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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When I think "What is my positive impact on the world?", I realize that Microsoft is this giant lever that you can do something that immediately affects a huge swath of the world. That really floats my boat.

John Platt, who helped develop ClearType



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Blog Statistics

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

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

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

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


  01:59 PM

For today's selection of Friday words, I'm flipping the convention: one new(-to-me) word, but two words with unexpected(-to-me) etymologies.

The new word today is bangorrhea, which refers to the practice of using excessive!!!! exclamation points. I got this via an editor friend on Facebook, who in turn got it from an article by Andy Hollandbeck. The word bangorrhea is of course a portmanteau, marrying bang with the "combining form" -rrhea, meaning "flow" or "discharge." The word has some interesting company: logorrhea, for "an excessive locquacity," and to up the ick factor for today's word, diarrhea and gonorrhea.

Ahem. As Hollandbeck notes, bang has been used to refer to exclamation points for at least half a century. I've seen it a lot at my work (software)—a good example is a bang mail. The origin is presumably because in some programs, email messages are marked for high importance using an icon that has an exclamation point.


Here's a vaguely related anecdote about the use of exclamation points. In my days as a tech writer whelp, my lead was reviewing something I'd written. She removed an exclamation point (just one) that I'd added to a sentence, with this penciled-in comment: "Nix. Too exciting." And given the era of tech writing we were in, probably rightly so. But there's a coda. Just recently, in my capacity as senior writer, I was reviewing a draft by a more junior writer. Almost reflexively, I proposed removing the exclamation points that he'd used in various sentences. He rejected those changes, and given the era of tech writing we're in now, probably rightly so.

Etymology. This week I was pondering two words that I thought might be so-called unpaired words—terms that seem like they should have opposites, but don't[1]. (Think ruthless or disgruntled.) The first term was innocent. I know that the in- prefix is, or can be, a negation particle, as in incoherent or intolerant[2]. Ok, fine, but if so, what is the non-negative, or opposite, version of innocent? It turns out that the -nocent part is from a Latin stem that means "to harm," which we see also in noxious. So innocent is something that's the opposite of harmful, so to speak. To my mind, noxious is sufficiently distant from -nocent that I am willing to count innocent as an unpaired word.

The second such term I pondered this week is disappoint. Same question: if dis- is a negation particle, what are we negating, exactly? This one turned out to be more logical. If you troll through the several definitions for appoint, one of them is "to provide what is necessary," like appointing a house with furnishings. (That's definition #4 on Dictionary.com, anyway.) So to disappoint originates as something along the lines of failing to provide the needful, as they say in some dialects. There's something I bet we all have experience with.

Like this? Read all the Friday words.

[1] Speaking of unpaired words, I'm not familiar with a better play on them than Jack Winter's brilliant "How I Met My Wife," which for now is available here in an unauthorized edition. Sample: "After a terminable delay, I acted with mitigated gall and made my way through the ruly crowd with strong givings."

[2] In the original Latin, the in- prefix was a variation on il- and im-. The words illegal, impossible, and incoherent all use the same prefix, but it was phonologically adjusted, so to speak, to match the letter that follows.

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