Jiffy.

This Wordorigins thread about the origin of “(in a) jiffy” (summary: origin unknown) is interesting mainly for sidelights like:

In the early 1900s, an American physicist Gilbert Newton Lewis (known for coining the word photon) seized upon the word jiffy and gave it a standard scientific definition of 33.3564 picoseconds. One jiffy, Lewis explained, was the amount of time it takes light to travel one centimetre, a meaning he introduced in his research in the 1920s. So next time someone says they’ll do something in a jiffy, remind them that that gives them precisely 33 millionths of a second to respond……

But the main reason I’m posting about it is as an excuse to reproduce the following from Dave Wilton, which made me chortle:

Someone (IIRC it was Johnny Carson) once defined a New York minute as the time it takes between a traffic light turning green and the car behind you honking for you to go.

In non-chronological units, a millihelen is the amount of beauty required to launch one ship.

Comments

  1. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    Someone (IIRC it was Johnny Carson) once defined a New York minute as the time it takes between a traffic light turning green and the car behind you honking for you to go.

    One of the reasons I like living in Marseilles is that very few people stopped at a traffic light are impatient to get going again. I’ve known as many as five seconds to pass while the person at the front of the queue is stationary at a green light before anyone honks.

    The other side of the coin is that few people moving are in any hurry to stop when the light turns to red.

  2. 33 millionths of a millionth of a second.

  3. The usual ‘light goes very fast’ rate is in British units: a foot per nanosecond.

  4. In a computer context, a jiffy is whatever fraction of a second is the most natural unit provided by the hardware. Historic numbers of jiffies per second have been 60 (in the U.S. and Canada), 50 (elsewhere), 100, 1000, and 10,000,000.

  5. David Marjanović says:

    One of the reasons I like living in Marseilles is that very few people stopped at a traffic light are impatient to get going again.

    Yeah. If they’re stopped at a traffic light, it’s because they chose to.

  6. Gilbert Lewis was the greatest physical chemist ever. His lesser achievements included developing the modern formulation of chemical thermodynamics and producing macroscopic quantities of heavy water; for the latter, at least, he could have shared a Nobel prize with Urey, who discovered deuterium spectroscopically (and was one of my grandfather’s professors at the University of Chicago). However, his biggest discovery was the single most important fact in chemistry: that covalent bonds between atoms are the sharing of electron pairs. For reasons unknown, he never won a Nobel prize for that, and he was sore about that fact for his entire life.

    The fact that the speed of light is about one foot per nanosecond is actually a very useful rule of thumb in fast electronics. If you want to do measurements with nanosecond precision, you need to worry about the lengths of your cables, since the speed of light sets how fast signals can be passed down coaxial cables.

  7. @John Cowan

    Absolutely. On the other hand the speed of time remains constant at one second per second.

  8. Rodger C says:

    Historic numbers of jiffies per second have been 60 (in the U.S. and Canada)

    Isn’t that the original meaning of “trice”?

  9. Seemingly not. The original meaning of trice was ‘pulley, windlass’ < Dutch trijs or Low German trisse (the latter was borrowed into Danish, Swedish, and High German as trisse, trissa, Trieze respectively). From this sense grew the verb trice ‘hoist, tug, pull’, so in a trice meant ‘in a single pull, quickly’, from which trice was re-created in the sense ‘moment’. The ultimate etymology of trijs and trisse is not known. The OED compares this development to French tout d’un coup ‘(all) at a blow > instantly’ and Spanish en un tris ‘in a crack (noise made by breaking glass) > instantly’, but the evidence is that these developed independently.

  10. David Marjanović says:

    Never encountered that word in any language.

  11. Here’s a slight antedating of “in a jiffy.” It may (or may not) be worth noting that this is sea-related and that some later uses are sailor-related. 1765. The Disappointed Coxcomb. A Comedy in Five Acts, by Bartholomew Bourgeois, (via ECCO) page 28 [women want his rings]:

    MISS HARTSHORN: But Seaweed, won’t you give your old acquaintance no bauble among the rest–what is this topaz too? (Pointing to one of his rings.

    SEAWEED: That is an amethyst, my gull, or a petrified plum, which you will——–Blast ’em, I see I shall be unrigg’d in a jiffy, if I don’t close haul (Aside.

  12. The ever-helpful ngram shows that there were a few published examples of “jiffy” before 1800 – the very few before 1750 appear to be false positives – and then the word took off on a steady rise and started appearing widely (e.g. in Dickens), typically as a marker of lower-class or rural speech.

