or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Monday, September 10, 2007


How about a nice batch of really icky words today?

I was getting ready for work the other day and a word just popped into my head, as words will do; this one was "suppurating". Nice! I immediately decided that the root of it must be "-pur-", and then I wondered if the word might be related to "purulent", since they both have more or less the same meaning: "teeming with pus".

I do not think it will come as a surprise to anyone that the two words are one and the same. They descend originally from Indo-European "pu-", "to rot", which also led to, of course, "pus", and, just a little more unexpectedly, "putrid". The same root also led to a bevy of English words derived from Germanic languages with closely related meanings: "defile", "foul", and "filth". "Defile" is particularly interesting because of the sequence of vowel changes due to regional pronunciation: starting off as French "defouler", it emerged in Middle English as "defoilen" (with the typically Germanic verb ending), then "defilen", and finally its modern English version.

One more offspring of "pu-" in which the "p-" changed to "f-"; the Germanic "fuzzy", because rotting food grows a furry coat of mold.


Speaking of filth, here's a spelling I hate, from a Now Smell This posting about a new fragrance from Benetton:

Benetton B.United Jeans Woman includes notes of vine peach, lazer aldehydes, mandarin, jasmine, cyclamen, hyacinth, musk, sandalwood and grey amber.

Don't blame Now Smell This: the list of notes is straight from the website. Calling a fragrance note "laser aldehydes" is stupid enough, though it fits into the trend of stupid perfumery names ("hydroponic guava", "neon amber": where will it end?), but misspelling "laser" as "lazer" just pisses me off.

The word "laser" originated as an acronym for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation; it's a full-fledged word in English now and doesn't need to be capitalized. But that doesn't mean people can spell it with a "-z-", either because they're wrong or because they think it looks more modern. Lasers are already plenty modern; they don't need any help from bad spellers, so knock it off already. Jeez.


And on that splenetic note, I'm off to England for a couple of weeks. Updates will probably be sporadic, but we have a little gizmo called an iPaq that will, in theory, let me compose and post blog entries wirelessly. We shall see.


Anonymous carosgram said...

Have a great trip! By the way we have always said "pew" to mean an icky smell. I guess we should have spelled it 'pu'.

Monday, September 10, 2007 6:30:00 PM  

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