Tim Robinson, RIP.

Trevor Joyce alerted me to the passing of author and cartographer Tim Robinson a couple of weeks ago, but what with one thing and another I haven’t gotten around to posting about it; now per incuriam has reminded me and linked to a fine tribute by Fintan O’Toole:

The word “geography” means in its origins “the writing of lands”. Ireland was blessed to have had, for almost 50 years, the loving attention of one of the greatest writers of lands. Tim Robinson, who has died a fortnight after he lost his beloved wife, Máiréad (the M evoked in so many of his works) was a Yorkshire man who came to know, as they have never been known before or since, three Irish landscapes: the Burren, the Aran Islands and Connemara.

Generations of tourists have been guided and enthralled by his marvellous maps of these radiant places. But it is his astonishing books, the two-volume Stones of Aran and the Connemara trilogy, that will stand as timeless monuments to a genius who combined the linguistic brilliance of a poet with the precision of the mathematician he once was. […]

Perhaps only an English outsider could have given this project such care. “Among the historical roots of Ireland’s carelessness of place,” he wrote, “is the retreat of its language and the accompanying anglicization of its placenames, which have been defaced, rendered dumb and sometimes reduced to the ridiculous. To undo a little of this damage has been for me, an Englishman, a work of reparation.” […]

He paid attention to the people who lived in and worked the land as much as to the landscape itself. “A rush of talk like the whirl of starlings coming to roost” – a lot of it talk in Irish – lies beneath his writings, in the stories he gathered, the old (and sometimes not so old) place-names he recorded.

Robinson believed in bringing to bear every kind of knowledge and delighted in the way every place became richer and more complex the more you looked at it and the more you listened to its people. “Every tale,” as he writes at end of the Connemara trilogy, “entails the tale of its own making, generalities breed exceptions as soon as they are stated, and all the footnotes call for footnoting to the end of the world.”

As I told Trevor when he posted an image of Robinson’s work on Facebook:

That photo of all the books rang a bell, and I dug out my old “map and guide” to the Aran Islands from when I spent time there almost half a century ago now, and sure enough it was by Tim Robinson, and I remembered how impressed I had been with the drawing and writing.

I’m endlessly impressed with people who combine such varied skills and passions.

Comments

  1. John Cowan says:

    As you yourself do, O Hat, live for ever!

  2. AJP Crown says:

    You don’t have to live for ever. Just longer than I do.

    (And yes, someone used that meme the other day, about mosquitos eating their relatives.)

  3. David Eddyshaw says:

    Nah. Go for it. Live for ever!

  4. Stu Clayton says:

    I don’t believe anyone could mentally and emotionally endure living forever. Even one bout of Trump during one lifetime is almost too much to bear.

    To survive living forever one would have to become brain dead and supremely indifferent to the slings and arrows. But what’s the point of living forever in that condition ?

    I advise returning the spoon (Ger.loc.) as soon as there’s no more porridge in the bowl.

  5. David Eddyshaw says:

    Well, obviously you’d need to take up a hobby.

  6. Rodger C says:

    Are we talking about living forever like Struldbrugs, or like Elves? Tolkien eventually realized that the latter would be no picnic either.

  7. John Cowan says:

    I suppose one could appoint a successor, so that we could say, “The Hat is dead, long live the Hat!”

  8. AJP Crown says:
  9. Jen in Edinburgh says:

    I thought the problem for the elves was being cut off from heaven, not the everlasting life itself.

    Although, unlike Mephistopheles, they may never have known anything else.

  10. AJP Crown says:

    “The Hat is dead, long live the Hat!”
    A successor isn’t appointed; the successor emerges.

  11. Being brain dead isn’t being vegetative or comatose or mostly dead. It means the end of all brain function, which is just being dead.

  12. David Marjanović says:

    the successor emerges

    Or at least strange ladies distributing swords emerge from ponds.

  13. David Eddyshaw says:

    I have to say at this point that supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses.
    (Except in the case of Hat, obviously. He has the Mandate of Heaven.)

  14. Lars Mathiesen says:

    Now, now, the strange ladies only lie about. It’s the watery tarts and the moistened bints you have to watch out for. Flying pieces of edged steel is no joking matter.

  15. John Cowan says:

    To survive living forever one would have to become brain dead and supremely indifferent to the slings and arrows.

    Here’s one of the very few places that an Elf explains his own perspective to mortals, after they have been wondering if time stands still in Elvish countries:

    Legolas stirred in his boat. ‘Nay, time does not tarry ever,’ he said; ‘but change and growth is not in all things and places alike. For the Elves the world moves, and it moves both very swift and very slow. Swift, because they themselves change little, and all else fleets by: it is a grief to them. Slow, because they do not count the running years, not for themselves. The passing seasons are but ripples ever repeated in the long long stream. Yet beneath the Sun all things must wear to an end at last.’

    I thought the problem for the elves was being cut off from heaven, not the everlasting life itself.

    Not entirely cut off, perhaps. Our sources for the End of the World are complex and contradictory, but it seems that after the destruction of Arda Marred (the fallen world), the Elves will serve as rememberers of it so that Arda Redeemed (which is far, far greater than Arda Unmarred would have been) can be created in detail, not by the Ainur (the demiurgic angels, sometimes called Gods by Men) alone, but by massed choruses of both Men and Ainur. We are also told that the Dwarves, who were originally no part of the divine plan at all, will be engaged in the physical rebuilding.

    To speak very loosely, Tolkien’s story is a kind of Christian Ragnarök. The world ends and is remade, but not the whole universe, and there is no Doom of the Gods (who are not really gods anyway).

  16. Rodger C says:

    I was mainly thinking about something made explicit by Shippey, I think, not Tolkien himself, that elves in Middle-Earth would eventually see everything they once knew pass away and everything they made destroyed.

  17. I’m only in my sixties and I’m already starting to feel that way.

  18. AJP Crown says:

    With outrageous fortune I can never get past whether it’s better to suffer the slings or the arrows.

  19. What annoys me about that line is that it’s a mixed metaphor. “The sling-stones and arrows” would be OK – they’re both projectiles. As a soldier is pelted with sling-stones and arrows, Hamlet is being pelted with various kinds of misfortune. Or the “slings and bows of outrageous fortune” – the two weapons that Fortune is using to make your life miserable.

    But “the slings and arrows”?

    Fortune is, what, firing arrows at you from slings? An unusual way to proceed.

    Or is it showering you not only with arrows (presumably fired from a bow), but also with slings? Perhaps out of frustration at being unable to get the slings to work (they are a notoriously difficult weapon to master), rather like that action-movie cliche of the victim emptying his automatic at the advancing monster, and then in desperation throwing the empty weapon at its head?

  20. Here’s a nice quote from Thomas More’s The answere to the fyrst parte of the poysened booke..named the souper of the lorde: “Yonge folyshe Dauyd, that hath..with the slynge of hys heresyes, slongen hymselfe to the deuyll.” Slongen!

  21. John Cowan says:

    Some allowances must be made for the pentameter.

    “There is no arguing with Johnson: for if his pistol misses fire, he knocks you down with the butt end of it.” —Colley Cibber, contemporary writer of comedies

  22. PlasticPaddy says:

    @ajay
    Sling also had an old sense as a trap or snare, however “the whips and scorns of time” occurring later in the speech is a parallel construction so “slings and arrows” would seem to be metonymy. I would have more difficulty with taking arms against a sea of troubles, I saw somewhere the suggestion of siege instead of sea.

  23. AJP Crown says:

    ajay, I’d always pictured a simpler sling, like the one that David used to kill Goliath the big hairy giant. I see an off-white cotton tea-towel.

    Bows & arrows make the most sense. Just remember there’s no other scene in Shakespeare that alludes to cowboys & indians. – And yes, the mixed metaphors in Hamlet are out of control.

  24. Well, Hamlet was pretending to be mad…

  25. John Cowan says:

    Hamlet doesn’t pretend to be mad in his monologues, only when speaking to others. Or to put it otherwise, what the monologues manifest is not schizophrenia but depression.

