25 Words.

Paul Anthony Jones has a Mental Floss piece called 25 Words That Don’t Mean What They Used To; it’s a grab-bag of different kind of changes, from obvious semantic extensions (fantastic) to serious changes of meaning (though probably many Hatters already know that cheap originally meant ‘trade, bargaining’). It’s worth a look, even though it shouldn’t be relied on for details — he says “Rival comes from the same etymological root as words like river and rivulet,” but as I said back in 2004, “river and rival aren’t actually related, since the Latin word ripa ‘(river) bank,’ the root of river, is of unknown etymology.” The entry for punk has an odd omission:

No one knows where the word punk comes from, but its earliest meaning in English was as another name for a prostitute—the meaning by which it appears in Shakespeare’s Measure For Measure. Over the centuries, the word seems to have accrued a whole host of fairly unsavory connotations, until it first began to be used of a petty criminal or a criminal’s assistant sometime around 1900, and ultimately any disreputable person, an outcast, or an inexperienced person in the 1920s and ’30s.

Gee, hasn’t it acquired another meaning since then, the only one known to most persons of the twenty-first-century persuasion?

But there’s some good stuff there, things I didn’t know, like the etymology of handicap (hand-in-cap!) and the fact that ambidexter once meant “A corrupt lawyer who takes fees or bribes from both sides in a case” (though an earlier sense was “A person who has two contradictory or incompatible roles; a double-dealer”). And the first entry, on alienate, makes a nice complement to this 2005 LH post on William Barnes’s suggested word-equivalents in purified English, which includes “alienate, To unfrienden.” Thanks, jack!

Comments

  1. David Eddyshaw says:

    He’s missed a trick with “fascinate”:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fascinus

    “Magic charm” doesn’t quite capture the essence of the thing. Or Thing.

  2. SFReader says:

    A corrupt lawyer who takes fees or bribes from both sides in a case

    In Russia it is said that an honest judge takes bribes from both sides in a case and makes a ruling according to the letter of the law.

  3. David Eddyshaw says:

    Now that is just plain immoral. In Africa a corrupt official is one who doesn’t stay bribed: he takes your money and then doesn’t deliver. (Some people just have no shame.)

  4. Bathrobe says:

    @ David Eddyshaw

    That is a complaint I heard from one Chinese about doing business in Mongolia.

    In China, if you become “friends” with the official and pay him a bribe, he delivers the goods.

    In Mongolia, the official just takes the money.

  5. Alienate still does mean to sever one’s ties with a piece of real property (as by sale, gift, or will).

    My father used the word “fantastic” to describe an obvious and grotesque lie, a big con. It meant the same to him as “unbelievable” only more so.

    At one time awesome and awful both meant awe-inspiring.

    Silly originally meant happy. Handsome meant suitable, well done. Cute meant clever, and still does, in the narrow sense of too clever by half.

    In his great Cooper Union Address, Lincoln used the expression, “That is cool,” meaning insolent, audacious, brazen.

  6. SFReader says:

    So that’s what Barack Obama meant when he wrote a book titled “The Audacity of Hope”…

  7. Alienist is arguably the best word in the English language.

  8. It is an excellent word.

  9. John Cowan says:

    A synonym for ambidexter in this sense is daffy-down-dilly:

    “Ha! Well, it’s like this,” said Mr. Towkington, graciously. “Before 1837—”

    “Queen Victoria, I know,” said Peter, intelligently.

    “Quite so. At the time when Queen Victoria came to the throne, the word ‘issue’ had no legal meaning—no legal meaning at all.”

    “You surprise me!”

    “You are too easily surprised,’ said Mr Towkington. ‘Many words have no legal meaning. Others have a legal meaning very unlike their ordinary meaning. For example, the word ‘daffy-down-dilly’. It is a criminal libel to call a lawyer a daffy-down-dilly. Ha! Yes, I advise you never to do such a thing. No, I certainly advise you never to do it.

    “Then again, words which are quite meaningless in your ordinary conversation may have a meaning in law. For instance, I might say to a young man like yourself, ‘You wish to leave such-and-such property to so-and-so.’ And you would very likely reply, ‘Oh, yes, absolutely’—meaning nothing in particular by that. But if you were to write in your will, ‘I leave such-and-such property to so-and-so absolutely,’ then that word would bear a definite legal meaning, and would condition your bequest in a certain manner, and might even prove an embarrassment and produce results very far from your actual intentions. Eh, ha! You see?”

    “Quite.”

    — Dorothy L. Sayers, Unnatural Death.’

    Here’s the report of the case in question:

    Si home dit al un Counceller del ley en le North, Thou art a Daffa-down-dilly. Action giſt ove averrment que les parols ſignifie que il eſt un Ambedexter, Mich. 10 Car. B.R. En Peares Caſe dit d’eſtre adjudge en Scaccario [the Exchequer], & agree per curiam.

  10. J.W. Brewer says:

    To SFReader’s “In Russia it is said …” I reply: “Hey, that’s a venerable joke about Cook County, Illinois. Why can’t you furriners come up with your own original material?”

  11. J.W. Brewer says:

    The “corrupt; on-the-take” meaning of “Daffa-down-dilly” makes it even more hilarious that Doris Day rhymes it with “pure as a lily.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ZzzGG8bl7M

  12. Not quite true that these words don’t mean what they used to: Alienate as a legal term still has the same meaning.

    On the other had I never knew about Livid and Thrill. Very interesting.

