BOGIE.

Trying to figure out what the Russian term ходовая часть [khodováya chast'], literally ‘running/working part,’ meant in the context of a wheeled vehicle, I naturally googled it (since it wasn’t in any of my dictionaries) and the first hit was a Russian Wikipedia page. “Aha,” thought I, “all I have to do is see what the linked English Wikipedia page is!” Alas, it turned out to be Bogie, which compounded my confusion. Bogie appears to be a technical railway term referring to a chassis or undercarriage, and in the context in which I encountered the Russian phrase (which did not involve a train), either of those latter words would do. Bogie I know only as an alternate spelling of bogey ‘one over par in golf’; however, I suspect this may reflect my status as an American, since the ‘chassis’ sense is labeled “chiefly Brit.” in Merriam-Webster. So I turn to the Varied Reader: do you know this word in this sense? And do you consider it a normal, everyday sort of word or a technical term?

Comments

  1. Ambarish says:

    Near-native speaker of English (India). The word “Bogie” is normal in en_IN, and anybody who’s travelled by train (which would be a substantial part of the population) would know what it means.

  2. It’s pretty widely attested, I think. It showed up frequently in articles about the recent generation of Mars rovers (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rocker-bogie).

  3. Paul Clapham says:

    I’ve encountered the word “bogie” meaning something to do with the bits underneath a train carriage, but I don’t remember where. It might have been an everyday word many years ago, when people had more regular contact with trains.
    I suppose it could be a technical term, but I’m not in the railway business so I don’t know that. I certainly wouldn’t classify it as an everyday word in the 21st century.

  4. If memory serves, I ran across this term way back in the 20th century, when my young son moved on from dinosaurs to vehicles. But I didn’t run across it much, and it did seem to be chiefly British.

  5. I’ve known the term for years, but then I have a substantial automotive/transport background. Bogie also refers to the axle-and-wheels sub-chassis on truck trailers (and semi-trailers). Search for images of “trailer bogie” and you’ll see lots of pics.

  6. rootlesscosmo says:

    I know it from railroading as a UK equivalent of US “truck.” Each has two pair of wheels connected by transverse axles, and there’s nothing quite like releasing an empty gondola down a rail during switching and seeing the far truck roll out from under the car, which then, of course, falls onto the track. (Indio, California, 1966.)

  7. I only know it from being a train enthusiast when I was small. See also ‘flange’ etc.

  8. Yes, of course Rootless knows it, but even I am familiar with a bogie. You would normally see a bogie – a black undercarriage with a double set of small wheels – at the front end of a large steam engine. In fact, the location and number of bogies was one of the characteristics trainspotters used to classify steam locomotives.
    A bogie is also an informal name for a sliver of dried snot.

  9. Sorry. I meant to say that pretty much anyone of my age ought to recognise the name if they grew up in la Grande Bretagne.

  10. Nope. My first association with “bogie” (I guess often spelled “bogey”?) is a radar blip signifying an aircraft. The golf term I suppose I’ve heard. The train-car undercarriage word is completely new to me.

  11. Bathrobe says:

    Yes, a perfectly familiar term. I have even had occasion to use it in recent years because at certain border crossings (between China and Russia, for instance) where the gauge is different, they switch bogeys or bogies (both spellings look ok) by actually bodily lifting the carriages off their bogies and putting them down on new ones.
    I was curious: is the term ‘rolling stock’ readily understood by readers?

  12. That right, it’s coming back now.
    UK bogie = US truck.
    Not that I knew the word “truck” (in the railroad sense), either, before I started reading little fact-crammed books about trains with my kid. I don’t suppose I had ever thought about what was under the things.
    From Thomas the Tank Engine you get the idea also that
    UK truck = US (some kind of?) freight car
    UK car = (some other kind of?) freight car
    but
    US passenger car = coach, not car

  13. The phrase “rolling stock” is familiar (and not just from those highly informative children’s books).

  14. Maverick, you’ve got a bogey on your tail
    This is by far the most attested usage of the term in modern English.

  15. Bathrobe, “bogie” I may not know, but “rolling stock” is perfectly familiar to me.

  16. Rolling stock is подвижной состав. Never heard about bogey of course. Only about bogeyman, which suddenly sounds very confusing after reading this entry …

  17. When a train car goes around a curve, the front and back wheels need to curve independently of the car and of each other—otherwise the wheels are not parallel to the track, resulting at a minimum in grinding and wear, but frequently in a derailment too.
    So the front and back wheels are mounted on a platform that can turn independently of the car itself. That’s the truck/bogey mounted under the car in front and back.