    As for David, the story proper makes no mention of a sling. Rather it says (1 Sam 17:49) that he put his hand into his bag and drew out one of the five smooth river stones he had put there, slung it at the Philistine, and hit him so that the stone sank into his forehead, whereupon he fell on his face. It is true that in 17:50 we are told that David is stronger than the Philistine with sling and with stone, but this verse feels to me like a sort of Greek chorus temporarily interrupting the narrative, which continues in 17:51 with David running back to get Saul’s sword that he had discarded before the battle and cutting off Goliath’s head with it.

    I conclude, therefore, that Goliath was stunned by a good old Israelite fastball (but made of stone) at 90 mph or so, no sling necessary. In truth, this is a case of Hunter vs. Elephant: as long as David, surely more agile, stayed out of the reach of Goliath’s sword, he could take him down at will.

    (The only clear touch of fantasy in the story is Goliath’s height of six cubits and a span (17:4), which is 9 foot 9 inches or 3m. A four-cubits-and-a-span / 6 foot 6 / 2m warrior would be quite intimidating enough, especially in the ancient world when people were shorter anyway.)

  26. Also 17:40 says that the sling was in his (David’s) hand. It’s interesting to compare this to another thread which discusses why the French lost Canada. David was pretty sure that it is God who delivers victory in the battle, not swords and armor. Or at least that what the Bible tells us. So maybe discussion of numbers and resupply is irrelevant…

  27. AJP Crown says:

    How could the French lose Canada? It’s enormous. All I know about David & Goliath comes from Miss Howe, my primary school teacher. She didn’t trouble with the bible. I much prefer her version, in which there was a sling. Arrows was 1066.

  28. David Eddyshaw says:

    David does indeed have a קלע in 17:40.

  29. Stu Clayton says:

    Here’s a neat website helping beginners with such קלע stuff. I don’t know where you guys found the time to learn Nahuatl in addition to everything else. I have some catching up to do.

  30. Jen in Edinburgh says:

    David may have slung the stone at Goliath, but he probably did it with a sling – the OED gives:

    b. To throw or cast (stones, etc.) by means of a sling. Also figurative.
    1539 Bible (Great) 1 Sam. xvii. 49 Dauid put his hande in his bagge, and toke out a stone, and slange it.

  31. Dauid put his hande in his bagge, and toke out a stone, and slange it.

    And therewith it was slongen.

  32. Jen in Edinburgh says:

    Indeed.

    There’s also a definition for the noun of ‘The act of slinging, throwing, etc.; a cast, fling, or throw.’, which might appease ajay!

  33. David Marjanović says:

    The site Stu found says “projectile” rather than “sling”. Or is that the same with different vowels?

    slongen

    Almost preserved in German: schlingen, schlang, geschlungen – but that refers to wrapping the sling around the stone, not to throwing it afterwards.

  34. Stu Clayton says:

    That seems to be the case: Schleuder.

  35. David Eddyshaw says:

    Brown-Driver-Briggs says “sling” for קלע ‘qɛlaʕ; it glosses the corresponding verb “sling, hurl forth.” It doesn’t give any nouns from that root meaning “projectile”, but there is a homophonous word “curtain.” The corresponding Syriac word qɛlʕɔ is glossed “sling, catapult” in Payne Smith’s dictionary; also “sail”, interestingly, presumably going with Hebrew “curtain.”

  36. David Eddyshaw says:

    The Kusaal word for “sling” (as I’m sure you all want to know) is luobig, which is unproblematically parallel to Mooré looabga. It looks like it should be related to Kusaal lɔb, Mooré lobe “throw”, but the tones are wrong (which is a big obstacle to assigning them to the same root in these languages), and even closely related languages have quite different words. Toende Kusaal has kalaabʋk, which must have something to do with the Farefare kalɔbga but doesn’t match properly for a cognate, and the ka- part is completely opaque, strongly suggesting that the words are loans from outside Western Oti-Volta. The Agolle Kusaal and Mooré words might well be remodelled on the analogy of the “throw” verbs.

    If *kalaab-/kalɔb- really is a loanword, I’ve no idea where it comes from. Not Hausa or Songhay (the usual suspects) anyway, as far as I can tell. Sort of thing Lameen is expert in …

  37. Trond Engen says:

    Norw. slenge – slengte – har slengt is a weak causative. This means “throw”.

    There’s another weak verb slynge – slynger – slynga – har slynga, This means “wrap, cling”, like in slyngplanter “vines”.

    The strong verb is borderline defective. It’s used in pair with a locational verb to add a nuance of randomness or general idleness. Han bare går og slenger om dagene. “He’s just hanging around doing nothing all day.” Regningene lå og slang på en stol i gangen, “The bills were heaped carelessly on a chair in the hallway,”

  38. It is interesting that American English has the word slingshot, the meaning of which is sometimes confused with the simple sling. I assume this is particularly the case among children, since, thanks to the modern ubiquity of rubber bands, slingshots are easy to make and much easer to operate than “the sling of King David.”* However, I have seen a couple of instances in professionally made media** in which young David himself was portrayed with a Y-fork elastic slingshot (although one of these was in a video game that was probably developed in Japan).

    The OED says slingshot was “originally U. S.,” with the earliest citation from 1849 and only American and Canadian citations prior to 1966. Interestingly, the OED gives the laconically defective definition “a catapult,” when only the specific sense 2: “an instrument consisting of a forked stick with an elastic band fastened to the two prongs, used to shoot small stones, bullets, peas, etc.” is actually correct. The British extension of catapult to include this sense is attested from 1870, so it is actually more recent than slingshot. The British-American terminology different caused me quite a bit of confusion when I first read Gormenghast, in which both the villain Steerpike and all the schoolboys are described as carrying “catapults.” I initially imagined them carrying miniature siege engines, which seemed quite peculiar—although not necessarily out of keeping with Peake’s elaborately bizarre gothic setting.

    * I think “the sling of King David”*** was a description of the weapon used by Zelazny in This Immortal, presumably both to avoid confusion with the slingshot and for atmospheric reasons—part of how most the post-apocalyptic Earth is reverting to a state akin to the time of the mythic heroes.

    ** There are an enormous number of cartoons (widely varying in quality, naturally) showing the confrontation between David and Goliath. However, I just remembered that I saw a live-action sword-and-sandals movie version of King David’s story once when I was a kid. I was impressed with the much greater realism with which they portrayed the fight. Goliath (who was quite tall, but not unrealistically so) was only stunned by the sling stone, and the film showed the part where David retrieved a sword and decapitated him. I sort of wonder what film that was, although I suspect that if I watched it again, it would look terribly cheaply made.

    *** And, come to think of it, the actual name of the magical sling—the most powerful missile weapon—in the action RPG video game Keef the Thief was “David.”

  39. David Eddyshaw says:

    Ah! a slingshot is a catapult! All is now clear.

    I think I’d really only come across the term in the context of “gravity assists”, mind, where slings seem to be much more to the point than catapults. Perhaps I’ve been doing it wrong.

  40. Ah! a slingshot is a catapult! All is now clear.

    And I have just learned that a catapult is a slingshot! I would have had the same confusion had I read Gormenghast.

  41. Jen in Edinburgh says:

    So in a slingshot manoeuvre, the gravity is acting (by analogy) as elastic?

    To the extent that I had thought about it at all, which isn’t much, I had assumed it was the whirly kind.

  42. David Marjanović says:

    To the extent that I had thought about it at all, which isn’t much, I had assumed it was the whirly kind.

    Me too.

  43. I’m confused. Surely a catapult and a slingshot are entirely different things? A slingshot, as Jen says, is a whirly thing where you have a stone in a doubled-up length of fabric, whirl it around your head, then let go of one end of the fabric to release the stone at high velocity in what I can only imagine is a more or less random direction. Catapults of the forked stick with rubber bands variety are something I remember from schooldays.

    I conclude, therefore, that Goliath was stunned by a good old Israelite fastball But if David ‘slung’ the ball, doesn’t that mean he hurled it by means of a slingshot, not merely that he threw it?

    I found a picture showing what I understand as a slingshot.

  44. John Cowan says:

    Here are Wimsey and Parker discussing how the victim died in Murder Must Advertise, which was probably my first exposure to catapult ‘slingshot’.

    “Practice shots. I’ve ascertained that the office is always practically empty during the lunch-hour. Nobody much ever goes on the roof, except the office-boys for their P.J.’s at 8.30 ack emma.”

    “People who live in glass skylights shouldn’t throw stones. Do you mean to suggest that by chucking a small stone like this at a fellow, you’re going to crack his skull open and break his neck for him?”