  13. That is a complaint I heard from one Chinese about doing business in Mongolia.

    It’s a common complaint from imperialists. I’ve come across it from 19th century Britons about Pathans, and from Americans about (if I remember correctly) Vietnamese.

    Note the implications that the subject people are at once a) corrupt, b) greedy, c) dishonest and d) childishly short-sighted (because a man who is bribed and stays bribed will no doubt be able to get more bribes in future).

    It also pops up in Asimov’s “Foundation and Empire”, with a cynical merchant talking about a local official – “There’s probably no one so easily bribed, but he lacks even the fundamental honesty of honorable corruption. He doesn’t stay bribed; not for any sum.”

    On the other had I never knew about Livid and Thrill. Very interesting.

    Livid is particularly annoying because it’s still used in both (semi-contradictory) senses. Postmortem lividity is, as any Sayers fan should know, the bruise-like discoloration caused by blood settling to the lowest parts of a corpse – so if someone dies lying on their back, they’ll have apparent bruises on the back and buttocks. But we also talk about “livid with rage” meaning pale – even though it makes just as much sense to interpret it as “dark-faced or discoloured with rage” if you think about what someone looks like when they’re flushed with agitation. We even talk about corpses being “livid” meaning pale.

  14. Is there anything comparable to this article about the specific case of technical terms changing their connotations as the underlying technology changes?

    When I first encountered the computer term “menu,” for instance, my reaction to the unimaginative metaphor was negative. “Engineer wit,” I sneered to myself, culturally stereotyping. That was in the 1980s. But now — well, what else would you call a menu?

    Or consider Emily Dickinson’s poem beginning “Bees are black with gilt surcingles” (Fr1426). Dickinson experienced her world as a place where the technical term “surcingle” was an ordinary, everyday word, one that didn’t require anybody to stop talking and run for the dictionary. Because that isn’t your world, the poem’s wit has lost some of its original spontaneity but acquired a bookish new set of connotations

    For a whole corpus of such technical connotations in the making, see the late nineteenth-century series of comic postcards En l’an 2000,

    https://publicdomainreview.org/collection/a-19th-century-vision-of-the-year-2000

    What would be the right emotional term here to describe the white-aproned maid guiding her floor waxer with a leash? What might the term have been in 1900, when the white apron represented reality and the waxer was science fiction?

    Or for another exercise, consider the moment at minute 3.45 here

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wfm8gR12hA4

    where W. C. Fields asks a hotel desk clerk, “Any telegrams, cablegrams, radio, television?” That moment occurred in 1930, at a time when the word “television” was little more than a sound not yet anchored to any meanings in reality. Back then it was potentially poetry, the way “surcingle” has become now.

    (Bonus footnote: most of you probably know that the “Florida” hotel in Some Like it Hot is San Diego’s Hotel del Coronado. Your additional news is that the “Florida” hotel in this movie is Honolulu’s Royal Hawaiian.)

  15. David Eddyshaw says:

    It’s a common complaint from imperialists

    In fact, it’s a common complaint from ordinary local people who have to get on with their lives in places where corruption is normal (which is actually most places in the world.) You have presumably never lived in such parts of the world.

    As a foreigner, you actually don’t see most of it. People tend to give you an easy ride, partly because you’re hard to place in terms of local power structures, partly (in Africa, at any rate) because people are also hospitable to strangers. (In countries where corruption is exceptional, it’s a reasonable conclusion that a person asking for or receiving a bribe is a bad lot. In most countries, it just means they’re going with the flow, and they may be a perfectly decent type in general. It can take real moral courage and involve actual sacrifice not to play along. Most people don’t see the point, but it used to amaze and humble me that so many actually did stand against corruption – and I’ve lived in one of the most notoriously corrupt countries in the world.)

  16. David Eddyshaw says:

    (… asking for or offering a bribe …)

    Happy modern middle-class westerners think that a bureaucracy free of egregious corruption just kinda falls from heaven, I think.

  17. One reason why it’s hard to be not corrupt in countries where corruption is endemic is that it’s normally part of a system. Officials have to pay someone to get a job (I was told in the mid-90s that the going rate for a customs job with “customer contact” at Almaty airport was 100k USD) and need to recoup the money (often in a limited time, e.g. in Kazakhstan higher officials normally stay in the same job max 2-3 years and often only 6 months), and / or they have to give a cut of what they take to their superiors and sponsors. If you don’t play along, you lose your job and even may go to jail – a reason can always be found, including corruption.

  18. AJP Crown says:

    Ambidexter

    is unfair to the left-handed, why not ambisinister (although apparently it’s been taken)?

    It seems Peter Cook himself must have coined unidexter, possibly in 1954ish (“Peter Cook said that this was one of the most perfect sketches he had acted in, and that it amazed him, later in his career, that he could have created it so young, at the age of 17 or 18.”) Unipod would suffice (except maybe in the dance sense of “two left feet”), but -dexter is funnier.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lbnkY1tBvMU

  19. PlasticPaddy says:

    I think this is a matter of approach, as with taxi drivers, waiters, hotel cleaners, etc. These others earn some proportion of their income in tips, which are (at least in theory) gratuities at the discretion of the customer. In the case of public servants, the elected Government (even where there are elections worthy of the name) is sometimes insufficiently realistic in regulating the number and salary levels of public servants and insufficiently forceful in asserting its rights and responsibilities as prime contractor to the end customer☺

  20. Isn’t it the case in some US jurisdictions that some default level of tipping is included in calculating the minimum wage or tax band of those in relevant occupations?