  18. Bogie familiar to me from the French (plenty of relatives in the railway company), and always assumed it was of English origin, as most technical terms in the field are.if not in common use, not rare either …
    Interestingly, also remember many years ago that “truck” was used for the mobile wheel / axle assembly on a skateboard. Reflects the US origin of the word in this case, I guess…

  19. I’ve just learned* that vehicular truck and making a deal truck (as in “I’ll have no truck with that”) are unrelated, and (to my surprise) that truck farm is related to the latter rather than the former.
    *Online Etymological Dictionary

  20. twitley says:

    If I remember correctly from my long-ago cadet days, “bogie” can also mean an idler wheel on a tracked vehicle (tank, APC, bulldozer, etc.)

  21. twitley again says:

    Er, hmm, apologies. I did what I should have done first, and found an old Field Manual. The sprung undercarriage is the bogie, and the idler wheels are “bogie wheels”.

  22. American Heritage Dictionary gives as one sense of “bogie”
    One of several wheels or supporting and aligning rollers inside the tread of a tractor or tank.

  23. And speaking of little wheels, it seems that “truck” meant some sort of little wheel before it ever meant a kind of wheeled vehicle.

  24. I think that your original question about the working part of a wheeled vehicle in fact refers to the drivetrain.

  25. it seems that “truck” meant some sort of little wheel
    When I first heard the Kölsch dialect form trecken [pull], I thought of “truck” and “traction” [Lat. trahere]. The standard German for trecken is ziehen. Trecker is “tractor”.
    These concepts cluster around the notion of “moving something from A to B”, where “something” can also be “oneself”. Taking on the word “bogie”, I experienced an association riff:
    1. Robert Crumb’s Keep on truckin’
    2. Blind Boy Fuller’s song “Truckin’ My Blues Away”, said at that link to be “the origin” of the phrase “keep on truckin’”
    3. The Boogie-woogie
    It’s not clear to me what the derivational relationships among these are, if any, despite all the speculation I find in the internet. I did learn, starting from the article on Fuller, that suprapubic cystostomy is a kind of penal practice (is there no adjective for “penis” ?).

  26. empty: The phrase “rolling stock” is familiar (and not just from those highly informative children’s books).
    When I want basic information about a practical subject, I sometimes just buy a German high-school textbook. “Practical” excludes things such as philology and general relativity. From the children’s television series Die Sendung mit der Maus I have learned how brooms, fireworks, buttons, bicycle chains etc are manufactured industrially.

  27. Moondome says:
  28. On a tracked vehicle, the “bogie wheel” is the wheel that supports the weight of the vehicle. The inside of the track forms a sort of road surface on which the bogie wheel runs. It’s extremely common in the US Army. Most veterans of army service will know what a bogie wheel is.

  29. Stu, it appears that the English trek is actually related to your Koelsch word.
    penile?

  30. dearieme says:

    The railway use is familiar, but there was a second in my childhood. It was the word we used for those small steerable carts that boys assemble fron pram wheels and suchlike so that they can whiz down braes. “Fore!”

  31. Truck: The most common use in American English refers to a motor vehicle equipped to carry freight. The word can also refer to a hand-pulled or -pushed wagon (occasionally electric), typically used to move heavy goods about a factory or warehouse. Its wheels, mounted on axles that keep them parallel, are of relatively large diameter, which eases pushing or pulling, and may extend outside the bounds of the platform it supports. A dolly is similar, except its wheels are of relatively small diameter, don’t protrude beyond the platform, and move independently of each other. Dolly wheels are mounted directly to the platform (no axle under the platform). Airport buggies (from bogie? The AHD doesn’t know.) are a form of dolly, as are supermarket shopping carts.

  32. Yes, a perfectly familiar term. I have even had occasion to use it in recent years because at certain border crossings (between China and Russia, for instance) where the gauge is different, they switch bogeys or bogies (both spellings look ok) by actually bodily lifting the carriages off their bogies and putting them down on new ones.
    They do that between Poland and what used to be the USSR and what I suppose is now Belarus. Back in 1960 I went on a school trip by train to Moscow and Leningrad, and we were told we’d need to get out at the border for an hour or so while they changed the bogeys. In fact three friends and I were so busy playing bridge that we don’t notice that we’d reached the station. Only when we looked out of the window and noticed that we were swinging gently in the air did we notice that we were suspended above the tracks.

  33. A dolly is similar, except its wheels [...] move independently of each other. [...] Airport buggies [...] are a form of dolly, as are supermarket shopping carts.
    In the UK shopping carts (trolleys?) are like dollies. In the US, not so much; normally only two of the four wheels can swing around.

  34. dearieme says:

    In the UK the best shopping trolleys, by far, are at the German chain Aldi.

  35. Investigating the Blind Boy Fuller thread, it appears that “truckin’” was a popular prewar dance step much as depicted in the well-known R. Crumb cartoon.

  36. Truck on down to the candy store! (Stuff Smith, 1936; Fats Waller, 1943). Listen here:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DYaTmlp9Nwg
    Professor Morse, is this a DRUG REFERENCE? Oo!