    “Not if you just throw it, of course. But how about a sling or a catapult?”

    “Oh, in that case, you’ve only got to ask the people in the neighbouring offices if they’ve seen anybody enjoying a spot of David and Goliath exercise on Pym’s roof, and you’ve got him.”

    Later we hear that WImsey is to be found on the roof playing with a catapult, which is considered evidence of loopiness. The narrator describes the object as “a tangle of sticks and rubber”, which was enough to tell the teenage me that the object was a slingshot.

    Then Wimsey interrogates a witness:

    “Has any of the other boys got a catapult?”

    “No, sir.”

    “Or a sling, or any other infernal machine for projecting stones?”

    “No, sir; leastways, not here, sir. Tom Faggott has a pea-shooter at home, sir.”

    “I said stones, not peas. Did you ever shoot with this, or any other catapult, on the roof?”

    Later the transitive verb catapulted, clearly meaning in context ‘struck with a stone propelled by a catapult’, appears.

    Finally, the murderer says to Wimsey: “I really came round to find out whether you knew anything or whether you were just drawing a bow at a venture–that’s rather appropriate, isn’t it? Drawing a catapult at a venture would be better.”

    I figured out that ack emma meant “A.M.”, but it wasn’t till many years later that I learned that P.J. meant exercise of the gymnastic sort, jumping-jacks perhaps, and much later that I found out it stood for physical jerks. For me, of course, it was pajamas and nothing else.

    For lagniappe: “William Rufus was hunting in the forest when one of his archers drew a bow at a venture, but missed the venture and hit the King.”

  45. I think you’re missing the point, JC. What you call a slingshot is what I would call a catapult. But that’s a modern American usage, as far as I can tell. What I have always understood as a slingshot, in particular in the David-and-Goliath sense, is the device in the picture above. It’s the thing used in Africa today and thus more likely to be what was used in the middle east two thousand years ago.

  46. John Cowan says:

    But if David ‘slung’ the ball, doesn’t that mean he hurled it by means of a slingshot, not merely that he threw it?

    The OED gives two senses: ‘propel with a sling’ and ‘throw, cast, hurl, or fling in some direction or to some purpose’. Chaucer is cited as using the second definition: “To þe crowe he stert [started] and that anon [at once] / And pulled his white fethers everich [every] one / And made him blak, and raft [reaved, deprived] him all his song / And eke [also] his speche, and out at dore him slong.” No slingshot here. So it’s not an Americanism or even a neologism.

    I think you’re missing the point, JC.

    I might be if I were arguing on one side or another, but I’m not. But in any case, the OED lists no such use of slingshot ‘sling’; the only definition given is the American one. The same is true of Collins and Macmillan, so it must be a recent development in BrE.

  47. I think the sense of slingshot associated with a “gravitational assist” may be an amalgam of more than one sense. There is the simple metaphorical use of the word, which implies just sudden, rapid movement, as in: “After the South Carolina primary, Biden slingshotted* back to the front of the pack.” However, I think there is also influence from the meaning of a shot from a Davidic sling, whipping around with a lot of angular momentum.

    It appears, however, that British speakers may not be that well positioned to intuit how that sense developed. David L’s perception of the word slingshot is interesting, and I think that it is a fairly natural development when people are looking at a word that is different across the Atlantic, but existence of that difference is not well known. I was confused by “catapult,” but I imagine that Peake would never have suspected that American readers would not understand what he meant. So a British speaker, encountering “slingshot” and unaware that Americans do not use that British sense of catapult could easily reinterpret slingshot as a pleonasm for sling.

    * Note the regularization.

  48. AJP Crown says:

    “Tom Faggott has a pea-shooter at home, sir.”
    Tom Faggott?
    Did American children have pea-shooters (small sheet-metal tubes with dried peas as a spat projectile)? They’d be considered either too dangerous today or not dangerous enough.

    My grandmother (b.1903) did use the expression “Physical Jerks”; not “PJ” though.

  49. So the basic problem is that both BrE and AmE have decided to use two words to cover three different sorts of weapon: the Roman siege engine that uses torsion and a pivoting arm to fling a stone, called a catapult or onager; the long strip of cords and fabric whirled round the head to project a small pellet, called a sling; and the Y-shaped stick with elastic, called either a slingshot or a catapult, neither of which is a particularly good name for it. Wiki informs me that no one has thought of a better one; the Australians apparently call it a shanghai.

    Shakespeare, in Twelfth Night, also mentions a sort of hunting weapon very common in his day (indeed in all days back to antiquity) but now almost completely forgotten: Sir Toby Belch, watching his enemy Malvolio from cover, wishes “O, for a stone-bow to hit him in the eye!” A stone-bow was a crossbow that fired clay or metal bullets rather than quarrels.

    It looks like it should be related to Kusaal lɔb, Mooré lobe “throw”

    Whence BrE “lob”, meaning “throw”? In particular, to throw in a high, lazy arc…

  50. David Marjanović says:

    then let go of one end of the fabric to release the stone at high velocity in what I can only imagine is a more or less random direction.

    If there’s not too much friction with the fabric, the stone continues straight on, so the trick is to find the right point in the circle at which to let go.

    ack emma meant “A.M.”

    …how?

    pea-shooters

    Unknown over here on the mainland, and nobody has had access to dried peas since… perhaps the aftermath of WWII.

    The thing to do in school is to throw little balls of paper at each other, by hand.

  51. I figured out that ack emma meant “A.M.”, but it wasn’t till many years later that I learned that P.J. meant exercise of the gymnastic sort, jumping-jacks perhaps, and much later that I found out it stood for physical jerks.

    “Ack Emma”, of course, is simply the old British military phonetic alphabet for AM – not used since the 1950s, when we went over to the current “Alfa Bravo” system, and now surviving only in “ack-ack” for AA, meaning Anti-Aircraft, and “Don Ten” for D10, the old designation for standard insulated copper wire.

  52. The thing to do in school is to throw little balls of paper at each other, by hand.

    Not so. You make little balls of paper and then remove the guts from a Bic pen, and shoot them from that by blowing down one end. If you chew up the paper first you get a much better seal around the projectile and therefore higher muzzle velocity.

  53. Tom Faggott?

    Perfectly normal (though not common) English surname. Probably derived from French surname “Fagot” I would guess.

  54. PlasticPaddy says:

    @dm
    British Army radiotelephony spelling alphabet
    Source: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allied_military_phonetic_spelling_alphabets
    The codes may have started as a railway or ship signalman’s code but I cannot find a reference for this.
    @dm, ajay
    Chewing up or at least moistening the paper balls with saliva greatly enhanced the enjoyment of the thrower/shooter and the discomfort of the (not always intended) victim.

  55. You make little balls of paper and then remove the guts from a Bic pen, and shoot them from that by blowing down one end.

    A decommissioned fighter jet—a MIG-19, to be exact—was installed in my schoolyard when I was in 2nd or 3rd grade. It was a real godsend: almost all the boys got a piece of piping from inside it and used it exactly for that purpose.

  56. A ball pen can be used in another way. You wrap around one end of a short length of rubber around the tip end, stretch it by the other, hold it down, take an aim, and shoot at someone by releasing the other end.

  57. AJP Crown says:

    A ball pen can be used in another way.

    The pen is mightier than the sword, aka “many wearing rapiers are afraid of goose quills.” – Hamlet, Act 2, ii. W. Shakespeare… And that’s Numberwang!

    Ok, it’s Numberwang because I brought back Hamlet from way upthread.

  58. David Eddyshaw says:

    [Kusaal lɔb, Mooré lobe “throw”]
    …Whence BrE “lob”, meaning “throw”? In particular, to throw in a high, lazy arc…

    Undoubtedly. Another one for Victor Mair. Also an excuse to cite the Kusaasi proverb

    Ba pʋ nɔkid na’abinni lɔbigid naafɔ.
    “They don’t throw cow dung at the cow.” i.e. You don’t carry coals to Newcastle.

  59. David Eddyshaw says:

    Re WW1 signallers’ code: Toc H establishments were still a fairly familiar sight when I was a boy.

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

  60. Wiki informs me that no one has thought of a better one; the Australians apparently call it a shanghai.

    The Russians call it a рогатка [rogatka] ‘little horned thing,’ which is a great name. I propose we borrow it.

