Thesaurus Followup.

We discussed the Thesaurus Linguae Latinae a few years ago, but the NY Times has a nice piece by Annalisa Quinn that provides a useful update and has some great illustrations:

The first entry, for the letter A, was published in 1900. The T.L.L. is expected to reach its final word — “zythum,” an Egyptian beer — by 2050. A scholarly project of painstaking exactness and glacial speed, it has so far produced 18 volumes of huge pages with tiny text, the collective work of nearly 400 scholars, many of them long since dead. The letters Q and N were set aside, because they begin too many difficult words, so researchers will have to go back and work on those, too. […]

The poet and classicist A.E. Housman, who died in 1936, once referred to “the chaingangs working at the dictionary in the ergastulum [dungeon] at Munich,” but the T.L.L. is now housed in two sunny floors of a former palace. Sixteen full-time staffers and some visiting lexicographers work in offices and a library, which contains editions of all the surviving Latin texts from before A.D. 600, and about 10 million yellowing paper slips, arranged in stacks of boxes reaching to the ceiling.

These slips form the heart of the project. There is a piece of paper for every surviving piece of writing from the classical period. The words, arranged chronologically, are given in context: they come from poems, prose, recipes, medical texts, receipts, dirty jokes, graffiti, inscriptions, and anything else that survived the vicissitudes of the last two thousand years.

Most Latin students read from the same rarefied canon without much contact with how the language was used in everyday life. But the T.L.L. insists that the anonymous person who insulted an enemy with graffiti on a wall in Pompeii is as valuable a witness to the meaning of a Latin word as a poet or emperor. (“Phileros spado,” reads one barb, or “Phileros is a eunuch.”) […]

About 90,000 of the slips represent uses of the word “et.” In order to grasp every possible shade of the word’s meaning, the researcher who wrote the entry read each of the passages in which it occurred and sorted them into categories of usage, like a scientist cataloging specimens. It took years. “Et,” an apparently simple word that usually means “and,” can also mean a range of slightly different things, including “even,” “and also,” “and then,” “and moreover,” et cetera.

“You have to know about all kinds of texts: Roman law and medicine and poetry and prose and history,” said Marijke Ottink, an editor at the T.L.L. She has been working on the word “res,” which means “thing,” on and off for a decade. […]

Some assignments are more coveted than others: Josine Schrickx, an editor, said she would like to write the entry for the word “thesaurus.” In Latin, it means “treasury.” On the horizon, however, is “non,” which means “no.” With nearly 50,000 slips, it is a source of anxiety at the T.L.L. “I don’t know how to deal with a word on that scale,” said Adam Gitner, a researcher. “And that does frighten me.”

The complicated conjunction and adverb “ut” also looms. Mr. Butterfield said that it is “the sort of infernal business that would make Sisyphus and Ixion smile kindly on the job satisfaction they got from their daily toil,” referring to figures from classical mythology forced to labor in pain for eternity.

The dictionary is not only difficult to produce, but also to use. Written in Latin, entries are made up of “dense print in numbered columns, subdivided by capital Roman numerals, then capital letters, then Arabic numerals, then perhaps more Arabic numerals, then lowercase letters, then — if you’re still on the trail — Greek letters,” said Mr. Butterfield. But the difficulty in using the T.L.L. was “an essential hurdle of scholarship,” he added; it was “a tool that is without parallel in understanding how Latin was deployed.”

I’ve quoted a fair bit because the Times has a notoriously strict paywall, but if you haven’t hit your limit this month, do click through for the images. At the MetaFilter post about it, people link to other notoriously unending projects like the Gesamtkatalog der Wiegendrucke (it “was founded in Berlin in 1904 to produce a comprehensive alphabetical catalogue of all fifteenth-century printed books, and has now, after 115 years, got as far as the letter H”) and the Encyclopedic Dictionary of Sanskrit on Historical Principles, which “was begun in 1948, and five thousand-odd pages later is still on the letter A” [!].

And for lagniappe, there’s a very silly Word of the Day project that uses a generative language model to produce absurd definitions, e.g.

webster, n. a government official or other person who attempts to determine words of a foreign language.

unkwatch, n. the time each month during which it is customary to review your spelling, spelling etiquette, onomastics, and grammar and punctuation.



  1. What a distinctly old timey projects. When people wanted to produce a definitive account of something ages ago they had little choice but start at the beginning and move painstakingly from one subject to another, because when the book is printed it is fixed and immutable. Nowadays it is possible to start quickly with rough sketch online, refine it to include the main points and then spend infinite amount of time on infinitesimal corrections.