    Early examples (although later than Stephen Goranson’s):

    A 1791 book prints a humorous poem that contains the expression “half a jiff” meaning very quickly.

    “Suffolk Words and Phrase” (1823) defines jiffy as “in a trice” and also has the verb “jiffle,” meaning “a quckish, unsettled, bustling motion,” and gives an example of what a maid might say to a child she is dressing: “don’t jiffle so!”

    An 1828 word book prints this extract from what appears to be a satirical poem about government corruption (in Ireland?) as an example:

    An then shall each Paddy, who once on the Liffy
    Perchance held the helm of some mackerel hoy
    Hold the helm of the state and dispense in a jiffy
    More fishes than ever he caught when a boy.

  13. Trond Engen says:

    Bloix: what appears to be a satirical poem about government corruption (in Ireland?)

    Or about Irish self-governing?

  14. You’re right, it’s about Irish self-governance – to the extent it’s about anything.
    The whole poem is here, starting at p. 45 – and it’s the silliest nonsense I’ve ever read.

  15. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    Gilbert Lewis was the greatest physical chemist ever.

    Well yes, G. N. Lewis was good, but I wouldn’t single him out as the greatest. Cases could be made for Pauling and Eyring. Eyring was another one who should have got the Nobel Prize but didn’t.

  16. David Marjanović says:

    Never encountered that word in any language.

    Probably I have! Once I encountered a verb triezen in reading; from context it clearly meant “to constantly annoy someone in some joking way”. Now that I think of it, that could be derived from “pull repeatedly”, as in “pulling someone’s leg”…

    Eyring was another one who should have got the Nobel Prize but didn’t.

    Pauling made up for it by getting two, one in chemistry, one in physics…

  17. Trond Engen says:

    Pauling famously got two Nobel prizes, but the second one was the peace prize and not the physics prize.

  18. David Marjanović says:

    …I’ve managed to confuse him with Marie Curie, who did not work on physical chemistry, funnily enough.

  19. J.W. Brewer says:

    My wife had a science teacher in high school or thereabouts who characterized Pauling as having won 1.5 Nobels (discounting the one thought lacking in scientific rigor).

  20. I put Gilbert first among physical chemists simply because it was he who discovered the nature of chemical bonds.

    The winning (or not winning) of multiple Nobel prizes is an interesting topic. There are a number of scientists who made separate discoveries that were each important enough to merit Nobels. However, prizes were typically not awarded to previous laureates in these situation. (However, see below.) Unsurprisingly, Albert Einstein stands out particularly in this regard. His 1921 Nobel was for all his services to theoretical physics, but with particular emphasis on his explanation of the photoelectric effect. At this point, giving Nobels for purely theoretical work (even if it had been experimentally confirmed) was still somewhat controversial, so Einstein’s photoelectric effect work was singled out, because it was the most concretely in the realm of laboratory physics (even if Einstein was not doing the lab work himself). However, the photoelectric effect work was probably the least important thing that Einstein published during that amazing 1905 year. His work on special relativity was also Nobel worthy, and it underpins all sorts of things in modern physics and even engineering. (In my own research talks, one of the first things I always have to justify is why anybody should still be interested in testing special relativity well over a century after the Michelson-Morley experiment.) Had Einstein not already won the 1921 prize, he would probably have shared the 1926 prize with Perrin for work on Brownian motion, which provided the final confirmation of the existence of atoms. Finally, there was Einstein’s later general theory of relativity, which gives the modern explanation of gravity, as the fourth Nobel-level discovery Einstein made.

    Linus Pauling (although he also won that Nobel Peace Prize) is another person who clearly did Nobel-worthy work in two entirely different areas of chemistry. He won the chemistry prize in 1954 for valance bond theory, the first attempt to explain chemical bonds using the rudiments of quantum mechanics. (Robert Mullikan won the 1966 prize for his much more careful solution to the same problem–molecular orbital theory.) However, Pauling also discovered the three-dimensional structure of proteins, α-helices and β-sheets. Had he not already won the 1954 prize, he would have gotten a Nobel for the protein structure work as well.

    Carl Anderson discovered the positron (Nobel 1936) and the muon, which is basically a heavier electron (and which was unexpected enough that Isidor Rabi asked, “Who ordered that?” when it was discovered and found not to be a meson). Had somebody else found the muon, it would have been another Nobel; Martin Perl, who discovered the even heavier tau, won in 1995.