  61. David Eddyshaw says:

    (I see that the Toc H article seems, remarkably, to have been the scene of what seems to be a peculiarly mean-spirited intervention by the Wikicops. “This article relies too much on references to primary sources.” Hmmm … Was will das Wiki?)

  62. Rodger C says:

    The thing to do in school is to throw little balls of paper at each other, by hand.

    In my experience they could be made more coherent, and more interesting, by varied amounts of saliva. Hence the name ‘spitball.’ When I was ten I wrote, by popular demand of my classmates, a treatise on them, my first original work of nonfiction. (I was in a class full of kids two years older and was still very bored most of the time, hence I developed this skill.) Bic pens not having been invented yet, they were launched either by hand or by ruler. Wooden or metal rulers had different effects, which I carefully described. Unfortunately my research was interrupted.

  63. Trond Engen says:

    ajay: called either a slingshot or a catapult, neither of which is a particularly good name for it.

    Norwegian sprettert, derived from sprette “bounce” with the still somewhat productive suffix -ert, borrowed colloquially from seamen’s Dutch and repurposed as an instrumental nominalizer.

    I distinctly remember dried peas from the late seventies. I’m pretty sure the only customers were elementary school boys. We used it for blåserør. Nobody came with a MiG to our schoolyard, or an F-16 for that matter, so we used the horizontal bars from plastic coathangers. I remember that when I was about eight, my maternal grandfather beacme the innocent victim of a drive-by attack on me. He was hit in the eye with a pea from one of the neighbour kids, just as he came visiting.

    The best sprettert ammunition was the krampe, made by bending a short piece of steel wire or coated copper wire into a V-shape. Burned like hell itself when it hit your bare thigh. They were famously dangerous. I was too well-behaved to use them, but not to have friends who did And not to be hit.

  64. The Russians call it a рогатка [rogatka] ‘little horned thing,’ which is a great name. I propose we borrow it.

    What about frombola (starting at 3:30 in)?

  65. bending a short piece of steel wire or coated copper wire into a V-shape

    It was aluminium wire in my school, and it was great.

  66. A decommissioned fighter jet—a MIG-19, to be exact—was installed in my schoolyard when I was in 2nd or 3rd grade

    Perhaps you might be so kind as to go into a bit more detail on this one? Was this in lieu of more conventional playground equipment like swings? (Now trying to think what country would have a surplus of old Warsaw Pact airframes and not enough money for swings. Eritrea?)

  67. Well, the school was next door to Cantonment 22 in Tashkent, and about half the students were the children of army or aviation officers. Another decommissioned fighter jet, a MiG-1517, is still there, within some four or five hundred meters of:the school:

    https://mytashkent.uz/2013/07/08/gde-stoit-samolet/

    It was too high for us to get into it, alas!

  68. I wonder if anyone used clothes pegs to shoot matchsticks out of.

    First, you need a wooden clothes peg like this.
    The know how is shown here:
    http://igrushka.kz/vip58/spikat.php

  69. David Marjanović says:

    Chewing up or at least moistening the paper balls with saliva greatly enhanced the enjoyment of the thrower/shooter and the discomfort of the (not always intended) victim.

    That’s too inefficient to have large-scale battles (with even more collateral damage) with. Storing handfuls of ammo in your desk for days or weeks also becomes harder that way.

  70. But every battle is different and requires different matériel. Didn’t they teach you anything in Staff College?

  71. When I was in school, the usual way of shooting missiles at classmates involved taking a small piece of paper, folded over many times to make it long, thing, and stiff, then halfway folded along the perpendicular axis, to make a V shape. You stretched a rubber band between two fingers, caught the band in the crotch of the V, pulled it back, and shot. What was remarkable about this was that everyone at my middle and high schools called this a “wedgie,” rather than using the word for underwear pulling. (Several people have refused to believe me that about that last fact, but it’s true.)

    Pea shooters were known but would have been considered very old fashioned—although my very handy father-in-law more recently made a couple of fancy pea shooters for his grandsons, complete with a supply of dried peas.

  72. the usual way of shooting missiles at classmates involved taking a small piece of paper, folded over many times to make it long, thing, and stiff, then halfway folded along the perpendicular axis, to make a V shape. You stretched a rubber band between two fingers, caught the band in the crotch of the V, pulled it back, and shot.

    That we did, too.
    Another way to use duraluminium wire is to make a frame for a catapult, like the bottommost one here:

    https://dubikvit.livejournal.com/653082.html

  73. David Marjanović says:

    “This article relies too much on references to primary sources.”

    That probably means “tell your readers what’s in those sources, don’t just tell them to go there”.

    to make a V shape

    *facepalm*

    U-Hakerl! How could I forget!

    underwear pulling

    Anybody who tried that over here would be ridiculed for their sexual proclivities for years.

  74. don’t throw cow dung at the cow

    I intend to use it in the sense of “don’t feed trolls”, not with the intended meaning “don’t travel to Tula with your samovar”. Though, I didn’t need to use either of those in ages.

  75. John Cowan says:

    the Roman siege engine that uses torsion and a pivoting arm to fling a stone, called a catapult or onager

    The original Greek katapeltes was basically an oversized crossbow, and consequently powered by tension. As the prefix cata- implies, it was mounted on the city wall and fired at the besiegers below. L. Sprague de Camp wrote a novel about its development by the military engineer Zopyros, The Arrows of Hercules, which is also a slightly displaced account of his wartime experiences at the Philadelphia Navy Yard doing military R & D. (Asimov and Heinlein were also there, though assigned to different projects.)

    either a slingshot or a catapult, neither of which is a particularly good name for it

    If I hadn’t grown up on British “children’s” literature and had only met the British sense of catapult later, I would certainly concede at once that a slingshot is a rather small, but valid, example of a tension catapult. It’s hard to make such things until you have access to a substance that is highly elastic over the range of forces that an unaided human can comfortably exert, and rubber was unknown in Europe until the early 18C or so. (The Nazis attempted to make it from the latex in dandelion sap, but failed miserably because of both quantity and quality issues.) Steel is even more elastic, but the range of usable forces is much higher, which is why crossbows need cranks.

    Did American children have pea-shooters?

    Definitely. Amazon will cheerfully sell me a two-foot-long peashooter for about $35. The World Pea Shooting Competition has been held annually since 1971 in Witcham, a delightfully named village near Ely (another delightfully named place, though Eely would have been a better spelling on grounds of both etymology and pronunciation). These peas are in fact made of putty so that they will stick to the target (where their positions can be measured) and are harmless to the spectators. There are Open, Women’s, and Youth championships. Contestants have come from all parts of the Anglosphere as well as the Netherlands.

    Whence BrE “lob”, meaning “throw”?

    Wouldn’t it be pretty to think so? But no, this lob is from lob ‘lump’, originally ‘anything that hangs or dangles’, which is why Bilbo calls the giant spiders “Lazy Lob and Crazy Cob” in his taunting song.

    nobody has had access to dried peas

    I can buy them in bags like other kinds of dried beans at any supermarket, though in general I find un-drying beans tedious and stick with canned or frozen varieties. (Pro tip: shelled green soybeans, or edamame, freeze much better than peas, and are similar in flavor, color, and consistency. Microwaving them doesn’t seem to damage them, also unlike peas.)

    Chewing up or at least moistening the paper balls with saliva greatly enhanced the enjoyment of the thrower/shooter and the discomfort of the (not always intended) victim.

    Which is why a baseball that has had spit (with or without chewing tobacco juice in it) or petroleum jelly, applied to it is semi-ironically known as a spitball. Its behavior is almost impossible to foresee, since it is thrown almost without spin (it slips off the pitcher’s fingers) and it dries as it flies. When it was banned in 1919-20, seventeen professional spitballers were grandfathered and allowed to continue throwing spitballs until their retirement; the last legal spitballer retired in 1934.

    Numberwang

    I think that should be spelled Nummerzwang, or compulsion by numbers: a disease from which economists often suffer.

    You don’t carry coals to Newcastle.

    And so Dorothy Parker thus:

    I met a man the other day —
    A kindly man, and serious —
    Who viewed me in a thoughtful way,
    And spoke me so, and spoke me thus:

    “Oh, dallying’s a sad mistake;
    ‘Tis craven to survey the morrow!
    Go give your heart, and if it break —
    A wise companion is Sorrow.

