Daily Archives: February 28, 2011


“Oh, this does not bode well.”

Marilyn Frack gazed with consternation at her laptop. In this case, I mean she was looking at her computer. She had been doing a presentation on constellation names when her computer froze on Boötes. She tapped at it a few times and then looked up with a slight pleading in her gaze. Everyone knew what that meant: time for the resident computer geek.

Daryl sighed. He got up and walked up to the table. “Let me have a look at it.”

Marilyn stepped aside. “Well, I guess sometimes these things happen… and one has to pull oneself up by one’s boöte-straps.” She did a Hollywood flex, displaying thigh-high boots below her black leather skirt, with black fishnets to boot.

“Are those cowboy boots, then?” said Philippe Entrecote from the back of the room, in reference to Boötes being the herdsman, from Greek for “ox-driver”.

“Reverse cowgirl, maybe,” Marilyn said, winking at Edgar Frick, her other half.

“Um,” said Daryl, not so much because he had something to say as to divert that line of discourse. “Well, ironically, my usual best efforts are proving bootless. Fittingly, I will have to reboot.”

“Overall more fitting than ironic, then,” I piped up, “since her boots and reboot are related and bootless is not.”

Daryl looked up from the computer. “Reboot and boot up coming from a reference to pulling oneself up by one’s bootstraps, yes,” he said. “Because a part of the operating software loads the rest up.”

“But what do you mean bootless is not?” Marilyn said, sitting on the table edge and peeling off her boots in as provocative a style as she could muster. “It seems related to me.”

“It might or might not be related to you,” I said, “but bootless meaning ‘unavailing’ and to boot meaning ‘in addition’ come from a different root than the Latin root of boot meaning ‘footwear’. They have an old Germanic root meaning ‘good’ or ‘advantage’. We mostly don’t use it as such, but we use a related comparative form all the time.”

Booter?” Marilyn said.

“Perhaps butter,” Edgar leered.

“Well,” said Philippe from the back, “it may be related. He’s referring to the conjectural bat, which may be related to boot; thanks to umlaut, bat in the comparative is better.”

“Better than what?” Marilyn said, disingenuously, with a little smirk.

“A bat might be better used on your computer,” Daryl said, forcing a second reboot.

Marilyn leaned over and batted her eyes at the machine. “Is that better?”

I turned to Philippe. “Did she just call herself a bat?”

“I believe she did,” he said.

“Well,” said Marilyn, turning to us, “here’s boot and reboot.” She flung a boot at me, and one at Philippe to boot. But her efforts were bootless – she missed, and we were not cowed.