1. An excellent list of names for special characters, for example ! = “exclamation (mark), (ex)clam, excl, wow, hey, boing, bang, shout, yell, shriek, pling, factorial, ball-bat, smash, cuss, store, potion&, not*+, dammit*” (in my proofreading days, we mostly said “bang”). Don’t miss the explananations at the bottom of the page:
& donald duck: from the Danish “Anders And”, which means “Donald Duck”
* Nathan Hale: “I have but one asterisk for my country.”
2. In a recent Avva post he mentions how Bill Murray has aged since Den’ surka, which I realized must be Groundhog Day. I looked up surók and found it defined in Oxford as ‘marmot.’ In this case, Katzner was more helpful, giving ‘marmot; woodchuck; ground hog.’ In picky editor mode I must remark that groundhog is one word and that this entry is an excellent example of why definitions should employ commas as well as semicolons, in this case between the last two items, because woodchuck and groundhog refer to the same animal, Marmota monax (as you can see from the genus, the animal, under whatever name, is a member of the marmot family). I admit I have a hard time remembering this fact, because I am familiar only with the words, not with the actual creatures, and the words are tied to completely different contexts (like dove and pigeon): “How much wood could a woodchuck chuck” and the groundhog seeing its shadow, respectively. Here’s the Regional Note from the American Heritage definition:
The woodchuck goes by several names in the United States. The most famous of these is groundhog, under which name all the legends about the animal’s hibernation have accrued. In the Appalachian Mountains the woodchuck is known as a whistle pig. The word woodchuck is probably a folk etymology of a New England Algonquian word—that is, English-speaking settlers “translated” the Indian word into a compound of two words that made sense to them in light of the animal’s habitat.
I will end my discussion of this subject by remarking that the Russian word that started me off on this zoological excursus, surók, is probably onomatopoeic in origin and thus the equivalent of whistle pig.
3. In perusing the American Heritage I happened on the word lumma, an Armenian coin (a hundred of them make up a dram). This word has been around, and gotten banged up in the process: “Armenian lumay, small coin, from Syriac lumâ, from Greek nomos, noummos, custom, current coin.” The change from n-m to l-m is called “dissimilation” (changing one of two sounds to make them less similar, in this case changing the first nasal to a liquid), and it’s a common phenomenon; as a matter of fact, if it hadn’t happened in Syriac first, it could have happened within Armenian—compare holm ‘wind’ (with l-m) and Greek anemos (with the original n-m). And they said that semester of Classical Armenian would never be of any use to me!