  2. David Marjanović says:

    the Encyclopedic Dictionary of Sanskrit on Historical Principles, which “was begun in 1948, and five thousand-odd pages later is still on the letter A” [!].

    No surprise there – it’s the default vowel, the outcome of a megamerger.

    Nowadays it is possible to start quickly with rough sketch online, refine it to include the main points and then spend infinite amount of time on infinitesimal corrections.

    “Erst der Computer verdient es, Schreibmaschine genannt zu werden.”
    “Nothing before the computer deserved to be called ‘writing-machine’ as typewriters are in fact called.”

  3. No surprise there – it’s the default vowel, the outcome of a megamerger.

    No surprise? None at all? Yeah, there are a lot of Sanskrit words beginning with a-; in my Monier-Williams they go up to p. 126. Out of 1332 pages. I leave it to you to calculate the likely finishing date if a- has taken them over 70 years.

  4. John Cowan says:

    I think the key is the word encyclopedic: there’s probably an enormous amount of detail on specific usages. Historically classicists have used dictionary for such a work and call what the rest of us call a dictionary a lexicon, as in the names of Liddell & Scott’s various works. The editors probably added encyclopedic to the title in order to clarify it.

  5. AJP Crown says:

    For them to take 150 years to assemble this book – no mention of computers, only bits of yellowing paper piled to the ceiling – seems absurd. It’s not very German, they should pull themselves together.

  6. I’m not really sure I understand what kind of book this is. It seems to me that this is not so much a dictionary in the ordinary sense as something that approaches an annotated concordance of all Latin texts from a certain period?

    Although I can how it might be interesting to understand all the ways that the Romans used a word like “populus”, I’m afraid I don’t understand what would be accomplished by anyone’s going through 50,000 slips with examples of “non”.

  7. Do you consider the OED equally pointless? It has comparable aims and coverage, and comparably immense piles of slips that are gone through to separate shades of meaning.

  8. Stu Clayton says:

    Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds,
    And each new shade a writing-down of lines.

  9. John Cowan says:

    Hat: But the OED doesn’t print all those slips: definers work hard to summarize them into senses and to select just the significant examples of each sense. But when dealing with a language with a fixed corpus, a totalizing approach is feasible. “Annotated concordance” is a little over the top, but not very: the annotations are basically just the source document and a location in it.

    Per this 2010 article in India Express, there are more than 1 crore (1,00,00,000) slips, and as of then only 7 lakh (7,00,000) had been edited and published.

  10. I don’t see that I said it was pointless.

    As I said, I didn’t quite understand what kind of book this is. It says in the article “there is a piece of paper in the T.L.L. archive for every time a word shows up in a text from the classical period.” The authors of the OED couldn’t have had anything like that for English, so not exactly comparable coverage.

    Did someone spend years writing the entry for “and” in the OED? As far as I know they may have, but I would be really surprised.

    What I meant was — did the people who spent years going through examples of “et” come up with any greater understanding of something, or did they do it just so they can say they were thorough? If they had halved the number of slips of paper and spent only half the time, would the result have been any worse?

  11. Stu Clayton says:

    did the people who spent years going through examples of “et” come up with any greater understanding of something

    Read the sentence about “et” in the passage quoted above from the article:

    # “Et,” an apparently simple word that usually means “and,” can also mean a range of slightly different things, including “even,” “and also,” “and then,” “and moreover,” et cetera. #

    You’ve snapped up what you think is a trivial word, and are shaking it like a terrier. It may be that you don’t have the wide reading experience required to understand this matter.

    Another possibility is that you are indulging in pretend-innocent bluster and distraction. That used to get more traction before Trump overdid it and spoiled the game.

  12. David Eddyshaw says:


    The more-or-less equivalent Kusaal word ka means “and” about as often as not, but it also

    links clauses in narrative with the specific implication that the events are proceeding in sequence, with regular (meaningful) dropping of tense marking: English equivalent: zero;

    introduces subordinate clauses which correspond to serial-verb-type constructions, but different subjects from the main verb, or different polarity: English equivalents: “to”, “that”, “which”, “who”;

    sets off foregrounded elements before the main clause: English equivalent: change of word order or intonation;

    can replace ye “that” introducing subordinate purpose clauses or content clauses (some verbs are particularly fond of this construction, but there is always the possibility of using ye instead, unlike the case with all the other uses above.)