  37. rootlesscosmo says:

    @athel cornish-bowden:
    They do that between Poland and what used to be the USSR and what I suppose is now Belarus. Back in 1960 I went on a school trip by train to Moscow and Leningrad, and we were told we’d need to get out at the border for an hour or so while they changed the bogeys.
    Yes, Russia uses 1.5 meter gauge (distance between rails) while most of Europe and the US use “standard gauge,” 4 feet 8 1/2 inches. The wider gauge gives (other things being equal) a smoother ride. Don’t know the history behind this variation; Wikipedia prolly does but it’s late and I’m suffering the letdown of not having been raptured.

  38. Don’t worry, there’s another rapture scheduled for Dec 21, 2012.

  39. Bathrobe and Athel: at certain border crossings (between China and Russia, for instance) where the gauge is different, they switch bogeys … by actually bodily lifting the carriages off their bogies and putting them down on new ones.
    That’s the older way to convert between gauges. A more recent mechanism to dealt with break-of-gauge was developed by the Spanish manufacturer Talgo. It is still widely used on lines within Spain and at the borders with France and Italy:

    Talgo trains are best known for their unconventional articulated railway passenger cars design in which the wheels are mounted in pairs, but not joined by an axle, and are between rather than underneath the individual coaches. Talgo trains fitted with variable gauge axles can change rail gauge – for instance at the Spanish (1668 millimeters)/French (1435 millimeters) border.

    In German, gauge conversion is called Umspurung [Spur = Spurweite = track width = gauge], and a bogie is a Drehgestell [rotatable frame]. I learned a bit about such things last year when in projects at the Deutsch Bahn’s IT company.

  40. The Spanish terms are just as easy to understand as the German ones, in contrast to “bogie” and “gauge”. In a PR brochure from Talgo I find this:

    rodaduras: Situadas entre los coches de un solo eje, con ruedas independientes y sistema cambio de ancho

    Here is a video showing how a cambiador de ancho works. As in many other documentaries made in Spain that I have seen on TV, the commentary is distractingly overlaid by loud music. The Spanish public apparently is not accustomed to background music. I have a little theory that the Spanish public is easily bored by explanations, or at least don’t want to be seen paying attention to them – so both dispositions are served by blaring melody. At any rate, Spanish TV producers appear to hold this theory.

  41. Great video, Stu.

  42. I’ve been meaning to say something about “stinky” and Emmentaler (the cheese name has no “h” in it). Emmentaler doesn’t stink – if yours does, then you shouldn’t eat it. Limburger and various Rotschmiere cheeses stink. Not to mention casu marzu, about which I saw a visually explicit German TV documentary last night:

    a traditional Sardinian sheep milk cheese, notable for being riddled with live insect larvae. It is found mainly in Sardinia, Italy. … Derived from Pecorino, casu marzu goes beyond typical fermentation to a stage most would consider decomposition, brought about by the digestive action of the larvae of the cheese fly Piophila casei.

  43. I would like to try this Italienisher Schafskäse. “The cheese fly” is a misnomer, the fly having evolved many years before cheese was invented. You might as well call me “the cheese human”. I have no control over my nickname, however, it doesn’t concern cheese – I don’t know where you got that idea from, as you said yourself, Emmentaler cheese doesn’t have an H – I suspect it is meant ironically.
    Once again, I congratulate you for having dug up such an obscure but interesting video.

  44. The difference in gauges was for the purpose of preventing the Poles from invading Russia by rail, and it worked perfectly.

  45. rootlesscosmo:
    I had to go to http://www.onlineconversion.com to find out whether 1.5 metres or 4’8.5″ was “the wider gauge” of the two. Does 2.5″ really make a difference in the quality of the ride? (For anyone else who was wondering, 1.5 meters = a hair over 4’11″.)
    Everyone:
    Mississippi John Hurt mentions a locomotive’s truck wheels in “Talking Casey” (about Casey Jones). When Casey speeds up to get back on schedule, “it looked like them drive wheels tryin’ to catch up with them little truck wheels”. The transcriber here didn’t know what he was talking about and wrote “catch up with the little track-wheel ???”.

  46. Hrumbly (the keyboard is mostly fixed, but I like it):
    The mere fact that the Germans (for good reasons) abolished h in the word Thal does not mean that other languages must similarly change Emmenthaler or Neanderthal.

  47. AJP: I have no reason to call you “cheese human”. But if the flies wanted to refer to humans as “cheese mammals”, well, why shouldn’t they? A name isn’t a definition.