    “Oh, live, my child, nor keep your soul
    To crowd your coffin when you’re dead….”
    I asked his work; he dealt in coal,
    And shipped it up the Tyne, he said.

    The giveaway title, which I hope is merely editorial, is “To Newcastle”.

    That probably means “tell your readers what’s in those sources, don’t just tell them to go there”.

    Primary source is a technical term for something written by a participant or observer of the event described; secondary sources are those that classify and summarize primary sources, typically written by scholars; tertiary sources are review articles, popularizations, and compendia like Wikipedia. WP discourages, without forbidding, the use of primary sources, as close-up observers (never mind participants) are often biased.

    Sometimes there is no better source for the plot of a book than the book itself (primary), but finding someone else’s plot summary (secondary) is almost always preferred, unless the summary is itself tendentious. “Wikipedia is about verifiability, not truth.”

    Anybody who tried that over here

    Alas, in the U.S. underwear pulling (upward, hence the term wedgie) is just another of the common acts of bullying commonly dismissed as “practical jokes”. (Even in verbal jokes there is commonly a victim to whom the events are not funny at all, like the Chinese waiter being taught Yiddish under the impression that it’s English.)

  76. David Marjanović says:

    I can buy them in bags like other kinds of dried beans at any supermarket

    *massive culture shock*

    spitball

    *lightbulb moment* So that’s what spitballing means!

    compulsion by numbers

    That sense of “number” is Zahl; Nummer is restricted to numbers as labels (“May I introduce my number one… his name is… Number… One”).

    Primary source is a technical term

    Oh. Yeah, we don’t have those in the natural sciences, other than the objects themselves, so I’m not familiar with that term.

    just another of the common acts of bullying commonly dismissed as “practical jokes”

    There’s lots of bullying over here, too. Our homophobia is just different.

  77. AJP Crown says:

    nobody has had access to dried peas since… perhaps the aftermath of WWII.

    Dried peas are an essential (so I’m told) ingredient in pea soup, the very thick one with ham in it.
    https://www.amazon.co.uk/Hodmedods-Great-British-Peas-Badgers/dp/B00HOCKJ4Y?ref_=fsclp_pl_dp_10

    From here:

    Dried peas, small but nutritionally mighty, are a source of cholesterol-lowering fiber. The high fiber prevents blood sugar from rising rapidly after a meal.

    It still rises just as rapidly as white sugar. Just a bit later. (I know this from a sensor that checks my blood-sugar every 5 mins and it goes for all these so-called long-acting carbohydrates.)

  78. WP discourages, without forbidding, the use of primary sources

    American criminal justice system is supposed to prefer primary sources to the secondary ones. Time to create adversarial Wikipedia!

    Oh. Yeah, we don’t have those [primary sources] in the natural sciences, other than the objects themselves, so I’m not familiar with that term.

    But of course you do. You conduct an experiment and describe it in your paper (primary), someone, even you yourself, writes a review article (secondary). The distinction between secondary and tertiary sources is necessarily blurred.

  79. David Marjanović says:

    cholesterol-lowering fiber

    Yeah, good luck with that.

    You conduct an experiment and describe it in your paper (primary), someone, even you yourself, writes a review article (secondary).

    We do use the terms “primary” and “secondary literature” for these, but they seem more like “secondary” and “tertiary” by the definition given above.

  80. Why? How could there be a source more primary than the original paper?

  81. David Marjanović says:

    The investigated object or experiment itself. The original paper is repeatable and can even be improved upon, rather unlike a primary source.

  82. @David Marjanović: Spitballing naturally means throwing out ideas, without much attention to whether they will be on target.

    Incidentally, a proper spinless pitch in modern baseball is called a “knuckleball.” The name comes from the way the ball is held, with two fingernails, leaving the knuckles of those fingers protruding above the ball. Knuckleballs are not as unpredictable as old-fashioned spitballs, since an adulterant on the ball would cause addition wobbling in the air. Even today, it is not so uncommon for pitchers to try to sneak a little bit of scuz onto their balls to make them curve around more.

    Major league knuckleball pitchers often have very long careers, since they do not throw as hard as typical fastball pitchers, and so their arms can last longer. The greatest knuckleballer ever was Phil Niekro (whose younger brother Joe was also a major league knuckleballer). Phil Niekro’s lifetime record was 318–274, well into Hall of Fame territory, but what is most remarkable is that he got 121 of his wins after the age of 40, which is way, way more than anyone else past that age. He eventually retired from playing at age 48, while Joe played until he was 43.

  83. The Washington Senators (my team as a boy) once had four knuckleball pitchers as their starting rotation (1950?).

  84. Jen in Edinburgh says:

    I see where you’re coming from, but that would seem to make the historical event itself the primary source, instead of the letter or diary or newspaper article describing it.

    Science’s closest equivalent might be the lab book or database of measurements or whatever – the paper seems to have already got to the secondary stage of considering the event in context rather than simply describing it.

  85. It’s not all that different from humanities. If some church-father quoted a heretic and that quotation is the only one that we have left from the wrong-handed guy, then the church-father’s book is the primary source for that quote. His musings about the quote do not change the fact. The musings themselves could be a primary source for the church-father’s views and selection criteria for a book of church-fatherly excerpts, if they are put forward by the collators, would be a primary source on said collectors approach to their work. It’s all relative! As Galileo arguably said after an apple hit him on the head.

  86. As Galileo arguably said after an apple hit him on the head.
    According to my primary sources, he said “Eppur si muove il maledetto frutto!”

  87. David Marjanović says:

    I see where you’re coming from, but that would seem to make the historical event itself the primary source, instead of the letter or diary or newspaper article describing it.

    The historical event is not accessible. To study it, we need to study “the letter or diary or newspaper article describing it” – primary sources.

    Prehistoric events (or processes or states) aren’t accessible either. To study them, we need to study rocks and fossils – so those are the primary sources; and the scientific papers about them are secondary sources.

    Likewise, spectra are primary sources about the stars. We can’t collect light, but we can just look at the same star again.

    It’s different for generalities of physics, chemistry or present-day biology: experiments are like primary sources in that they’re the closest we can get, but like secondary sources in that they’re reproducible like observations of primary sources.

  88. John Cowan says:

    Reproducible is a relative term. When the U.S. began to refurbish some of its older nuclear weapons in 2000, a necessary ingredient codenamed FOGBANK was required in the process. Unfortunately, the FOGBANK production line had been shut down in 1989, so a new facility had to be built from scratch. Also unfortunately, all the people who had worked on it had died, retired, or left.

    After nine years of struggle with existing documentation, a new facility was operational and refurbished weapons were being shipped to the U.S. Navy. One of the many roadblocks was that an ingredient of FOGBANK as originally manufactured contained an impurity that could neither be detected nor removed by 1980s technology. In the new production process, higher-purity ingredients were available and were used, but this particular impurity turned out to be essential to the making of usable FOGBANK and so had to be artificially added. Unclassified paper on the effort, pp. 20-21 (PDF pp. 22-23).

  89. @John Cowan: That sound like a real-world version of the impurity in “Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mister Hye.”

  90. AJP Crown says:

    Y’all might want to watch Planet of the Humans on Youtube (free), produced by Michael Moore. It’s a quite disturbing movie about our palliative attitude towards global warming and overpopulation. There are few groups it doesn’t attack, mostly for lying, so see it before it gets taken down.

  91. AJP Crown says:

    Reproducible is a relative term. When the U.S. began to refurbish some of its older nuclear weapons in 2000

    (It was John’s remark that reminded me because apparently those huge wind turbines you see everywhere nowadays only last ten or twenty years before they have to be completely replaced, the same for solar panels & mirrored reflectors.)

  92. Peter Bradshaw’s Graun review of Planet of the Humans.

  93. AJP Crown says:

    Oh, I didn’t see that. Yes, I was wondering about Greta, though I’d like to know what he means by “Didn’t dare criticise”, and nuclear. I think nuclear is a pretty good option in the current circs (so does Monbiot), but that’s a whole nother can o’ worms.