    If the particle lɛɛ follows the clause subject, ka means “but.”
    Ka is followed by tonal changes of the type that mark clauses as subordinate even when it does mean “and” and is introducing a coordinated main clause; however it is not followed by such tonal changes when it replaces ye “that” before a (subordinate) content clause.

    Non-contrastive personal pronoun subjects are omitted after ka in coordinating function if they have the same reference as the subject of the preceding clause, and also when ka follows a foregrounded nominalised clause expressing time which has the same subject. If a pronoun is used, it forces an implication that the subject has changed.

    Ka cannot mean “and” linking noun or adverb phrases: “and” in such cases must be .


    My impression is that the syntax of Latin et is rather more convoluted, but not all languages can be as straightforward and logical as Kusaal.

  13. Stu Clayton says:

    Those very properties militate against wide adoption of Kusaal. They would make it difficult to waffle effectively.

  14. David Eddyshaw says:

    Where there’s a will …
    The human spirit is indomitable.

  15. Did someone spend years writing the entry for “and” in the OED? As far as I know they may have, but I would be really surprised.

    Yes. And “set,” and “put,” and all the apparently simple little words that turn out to be impossibly difficult when you try to define them.

  16. Stu Clayton says:

    Many learners of English cannot understand the differences between “very” and “too”, as in “very hot” and “too hot”. I’ve thought about this off and on over the years, but haven’t found a simple way to explain the difference. You can get all high-flown and linguistic-categorical, but such an explanation is intelligible only with prior understanding of the difference, and thus is a scam.

    Sometimes I imagine that the native languages of the learners may not have this particular verbal distinction – two short adverbs. The ideas get conveyed by other means, maybe ?

    Othertimes I wonder whether this verbal distinction in English is all that important – apart from its being part of the language.

  17. This is a constant problem with Chinese speakers — they say “very hot” when they mean “hot” and “too hot” when they mean “very hot.” I taught English in Taiwan and never got very far trying to correct it.

  18. Stu Clayton says:

    Could it be that they think “hot” means “warm”, and that “very” and “too” express intensity or degree (which they do, in a sense!) ? That would explain the productions you quote.

    The German warm extends far into the area we call “hot”. To this day I have to catch myself before carelessly saying es ist heiß heute. It can be 100 F in the fucking shade and people still say es ist sehr warm heute.

    Weather just can’t be heiß. And I just can’t accept that warm and “warm” are not identical in use-meaning.

  19. David Eddyshaw says:

    Not a problem in the Ultimate Human Language, where the two concepts are typically expressed with quite different constructions:

    Li tʋl hali [bɛdegʋ].
    It [greatly].
    “It’s very hot.” (usually with ellipse of the actual adverb.)

    Li tʋl n galisida.
    “It’s too hot.”

    This sort of construction with verbs meaning “exceed” is typical of West Africa in general.

  20. David Eddyshaw says:

    Now that I think of it, you do hear people in West Africa saying “It’s too hot” in English to mean “very hot.”
    I wonder if the confusion is in fact due to the fact that the English constructions are so similar formally, whereas the constructions in local languages tend to be quite different? [EDIT: Which I’ve just noticed is in fact exactly what Stu has already suggested.]

    Speculating yet further beyond any facts actually known to me, could that be true of Chinese? How do you say “It’s very hot”/”It’s too hot” in Sinitic languages, O Sinophone Hatters?

  21. David Eddyshaw says:

    The German warm extends far into the area we call “hot”.

    David Niven, talking about filming on location for Paper Tiger, in Malaysia:

    It’s a lovely part of the world, terribly hot. It was 137 degrees – it’s 100 miles north of the equator – in August. 97% humidity. And we had 14 nationalities in the crew and actors. Germans, Japanese, Americans, English, everything. Spanish cameraman, Malays, Indian – unbelievable. And two or three lovely limeys.

    One was from Battersea. I can’t say his name. He’d never been out of England. Not to the Isle of Wight!
    He appeared in this terrific heat with a sweater on and a cap!
    And he looked round and he said to me
    “Turned mild, hasn’t it, David?”

  22. John Cowan says:

    English equivalent: zero

    Or and in naive narration: We did this, and we did that, and Susan said, and Peter fought, and Lucy cried, and ….

    I’ll add something about Chinese adjectives vs. stative verbs here later: it’s complicated.