    There are more examples too. There are two modern cases of somebody winning a second scientific Nobel, but there is a common reason for why each dual prize happened. John Bardeen had shared the 1956 physics prize for the invention of the transistor, which marked the beginning of serious sold-state electronics. Later, he was a co-creator of the Bardeen-Cooper-Schrieffer (BCS) theory of superconductivity. The Nobel committee could have given the prize to Cooper and Schrieffer alone, but that would have seemed rather odd, since the theory was so famously associated with the trio; thus Bardeen won his second Nobel prize for physics. (I actually knew one of Bardeen’s grandsons in college, and now that same grandson is a professor in the chemistry department building right next to the physics department where I am located.)

    There is a similar example in chemistry with Frederick Sanger. He won the 1958 Nobel prize for chemistry for developing methods of sequencing proteins. Specifically, he sequenced the incredibly important hormone insulin (itself the subject of the 1923 Nobel prize for physiology or medicine, although one of the discoverers, Charles Best, was left out of the prize). Later, Sanger and Walter Gilbert separately discovered how to sequence DNA, which was even more important. Again, since the DNA sequencing method was so famously the work of both Gilbert and Sanger, Sanger was awarded another chemistry prize. (Gilbert’s student Allan Maxam did not share the prize though, although he probably deserved it.)

    In the early days of the prizes (especially before 1915), things were rather different. The unofficial rules governing the way the prizes were awarded were still being developed. Marie Curie won two prizes (one in physics and one in chemistry) for essentially the same body of work, discovering and characterizing new highly radioactive decays products found in uranium ore. In another weird early example 1904, the physics and chemistry prizes were awarded, in coordination, to Lord Rayleigh and William Ramsay for their work on identifying the inert gasses that are present in air (particularly argon, which makes up about one percent of the atmosphere).

  21. Anderson’s discovery of the positron seems to me underwhelming, a mere low-lying fruit ready for picking. I don’t see it as an achievement of intellect or effort on the scale of those of most Nobel winners.

  22. Gilbert Lewis was the greatest physical chemist ever.

    I myself am a partisan of Josiah Willard Gibbs (“Gibbs who?”, aka “the greatest living expert”), who died in 1903 before more than a few Nobels had been awarded (Theodor Mommsen was a great historian, but Nobel-worthy in Literature?) I grant that Gibbs wouldn’t have called himself a chemist, but his contributions to chemistry are enormous, if indirect.

    the incredibly important hormone insulin

    Important not least because it is keeping a number of Hattics alive at this moment, including AJP (I trust) and me.

    although one of the discoverers, Charles Best, was left out of the prize

    Two of them. Banting shared the credit and half his money with Best, but McLeod (who was named on the Prize because, well, it was his lab and he pushed B & B to get their insulin actually usable — remember, this was the Medicine or Physiology prize) shared his with James Collip, the biochemist who actually did the work of making the first usable insulin extract from fetal calf pancreases. The patent for insulin was sold to UT, where they all worked, for fifty cents Canadian. Still, Banting & Best are remembered, the other two forgotten, and that is probably just.

  23. Discovering the positron was actually pretty simple, once people actually looked for it. However, Anderson did do some amazing work on understanding the composition of secondary cosmic rays. The muon, after all, was totally unexpected, and that was only the beginning of interesting stuff to be found in cosmic ray showers. About fifteen years after Anderson, Cecil Powell and Cesar Lattes discovered the charged pi mesons using similar methods.
    However, only Powell got a Nobel prize, since Lattes was deemed too junior.

    Yet at the time of Anderson’s discovery, the question of whether the positron existed was very controversial. Soon after Paul Dirac published his relativistic wave equation for the electron in 1928, it was found to be remarkably successful in accounting for already measure relativistic effects in atoms and scattering processes. However, Dirac quickly noticed that the equation predicted the existence of negative energy states, which seemed like a problem. In 1929, he provided the correct solution again, which is that those negative energy states are normally all filled; by the Pauli Exclusion Principle, no other electrons can be put into those filled states. However, with enough energy, it would be possible to excite one of those negative-energy electrons into a positive-energy state, leaving a positively charged hole in the “Dirac sea.” Dirac tried to identify such holes with protons, but it was quickly shown the electrons and holes had to have equal masses. The fact that Dirac’s theory predicted these holes as new particles was considered by many physicists to be a huge problem with the theory. In his famous Handbuch der Physik article, Wolfgang Pauli was very critical of the Dirac theory because it predicted particles that had never been seen. However, by the time Pauli’s article was seen in print in 1932, Anderson had already found the predicted positrons experimentally.

