or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Friday, September 09, 2005

Too Much

I am a huge fan of Apple Computers and their products. I'm on my fourth Macintosh and (as far as I know) they're all still running; they're workhorses. I've got two iPods, and they're both still running, too (though the first one, three and a half years old, is showing its age). But now I want (but won't buy--even I have limits) a third one--the new model, the iPod nano. I mean, just look at it! It's three-quarters the size of a little stack of credit cards, and it has a colour screen!

I wrote a friend on Wednesday--the day it was launched--and said, and I quote, "It looks like a joke, a mock-up, a fantasy idea of what an iPod should be. I'm completely flabbergasted. I just wouldn't have thought it possible. They're going to sell a zillion of these."

Nobody knows where the word "flabbergast" comes from, which isn't surprising; it doesn't look like the sort of word that comes from somewhere, it looks like the kind of word that got made up and stuck around. (In more than one form; "Well, that just flabbers my gast," says Janeane Garofalo from time to time.) The OED notes that the third syllable is likely from "aghast", and they're surely right; it also notes that an old sense of the word is "to gasconade"--that is, to boast, from, as Answers.com blandly notes, "the traditional stereotypes of Gascons as braggarts". (Gascony is a region in France: the name comes from Latin "vascones", meaning "Basques", the original settlers of the region, and you can clearly see how all three names are related.)

The word "zillion" is a good example of hyperbole, which is to say rhetorical exaggeration. "Hyperbole" comes to us from Latin, but it's pretty obviously a Greek word; "huperbole". from "huper-", "beyond" (the invariable meaning of our "hyper-", both by itself and in such combining forms as "hypersonic" and "hyperactive", not to mention "hype") and "-ballein", "to throw" (seen in such words as "ballistic", though not, apparently, "ball").

Once the word "hyperbole" had popped into my head I realized that I had wondered before (but never looked up) how the rhetorical figure could possibly related to the geometrical figure known as the hyperbola. They had to be related, and yet they couldn't be related, could they? They could. Again from answers.com: "(from the relationship between the line joining the vertices of a conic and the line through its focus and parallel to its directrix)". I don't know what this means, and if you know, it's probably just as well you don't try to explain it to me.


Blogger Frank said...

As I said on my blog, the nanos are pretty and all, but you're sooooooo going to lose them all the time. You'll end up buying like six of them before they come up with the href="http://cosmicvariance.com/2005/09/08/bad-physics-joke-explained-part-i/">iPod Planck! But perhaps that's Apple's intent: keep revenues up by making sure everyone buys more than one! Wouldn't put it past them. And you freaky Mac cultists would certainly fall for it!

About the hyperbole/hyperbola connection, I think it's because, if I remember my math correctly (not a certain thing), hyperbolas "blow up" really fast. Or something.

Saturday, September 10, 2005 3:33:00 AM  
Blogger pyramus said...

Dude, your link's messed up. If you want to re-post your comment with the HTML fixed, I'll deleted the previous one (and this comment). Or you can just let people cut the relevant URL and paste it into a browser, which is what I did. Or you can let them click here: iPod Planck!

Anyway, the iPod shuffle is smaller than the iPod nano, and you don't hear about people losing those en masse. (Unless you're making some sort of joke about the microscopic size of nano-anything and it went over my head, which wouldn't surprise me.)

But I don't even care about the loseability factor. It's just so gorgeous. And you know what Yeats said: "Love comes in at the eye." I don't think he meant the love object to be an MP3 player, but desire comes in a lot of different forms.

Saturday, September 10, 2005 6:42:00 AM  

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