  23. David Eddyshaw says:

    Or and in naive narration

    The situation in Kusaal is a bit more complicated: narrative is carried forward by clauses introduced by ka with perfective verbs without tense marking, while in formal style clauses which lack ka are tense-marked in the great majority of cases; they typically mark asides, flashbacks, descriptions etc. Informal style is the same in the way the narrative thread is carried by tense-unmarked ka-clauses, but differs in that many clauses without ka also lack tense markers: this is pretty much equivalent to the “narrative present” of informal English narration: “So I say … and he says …” and found in similar genres of narrative, likewise characterised by vivid spatial deictics, for example: “So I say to this man …”

    But you’re absolutely right, of course, in your implication that English “and” is every bit as protean and syntactically complex as ka. And as interesting

  24. On a potentially interesting but entirely nonlinguistic note, the physical sensations of warm and hot in the human body are actually completely different. The sensation of warmth is one we are all readily familiar with, but heat triggers a separate sensation, which is a combination of cold and pain.

    The cold aspect is mostly unnoticed, for a couple of reasons. Firstly, the pain sensation is stronger, and it typically drives an immediate response from the person experiencing it, drawing back from the heat so as not to get burned. Secondly, it is unusual to expose part of the skin to extreme heat without exposing nearby areas to less intense heat. So one typically feels warmth over a larger region, with the cold/pain sensation limited to the very hottest spot. The large region of great warmth tends to obscure the cold sensation.

    In fact, the only way I have been able to reliably and clearly experience the cold/pain sensation is by dipping an extremity in a hot spring (one where the water is well below boiling, but also far too hot to immerse the whole body safely). There was a sharp change in temperature between the limb that was out in the air and the hand or foot underwater, which would let me feel a definite cold sensation alongside the pain. (You should not do this, of course, unless you are familiar with hot springs and what heat levels are actually dangerous, nor probably should you test this without someone else present to assist you if needed. The pool where I remember getting the clearest combined cold and pain sensation was also too small to fall into, an additional safety factor.)

  25. Lars Mathiesen says:

    ObDanish: hed is not used any more, the sun is 6000 degrees varm.

  26. David Eddyshaw says:

    Doing my best without knowing any actual Chinese, I see that Wiedenhof’s Mandarin grammar lists tài “too” as an adverb that can precede an adjective in just the same way as hěn “very”; however, there is the complication that when hěn precedes a predicative adjective (which is basically a stative verb in Chinese) it very often seems “bleached” and seems to contribute nothing much to the meaning at all. This seems to be something of an open issue in Mandarin grammar, and the papers juha linked are largely about that.

    Matthews and Yip’s Cantonese grammar suggests that the situation there is similar: though taai “too” occurs before adjectives in the same slot as words for “very”, predicative adjectives normally have some sort of preceding modifier, hóu “good”/”very” by default; but they say “its meaning is much weaker than English very.”

    So (making due allowances for the fact that I don’t actually know what I’m talking about) it looks like in (some) Sinitic the usual “very” and “too” constructions are formally identical, unlike in Kusaal; but they are very different in semantics, in that the default “very” is usually just a sort of placeholder when it occurs before a predicative adjective.

    I think this supports Stu’s theory.

  27. PlasticPaddy says:

    I have been following the discussion of too/very conflation with unease. It is true that too/very can have identical syntax and share some semantic similarities (both are subjective and either not or only roughly quantifiable). But there is a semantic acceptability/non-acceptability axis to which very is orthogonal and to which too is aligned. Example: This curry is too spicy vs. This curry is very spicy. Surely the Chinese can communicate non-acceptability without a long circumlocutory disambiguation of their too/very word.

  28. John Cowan says:

    (Well, it took me so long to write this, what with one thing and another, that much of it is now already covered, but here it is anyway: hopefully it will amuse and to some degree instruct.)

    Long and long and long ago, when the Yellow Emperor invented the Chinese language, there were no adjectives, only stative verbs, and the two categories are still very close, but there are still some grammatical differences. Verbs in Chinese can of course be used as sentence predicates, but they can also be used in relative clauses to make noun modifiers. Both these things are true of adjectives as well, showing their basic verb-like nature, but the constructions are a bit different. (Confusingly, many English-language sources use the term stative verb solely for adjectives.)

    In modern Mandarin, a relative clause is constructed by placing it before its noun (like all modifiers) but separating them with the particle de. There is no relative pronoun normally; it has to be glorked from context. Furthermore, a relative clause doesn’t have to have a following noun, in which case the antecedent (postcedent?) also comes from the context: thus chī de from chī ‘eat’ is a tiny noun phrase which can mean ‘those that eat’ or ‘those that are eaten’. Such a NP can be equated with some other NP by connecting them with the copula shì (which in His Yellowness’s day was just a demonstrative pronoun), as in Tā shì nán de ‘He is male [lit. a male one]’. So there are three relevant constructions: an ordinary subject-predicate sentence, a modifier-modified NP using de, and a copulative sentence using a relative-clause-based NP.