  94. John Cowan says:

    If we are going to go nuclear again, let’s go with thorium-fueled molten-salt reactors. “Fail-safe technologies fail by failing to fail safe”, but a pot at atmospheric pressure with a plug in the bottom that melts on overheating (rather than forming steam or hydrogen bubbles) and allows the salt to spread out and cool, is about as idiot-proof as nuclear technologies can be.

  95. Sounds good to me.

    I’d like to know what he means by “Didn’t dare criticise”

    I assume because Greta is a secular saint at the moment and if you trashed her you’d alienate absolutely everybody. Sort of like trashing Mister Rogers.

  96. Let’s face it, nobody much cares if you attack Al Gore.

  97. AJP Crown says:

    I know that, but it wouldn’t have stopped this guy. I just don’t think he’s got anything on her. She’s only sixteen or whatever it is.

    Gore forms a company with a guy called David Blood from Goldman Sachs and he wonders whether they’ll call it Blood & Gore (they don’t).

  98. Lars Mathiesen says:

    They interviewed a guy on the radio this morning to the effect that the footage is up to ten years old, so for instance everything they say about electric car batteries is basically irrelevant because they are made differently now.

    Be that as it may, nobody had heard about Greta ten years ago.

  99. David Marjanović says:

    overpopulation

    Overrated. Even if nothing happens – no Trumpocalypse, no Peak Oil, no flooding of Bangladesh, nothing –, the world’s population will have begun to shrink before the end of the century.

    If we are going to go nuclear again, let’s go with thorium-fueled molten-salt reactors.

    Seconded.

    sixteen

    Seventeen now – and lots of unimaginative adults hate her for daring to know anything at such a young age.

  100. AJP Crown says:

    the footage is up to ten years old, so for instance everything they say about electric car batteries is basically irrelevant

    Hmm. Not really. His main point is that we should forget clean electricity altogether because it ain’t gonna happen. An infinitely increasing population on a limited sized planet is doomed. DOOMED. There’s a lot about Elon Musk building this enormous battery factory in the Mojave desert and it shows them bulldoze and grind up all these 500 y. o. Joshua trees. I could go on but you should see it. I’m sure there’s some misinformation, it’s certainly tendentious like Michael Moore’s stuff (MM produced it). He says 75% of the non-fossil energy consumed in Germany comes from biomass & biofuel and only the rest is wind & solar. Biomass contains animal fat from dead cows & horses and the rest is ground-up trees, some from rainforests – it’s not reeeally the kind of thing they want you to know, burning animals & trees as the alternative to oil & gas. And everyone in California knows the Sierra Club is funded by the likes of Weyerhaeuser and the Koch Bros. None of this is basically irrelevant, even the bits that may be out of date.

  101. The problem with the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant was nothing to do with the active fuel overheating and the core melting down. The modern water-moderated designs are extremely safe for preventing that. The problem was that after shutdown, they still had an enormous quantity of hot fuel, both in the scrammed reactor cores and in the cooling ponds. You have to keep circulating coolant to keep the used fuel rods from just melting everything around them, which is what happened.

    I am very much in favor of improved nuclear power, and I think reactors should be designed using the safest modern technology. That may mean molten salt reactors, but it is not clear, since the molten salt reactors have never been operated on commercial energy scales for decades-long periods. There are a number of real difficulties these reactors would face. In particular, while the small-scale test reactors that were constructed in the 1950s through 1970s were able to use passive cooling, active cooling would still probably be needed for larger reactors running at higher temperatures, and that opens them up to the same kinds of failure modes as Fukushima Daiichi.

  102. None of this is basically irrelevant, even the bits that may be out of date.

    It may not be irrelevant, but it’s so overstated as to be pretty useless, like those guys in the ’70s (OK, Paul Ehrlich) who hollered that we were all going to starve within the decade. For most people, overstated doomsterism is not a call to action but a signal to switch the channel. Of course, as you say, that’s Michael Moore’s thing, which is why I haven’t paid attention to him for years. Roger & Me was a lot of fun, though.

  103. David Marjanović says:

    An infinitely increasing population

    As I just said…

  104. John Cowan says:

    The Sierra Club, like Shaw’s version of the Salvation Army in Major Barbara, will take anybody’s money. The question is, what will they do with it?

    By the way, WP says that Thunberg ends in /j/. How did that happen with no front vowel following? (Not that I know anything about the history of Swedish phonology.)

  105. David L says:

    He says 75% of the non-fossil energy consumed in Germany comes from biomass & biofuel

    In principle, burning biomass is carbon-neutral, because you’re putting back into the atmosphere carbon that was removed only a few decades ago. Not like burning fossil fuel, where you’re putting back into the atmosphere carbon that was removed a few hundred million years ago, when CO2 was 1,000 ppm or thereabouts.

  106. David Eddyshaw says:

    like Shaw’s version of the Salvation Army in Major Barbara, will take anybody’s money

    Pecunia non olet.

  107. Trond Engen says:

    John C.: By the way, WP says that Thunberg ends in /j/. How did that happen with no front vowel following? (Not that I know anything about the history of Swedish phonology.)

    Traditionally also in Eastern Norwegian. It’s an analogical backformation to the stem from the definite forms. It works on g after r and l. <berget> [‘bærje] “the mountain”, <elgen> [‘æɽjen] “the moose”, <helga> [‘hæɽja] “the weekend”, yielding singular forms [bærj], [æɽj], [hæɽj]. This could probably be used to say something about the relative chronology of the development of the definite suffixes into their modern forms and that of retroflexion.

    .Something similar happened in Eastern Danish though, with no retroflexion in sight. Verbs like <selge> “sell” < sælje and <velge> “choose” < vælje got their <g> from analogy with verbs with inherited *g pronounced [j].

  108. Trond Engen says:

    In principle, burning biomass is carbon-neutral

    I think it helps to think of this in terms of long and short carbon cycles. The short cycle is biomass to atmosphere to biomass*. The long cycle is biomass to rock to atmosphere to biomass. The balance of carbon in biomass and atmosphere is important, but nothing as important as the balance with that bound in rock. The differential equations are very different.

    *) Seeing the ocean as part of the atmosphere. That’s a simplification.

  109. AJP Crown says:

    Pecunia non olet.
    To continue a theme, Vespasian invented the vespasiano – ‘spending a penny’ at a public toilet.

    I haven’t seen many Michael Moore – I nearly wrote Roger Moore – movies either but I don’t think people switch him off. I’m glad I saw this (and he didn’t make it.)

  110. AJP Crown says:

    I am very much in favor of improved nuclear power…

    I meant to say thanks for your explanation, Brett.

  111. This could probably be used to say something about the relative chronology of the development of the definite suffixes into their modern forms and that of retroflexion.

    Or perhaps way earlier than that, judging by the following Sw->Fi loans (no retroflexion, afaik, in finlandssvenska):

    färg -> väri ‘colour’
    korg -> kori ‘basket’

  112. Trond Engen says:

    I’m outside in the sun, so no well-researched reply.

    I meant retroflexion in the case of -lg. I don’t know if there are examples of Fi. -li from Sw. -lg.

    IIRC, Sw. färg, No. farge is actually a fairly recent borrowing from Low German, and the forms suggest mediation through Danish with nativization, an effect related to the false g above.

    Sketch:
    farwe interpreted à la mode jutoise as an underlying farge. This becomes the written form. It also leads to Eastern Danish and successively Sw. and Norw. [farje]. In the meantime Standard Da. picks the Jutish form, and the written standard follows suit to <farve>, which in turn leads to Urban Norw. [farve]. Sw. makes an analogical umlauted plural färjer and then a backformed singular färj, which is borrowed into Finnish. Unless it’s the same development of short a before rC that turns varg, ark into [værj], [ærk], but that’s considered pretty rustic in both Norway and Sweden.

  113. Trond Engen says:

    I also meant to suggest that this could indicate awareness of the correspondence and nativization when the word was borrowed into Finnish.

  114. I don’t know if there are examples of Fi. -li from Sw. -lg.

    tali

    Finnish
    (index ta)

    Etymology
    From Swedish talg (“tallow”).