  48. Go ahead, join the queue, call me anything you like.

  49. Dr. Weevil: Does 2.5″ really make a difference in the quality of the ride?
    It makes a big difference. Not just to the quality of a ride, but to the very possibility of one in which the wheels do not slither around or even “topple” from the rails, at higher speeds or in curves. To help prevent this, the train wheels have both a flange and a canted perimeter (the effect of this latter resembles wheel camber on an automobile). See the section on “directional stability and hunting instability” just following the one I linked.
    I hope nobody asks any more questions about train technology, because I am already as far out on my know ledge as I can go without toppling.

  50. Ok, I’ve looked up 4′-8½”, albeit only on Wikipedia, but I’ve no reason to doubt the story.
    4′-8½” was used by George Stephenson, inventor of the steam locomotive, in the Liverpool & Manchester Railway of 1826-30. It’s the space in between the top flanges of the rails, this being the critical dimension for the wheels, especially so they don’t bind going round curves (the wheels also have flanges on their inner sides to stop the train coming off the rails). The rail’s flanges, btw, are the horizontal bits of metal at the top and bottom of each rail (essentially an I beam) that give it its strength: _I_____I_
    4′-8½” had apparently been used previously in the collieries in northeast England (where Stephenson lived & had worked).
    The first railway companies used different gauges. By 1845 Britain had eight times as much 4′-8½” gauge railway as it had of the next most popular size, the GWR’s 7′-0″. So the British government set 4′-8½” as their standard, except for Ireland where, based on existing railways, the standard gauge became (and still is, I think) 5′-3″. The GWR converted to standard gauge in 1892, and as far as I can see from this map the widest gauge used nowadays is 5′-6″, used in Argentina, Bangladesh, India and Pakistan. The USA bought its first rail wagons from Britain and consequently introduced the 4′-8½” gauge there (though there was some trouble with the southern states before it was resolved).
    4′-8″ to 5′-0″ is the distance you need between the wheels of a horse wagon for the shafts to fit around a carthorse. That’s probably the colliery wheel-spacing’s origin and hence probably the origin of the standard gauge.
    This is the best Wikipedia entry on the subject.
    As for 4′-8½” vs Russia’s 5′-0″, I doubt that the 3½” makes a damn bit of difference to the comfort for the following reason. There is another gauge, called the loading gauge, which measures the width of the carriages. Railways have maximum loading gauges (to allow for clearance in tunnels etc.), but no minimum, and you’ll find thin and fat train carriages on the same piece of line (the London Underground is a good place to see this).

  51. I also discovered in Wikipedia that one attribution for the name “Geordie” for people from N.E. England is from the Geordie lamp, the miner’s lamp invented by George Stephenson and used by miners in the northeast instead of Humphrey Davy’s Davy lamp.
    The OED mentions it too, so I suppose it’s possible:

    Geordie
    2. a.2.a A coal-pitman. b.2.b A collier-boat. c.2.c (See quot. 1881.)
       1876 C. M. Davies Unorth. Lond. 353 A ‘Geordie’, or pitman.    1881 Raymond Mining Gloss., Geordie, the miners’ term for [George] Stephenson’s safety-lamp [...]
    3. a.3.a A native or inhabitant of Tyneside [...]
       1866 C. Nordhoff Young Man-of-War’s Man iv. 69 The sailors belonging to the ports on the north-eastern coast of England are called Jordies.   …  1892 R. O. Heslop Northumberland Words I. 196 The men who went from the lower Tyneside to work at the pits in South Tynedale were always called ‘Geordies’ by the people there.

    In any case it’s a recent name, and I didn’t know that.

  52. As for 4′-8½” vs Russia’s 5′-0″, I doubt that the 3½” makes a damn bit of difference to the comfort for the following reason. There is another gauge, called the loading gauge, which measures the width of the carriages.
    But, Herr von Duck, the loading gauge is a different parameter. I grant you that “comfort” may not be affected by a 3½” discrepancy between track gauge and what the wheelset of a train is designed to ride on. But I believe that such a discrepancy will mightily affect the operability of the train on the rails.

  53. George Stephenson, inventor of the steam locomotive
    According to a BBC documentary I saw last night, Richard Trevithick invented the steam locomotive in Cornwall. At least he is already acknowledged as the inventor of the high-pressure steam engine.
    According to the documentary (there is a similar story at the WiPe link), Trevithick was trying to build a non-Watt kind of steam-driven engine to pump water out of the Cornish mines, an engine that would not be subject to the oppressive patent arrangements that Boulton and Watt had dreamed up. Licensees had to pay not only a flat fee, but also an amount for each piston stroke.
    Trevithick hit on the idea of putting his engine on wheels to draw coal etc out of the mines, and actually built a “puffing devil”, a steam-driven locomotive. The BBC documentary showed the original trundling along a country road. But there were some problems (I forget what), so he didn’t carry on with his idea. After all, he was trying to pump his water, not pimp his wheels.