    In a similar vein, the work of Gibbs (and, even more, Ludwig Boltzmann) was still controversial at the times of their deaths in 1903 and 1906, respectively. (Boltzmann took his own life, depressed that his revolutionary ideas had not been fully accepted.) Had they lived another fifteen years though, they probably would have shared a Nobel prize for physics. What they did was to create statistical mechanics, which involved some of the most innovative ideas in nineteenth century science. Statistical mechanics describes phenomena (like heat conduction) that occur not because they are truly necessary, but rather because they are overwhelmingly likely. Their work was so fundamental that Boltzmann could have a single equation as the epitaph on his tomb, the statistical definition of entropy, S = k log W.

    Best was cheated of a Nobel prize for basically the same reason as Lettes; he was considered too junior. (Apparently, the Nobel Foundation officially apologized for not honoring Best in 1972; maybe they will apologize to Jocelyn Bell Burnell for not crediting her for the discovery of the pulsar some time in the 2020s.) The controversy over who should get credit for insulin at the time was fierce. Frederick Banting announced prominently that he was sharing his half of the prize with Best, and then John Macleod, seemingly not wanting to look bad himself, shared his half with Collip, who nobody seems to think had made a significant intellectual contribution to the discovery.

    (In contrast, the 1945 Nobel prize for physiology or medicine, for foundational work on penicillin, was shared relatively amicably between Alexander Fleming, who discovered the antibiotic, and Howard Florey and Ernst Chain, who first tested it clinically and developed methods for mass producing it. And on the gripping hand, the 1962 Nobel for the discovery of the double helix structure of DNA might have ended up being extremely contentious, had one of the people involved not died young from cancer. Francis Crick and James Watson were unquestionably going to win, and the third available slot went to Maurice Wilkins. However, the critically important crystallographic data that Wilkins showed to Watson was not actually done by Wilkins but by Rosalind Franklin. Wilkins was under the sexist impression that Franklin had officially been working under him, and it took a long time before her contributions, more important that those of Wilkins, were fully acknowledged. By that time, Franklin herself, unfortunately, was deceased.)

    Frederick Banting was also a relative of the English undertaker William Banting, who wrote the influential Letter on Corpulence, Addressed to the Public, which recounted his success in losing weight and improving his health through consuming a low sugar, low fat diet, important for type 2 diabetes prevention. Finally, one of the early individuals to receive Banting and Best’s insulin treatment was George Minot, who went on to co-discover the lifesaving treatment for pernicious anemia (caused by vitamin B 12 deficiency) for which Minot and others receive the Nobel prize in 1934.

  24. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    I myself am a partisan of Josiah Willard Gibbs (“Gibbs who?”, aka “the greatest living expert”),

    I should have mentioned him too.

    the incredibly important hormone insulin

    Important not least because it is keeping a number of Hattics alive at this moment, including AJP (I trust) and me.

    Keeping all of us alive, but most of us are fortunate enough to be able to make our own in sufficient quantities.

  25. David Marjanović says:

    Theodor Mommsen was a great historian, but Nobel-worthy in Literature?

    While I haven’t read them myself, and think tastes in literature are so subjective that to award prizes based on them is an inherently ridiculous idea, his works were intended as literature and have often been praised as such. “Literature” doesn’t have to mean “fiction”.

  26. Exactly; cf. the recent literature Nobel for Svetlana Alexievich.

  27. January First-of-May says:

    Perhaps the greatest chemist ever (not sure if he counts as physical) to be directly cheated out of a Nobel prize was Dmitry Mendeleyev, the discoverer of the Periodic Table.

    Specifically, this happened because of Svante Arrhenius, who apparently had a personal rivalry with Mendeleyev, and successfully persuaded the Swedish Academy of Sciences that it was not acceptable to award such a prize for work made nearly forty years earlier. Even then, Mendeleyev is said to have only lost by one vote.

    He then proceeded to die of pneumonia in February 1907, before he could have gotten the prize for that or any further year.

