant I might be afflicted with misophonia. Wikipedia defines misophonia as "a rarely diagnosed disorder [...] in which negative emotions (anger, fright, hatred, disgust) are triggered by specific sounds." Aside from loud eating (and apparently I'm not alone there), other famous misophonic triggers include the sound of someone cracking their knuckles and the sound of nails on a chalkboard. Everyone's favorite doctor (WebMD) suggests that it's neurological. There are support groups.
Update 27 Jun 2016: There's a piece in Mental Floss now about misophonia.
I ran across the second new term while reading many articles this week about Justice Scalia. He was famously a "textualist," meaning that when it came to interpreting statute, he thought it was improper to consider legislative history. Not being a lawyer, I hadn't seen this term before. Per one of the articles I was reading, legislative history "consists of items such as committee reports, floor debates, and legislative drafts—all the available documents and statements that accumulated while a statute was being passed." As I understand it, Scalia's stance was that whatever the many thoughts had been that went into a bill, in the end, the only thing that counted was the final text of a statute as written into law. Or something along those lines; as I say, I'm no lawyer. (The various articles I was reading generally disagreed with this stance, FWIW.)
For this week's surprising etymology I pass along a challenge posed to me by one of my co-workers: I bet you don't know where the ham in ham radio came from. That was a good bet, because I didn't. I was pretty sure it didn't have anything to do with, you know, ham. It turns out that the ham in ham radio actually precedes radio itself—radio probably inherited it from the telegraph, when an unskilled operator (that is, an amateur) was said to be ham-fisted or ham-handed. The OED doesn't list any citations for either ham- variant earlier than about 1918, which seems somewhat late if the term really did originate with telegraph. But anyway, that's the best story I have at the moment.
Like this? Read all the Friday words
Friday words, language