  54. I’ll give you Richard Trevithick, then. I think what one wants to say, really, is that George invented railways and trains, but there’s some obstacle in the way. Probably it’s something like the ancient Romans or the Chinese had an early train service powered by slaves or fireworks. If the so-called first train was merely running coal around on horse-drawn wagons I’d say that doesn’t count, because it’s cruel. Also there were no tickets and no beverages were served.
    Yes, the loading gauge is something different, but as far as I can see its relation to the wheel gauge is what’s going to give you the overturning moment of the carriage – and not having the carriage overturn will contribute considerably to the comfort of the passengers. In my view, whether the wheel gauge is a few inches wider or narrower is irrelevant to comfort and safety if you don’t also know the width of the carriage above the wheels. And then there are those carriages that lean sideways as they go round bends, rather like my dog when she’s in our car. You who take the ICE train a lot must know about that.

  55. dearieme says:

    “Probably it’s something like the ancient Romans or the Chinese had an early train service powered by slaves or fireworks”: yeah, but since the Chinese slaves weren’t very strong and the Roman fireworks were damp squibs, those train services were flops.

  56. And then there are those carriages that lean sideways as they go round bends, rather like my dog when she’s in our car.
    The French call them TGV = Topsy Grande Vitesse.

  57. Don’t forget the Roman candle, dearie.
    When I was in London recently, I went on an underground train that doesn’t have any narrowing of the space at the ends of the carriages, nor any doors there. You could see all the way down the length of the train’s interior, a new spacial experience. I liked it. Here is a picture.

  58. Bathrobe says:

    I suppose you’ve all seen the long elaborate explanation about standard gauge having been handed down since Roman times. Apparently it’s an urban legend.

  59. Bathrobe says:

    I should have read the linked Wikipedia article on Track Gauge before commenting.

  60. Apparently it’s an urban legend
    The belief that there are such things as urban legends has itself taken on the status of an urban legend. In the good old days, there were true and false beliefs/claims. A false belief/claim was just plain wrong, not an “urban legend”.
    What is the counterpart of “urban legend” ? Rural truth ? Who is behind this farmboy epistemic PR ?

  61. Bathrobe says:

    The story is told better here: “Railroad Gauge”.

  62. Bathrobe says:

    I assume that an ‘urban legend’ is opposed to the legends of ancient peoples, you know, Greek legends and stuff. ‘Urban’ somehow signifying modernity, ordinariness, doing the rounds of the people, etc.

  63. Bathrobe says:

    When they start speaking of the legendary Grumbly Stu, I hope they’re not referring to the urban type.

  64. “Bogey” or “bogie” was what we called what Wikipedia calls a soapbox car or gravity racer.
    Our best bogie was the frame of an old pram that had collapsed, with string attached to the front wheels for steering.
    The OED says:

    1. north. dial. A low strong truck upon four small wheels, also called trolly, hurly, etc. ‘A kind of cart with low wheels and long shafts, used by masons to remove large stones’ (Peacock Lonsdale Gloss.); ‘a rude contrivance for moving heavy articles, consisting of a simple plank on low wheels’ ( Lanc. Gloss.). esp. in Newcastle, A strong low truck (about 1 ft. high) on 4 small wheels, used, since c1817, for transporting a single cask or hogshead from the quay to the town; also a flat board with 4 very small wheels on which lads career down steep banks or roads, as in the Canadian sport of tobogganing. Hence, in general use, the low truck used by platelayers on a railway.

  65. Bathroabe: When they start speaking of the legendary Grumbly Stu, I hope they’re not referring to the urban type.
    I wouldn’t mind being known as legendarily urbane. But it’s not gonna happen.

  66. I wonder if ‘bogie’ somehow related to ‘buggy’- a pushchair, the lighter type of a pram? Anyone know?

  67. I’d say so, Sash.
    About “buggy”, the OED says

    buggy, n. [Etymology unknown: the word has been conjecturally connected with bogie; also with bug (see esp. quot. 1773). There is no ground for supposing it to be of Anglo-Indian origin.] 1773 Gentl. Mag. XLIII. 297 Driving a post coach and four against a single horse chaise, throwing out the driver of it, and breaking the chaise to pieces‥ludicrously denominating mischief of this kind, ‘Running down the Buggies’

    On “bogie”, the OED gets a bit hot under the collar:

    bogie (ˈbəʊgɪ) Also bogy, bogey. [A northern dialect word, which has recently been generally diffused in connexion with railways as applied to the plate-layer's bogie, but especially in sense 2. Of unknown etymology: notwithstanding absurd stories in the newspapers (invented ad rem), it has (as the sense might show) nothing to do with bogy1, which is not a northern word.]