    Multinationals can legally treat bribes paid in jurisdiction A as a business expense for tax and accounting purposes in jurisdiction B, for many values of A and B. (Most Bs disallow A = B. Dunno if any B has a published list of valid values of A.)

  21. David Eddyshaw says:

    I think this is a matter of approach

    I think it can be more complicated than that. When I first went to Africa (incidentally, Africa is by no means all the same in this regard – or any other) I had never encountered official corruption at all in my whole life. Unsurprisingly, when I did become aware of it, I often misinterpreted what was going on, and in particular I often saw as corruption activity which most local people would regard as perfectly proper.

    Our modern western approach, focused on issues rather than people, is geographically and historically peculiar. The natural human way is reciprocal obligation: when the system is working properly, the powerful have obligations to the weak just as much as vice versa.
    (Probably the most unsettling part of my initial culture shock after being parachuted into a position of considerable power in local terms was the discovery that, while on the one hand, what I said went; on the other, my subordinates quite rightly expected me to support them if they got into trouble in ways that not even the most socially conscious employer would acknowledge in the UK. They had claims on me.)

    In this sort of (human-normal) culture, not returning a favour is highly dishonourable, including favours done for you by officialdom. Not everything that looks like corruption to a naive Westerner’s eye involves exploitation of unequal power structures.

    And yet, a lot of corruption truly is just that: it’s the strong abusing the weak (especially when the weak find that the officials plan simply to ignore their personal obligations to return a favour, or start retrospectively upping the price.) [Western governments have put in place structures where this can happen more efficiently, without middleman officialdom benefitting …]

    Our antiseptic (largely) corruption-free bureaucracies are partly enabled by our societies’ atomistic notions of personal responsibility, in which we think individuals have no real human obligations beyond their nuclear families (if that), everything else being measurable in money. This is an unnatural way for people to be, which is at least in part why corruption-free bureaucracies don’t create themselves, and why it’s unwise to be complacent about them staying that way.

    Corruption is a huge drain on individuals and on whole economies, and very often indeed does involve simple expoitation of the weak, on whom it bears much the most grievously. Still, I think it’s good to keep these issues conceptually separate. Efficiency is not the sole virtue, or even among the most important. Exploitation is the chief evil in this.

  22. SFReader says:

    What Russians doing business in Mongolia don’t get is the lack of “power vertical” as exists in Russia.

    So to get results by bribing, you’ll have to bribe every single official at every level in every agency involved – you can’t expect that dealing with one, two or even ten top officials will make things happen and subordinates will blindly follow directives and orders.

    They won’t.

  23. Our modern western approach, focused on issues rather than people, is geographically and historically peculiar. The natural human way is reciprocal obligation

    I agree with your entire comment, and I urge anyone interested in these matters to read Graeber’s Debt, which I’m slowly working my way through. I would also urge people to forget about occasional errors — to reject him on that account would be like rejecting a foundational book in linguistics because the author got some things wrong about particular languages. It’s a wide-ranging book about how human societies have treated debt, obligation, and suchlike in the context of money and the economic theories and fantasies we’ve developed to try to explain how it works; it will provide the same kind of perspective-widening experience as a good anthropology or linguistics course if you let it. The tendency of people today to read with a prosecutorial eye, looking for some excuse they can use to reject a piece of writing in toto (“I noped out when I got to X”), maddens me. Every book has typos, everyone makes mistakes. You take what you need and you leave the rest.

  24. AJP Crown says:

    I urge anyone interested in these matters to read Graeber’s Debt

    Anything (since I’ve got it) in particular?

    My only experience of observing (mild) corruption was the at the New York City Building Dept in the 1980s, where minor officials received handouts in return for issuing building permits on time (plumbing inspectors also required handouts for approving work done to code). Everyone in the construction biz knew about this. I never heard of regulations being flouted or bent; the money was simply to keep the wheels turning at a time when developers were paying banks 15% (or something) p.a. on the money they’d borrowed to build.

  25. A story about a somewhat crazy space in which paying people to perform (or not to perform) their official duties is illegal, but expected.

    I once was flying from a country where I overstayed a visa. An appropriate official threatened to detain me until my flight is gone, but other than that couldn’t do me any harm, overstaying a visa being not a particularly grievous offence. After an offer on my part to “solve the question” I was (after some prefatory vacillation on the official’s part) asked to buy some sausage. I was incredulous, but had to go along and so we departed on foot toward a local shop to make a purchase. Halfway there I’ve made an offer to give cash to the official in the amount appropriate to buy as much sausage as he saw fit with the understanding that the purchase will be performed outside of my presence. The offer was accepted, cash exchanged hands, and everyone moved along.

  26. Kozma Prutkov is, as always, here to help us.
    Человеку даны две руки на тот конец, дабы он, принимая левою, раздавал правою./Two hands are given to the man toward the end that taking with the left one he could give with the right one.

  27. AJP Crown says:

    What was the cost of the sausage?