    Pronunciation
    IPA(key): /ˈtɑli/, [ˈt̪ɑli]
    Rhymes: -ɑli
    Syllabification: ta‧li
    Noun
    tali

    1) suet (fatty tissue that surrounds and protects the kidneys)
    2) tallow (hard animal fat obtained from suet)
    3) sebum (thick oily substance, secreted by the sebaceous glands of the skin)

    https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/tali#Finnish

  115. Trond Engen says:

    Yes, I think -lg. -rg > -lj, -rj must be a general East Scandinavian development rather than a result of the Central Scandinavian retroflexion. This would also make it earlier and fit better with unreduced -i- in the definite articles, It’s just that their borders overlap around here. Its a little odd that the development doesn’t turn -k into [ç] in the same position, since it does in others. Maybe the back-formation didn’t happen because there was no inherited parallels, and the conservative indefinite form was instead reinstated in the definite.

    I was trying to find an example of -a- before -lg pronounced [æ], but gave up. Talg does the trick, being pronounced [tæɽj] in the dialects. Tertit “synonym of ‘kjøttmeis’ “great tit”” is etymologically “tallow tit”.

  116. varg must have been an earlier loan because varas:

    Estonian
    Etymology
    From Proto-Finnic *vargas, borrowed from Proto-Germanic *wargaz.

    Noun
    varas (genitive varga, partitive varast)

    thief

    Finnish
    (index va)

    Etymology
    From Proto-Finnic *vargas, borrowed from Proto-Germanic *wargaz.

    Pronunciation
    IPA(key): /ˈʋɑrɑs/, [ˈʋɑrɑs̠]
    Rhymes: -ɑrɑs
    Syllabification: va‧ras
    Noun
    varas

    thief

    https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/varas#Estonian

    Tertit

    talitiainen

    Finnish
    Etymology
    tali +‎ tiainen

    Noun
    talitiainen

    (bird) great tit, Parus major
    titmouse, tit (bird of the genus Parus)

    Synonyms
    talitintti

    https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/talitiainen

  117. David Marjanović says:

    So, no general merger of residual [ɣ] or [ɰ] into [j]?

  118. Trond Engen says:

    I don’t know. How would the difference manifest itself? I’ll check what Norsk språkhistorie has to say later tonight.

  119. Lars Mathiesen says:

    Danish has [æ̘] in talg where the g is etymological (= ‘tallow’) and in salg and valg where it is not (= ‘sale’ and ‘choice’). But then we like our +ATR [æ̘] so we can detect Swedes. I did look in the ODS now and it claims a pronunciation something like [tæ̘lɣ] a hundred years ago, but I do not know how to tell whether the backformation from definite forms was based on spelling or pronunciation — they do quote an old grammarian to the effect that the spelling salg was (just?) a way to mark a short vowel when you didn’t write double consonants in Auslaut.

    ([æ] is the traditional notation, but it’s actually a bit more open than TRAP — more like [a̘]. It belongs to /a/ in any case).

    @DM, I’m not sure what would constitute a counterexample either. (But Da borg is [b̥ɔɐw], more or less, to get back to the original question).

  120. Stu Clayton says:

    @Lars: salg and valg where it is not (= ‘sale’ and ‘choice’)

    Is valg a relative of German Wahl ?

  121. Lars Mathiesen says:

    I don’t know if valg and salg go back to PG *walą and *salō or were newly formed to (descendants of) *waljaną/*saljaną, but in any case they must have got the j-interpreted-as-g from the verbs. OTOH Swedish has val and salu- in compounds, the oblique of OSw sala.

    (I really wanted to use !sal in Swedish, it felt strange that only försäljning was available. A sale (in the low price campaign sense) is Da udsalg but Sw utförsäljning, understandably replaced by REA! on signs).

  122. Trond Engen says:

    Norsk språkhistorie came in 4 volumes in the years 2016-2019. It’s good, but it’s not an easy reference work, since everything is treated in parallel chapters in different volumes. The question at hand is first treated with general phonological development in in vol. 1 by Gjert Kristoffersen and Arne Torp in the chapter Fonologi, then with historical dialectology in vol. 2 by Ivar Berg, Edit Bugge, Unn Røyneland and Helge Sandøy in the chapter Geografisk og sosial variasjon, and finally summarized in Vol. 4 by Endre Mørck in the chapter Seinmiddelalderen (1350-1536).

    Short version:

    The -i- disappeared from the definite article during the 14th century, well before generalization of forms between cases and noun paradigms.

    Retroflexion came in the same period. The first possible examples showing identical outcomes of assimilation of -r- and -l- to s are from the late 13th century. The first examples of written l for inherited are a century younger, around 1370.

    The long a in e.g. hard and gard means that the cluster -rð was simplified after a: > [ɔ:], but before the lengthening of the vowel in short monosyllables. The long u in e.g. bord and jord means it happened o: > [u:]. This also places it in the 14th century.

    As for -rg, -ɽg > -rj, -ɽj, it’s not said anything specific of the timing, but it occurs very occasionally in the sources. Nothing is said of the backformed indefinites. Nothing is said of the alveolar l either, but note that the change as described is limited to the retroflex flap. It can be a geographical coincidence.

    So all this essentially happened at once, or in quick successive order, supported by the fact that dialectal differences today suggest that the order wasn’t the same everywhere.

  123. Thanks!

  124. Trond Engen says:

    Errata:

    the years 2016-2018.
    simplified after the change a: > [ɔ:],
    happened before the change o: > [u:].
    That could be a geographical coincidence, though.

  125. Trond Engen says:

    … none of this should be a surprise. If I were to take a shot on the dating of any single change, I’d say 14th century. There’s a reason they draw the line between Old (West) Norse and Middle Norwegian in 1350.

  126. Lars Mathiesen says:

    I bought the first 3 volumes of the new Dansk Sproghistorie for my birthday 3 weeks ago, and it’s organized in much the same way as the Norwegian one — which means that I haven’t learned to find stuff like that in it. I know how to navigate in the old Skautrup one, but that feels a bit silly when the new one with hopefully better knowledge is standing next to it.

    I’ll take a walk and a nap and see what I can find about Danish then.

  127. Stu Clayton says:

    Isn’t there a “Migrating from Skautrup” preface ?

  128. Sw. färg, No. farge is actually a fairly recent borrowing from Low German, and the forms suggest mediation through Danish with nativization, an effect related to the false g above.

    korg looks similar:

    Etymology
    From Old Swedish korgher, from Old Norse kǫrf, karfa, from Middle Low German korf, from Old Saxon *korf, from Proto-Germanic *kurbaz, from either Proto-Germanic *kurbiz, Proto-Germanic *kribjǭ, or a borrowing from Latin corbis.

    https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/korg

  129. Trond Engen says:

    Lars M.: I bought the first 3 volumes of the new Dansk Sproghistorie for my birthday 3 weeks ago, and it’s organized in much the same way as the Norwegian one

    It’s conspicuous that they were published at the same time and organized in the same way. One would think the committees worked together. Should we hope for a final, common volume with a cross-Scandinavian scope?

  130. Trond Engen says:

    juha: korg looks similar

    Yes, I forgot about that. I’m out in the sun again, but I seem to recall that it”s also one of those words that have a plausible source form for a loan from Uralic to Germanic.

  131. John Cowan says:

    Thanks, Trond et al. for the detailed explanations.

    Blood & Gore

    When I read this to Gale, there were several fits of highly infectious giggling.

    The problem with the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant

    … was in part that we simply don’t know how to build infrastructure that can survive large earthquakes, much less tsunamis.

    Seeing the ocean as part of the atmosphere. That’s a simplification.

    If the atmosphere was unbreathable, we might not see it as very different from the ocean if we lived near the interface (on a raft, say). Hal Clement’s 1980 novel The Nitrogen Fix is set on a future Earth in which the evolution of highly efficient nitrogen-fixing bacteria has eliminated essentially all the oxygen in the atmosphere, leaving it nitrogen with small amounts of water, NO, and CO2; the ocean is 0.01N nitric acid, enough to bleach human skin and hair. Most humans survive in sealed cities with tightly controlled population by ruthless disposal of the excess teenagers (but are losing population anyway for lack of elementary accounting controls), but some live on just such rafts.

  132. AJP Crown says:

    Blood & Gore
    When I read this to Gale, there were several fits of highly infectious giggling.
    Dyv & I had the same reaction. And what a missed opportunity. They ended up calling it something totally bland; Generation Investment Management, I think. GIM. Decade Investment Management might have worked (Blood also runs an LED lightbulb company).

