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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The language isn't falling apart. We don't know whether we'll be able to pay for our lunch in 10 years, but we'll certainly be able to order it.

Geoff Nunberg



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Blog Statistics

Dates
First entry - 6/27/2003
Most recent entry - 8/18/2017

Totals
Posts - 2446
Comments - 2553
Hits - 1,975,632

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

Updated every 30 minutes. Last: 10:12 AM Pacific


  12:56 PM

Friday words! Only today they happen to be on a Saturday. That's how it goes sometimes.

For this week's new-to-me word, I have wind throb, which I learned just a few days ago from an article (paywall) in the Wall Street Journal. This refers to the "wub-wub-wub" noise that happens when you open only one window while driving fast in a car. The more technical name for this phenomenon is Helmholtz resonance, but good luck getting far with that term at your next dinner party.

Fun fact: per the article (and a slew of others that appeared this week), wind throb is more of a problem with latter-day cars because they are designed to be aerodynamically tight. Certainly I've noticed that it's more of a problem with my 2015 Maserati than with my 1973 Dodge Dart. (Yeah, right.)

For surprising etymology this week I have two! The first is the word geyser, referring to a hot spring that sends up a plume of water. Give a moment of thought to the word, and you'll observe, I believe, that its meaning doesn't seem to be obvious, nor does it have cognates. That's because geyser has an unusual source (haha): it comes to English from modern(-ish) Icelandic (!), not exactly a historically rich source for English vocabulary. Geysir is the name of a particular geyser in Iceland; the name derives from an Icelandic word meaning "to gush." Our general term in English comes from the name of this specific geyser in Iceland. John Kelly has a great writeup of all this on Mashed Radish, a site well worth exploring for more fun with everyday etymology.

The other surprising etymology this week is for the word cemetery. On Twitter I follow Haggard Hawks Words, where they post unusual and obscure words. They recently created a words quiz, from which I learned that cemetery comes from the Greek word koimetarion, which means "a sleeping place." R.I.P. indeed.

Here are a couple of bonus etymologies this week, both inspired by political goings-on:
  • Katherine Barber discussed the word nostalgia.

  • Nancy Friedman addressed a term much in the news recently: sarcasm.
Like this? Read all the Friday words.

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