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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People think that you have these things called ideas and that writing is a matter of imposing them on the subject material, whereas it's only in the writing that I discover what it is that I think.

Anthony Lane



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Blog Statistics

Dates
First entry - 6/27/2003
Most recent entry - 5/19/2017

Totals
Posts - 2429
Comments - 2551
Hits - 1,951,937

Averages
Entries/day - 0.48
Comments/entry - 1.05
Hits/day - 384

Updated every 30 minutes. Last: 3:37 AM Pacific


  01:09 PM

Friday, Friday. We can trust that day. To bring us new words and unexpected etymologies.

Two new-to-me terms today—fun stuff instead of the Serious Words that I've been finding. The first today is catio, which is a blend of cat+patio. This is some sort of enclosure that lets cats go outside in a safe way. There are companies that build these, and some are quite elaborate, like this one:


Something that I personally found amusing was this graph from Google Trends that I think tells us pretty clearly when this word was invented:

The second new-to-me word today is qubit, which is an abbreviation of quantum bit. Wikipedia defines it as "a unit of quantum information […] such as the polarization of a single photon." I don't remember anymore where I ran across this, and obviously it's not a term that's going to come up a lot in everyday conversation. (I mean, unless you're a particle physicist or something.) I think I seized on this term because it's a double abbreviation, so to speak:

qubit = quantum + bit
bit = binary + digit

I will acknowledge that not everyone is likely to find that fact as interesting as I do.

Etymology. Not long ago I was looking at an ad for a pillow that has lavender in it. The ad said that lavender "comes from the Latin word for 'to wash'." Advertising copy is not known to be source of reliable etymology, but I thought, wow, has the origin of lavender been staring me in the face all this time? There's lavatory and laundry in English, and lavar for to wash in Spanish.


But, well, advertising copy is not necessarily a source of reliable etymology. Per the slightly more rigorous OED, lavender is probably related to livid, which carries a sense of "bluish." That said, they do acknowledge that "the current hypothesis[1] is that [...] the name refers to the use of the plant either for perfuming baths [...] or as laid among freshly washed linen." But they then go on to say that "on the ground of sense-development this does not seem plausible." So, half marks for the ad copy, maybe.

Like this? Read all the Friday words.

[1] In the context of the OED, "current" here could be anywhere between 1857 and 2016, given the very long history of that project.

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