  133. AJP Crown says:

    DM: overpopulation Overrated. Even if nothing happens the world’s population will have begun to shrink before the end of the century.
    Sure but whether it’s overrated depends on how you’re defining overpopulation. A lot of the time it’s a Malthusian ‘Will there be enough food to go around?’ and apparently there will be. I’m more interested in the fact that human overpopulation affects all living things: coral, plants, insects, fish, birds, mice and rhinos as well as humans; that the human pop. created 20-50 trillion bits of microplastic in the ocean before anyone noticed, that a population reduction would reduce the CO2 emitted as well as improving the general quality of life (this became evident immediately the lockdowns started). Etc. We shouldn’t wait until 2100 to deal with that. I say “we”… by then I’ll have singlehandedly reduced the population by one.

  134. AJP Crown says:

    No subscript? A test:
    CO2 – Carbon Dioxide

  135. Nope, no subscripts or superscripts are allowed.

  136. AJP Crown says:

    Huh.

  137. John Cowan says:

    Well, you can: CO₂. You have to use the Unicode character (type “& #x2082” without the space), not the markup tag <sub>2</sub>.

  138. David L says:

    we simply don’t know how to build infrastructure that can survive large earthquakes, much less tsunamis.

    I have a thought — don’t build nuclear reactors (or pesticide factories, for that matter) in low-lying coastal areas where tsunamis are a known hazard.

  139. @David L: Anything that requires active cooling is always going to be vulnerable, although at Fukushima Daiichi they made one really dumb design mistake. The reactor building were designed to be able to withstand an earthquake and not to be vulnerable to a tidal wave. (Of course, capacity to withstand a quake is always going to be a matter of degree. If the focus of a magnitude 8.5 earthquake had been right under the plant, things would have gotten really bad.) However, when the reactor shut down (correctly), power was lost, and the active cooling system had to be switched over to the backup diesel-powered generators. Despite situating the reactors so they would not be vulnerable to a tsunami, the backup generators were placed much lower down and closer to the sea, which meant they were inundated and put out of action, causing the eventual catastrophic overheating. Despite the fact that the backup generators were only likely to be needed in a time of crisis, since they were not part of the primary operation system, nobody bothered to make sure they would survive a crisis.

  140. David L says:

    Thanks, Brett, I didn’t know that.

  141. David Marjanović says:

    Me neither.

  142. AJP Crown says:

    JC: the Unicode character
    Aha. Of course. I see a twinkle of the daylight.

  143. David L says:

    CO₂

    John Cowan, you are a cheating cheater that cheats. That isn’t a subscript, it’s just an eeny-weeny 2.

    Can you do a “superscript”?

  144. John Cowan says:

    Of course: here it is. Do you like² it, or just like it?

    And the same for all other digits.

  145. Blood & Gore
    I remember seeing something like While Bush Quayled and Clinton Gored …

  146. David Marjanović says:

    John Cowan, you are a cheating cheater that cheats. That isn’t a subscript, it’s just an eeny-weeny 2.

    Nope! It’s partially below the line – and we can’t play with font sizes here anyway.

    All superscript and subscript figures are in Unicode. ¹, ² and ³, though, come just after the ASCII block rather than much later with the others; that’s because they’re positioned to fit lowercase letters, as in m³ (cubic meter), rather than uppercase ones.

    ² and ³ are on the German keyboard layout as AltGr+2 and AltGr+3, where AltGr (in the place of the right Alt key) is equivalent to Ctrl+Alt.

    While Bush Quayled and Clinton Gored

    McPain/Failin’

  147. SFReader says:

    And Trump Penced

  148. David L says:

    It’s partially below the line

    Really? It doesn’t look that way on my screen.

    But thank you for the enlightenment about how to do those things.

  149. David Marjanović says:

    It reaches two pixels farther down than the C and the O, yes.

  150. It’s very clearly below the line in my browser.

  151. David L says:

    Well, that’s weird. I’m using Chrome. The bottom of the ‘2’ coincides with the bottom of the letters.

    I apologize for my unworthy and unjustified criticism of Mr Cowan.

  152. AJP Crown says:

    David L, I use Chrome and on my Mac screen John’s 2 extends five pixels below the full stop (but only four below the bottom of the C0).

    I can’t get anything out of Ctrl+Alt+2 but my text is HUGE NOW.
    +++––––––––––––———–––––––––––––––––––

  153. David Eddyshaw says:

    It’s evidently a font thing. It worked when I changed the Ubuntu font to Roboto in Chrome.

  154. David L says:

    I changed the font from the default (Arial, I think) to Calibri, and the little 2 magically moved down a bit. Amazing!

  155. John Cowan says:

    I remember hearing that either the Chinese or the Indians (or both) intend to build power plants with a lot of Th+molten-salt pots rather than one big pot. On the assumption that they don’t all fail or need to be taken out of service at once (and of course earthquakes can make hash of that assumption), passive cooling will suffice.

  156. Trond Engen says:

    India has huge reserves of thorium in the Deccan.

  157. Trond Engen says:

    .. and Norway has reasonably-sized (but maybe not commercially viable) reserves not far from me.

  158. Crawdad Tom says:

    Maybe (?) they can build safe nuclear power plants, but have they found a safe way to deal with the nuclear waste?

  159. Stu Clayton says:

    Waste not, call off the lot. There’s always a downside. Sometimes it can be seen only when you look far enough down the line. Advocates of nuclear power try not to dwell on the waste problem. “Later”.

  160. That’s a great position as long as you have a flawless solution to the problem of how to power the world. If you do, lots of people would love to hear it.

  161. Stu Clayton says:

    What “position” do you see me taking with those few comments I made? Did I say a word against nuclear power ? I did not. I said that advocates of nuclear power try not to dwell on the problem of nuclear waste. Have you found that not to be the case ?

  162. I guess I assumed your “call off the lot” meant you were against it. My apologies.

  163. That said, I disagree that “advocates of nuclear power try not to dwell on the problem of nuclear waste” (unless by “advocates” you mean “advocates who don’t think about things very much,” which is of course like saying “thoughtless people are thoughtless”). There are plenty of advocates of nuclear power who take the waste problem very seriously and are trying to come up with better ways to deal with it.

  164. Stu Clayton says:

    I was trying to riff on “waste not, want not”. In this case, there’s no way to want without (creating) waste, so you must want = do without. It’s a rather heavy-handed riff … I should stick to sarcasm.

    That said, I should have specified “politicians advocating nuclear power”. Or not so much thoughtless people, but devious people. Maybe thoughtless to boot, who knows.

  165. Ah, then we are in agreement.

  166. John Cowan says:

    Molten-salt reactors actually produce essentially no high-level waste, because they burn it. High-level waste, which is long-lived (and therefore only slightly radioactive itself) but produces short-lived and highly radioactive breakdown products, is basically just fuel that is too contaminated with fission products to burn. Reprocessing into regular fuel is possible (and is done at military reactors) but involves several dangers, not least nuclear weapons proliferation from the extracted U-238 and plutonium.

    In a molten-salt reactor, fission products are removed continuously as the salt circulates. Uranium-and-higher are just left in, as they will fission as well as or better than the thorium. Everything else (particularly the nasty xenon, which is a gas and absorbs enough neutrons to squelch the whole reaction) is extracted and used or disposed of (the xenon just bubbles out and then is recaptured, like the CO2 in “natural” fizzywater. The radioactive parts of the result has a half-life of about 300 years instead of 10,000 or so, and takes up about 1/1000 of the space.

    What is more, “spent” solid fuel cores can be tossed into the pot directly, and they will burn too. The fact that (given a supply of thermal neutrons) Th can be changed into fissionable U-233, is just the cherry on the top and means we can keep going a lot longer, since there is about 3 times as much Th as U in the earth’s crust, though both are widely distributed. Interestingly, the beach sand of Kerala province in India is 16% Th, making it the richest ore in the world.

    What we have today is the equivalent of a large wood-burning stove that runs all night to keep you warm, and then in the morning you take out all the ashes and unburnt wood, pour water on it, and throw the whole mess in your backyard, never to be dealt with again. Except that wet wood and ashes don’t poison people for the next ten millennia.

  167. John Cowan says:

    Oops, I misread a table. Kerala sand is 3-5% thorium, because it is monazite. It constitutes 16% of India’s proven reserves. But it’s a lot easier to mine sand than monazite rock.

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