or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Free Association 4

It's all just bits and pieces these days. Jim just got a new computer, so I just got The Sims 2 (he has a fast new Windows machine, the Mac version hasn't been released yet, and even if it had been it wouldn't play on my four-year-old Mac), and who can focus when you have all these little dependents?

But who am I kidding? This is the way my brain works all the time. One thing triggers another in a rush of connections and ideas. Hardly any depth, but considerable breadth. That's how I've always been: if I were a ten-year-old today I expect I'd be diagnosed with a medical problem and ladled full of Ritalin or Strattera or whatever the dose du jour is.


From a recent Wired.com piece, a very strange usage indeed:

"The company now dresses its PCs in glossy cases with a shark's fin Wi-Fi antenna and glowering LED indicators."

They did mean "glowing", didn't they?

I can't be entirely sure. "Glower" means "to stare sullenly" (it's etymologically unrelated to "glow"--they even have different pronunciations). I haven't seen the glossy cases and can't say whether the LED indicators are actually glowering, but perhaps they are: perhaps they're arranged on the case to resemble a pair of beetle-browed eyes. I think it's a fair bet that it's a typo, though. I hope.


Unsurprisingly, on close inspection, the "beetle" of "beetle-browed" isn't the same as the insect. I mean, they have the same root, but the meanings diverged, and the visage has nothing to do with beetles per se. The word "beetle" comes from an Old English word "bitel", "sharp, biting"; it's not hard to see how this would apply to bugs, but to sullen people? "Bitel-brouwed" meant "grim-browed", a very short metaphoric leap from "sharp-featured".


J.B.S. Haldane famously said once, upon being asked what nature could tell us about God, that it demonstrated "an inordinate fondness for beetles". (This is doubtless accurate, since a fifth of all known species are beetles.) Isn't "inordinate" a strange word to express too-muchness? It's another small metaphoric leap. The original meaning of the word, as might be divined from its parts, is "disorderly"; this leads to the meaning "unregulated", and then to "out of control" and "immoderate", which is its current meaning.


The flow of thoughts in my brain, then, went something like this: "Glowering? That's not right! Better write a bit about that. Beetle-browed! How strange! What do insects have to do with facial expressions? Beetles--didn't Haldane say something about that? Better look it up." There were a bunch of other things in there ("I should get something to drink/Why do people pronounce 'Pinochet' incorrectly?/I wonder if there are any movies opening this weekend"), but since they have nothing to do with English, you've been spared from having to hear about them.

Oh, very well: I decided not to, they think it should rhyme with "ricochet" even though that word is French and "Pinochet" is Spanish and therefore pronounced differently, and predictably no (though the only movie I'm remotely looking forward to this summer, Dark Water, opens July 8th).


Blogger Frank said...

Actually, glowering PCs would be kinda cool, I think.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005 3:43:00 AM  
Blogger pyramus said...

I think a case mod that looked exactly like the flensed head of the Terminator--shiny chrome and piercing red eyes intent on harm--would be very cool indeed. I wouldn't be surprised if someone's already done it, but I have no intention of doing the research.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005 8:36:00 AM  

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