    However, it seems that up north a bogie used to be a sort of buggy:

    1.1 north. dial. A low strong truck upon four small wheels, also called trolly, hurly, etc. ‘A kind of cart with low wheels and long shafts, used by masons to remove large stones’ (Peacock Lonsdale Gloss.); ‘a rude contrivance for moving heavy articles, consisting of a simple plank on low wheels’ (Lanc. Gloss.). esp. in Newcastle, A strong low truck (about 1 ft. high) on 4 small wheels, used, since c 1817, for transporting a single cask or hogshead from the quay to the town; also a flat board with 4 very small wheels on which lads career down steep banks or roads, as in the Canadian sport of tobogganing. Hence, in general use, the low truck used by platelayers on a railway.

    So it predated the railway usage. Also under “buggy” the OED says:

    2.2 In technical uses: see quots. (Cf. bogie.) 1861 Raymond Mining Gloss., Buggy, a small mine-wagon holding ½ ton to 1 ton of coal.

    That sounds a lot like the northern English “bogie”.
    That’s the second time today I’ve seen the spelling ‘connexion’. The other one was by Dame Veronica Wedgwood.

  68. ‘Toboggan’ has nothing to do with ‘buggy’, it’s from a Canadian Indian word. I’m sure this has been discussed earlier.

  69. I love it when dictionaries get argumentative!

  70. J. W. Brewer says:

    Yeah, GS,beyond what Bathrobe said, it may be that farmboys and other country folk are supposed be be generaly credulous/superstitious (heathens out on the heath), so “urban” modifies legend to indicate “the kind current among the sort of people not already presumed susceptible to this sort of thing.”

  71. Sash,
    Haha, yes!

  72. narrowmargin says:

    I’m surprised nobody said, “Don’t bogey that joint.”

  73. mollymooly says:

    I am familiar with railway bogies, but only because my father is a trainspotter. I would be impressed by an Irish person who had picked it up without a good excuse.
    ‘A false belief/claim was just plain wrong, not an “urban legend”.’
    1. A false belief repeated in good faith was an “apocryphal story”, though perhaps those were usually about specific people rather than unnamed strangers. Brunvand’s 1980s books popularised the term “urban legend”, though Wikipedia says it predates that slightly.
    2. Do “urban legends” have to be false? The schoolroom distinction I have hesitated to unlearn was that a “myth” is false whereas a “legend” is of indeterminate or complex truth-value. I think I make* a similar distinction between an “urban myth”, which I am sure has been debunked, and an “urban legend”, which is merely suspect to the best of my knowledge**.
    *I realise I should not apply such a distinction to anybody else’s words.
    ** With internet access, the best of my knowledge is seldom worse than Snopes for long.

  74. Molly, you probably always knew that Irish railway lines are spaced 5′-3″ apart and not 4′-8½” standard gauge. Have you found the extra 6½” makes Irish trains smoother and more comfortable than continental rolling stock?

  75. a “myth” is false
    And I learned that a myth is a powerful symbolic narrative, a collective dream embodying deep truths. Well anyway that’s what they told me.

  76. Bathrobe says:

    powerful symbolic narrative, a collective dream embodying deep truths
    Ugh!
    Is there a name for this kind of academic cant? This is actually not a bad example. Recently I came across this:
    “Rather than analyzing culture into intrinsically meaningful symbols and meanings,” Bowen believes, “Southeast Asianists have come to see culture as a history of people interpreting public forms.”

  77. Bathrobe says:

    Or is Bowen just saying that Southeast Asians have borrowed all their ‘culture’ from other peoples and they’re still trying to make sense of it?

  78. mollymooly says:

    I haven’t found Irish trains to give a better ride than UK or Continental ones. However, there are many confounding variables at work.

  79. Possibly they can go around tighter curves. Personally, I’d like the whole world to switch to the GWR’s 7′-0″ just in case it’s smoother. I may start lobbying, my neighbour works for the UN.

  80. Bathrobe: “Rather than analyzing culture into intrinsically meaningful symbols and meanings,” Bowen believes, “Southeast Asianists have come to see culture as a history of people interpreting public forms.”
    I think I understand this, but only after reading it several times. “Intrinsically meaningful” is being contrasted with “interpreted”, and “public forms” is an elegant variation [Fowler] of “symbols and meanings”. In other words, the claim is that significance is construed, not found.
    That sentence needs editing: “intrinsically meaningful symbols and meanings” seems to be saying that both symbols and meanings are meaningful. Meaningful meanings ??