  28. $10

  29. PlasticPaddy says:

    @do
    “wenn du Almosen gibst, so gib es also, daß auch deine lincke Hand nicht wiße, was die rechte thut”
    M. Luther “Auslegung der Bergpredigt Christi”, Matth. 6.3 (the text I now find in the luther bible has been modernised and is slightly different).
    I think this may be the ultimate source of quotes about lefthand/righthand independence

  30. AJP Crown says:

    That was a bargain; depending on when it was, I suppose – the shrinking sausage.

  31. David Eddyshaw says:

    Ça peut s’arranger, peut-être?

    (Actually, I found that claiming not to understand French at all could be quite effective in the old AOF. Being from the UK adds a useful layer of plausibility.)

  32. AJP, that surprised me as well. I was prepared to go up to $100, but fight to keep it under $50. But sausage?

    PlasticPaddy, I am pretty sure Kozma Petrovich didn’t need Luther’s translation for inspiration.

  33. J.W. Brewer says:

    I am curious as to when the “female prostitute” sense of “punk” became obsolete. It’s used in a poem by Yeats, but poetic use (esp. when someone needs an easy rhyme for “drunk”) is not very good evidence of continued ordinary use. Wiktionary has an instance from the 1930’s but it’s in the middle of a very lengthy Homeric catalog of synonyms-for-prostitute that makes that quote no good evidence of non-obsolescence. I did a quick scan of 19th century hits in the google books corpus and didn’t find any good evidence there: one dictionary definition (glossing it as “strumpet”), one or two original poems, uses in translation of earlier foreign authors (including Cervantes), and reprints of Shakespeare, Jonson, Defoe and suchlike earlier English writers. Of course slang words for “prostitute” might be more used in speech than print during a prudish age, but if you could use “punk” in printed poetry even if you were a clergyman (the Rev. F. Hodgson, 1781-1852, translator of Juvenal and Provost of Eton) it can’t have been perceived as that dirty a word.

    I may have previously mentioned in some other comment thread the delightful 1918 headline “Girl Works As Whistle Punk,” but I don’t know if it would have been perceived as having any salacious undertones. “Whistle punk” was at that point in time apparently a standard job title in the logging industry for a role typically filled by a young man who was perhaps not up to working as a lumberjack proper, and the young lady described in the news item was filling that role to do her part in fighting the Kaiser at a time when many young men had left Oregon to join the Army. Whether there might have been any salacious undertones with respect to the young men typically holding the job because of the “catamite” sense of “punk” that was already current at the time is not clear to me, other than they were not so strong as to make the job title too salacious to print in logging-industry trade journals that you would expect to steer clear of salaciousness.

  34. Anything (since I’ve got it) in particular?

    Just start reading and skim when he starts going on too long about something you’re not especially interested in. He builds up his argument at his own pace.

    My only experience of observing (mild) corruption was the at the New York City Building Dept in the 1980s, where minor officials received handouts in return for issuing building permits on time (plumbing inspectors also required handouts for approving work done to code). Everyone in the construction biz knew about this.

    My understanding is that the construction biz is corrupt pretty much everywhere, because it involves long stretches of time and lots of complicated activity requiring lots of complicated supplies that the person or group paying for it has neither the time nor the expertise to ride herd on, and of course every middleman (minor officials, plumbing inspectors, etc.) is going to take a cut.

  35. David Eddyshaw says:

    logging-industry trade journals that you would expect to steer clear of salaciousness

    I’m a lumberjack, and I’m OK …

  36. John Cowan says:

    Isn’t it the case in some US jurisdictions that some default level of tipping is included in calculating the minimum wage or tax band of those in relevant occupations?

    Yes, it is.

    Multinationals can legally treat bribes paid in jurisdiction A as a business expense for tax and accounting purposes in jurisdiction B, for many values of A and B. (Most Bs disallow A = B. Dunno if any B has a published list of valid values of A.)

    In the U.S. this is not the case: it is a federal crime for a U.S. national to directly or indirectly bribe a foreign official whether on U.S. or foreign soil (the nationality principle), or for a foreign national to directly or indirectly bribe a U.S. official on U.S. soil (the territorial principle). I don’t say that this law is particularly well kept or frequently prosecuted, but it is the law.

    New York City Building Dept in the 1980s

    This is still one of the most corrupt parts of the NYC government. Indeed, there are perfectly legitimate businesses called “expediters” who will do the bribing for you and then bill you for their expenses on a cost-plus basis. The NYPD seems to run in generational cycles of corruption, with a huge scandal breaking about every thirty years, after which things are fairly clean for a long time.

    minor officials received handouts in return for issuing building permits on time (plumbing inspectors also required handouts for approving work done to code)

    Yes. But corrupt building inspectors will approve not-to-code, indeed shoddy and dangerous, work as well. They also issue tickets (very expensive ones) for “existing conditions” that don’t actually exist, and refuse to quash them unless bribed. That is far more than mild.

    They had claims on me.

    In short, you were a laird of the traditional kind.

    But sausage?

    Perhaps there was never any intention of the sausage actually changing hands, but asking for a bribe in kind is less obviously corrupt (though legally just as culpable).