    (On a random linguistic-ish tangent, I was surprised to discover that Mendeleyev’s first wife had the exceedingly unusual given name of Feozva [Феозва], which I don’t recall ever seeing in any other context. Apparently it’s one of those exotic Greek saint names.)

  28. Great heavens, what a name! Apparently it goes back to Greek θεοσέβεια ‘Godfearing.’ Checking the Национальный корпус русского языка, I find that the only non-Mendeleyev-related contexts it occurs in are by Radishchev (Всевышний венчая горячность Филарета и Феозвы благословил плодом их супружество) and Melnikov-Pechersky (В сенат даже просьбы писывала, сам уездный судья ей говорил: «Тебе бы, мать Феозва, не в скиту богомольничать, в суде б за зерцалом сидеть!» … Матушка Феозва, ты в законах сильна, научи уму-разуму, нельзя ли просьбицу какую подать, чтоб избыть нам того разоренья?).

  29. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    I wonder if the bias against Dmitry Mendeleyev was increased by his extremely wild and scruffy look. He made a big contrast with his colleague Friedrich Konrad Beilstein, who looked as you’d expect a senior German academic to look in the 19th century. (Despite his name, he was Russian as well, and made his career in St Petersburg.)

  30. “Literature” doesn’t have to mean “fiction”.

    Another example: Bergson was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1928.

  31. I grant that I have only read Mommsen in English, and may not be able to do justice to him as a writer of literature.

    I note that despite the Nobel travesty, Beilstein pushed for Mendeleyev to become a member of the Russian Academy of Sciences after he himself was appointed. In those days membership came with a stipend sufficient to retire on, but Mendeleyev was never admitted.

    I never know what label to apply to people like Beilstein or my grandfather, who grew up in Russia but were ethnically German. Neither “Russian German” nor “German Russian” seems to suit. For a while “Soviet German” worked, but it would be anachronistic for both the 19C and the 21C.

    Nowadays Mendeleyev is spending his afterlife as a chart to be found somewhere on the wall everywhere that science is taught. Beilstein, on the other hand, after a long existence as a large set of books listing Every Chemical Compound Known To Man, has now changed his name to Reaxys (ugh) and is a database owned by Elsevile. During the book era, Asimov wrote a 1956 story “What’s in a Name?”, in which a knowledgeable detective is able to break down a murderer’s alibi — that she rather than a similar-looking colleague was working the reference desk at a university scientific library at the time — by showing that she could not remember the name of a furrier who asked a question at the relevant time. If she had really been there, she could not possibly have forgotten his name, which was Beilstein.

  32. J.W. Brewer says:

    Beilstein would in German be called one of the Russlanddeutschen – a compound noun which helpfully specifies Russia-as-geographical-location which is perhaps harder to do in English. Like “Volga German” but at a higher level of generality. The Baltendeutsche a/k/a Deutsch-Balten may have been viewed for historical-sociological reasons as a separate group altogether rather than a subset of the Russlanddeutsche, and I expect many elite ethnic-German families in St. Petersburg, possibly including Beilstein’s, had Baltic roots. Since “Soviet” as an adjective did not ambiguously muddle up political/geographical-status and ethnicity the way “Russian” does in English it was useful in that respect, although of course “Russia” had been a multiethnic polity for many centuries before 1917 and remains so after 1991 despite boundaries now contracted from their pre-1917 locations. And some famous dissident (Solzhenitsyn?) had a line to the effect that using “Soviet” as an adjective to describe a human being was like mixing up a man’s name with the name of the disease he was suffering from.

  33. David Marjanović says:

    but Mendeleyev was never admitted.

    *Picard, Riker & Worf triple facepalm*

  34. Speaking of Nobel-worthiness and such, I particularly like this essay by Terry Tao, arguably the most celebrated mathematician in the world today. Key quote: “Actually, I find the reality of mathematical research today – in which progress is obtained naturally and cumulatively as a consequence of hard work, directed by intuition, literature, and a bit of luck – to be far more satisfying than the romantic image that I had as a student of mathematics being advanced primarily by the mystic inspirations of some rare breed of ‘geniuses’.”

  35. Trond Engen says:

    Davis M.: “Literature” doesn’t have to mean “fiction”.

    Hat: Exactly; cf. the recent literature Nobel for Svetlana Alexievich.

    Hat (later): Another example: Bergson was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1928.

    Bertrand Russell in 1950, Also Winston Churchill in 1953. Arguably more for his oral performance during the war than for the literary qualities of his scholarly works. And Sartre, but he declined.