  81. Bathrobe says:

    GruStu, I guess it wasn’t fair to quote that one sentence. It is the last one in this abstract on The Forms Culture Takes: A State-of-the-Field Essay on the Anthropology of Southeast Asia. The abstract goes:
    JOHN BOWEN reviews key issues and developments in his state-of-the-field article on Southeast Asian anthropology. Although much of the work in the field shares an interest in culture, the emphases have shifted recently, away from an earlier preoccupation with studying culture through its “public forms” and their “intrinsic” meanings to a concern with interpreting the meanings they acquire and possess for different sets of actors. Through his extensive survey of the literature, Bowen shows that anthropologists have turned their attention away from face-to-face communities to scrutinize how people understand and interpret their roles and experiences in a changing world, where their lives are increasingly shaped by a variety of institutions ranging from state to school to mosque. “Rather than analyzing culture into intrinsically meaningful symbols and meanings,” Bowen believes, “Southeast Asianists have come to see culture as a history of people interpreting public forms.”
    Now, I can get some kind of intellectual sense out of it, but it still doesn’t mean much to me. Is there supposed to be something special about the way Southeast Asianists interpret culture? The passage seems to be written in a sort of special code, where everything has a whole slew of latent meanings and assumptions that are only accessible to the in-group. Perhaps I’m being uncharitable for denying anthropologists their cant, but surely it is possible to write English in a way that is both accessible and meaningful (ahem!)

  82. Bathrobe: The passage seems to be written in a sort of special code, where everything has a whole slew of latent meanings and assumptions that are only accessible to the in-group.
    You quote the extract, but the very first paragraph of that 1995 article gives us more to go on:

    If each world region has its own style of anthopological analysis, then surely Southeast Asia has come to be the place where interpretive approaches to culture have reigned, whether in anthropology, history, or politics. Interpretive anthropologists, drawing largely on Boas and Weber, analyze culture into publicly accessible forms and the interpretations different actors give those forms. Despite recent criticisms by political economists as well as postmodernists, this approach continues to guide much of the current research by anthropologists working in Southeast Asis.

    I am here to tell you that one doesn’t need be an in-group anthropologist to catch the drift of what Bowen is saying. The concepts he uses are familiar to me from my general reading in German sociology and philosophy. That might seem pretty specialized, but in fact you encounter the concepts in many places nowadays – whenever two or three talking heads are gathered together.
    I have just finished a fat, fabulous overview of sociological theories since 1930: Sozialtheorie by Hans Joas and Wolfgang Knöbl. It is a reworked version of university lectures that they held over the years. I have read tons of Luhmann and Habermas, but didn’t know much about history and context – Mead, Parsons, Giddens etc. – although Luhmann refers to them often in his footnotes.
    The Joas/Knöbl book is a very good introduction to “symbolic interactionists”, “actor theorists”, “neo-utilitarians” etc. in their historical context. There must be lots of good introductions in English, I just don’t know them. When Bowen writes “interpretative anthropologists”, I immediately associated it with verstehende Soziologie ["interpretative" sociology]. “Verstehen” as a technical term in philosophy was Dilthey’s thing, “Verstehen” in sociology came via Weber and Simmel.
    What I think Bowen means in the first paragraph is that (cultural) anthropologists (and not just Southeast Asian ones, I might add) have come round to the view that although cultures are structured by face-to-face encounters (see the WiPe on Franz Boas), there’s more to it than that. Institutions, and how people understand and deal with them, also need to be taken into account.

  83. Bathrobe says:

    Institutions, and how people understand and deal with them, also need to be taken into account.
    Welcome to the real world!
    I guess I’m just not immersed in this kind of thinking and find it too abstract to grasp without being anchored in some kind of practical reality. Interpretive sociology is something I’ll have to bone up on, obviously, but really, ‘narratives’ and ‘interpretations’ etc. are just not up my alley. Let me go away first and try and improve my intellectual level on this.

  84. Welcome to the real world!
    Exactly. It seems to take famous academics forever to take notice of anything apart from what they’ve hooked their careers to. They tend to play up their own theory as a sufficient explanation for EVERY ASPECT OF EVERYTHING ©. Stuff is ignored that Mrs. Proudie down the road has always known.

  85. Interpretive sociology is something I’ll have to bone up on, obviously, but really, ‘narratives’ and ‘interpretations’ etc. are just not up my alley.
    Don’t fret, the original “interpretive sociology” advises living rough with the natives, trying to figure out what up from their “internal” point of view. The structuralist/deconstructionist “narrative” and “interpretations” crap has nothing to do with that, and came much later.

  86. A series of Japanese boid pictures, for Bathrobe.

  87. Bathrobe says:

    They are indeed wonderful photos. And the more so for having been taken in Hokkaido, where I spent part of my misspent youth.
    He is so focussed on the magnificent cranes and eagles, he totally ignores the crows. I have a soft spot for crows. They’re very intelligent birds, but much maligned.

  88. Bathrobe says:

    GruStu: Now that I understand the ‘narrative’, I understand the meaning! You just have to know what lies behind the terminology (for God’s sake, ‘interpret’ could meaning anything) in order to know what they’re on about.
    Thank you for the initiation!