  37. J.W. Brewer says:

    I can assure John Cowen that enforcement by the US federal government of the FCPA (“Foreign Corrupt Practices Act”) is, if not perfect, at least vigorous enough that plenty of lawyers and forensic accountants etc make very comfortable livings specializing in advising large companies who have become aware that their assistant sub-manager for Paraguayan sales may have done something he oughtn’t have done, and/or designing preemptive (“proactive” would be the jargon) training and compliance programs that will make it easier for the company to depict a future slip-up as a totally rogue operation contrary to well-established company policy. I have a vague sense that enforcement of similar rules in EU countries is, if not quite so vigorous, at least no longer non-existent, but only a vague sense.

  38. there are perfectly legitimate businesses called “expediters”

    Doesn’t look to me as perfectly legitimate. In Russia there is a practice (don’t know how widespread or current) of bureaucrats not accepting even the most rigorously drafted applications because of some pretend defect. Which can be cured by asking a specialized business to do it for you. I wouldn’t be shocked if the business is owned by a close relative of the bureaucrat.

    As for the sausage, my suspicion is that the main goal was to move the transaction outside of office.

  39. David Marjanović says:

    Isn’t it the case in some US jurisdictions that some default level of tipping is included in calculating the minimum wage or tax band of those in relevant occupations?

    Specifically, waitstaff is often paid just two dollars per hour on the perfectly legal assumption that they’ll somehow make up the difference to the minimum wage (7.25 $ is the federal minimum; higher in many states or cities) in tips.

    That’s why it’s so important to give a tip of 20% on every restaurant visit in the US, and it’s part of the reason why you’re asked so often if you’re enjoying everything (the illusion that tips are “for particularly good service” must be maintained, apparently).

  40. AJP Crown says:

    That’s why it’s so important to give a tip of 20%
    No, that’s why it’s so important that American restaurants should be made to pay their staff proper wages with social benefits to match them, as they do in Norway, where tipping doesn’t really happen afaik, except possibly at places in Oslo or Svalbard patronised by foreign tourists. To make customers feel guilty for not tipping is the norm in the US, but also pretty sick. And yes, of course I tip in the US – though in my day it was at first ten and then fifteen percent (why does the percentage rise?). So it’s the perfect system: even those who object to it, customers & waiting staff themselves, still voluntarily comply.

    there are perfectly legitimate businesses called “expediters”
    Doesn’t look to me as perfectly legitimate.

    Expeditors don’t only bribe officials. They are usually former Building Department employees with good connections and knowledge of procedure. I sure didn’t want to go down to City Hall and stand in line for 2 hours in a depressing green office full of cigar smoke (that may have changed) and with no natural light, so I let them do it. It was a reasonable price that the project’s owner paid. If bribes were part of greasing the wheels, they certainly didn’t mention a word of that to the architect. For my part, I’d have been delighted to help nail any city inspector who messed with safety, as I’m sure almost everyone would, it just never came up.

    My understanding is that the construction biz is corrupt pretty much everywhere, because…
    …Because an absolute ton of money is involved, but as a (German) lawyer once pointed out to me: only stupid people do things that might send them to prison when there are all sorts of immoral ways to make money legally. And that is my experience of construction in the UK, Germany and Norway (not to say illegal stuff never happens: there was a huge case of construction fraud & corruption in England in the late 1960s, when I was a teenager, that went all the way to the private life of the Home Secretary, a man called Reggie Maudling who was almost PM).

  41. David Eddyshaw says:

    only stupid people do things that might send them to prison when there are all sorts of immoral ways to make money legally.

    Thou shalt not steal:
    An empty feat,
    When it’s so lucrative to cheat.

    https://www.bartleby.com/71/1423.html

  42. PlasticPaddy says:

    @do
    Here is Matthew 6.3 from the Russian bible (I think OCS-ish):
    U tebja zhe, kogda tvorisj’ milostynju, pust’ levaja ruka tvoja ne znaet, chto delaet pravaja.
    My point was that Luther emphasised this (and reading the Bible in general). Do you think AT or indeed KPP might have read or heard this bit?☺

  43. I am close to be sure that the joke was intended to parody to some degree this phrase.

  44. J.W. Brewer says:

    Many persistent customs that seem peculiar and irrational to outsiders are explained at least in part by local religious taboos and/or the intricacies of the local tax system. Let’s say your group spends $100, at menu prices, at an NYC establishment and you tip $20 on top of that. The restaurant will on behalf of the gov’t collect sales tax from you (at 8.875%) on the $100 but not the $20. A no-tipping establishment charging you $120 service compris for the same amount of food and beverage will be required to charge you sales tax on the full $120, so you’ll be out another $1.78 or so, as well as lacking any confidence that the last $20 will fully flow through to actual employees.

    Whether tips always flow through to who you think they do in a jurisdiction like NYC is another question, but there are laws, which sometimes get enforced, about who they’re NOT supposed to flow through to. There actually appears to be (or was until the pandemic largely shut the industry down) a whole subspecialty of lawyers in NYC who focus on suing restaurants for allegedly underpaying their staff, because there are lots of restaurants with lots of staff turnover so it’s apparently not that hard to find disgruntled former employees willing to allege that such-and-such establishment is systematically cheating its staff in such-and-such way.

  45. Lars Mathiesen says:

    The British scandal involved the brother in law of the strikingly styled Baron King. (Before the fact, so to speak: the latter got his life peerage ten years after the former got out of jail for bribing members of parliament; they were brothers in law for 53 years and only the last ten involved the peerage).