    Quite a few of the (ideally) 18 members of the Swedish Academy are writers of non-fiction: Historians, philosophers, etc.

  36. Churchill’s Nobel prize citation stated that it was awarded “for his mastery of historical and biographical description as well as for brilliant oratory in defending exalted human values.” Nowadays, his speeches are generally much more highly regarded than his histories, and probably for good reason. Churchill wrote detailed histories of three of the most clearcut instances of modern “total war” (his histories of the First and Second World Wars, and the half of volume four of the History of the English-Speaking Peoples that he devoted to the American Civil War). Yet he hardly ever talks about economic warfare or logistics; it seems like he only wanted to write about plans, speeches, battles, and occasionally technological advances. Certainly, Churchill knew firsthand the importance of economics in wartime, but he simply chose not to say much about it.

  37. He probably thought it was boring, as indeed it often is.

  38. Lars (the original one) says:

    18 members — down to 10 right now by my count, 4 places officially empty and 4 others not wishing to participate. And a pressure group trying to get one of the former chairmen to leave as well. And probably a few not attending meetings because of general age and frailty.

    Swedish media will probably start discussing whether there should be a prize at all this year, as soon as the election is over. I’ll try to keep you posted.

  39. He probably thought it was boring, as indeed it often is.

    Only if you don’t care enough to write well about it. Dominic Lieven makes the topic riveting in Russia Against Napoleon: The True Story of the Campaigns of War and Peace.

    18 members — down to 10 right now by my count, 4 places officially empty and 4 others not wishing to participate. And a pressure group trying to get one of the former chairmen to leave as well. And probably a few not attending meetings because of general age and frailty.

    This is one of those things foreigners will never understand (like American gun-worship). It passeth all understanding that Swedes have allowed such a situation to develop; it’s as if they’d rather give up one of the few things that reliably brings Sweden to the world’s attention than change the arcane rules of Academy membership.

  40. Trond Engen says:

    Something will finally have to happen now. The Academy is left with too few meeting members to make decisions according to its rules of order. It’s already clear that no prize will be given for 2018, and what happens next year is anyone’s guess. One suggestion I’ve seen is that the king dissolves the current Academy and constitutes a new insitution with a mandate and rules that fit the 21st century.

  41. The Academy is left with too few meeting members to make decisions according to its rules of order.

    Well, then, clearly the prize will never be awarded again. Synd!

  42. Lars (the original one) says:

    Well, the King did already change the rules to allow members to resign, otherwise there would not have been 4 vacant chairs. As far as I can see they only need to be 7 to make most decisions, but 12 to elect new members, so there’s a problem.

    And in general the mood in Sweden over #metoo and related questions is such that they are willing to destroy most anything. An academy here, a Nobel price there, that’s incidental damage. (And the cause celebre behind the Academy situation was something that needed to be cleaned up, but as usual it was a perceived coverup that really started the war).

  43. The Nobel kerfuffle seems to me like a terrible case of guilt by association: the accused is the husband of a member rather than a member himself. What next, people being contaminated because they live in the same town as an offender? If this is truly the mood in Sweden, it seems to me they need a good dose of Samuel Johnson’s cheery remark about 18C London: “No man is thought the worse of here, whose brother was hanged.”

    Also, there is precedent for awarding the prize for the year N in the year N+1: Eugene O’Neill’s Literature prize for 1936 was announced simultaneously with Roger Martin du Gard’s prize for 1937. So as long as the recipient doesn’t die, the situation can be cleaned up retroactively.

  44. Unfortunately, Philip Roth has died. No way of knowing if he would have been awarded the prize, but he was a perennial (and in my opinion richly deserving) candidate.

  45. Trond Engen says:

    The Nobel kerfuffle seems to me like a terrible case of guilt by association: the accused is the husband of a member rather than a member himself.

    Yes and no. The case isn’t just about the actions of one man, but about the non-action of those who knew, and about how the Academy’s money was used to finance the private project of a member’s husband, and about the Academy’s lack of oversight with the project, both ethically and financially.

  46. Ah. Thanks for the clarification, Trond. Very well, hang them all with my blessings.

  47. Lars (the original one) says:

    Also, apart from the culprit letting the Academy fund his sexual harassment, he leveraged insider knowledge about candidates for the Nobel prize to gain social access to people who should have known better. A crime which is at least slightly on topic here.