  89. (for God’s sake, ‘interpret’ could mean anything)
    I sometimes feel a suprahistorical need to smack these guys for introducing gormless terminology. “Verstehende Soziologie“: now what is that supposed to mean ?? “Verstehen” is such an ordinary word, why choose precisely that vague word to mean precisely what is meant by the vague word “sympathisieren” ?
    On the other hand … it is no news that even apparently “ordinary” lexical items like “Verstehen” change their meaning and connotations over time, in changing contexts. It just occurs to me that Dilthey used “Verstehen” in the context of his “Lebensphilosophie” and the “Werturteilstreit” [controversy about value judgements] at the end of the 19th century in Germany. Unlike many other philosophers at the time, his view was that, in order to arrive at an adequate, “objective” account of human endeavors, “objectivity” has to take values and value judgements into account.
    The English WiPe article on Verstehen which I linked above goes off the rails in its very first sentence:

    Verstehen … is a German word that does not directly translate into English but is loosely synonymous with “understanding” or “interpretation”. In the social sciences it refers to an interpretive or participatory examination of social phenomena.

    That’s completely ridiculous. What one should say is something like this (I have modified tne entry accordingly):

    Verstehen … is an ordinary German word with exactly the same meaning as the English word “understand”. However, since the late 19th century in the context of German philosophy and social sciences, it has also been used in the special sense of “interpretive or participatory examination” of social phenomena.

    The article would then continue sensibly, as it already does:

    The term is particularly associated with the German sociologist Max Weber, whose antipositivism established an alternative to prior sociological positivism and economic determinism, rooted in the analysis of social action. In anthropology, “Verstehen” has come to mean a systematic interpretive process in which an outside observer of a culture attempts to relate to it and understand others.

  90. Bathrobe says:

    GruStu, nice of you to edit the Wikipedia entry, but in what way are “structuralist/deconstructionist” approaches not attempts at “interpretive examination”? The common-language meaning of “interpret” is to “make sense of”, and that’s what they are all trying to do in their own peculiar way. In the specialist sense, the “interpretive” approach seems to be one of (to state it rather simplistically) literally “putting yourself in their shoes” in order to understand. There is no way that anybody could conceivably arrive at that meaning from the vernacular meaning of “interpret”.

  91. Yes, I completely agree about crows. I did some drawings of crows, because I like their looks, but the ones around here are very timid and it’s hard to get up close to them. There’s a wonderful Swedish series of short films about a crow called Bertil, but I can’t find it on youtube. And then there’s the famous Japanese traffic-light video.

  92. Bathrobe says:

    youtube is blocked in the Celestial Empire.

  93. The next paragraph (“Meaning of the Term”) of the wiki article needs a more drastic overhaul, beginning with its title and perhaps ending in the scrapheap.

  94. in what way are “structuralist/deconstructionist” approaches not attempts at “interpretive examination”?
    What I wrote was: “The structuralist/deconstructionist “narrative” and “interpretations” crap has nothing to do with that, and came much later.” The key word is “crap”. I didn’t mean that “Theory” and “deconstruction” do not involve efforts at interpretation. I was just trying to reassure you that, if you are considering delving into interpretive anthropology, you won’t be confronted with the particular kind of efforts at interpretation that one knows from the way “Theory” people talk about “narratives”.

  95. Badrobbe: literally “putting yourself in their shoes” in order to understand.
    The idea may seem trivial, Christian-ethical and merely metaphorical, but George Mead makes an amazingly cogent case for regarding something very like that idea as characterizing the fundamental principle of communication and social existence. To start with a central document of modern sociology, you might want to read his “Mind, Self And Society: From The Standpoint of a Social Behaviorist”.

  96. Bathrobe says:

    GruStu, I picked up the tone and wholeheartedly agree with it. My concern related to your edit, which contains the passage in the context of German philosophy and social sciences, it (i.e. Verstehen) has also been used in the special sense of “interpretive or participatory examination” of social phenomena.. I was suggesting that, since “interpretive” here has a special meaning, putting it in inverted commas isn’t quite enough to highlight that meaning; some clarification could be useful. For me, Verstehen is actually easier to understand that “interpretive”. (I studied German many aeons ago in a former life, so I can usually get the gist of things).

  97. Ah, I see what you mean. I simply reused the “interpretive or participatory examination” expression from the previous entry version. My goal was not to improve the wording of the entry as a whole, but merely to remove the unjustified mystification of the ordinary German word “verstehen“.

  98. Treesong says:

    I know the word and don’t think of it as technical, though it’s not in my core vocabulary, mostly because of this bit from the incredible Musrum:
    “Exploiting the concept of gravity, Musrum designed and constructed a perpetual motion machine which was simply a four-wheeled bogie. He placed this casual device on a hill that sloped down forever.”
    See http://www.sfsite.com/fsf/2002/cur0206.htm .

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