  46. In fact, it’s a common complaint from ordinary local people who have to get on with their lives in places where corruption is normal (which is actually most places in the world.) You have presumably never lived in such parts of the world.

    Not to interrupt the pompous geyser of indignation which I seem to have inadvertently pricked into eructation, but I was referring not to complaints about individual or even systemic corruption, but specifically to the (generally racist) complaint that “these people aren’t even honest enough to stay bribed”.

  47. David Marjanović says:

    No, that’s why […] even those who object to it, customers & waiting staff themselves, still voluntarily comply.

    Exactly. No disagreement here.

    the intricacies of the local tax system.

    Ah, yes. This issue would evaporate if taxes were included in the menu prices, as they are in one state in the US and, AFAIK, in the entire rest of the world.

  48. David Eddyshaw says:

    @Ajay:

    If you don’t wish to provoke me to pomposity, be more careful to avoid the implication that I myself might suggest that

    the subject people are at once a) corrupt, b) greedy, c) dishonest and d) childishly short-sighted (because a man who is bribed and stays bribed will no doubt be able to get more bribes in future)

    Deal?

  49. AJP Crown says:

    David: Exactly.
    Ah-ha, I’ve resolved my own objection, you say. The tipping scam (and perhaps governmental corruption) can only be put right by effective, plausible intervention by the state. The role of individuals is to vote for action rather than to take the cause into their own hands. I conclude from this that I (perhaps you, too) am not cut out to be an anarchist. Tipping was the tipping point.

    Five lines of text for one feeble pun.

  50. AJP Crown says:

    Six.

  51. AJP Crown says:

    Thanks for The Latest Decalogue and Arthur Clough, David Eddyshaw. He’s exactly the sort of eminent Victorian I enjoy reading about.

  52. Rodger C says:

    That’s Arthur Hugh Clough.

  53. AJP Crown says:

    Yes, is there another well-known Arthur Clough? This one seems to have gone by ‘Arthur’. Or is it like Ffrank Lloyd Wright, you have to use his middle name?

  54. Rodger C says:

    I’ve just never heard “Arthur Clough.” It sounds like “Edgar Poe.”

  55. AJP Crown says:

    I see, a shibboleth. As long as I don’t have to start saying Brian Howard Clough.
    We don’t have palm trees in Middlesbrough

  56. David Eddyshaw says:

    “Edgar Poe” is French, for some reason. I suspect that Clough, unlike Poe, is not popular enough in Francophonia for the matter of his middle name to have arisen.

    I see that Poe actually did start out as mere “Edgar Poe.”

  57. A bit more (by me, from a few years ago) on the etymology of handicap: https://www.laphamsquarterly.org/luck/oil-can

  58. Very interesting, thanks!

    Hand-in-cap involved players staking various items—say, a pocket watch and a cow—and forfeiting money on the outcome of the game. A third party, acting like an auctioneer, announced what he imagined the values of each item to be and how much one party would owe the other if they were traded. Both players then put coins in caps, put their hands in the caps, and pulled out a coin to signal whether they agreed with the umpire’s judgment. If they both pulled out coins, the trade went through and the umpire kept the forfeiting money; if neither did, the trade was voided but the umpire still kept the ante. But if only one player held a coin, the trade was canceled and the player who did pull a coin won the kitty. The game combined the possibility of a small reward for taking a larger risk by agreeing to trade an expensive item, but it also drew on the umpire’s talent for correctly assessing the difference in value between two things.

    (Lots of good stuff there on how handicapping horse races works, for those who might be curious.)

  59. I have always found it a bit odd that the annual awards given by the Mystery Writers of America are the “Edgar” Awards. In this case, the oddity has two components. First, I do not tend to think of Edgar Allan Poe when I hear the name “Edgar.” Second, while Edgar Allan Poe was an important mystery writer, with “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” “The Mystery of Marie Roget,” and “The Purloined Letter,” mysteries are not what he is primarily known for—although I am only a casual reader of mystery fiction*; perhaps if I were more of a mystery (as opposed to fantasy) buff, my mind would more quickly go to mysteries when I heard Poe’s name. In any case, the MWA clearly wanted a one-word name that was reminiscent of the better-known awards in the performing arts: Oscar, Tony, etc.

    * I remember seeing a collection of mystery stories in the window of Powell’s City of Books when I was in high school. The collection featured stories with seven or eight of “greatest” fictional detectives of all time. I thought I was relatively well read in classic mysteries at the time, but I only recognized about half the names of the detectives: Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot, Lord Peter Wimsey, and Father Brown. Those names, at least, I recognized (although I had never read Chesterton), but there were three or four more of the “greatest” detectives that I did not know at all.

  60. David Marjanović says:

    “greatest” fictional detectives of all time

    Mickey Mouse.

  61. Trond Engen says:

    Yes!

  62. mysteries are not what he is primarily known for

    Well, perhaps not. But the notion is that Poe is one of the earliest writers of “detective fiction,” and certainly the first notable American writer in that genre.

  63. Yes, exactly. The point is not what he’s “primarily” known for but what he’s known for to fans of detective fiction.

  64. the MWA clearly wanted a one-word name that was reminiscent of the better-known awards in the performing arts: Oscar, Tony, etc.

