Monthly Archives: May 2019

Sweat & Soda

IMG_9919

Not sure where they keep the soda

The only thing in the name of this place that doesn’t practically scream NOT A COFFEE JOINT is the &. And yet. Continue reading

javel

For some reason I have an open, barely used box of Javex2 (“Bleach for Unbleachables”) sitting with the other toxic household chemicals. I vaguely recall needing it a few years ago to get something clean. I guess a bit of lemon juice wouldn’t do for whatever it was.

The origin of the name Javex is pretty clear if you turn to the French side of the box (if you’re not from Canada, that may not make sense until I tell you that all packaging in Canada is in English and French, and boxes usually have an English side and a French side). There it says “Javellisant pour non-Javellisables.” French for ‘bleach’ is javellisant, or eau de Javel, or just plain old javel.

Javel! Isn’t that the villain from Les Misérables? No, no it is not, and how dare you fling mud at this fine word.

Well, you wouldn’t be the only one to fling mud at it or besmirch its character. You see, there is an English word javel that is not related to the French javel and it is not sparkling clean. Continue reading

carp

You can carpe diem, or you can carp all day long.

Yes, I know my use of carpe diem as infinitive complement was grammatically incoherent, since it’s an imperative. It’s also a piece of a different language, so don’t be captious.

Which leads to an obviously important question: is carp as in ‘complain’ related to carpe diem and/or to captious? And do fish come into this? The etymology of all this turns out to be about as interwoven as a carpet, and it has threads of many words, but I’ll try to keep focused on an excerpt. Continue reading

antimony

How is antimony even an element? Or the name for one? Of all the names on the periodic table, antimony has long seemed to me to be the one that most looked like it wandered into the wrong party.

And I don’t just mean because the chemical symbol for antimony, Sb, has nothing in common with the word. Ha! That’s run-of-the-mill. Gold is Au. Lead is Pb. Mercury is Hg. Antimony’s nextdoor neighbour, tin, is Sn. We all eventually learn that these come from the Latin names for the elements, which are often entirely different: aurum, plumbum, hydrargyrum, stannum. In the case of antimony it’s stibium. But, um, gold and lead and tin don’t look anything like Latin or Greek (mercury does, but then hydrargyrum is obviously running over from Greek). Antimony kind of… does? So why does it need another Latin name? Continue reading

ertia

A couple of days ago, Dr. Eugenia Cheng, @DrEugeniaCheng, who is always worth reading, tweeted something that really made me stop and look again:

Omg I occasionally click on the “recommended” articles on my firefox homepage despite my best intentions, and they are universally terrible. I have finally got up the ertia to work out how to stop them appearing.

Ertia! I was, needless to say, plussed. Gruntled, in fact, and entirely combobulated, though a bit chalant. Such a sensical and ept word – and quite feckful and ruly, too. You would expect it to be more inlandish. But it is just not in regular use. Continue reading

bran

You may not like how this ends.

Bran is good for you, right? We make muffins with it. We make cereal with it. Some of us even eat it just as it is – and ready ourselves for a trip to the “throne.” It’s the part of the grain that keeps our system running! Regardless of your moral fibre, you will at least get your physical fibre – that grand old gut feeling – if you’ve got your bran.

But do you like it? Even if you like how it comes out in the end – which will depend entirely on your personal needs – do you like how it goes in? Do you find it flavourful? Or even pleasant? I mean, we’re eating seed husks here. Not all of us are game for that. Continue reading

negative

Negative is a negative word. Right?

Are you positive? Continue reading