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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What grammarians say should be has perhaps less influence on what shall be than even the more modest of them realize; usage evolves itself little disturbed by their likes and dislikes. And yet the temptation to show how better use might have been made of the material to hand is sometimes irresistible.

— H.W. Fowler



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Blog Statistics

Dates
First entry - 6/27/2003
Most recent entry - 8/17/2018

Totals
Posts - 2516
Comments - 2581
Hits - 2,072,540

Averages
Entries/day - 0.45
Comments/entry - 1.03
Hits/day - 375

Updated every 30 minutes. Last: 8:49 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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