    The Tonys (Tonies?) are actually named after someone relevant (actress Antoinette Perry), as are the Hugos (Hugo Gernsback); the Emmys and Grammies aren’t named after anyone in particular and the Oscars were named probably after someone’s relative or possibly ex-husband.

    “Edgar” is good because it gets you not only Allan Poe but also his fellow mystery writer Wallace, easily the two most famous unprefixed Edgars in the US.

  65. @ajay: “Easily”? If I had to think of Edgars, I would come up with Edgar Martinez a long time before Edgar Wallace, and I am by no means a rabid baseball fan. Martinez was also an American, unlike Wallace.

  66. I think my second Edgar would be Rice Burroughs (I assume “unprefixed” is to exclude J. Edgar Hoover).

  67. I would definitely think of Rice Burroughs before Wallace.

  68. David Eddyshaw says:

    Me too. He’s a guilty pleasure; not many authors can claim that. It takes a particular kind of excellence to be a guilty pleasure. He’s very good at what he does. (Compare and contrast Dan Brown, who is just plain incompetent. Life is unfair, in literature as in politics. Like the man said, the race is not to the swift.)

  69. John Cowan says:

    Five lines of text for one feeble pun.

    But one halfpennyworth of bread to this intolerable deal of sack!

    And ten low words oft creep in one dull line.

  70. AJP Crown says:

    Five lines of text for one most feeble pun
    The reader’s threatened (not in vain) with “sleep”

  71. AJP Crown says:

    The only Edgar I would take with me to a desert island is Edgar Degas, one of the first painters to be interested in photography, for which he was punished in 1889 by being photographed leaving a Paris vespasienne with a fag in his mouth (not of course in the American sense; the fag looks a bit photoshopped but it does appear in other copies of the picture, just not as prominently). Degas usually looks disagreeable in pictures. He was an anti-Dreyfusard – an anti-Semite, as was Renoir – and yet a hell of an artist. There’s an article by the late feminist art historian Linda Nochlin on Dreyfus and painters in The Tablet, of all places.

  72. William Boyd says:

    Thanks to all who commented on bribery as committed outside the U.S.

    My spouse who for the past 1.5 years has tutored and mentored refugees from Afghanistan. In large measure the mentoring aims to transition her “students” towards their managing the part of their lives that require navigating our wide range of social systems (e.g. DMV).

    What seems to be their generally utter failure to adapt culturally for their own benefit continues to befuddle my spouse. For example, with many such systems requiring user names and passwords, she’s observed that the students, despite having completed schools of secondary education with at least partial emphasis on computer skills, treat such in such cavalier fashion that rarely do they retain such key data. Additionally, she’s noted that often they appeal to her to “fix” barriers they encounter when seemingly flummoxed during interactions with our bureaucratic social systems.

    I’ll refer her to your comments to assist in fine-tuning her understanding of the cultural baggage these students may continue to carry.

  73. @AJP Crown: An interesting article. I confess I have never paid much attention to the political leanings of most artists, but it was an interesting analysis of Degas and other French painters of the time.

    Unfortunately, in preparing the reprint if the original 1987 article, a large block of text appears to have been left out. It reminded me of when I was taping a rebroadcast of The 50 Years War — Israel & the Arabs on WGBH Boston (which produced the documentary!). Suddenly, it went from a day and a half into the Six Day War, abruptly forward twenty-four years, leaving out two hours of the five-hour documentary.

  74. Brett and AJP Crown, a commercial about “perfection of the life, or of the work,” bearing in mind such distressing examples as Rilke, Caravaggio, or William B. Shockley.

    After a visit to a Shaker family in the town of Harvard, Massachusetts, Emerson wrote in his journal on June 15, 1844:

    “Their family worship was a painful spectacle. I could remember nothing but the Spedale dei Pazzi at Palermo; this shaking of their hands like the paws of dogs before them as they shuffled in this dunce-dance seemed the last deliriation. If there was anything of heart & life in this it did not appear to me. [. . .] My fellow men could hardly appear to less advantage before me than in this senseless jumping. The music seemed to me dragged down nearly to the same bottom. And when you come to talk with them of their topic, which they are very ready to do, you find such exaggeration of the virtue of celibacy, that you might think you had come into a hospital-ward of invalids afflicted with priapism.”

    But on the other hand,

    https://jonathanmorse.blog/2020/06/19/where-time-sleeps-with-shadow/

  75. @Jonathan Morse: I am not very consistent about keeping the art and the creator apart. Sometimes, I will find a particular artist’s behavior so repugnant, that it can sour me on much of their oeuvre. However, it is always easier to look beyond an artist’s personal failures when they are long in the past. Certain sins also seem worse than others, when they probably should not be. Degas was bitterly antisemitic (and anti-immigrant), which galls me, but Caravaggio was a murderer; yet I could easily spend an hour just looking at the Young Sick Bacchus, (now and then turning to compare it to his other paintings in the same room.)

  76. AJP Crown says:

    Michelangelo did a self-portrait for his depiction of God in the Sistine Chapel, though you can’t help thinking that at his age he’d have preferred to look like Adam.

  77. AJP Crown says:

    – And Brett, I agree that artists have surprising politics (I had no idea that Camille Pissarro was an ardent anarchist).