    So what’s the difference? If the verb in the subject-predicate sentence is an adjective, it needs an adverb of degree before it. The weakest and most bleached adverb is hěn, which means ‘very’ when it precedes an ordinary verb, but is entirely neutral when preceding an adjective. However, omitting hěn before an adjective is not, as many sources say, ungrammatical; it is simply incomplete. If someone says Zhèi běn zìdiǎn hǎo ‘This-CLF dictionary is good’, the implicature is that it is being contrasted to another dictionary which is not good (example due to Yip Po-Ching and Don Rimmington), so semantically adjectives carry a kind of comparative force along with them that ordinary verbs do not have and which is neutralized by the adverb of degree.

    Therefore ‘It’s hot’ is Hěn rè. If you actually want to say ‘It’s very hot’, you need to use a more intense adverb of degree like hǎo, zhēn, fēicháng, roughly ‘very’, ‘really’, ‘extremely’ before the verb. (When used with ordinary verbs these degree adverbs are kicked up a notch in intensity.) Alternatively another degree adverb like tài ‘too’ can be used, as David notes. In negative sentences with an adjective predicate the adverb is replaced by one of the three negators of Chinese, in this case , whereas with ordinary verbs the adverb remains intact and the negator is bùshi, lit. ‘not is’.

    What about the other two constructions, the attributive and the copulative? Simple adjectives (those of one syllable and the colloquial ones with two syllables) can omit de in the relative clause, so this is a second test for adjectivehood but not for non-adjectivehood. The copulative construction with final de is the same for ordinary verbs and adjectives.

    As for the two linked papers, the first seems to remain bewildered about the need for the adverb of degree. The second is written in the GG [Generative Gobbledygook, or alternatively Ghastly Generative] framework, and I didn’t even try to read it: arse [sic] longa, vita brevis.

  29. David Eddyshaw says:

    The first paper is sensible but doesn’t really add anything substantive to the observation that adjectives and verbs behave somewhat differently in Mandarin; the second is, alas, a fairly typical specimen of of what Chomskyites do when looking at languages other than English: the object is to show how, despite appearances, they do after all conform to the Great Master Plan:

    Mandarin does not counterexemplify the universal generalization that comparatives are the marked member of the positive/comparative opposition; on the contrary, its proper analysis actually depends on the idea that comparative-form adjectives involve extra structure.

    This may very well be true, in fact, but I find it difficult to care, having no particular attachment to the idea that there are exceptionless non-trivial universals out there in the first place.

    Also, I don’t think I’ve ever actually learnt anything actually useful from a descriptive point of view from a linguistic paper with lots of lambdas in. But then, the authors of such papers would regard language description as a very poor relation to the One True Linguistics which will reveal to us the very structure of the mind itself, if we only believe.


    This is not at all an attempt to suggest that Chinese speakers can’t easily and robustly distinguish between the senses of “too” and “very” in Chinese; all I’m wondering is whether the fact that the apparently most closely corresponding constructions look as if they match well in Chinese and English, but in fact have significant differences when you look more deeply, might account for problems for Chinese learners of English.

  30. David Marjanović says:

    It’s not very German, they should pull themselves together.

    You know about the BER, right?

    (They should put a dynamo into the tomb of Frederick the Great. Should be enough to accomplish the Kohleausstieg, the exit [from] coal [as a source of energy] that is supposed to be completed by 2038.)

    This is a constant problem with Chinese speakers — they say “very hot” when they mean “hot” and “too hot” when they mean “very hot.” I taught English in Taiwan and never got very far trying to correct it.

    Ah, they translated hěn as “very”.

    Weather just can’t be heiß.


    Maybe the people you’re talking to are trying to stress that they’re still fine?

  31. Stu Clayton says:

    What isn’t said in my venue:

    Das Wetter soll heute heiß werden.
    Der Tag wird heute heiß.
    [Except metaphorically maybe – police, demonstrators etc]
    Es wird heute heiß.

    What is said:

    Das Wetter soll heute sehr warm werden.
    Der Tag wird heute sehr warm.
    Es wird heute sehr warm.
    Es wird ein heißer Tag heute.
    Gestern war einer der heißesten Tage des Jahres

    Seems like heiß is not applied in predicative position to Wetter and Tag in these stock phrases.

