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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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Learning from experience is the worst possible way to learn something. Learning from experience is one up from remembering. That's not great. The best way to learn something is when someone else figures it out and tells you: "Don't go in that swamp. There are alligators in there."

Clay Shirky



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Blog Statistics

Dates
First entry - 6/27/2003
Most recent entry - 7/24/2017

Totals
Posts - 2442
Comments - 2553
Hits - 1,968,922

Averages
Entries/day - 0.47
Comments/entry - 1.05
Hits/day - 383

Updated every 30 minutes. Last: 5:36 AM Pacific


  06:56 AM

When shopping for school supplies this week, don't forget to pick up a set of Friday words!

The new-to-me word this week is gongoozler, which through some mechanism I no longer recall I got from Joss Fong on Twitter. In its most general sense, this term refers to a spectator who stares at an activity. It also has a related sense of someone who "enjoys watching activity on the canals of the United Kingdom," this second definition from the infallible Wikipedia. (Whose article on this term includes the subheading "Aspects of gongoozling.") Compare trainspotting.

I believe the connection here is that canal-watchers do a lot of staring. Indeed, the OED says that both gawn and gooze are dialectical terms in the UK for "staring vacantly." Satisfyingly, one of the examples in the OED (from 1986) refers to someone gongoozling at a giant outdoor screen, TV being a sort of obvious candidate for the use of this term. For what it's worth, the earliest recorded use seems to be from 1904.

One of the cites in the OED is this: "Pronounced slowly and with the proper emphasis, ‘gongoozler’ merits a very high place in the vocabulary of opprobrium." Again, one might compare how trainspotting is used. Even then, though, I speculate that someone whose activity is being gongoozled, and who is opprobriuming the gongoozler, might prefer that to the more active spectating implied by kibitzing.

Incidentally, I'd love to hear more about this word from anyone who has it in their active vocabulary.

Etymological musings today originate in a session of kitchen cleanup this week, which led me to wonder about the word terrycloth. Who is Terry and why are towels named for them? Haha, just kidding. The exact origin of the terry part is a bit murky. It seems to refer to loops, the teeny loops being the salient feature of the cloth. It might come from tiré, French for "to draw" or "to pull," which references the way in which the loops are created during weaving. A second theory is that it comes from the Old French noun terret, which refers to the ring (loop) on a saddle. Either way, I can easily imagine myself in my dotage demanding that an uncomprehending grandchild bring me a "loop cloth, and hurry!"

Like this? Read all the Friday words.

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