  78. AJP Crown says:

    FIRST FLOOR, STAIRHALL – Shaker

    Jonathan, many thanks for the photo of the staircases and the remarkably sophisticated stack or collage of planes and objects beyond that play off a sort of one-two symmetry (I expect it has something to do with God; Frank Lloyd Wright said something about the only place where a symmetrical facade was appropriate was on a house of God). I hadn’t seen it before and I didn’t know the Shakers worked like that.

  79. Stu Clayton says:

    Crown: Front Entrance And Stair Hall may be more conventional, but I like this convention. It reminds me vaguely of houses I was in during trips to Mississippi 60 years ago.

  80. David Marjanović says:

    an ardent anarchist

    in b4 “government and binding”

    Faraday discovered electric circuits because circles were of great metaphysical importance to his little sect, the story goes.

  81. Stu Clayton says:

    That’s an odd use of “because”. Apart from that, circles were of g.m.i. to ‘most everybody for most of written history. Elliptical orbits were hard to accept.

  82. John Cowan says:

    Caravaggio was a murderer

    Well, maybe. It was an age of brawls (see Romeo and Juliet), and the killing of Tomassoni was very likely a brawl that went too far and that today would be treated as manslaughter (omicidio colposo) rather than murder (assassinio). In addition, Caravaggio’s behavior was extremely impulsive even for his day, and he is known (from modern investigation of his remains) to have had lead poisoning from accidental ingestion of paint. If so, a partial defense of diminished capacity (in a common-law country, anyway; civil-law countries don’t seem to have a direct equivalent) would also reduce the charge to manslaughter.

    As it was, Caravaggio had alienated a powerful family and spent the rest of his life on the run, alienating more powerful people as he went, notably the Grand Master of the Knights of Malta, the interestingly named Alof Wignacourt. Eventually he died, probably of a fever of uncertain origin, but possibly by revenge killing.

  83. Russian criminal law (maybe other civil-law codes as well) doesn’t allow for diminished capacity defense, but it can be a mitigating factor as far as I understand (disclaimer: not much).

  84. David Eddyshaw says:

    By chance, I was recently reading this

    https://aeon.co/essays/what-can-be-done-to-rehabilitate-the-insanity-defence

    which finds a lot not to like about the way the diminished capacity defence works in the US.

  85. David Marjanović says:

    Austria has “institutions for mentally abnormal lawbreakers”; if you’re deemed a dangerous madman, you go there and not to a normal prison.

    Alas, the Ronald Reagan Home for the Criminally Insane is just a bumper sticker.

  86. @David Marjanović: Faraday was indeed a Glasite, but he didn’t invent or discover circuits, so that story seems rather garbled.

  87. AJP Crown says:

    According to the excellent Oxford DNB article on Michael Faraday, Geoffrey Cantor’s biography Michael Faraday: Sandemanian & Scientist (1991) is the best source for Faraday’s complex relationship to the sect and to religion & science, but unfortunately I can’t find anything about Sandemanians and circles there. The Sandemanians don’t seem such a bad lot. They and consequently Faraday abhorred politics and honours and THAT sort of thing (Wm Godwin, anarchist husband of Mary Wollstonecraft & father of Mary Shelley was a Sandemanian), and they were BY NO MEANS mystics or anything peculiar. At one point Faraday got mixed up with mesmerism and his response was typical of him (ODNB):

    An unexpected consequence of Faraday’s discovery of diamagnetism was that many of those who had taken an interest in mesmerism, which was then sweeping the country, thought that Faraday had found the mechanism for the phenomena and wrote to tell him so in 1846. Although Faraday had taken some interest in mesmerism, he concluded that there was nothing in it. In this case he made no public statement about his deep scepticism (perhaps he recollected the difficulties he had experienced since 1837 when it was stated widely, but incorrectly, that he believed that Andrew Crosse had made living insects using electricity). In 1853 spiritualism and table-turning became fashionable. As with mesmerism, Faraday examined the phenomenon and came to the conclusion that table-turning was caused by a quasi-involuntary muscular action, and had nothing to do with supernatural agency. However, the fact that he had carried out this investigation led some to interpret Faraday as giving credence to table-turning. In a letter to The Times stating his results, Faraday concluded by saying that the educational system must be deficient since otherwise well-educated people would not believe in the phenomenon in the way they did. Faraday was inundated with letters (some quite abusive) from table-turners, giving accounts of their experiences. This episode led Henry Bence Jones (a manager of the Royal Institution) and Faraday to organize a set of lectures on education.

    Another interesting factoid, showing how times have changed over two hundred years: thanks partly to prediction errors made by Ampère, whom he’d met while working for Humphry Davy, Faraday wasn’t at all keen on using mathematics in Chemistry & Physics.

  88. AJP Crown says:

    ODNB:
    [a] small Christian sect called in Scotland the Glasites after their founder, John Glas, and in England the Sandemanians, after Robert Sandeman, who had brought some dissident Inghamite congregations in north-west England into the Glasite fold.

  89. that today would be treated as manslaughter (omicidio colposo) rather than murder (assassinio).

    In “If This Is A Man”, if I remember, one of Levi’s fellow prisoners with rather shaky Italian claims that he was convicted of “fleshly homicide” (omicidio polposo).

  90. Rodger C says:

    Criminal man’s laughter?

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