  32. Stu Clayton says:

    Compare and contrast with what Lars Mathiesen wrote above:

    # ObDanish: hed is not used any more, the sun is 6000 degrees varm. #

    I wonder if he means “not any more in predicative position”, or “not any more at all at all”.

  33. @Stu: Es wird heute heiß is something I would say, including when talking about the weather. It’s just that I don’t often have the opportunity to say that in Northern Germany 😉

  34. PlasticPaddy says:

    Thanks. I suppose I was hoping that the use of too to mean unacceptable was accomplished by Chinese speakers using means invisible in writing (facial gesture, wrong stress accent, etc). I heard a German once use “wahrscheinlich” (=probably) to mean “Yeah, right” by pronouncing it as WAHR-scheinlich with rising pitch and the indicated wrong stress. I was told Bulgarians have a mood to suggest “I am reporting this, but I do NOT believe it to be true”.

  35. If we’re thinking about the same category in Bulgarian, it only means “I haven’t experienced it myself, I’m only reporting what I heard”, and “I don’t believe it’s true” is only a possible implication. What Bulgarian uses for this is the old Slavic perfect (l-participle plus “to be”), which has become the basic past tense in most other Slavic languages. This formation in Bulgarian is usually explained as having arisen under influence of the Turkish mood formed with -mış- that has a similar function.

  36. David Marjanović says:

    Bulgarian has reinterpreted a large part of its tense system as evidentials on the model of the Turkish ones. It has even created new forms to fill the gaps.

    What isn’t said in my venue:

    These are all unremarkable to me. We’ve uncovered an unexpected place for regional variation!

  37. PlasticPaddy says:

    @dm, stu
    In fact the segregation of warm and hot seems to me less in German and Dutch than in English. For example for “hot drinks” you have both “heisse Getränke” / “hete dranken” and “warme Getränke ” / “warme dranken”. But maybe not in Stu’s venue.

  38. Finländare says:

    Finns have trouble with “warm” and “hot” not just because of the general weather conditions but also because when speaking English hot food for them is never “hot” (kuuma) but rather warm (lämmin). Kuuma would imply that the food is too hot for consumption.

    The weather on the other hand can be kuuma or even tosi kuuma (very hot), but this is usually the case abroad.

  39. Do Finns love snow the way Russians do?

  40. Stu Clayton says:

    We’ve uncovered an unexpected place for regional variation!

    Why unexpected ? Cologne and environs are just as liable to be pliable as any other venue on the menu.

    If I hadn’t been obliged to fret over this heiß/warm distinction (for certain phenomena) ever since I’ve been in the country, and to be careful what I say, I might be inclined to write it off as mere imagination. But it’s MY imagination, so I is gonna stick with it.

    For example for “hot drinks” you have both “heisse Getränke” / “hete dranken” and “warme Getränke ” / “warme dranken”. But maybe not in Stu’s venue

    There is something resembling a distinction here, but it’s nugatory, imprecise and unreliable. At Jahrmärkte in the winter the “Heisse Getränke!” signs are everywhere, meaning Glühwein, hot chocolate and prolly tea and coffee. On a menu you might see warme Getränke, which means tea, coffee and maybe even hot chocolate for the kids.

    Remember that in the bathtub you turn on the Warmwasser, not the hot water.

  41. I wonder what temperatures were meant in Revelation 3:16

  42. Stu Clayton says:

    Well, neither hot nor cold, but lukewarm, as the man says. What I’ve always wondered is what Mr. John had got against lukewarm. Maybe it’s just a metaphor. They didn’t have refrigerators and insulated coffee mugs back then, so I imagine pretty much everything was lukewarm.

  43. Mormons are not supposed to drink “hot liquids,” which was apparently Joseph Smith’s attempt to give a biblical-sounding description of tea and coffee. Today, this is usually interpreted as forbidding caffeine (just like Mormons are not supposed to consume alcohol).* This was parodied on 30 Rock, when the hick character, Kenneth, said his sect proscribed the drinking of hot liquids, because hot was “the devil’s temperature.”

    * When I learned this, I found the caffeine prohibition hard to reconcile with the behavior of one of my Mormon classmates, who seemed to consume greater quantities of non-diet cola than anyone I had ever met. Later, he was excluded from our high school graduation ceremony, because he turned up for the practice run-through that morning drunk as a skunk.

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