  48. David Marjanović says:

    At the base, American gun-worship isn’t that hard to understand: it’s a randomly chosen freedom issue just like the German insistence that, on some highways, there must never be a speed limit. Freie Fahrt für freie Bürger, free passage for free citizens.

  49. Well, it’s hard for me to understand. But then I live in a place where stray bullets are rather more likely than intentionally directed ones. Even an American libertarian of my acquaintance agreed that chemical projectile weapons are a bad idea on space colonies, and Manhattan bears a certain resemblance to one. Should legal constraints on bearing arms be eventually overset here, I am pretty sure they would be superseded by insurance-based ones. An Englishman’s home may be his castle, but a Manhattanite’s castle generally belongs to someone else.

  50. @David Marjanović: To some extent, the American obsession with gun rights is random. However, there commonalities between (some) Americans’ views of gun rights and (some) Germans’ views of speed limits. In each case, there is a real tradeoff between liberty and public health. Yet in both countries, the pro-rights side is supported by a manufacturing sector with deep pockets.

    The right to keep arms is also tied to the American national myth. The first patriot victory in the American revolution was defending the arms cache at Concord, Massachusetts from the British who were trying to seize the illegally stockpiled muskets, gunpowder, and ammunition. This is not the only right tied to the revolution, of course. In another universe, the third amendment right not to have soldiers quartered in private homes in peacetime might have become a huge political issue.

  51. The right to keep arms is also tied to the American national myth. The first patriot victory in the American revolution was defending the arms cache at Concord, Massachusetts from the British who were trying to seize the illegally stockpiled muskets, gunpowder, and ammunition.

    But that tie is itself a myth, in that nobody paid any attention to it — as far as I know, literally nobody was claiming (in public) that every American should have the right to as many guns as they wanted, of whatever kind, with no restrictions — until around forty years ago, when the NRA was taken over by a nut who felt exactly that way, and the NRA has spent the intervening years (and lots of money) cleverly making sure that Republican legislators had to support that extremist line or lose their seats. Sure, once they decided to push that line they found a ready-made source of patriotic support in the brave lads of Concord, but that’s an invented tradition like so many others (not the 18th-century occurrence, of course, but the supposed link to the present day).

  52. The embattled farmers at Concord Bridge belonged to an organized militia known as the Minutemen. They came out to block the Redcoats in response to a resolution of the Massachusetts Provincial Congress which authorized the militia to oppose with force any British incursion from Boston into the countryside.
    If the Second Amendment nuts were willing to admit that its first half is actually, you know, PART OF THE FUCKING AMENDMENT, there wouldn’t be such a fuss over it.

  53. More hints (added to the 1765 antedating below) that “in a jiffy” may have had its origin in sailor slang (as did the earlier “in a trice”).

    1789 “Whereupon, in a giffy, Jem Cuffe, Brought his bum to an anchor near Harry.” Both Sides of the Gutter…Dublin, p. 15 GB full view.

    1791″…And off again in half a jiff* [*footnote:] Jiffy or jiffy, a jocular expression,
    and means a short space of time. Innumerable are the expressions (particularly amongst sailors)
    to shew what expedition may be…[other examples follow]. Edward Nairne, Poems,
    Miscellaneous and Humorous…Canterbury, pp. 66-7 ECCO.

    1794 “…[aboard ship with] a gale coming on. Each man threw on his stormy-weather jacket
    and jumped forward in a jiffy.”
    Columbian Centinel, Boston, April 5, p. 2. Am.Hist.Newsp.

    1836 “and he bouts ship in a jiffy”–Th. C. Haliburton, The Clockmaker, or, The sayings and doings of Samuel Slick…[a Nova Scotia character], p. 154 HathiTrust.

    ****
    Here’s a slight antedating of “in a jiffy.” It may (or may not) be worth noting that this is sea-related and that some later uses are sailor-related. 1765. The Disappointed Coxcomb. A Comedy in Five Acts, by Bartholomew Bourgeois, (via ECCO) page 28 [women want his rings]:

    MISS HARTSHORN: But Seaweed, won’t you give your old acquaintance no bauble among the rest–what is this topaz too? (Pointing to one of his rings.

    SEAWEED: That is an amethyst, my gull, or a petrified plum, which you will——–Blast ’em, I see I shall be unrigg’d in a jiffy, if I don’t close haul (Aside.

  54. Excellent, thanks!

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